THE FLOWER AND THE LEAF
[“The Flower and the Leaf” is pre-eminently one of those poems by which Chaucer may be triumphantly defended against the charge of licentious coarseness, that, founded upon his faithful representation of the manners, customs, and daily life and speech of his own time, in “The Canterbury Tales,” are sweepingly advanced against his works at large. In an allegory — rendered perhaps somewhat cumbrous by the detail of chivalric ceremonial, and the heraldic minuteness, which entered so liberally into poetry, as into the daily life of the classes for whom poetry was then written — Chaucer beautifully enforces the lasting advantages of purity, valour, and faithful love, and the fleeting and disappointing character of mere idle pleasure, of sloth and listless retirement from the battle of life. In the “season sweet” of spring, which the great singer of Middle Age England loved so well, a gentle woman is supposed to seek sleep in vain, to rise “about the springing of the gladsome day,” and, by an unfrequented path in a pleasant grove, to arrive at an arbour. Beside the arbour stands a medlar-tree, in which a Goldfinch sings passing sweetly; and the Nightingale answers from a green laurel tree, with so merry and ravishing a note, that the lady resolves to proceed no farther, but sit down on the grass to listen. Suddenly the sound of many voices singing surprises her; and she sees “a world of ladies” emerge from a grove, clad in white, and wearing garlands of laurel, of agnus castus, and woodbind. One, who wears a crown and bears a branch of agnus castus in her hand, begins a roundel, in honour of the Leaf, which all the others take up, dancing and singing in the meadow before the arbour. Soon, to the sound of thundering trumps, and attended by a splendid and warlike retinue, enter nine knights, in white, crowned like the ladies; and after they have jousted an hour and more, they alight and advance to the ladies. Each dame takes a knight by the hand; and all incline reverently to the laurel tree, which they encompass, singing of love, and dancing. Soon, preceded by a band of minstrels, out of the open field comes a lusty company of knights and ladies in green, crowned with chaplets of flowers; and they do reverence to a tuft of flowers in the middle of the meadow, while one of their number sings a bergerette in praise of the daisy. But now it is high noon; the sun waxes fervently hot; the flowers lose their beauty, and wither with the heat; the ladies in green are scorched, the knights faint for lack of shade. Then a strong wind beats down all the flowers, save such as are protected by the leaves of hedges and groves; and a mighty storm of rain and hail drenches the ladies and knights, shelterless in the now flowerless meadow. The storm overpast, the company in white, whom the laurel-tree has safely shielded from heat and storm, advance to the relief of the others; and when their clothes have been dried, and their wounds from sun and storm healed, all go together to sup with the Queen in white — on whose hand, as they pass by the arbour, the Nightingale perches, while the Goldfinch flies to the Lady of the Flower. The pageant gone, the gentlewoman quits the arbour, and meets a lady in white, who, at her request, unfolds the hidden meaning of all that she has seen; “which,” says Speght quaintly, “is this: They which honour the Flower, a thing fading with every blast, are such as look after beauty and worldly pleasure. But they that honour the Leaf, which abideth with the root, notwithstanding the frosts and winter storms, are they which follow Virtue and during qualities, without regard of worldly respects.” Mr Bell, in his edition, has properly noticed that there is no explanation of the emblematical import of the medlar-tree, the goldfinch, and the nightingale. “But,” he says, “as the fruit of the medlar, to use Chaucer’s own expression (see Prologue to the Reeve’s Tale), is rotten before it is ripe, it may be the emblem of sensual pleasure, which palls before it confers real enjoyment. The goldfinch is remarkable for the beauty of its plumage, the sprightliness of its movements, and its gay, tinkling song, and may be supposed to represent the showy and unsubstantial character of frivolous pleasures. The nightingale’s sober outward appearance and impassioned song denote greater depth of feeling.” The poem throughout is marked by the purest and loftiest moral tone; and it amply deserved Dryden’s special recommendation, “both for the invention and the moral.” It is given without abridgement.] (Transcriber’s note: Modern scholars believe that Chaucer was not the author of this poem)
WHEN that Phoebus his car of gold so high
Had whirled up the starry sky aloft,
And in the Bull <1> enter’d certainly;
When showers sweet of rain descended soft,
Causing the grounde, fele* times and oft, *many
Up for to give many a wholesome air,
And every plain was y-clothed fair
With newe green, and maketh smalle flow’rs
To springe here and there in field and mead;
So very good and wholesome be the show’rs,
That they renewe what was old and dead
In winter time; and out of ev’ry seed
Springeth the herbe, so that ev’ry wight
Of thilke* season waxeth glad and light. *this
And I, so glad of thilke season sweet,
Was *happed thus* upon a certain night, *thus circumstanced*
As I lay in my bed, sleep full unmeet* *unfit, uncompliant
Was unto me; but why that I not might
Rest, I not wist; for there n’as* earthly wight, *was not
As I suppose, had more hearte’s ease
Than I, for I n’had* sickness nor disease.** *had not **distress
Wherefore I marvel greatly of myself,
That I so long withoute sleepe lay;
And up I rose three houres after twelf,
About the springing of the [gladsome] day;
And on I put my gear* and mine array, *garments
And to a pleasant grove I gan to pass,
Long ere the brighte sun uprisen was;
In which were oakes great, straight as a line,
Under the which the grass, so fresh of hue,
Was newly sprung; and an eight foot or nine
Every tree well from his fellow grew,
With branches broad, laden with leaves new,
That sprangen out against the sunne sheen;
Some very red;<2> and some a glad light green;
Which, as me thought, was right a pleasant sight.
And eke the birdes’ songes for to hear
Would have rejoiced any earthly wight;
And I, that could not yet, in no mannere,
Heare the nightingale of* all the year,<3> *during
Full busy hearkened with heart and ear,
If I her voice perceive could anywhere.
And at the last a path of little brede* *breadth
I found, that greatly had not used be;
For it forgrowen* was with grass and weed, *overgrown
That well unneth* a wight mighte see: *scarcely
Thought I, “This path some whither goes, pardie!”* *of a surety
And so I follow’d [it], till it me brought
To a right pleasant arbour, well y-wrought,
That benched was, and [all] with turfes new
Freshly y-turf’d, <4> whereof the greene grass,
So small, so thick, so short, so fresh of hue,
That most like to green wool, I wot, it was;
The hedge also, that *yeden in compass,* *went all around <5>*
And closed in all the greene herbere,* *arbour
With sycamore was set and eglatere,* *eglantine, sweet-briar
Wreathed *in fere* so well and cunningly, *together*
That ev’ry branch and leaf grew *by measure,* *regularly*
Plain as a board, of *a height by and by:* *the same height side
I saw never a thing, I you ensure, by side*
So well y-done; for he that took the cure* *pains, care
To maken it, I trow did all his pain
To make it pass all those that men have seen.
And shapen was this arbour, roof and all,
As is a pretty parlour; and also
The hedge as thick was as a castle wall,
That whoso list without to stand or go,
Though he would all day pryen to and fro,
He should not see if there were any wight
Within or no; but one within well might
Perceive all those that wente there without
Into the field, that was on ev’ry side
Cover’d with corn and grass; that out of doubt,
Though one would seeken all the worlde wide,
So rich a fielde could not be espied
Upon no coast, *as of the quantity;* *for its abundance
For of all goode thing there was plenty. or fertility*
And I, that all this pleasant sight [did] see,
Thought suddenly I felt so sweet an air
Of the eglentere, that certainly
There is no heart, I deem, in such despair,
Nor yet with thoughtes froward and contrair
So overlaid, but it should soon have boot,* *remedy, relief*
If it had ones felt this *savour swoot.* *sweet smell*
And as I stood, and cast aside mine eye,
I was ware of the fairest medlar tree
That ever yet in all my life I seye,* *saw
As full of blossoms as it mighte be;
Therein a goldfinch leaping prettily
From bough to bough; and as him list he eat
Here and there of the buds and flowers sweet.
And to the arbour side was adjoining
This fairest tree, of which I have you told;
And at the last the bird began to sing
(When he had eaten what he eate wo’ld)
So passing sweetly, that by many fold
It was more pleasant than I could devise;* *tell, describe
And, when his song was ended in this wise,
The nightingale with so merry a note
Answered him, that all the woode rung,
So suddenly, that, *as it were a sote,* *like a fool <6>*
I stood astound’; so was I with the song
Thorough ravished, that, *till late and long,* *for a long time*
I wist not in what place I was, nor where;
Again, me thought, she sung e’en by mine ear.
Wherefore I waited about busily
On ev’ry side, if that I might her see;
And at the last I gan full well espy
Where she sat in a fresh green laurel tree,
On the further side, even right by me,
That gave so passing a delicious smell,
*According to* the eglantere full well. *blending with*
Whereof I had so inly great pleasure,
That, as me thought, I surely ravish’d was
Into Paradise, where [as] my desire
Was for to be, and no farther to pass,
As for that day; and on the sweete grass
I sat me down; for, *as for mine intent,* *to my mind*
The birde’s song was more *convenient,* *appropriate to my humour*
And more pleasant to me, by many fold,
Than meat, or drink, or any other thing;
Thereto the arbour was so fresh and cold,
The wholesome savours eke so comforting,
That, as I deemed, since the beginning
Of the world was [there] never seen *ere than* *before then*
So pleasant a ground of none earthly man.
And as I sat, the birdes heark’ning thus,
Me thought that I heard voices suddenly,
The most sweetest and most delicious
That ever any wight, I *trow truely,* *verily believe*
Heard in their life; for the harmony
And sweet accord was in so good musike,
That the voices to angels’ most were like.
At the last, out of a grove even by,
That was right goodly, and pleasant to sight,
I saw where there came, singing lustily,
A world of ladies; but to tell aright
Their greate beauty, lies not in my might,
Nor their array; nevertheless I shall
Tell you a part, though I speak not of all.
In surcoats* white, of velvet well fitting, *upper robes
They were clad, and the seames each one,
As it were a mannere [of] garnishing,
Was set with emeraldes, one and one,
*By and by;* but many a riche stone *in a row*
Was set upon the purfles,* out of doubt, *embroidered edges
Of collars, sleeves, and traines round about;
As greate pearles, round and orient,* *brilliant
And diamondes fine, and rubies red,
And many another stone, of which I went* *cannot recall
The names now; and ev’reach on her head
[Had] a rich fret* of gold, which, without dread,** *band **doubt
Was full of stately* riche stones set; *valuable, noble
And ev’ry lady had a chapelet
Upon her head of branches fresh and green, <7>
So well y-wrought, and so marvellously,
That it was a right noble sight to see’n;
Some of laurel, and some full pleasantly
Had chapelets of woodbine; and sadly,* *sedately
Some of agnus castus <8> wearen also
Chapelets fresh; but there were many of tho’* *those
That danced and eke sung full soberly;
And all they went *in manner of compass;* *in a circle*
But one there went, in mid the company,
Sole by herself; but all follow’d the pace
That she kept, whose heavenly figur’d face
So pleasant was, and her well shap’d person,
That in beauty she pass’d them ev’ry one.
And more richly beseen, by many fold,
She was also in ev’ry manner thing:
Upon her head, full pleasant to behold,
A crown of golde, rich for any king;
A branch of agnus castus eke bearing
In her hand, and to my sight truely
She Lady was of all that company.
And she began a roundell <9> lustily,
That “Suse le foyle, devers moi,” men call,
“Siene et mon joly coeur est endormy;” <10>
And then the company answered all,
With voices sweet entuned, and so small,* *fine
That me thought it the sweetest melody
That ever I heard in my life, soothly.* *truly
And thus they came, dancing and singing,
Into the middest of the mead each one,
Before the arbour where I was sitting;
And, God wot, me thought I was well-begone,* *fortunate
For then I might advise* them one by one, *consider
Who fairest was, who best could dance or sing,
Or who most womanly was in all thing.
They had not danced but a *little throw,* *short time*
When that I hearde far off, suddenly,
So great a noise of thund’ring trumpets blow,
As though it should departed* have the sky; *rent, divide
And after that, within a while, I sigh,* *saw
From the same grove, where the ladies came out,
Of men of armes coming such a rout,* *company
As* all the men on earth had been assembled *as if
Unto that place, well horsed for the nonce* *occasion
Stirring so fast, that all the earthe trembled
But for to speak of riches, and of stones,
And men and horse, I trow the large ones* *i.e. jewels
Of Prester John, <11> nor all his treasury,
Might not unneth* have bought the tenth party** *hardly **part
Of their array: whoso list heare more,
I shall rehearse so as I can a lite.* *little
Out of the grove, that I spake of before,
I saw come first, all in their cloakes white,
A company, that wore, for their delight,
Chapelets fresh of oake cerrial, <12>
Newly y-sprung; and trumpets* were they all. *trumpeters
On ev’ry trump hanging a broad bannere
Of fine tartarium <13> was, full richly beat;* *embroidered with gold
Every trumpet his lord’s armes bare;
About their necks, with greate pearles set,
[Were] collars broad; for cost they would not let,* *be hindered by
As it would seem, for their scutcheons each one
Were set about with many a precious stone.
Their horses’ harness was all white also.
And after them next, in one company,
Came kinges at armes and no mo’,
In cloakes of white cloth with gold richly;
Chaplets of green upon their heads on high;
The crownes that they on their scutcheons bare
Were set with pearl, and ruby, and sapphire,
And eke great diamondes many one:
But all their horse harness, and other gear,
Was in a suit according, ev’ry one,
As ye have heard the foresaid trumpets were;
And, by seeming, they *were nothing to lear,* *had nothing to learn*
And their guiding they did all mannerly.* *perfectly
And after them came a great company
Of heraldes and pursuivantes eke,
Arrayed in clothes of white velvet;
And, hardily,* they were no thing to seek, assuredly
How they on them shoulde the harness set:
And ev’ry man had on a chapelet;
Scutcheones and eke harness, indeed,
They had *in suit of* them that ‘fore them yede.* *corresponding with*
Next after them in came, in armour bright,
All save their heades, seemly knightes nine,
And ev’ry clasp and nail, as to my sight,
Of their harness was of red golde fine;
With cloth of gold, and furred with ermine,
Were the trappures* of their steedes strong, *trappings
Both wide and large, that to the grounde hung.
