Original Text

Modern Text

Whan they han goon nat fully half a myle,
250Right as they wolde han troden over a style,
An old man and a povre with hem mette.
This olde man ful mekely hem grette,
And seyde thus, ‘now, lordes, God yow see!’
When they’d gone only about half a mile, though, they came upon a poor old man, just as they were about to hop over a fence. The old man greeted them politely and said, “Gentlemen, may God bless you and keep you well!”
The proudest of thise ryotoures three
Answerde agayn, ‘what? carl, with sory grace,
Why artow al forwrapped save thy face?
Why livestow so longe in so greet age?’
“What the hell do you want, old man?” the most arrogant of the ruffians asked. “Why are you all wrapped up except for your face? And how have you lived to be so frickin old? Shouldn’t you be dead by now?
This olde man gan loke in his visage,
And seyde thus, ‘for I ne can nat finde
260A man, though that I walked in-to Inde,
Neither in citee nor in no village,
That wolde chaunge his youthe for myn age;
And therfore moot I han myn age stille,
As longe time as it is Goddes wille.
The old man just looked him in the eyes awhile before finally saying, “Even if I walked all the way to India, I’d never find anyone who’d want to trade me their youth for my age, so I have no choice but to be as old as I am until God changes His mind.
Ne deeth, allas! ne wol nat han my lyf;
Thus walke I, lyk a restelees caityf,
And on the ground, which is my modres gate,
I knokke with my staf, bothe erly and late,
And seye, “leve moder, leet me in!
270Lo, how I vanish, flesh, and blood, and skin!
Allas! whan shul my bones been at reste?
Moder, with yow wolde I chaunge my cheste,
That in my chambre longe tyme hath be,
Ye! for an heyre clout to wrappe me!”
But yet to me she wol nat do that grace,
For which ful pale and welked is my face.
“Unfortunately, Death doesn’t want me either, which is why I’m as old and disgusting as I am. All I can do is wander around like a restless soul, knocking my walking stick on the ground morning and night hoping Mother Earth will take me back. ‘Mother Earth, let me in!’ I say. ‘Just look at how wretched I am. My flesh and blood and skin are all drying up. When will my tired bones be laid to rest? Mother, I wish I could trade that beautiful chest in my bedroom for a burial shroud to put myself in!’ But so far, she hasn’t helped me at all, which is why I’m so pale and rickety.