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The Policeman's Tale

A constabel one nighte that it didde rayne
Both cattes and dogges, and pytchforkes too, was fayne
Hymsel within a taverne to betake,
His flesch to drie, and eke hys thyrste to slake.
And there ful many a pleasaunt carle he founde
In barr-parloure a grogge-bowle seaten rounde,
Y-like hymsel who'd soughten herbergage
Ontil ye storme its furie sholde assuage.
Ye canne went rounde and pypes of claye were lite,
And everichone y-didde what seemed hym fytte,
'Til whan no wight colde hearen hymsel speke.
Up gat ye Hoste, a burgess bigge in cheke,
And this he sayde unto them plat and playne:
"An' here ye wolden bide ontil ye rayne
Hath stayed itsel, in sooth, then baren ye
With les dispute and more tranquillitie.
To passe ye time I trowe it wolde be wel,
An everichone in tourne a tayle sholde tel,
And thilkë wight who in hys taske do fayle
Shal paye his comperes rounde in moisty ayle."
Then sotte he doune; the guestës cried "Y-wis,"
And castë lottes who firste sholde doen this.
Ye Constabel ye longest wispë drewe,
And thus beganne withouten more ado.
Whilom whan newë to ye force I came
And modest was nor uppe to overich game,
Nor wot for naught that I might laye a hande
On any common carle in Englelande.
It fell one nighte that it was drear and wette
(My beate was in ye pleasaunt Haimaurkette),
A manne I spied y-fallen on ye grounde,
And straighte didde kikke hym for to bring hym rounde;
And whan maugré my kikkes no signe he mayd,
Hym through ye streete I by hys heeles conveyed,
And to the Stacioun did hym dragge, the where
Ye Sergeaunt straight y-clapt hym in a chayre;
But as he wolde ne speke, ne ope hys eyes,
Though with our beltës we hym did chasteyse,
Eftsoons, we felled him; he of drinke did smelle,
So hym we casten in ye tosspottes celle.
Now whan that morne was come much was I payned
To finde this caitiffe on hys bakke remayned.
In vaine by bearde I swinked hym to and fro;
He wolde ne smyle, ne answour "aye" ne "noe,"
But stille he laye with eyen fast y-shet,
And on hys legges I colde him no way get.
I hayled a cabbe and stecked hym on ye seate,
Than with hym drove to Courte of Bowës-streete;
Agen ye dokke I stecked hym bolte uprite,
And to ye Judge hys deedës did recyte.
How that I founde ye gaillard on ye grounde,
And that sin' then hys tongue he hed not founde.
"Thy name?" freined Judge, and set on hym hys eye.
And still ye carle vouchsafëd no replye.
"He sickerley shammes ille," ye Judge did shoute;
"Let leeche be highte, we'll see this mattere outte."
Ye leeche he came, and criëd with amayze
"Marry! thys carle's been deadë all two dayes."
Hyr ceased ye Constabel and looked aboute,
Espèring to have hearde a merrie shoute;
But everich fayce was blakke, and one manne rose
And shoke hys fiste beneath ye peeler's nose,
And cryed that it was shame in Christen lande
Such fools should holde mennes livës in their hande.
"Graunt-mercy for yr tayle, gode Sir," quod he,
"It showth what doltes are in auctoritie."
And than he tolde how he hymsel hadde sene
A manne nigh deade tway constabels betwene,
Who shoke hym wel and called hym dronken loon,
And kikkëd hym with iron-tippëd shoon.
By this ye rayne had ceased, which, whan they knew,
Ye guestës rose and went outte two by two.
Ye Constabel was called to stoppe a fraye,
So drank his ayle and wente another waye.