And ev’ry boss of bridle and paytrel* *horse’s breastplate
That they had on, was worth, as I would ween,
A thousand pound; and on their heades, well
Dressed, were crownes of the laurel green,
The beste made that ever I had seen;
And ev’ry knight had after him riding
Three henchemen* upon him awaiting. *pages
Of which ev’ry [first], on a short truncheon,* *staff
His lorde’s helmet bare, so richly dight,* *adorned
That the worst of them was worthy the ranson* *ransom
Of any king; the second a shielde bright
Bare at his back; the thirde bare upright
A mighty spear, full sharp y-ground and keen;
And ev’ry childe* ware of leaves green *page
A freshe chaplet on his haires bright;
And cloakes white of fine velvet they ware
Their steedes trapped and arrayed right,
Without difference, as their lordes’ were;
And after them, on many a fresh courser,
There came of armed knightes such a rout,* *company, crowd
That they bespread the large field about.
And all they waren, after their degrees,
Chapelets newe made of laurel green,
Some of the oak, and some of other trees;
Some in their handes bare boughes sheen,* *bright
Some of laurel, and some of oakes keen,
Some of hawthorn, and some of the woodbind,
And many more which I had not in mind.
And so they came, their horses fresh stirring
With bloody soundes of their trumpets loud;
There saw I many an *uncouth disguising* *strange manoeuvring*
In the array of these knightes proud;
And at the last, as evenly as they could,
They took their place in middest of the mead,
And ev’ry knight turned his horse’s head
To his fellow, and lightly laid a spear
Into the rest; and so the jousts began
On ev’ry part aboute, here and there;
Some brake his spear, some threw down horse and man;
About the field astray the steedes ran;
And, to behold their rule and governance,* *conduct
I you ensure, it was a great pleasuance.
And so the joustes last’* an hour and more; *lasted
But those that crowned were in laurel green
Wonne the prize; their dintes* were so sore, *strokes
That there was none against them might sustene:
And the jousting was alle left off clean,
And from their horse the nine alight’ anon,
And so did all the remnant ev’ry one.
And forth they went together, twain and twain,
That to behold it was a worthy sight,
Toward the ladies on the greene plain,
That sang and danced as I said now right;
The ladies, as soon as they goodly might,
They brake off both the song and eke the dance,
And went to meet them with full glad semblance.* *air, aspect
And ev’ry lady took, full womanly,
By th’hand a knight, and so forth right they yede* *went
Unto a fair laurel that stood fast by,
With leaves lade the boughs of greate brede;* *breadth
And, to my doom,* there never was, indeed, *judgment
Man that had seene half so fair a tree;
For underneath it there might well have be* *been
A hundred persons, *at their own pleasance,* *in perfect comfort*
Shadowed from the heat of Phoebus bright,
So that they shoulde have felt no grievance* *annoyance
Of rain nor haile that them hurte might.
The savour eke rejoice would any wight
That had been sick or melancholious,
It was so very good and virtuous.* *full of healing virtues
And with great rev’rence they inclined low
Unto the tree so sweet and fair of hue;* *appearance
And after that, within a *little throw,* *short time*
They all began to sing and dance of new,
Some song of love, some *plaining of untrue,* *complaint of
Environing* the tree that stood upright; unfaithfulness*
And ever went a lady and a knight. *going round
And at the last I cast mine eye aside,
And was ware of a lusty company
That came roaming out of the fielde wide;
[And] hand in hand a knight and a lady;
The ladies all in surcoats, that richly
Purfiled* were with many a riche stone; *trimmed at the borders
And ev’ry knight of green ware mantles on,
Embroider’d well, so as the surcoats were;
And ev’reach had a chaplet on her head
(Which did right well upon the shining hair),
Maked of goodly flowers, white and red.
The knightes eke, that they in hande led,
In suit of them ware chaplets ev’ry one,
And them before went minstrels many one,
As harpes, pipes, lutes, and psaltry,
All [clad] in green; and, on their heades bare,
Of divers flowers, made full craftily
All in a suit, goodly chaplets they ware;
And so dancing into the mead they fare.
In mid the which they found a tuft that was
All overspread with flowers in compass* *around, in a circle
Whereunto they inclined ev’ry one,
With great reverence, and that full humbly
And at the last there then began anon
A lady for to sing right womanly,
A bargaret, <14> in praising the daisy.
For, as me thought, among her notes sweet,
She saide: “Si douce est la margarete.”<15>
Then alle they answered her in fere* *together
So passingly well, and so pleasantly,
That it was a [most] blissful noise to hear.
But, I n’ot* how, it happen’d suddenly *know not
As about noon the sun so fervently
Wax’d hote, that the pretty tender flow’rs
Had lost the beauty of their fresh colours,
Forshrunk* with heat; the ladies eke to-brent,** *shrivelled **very burnt
That they knew not where they might them bestow;
The knightes swelt,* for lack of shade nigh shent** *fainted **destroyed
And after that, within a little throw,
The wind began so sturdily to blow,
That down went all the flowers ev’ry one,
So that in all the mead there left not one;
Save such as succour’d were among the leaves
From ev’ry storm that mighte them assail,
Growing under the hedges and thick greves;* *groves, boughs
And after that there came a storm of hail
And rain in fere,* so that withoute fail *together
The ladies nor the knights had not one thread
Dry on them, so dropping was [all] their weed.* *clothing
And when the storm was passed clean away,
Those in the white, that stood under the tree,
They felt no thing of all the great affray
That they in green without *had in y-be:* *had been in*
To them they went for ruth, and for pity,
Them to comfort after their great disease;* *trouble
So fain* they were the helpless for to ease. *glad, eager
Then I was ware how one of them in green
Had on a crowne, rich and well sitting;* *becoming
Wherefore I deemed well she was a queen,
And those in green on her were awaiting.* *in attendance
The ladies then in white that were coming
Toward them, and the knightes eke *in fere,* *together*
Began to comfort them, and make them cheer.
The queen in white, that was of great beauty,
Took by the hand the queen that was in green,
And saide: “Sister, I have great pity
Of your annoy, and of your troublous teen,* *injury, grief
Wherein you and your company have been
So long, alas! and if that it you please
To go with me, I shall you do the ease,
“In all the pleasure that I can or may;”
Whereof the other, humbly as she might,
Thanked her; for in right evil array
She was, with storm and heat, I you behight;* *assure
Arid ev’ry lady then anon aright,
That were in white, one of them took in green
By the hand; which when that the knights had seen,
In like mannere each of them took a knight
Y-clad in green, and forth with them they fare
Unto a hedge, where that they anon right,
To make their joustes,<16> they would not spare
Boughes to hewe down, and eke trees square,
Wherewith they made them stately fires great,
To dry their clothes, that were wringing wet.
And after that, of herbes that there grew,
They made, for blisters of the sun’s burning,
Ointmentes very good, wholesome, and new,
Wherewith they went the sick fast anointing;
And after that they went about gath’ring
Pleasant salades, which they made them eat,
For to refresh their great unkindly heat.
The Lady of the Leaf then gan to pray
Her of the Flower (for so, to my seeming,
They should be called, as by their array),
To sup with her; and eke, for anything,
That she should with her all her people bring;
And she again in right goodly mannere
Thanked her fast of her most friendly cheer;
Saying plainely, that she would obey,
With all her heart, all her commandement:
And then anon, without longer delay,
The Lady of the Leaf hath one y-sent
To bring a palfrey, *after her intent,* *according to her wish*
Arrayed well in fair harness of gold;
For nothing lack’d, that *to him longe sho’ld.* *should belong to him*
And, after that, to all her company
She made to purvey* horse and ev’rything *provide
That they needed; and then full lustily,
Ev’n by the arbour where I was sitting,
They passed all, so merrily singing,
That it would have comforted any wight.
But then I saw a passing wondrous sight;
For then the nightingale, that all the day
Had in the laurel sat, and did her might
The whole service to sing longing to May,
All suddenly began to take her flight;
And to the Lady of the Leaf forthright
She flew, and set her on her hand softly;
Which was a thing I marvell’d at greatly.
The goldfinch eke, that from the medlar tree
Was fled for heat into the bushes cold,
Unto the Lady of the Flower gan flee,
And on her hand he set him as he wo’ld,
And pleasantly his winges gan to fold;
And for to sing they *pain’d them* both, as sore *made great exertions*
As they had done *of all* the day before. *during
And so these ladies rode forth *a great pace,* *rapidly*
And all the rout of knightes eke in fere;
And I, that had seen all this *wonder case,* *wondrous incident*
Thought that I would assay in some mannere
To know fully the truth of this mattere,
And what they were that rode so pleasantly;
And when they were the arbour passed by,
I *dress’d me forth,* and happ’d to meet anon *issued forth*
A right fair lady, I do you ensure;* *assure
And she came riding by herself alone,
All in white; [then] with semblance full demure
I her saluted, and bade good adventure* *fortune
Might her befall, as I could most humbly;
And she answer’d: “My daughter, gramercy!”* *great thanks <17>
“Madame,” quoth I, “if that I durst enquere
Of you, I would fain, of that company,
Wit what they be that pass’d by this herbere?
And she again answered right friendly:
“My faire daughter, all that pass’d hereby
In white clothing, be servants ev’ry one
Unto the Leaf; and I myself am one.
“See ye not her that crowned is,” quoth she
“[Clad] all in white?” — “Madame,” then quoth I, “yes:”
“That is Dian’, goddess of chastity;
And for because that she a maiden is,
In her hande the branch she beareth this,
That agnus castus <8> men call properly;
And all the ladies in her company,
“Which ye see of that herbe chaplets wear,
Be such as have kept alway maidenhead:
And all they that of laurel chaplets bear,
Be such as hardy* were in manly deed, — *courageous
Victorious name which never may be dead!
And all they were so *worthy of their hand* *valiant in fight*
In their time, that no one might them withstand,
“And those that weare chaplets on their head
Of fresh woodbind, be such as never were
To love untrue in word, in thought, nor deed,
But ay steadfast; nor for pleasance, nor fear,
Though that they should their heartes all to-tear,* *rend in pieces*
Would never flit,* but ever were steadfast, *change
*Till that their lives there asunder brast.”* *till they died*
“Now fair Madame,” quoth I, “yet would I pray
Your ladyship, if that it mighte be,
That I might knowe, by some manner way
(Since that it hath liked your beauty,
The truth of these ladies for to tell me),
What that these knightes be in rich armour,
And what those be in green and wear the flow’r?
“And why that some did rev’rence to that tree,
And some unto the plot of flowers fair?”
“With right good will, my daughter fair,” quoth she,
“Since your desire is good and debonair;* *gentle, courteous
The nine crowned be *very exemplair* *the true examples*
Of all honour longing to chivalry;
And those certain be call’d The Nine Worthy, <18>
“Which ye may see now riding all before,
That in their time did many a noble deed,
And for their worthiness full oft have bore
The crown of laurel leaves upon their head,
As ye may in your olde bookes read;
And how that he that was a conquerour
Had by laurel alway his most honour.
“And those that beare boughes in their hand
Of the precious laurel so notable,
Be such as were, I will ye understand,
Most noble Knightes of the Rounde Table,<19>
And eke the Douceperes honourable; <20>
Whiche they bear in sign of victory,
As witness of their deedes mightily.
“Eke there be knightes old <21> of the Garter,
That in their time did right worthily;
And the honour they did to the laurer* *laurel <22>
Is for* by it they have their laud wholly, *because
Their triumph eke, and martial glory;
Which unto them is more perfect richess
Than any wight imagine can, or guess.
“For one leaf given of that noble tree
To any wight that hath done worthily,
An’* it be done so as it ought to be, *if
Is more honour than any thing earthly;
Witness of Rome, that founder was truly
Of alle knighthood and deeds marvellous;
Record I take of Titus Livius.” <23>
And as for her that crowned is in green,
It is Flora, of these flowers goddess;
And all that here on her awaiting be’n,
It are such folk that loved idleness,
And not delighted in no business,
But for to hunt and hawk, and play in meads,
And many other such-like idle deeds.
“And for the great delight and the pleasance
They have to the flow’r, and so rev’rently
They unto it do such obeisance
As ye may see.” “Now, fair Madame,”quoth I,
“If I durst ask, what is the cause, and why,
That knightes have the ensign* of honour *insignia
Rather by the leaf than by the flow’r?”
“Soothly, daughter,” quoth she, “this is the troth:
For knights should ever be persevering,
To seek honour, without feintise* or sloth, *dissimulation
From well to better in all manner thing:
In sign of which, with leaves aye lasting
They be rewarded after their degree,
Whose lusty green may not appaired* be, *impaired, decayed
“But ay keeping their beauty fresh and green;
For there is no storm that may them deface,
Nor hail nor snow, nor wind nor frostes keen;
Wherefore they have this property and grace:
And for the flow’r, within a little space,
Wolle* be lost, so simple of nature *will
They be, that they no grievance* may endure; *injury, hardship
“And ev’ry storm will blow them soon away,
Nor they laste not but for a season;
That is the cause, the very truth to say,
That they may not, by no way of reason,
Be put to no such occupation.”
“Madame,” quoth I, “with all my whole service
I thank you now, in my most humble wise;
“For now I am ascertain’d thoroughly
Of ev’ry thing that I desir’d to know.”
“I am right glad that I have said, soothly,
Aught to your pleasure, if ye will me trow,”* *believe
Quoth she again; “but to whom do ye owe
Your service? and which wolle* ye honour, *will
Tell me, I pray, this year, the Leaf or the Flow’r?”
“Madame,” quoth I, “though I be least worthy,
Unto the Leaf I owe mine observance:”
“That is,” quoth she, “right well done, certainly;
And I pray God, to honour you advance,
And keep you from the wicked remembrance
Of Malebouche,* and all his cruelty; *Slander <24>
And all that good and well-condition’d be.
“For here may I no longer now abide;
I must follow the greate company,
That ye may see yonder before you ride.”
And forthwith, as I coulde, most humbly
I took my leave of her, and she gan hie* *haste
After them as fast as she ever might;
And I drew homeward, for it was nigh night,
And put all that I had seen in writing,
Under support of them that list it read. <25>
O little book! thou art so uncunning,* *unskilful
How dar’st thou put thyself in press, <26> for dread?
It is wonder that thou waxest not red!
Since that thou know’st full lite* who shall behold *little
Thy rude language, full *boistously unfold.* *unfolded in homely and
Explicit.* *The End
Notes to the Flower and the Leaf
1. The Bull: the sign of Taurus, which the sun enters in May.
2. The young oak leaves are red or ashen coloured.
3. Chaucer here again refers to the superstition, noticed in “The Cuckoo and the Nightingale,” that it was of good omen to hear the nightingale before the cuckoo upon the advent of both with spring.
4. The arbour was furnished with seats, which had been newly covered with turf.
5. “Yede” or “yead,” is the old form of go.
