Erle Robert's Mice. In Chaucer's Style

A poem by Matthew Prior

Tway Mice, full Blythe and Amicable,
Batten beside Erle Robert's Table.
Lies there ne Trap their Necks to catch,
Ne old black Cat their Steps to watch.
Their Fill they eat of Fowl and Fish;
Feast-lyche as Heart of Mouse mote wish.

As Guests sat Jovial at the Board,
Forth leap'd our Mice: Eftsoons the Lord
Of Boling, whilome John the Saint,
Who maketh oft Propos full queint,
Laugh'd jocund, and aloud He cry'd,
To Matthew seated on t'oth' side;
To Thee, lean Bard, it doth partain
To understand these Creatures Tweine.
Come frame Us now some clean Device,
Or playsant Rhime on yonder Mice:
They seem, God shield Me, Mat. and Charles.

Bad as Sir Topaz, or 'Squire Quarles
(Matthew did for the nonce reply)
At Emblem, or Device am I:
But could I Chaunt, or Rhyme, pardie,
Clear as Dan Chaucer, or as Thee;
Ne Verse from Me (so God me shrive)
On Mouse, or other Beast alive.
Certes, I have these many Days
Sent myne Poetic Herd to graze.
Ne Armed Knight ydrad in War
With Lyon fierce will I compare:
Ne Judge unjust, with furred Fox,
Harming in Secret Guise the Flocks:
Ne Priest unworth of Goddess Coat,
To Swine ydrunk, or filthy Stoat.
Elk Similè farwell for aye,
From Elephant, I trow, to Flea.

Reply'd the friendlike Peer, I weene,
Matthew is angred on the Spleen.
Ne so, quoth Mat. ne shall be e'er,
With Wit that falleth all so fair:
Eftsoons, well weet Ye, mine Intent
Boweth to your Commaundement.
If by these Creatures Ye have seen,
Pourtrayed Charles and Matthew been;
Behoveth neet to wreck my Brain,
The rest in Order to explain.

That Cup-board, where the Mice disport,
I liken to St. Stephen's Court:
Therein is Space enough, I trow,
For elke Comrade to come and goe:
And therein eke may Both be fed
With Shiver of the Wheaten Bread.
And when, as these mine Eyen survey,
They cease to skip, and squeak, and play;
Return they may to different Cells,
Auditing One, whilst t'other Tells.

Dear Robert, quoth the Saint, whose Mind
In Bounteous Deed no Mean can bind;
Now as I hope to grow devout,
I deem this Matter well made out.
Laugh I, whilst thus I serious Pray?
Let that be wrought which Mat. doth say:
Yea, quoth the Erle; but not to-day.

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