Geoffrey Chaucer, "Knight's Tale," Canterbury Tales
I.3017-3034 (tr. Nevill Coghill):
Look at the oak; how slow a tree to nourish
From when it springs until it comes to flourish!
It has so long a life, and yet we see
That in the end it falls, a wasted tree.
Consider too how hard the stone we tread
Under our feet! That very rock and bed
On which we walk is wasting as it lies.
Time will be when the broadest river dries
And the great cities wane and last descend
Into the dust, for all things have an end.
For man and woman we can plainly see
Two terms appointed; so it needs must be
— That is to say, the terms of youth and age.
For every man will perish, king and page.
Some in their beds and some in the deep sea.
And some upon the battle-field, maybe.
There is no help for it, all take the track.
For all must die and there is none comes back.
The original (not very difficult to understand):
Lo, the ook, that hath so long a norisshinge,
From time that it first biginneth springe,
And hath so long a lif, as we may see,
Yet at the laste wasted is the tree. 3020
Considereth eek how that the harde stoon,
Under oure feet on which we ride and goon,
Yit wasteth it as it lith by the weye.
The brode river somtime wexeth dreye;
The grete townes see we wane and wende. 3025
Than may ye see that al this thing hath ende.
Of man and womman se we wel also,
That nedes in oon of thise termes twon —
This is to seyn, in youthe or elles age —
He moot be deed, the king as shal a page. 3030
Som in his bed, som in the depe see,
Som in the large feeld, as men may se.
Ther helpeth noght — al goth that ilke weye.
Thanne may I seyn that al this thing moot deye.