6. Sote: fool — French “sot.”
7. See note 59 to The Court of Love
8. Agnus castus: the chaste-tree; a kind of willow.
9. Roundell: French, “rondeau;” a song that comes round again to the verse with which it opened, or that is taken up in turn by each of the singers.
10. In modern French form, “Sous la feuille, devers moi, son et mon joli coeur est endormi” — “Under the foliage, towards me, his and my jolly heart is gone to sleep.”
11. Prester John: The half-mythical Eastern potentate, who is now supposed to have been, not a Christian monarch of Abyssinia, but the head of the Indian empire before Zenghis Khan’s conquest.
12. Oak cerrial: of the species of oak which Pliny, in his “Natural History,” calls “cerrus.”
13. Tartarium: Cloth of Tars, or of Tortona.
14. Bargaret: bergerette, or pastoral song.
15. “Si douce est la margarete.”: “So sweet is the daisy” (“la marguerite”).
16. To make their joustes: the meaning is not very obvious; but in The Knight’s Tale “jousts and array” are in some editions made part of the adornment of the Temple of Venus; and as the word “jousts” would there carry the general meaning of “preparations” to entertain or please a lover, in the present case it may have a similar force.
17. Gramercy: “grand merci,” French; great thanks.
18. The Nine Worthies, who at our day survive in the Seven Champions of Christendom. The Worthies were favourite subjects for representation at popular festivals or in masquerades.
19. The famous Knights of King Arthur, who, being all esteemed equal in valour and noble qualities, sat at a round table, so that none should seem to have precedence over the rest.
20. The twelve peers of Charlemagne (les douze pairs), chief among whom were Roland and Oliver.
21. Chaucer speaks as if, at least for the purposes of his poetry, he believed that Edward III. did not establish a new, but only revived an old, chivalric institution, when be founded the Order of the Garter.
22. Laurer: laurel-tree; French, “laurier.”
23. The meaning is: “Witness the practice of Rome, that was the founder of all knighthood and marvellous deeds; and I refer for corroboration to Titus Livius” — who, in several passages, has mentioned the laurel crown as the highest military honour. For instance, in 1. vii. c. 13, Sextus Tullius, remonstrating for the army against the inaction in which it is kept, tells the Dictator Sulpicius, “Duce te vincere cupimus; tibi lauream insignem deferre; tecum triumphantes urbem inire.” (“Commander, we want you to conquer; to bring you the laurel insignia; to enter the city with you in triumph”)
24. Malebouche: Slander, personified under the title of Evil-mouth — Italian, “Malbocca;” French, “Malebouche.”
25. Under support of them that list it read: the phrase means — trusting to the goodwill of my reader.
26. In press: into a crowd, into the press of competitors for favour; not, it need hardly be said, “into the press” in the modern sense — printing was not invented for a century after this was written.
THE HOUSE OF FAME
[Thanks partly to Pope’s brief and elegant paraphrase, in his “Temple of Fame,” and partly to the familiar force of the style and the satirical significance of the allegory, “The House of Fame” is among the best known and relished of Chaucer’s minor poems. The octosyllabic measure in which it is written — the same which the author of “Hudibras” used with such admirable effect — is excellently adapted for the vivid descriptions, the lively sallies of humour and sarcasm, with which the poem abounds; and when the poet actually does get to his subject, he treats it with a zest, and a corresponding interest on the part of the reader, which are scarcely surpassed by the best of The Canterbury Tales. The poet, however, tarries long on the way to the House of Fame; as Pope says in his advertisement, the reader who would compare his with Chaucer’s poem, “may begin with [Chaucer’s] third Book of Fame, there being nothing in the two first books that answers to their title.” The first book opens with a kind of prologue (actually so marked and called in earlier editions) in which the author speculates on the causes of dreams; avers that never any man had such a dream as he had on the tenth of December; and prays the God of Sleep to help him to interpret the dream, and the Mover of all things to reward or afflict those readers who take the dream well or ill. Then he relates that, having fallen asleep, he fancied himself within a temple of glass — the abode of Venus — the walls of which were painted with the story of Aeneas. The paintings are described at length; and then the poet tells us that, coming out of the temple, he found himself on a vast sandy plain, and saw high in heaven an eagle, that began to descend towards him. With the prologue, the first book numbers 508 lines; of which 192 only — more than are actually concerned with or directly lead towards the real subject of the poem — are given here. The second book, containing 582 lines, of which 176 will be found in this edition, is wholly devoted to the voyage from the Temple of Venus to the House of Fame, which the dreamer accomplishes in the eagle’s claws. The bird has been sent by Jove to do the poet some “solace” in reward of his labours for the cause of Love; and during the transit through the air the messenger discourses obligingly and learnedly with his human burden on the theory of sound, by which all that is spoken must needs reach the House of Fame; and on other matters suggested by their errand and their observations by the way. The third book (of 1080 lines, only a score of which, just at the outset, have been omitted) brings us to the real pith of the poem. It finds the poet close to the House of Fame, built on a rock of ice engraved with names, many of which are half-melted away. Entering the gorgeous palace, he finds all manner of minstrels and historians; harpers, pipers, and trumpeters of fame; magicians, jugglers, sorcerers, and many others. On a throne of ruby sits the goddess, seeming at one moment of but a cubit’s stature, at the next touching heaven; and at either hand, on pillars, stand the great authors who “bear up the name” of ancient nations. Crowds of people enter the hall from all regions of earth, praying the goddess to give them good or evil fame, with and without their own deserts; and they receive answers favourable, negative, or contrary, according to the caprice of Fame. Pursuing his researches further, out of the region of reputation or fame proper into that of tidings or rumours, the poet is led, by a man who has entered into conversation with him, to a vast whirling house of twigs, ever open to the arrival of tidings, ever full of murmurings, whisperings, and clatterings, coming from the vast crowds that fill it — for every rumour, every piece of news, every false report, appears there in the shape of the person who utters it, or passes it on, down in earth. Out at the windows innumerable, the tidings pass to Fame, who gives to each report its name and duration; and in the house travellers, pilgrims, pardoners, couriers, lovers, &c., make a huge clamour. But here the poet meets with a man “of great authority,” and, half afraid, awakes; skilfully — whether by intention, fatigue, or accident — leaving the reader disappointed by the nonfulfilment of what seemed to be promises of further disclosures. The poem, not least in the passages the omission of which has been dictated by the exigencies of the present volume, is full of testimony to the vast acquaintance of Chaucer with learning ancient and modern; Ovid, Virgil, Statius, are equally at his command to illustrate his narrative or to furnish the ground-work of his descriptions; while architecture, the Arabic numeration, the theory of sound, and the effects of gunpowder, are only a few among the topics of his own time of which the poet treats with the ease of proficient knowledge. Not least interesting are the vivid touches in which Chaucer sketches the routine of his laborious and almost recluse daily life; while the strength, individuality, and humour that mark the didactic portion of the poem prove that “The House of Fame” was one of the poet’s riper productions.]
GOD turn us ev’ry dream to good!
For it is wonder thing, by the Rood,* *Cross <1>
To my witte, what causeth swevens,* *dreams
Either on morrows or on evens;
And why th’effect followeth of some,
And of some it shall never come;
Why this is an avision
And this a revelation;
Why this a dream, why that a sweven,
And not to ev’ry man *like even;* *alike*
Why this a phantom, why these oracles,
I n’ot; but whoso of these miracles
The causes knoweth bet than I,
Divine* he; for I certainly *define
*Ne can them not,* nor ever think *do not know them*
To busy my wit for to swink* *labour
To know of their significance
The genders, neither the distance
Of times of them, nor the causes
For why that this more than that cause is;
Or if folke’s complexions
Make them dream of reflections;
Or elles thus, as others sayn,
For too great feebleness of the brain
By abstinence, or by sickness,
By prison, strife, or great distress,
Or elles by disordinance* *derangement
Of natural accustomance;* *mode of life
That some men be too curious
In study, or melancholious,
Or thus, so inly full of dread,
That no man may them *boote bede;* *afford them relief*
Or elles that devotion
Of some, and contemplation,
Causeth to them such dreames oft;
Or that the cruel life unsoft
Of them that unkind loves lead,
That often hope much or dread,
That purely their impressions
Cause them to have visions;
Or if that spirits have the might
To make folk to dream a-night;
Or if the soul, of *proper kind,* *its own nature*
Be so perfect as men find,
That it forewot* what is to come, *foreknows
And that it warneth all and some
Of ev’reach of their adventures,
By visions, or by figures,
But that our fleshe hath no might
To understanden it aright,
For it is warned too darkly;
But why the cause is, not wot I.
Well worth of this thing greate clerks, <2>
That treat of this and other works;
For I of none opinion
Will as now make mention;
But only that the holy Rood
Turn us every dream to good.
For never since that I was born,
Nor no man elles me beforn,
Mette,* as I trowe steadfastly, *dreamed
So wonderful a dream as I,
The tenthe day now of December;
The which, as I can it remember,
I will you tellen ev’ry deal.* *whit
But at my beginning, truste weel,* *well
I will make invocation,
With special devotion,
Unto the god of Sleep anon,
That dwelleth in a cave of stone, <3>
Upon a stream that comes from Lete,
That is a flood of hell unsweet,
Beside a folk men call Cimmerie;
There sleepeth ay this god unmerry,
With his sleepy thousand sones,
That alway for to sleep their won* is; *wont, custom
And to this god, that I *of read,* *tell of*
Pray I, that he will me speed
My sweven for to tell aright,
If ev’ry dream stands in his might.
And he that Mover is of all
That is, and was, and ever shall,
So give them joye that it hear,
Of alle that they dream to-year;* *this year
And for to standen all in grace* *favour
Of their loves, or in what place
That them were liefest* for to stand, *most desired
And shield them from povert’ and shand,* *shame
And from ev’ry unhap and disease,
And send them all that may them please,
That take it well, and scorn it not,
Nor it misdeemen* in their thought, *misjudge
Through malicious intention;
And whoso, through presumption.
Or hate, or scorn, or through envy,
Despite, or jape,* or villainy, *jesting
Misdeem it, pray I Jesus God,
That dream he barefoot, dream he shod,
That ev’ry harm that any man
Hath had since that the world began,
Befall him thereof, ere he sterve,* *die
And grant that he may it deserve,* *earn, obtain
Lo! with such a conclusion
As had of his avision
Croesus, that was the king of Lyde,<4>
That high upon a gibbet died;
This prayer shall he have of me;
I am *no bet in charity.* *no more charitable*
Now hearken, as I have you said,
What that I mette ere I abraid,* *awoke
Of December the tenthe day;
When it was night to sleep I lay,
Right as I was wont for to do’n,
And fell asleepe wonder soon,
As he that *weary was for go*<5> *was weary from going*
On pilgrimage miles two
To the corsaint* Leonard, *relics of <6>
To make lithe that erst was hard.
But, as I slept, me mette I was
Within a temple made of glass;
In which there were more images
Of gold, standing in sundry stages,
And more riche tabernacles,
And with pierrie* more pinnacles, *gems
And more curious portraitures,
And *quainte manner* of figures *strange kinds*
Of golde work, than I saw ever.
But, certainly, I wiste* never *knew
Where that it was, but well wist I
It was of Venus readily,
This temple; for in portraiture
I saw anon right her figure
Naked floating in a sea, <7>
And also on her head, pardie,
Her rose garland white and red,
And her comb to comb her head,
Her doves, and Dan Cupido,
Her blinde son, and Vulcano, <8>
That in his face was full brown.
As he “roamed up and down,” the dreamer saw on the wall a tablet of brass inscribed with the opening lines of the Aeneid; while the whole story of Aeneas was told in the “portraitures” and gold work. About three hundred and fifty lines are devoted to the description; but they merely embody Virgil’s account of Aeneas’ adventures from the destruction of Troy to his arrival in Italy; and the only characteristic passage is the following reflection, suggested by the death of Dido for her perfidious but fate-compelled guest:
Lo! how a woman doth amiss,
To love him that unknowen is!
For, by Christ, lo! thus it fareth,
It is not all gold that glareth.* *glitters
For, all so brook I well my head,
There may be under goodlihead* *fair appearance
Cover’d many a shrewed* vice; *cursed
Therefore let no wight be so nice* *foolish
To take a love only for cheer,* *looks
Or speech, or for friendly mannere;
For this shall ev’ry woman find,
That some man, *of his pure kind,* *by force of his nature
Will showen outward the fairest,
Till he have caught that which him lest;* *pleases
And then anon will causes find,
And sweare how she is unkind,
Or false, or privy* double was. *secretly
All this say I by* Aeneas *with reference to
And Dido, and her *nice lest,* *foolish pleasure*
That loved all too soon a guest;
Therefore I will say a proverb,
That he that fully knows the herb
May safely lay it to his eye;
Withoute dread,* this is no lie. *doubt
When the dreamer had seen all the sights in the temple, he became desirous to know who had worked all those wonders, and in what country he was; so he resolved to go out at the wicket, in search of somebody who might tell him.
When I out at the doores came,
I fast aboute me beheld;
Then saw I but a large feld,* *open country
As far as that I mighte see,
WIthoute town, or house, or tree,
Or bush, or grass, or ered* land, *ploughed <9>
For all the field was but of sand,
As small* as men may see it lie *fine
In the desert of Libye;
Nor no manner creature
That is formed by Nature,
There saw I, me to *rede or wiss.* *advise or direct*
“O Christ!” thought I, “that art in bliss,
From *phantom and illusion* *vain fancy and deception*
Me save!” and with devotion
Mine eyen to the heav’n I cast.
Then was I ware at the last
That, faste by the sun on high,
*As kennen might I* with mine eye, *as well as I might discern*
Me thought I saw an eagle soar,
But that it seemed muche more* *larger
Than I had any eagle seen;
This is as sooth as death, certain,
It was of gold, and shone so bright,
That never saw men such a sight,
But if* the heaven had y-won, *unless
All new from God, another sun;
So shone the eagle’s feathers bright:
And somewhat downward gan it light.* *descend, alight
The Second Book opens with a brief invocation of Venus and of Thought; then it proceeds:
This eagle, of which I have you told,
That shone with feathers as of gold,
Which that so high began to soar,
I gan beholde more and more,
To see her beauty and the wonder;
But never was there dint of thunder,
Nor that thing that men calle foudre,* *thunderbolt
That smote sometimes a town to powder,
And in his swifte coming brenn’d,* *burned
That so swithe* gan descend, *rapidly
As this fowl, when that it beheld
That I a-roam was in the feld;
And with his grim pawes strong,
Within his sharpe nailes long,
Me, flying, at a swap* he hent,** *swoop *seized
And with his sours <10> again up went,
Me carrying in his clawes stark* *strong
As light as I had been a lark,
How high, I cannot telle you,
For I came up, I wist not how.
