Eight Goodly Questions with Their Aunswers
EIGHT GOODLY QUESTIONS WITH THEIR AUNSWERS: NOTES19 coffour. This scribal emendation is found in the Bannatyne manuscript. Thynne reads tree. See Fox and Ringler, eds., Bannatyne Manuscript.
32 to lye. Perhaps a double entendre suggesting both "to slander" and "to have intercourse with."
42 Sir Guy. This is either an idiomatic name for a swindler or is perhaps a reference to the villain Guy of Gisborne. In Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne, Robin states, "Thou hast beene traytor all thy liffe, / Which thing must have an ende" (lines 165-66). The earliest extant version of this ballad dates from the seventeenth century, but the episode is thought to be based on a much older version. See Knight and Ohlgren, eds., Robin Hood and Other Outlaw Tales.
51 There is no indent in the print.
56 Proverbial; see Whiting G217 and C751.
58 There is no indent in the print.
62-63 had I venged . . . furred halfe so warme. In other words, "had I spent all my energy avenging my injuries, I would not be half as prosperous."
Somtyme in Grece, that noble region,
There were eight clerkes of grete science,
Philosophers of notable discretion,
Of whom was asked, to prove their prudence,
Eight questions of derke intellygence;
To whiche they answered, after their entent,
As here dothe appere playne and evydent.
The fyrst questyon: What erthly thyng
Is best, and to God moost commendable?
The first clerke answered without tarying:
"A mannes soule ever ferme and stable
In right, from trouthe nat varyable;
But nowe, alas, ful sore may we wepe,
For covetyse hath brought trouth a slepe."
The seconde: What thyng is moost odious?
"A double man," sayd the philosophre,
"With a virgyn face and a tayle venomous,
With a fayre vieu and a false profre;
A corrupte caryen in a golden coffour,
It is a monster in natures lynage,
One man to have a double vysage."
The thirde: What is the best dower
That maye be to a wyfe appropriate?
"A clene lyfe," was the clerkes aunswer,
"Without synne, chast, and invyolate
From al disceytes and speches inornate,
Or countenaunce, whiche shal be to dispyse:
No fyre make and no smoke wol aryse!"
The fourth questyon: What mayden may
Be called clene in chastyté?
The fourth clerke answered: "Whiche alway
Every creature is ashamed on to lye,
Of whom every man reporteth great honesté;
Good maydens kepe your chastyté forthe,
And remembre that good name is golde worthe."
Who is a poore man, ever ful of wo?
"A covetouse man whiche is a nygon,
He that in his herte can never say 'ho';
The more good, the lesse distributyon,
The richer, the worse of condityon;
Men in this cost clepen him a nygarde;
Sir Guy the bribour is his stewarde."
Whiche is a riche man withouten fraude?
"He that can to his good suffyse,
Whatsoever he hath, he geveth God the laude,
And kepeth him clene from al covetyse;
He desyreth nothyng in ungoodly wyse;
His body is here, his mynde is above:
He is a riche man, for God doth him love."
Who is a foole, is the seventh demaunde.
"He that wolde hurte and hath no powere,
Myght he, mykel moche wolde he commaunde,
His malyce great, his myght nought were;
He thretteth ful faste, ful lytel may he dere;
Thynketh nat howe men have sayd beforne:
God sendeth a shreude cowe a shorte horne!"
Who is a wyse man, is the eight question:
"He that myght noye and dothe no noyaunce,
Myght punysshe and leaveth punyssion;
A man mercyful without vengeaunce;
A wyse man putteth in remembraunce,
Sayeng, 'Had I venged al myne harme,
My cloke had nat be furred halfe so warme!'"
difficult subject matter
caused; to be neglected
decayed corpse; coffin; (see note)
to slander; (see note)
swindler; overseer; (see note)
is able to be content with his prosperity
malicious; (see note)
harm; injury; (see note)
avenged; (see note)