Friday, 12 August 2011

Poetry Corner - Lack of Steadfastness

It is tempting, the way things are, to write a sort of party political broadcast. However, I shall spare you that, and instead quote the gentle Geoffrey Chaucer, as translated into modern English by A. S. Kline:

Once this world was so steadfast and so stable
That a man’s word was his obligation,
And now it is so false and mutable,
That word and deed, in their conclusion,
Are unalike, for so turned upside down
Is all this world, by gain and selfishness,
That all is lost for lack of steadfastness.

What makes this world of ours so variable
But the pleasure folk take in dissension?
Amongst us now a man is thought unable,
Unless he can, by some vile collusion,
Wrong his neighbour, or wreak his oppression.
What causes this but such wilful baseness,
That all is lost for lack of steadfastness?

Truth is put down: reason is held a fable;
Virtue has now no domination,
Pity is exiled, no man is merciful.
Through greed men blind discretion;
The world has made such a permutation
Of right to wrong, truth to fickleness,
That all is lose for lack of steadfastness.

Envoy (to King Richard II)
O Prince, desire to be honourable,
Cherish your folk, and hate extortion!
Order that nothing which may prove shameful
To your office, be done in your kingdom.
Show openly your sword of castigation,
Dread God: seek law, love truth and worthiness,
And wed your folk again to steadfastness.

Translated by A. S. Kline © 2008 All Rights Reserved
This work may be freely reproduced, stored, and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose.