Lady Fortune

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Lady Fortune
by Thomas More
136638Lady FortuneThomas More

The Boke of the fayre Gentywoman, that no man shulde put his trust, or confydence in: that is to say, Lady Fortune: flaterynge euery man that coueyteth to haue all, and specyally, them that truste in her, she deceyueth them at laste


As often as I cosydre, these olde noble clerkes
Poetis, Oratours, & Phylosophers sectes thre,
Howe wanderfull they were, in all theyr werkes
Howe eloquent, howe inuentyue in euery degre
Halfe amased I am, and as a deed tre
Stonde styll, ouer rude for to brynge forth
Any fruyte or sentence, that is ought worth.
Neuertheles though rude I be, in all cotryuyng
Of matt's, yet sowhat to make, I nede not to care
I se many a one occupyed, in the same thynge
Lo vnlerned men nowe a dayes, wyll not spare
To wryte, to bable, theyr myndes to declare
Trowynge themselfe, gay fantasyes to drawe
When all theyr cunnynge is not worth a strawe.
Some i french Cronycles, gladly doth presume
Some in Englysshe, blyndly wade and wandre
Another in laten bloweth forth a darke fame
As wyse as a great hedded Asse of Alexandre
Some in Phylosophye, lyke a gagelynge gandre
Bigynneth lustely the browes to set vp
And at the last concludeth, in the good ale cup.

Fortune, O myghty & varyable[edit]

Fortune, O myghty & varyable
What rule thou claymest, with thy cruel power
Good folke thou stroyest, and louest reprouable
Thou mayst not waraunt thy gyftes for one houre
Fortune vnworthy men setteth in honoure
Thorowe fortuneth inocent i wo & sorow [illeg.]heth
The iust man she spoyleth, & the vniust enrycheth.
Yonge men she kylleth, & letteth olde men lyue
Vnryghtuously deuydynge, tyme and season
That good men leseth, to wycked doth she gyue
She hath no differece, but iudgeth all good reason
Inconstaunce, slypper, frayle, and full of treason
Neyther ther for euer cherysshynge, whom she taketh
Nor for euer oppressynge, whom she forsaketh.

The Wordes of Fortune to the people.[edit]

Myne hyghe estate, power and auctoryte
If ye ne knewe, enserche and ye shall spye
That rychesse, worshyp, welth, and dygnyte
Ioye, rest, and peace, and all thynge fynally
That any pleasure or profyte maye come by
To mannes comforte, ayde and sustenaunce
Is all at my deuyse, and ordynaunce.
Without my fauoure, there is no thynge wonne
Many a matter haue I brought at lafte
To good conclusyon, that fondly was begonne
And many a purpose, bounden sure and faste
With wyse prouysyon, I haue ouercaste
Without good happe, there may no wyt suffyse
Better is to be fortunate, than wyse.
And therfore hath there some men ben or this
By deedly fooes, and writen many a boke
To my disprayse, and no other cause there is
But for me lyst, not frendly on them loke
Thus lyke the fox they fare, that ones forsoke
The pleasaunt grapes, and gan for to desyr them
Bycause he lept & lept, & coulde not come by the,
But let them wryte, theyr labour is in vayne
For well ye wot, myrth, honoure and rychesse
Better is than shame, penury and payne
The nedy wryteth, that lyngeryth in dystresse
Without myne helpe, is euer comfortlesse
A wity burden odyouse and lothe
To all the worlde, and to hymselfe both.
But he that by my fauoure maye ascende
To myghty power, and excellent degre
A comon wele to gouerne, and defende
O in howe blessed condycyon, standeth he
Hym selfe in honour and felycyte
And ouer that, may forther and encreace
An hole regyon, in ioye rest and peace.
Nowe in this poynt, there is no more to saye
Eche man hath of hym selfe the gouernaunce
Let euery wyght, than take his own waye
And he that out of pouerte, and myschaunce
Lyst for to lyue, and wyll hym selfe enhaunce
In welth & rychesse, come forth and wayte on me
And he that wyll be a begger, let hym be.