The poet faints through bewilderment and fear; but the eagle, speaking with the voice of a man, recalls him to himself, and comforts him by the assurance that what now befalls him is for his instruction and profit. Answering the poet’s unspoken inquiry whether he is not to die otherwise, or whether Jove will him stellify, the eagle says that he has been sent by Jupiter out of his “great ruth,”
“For that thou hast so truely
So long served ententively* *with attentive zeal
His blinde nephew* Cupido, *grandson
And faire Venus also,
Withoute guuerdon ever yet,
And natheless hast set thy wit
(Although that in thy head full lite* is) *little
To make bookes, songs, and ditties,
In rhyme or elles in cadence,
As thou best canst, in reverence
Of Love, and of his servants eke,
That have his service sought, and seek,
And pained thee to praise his art,
Although thou haddest never part; <11>
Wherefore, all so God me bless,
Jovis holds it great humbless,
And virtue eke, that thou wilt make
A-night full oft thy head to ache,
In thy study so thou writest,
And evermore of love enditest,
In honour of him and praisings,
And in his folke’s furtherings,
And in their matter all devisest,* *relates
And not him nor his folk despisest,
Although thou may’st go in the dance
Of them that him list not advance.
Wherefore, as I said now, y-wis,
Jupiter well considers this;
And also, beausire,* other things; *good sir
That is, that thou hast no tidings
Of Love’s folk, if they be glad,
Nor of naught elles that God made;
And not only from far country
That no tidings come to thee,
But of thy very neighebours,
That dwellen almost at thy doors,
Thou hearest neither that nor this.
For when thy labour all done is,
And hast y-made thy reckonings, <12>
Instead of rest and newe things,
Thou go’st home to thy house anon,
And, all so dumb as any stone,
Thou sittest at another book,
Till fully dazed* is thy look; *blinded
And livest thus as a hermite
Although thine abstinence is lite.”* <13> *little
Therefore has Jove appointed the eagle to take the poet to the House of Fame, to do him some pleasure in recompense for his devotion to Cupid; and he will hear, says the bird,
“When we be come there as I say,
More wondrous thinges, dare I lay,* *bet
Of Love’s folke more tidings,
Both *soothe sawes and leasings;* *true sayings and lies*
And more loves new begun,
And long y-served loves won,
And more loves casually
That be betid,* no man knows why, *happened by chance
But as a blind man starts a hare;
And more jollity and welfare,
While that they finde *love of steel,* *love true as steel*
As thinketh them, and over all weel;
More discords, and more jealousies,
More murmurs, and more novelties,
And more dissimulations,
And feigned reparations;
And more beardes, in two hours,
Withoute razor or scissours
Y-made, <14> than graines be of sands;
And eke more holding in hands,* *embracings
And also more renovelances* *renewings
Of old *forleten acquaintances;* *broken-off acquaintanceships*
More love-days,<15> and more accords,* *agreements
Than on instruments be chords;
And eke of love more exchanges
Than ever cornes were in granges.”* *barns
The poet can scarcely believe that, though Fame had all the pies [magpies] and all the spies in a kingdom, she should hear so much; but the eagle proceeds to prove that she can.
First shalt thou heare where she dwelleth;
And, so as thine own booke telleth, <16>
Her palace stands, as I shall say,
Right ev’n in middes of the way
Betweene heav’n, and earth, and sea,
That whatsoe’er in all these three
Is spoken, *privy or apert,* *secretly or openly*
The air thereto is so overt,* *clear
And stands eke in so just* a place, *suitable
That ev’ry sound must to it pace,
Or whatso comes from any tongue,
Be it rowned,* read, or sung, *whispered
Or spoken in surety or dread,* *doubt
Certain *it must thither need.”* *it must needs go thither*
The eagle, in a long discourse, demonstrates that, as all natural things have a natural place towards which they move by natural inclination, and as sound is only broken air, so every sound must come to Fame’s House, “though it were piped of a mouse” — on the same principle by which every part of a mass of water is affected by the casting in of a stone. The poet is all the while borne upward, entertained with various information by the bird; which at last cries out —
“Hold up thy head, for all is well!
Saint Julian, lo! bon hostel! <17>
See here the House of Fame, lo
May’st thou not heare that I do?”
“What?” quoth I. “The greate soun’,”
Quoth he, “that rumbleth up and down
In Fame’s House, full of tidings,
Both of fair speech and of chidings,
And of false and sooth compouned;* *compounded, mingled
Hearken well; it is not rowned.* *whispered
Hearest thou not the greate swough?”* *confused sound
“Yes, pardie!” quoth I, “well enough.”
And what sound is it like?” quoth he
“Peter! the beating of the sea,”
Quoth I, “against the rockes hollow,
When tempests do the shippes swallow.
And let a man stand, out of doubt,
A mile thence, and hear it rout.* *roar
Or elles like the last humbling* *dull low distant noise
After the clap of a thund’ring,
When Jovis hath the air y-beat;
But it doth me for feare sweat.”
“Nay, dread thee not thereof,” quoth he;
“It is nothing will bite thee,
Thou shalt no harme have, truly.”
And with that word both he and I
As nigh the place arrived were,
As men might caste with a spear.
I wist not how, but in a street
He set me fair upon my feet,
And saide: “Walke forth apace,
And take *thine adventure or case,* *thy chance of what
That thou shalt find in Fame’s place.” may befall*
“Now,” quoth I, “while we have space
To speak, ere that I go from thee,
For the love of God, as telle me,
In sooth, that I will of thee lear,* *learn
If this noise that I hear
Be, as I have heard thee tell,
Of folk that down in earthe dwell,
And cometh here in the same wise
As I thee heard, ere this, devise?
And that there living body n’is* *is not
In all that house that yonder is,
That maketh all this loude fare?”* *hubbub, ado
“No,” answered he, “by Saint Clare,
And all *so wisly God rede me;* *so surely god
But one thing I will warne thee, guide me*
Of the which thou wilt have wonder.
Lo! to the House of Fame yonder,
Thou know’st how cometh ev’ry speech;
It needeth not thee eft* to teach. *again
But understand now right well this;
When any speech y-comen is
Up to the palace, anon right
It waxeth* like the same wight** *becomes **person
Which that the word in earthe spake,
Be he cloth’d in red or black;
And so weareth his likeness,
And speaks the word, that thou wilt guess* *fancy
That it the same body be,
Whether man or woman, he or she.
And is not this a wondrous thing?”
“Yes,” quoth I then, “by Heaven’s king!”
And with this word, “Farewell,” quoth he,
And here I will abide* thee, *wait for
And God of Heaven send thee grace
Some good to learen* in this place.” *learn
And I of him took leave anon,
And gan forth to the palace go’n.
At the opening of the Third Book, Chaucer briefly invokes Apollo’s guidance, and entreats him, because “the rhyme is light and lewd,” to “make it somewhat agreeable, though some verse fail in a syllable.” If the god answers the prayer, the poet promises to kiss the next laurel-tree <18> he sees; and he proceeds:
When I was from this eagle gone,
I gan behold upon this place;
And certain, ere I farther pace,
I will you all the shape devise* *describe
Of house and city; and all the wise
How I gan to this place approach,
That stood upon so high a roche,* *rock <19>
Higher standeth none in Spain;
But up I climb’d with muche pain,
And though to climbe *grieved me,* *cost me painful effort*
Yet I ententive* was to see, *attentive
And for to pore* wondrous low, *gaze closely
If I could any wise know
What manner stone this rocke was,
For it was like a thing of glass,
But that it shone full more clear
But of what congealed mattere
It was, I wist not readily,
But at the last espied I,
And found that it was *ev’ry deal* *entirely*
A rock of ice, and not of steel.
Thought I, “By Saint Thomas of Kent, <20>
This were a feeble fundament* *foundation
*To builden* a place so high; *on which to build
He ought him lite* to glorify *little
That hereon built, God so me save!”
Then saw I all the half y-grave <21>
With famous folke’s names fele,* *many
That hadde been in muche weal,* *good fortune
And their fames wide y-blow.
But well unnethes* might I know *scarcely
Any letters for to read
Their names by; for out of dread* *doubt
They were almost off thawed so,
That of the letters one or two
Were molt* away of ev’ry name, *melted
So unfamous was wox* their fame; *become
But men say, “What may ever last?”
Then gan I in my heart to cast* *conjecture
That they were molt away for heat,
And not away with stormes beat;
For on the other side I sey* *saw
Of this hill, that northward lay,
How it was written full of names
Of folke that had greate fames
Of olde times, and yet they were
As fresh as men had writ them there
The selfe day, right ere that hour
That I upon them gan to pore.
But well I wiste what it made;* *meant
It was conserved with the shade,
All the writing which I sigh,* *saw
Of a castle that stood on high;
And stood eke on so cold a place,
That heat might it not deface.* *injure, destroy
Then gan I on this hill to go’n,
And found upon the cop* a won,** *summit <22> **house
That all the men that be alive
Have not the *cunning to descrive* *skill to describe*
The beauty of that like place,
Nor coulde *caste no compass* *find no contrivance*
Such another for to make,
That might of beauty be its make,* *match, equal
Nor one so wondrously y-wrought,
That it astonieth yet my thought,
And maketh all my wit to swink,* *labour
Upon this castle for to think;
So that the greate beauty,
Cast,* craft, and curiosity, *ingenuity
Ne can I not to you devise;* *describe
My witte may me not suffice.
But natheless all the substance
I have yet in my remembrance;
For why, me thoughte, by Saint Gile,
Alle was of stone of beryle,
Bothe the castle and the tow’r,
And eke the hall, and ev’ry bow’r,* *chamber
Withoute pieces or joinings,
But many subtile compassings,* *contrivances
As barbicans* and pinnacles, *watch-towers
Imageries and tabernacles,
I saw; and eke full of windows,
As flakes fall in greate snows.
And eke in each of the pinnacles
Were sundry habitacles,* *apartments or niches
In which stooden, all without,
Full the castle all about,
Of all manner of minstrales
And gestiours,<23> that telle tales
Both of weeping and of game,* *mirth
Of all that longeth unto Fame.
There heard I play upon a harp,
That sounded bothe well and sharp,
Him, Orpheus, full craftily;
And on this side faste by
Satte the harper Arion,<24>
And eke Aeacides Chiron <25>
And other harpers many a one,
And the great Glasgerion; <26>
And smalle harpers, with their glees,* *instruments
Satten under them in sees,* *seats
And gan on them upward to gape,
And counterfeit them as an ape,
Or as *craft counterfeiteth kind.* *art counterfeits nature*
Then saw I standing them behind,
Afar from them, all by themselve,
Many thousand times twelve,
That made loude minstrelsies
In cornmuse and eke in shawmies, <27>
And in many another pipe,
That craftily began to pipe,
Both in dulcet <28> and in reed,
That be at feastes with the bride.
And many a flute and lilting horn,
And pipes made of greene corn,
As have these little herde-grooms,* *shepherd-boys
That keepe beastes in the brooms.
There saw I then Dan Citherus,
And of Athens Dan Pronomus, <29>
And Marsyas <30> that lost his skin,
Both in the face, body, and chin,
For that he would envyen, lo!
To pipe better than Apollo.
There saw I famous, old and young,
Pipers of alle Dutche tongue, <31>
To learne love-dances and springs,
Reyes, <32> and these strange things.
Then saw I in another place,
Standing in a large space,
Of them that make bloody* soun’, *martial
In trumpet, beam,* and clarioun; *horn <33>
For in fight and blood-sheddings
Is used gladly clarionings.
There heard I trumpe Messenus. <34>
Of whom speaketh Virgilius.
There heard I Joab trump also, <35>
Theodamas, <36> and other mo’,
And all that used clarion
In Catalogne and Aragon,
That in their times famous were
To learne, saw I trumpe there.
There saw I sit in other sees,
Playing upon sundry glees,
Whiche that I cannot neven,* *name
More than starres be in heaven;
Of which I will not now rhyme,
For ease of you, and loss of time:
For time lost, this knowe ye,
By no way may recover’d be.
There saw I play jongelours,* *jugglers <37>
Magicians, and tregetours,<38>
And Pythonesses, <39> charmeresses,
And old witches, and sorceresses,
That use exorcisations,
And eke subfumigations; <40>
And clerkes* eke, which knowe well *scholars
All this magic naturel,
That craftily do their intents,
To make, in certain ascendents, <41>
Images, lo! through which magic
To make a man be whole or sick.
There saw I the queen Medea, <42>
And Circes <43> eke, and Calypsa.<44>
There saw I Hermes Ballenus, <45>
Limote, <46> and eke Simon Magus. <47>
There saw I, and knew by name,
That by such art do men have fame.
There saw I Colle Tregetour <46>
Upon a table of sycamore
Play an uncouth* thing to tell; *strange, rare
I saw him carry a windmell
Under a walnut shell.
Why should I make longer tale
Of all the people I there say,* *saw
From hence even to doomesday?
When I had all this folk behold,
And found me *loose, and not y-hold,* *at liberty and unrestrained*
And I had mused longe while
Upon these walles of beryle,
That shone lighter than any glass,
And made *well more* than it was *much greater
To seemen ev’rything, y-wis,
As kindly* thing of Fame it is; <48> *natural
I gan forth roam until I fand* *found
The castle-gate on my right hand,
Which all so well y-carven was,
That never such another n’as;* *was not
And yet it was by Adventure* *chance
Y-wrought, and not by *subtile cure.* *careful art*
It needeth not you more to tell,
To make you too longe dwell,
Of these gates’ flourishings,
Nor of compasses,* nor carvings, *devices
Nor how they had in masonries,
As corbets, <49> full of imageries.
But, Lord! so fair it was to shew,
For it was all with gold behew.* *coloured
But in I went, and that anon;
There met I crying many a one
“A largess! largess! <50> hold up well!
God save the Lady of this pell,* *palace
Our owen gentle Lady Fame,
And them that will to have name
Of us!” Thus heard I cryen all,
And fast they came out of the hall,
And shooke *nobles and sterlings,* *coins <51>
And some y-crowned were as kings,
With crownes wrought fall of lozenges;
And many ribands, and many fringes,
Were on their clothes truely
Then at the last espied I
That pursuivantes and herauds,* *heralds
That cry riche folke’s lauds,* *praises
They weren all; and ev’ry man
Of them, as I you telle can,
Had on him throwen a vesture
Which that men call a coat-armure, <52>
Embroidered wondrously rich,
As though there were *naught y-lich;* *nothing like it*
But naught will I, so may I thrive,
*Be aboute to descrive* *concern myself with describing*
All these armes that there were,
That they thus on their coates bare,
For it to me were impossible;
Men might make of them a bible
Twenty foote thick, I trow.
