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Greatly aghast with this piteous plea,
Him rested the goodman on the lea,
And bade the Brere in his plaint proceed.
With painted words then gan this proud weed
(As most usen ambitious folk:)

His coloured crime with craft to cloak.

'Ah, my sovereign! Lord of creatures all,
Thou placer of plants both humble and tall,
Was not I planted of thine owne hand,
To be the primrose of all thy land;

With flowering blossoms to furnish the prime,'
And scarlet berries in summer time?
How falls it then that this faded Oake,
Whose body is sere, whose branches broke,
Whose naked armes stretch unto the fire,
Unto such tyranny doth aspire;
Hindering with his shade my lovely light,
And robbing me of the sweet sun's sight?
So beate his old boughs my tender side,
That oft the blood springeth from woundes wide.
Untimely my flowers forced to fall,

That been the honour of your coronal :
And oft he lets his canker wormes light
Upon my branches, to work me more spite;
And oft his hoary locks down doth cast,
Wherewith my fresh flow'rets been defaced:
For this, and many more such outrage,
Craving your goodlihead to assuage


The rancorous rigour of his might,
Nought ask I but only to hold my right;
Submitting me to your good sufferance
And praying to be guarded from grievance.'
To this the Oake cast him to reply
Well as he could; but his enemy
Had kindled such coals of displeasure,
That the good man nould' stay his leisure,
But home him hasted with furious heat,
Increasing his wrath with many a threat:
His harmful hatchet he hent2 in hand,
(Alas! that it so ready should stand!)
And to the field alone he speedeth,
(Aye little help to harm there needeth!)
Anger nould let him speake to the tree,
Enaunter his rage might cooled be:

But to the roote bent his sturdy stroke,
And made many wounds in the waste Oake,
The axe's edge did oft turn again,
As half unwilling to cut the grain;
Seemed, the senseless iron did fear,
Or to wrong holy eld did forbear;
For it had been an ancient tree,
Sacred with many a mystery,

And often crossed with the priestes crew,
And often hallowed with holy water due,
But such fancies weren foolery,

And broughten this Oake to this misery;

1 Would not,

2 Took.

3 Lest that.

For nought might they quitten him from decay,
For fiercely the good man at him did lay;
The block oft groaned under the blow,
And sighed to see his near overthrow.
In fine,1 the steel had pierced his pith,
Then down to the earth he fell forthwith,

His wondrous weight made the ground to quake,
Th' earth shrunk under him and seemed to shake :-
There lieth the Oake pitied of none!

Now stands the Brere like a lord alone,
Puffed up with pride and vain pleasance;
But all this glee had no continuance :
For eftsoons winter 'gan to approach;
The blustering Boreas did encroach,
And beat upon the solitary Brere,
For now no succour was seen him near.
Now 'gan he repent his pride too late;
For, naked left and disconsolate,

The biting frost nipped his stalke dead,
The watery wet weighed down his head,
And heaped snowe burdened him so sore,
That now upright he can stand no more;
And, being down, is trod in the dirt
Of cattle, and bruised and sorely hurt,
Such was the end of this ambitious Brere,
For scorning Eld.

1 At last.



Born 1553; died 1600. Contemporary with

Spenser, and about ten years older than Shakespeare. His chief work is his treatise Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, published between 1592 and 1597. In the Ecclesiastical disputes of the time the part which he bears is that of defender of the Church of England as then established.

His style is formed upon a Latin model, and at first sight is a little obscure; but it developed powers in our language which, up to his time, had been untried.


LAWS of reason have these marks to be known by. Such as keep them resemble most lively in their voluntary actions that very manner of working which nature herself doth necessarily observe in the course of the whole world. The works of nature are all behoveful, beautiful, without superfluity or defect; even so theirs, if they be framed according to that which the law of reason teacheth. Secondly, those laws are investigable by reason, without the help of revelation supernatural and divine. Finally, in such sort they are investigable, that the knowledge of them is general, the world hath always been acquainted with them; according to that which one in Sophocles observeth concerning a branch of this law, It is no child of to-day's or yesterday's birth, but hath been no man knoweth how long sithence. It is not agreed upon by one, or two, or few, but by all which we may not so understand, as if

every particular man in the whole world did know and confess whatsoever the law of reason doth contain; but this law is such that being proposed no man can reject it as being unreasonable and unjust. Again, there is nothing in it but any man (having natural perfection of wit and ripeness of judgment) may by labour and travail find out. And to conclude, the general principles thereof are such, as it is not easy to find men ignorant of them. Law rational therefore, which men commonly use to call the law of nature, meaning thereby the law which human nature knoweth itself in reason universally bound unto, which also for that cause may be termed most fitly the law of reason; this law, I say, comprehendeth all those things which men by the light of their natural understanding evidently know, or at leastwise may know, to be beseeming or unbeseeming, virtuous or vicious, good or evil for them to do.

Now although it be true, which some have said, that whatsoever is done amiss, the law of nature and reason thereby is transgressed, because even those offences which are by their special qualities breaches of supernatural laws, do also, for that they are generally evil, violate in general that principle of reason, which willeth universally to fly from evil: yet do we not therefore so far extend the law of reason, as to contain in it all manner laws whereunto reasonable creatures are hound, but (as hath been showed), we restrain it to those only duties, which all men by force of natural wit either do or might understand to be such duties as concern all men.

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