To them that trusteth in Fortune.[edit]

Thou that art proude of honour shape or kyn,
That helpest vp this wretched worldes tresure
Thy fyngers shryned with golde/thy tawny skyn
With fresshe appareyll, garnyshed out of mesure
And wenyst to haue fortune, alway at thy plesure
Cast vp thyne eye, and loke howe [illegible] per chaunce
Illudeth her men with chaunge and varyaunce.
Somtyme she loketh, as louely fayre & bryght
As goodly Venus, mother of cupyde
She becketh and smyleth vpon euery wyght
But this feyned chere, may not abyde
There cometh a cloude, and farewell all our pryde
Lyke any serpent, she begynneth to swell
And loketh as fearse, as any fury of hell.
Yet for all that, we brothle men are fayne
So wretched is our nature, and so blynde
As soone as fortune lyst, to laughe agayne
With fayre countenaunce, and deceytfull mynde
To croutche and knele, and gape after the wynde
Not one or twayne, but thousandes in a rout
Lyke swarmyng bees, come flakerynge her about.
Then as bayte, she bryngeth forth her ware
Syluer, golde, ryche perle, and precious stone
On whiche, the mased people gase and stare
And gape therfore as dogges for the bone
Fortune at them laugheth, and in her trone
Amyd her tresure, and wauerynge rychesse
Prowdly she loueth, as Lady and Empresse.
Fast by her syde doth wery laboure stande
Pale fere also and sorowe all be wepte
Dysdeyne, and hatred, on that other hande
Eke restles watche, fro slepe with trauayle kept
His eyes drowsy, and lokynge as he slepte
Before her standeth Daunger and Enuye
Flatery, Dysceyte, Myschyfe, and Tyrrannye.
Aboute her cometh, all the Worlde to begge
He asketh londes and he to passe wolde brynge
This ioye and that, and all not worth an egge
He wolde in loue prospere, aboue all thynge
He kneleth downe and wolde be made a kynge
He forceth not, so he maye money haue
Thoughe all ye worlde accompt hym for a knaue
Lo thus dyuers heddys, dyuers wyttes
Fortune alone, as dyuers are they all
Vnstable here and there, amonge them flyttes
And at auenture, downe her gyftes fall
Catche who so may, she throweth great and small
Not to all men, as cometh sonne or dewe
But for the most parte, all amonge a fewe.
And yet her brotell gyftes, maye not last
He that she gaue them, loketh proude and hye
She whyrleth aboute, and plucketh away as fast
And gyueth them to an other, by and by
And thus from man to man, contynually
She vseth to gyue and take, and slyly tosse
One man to wynnynge, and of an others losse.
And whe she robbeth one, downe goth his pryde
He wepeth and wayleth, and curseth her full sore
But he that receyueth it, on that other syde
Is glad, and blesseth her, a .M, tymes therfore
But in a whyle whan she loueth hym no more
She glydeth from hym, and her gyftes to
And he her curseth, as other fooles do.
Alas the folysshe people, can not seace
Ne voyde her trayne, tyll they the harme fele
Aboute her alwaye, besely they preace
But lorde what he thynketh hym selfe, wele
That maye set ones, his hande vpon her whele
He holdeth fast, but vpwarde as he styeth
She whyppeth her whele about, & there he lyeth.
Thus fell Iulius, from his myghty power
Thus fell Darius, the worthy kynge of perse
Thus fell Alexandre, the souerayne conqueroure
Thus many mo, then I maye well reherse
Thus double Fortune, when she lyft reuerse
Her slypper fauoure, fro them that in her trust
She flyeth her waye, and lyeth hym in the dust.
She sodenlye enhaunce hym a lofte
And sodenly myscheuyth, all the flocke
The hed that late laye, easely and softe
In stede of pylouse, lyeth after on the blocke
And yet alas, the cruell proude mocke
The deyntye mouth, that ladyes kyssed haue
She bryngeth in the case, to kysse a knaue.
Thus whe she chaunseth, her vncertayne course
Vp starteth a knaue, & downe ther falleth a knight
The begger ryche, and the ryche man poore is
Hatred is turned to loue, Loue to despyght
This is her sport, thus proueth she her myght
Great bost she maketh, yf one be by her power
Welthy, and wretched, both in an houre.
Pouerte that of her gyftes, wyll no thynge take
With mery chere, she loketh on the prese
And seeth howe fortunes, how shulde go to wrake
Fast by her standeth, the wyse Socrates
Aristippus, Pithagoras, and many a lyfe
Of olde Phylosophers, and eke agaynst ye sonne
[illegible] aketh hym pore Diogenes in his tonne
With her is [illegible], whose countrey lacked defense
And whylom of theyr fooes stode so in dout
That eche man hastely gan to cary thense
And asked hym why, he nought caryed out
I bere quod he, all myne with me about
Wysdome he ment, not fortunes brotell fees
For nought he counted his, that he myght lese.
Heraclitus to, lyst felowsshyp to kepe
With glad pouerte, Democrytus also