For, certain, whoso coulde know
Might there all the armes see’n
Of famous folk that have been
In Afric’, Europe, and Asie,
Since first began the chivalry.
Lo! how should I now tell all this?
Nor of the hall eke what need is
To telle you that ev’ry wall
Of it, and floor, and roof, and all,
Was plated half a foote thick
Of gold, and that was nothing wick’,* *counterfeit
But for to prove in alle wise
As fine as ducat of Venise, <53>
Of which too little in my pouch is?
And they were set as thick of nouches* *ornaments
Fine, of the finest stones fair,
That men read in the Lapidaire, <54>
As grasses growen in a mead.
But it were all too long to read* *declare
The names; and therefore I pass.
But in this rich and lusty place,
That Fame’s Hall y-called was,
Full muche press of folk there n’as,* *was not
Nor crowding for too muche press.
But all on high, above a dais,
Set on a see* imperial, <55> *seat
That made was of ruby all,
Which that carbuncle is y-call’d,
I saw perpetually install’d
A feminine creature;
That never formed by Nature
Was such another thing y-sey.* *seen
For altherfirst,* sooth to say, *first of all
Me thoughte that she was so lite,* *little
That the length of a cubite
Was longer than she seem’d to be;
But thus soon in a while she
Herself then wonderfully stretch’d,
That with her feet the earth she reach’d,
And with her head she touched heaven,
Where as shine the starres seven. <56>
And thereto* eke, as to my wit, *moreover
I saw a greater wonder yet,
Upon her eyen to behold;
But certes I them never told.
For *as fele eyen* hadde she, *as many eyes*
As feathers upon fowles be,
Or were on the beastes four
That Godde’s throne gan honour,
As John writ in th’Apocalypse. <57>
Her hair, that *oundy was and crips,* *wavy <58> and crisp*
As burnish’d gold it shone to see;
And, sooth to tellen, also she
Had all so fele* upstanding ears, *many
And tongues, as on beasts be hairs;
And on her feet waxen saw I
Partridges’ winges readily.<59>
But, Lord! the pierrie* and richess *gems, jewellery
I saw sitting on this goddess,
And the heavenly melody
Of songes full of harmony,
I heard about her throne y-sung,
That all the palace walles rung!
(So sung the mighty Muse, she
That called is Calliope,
And her eight sisteren* eke, *sisters
That in their faces seeme meek);
And evermore eternally
They sang of Fame as then heard I:
“Heried* be thou and thy name, *praised
Goddess of Renown and Fame!”
Then was I ware, lo! at the last,
As I mine eyen gan upcast,
That this ilke noble queen
On her shoulders gan sustene* *sustain
Both the armes, and the name
Of those that hadde large fame;
Alexander, and Hercules,
That with a shirt his life lese.* <60> *lost
Thus found I sitting this goddess,
In noble honour and richess;
Of which I stint* a while now, *refrain (from speaking)
Of other things to telle you.
Then saw I stand on either side,
Straight down unto the doores wide,
From the dais, many a pillere
Of metal, that shone not full clear;
But though they were of no richess,
Yet were they made for great nobless,
And in them greate sentence.* *significance
And folk of digne* reverence, *worthy, lofty
Of which *I will you telle fand,* *I will try to tell you*
Upon the pillars saw I stand.
Altherfirst, lo! there I sigh* *saw
Upon a pillar stand on high,
That was of lead and iron fine,
Him of the secte Saturnine, <61>
The Hebrew Josephus the old,
That of Jewes’ gestes* told; *deeds of braver
And he bare on his shoulders high
All the fame up of Jewry.
And by him stooden other seven,
Full wise and worthy for to neven,* *name
To help him bearen up the charge,* *burden
It was so heavy and so large.
And, for they writen of battailes,
As well as other old marvailes,
Therefore was, lo! this pillere,
Of which that I you telle here,
Of lead and iron both, y-wis;
For iron Marte’s metal is, <62>
Which that god is of battaile;
And eke the lead, withoute fail,
Is, lo! the metal of Saturn,
That hath full large wheel* to turn. *orbit
Then stoode forth, on either row,
Of them which I coulde know,
Though I them not by order tell,
To make you too longe dwell.
These, of the which I gin you read,
There saw I standen, out of dread,
Upon an iron pillar strong,
That painted was all endelong* *from top to bottom*
With tiger’s blood in ev’ry place,
The Tholosan that highte Stace, <63>
That bare of Thebes up the name
Upon his shoulders, and the fame
Also of cruel Achilles.
And by him stood, withoute lease,* *falsehood
Full wondrous high on a pillere
Of iron, he, the great Homere;
And with him Dares and Dytus, <64>
Before, and eke he, Lollius, <65>
And Guido eke de Colempnis, <66>
And English Gaufrid <67> eke, y-wis.
And each of these, as I have joy,
Was busy for to bear up Troy;
So heavy thereof was the fame,
That for to bear it was no game.
But yet I gan full well espy,
Betwixt them was a little envy.
One said that Homer made lies,
Feigning in his poetries,
And was to the Greeks favourable;
Therefore held he it but a fable.
Then saw I stand on a pillere
That was of tinned iron clear,
Him, the Latin poet Virgile,
That borne hath up a longe while
The fame of pious Aeneas.
And next him on a pillar was
Of copper, Venus’ clerk Ovide,
That hath y-sowen wondrous wide
The greate god of Love’s fame.
And there he bare up well his name
Upon this pillar all so high,
As I might see it with mine eye;
For why? this hall whereof I read
Was waxen in height, and length, and bread,* *breadth
Well more by a thousand deal* *times
Than it was erst, that saw I weel.
Then saw I on a pillar by,
Of iron wrought full sternely,
The greate poet, Dan Lucan,
That on his shoulders bare up than,
As high as that I might it see,
The fame of Julius and Pompey; <68>
And by him stood all those clerks
That write of Rome’s mighty works,
That if I would their names tell,
All too longe must I dwell.
And next him on a pillar stood
Of sulphur, like as he were wood,* *mad
Dan Claudian, <69> the sooth to tell,
That bare up all the fame of hell,
Of Pluto, and of Proserpine,
That queen is of *the darke pine* *the dark realm of pain*
Why should I telle more of this?
The hall was alle fulle, y-wis,
Of them that writen olde gests,* *histories of great deeds
As be on trees rookes’ nests;
But it a full confus’d mattere
Were all these gestes for to hear,
That they of write, and how they hight.* *are called
But while that I beheld this sight,
I heard a noise approache blive,* *quickly
That far’d* as bees do in a hive, *went
Against their time of outflying;
Right such a manner murmuring,
For all the world, it seem’d to me.
Then gan I look about, and see
That there came entering the hall
A right great company withal,
And that of sundry regions,
Of all kinds and conditions
That dwell in earth under the moon,
Both poor and rich; and all so soon
As they were come into the hall,
They gan adown on knees to fall,
Before this ilke* noble queen, *same
And saide, “Grant us, Lady sheen,* *bright, lovely
Each of us of thy grace a boon.”* *favour
And some of them she granted soon,
And some she warned* well and fair, *refused
And some she granted the contrair* *contrary
Of their asking utterly;
But this I say you truely,
What that her cause was, I n’ist;* *wist not, know not
For of these folk full well I wist,
They hadde good fame each deserved,
Although they were diversely served.
Right as her sister, Dame Fortune,
Is wont to serven *in commune.* *commonly, usually*
Now hearken how she gan to pay
Them that gan of her grace to pray;
And right, lo! all this company
Saide sooth,* and not a lie. *truth
“Madame,” thus quoth they, “we be
Folk that here beseeche thee
That thou grant us now good fame,
And let our workes have good name
In full recompensatioun
Of good work, give us good renown
“I warn* it you,” quoth she anon; *refuse
“Ye get of me good fame none,
By God! and therefore go your way.”
“Alas,” quoth they, “and well-away!
Tell us what may your cause be.”
“For that it list* me not,” quoth she, *pleases
No wight shall speak of you, y-wis,
Good nor harm, nor that nor this.”
And with that word she gan to call
Her messenger, that was in hall,
And bade that he should faste go’n,
Upon pain to be blind anon,
For Aeolus, the god of wind;
“In Thrace there ye shall him find,
And bid him bring his clarioun,
That is full diverse of his soun’,
And it is called Cleare Laud,
With which he wont is to heraud* *proclaim
Them that me list y-praised be,
And also bid him how that he
Bring eke his other clarioun,
That hight* Slander in ev’ry town, *is called
With which he wont is to diffame* *defame, disparage
Them that me list, and do them shame.”
This messenger gan faste go’n,
And found where, in a cave of stone,
In a country that highte Thrace,
This Aeolus, *with harde grace,* *Evil favour attend him!*
Helde the windes in distress,* *constraint
And gan them under him to press,
That they began as bears to roar,
He bound and pressed them so sore.
This messenger gan fast to cry,
“Rise up,” quoth he, “and fast thee hie,
Until thou at my Lady be,
And take thy clarions eke with thee,
And speed thee forth.” And he anon
Took to him one that hight Triton, <70>
His clarions to beare tho,* *then
And let a certain winde go,
That blew so hideously and high,
That it lefte not a sky* *cloud <71>
In all the welkin* long and broad. *sky
This Aeolus nowhere abode* *delayed
Till he was come to Fame’s feet,
And eke the man that Triton hete,* *is called
And there he stood as still as stone.
And therewithal there came anon
Another huge company
Of goode folk, and gan to cry,
“Lady, grant us goode fame,
And let our workes have that name,
Now in honour of gentleness;
And all so God your soule bless;
For we have well deserved it,
Therefore is right we be well quit.”* *requited
“As thrive I,” quoth she, “ye shall fail;
Good workes shall you not avail
To have of me good fame as now;
But, wot ye what, I grante you.
That ye shall have a shrewde* fame, *evil, cursed
And wicked los,* and worse name, *reputation <72>
Though ye good los have well deserv’d;
Now go your way, for ye be serv’d.
And now, Dan Aeolus,” quoth she,
“Take forth thy trump anon, let see,
That is y-called Slander light,
And blow their los, that ev’ry wight
Speak of them harm and shrewedness,* *wickedness, malice
Instead of good and worthiness;
For thou shalt trump all the contrair
Of that they have done, well and fair.”
Alas! thought I, what adventures* *(evil) fortunes
Have these sorry creatures,
That they, amonges all the press,
Should thus be shamed guilteless?
But what! it muste needes be.
What did this Aeolus, but he
Took out his blacke trump of brass,
That fouler than the Devil was,
And gan this trumpet for to blow,
As all the world ‘t would overthrow.
Throughout every regioun
Went this foule trumpet’s soun’,
As swift as pellet out of gun
When fire is in the powder run.
And such a smoke gan out wend,* *go
Out of this foule trumpet’s end,
Black, blue, greenish, swart,* and red, *black <73>
As doth when that men melt lead,
Lo! all on high from the tewell;* *chimney <74>
And thereto* one thing saw I well, *also
That the farther that it ran,
The greater waxen it began,
As doth the river from a well,* *fountain
And it stank as the pit of hell.
Alas! thus was their shame y-rung,
And guilteless, on ev’ry tongue.
Then came the thirde company,
And gan up to the dais to hie,* *hasten
And down on knees they fell anon,
And saide, “We be ev’ry one
Folk that have full truely
Deserved fame right fully,
And pray you that it may be know
Right as it is, and forth y-blow.”
“I grante,” quoth she, “for me list
That now your goode works be wist;* *known
And yet ye shall have better los,
In despite of all your foes,
Than worthy* is, and that anon. *merited
Let now,” quoth she, “thy trumpet go’n,
Thou Aeolus, that is so black,
And out thine other trumpet take,
That highte Laud, and blow it so
That through the world their fame may go,
Easily and not too fast,
That it be knowen at the last.”
“Full gladly, Lady mine,” he said;
And out his trump of gold he braid* *pulled forth
Anon, and set it to his mouth,
And blew it east, and west, and south,
And north, as loud as any thunder,
That ev’ry wight had of it wonder,
So broad it ran ere that it stent.* *ceased
And certes all the breath that went
Out of his trumpet’s mouthe smell’d
As* men a pot of balme held *as if
Among a basket full of roses;
This favour did he to their loses.* *reputations
And right with this I gan espy
Where came the fourthe company.
But certain they were wondrous few;
And gan to standen in a rew,* *row
And saide, “Certes, Lady bright,
We have done well with all our might,
But we *not keep* to have fame; *care not
Hide our workes and our name,
For Godde’s love! for certes we
Have surely done it for bounty,* *goodness, virtue
And for no manner other thing.”
“I grante you all your asking,”
Quoth she; “let your workes be dead.”
With that I turn’d about my head,
And saw anon the fifthe rout,* *company
That to this Lady gan to lout,* *bow down
And down on knees anon to fall;
And to her then besoughten all
To hide their good workes eke,
And said, they gave* not a leek *cared
For no fame, nor such renown;
For they for contemplatioun
And Godde’s love had y-wrought,
Nor of fame would they have aught.
“What!” quoth she, “and be ye wood?
And *weene ye* for to do good, *do ye imagine*
And for to have of that no fame?
*Have ye despite* to have my name? *do ye despise*
Nay, ye shall lie every one!
Blow thy trump, and that anon,”
Quoth she, “thou Aeolus, I hote,* *command
And ring these folkes works by note,
That all the world may of it hear.”
And he gan blow their los* so clear *reputation
Within his golden clarioun,
That through the worlde went the soun’,
All so kindly, and so soft,
That their fame was blown aloft.
And then came the sixth company,
And gunnen* fast on Fame to cry; *began
Right verily in this mannere
They saide; “Mercy, Lady dear!
To telle certain as it is,
We have done neither that nor this,
But idle all our life hath be;* *been
But natheless yet praye we
That we may have as good a fame,
And great renown, and knowen* name, *well-known
As they that have done noble gests,* *feats.
And have achieved all their quests,* *enterprises; desires
As well of Love, as other thing;
All* was us never brooch, nor ring, *although
Nor elles aught from women sent,
Nor ones in their hearte meant
To make us only friendly cheer,
But mighte *teem us upon bier;* *might lay us on our bier
Yet let us to the people seem (by their adverse demeanour)*
Such as the world may of us deem,* *judge
That women loven us for wood.* *madly
It shall us do as muche good,
And to our heart as much avail,
The counterpoise,* ease, and travail, *compensation
As we had won it with labour;
For that is deare bought honour,
*At the regard of* our great ease. *in comparison with*
*And yet* ye must us more please; *in addition*
Let us be holden eke thereto
Worthy, and wise, and good also,
And rich, and happy unto love,
For Godde’s love, that sits above;
Though we may not the body have
Of women, yet, so God you save,
Let men glue* on us the name; *fasten
Sufficeth that we have the fame.”
