My mother's maids when they did sew and spin

My mothers maydes when they did sowe and spynne,
They sang sometyme a song of the feld mowse,
That forbicause her lyvelood was but thynne,
Would nedes goo seke her townysshe systers howse.
She thought her self endured to much pain,
The stormy blastes her cave so sore did sowse,
That when the forowse swymmed with the rain
She must lye cold and whete in sorry plight;
And wours then that, bare meet there did remain
To comfort her when she her howse had dight,
Sometyme a barly corne, sometyme a bene,
For which she laboured hard boeth daye and nyght
In harvest tyme whilest she myght goo and glyne;
And when her stoore was stroyed with the flodd,
Then wellawaye! for she undone was clene.
Then was she fayne to take in stede of fode
Slepe if she myght her hounger to begile.
My syster, quod she, hath a lyving good,
And hens from me she dwelleth not a myle.
In cold and storme she lieth warme and dry,
In bed of downe the dyrt doeth not defile
Her tender fote. She laboureth not as I.
Richely she fedeth and at the richemans cost,
And for her meet she nydes not crave nor cry.
By se, by land, of delicates the moost
Her Cater sekes and spareth for no perell;
She fedeth on boyled bacon, meet and roost,
And hath therof neither charge nor travaill;
And when she list the licour of the grape
Doeth glad her hert, till that her belly swell.
And at this jorney she maketh but a jape;
So fourth she goeth trusting of all this welth
With her syster her part so for to shape
That if she myght kepe her self in helth
To lyve a Lady while her liff doeth last.
And to the dore now is she come by stelth,
And with her foote anon she scrapeth full fast.
Th'othre for fere durst not well scarse appere,
Of every noyse so was the wretche agast.
At last she asked softly who was there,
And in her langage as well as she cowd,
Pepe, quod the othre, syster I ame here.
Peace, quod the towne mowse, why spekest thou so lowde?
And by the hand she toke her fayer and well.
Welcome, quod she, my sister by the Roode.
She fested her, that joy it was to tell
The faere they had: they drancke the wyne so clere.
And as to pourpose now and then it fell
She chered her with how, syster, what chiere?
Amyddes this joye befell a sorry chaunce
That well awaye the straunger bought full dere
The fare she had; for as she loked ascaunce,
Under a stole she spied two stemyng Ise
In a rownde hed with sherp erys. In Fraunce
Was never mowse so ferd for tho the unwise
Had not Isene suche a beest before,
Yet had nature taught her after her gyse
To knowe her foo and dred him evermore.
The towney mowse fled: she knewe whether to goo.
Th'othre had no shift but wonders sore
Ferd of her liff: at home she wyshed her tho,
And to the dore, alas, as she did skipp,
Thevyn it would, lo, and eke her chaunce was so,
At the threshold her sely fote did tripp,
And ere she myght recover it again
The traytor Catt had caught her by the hipp
And made her there against her will remain,
That had forgotten her poure suretie and rest
For semyng welth wherin she thought to rayne.
Alas, my Poynz, how men do seke the best,
And fynde the wourst by error as they stray!
And no marvaill, when sight is so opprest,
And blynde the gyde; anon owte of the way
Goeth gyde and all in seking quyete liff.
O wretched myndes, there is no gold that may
Graunt that ye seke, no warr, no peace, no stryff,
No, no, all tho thy hed were howpt with gold,
Sergeaunt with mace, hawbert, sword nor knyff
Cannot repulse the care that folowe should.
Eche kynd of lyff hath with hym his disease.
Lyve in delight evyn as thy lust would,
And thou shalt fynde when lust doeth moost the please
It irketh straite and by it self doth fade.
A small thing it is that may thy mynde apese.
Non of ye all there is that is so madde
To seke grapes upon brambles or breers,
Nor none, I trow, that hath his wit so badd
To set his hay for Conys over Ryvers,
Ne ye set not a dragg net for an hare,
And yet the thing that moost is your desire
Ye do mysseke with more travaill and care.
Make playn thyn hert that it be not knotted
With hope or dred, and se thy will be bare
From all affectes whome vice hath ever spotted;
Thy self content with that is the assigned,
And use it well that is to the allotted.
Then seke no more owte of thy self to fynde
The thing that thou haist sought so long before,
For thou shalt fele it sitting in thy mynde.
Madde, if ye list to continue your sore,
Let present passe and gape on tyme to come
And diepe your self in travaill more and more.
Hens fourth, my Poynz, this shalbe all and some:
These wretched fooles shall have nought els of me
But to the great god and to his high dome
None othre pain pray I for theim to be
But when the rage doeth led them from the right
That lowking backward vertue they may se
Evyn as she is so goodly fayre and bright;
And whilst they claspe their lustes in armes a crosse,
Graunt theim, goode lorde, as thou maist of thy myght,
To frete inward for losing suche a losse.
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