The Parable Continued

Canto X

"'The time of day the Lord did know,
Called to the reeve, "Lad, pay the men.
Give them the hire that I them owe.
And further--that none may e'er reprove.
Set thou them all upon a row,
And give each one alike a penny.
Start with the last who standeth low
Till to the first thou doth attain."
And then the first began a plaint
And said that they had travailed sore,
"These but one hour themselves did strain;
We think we ought to take the more.


"'"More have we served, we thinketh so,
Who suffered have the day's fierce heat,
Than those who wrought not hours two;
Yet thou doth them to us equate!"
Then saith the lord to one of those:
"Friend, I'll not concede I did thee cheat.
Take what is thine own and go.
If hired for a penny agreed,
Why shouldst thou now become aggrieved?
Wast not a penny thy covenant before?
Further than covenant there's naught to plead.
Why shouldst thou then ask me for more?


"'"More: is it not lawful with my gift,
To do with mine whate'er seems meet?
Dast thou thine eye to lust now lift,
Because I'm good and no one cheat?"
"Thus shall I, quod Christ, "it sift:
The last shall be the first I greet,
And the first the last, be he ne'er so swift
For many be called tho few get the mark."'
Thus poor men always possess their part,
Though they come last as inferior
Or at swinging scythes do only start,
The mercy of God is much the more.


"More's mine of joy and bliss herein,
Of ladyship great and life of light,
Than all the wights in the world might win
Who ask for judgement according to right--
Though only this moment I didst begin!
To be hired at eventide was my plight;
Yet, first, for my hire the Lord called me in
The whole and the sum paid me outright.
Yet others there were who'd more time put in,
Who'd sweltered and sweat long years before,
Who still of their hire nothing have seen,
Perchance this year will see nothing more."


Then more mouthed I and spoke so pert:
"Methink thy tale unreasonable;
God's right is ready, and it he'll assert,
Or else Holy Writ is but a fable.
In the Psalter is a verse overt
That speaketh a point determinable:
'Thou requitest according to each his desert,
Thou high King ever indomitable.'
Now he who stood the long day stable,
If thou to payment came him before,
Then thou, less in work, to take more art able,
And ever longer the less, the more!"

Copyright (c) 1983