“I grante,” quoth she, “by my troth;
Now Aeolus, withoute sloth,
Take out thy trump of gold,” quoth she,
“And blow as they have asked me,
That ev’ry man ween* them at ease, *believe
Although they go in full *bad leas.”* *sorry plight*
This Aeolus gan it so blow,
That through the world it was y-know.
Then came the seventh rout anon,
And fell on knees ev’ry one,
And saide, “Lady, grant us soon
The same thing, the same boon,
Which *this next folk* you have done.” *the people just before us*
“Fy on you,” quoth she, “ev’ry one!
Ye nasty swine, ye idle wretches,
Full fill’d of rotten slowe tetches!* *blemishes <75>
What? false thieves! ere ye would
*Be famous good,* and nothing n’ould *have good fame*
Deserve why, nor never raught,* *recked, cared (to do so)
Men rather you to hangen ought.
For ye be like the sleepy cat,
That would have fish; but, know’st thou what?
He woulde no thing wet his claws.
Evil thrift come to your jaws,
And eke to mine, if I it grant,
Or do favour you to avaunt.* *boast your deeds
Thou Aeolus, thou King of Thrace,
Go, blow this folk a *sorry grace,”* *disgrace
Quoth she, “anon; and know’st thou how?
As I shall telle thee right now,
Say, these be they that would honour
Have, and do no kind of labour,
Nor do no good, and yet have laud,
And that men ween’d that Belle Isaude <76>
*Could them not of love wern;* *could not refuse them her love*
And yet she that grinds at the quern* *mill <77>
Is all too good to ease their heart.”
This Aeolus anon upstart,
And with his blacke clarioun
He gan to blazen out a soun’
As loud as bellows wind in hell;
And eke therewith, the sooth to tell,
This sounde was so full of japes,* *jests
As ever were mows* in apes; *grimaces
And that went all the world about,
That ev’ry wight gan on them shout,
And for to laugh as they were wood;* *mad
*Such game found they in their hood.* <78> *so were they ridiculed*
Then came another company,
That hadde done the treachery,
The harm, and the great wickedness,
That any hearte coulde guess;
And prayed her to have good fame,
And that she would do them no shame,
But give them los and good renown,
And *do it blow* in clarioun. *cause it to be blown*
“Nay, wis!” quoth she, “it were a vice;
All be there in me no justice,
Me liste not to do it now,
Nor this will I grant to you.”
Then came there leaping in a rout,* *crowd
And gan to clappen* all about *strike, knock
Every man upon the crown,
That all the hall began to soun’;
And saide; “Lady lefe* and dear, *loved
We be such folk as ye may hear.
To tellen all the tale aright,
We be shrewes* every wight, *wicked, impious people
And have delight in wickedness,
As goode folk have in goodness,
And joy to be y-knowen shrews,
And full of vice and *wicked thews;* *evil qualities*
Wherefore we pray you *on a row,* *all together*
That our fame be such y-know
In all things right as it is.”
“I grant it you,” quoth she, “y-wis.
But what art thou that say’st this tale,
That wearest on thy hose a pale,* *vertical stripe
And on thy tippet such a bell?”
“Madame,” quoth he, “sooth to tell,
I am *that ilke shrew,* y-wis, *the same wretch*
That burnt the temple of Isidis,
In Athenes, lo! that city.” <79>
“And wherefore didst thou so?” quoth she.
“By my thrift!” quoth he, “Madame,
I woulde fain have had a name
As other folk had in the town;
Although they were of great renown
For their virtue and their thews,* *good qualities
Thought I, as great fame have shrews
(Though it be naught) for shrewdeness,
As good folk have for goodeness;
And since I may not have the one,
The other will I not forgo’n.
So for to gette *fame’s hire,* *the reward of fame*
The temple set I all afire.
*Now do our los be blowen swithe,
As wisly be thou ever blithe.”* *see note <80>
“Gladly,” quoth she; “thou Aeolus,
Hear’st thou what these folk prayen us?”
“Madame, I hear full well,” quoth he,
“And I will trumpen it, pardie!”
And took his blacke trumpet fast,
And gan to puffen and to blast,
Till it was at the worlde’s end.
With that I gan *aboute wend,* *turn*
For one that stood right at my back
Me thought full goodly* to me spake, *courteously, fairly
And saide, “Friend, what is thy name?
Art thou come hither to have fame?”
“Nay, *for soothe,* friend!” quoth I; *surely*
“I came not hither, *grand mercy,* *great thanks*
For no such cause, by my head!
Sufficeth me, as I were dead,
That no wight have my name in hand.
I wot myself best how I stand,
For what I dree,* or what I think, *suffer
I will myself it alle drink,
Certain, for the more part,
As far forth as I know mine art.”
“What doest thou here, then,” quoth he.
Quoth I, “That will I telle thee;
The cause why I stande here,
Is some new tidings for to lear,* *learn
Some newe thing, I know not what,
Tidings either this or that,
Of love, or suche thinges glad.
For, certainly, he that me made
To come hither, said to me
I shoulde bothe hear and see
In this place wondrous things;
But these be not such tidings
As I meant of.” “No?” quoth he.
And I answered, “No, pardie!
For well I wot ever yet,
Since that first I hadde wit,
That some folk have desired fame
Diversely, and los, and name;
But certainly I knew not how
Nor where that Fame dwelled, ere now
Nor eke of her description,
Nor also her condition,
Nor *the order of her doom,* *the principle of her judgments*
Knew I not till I hither come.”
“Why, then, lo! be these tidings,
That thou nowe hither brings,
That thou hast heard?” quoth he to me.
“But now *no force,* for well I see *no matter*
What thou desirest for to lear.”
Come forth, and stand no longer here.
And I will thee, withoute dread,* *doubt
Into another place lead,
Where thou shalt hear many a one.”
Then gan I forth with him to go’n
Out of the castle, sooth to say.
Then saw I stand in a vally,
Under the castle faste by,
A house, that domus Daedali,
That Labyrinthus <81> called is,
N’as* made so wondrously, y-wis, *was not
Nor half so quaintly* was y-wrought. *strangely
And evermore, as swift as thought,
This quainte* house aboute went, *strange
That nevermore it *stille stent;* *ceased to move*
And thereout came so great a noise,
That had it stooden upon Oise, <82>
Men might have heard it easily
To Rome, I *trowe sickerly.* *confidently believe*
And the noise which I heard,
For all the world right so it far’d
As doth the routing* of the stone *rushing noise*
That from the engine<83> is let go’n.
And all this house of which I read* *tell you
Was made of twigges sallow,* red, *willow
And green eke, and some were white,
Such as men *to the cages twight,* *pull to make cages*
Or maken of these panniers,
Or elles hutches or dossers;* *back-baskets
That, for the swough* and for the twigs, *rushing noise
This house was all so full of gigs,* *sounds of wind
And all so full eke of chirkings,* *creakings
And of many other workings;
And eke this house had of entries
As many as leaves be on trees,
In summer when that they be green,
And on the roof men may yet see’n
A thousand holes, and well mo’,
To let the soundes oute go.
And by day *in ev’ry tide* *continually*
Be all the doores open wide,
And by night each one unshet;* *unshut, open
Nor porter there is none to let* *hinder
No manner tidings in to pace;
Nor ever rest is in that place,
That it n’is* fill’d full of tidings, *is not
Either loud, or of whisperings;
And ever all the house’s angles
Are full of *rownings and of jangles,* *whisperings and chatterings*
Of wars, of peace, of marriages,
Of rests, of labour, of voyages,
Of abode, of death, of life,
Of love, of hate, accord, of strife,
Of loss, of lore, and of winnings,
Of health, of sickness, of buildings,
Of faire weather and tempests,
Of qualm* of folkes and of beasts; *sickness
Of divers transmutations
Of estates and of regions;
Of trust, of dread,* of jealousy, *doubt
Of wit, of cunning, of folly,
Of plenty, and of great famine,
Of *cheap, of dearth,* and of ruin; *cheapness & dearness (of food)*
Of good or of mis-government,
Of fire, and diverse accident.
And lo! this house of which I write,
*Sicker be ye,* it was not lite;* *be assured* *small
For it was sixty mile of length,
All* was the timber of no strength; *although
Yet it is founded to endure,
*While that it list to Adventure,* *while fortune pleases*
That is the mother of tidings,
As is the sea of wells and springs;
And it was shapen like a cage.
“Certes,” quoth I, “in all mine age,* *life
Ne’er saw I such a house as this.”
And as I wonder’d me, y-wis,
Upon this house, then ware was I
How that mine eagle, faste by,
Was perched high upon a stone;
And I gan straighte to him go’n,
And saide thus; “I praye thee
That thou a while abide* me, *wait for
For Godde’s love, and let me see
What wonders in this place be;
For yet parauntre* I may lear** *peradventure **learn
Some good thereon, or somewhat hear,
That *lefe me were,* ere that I went.” *were pleasing to me*
“Peter! that is mine intent,”
Quoth he to me; “therefore I dwell;* *tarry
But, certain, one thing I thee tell,
That, but* I bringe thee therein, *unless
Thou shalt never *can begin* *be able*
To come into it, out of doubt,
So fast it whirleth, lo! about.
But since that Jovis, of his grace,
As I have said, will thee solace
Finally with these ilke* things, *same
These uncouth sightes and tidings,
To pass away thy heaviness,
Such ruth* hath he of thy distress *compassion
That thou suff’rest debonairly,* *gently
And know’st thyselven utterly
Desperate of alle bliss,
Since that Fortune hath made amiss
The fruit of all thy hearte’s rest
Languish, and eke *in point to brest;* *on the point of breaking*
But he, through his mighty merite,
Will do thee ease, all be it lite,* *little
And gave express commandement,
To which I am obedient,
To further thee with all my might,
And wiss* and teache thee aright, *direct
Where thou may’st moste tidings hear,
Shalt thou anon many one lear.”
And with this word he right anon
Hent* me up betwixt his tone,** *caught **toes
And at a window in me brought,
That in this house was, as me thought;
And therewithal me thought it stent,* *stopped
And nothing it aboute went;
And set me in the floore down.
But such a congregatioun
Of folk, as I saw roam about,
Some within and some without,
Was never seen, nor shall be eft,* *again, hereafter
That, certes, in the world n’ is* left *is not
So many formed by Nature,
Nor dead so many a creature,
That well unnethes* in that place *scarcely
Had I a foote breadth of space;
And ev’ry wight that I saw there
Rown’d* evereach in other’s ear *whispered
A newe tiding privily,
Or elles told all openly
Right thus, and saide, “Know’st not thou
What is betid,* lo! righte now?” *happened
“No,” quoth he; “telle me what.”
And then he told him this and that,
And swore thereto, that it was sooth;
“Thus hath he said,” and “Thus he do’th,”
And “Thus shall ‘t be,” and “Thus heard I say
“That shall be found, that dare I lay;”* *wager
That all the folk that is alive
Have not the cunning to descrive* *describe
The thinges that I hearde there,
What aloud, and what in th’ear.
But all the wonder most was this;
When one had heard a thing, y-wis,
He came straight to another wight,
And gan him tellen anon right
The same tale that to him was told,
Or it a furlong way was old, <84>
And gan somewhat for to eche* *eke, add
To this tiding in his speech,
More than it ever spoken was.
And not so soon departed n’as* *was
He from him, than that he met
With the third; and *ere he let
Any stound,* he told him als’; *without delaying a momen*
Were the tidings true or false,
Yet would he tell it natheless,
And evermore with more increase
Than it was erst.* Thus north and south *at first
Went ev’ry tiding from mouth to mouth,
And that increasing evermo’,
As fire is wont to *quick and go* *become alive, and spread*
From a spark y-sprung amiss,
Till all a city burnt up is.
And when that it was full up-sprung,
And waxen* more on ev’ry tongue *increased
Than e’er it was, it went anon
Up to a window out to go’n;
Or, but it mighte thereout pass,
It gan creep out at some crevass,* *crevice, chink
And fly forth faste for the nonce.
And sometimes saw I there at once
*A leasing, and a sad sooth saw,* *a falsehood and an earnest
That gan *of adventure* draw true saying* *by chance
Out at a window for to pace;
And when they metten in that place,
They were checked both the two,
And neither of them might out go;
For other so they gan *to crowd,* *push, squeeze, each other*
Till each of them gan cryen loud,
“Let me go first!” — “Nay, but let me!
And here I will ensure thee,
With vowes, if thou wilt do so,
That I shall never from thee go,
But be thine owen sworen brother!
We will us medle* each with other, *mingle
That no man, be he ne’er so wroth,
Shall have one of us two, but both
At ones, as *beside his leave,* *despite his desire*
Come we at morning or at eve,
Be we cried or *still y-rowned.”* *quietly whispered*
Thus saw I false and sooth, compouned,* *compounded
Together fly for one tiding.
Then out at holes gan to wring* *squeeze, struggle
Every tiding straight to Fame;
And she gan give to each his name
After her disposition,
And gave them eke duration,
Some to wax and wane soon,
As doth the faire white moon;
And let them go. There might I see
Winged wonders full fast flee,
Twenty thousand in a rout,* *company
As Aeolus them blew about.
And, Lord! this House in alle times
Was full of shipmen and pilgrimes, <85>
With *scrippes bretfull of leasings,* *wallets brimful of falsehoods*
Entremedled with tidings* *true stories
And eke alone by themselve.
And many thousand times twelve
Saw I eke of these pardoners,<86>
Couriers, and eke messengers,
With boistes* crammed full of lies *boxes
As ever vessel was with lyes.* *lees of wine
And as I altherfaste* went *with all speed
About, and did all mine intent
Me *for to play and for to lear,* *to amuse and instruct myself*
And eke a tiding for to hear
That I had heard of some country,
That shall not now be told for me; —
For it no need is, readily;
Folk can sing it better than I.
For all must out, or late or rath,* *soon
All the sheaves in the lath;* *barn <87>
I heard a greate noise withal
In a corner of the hall,
Where men of love tidings told;
And I gan thitherward behold,
For I saw running ev’ry wight
As fast as that they hadde might,
And ev’reach cried, “What thing is that?”
And some said, “I know never what.”
