Geoffrey Chaucer

(c. 1343 – 25 October 1400 / London, England)

A Ballad Sent to King Richard


Sometime this world was so steadfast and stable,
That man's word was held obligation;
And now it is so false and deceivable,
That word and work, as in conclusion,
Be nothing one; for turned up so down
Is all this world, through meed and wilfulness,
That all is lost for lack of steadfastness.

What makes this world to be so variable,
But lust that folk have in dissension?
For now-a-days a man is held unable
But if he can, by some collusion,
Do his neighbour wrong or oppression.
What causeth this but wilful wretchedness,
That all is lost for lack of steadfastness?

Truth is put down, reason is holden fable;
Virtue hath now no domination;
Pity exil'd, no wight is merciable;
Through covetise is blent discretion;
The worlde hath made permutation
From right to wrong, from truth to fickleness,
That all is lost for lack of steadfastness.

L'Envoy.

O Prince! desire to be honourable;
Cherish thy folk, and hate extortion;
Suffer nothing that may be reprovable
To thine estate, done in thy region;
Show forth the sword of castigation;
Dread God, do law, love thorough worthiness,
And wed thy folk again to steadfastness.

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

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  • Ian Fraser (12/2/2009 11:14:00 AM)

    A very famous poem though one sadly almost lost nowadays. Chaucer's language is surprisingly direct, even blunt. Writers have been executed for less. (Report) Reply

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