When they had gone not fully half a mile,
Right as they would have trodden o'er a stile,
An old man and a poore with them met.
This olde man full meekely them gret,
And saide thus; "Now, lordes, God you see!"
The proudest of these riotoures three
Answer'd again; "What? churl, with sorry grace,
Why art thou all forwrapped save thy face?
Why livest thou so long in so great age?"
This olde man gan look on his visage,
And saide thus; "For that I cannot find
A man, though that I walked unto Ind,
Neither in city, nor in no village go,
That woulde change his youthe for mine age;
And therefore must I have mine age still
As longe time as it is Godde's will.
And Death, alas! he will not have my life.
Thus walk I like a resteless caitife,
And on the ground, which is my mother's gate,
I knocke with my staff, early and late,
And say to her, 'Leve mother, let me in.
Lo, how I wane, flesh, and blood, and skin;
Alas! when shall my bones be at rest?
Mother, with you I woulde change my chest,
That in my chamber longe time hath be,
Yea, for an hairy clout to wrap in me.'
But yet to me she will not do that grace,
For which fall pale and welked is my face.
But, Sirs, to you it is no courtesy
To speak unto an old man villainy,
But he trespass in word or else in deed.
In Holy Writ ye may yourselves read;
'Against an old man, hoar upon his head,
Ye should arise:' therefore I you rede,
Ne do unto an old man no harm now,
No more than ye would a man did you
In age, if that ye may so long abide.
And God be with you, whether ye go or ride
I must go thither as I have to go."

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