And when they were all on a heap,
Those behinde gan up leap,
And clomb* upon each other fast, <88> *climbed
And up the noise on high they cast,
And trodden fast on others’ heels,
And stamp’d, as men do after eels.
But at the last I saw a man,
Which that I not describe can;
But that he seemed for to be
A man of great authority.
And therewith I anon abraid* *awoke
Out of my sleepe, half afraid;
Rememb’ring well what I had seen,
And how high and far I had been
In my ghost; and had great wonder
Of what the mighty god of thunder
Had let me know; and gan to write
Like as ye have me heard endite.
Wherefore to study and read alway
I purpose to do day by day.
And thus, in dreaming and in game,
Endeth this little book of Fame.
Here endeth the Book of Fame
Notes to The House of Fame
1. Rood: the cross on which Christ was crucified; Anglo-Saxon, “Rode.”
2. Well worth of this thing greate clerks: Great scholars set much worth upon this thing — that is, devote much labour, attach much importance, to the subject of dreams.
3. The poet briefly refers to the description of the House of Somnus, in Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” 1. xi. 592, et seqq.; where the cave of Somnus is said to be “prope Cimmerios,” (“near the Cimmerians”) and “Saxo tamen exit ab imo Rivus aquae Lethes.” (“A stream of Lethe’s water issues from the base of the rock”)
4. See the account of the vision of Croesus in The Monk’s Tale.
5. The meaning of the allusion is not clear; but the story of the pilgrims and the peas is perhaps suggested by the line following — “to make lithe [soft] what erst was hard.” St Leonard was the patron of captives.
5. Corsaint: The “corpus sanctum” — the holy body, or relics, preserved in the shrine.
7. So, in the Temple of Venus described in The Knight’s Tale, the Goddess is represented as “naked floating in the large sea”.
8. Vulcano: Vulcan, the husband of Venus.
9. Ered: ploughed; Latin, “arare,” Anglo-Saxon, “erean,” plough.
10. Sours: Soaring ascent; a hawk was said to be “on the soar” when he mounted, “on the sours” or “souse” when he descended on the prey, and took it in flight.
11. This is only one among many instances in which Chaucer disclaims the pursuits of love; and the description of his manner of life which follows is sufficient to show that the disclaimer was no mere mock-humble affectation of a gallant.
12. This reference, approximately fixing the date at which the poem was composed, points clearly to Chaucer’s daily work as Comptroller of the Customs — a post which he held from 1374 to 1386.
13. This is a frank enough admission that the poet was fond of good cheer; and the effect of his “little abstinence” on his corporeal appearance is humorously described in the Prologue to the Tale of Sir Thopas, where the Host compliments Chaucer on being as well shapen in the waist as himself.
14. “To make the beard” means to befool or deceive. See note 15 to the Reeve’s Tale. Precisely the same idea is conveyed in the modern slang word “shave” — meaning a trick or fraud.
15. Love-days: see note 21 to the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales.
16. If this reference is to any book of Chaucer’s in which the House of Fame was mentioned, the book has not come down to us. It has been reasonably supposed, however, that Chaucer means by “his own book” Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” of which he was evidently very fond; and in the twelfth book of that poem the Temple of Fame is described.
17. Saint Julian was the patron of hospitality; so the Franklin, in the Prologue to The Canterbury Tales is said to be “Saint Julian in his country,” for his open house and liberal cheer. The eagle, at sight of the House of Fame, cries out “bon hostel!” — “a fair lodging, a glorious house, by St Julian!”
18. The laurel-tree is sacred to Apollo. See note 11 to The Assembly of Fowls.
19. French, “roche,” a rock.
20. St. Thomas of Kent: Thomas a Beckett, whose shrine was at Canterbury.
21. The half or side of the rock which was towards the poet, was inscribed with, etc.
22. Cop: summit; German, “kopf”; the head.
23. Gestiours: tellers of stories; reciters of brave feats or “gests.”
24. Arion: the celebrated Greek bard and citharist, who, in the seventh century before Christ, lived at the court of Periander, tyrant of Corinth. The story of his preservation by the dolphin, when the covetous sailors forced him to leap into the sea, is well known.
25. Chiron the Centaur was renowned for skill in music and the arts, which he owed to the teaching of Apollo and Artemis. He became in turn the instructor of Peleus, Achilles, and other descendants of Aeacus; hence he is called “Aeacides” — because tutor to the Aeacides, and thus, so to speak, of that “family.”
26. Glasgerion is the subject of a ballad given in “Percy’s
Reliques,” where we are told that
“Glasgerion was a king’s own son,
And a harper he was good;
He harped in the king’s chamber,
Where cup and candle stood.”
27. Cornemuse: bagpipe; French, “cornemuse.” Shawmies: shalms or psalteries; an instrument resembling a harp.
28. Dulcet: a kind of pipe, probably corresponding with the “dulcimer;” the idea of sweet — French, “doux;” Latin, “dulcis” — is at the root of both words.
29. In the early printed editions of Chaucer, the two names are “Citherus” and “Proserus;” in the manuscript which Mr Bell followed (No. 16 in the Fairfax collection) they are “Atileris” and “Pseustis.” But neither alternative gives more than the slightest clue to identification. “Citherus” has been retained in the text; it may have been employed as an appellative of Apollo, derived from “cithara,” the instrument on which he played; and it is not easy to suggest a better substitute for it than “Clonas” – – an early Greek poet and musician who flourished six hundred years before Christ. For “Proserus,” however, has been substituted “Pronomus,” the name of a celebrated Grecian player on the pipe, who taught Alcibiades the flute, and who therefore, although Theban by birth, might naturally be said by the poet to be “of Athens.”
30. Marsyas: The Phrygian, who, having found the flute of Athena, which played of itself most exquisite music, challenged Apollo to a contest, the victor in which was to do with the vanquished as he pleased. Marsyas was beaten, and Apollo flayed him alive.
31. The German (Deutsche) language, in Chaucer’s time, had not undergone that marked literary division into German and Dutch which was largely accomplished through the influence of the works of Luther and the other Reformers. Even now, the flute is the favourite musical instrument of the Fatherland; and the devotion of the Germans to poetry and music has been celebrated since the days of Tacitus.
32. Reyes: a kind of dance, or song to be accompanied with dancing.
33. Beam: horn, trumpet; Anglo-Saxon, “bema.”
34. Messenus: Misenus, son of Aeolus, the companion and trumpeter of Aeneas, was drowned near the Campanian headland called Misenum after his name. (Aeneid, vi. 162 et seqq.)
35. Joab’s fame as a trumpeter is founded on two verses in 2 Samuel (ii. 28, xx. 22), where we are told that he “blew a trumpet,” which all the people of Israel obeyed, in the one case desisting from a pursuit, in the other raising a siege.
36. Theodamas or Thiodamas, king of the Dryopes, plays a prominent part in the tenth book of Statius’ “Thebaid.” Both he and Joab are also mentioned as great trumpeters in The Merchant’s Tale.
37. Jongelours: jugglers; French, “jongleur.”
38. Tregetours: tricksters, jugglers. For explanation of this word, see note 14 to the Franklin’s tale.
39. Pythonesses: women who, like the Pythia in Apollo’s temple at Delphi, were possessed with a spirit of divination or prophecy. The barbarous Latin form of the word was “Pythonissa” or “Phitonissa.” See note 9 to the Friar’s Tale.
40. Subfumigations: a ceremony employed to drive away evil spirits by burning incense; the practice of smoking cattle, corn, &c., has not died out in some country districts.
41. In certain ascendents: under certain planetary influences. The next lines recall the alleged malpractices of witches, who tortured little images of wax, in the design of causing the same torments to the person represented — or, vice versa, treated these images for the cure of hurts or sickness.
42. Medea: celebrated for her magical power, through which she restored to youth Aeson, the father of Jason; and caused the death of Jason’s wife, Creusa, by sending her a poisoned garment which consumed her to ashes.
43. Circes: the sorceress Circe, who changed the companions of Ulysses into swine.
44. Calypsa: Calypso, on whose island of Ogygia Ulysses was wrecked. The goddess promised the hero immortality if he remained with her; but he refused, and, after a detention of seven years, she had to let him go.
45. Hermes Ballenus: this is supposed to mean Hermes Trismegistus (of whom see note 19 to the Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale); but the explanation of the word “Ballenus” is not quite obvious. The god Hermes of the Greeks (Mercurius of the Romans) had the surname “Cyllenius,” from the mountain where he was born — Mount Cyllene, in Arcadia; and the alteration into “Ballenus” would be quite within the range of a copyist’s capabilities, while we find in the mythological character of Hermes enough to warrant his being classed with jugglers and magicians.
46. Limote and Colle Tregetour seem to have been famous sorcerers or jugglers, but nothing is now known of either.
47. Simon Magus: of whom we read in Acts viii. 9, et seqq.
48. “And made well more than it was
To seemen ev’rything, y-wis,
As kindly thing of Fame it is;”
i.e. It is in the nature of fame to exaggerate everything.
49. Corbets: the corbels, or capitals of pillars in a Gothic building; they were often carved with fantastic figures and devices.
50. A largess!: the cry with which heralds and pursuivants at a tournament acknowledged the gifts or largesses of the knights whose achievements they celebrated.
51. Nobles: gold coins of exceptional fineness. Sterlings: sterling coins; not “luxemburgs”, but stamped and authorised money. See note 9 to the Miller’s Tale and note 6 to the Prologue to the Monk’s tale.
52. Coat-armure: the sleeveless coat or “tabard,” on which the arms of the wearer or his lord were emblazoned.
53. “But for to prove in alle wise As fine as ducat of Venise” i.e. In whatever way it might be proved or tested, it would be found as fine as a Venetian ducat.
54. Lapidaire: a treatise on precious stones.
55. See imperial: a seat placed on the dais, or elevated portion of the hall at the upper end, where the lord and the honoured guests sat.
56. The starres seven: Septentrion; the Great Bear or Northern Wain, which in this country appears to be at the top of heaven.
57. The Apocalypse: The last book of the New Testament, also called Revelations. The four beasts are in chapter iv. 6.
58. “Oundy” is the French “ondoye,” from “ondoyer,” to undulate or wave.
59. Partridges’ wings: denoting swiftness.
60. Hercules lost his life with the poisoned shirt of Nessus, sent to him by the jealous Dejanira.
61. Of the secte Saturnine: Of the Saturnine school; so called because his history of the Jewish wars narrated many horrors, cruelties, and sufferings, over which Saturn was the presiding deity. See note 71 to the Knight’s tale.
62. Compare the account of the “bodies seven” given by the
“Sol gold is, and Luna silver we threpe;
Mars iron, Mercury quicksilver we clepe;
Saturnus lead, and Jupiter is tin,
And Venus copper, by my father’s kin.”
63. Statius is called a “Tholosan,” because by some, among them Dante, he was believed to have been a native of Tolosa, now Toulouse. He wrote the “Thebais,” in twelve books, and the “Achilleis,” of which only two were finished.
64. Dares Phrygius and Dictys Cretensis were the names attached to histories of the Trojan War pretended to have been written immediately after the fall of Troy.
65. Lollius: The unrecognisable author whom Chaucer professes to follow in his “Troilus and Cressida,” and who has been thought to mean Boccaccio.
66. Guido de Colonna, or de Colempnis, was a native of Messina, who lived about the end of the thirteenth century, and wrote in Latin prose a history including the war of Troy.
67. English Gaufrid: Geoffrey of Monmouth, who drew from Troy the original of the British race. See Spenser’s “Faerie Queen,” book ii. canto x.
68. Lucan, in his “Pharsalia,” a poem in ten books, recounted the incidents of the war between Caesar and Pompey.
69. Claudian of Alexandria, “the most modern of the ancient poets,” lived some three centuries after Christ, and among other works wrote three books on “The Rape of Proserpine.”
70. Triton was a son of Poseidon or Neptune, and represented usually as blowing a trumpet made of a conch or shell; he is therefore introduced by Chaucer as the squire of Aeolus.
71. Sky: cloud; Anglo-Saxon, “scua;” Greek, “skia.”
72. Los: reputation. See note 5 to Chaucer’s Tale of Meliboeus.
73. Swart: black; German, “schwarz.”
74. Tewell: the pipe, chimney, of the furnace; French “tuyau.” In the Prologue to The Canterbury Tales, the Monk’s head is described as steaming like a lead furnace.
75. Tetches: blemishes, spots; French, “tache.”
76. For the story of Belle Isaude see note 21 to the Assembly of Fowls.
77. Quern: mill. See note 6 to the Monk’s Tale.
78. To put an ape into one’s hood, upon his head, is to befool him; see the prologue to the Prioresses’s Tale, l.6.
79. Obviously Chaucer should have said the temple of Diana, or Artemis (to whom, as Goddess of the Moon, the Egyptian Isis corresponded), at Ephesus. The building, famous for its splendour, was set on fire, in B.C. 356, by Erostatus, merely that he might perpetuate his name.
80. “Now do our los be blowen swithe, As wisly be thou ever blithe.” i.e. Cause our renown to be blown abroad quickly, as surely as you wish to be glad.
81. The Labyrinth at Cnossus in Crete, constructed by Dedalus for the safe keeping of the Minotaur, the fruit of Pasiphae’s unnatural love.
82. The river Oise, an affluent of the Seine, in France.
83. The engine: The machines for casting stones, which in Chaucer time served the purpose of great artillery; they were called “mangonells,” “springolds,” &c.; and resembled in construction the “ballistae” and “catapultae” of the ancients.
84. Or it a furlong way was old: before it was older than the space of time during which one might walk a furlong; a measure of time often employed by Chaucer.
85. Shipmen and pilgrimes: sailors and pilgrims, who seem to have in Chaucer’s time amply warranted the proverbial imputation against “travellers’ tales.”
86. Pardoners: of whom Chaucer, in the Prologue to The Canterbury Tales, has given us no flattering typical portrait
87. Lath: barn; still used in Lincolnshire and some parts of the north. The meaning is, that the poet need not tell what tidings he wanted to hear, since everything of the kind must some day come out — as sooner or later every sheaf in the barn must be brought forth (to be threshed).
88. A somewhat similar heaping-up of people is de scribed in
Spenser’s account of the procession of Lucifera (“The Faerie
Queen,” book i. canto iv.), where, as the royal dame passes to
“The heaps of people, thronging in the hall,
Do ride each other, upon her to gaze.”
TROILUS AND CRESSIDA.