Of whiche the fyrst can neuer but wepe
To se howe thycke, the blynd people go
With great laboure, to purchase care and wo
That other laugheth, to se the folysse apes
Howe earnestly, they walke about theyr Japes
Of this poore secte, it is the vsage
Onely to take, that nature maye sustayne
Banyshynge clene, all other surplusage
They be content, and of nothynge complayne
No nigarde eke, is of his golde so fayne
But they more pleasure haue, a thousande folde
The secrete draughtes of nature and to beholde.
Set fortunes seruauntes by them and ye wull
That one is fre, that other euer thrall
That one content, that other neuer full
That one in suerly, that other lyke to fall
Who lyst to aduyse them, both perceyue ye shall
As great dyfference betwene them, as we se
Betwyxte wretchednes, and felycyte.
Now haue I shewed you both, chese which ye list
Stately fortune, or humble pouerte
That is to saye, nowe lyeth it in your fyst
To take you to bondage, or fre lyberte
But in this poynt, and ye do after me
Drawe you to fortune, and labour her to please
Yf that ye thynke your selfe, to well at ease.
And fyrst vpon the, louely shall she smyle
And frendly on the cast, her wanderynge eyes
Embrace the in her armys, and for a whyle
Put the into a foles paradyse
And forthwith all, what so thou lyst deuyse
She wyll the graunt it, lyberally perhappes
But for all that beware of after clappes.
Rekyn you neuer, of her fauour sure
Ye maye in the clowdes, as easely trace an hare
Or in dry londe cause fysshes to endure
And make the burnynge fyre his hete to spare
As all this worlde encompasse to forfare
As her to make by crafte, or engyne stable
That of her nature, is euer varyable.
Serue her daye and nyght, as reuerntly
Vpon thy knees, as any seruaunte maye
And in conclusion, that thou shall wynne therby
Shall not be worth thy seruyce I dare saye
And yet, loke what she gyueth the to daye
With labour wonne, she shall haply to morowe
Plucke it out of thy hande agayne with sorowe.
Wherfore yf thou in suerte lyst to stande
Take pouerties parte, and let proude fortune go
Receyue nothynge that cometh from her hande
Loue maner and vertue, for they be onely tho
Whiche double fortune maye neuer take the fro
The mayst thou boldely defy her turnynge chauce
She can the neyther hynder, nor auaunce.
But & thou wylt nedes medle with her tresure
Trust not therin, and spende it lyberally
Bere she not proude, nor take not out of mesure
Bylde not thyne house, hyghe vp in the skye
None falleth farre, but he that clynbeth hye
Remembre nature sent the hyther bare
The gyftes of fortune compt the, as borowed ware
Who so delyteth to prouen and assaye
Of wauerynge fortune, the full vncertayne lot
Yf that the answere please ye not alwaye
Blame not me for I comaunde ye not
Fortune to trust, and eke full well ye wot
I haue of her no brydle in my fyst
She renneth loose, and turneth where she lyst.
The rollyng dyse, in who your lucke doth stand
With whose vnhappy chaunce ye be so wrought
Ye knowe your selfe, came neuer in myne hande
Lo in this ponde, be fysshes and frogges both
Cast in your net, but be ye lyefe or loth
Holde you content as Fortune lyft assygne
It is your owne fysshynge and not myne.
And thoughe in one chauce fortune you offende
Grudge not therat, but bere a mery face
In many another, she shall it amende
There is no man so far out of her grace
But he somtyme, hath comforte and solace
Ne none agayne so set forth in her fauoure
That fully satyfyed is with her behauyoure.
Fortune is stately, solempne, proude, and hye
And ryches gyueth, to haue seruyce therfore
The nedy begger catcheth an halfepeny
Some man a .M. pounde some lesse some more
But for all that, she kepeth euer in store
From euery man some parcell of his wyll
That he may praye therfore, and serue her styll.
Some man hath good, but chyldren hath none
Some man hath both, but he can get none helth
Some hath all thre, but vp to honoures trone
Can he not crepe by no maner of stelth
To some she sendeth, chyldren, ryches welth
Honoure, worshyp, and reuerence all his lyfe
But yet she pyncheth hym, with a shrewed wyfe.
Then for as moche as it is fortunes guyse
To graunt no man all thynge that he wyll axe
But as her selfe lyst order and deuyse
Doth euery man his parte dyuyde and taxe
I counceyll you trusse vp your packys
And take nothynge at all, or be content
With suche rewarde, as fortune hath you sent.
All thynges in this booke that ye shall rede
Do as ye lyst, there shall no man you bynde
Them to beleue, as surely as your crede
But notwithstandynge, certyes in my mynde
I durste well swere; as trewe ye shall there fynde
In euery poynt, eche answere by and by
As are the iudgementes of Astronomye.