[In several respects, the story of “Troilus and Cressida” may be regarded as Chaucer’s noblest poem. Larger in scale than any other of his individual works — numbering nearly half as many lines as The Canterbury Tales contain, without reckoning the two in prose — the conception of the poem is yet so closely and harmoniously worked out, that all the parts are perfectly balanced, and from first to last scarcely a single line is superfluous or misplaced. The finish and beauty of the poem as a work of art, are not more conspicuous than the knowledge of human nature displayed in the portraits of the principal characters. The result is, that the poem is more modern, in form and in spirit, than almost any other work of its author; the chaste style and sedulous polish of the stanzas admit of easy change into the forms of speech now current in England; while the analytical and subjective character of the work gives it, for the nineteenth century reader, an interest of the same kind as that inspired, say, by George Eliot’s wonderful study of character in “Romola.” Then, above all, “Troilus and Cressida” is distinguished by a purity and elevation of moral tone, that may surprise those who judge of Chaucer only by the coarse traits of his time preserved in The Canterbury Tales, or who may expect to find here the Troilus, the Cressida, and the Pandarus of Shakspeare’s play. It is to no trivial gallant, no woman of coarse mind and easy virtue, no malignantly subservient and utterly debased procurer, that Chaucer introduces us. His Troilus is a noble, sensitive, generous, pure- souled, manly, magnanimous hero, who is only confirmed and stimulated in all virtue by his love, who lives for his lady, and dies for her falsehood, in a lofty and chivalrous fashion. His Cressida is a stately, self-contained, virtuous, tender-hearted woman, who loves with all the pure strength and trustful abandonment of a generous and exalted nature, and who is driven to infidelity perhaps even less by pressure of circumstances, than by the sheer force of her love, which will go on loving — loving what it can have, when that which it would rather have is for the time unattainable. His Pandarus is a gentleman, though a gentleman with a flaw in him; a man who, in his courtier-like good-nature, places the claims of comradeship above those of honour, and plots away the virtue of his niece, that he may appease the love-sorrow of his friend; all the time conscious that he is not acting as a gentleman should, and desirous that others should give him that justification which he can get but feebly and diffidently in himself. In fact, the “Troilus and Cressida” of Chaucer is the “Troilus and Cressida” of Shakespeare transfigured; the atmosphere, the colour, the spirit, are wholly different; the older poet presents us in the chief characters to noble natures, the younger to ignoble natures in all the characters; and the poem with which we have now to do stands at this day among the noblest expositions of love’s workings in the human heart and life. It is divided into five books, containing altogether 8246 lines. The First Book (1092 lines) tells how Calchas, priest of Apollo, quitting beleaguered Troy, left there his only daughter Cressida; how Troilus, the youngest brother of Hector and son of King Priam, fell in love with her at first sight, at a festival in the temple of Pallas, and sorrowed bitterly for her love; and how his friend, Cressida’s uncle, Pandarus, comforted him by the promise of aid in his suit. The Second Book (1757 lines) relates the subtle manoeuvres of Pandarus to induce Cressida to return the love of Troilus; which he accomplishes mainly by touching at once the lady’s admiration for his heroism, and her pity for his love-sorrow on her account. The Third Book (1827 lines) opens with an account of the first interview between the lovers; ere it closes, the skilful stratagems of Pandarus have placed the pair in each other’s arms under his roof, and the lovers are happy in perfect enjoyment of each other’s love and trust. In the Fourth Book (1701 lines) the course of true love ceases to run smooth; Cressida is compelled to quit the city, in ransom for Antenor, captured in a skirmish; and she sadly departs to the camp of the Greeks, vowing that she will make her escape, and return to Troy and Troilus within ten days. The Fifth Book (1869 lines) sets out by describing the court which Diomedes, appointed to escort her, pays to Cressida on the way to the camp; it traces her gradual progress from indifference to her new suitor, to incontinence with him, and it leaves the deserted Troilus dead on the field of battle, where he has sought an eternal refuge from the new grief provoked by clear proof of his mistress’s infidelity. The polish, elegance, and power of the style, and the acuteness of insight into character, which mark the poem, seem to claim for it a date considerably later than that adopted by those who assign its composition to Chaucer’s youth: and the literary allusions and proverbial expressions with which it abounds, give ample evidence that, if Chaucer really wrote it at an early age, his youth must have been precocious beyond all actual record. Throughout the poem there are repeated references to the old authors of Trojan histories who are named in “The House of Fame”; but Chaucer especially mentions one Lollius as the author from whom he takes the groundwork of the poem. Lydgate is responsible for the assertion that Lollius meant Boccaccio; and though there is no authority for supposing that the English really meant to designate the Italian poet under that name, there is abundant internal proof that the poem was really founded on the “Filostrato” of Boccaccio. But the tone of Chaucer’s work is much higher than that of his Italian “auctour;” and while in some passages the imitation is very close, in all that is characteristic in “Troilus and Cressida,” Chaucer has fairly thrust his models out of sight. In the present edition, it has been possible to give no more than about one-fourth of the poem — 274 out of the 1178 seven-line stanzas that compose it; but pains have been taken to convey, in the connecting prose passages, a faithful idea of what is perforce omitted.]
THE FIRST BOOK.
THE double sorrow <1> of Troilus to tell,
That was the King Priamus’ son of Troy,
In loving how his adventures* fell *fortunes
From woe to weal, and after* out of joy, *afterwards
My purpose is, ere I you parte froy.* *from
Tisiphone,<2> thou help me to indite
These woeful words, that weep as I do write.
To thee I call, thou goddess of torment!
Thou cruel wight, that sorrowest ever in pain;
Help me, that am the sorry instrument
That helpeth lovers, as I can, to plain.* *complain
For well it sits,* the soothe for to sayn, *befits
Unto a woeful wight a dreary fere,* *companion
And to a sorry tale a sorry cheer.* *countenance
For I, that God of Love’s servants serve,
Nor dare to love for mine unlikeliness,* <3> *unsuitableness
Praye for speed,* although I shoulde sterve,** *success **die
So far I am from his help in darkness;
But natheless, might I do yet gladness
To any lover, or any love avail,* *advance
Have thou the thank, and mine be the travail.
But ye lovers that bathen in gladness,
If any drop of pity in you be,
Remember you for old past heaviness,
For Godde’s love, and on adversity
That others suffer; think how sometime ye
Founde how Love durste you displease;
Or elles ye have won it with great ease.
And pray for them that been in the case
Of Troilus, as ye may after hear,
That Love them bring in heaven to solace;* *delight, comfort
And for me pray also, that God so dear
May give me might to show, in some mannere,
Such pain or woe as Love’s folk endure,
In Troilus’ *unseely adventure* *unhappy fortune*
And pray for them that eke be despair’d
In love, that never will recover’d be;
And eke for them that falsely be appair’d* *slandered
Through wicked tongues, be it he or she:
Or thus bid* God, for his benignity, *pray
To grant them soon out of this world to pace,* *pass, go
That be despaired of their love’s grace.
And bid also for them that be at ease
In love, that God them grant perseverance,
And send them might their loves so to please,
That it to them be *worship and pleasance;* *honour and pleasure*
For so hope I my soul best to advance,
To pray for them that Love’s servants be,
And write their woe, and live in charity;
And for to have of them compassion,
As though I were their owen brother dear.
Now listen all with good entention,* *attention
For I will now go straight to my mattere,
In which ye shall the double sorrow hear
Of Troilus, in loving of Cresside,
And how that she forsook him ere she died.
In Troy, during the siege, dwelt “a lord of great authority, a great divine,” named Calchas; who, through the oracle of Apollo, knew that Troy should be destroyed. He stole away secretly to the Greek camp, where he was gladly received, and honoured for his skill in divining, of which the besiegers hoped to make use. Within the city there was great anger at the treason of Calchas; and the people declared that he and all his kin were worthy to be burnt. His daughter, whom he had left in the city, a widow and alone, was in great fear for her life.
Cressida was this lady’s name aright;
*As to my doom,* in alle Troy city *in my judgment*
So fair was none, for over ev’ry wight
So angelic was her native beauty,
That like a thing immortal seemed she,
As sooth a perfect heav’nly creature,
That down seem’d sent in scorning of Nature.
In her distress, “well nigh out of her wit for pure fear,” she appealed for protection to Hector; who, “piteous of nature,” and touched by her sorrow and her beauty, assured her of safety, so long as she pleased to dwell in Troy. The siege went on; but they of Troy did not neglect the honour and worship of their deities; most of all of “the relic hight Palladion, <4> that was their trust aboven ev’ry one.” In April, “when clothed is the mead with newe green, of jolly Ver [Spring] the prime,” the Trojans went to hold the festival of Palladion — crowding to the temple, “in all their beste guise,” lusty knights, fresh ladies, and maidens bright.
Among the which was this Cresseida,
In widow’s habit black; but natheless,
Right as our firste letter is now A,
In beauty first so stood she makeless;* *matchless
Her goodly looking gladded all the press;* *crowd
Was never seen thing to be praised derre,* *dearer, more worthy
Nor under blacke cloud so bright a sterre,* *star
As she was, as they saiden, ev’ry one
That her behelden in her blacke weed;* *garment
And yet she stood, full low and still, alone,
Behind all other folk, *in little brede,* *inconspicuously*
And nigh the door, ay *under shame’s drede;* *for dread of shame*
Simple of bearing, debonair* of cheer, *gracious
With a full sure* looking and mannere. *assured
Dan Troilus, as he was wont to guide
His younge knightes, led them up and down
In that large temple upon ev’ry side,
Beholding ay the ladies of the town;
Now here, now there, for no devotioun
Had he to none, to *reave him* his rest, *deprive him of*
But gan to *praise and lacke whom him lest;* *praise and disparage
whom he pleased*
And in his walk full fast he gan to wait* *watch, observe
If knight or squier of his company
Gan for to sigh, or let his eyen bait* *feed
On any woman that he could espy;
Then he would smile, and hold it a folly,
And say him thus: “Ah, Lord, she sleepeth soft
For love of thee, when as thou turnest oft.
“I have heard told, pardie, of your living,
Ye lovers, and your lewed* observance, *ignorant, foolish
And what a labour folk have in winning
Of love, and in it keeping with doubtance;* *doubt
And when your prey is lost, woe and penance;* *suffering
Oh, very fooles! may ye no thing see?
Can none of you aware by other be?”
But the God of Love vowed vengeance on Troilus for that despite, and, showing that his bow was not broken, “hit him at the full.”
Within the temple went he forth playing,
This Troilus, with ev’ry wight about,
On this lady and now on that looking,
Whether she were of town, or *of without;* *from beyond the walls*
And *upon cas* befell, that through the rout* *by chance* *crowd
His eye pierced, and so deep it went,
Till on Cresside it smote, and there it stent;* *stayed
And suddenly wax’d wonder sore astoned,* *amazed
And gan her bet* behold in busy wise: *better
“Oh, very god!” <5> thought he; “where hast thou woned* *dwelt
That art so fair and goodly to devise?* *describe
Therewith his heart began to spread and rise;
And soft he sighed, lest men might him hear,
And caught again his former *playing cheer.* *jesting demeanour*
*She was not with the least of her stature,* *she was tall*
But all her limbes so well answering
Were to womanhood, that creature
Was never lesse mannish in seeming.
And eke *the pure wise of her moving* *by very the way
She showed well, that men might in her guess she moved*
Honour, estate,* and womanly nobless. *dignity
Then Troilus right wonder well withal
Began to like her moving and her cheer,* *countenance
Which somedeal dainous* was, for she let fall *disdainful
Her look a little aside, in such mannere
Ascaunce* “What! may I not stande here?” *as if to say <6>
And after that *her looking gan she light,* *her expression became
That never thought him see so good a sight. more pleasant*
And of her look in him there gan to quicken
So great desire, and strong affection,
That in his hearte’s bottom gan to sticken
Of her the fix’d and deep impression;
And though he erst* had pored** up and down, *previously **looked
Then was he glad his hornes in to shrink;
Unnethes* wist he how to look or wink. *scarcely
Lo! he that held himselfe so cunning,
And scorned them that Love’s paines drien,* *suffer
Was full unware that love had his dwelling
Within the subtile streames* of her eyen; *rays, glances
That suddenly he thought he felte dien,
Right with her look, the spirit in his heart;
Blessed be Love, that thus can folk convert!
She thus, in black, looking to Troilus,
Over all things he stoode to behold;
But his desire, nor wherefore he stood thus,
He neither *cheere made,* nor worde told; *showed by his countenance*
But from afar, *his manner for to hold,* *to observe due courtesy*
On other things sometimes his look he cast,
And eft* <7> on her, while that the service last.** *again **lasted
And after this, not fully all awhaped,* *daunted
Out of the temple all easily be went,
Repenting him that ever he had japed* *jested
Of Love’s folk, lest fully the descent
Of scorn fell on himself; but what he meant,
Lest it were wist on any manner side,
His woe he gan dissemble and eke hide.
Returning to his palace, he begins hypocritically to smile and jest at Love’s servants and their pains; but by and by he has to dismiss his attendants, feigning “other busy needs.” Then, alone in his chamber, he begins to groan and sigh, and call up again Cressida’s form as he saw her in the temple — “making a mirror of his mind, in which he saw all wholly her figure.” He thinks no travail or sorrow too high a price for the love of such a goodly woman; and, “full unadvised of his woe coming,”
Thus took he purpose Love’s craft to sue,* *follow
And thought that he would work all privily,
First for to hide his desire all *in mew* *in a cage, secretly
From every wight y-born, all utterly,
*But he might aught recover’d be thereby;* *unless he gained by it*
Rememb’ring him, that love *too wide y-blow* *too much spoken of*
Yields bitter fruit, although sweet seed be sow.
And, over all this, muche more he thought
What thing to speak, and what to holden in;
And what to arten* her to love, he sought; *constrain <8>
And on a song anon right to begin,
And gan loud on his sorrow for to win;* *overcome
For with good hope he gan thus to assent* *resolve
Cressida for to love, and not repent.
The Song of Troilus. <9>
“If no love is, O God! why feel I so?
And if love is, what thing and which is he?
If love be good, from whence cometh my woe?
If it be wick’, a wonder thinketh me
Whence ev’ry torment and adversity
That comes of love *may to me savoury think:* *seem acceptable to me*
For more I thirst the more that I drink.
“And if I *at mine owen luste bren* *burn by my own will*
From whence cometh my wailing and my plaint?
If maugre me,<10> *whereto plain I* then? *to what avail do I complain?*
I wot ner* why, unweary, that I faint. *neither
O quicke death! O sweete harm so quaint!* *strange
How may I see in me such quantity,
But if that I consent that so it be?
“And if that I consent, I wrongfully
Complain y-wis: thus pushed to and fro,
All starreless within a boat am I,
Middes the sea, betwixte windes two,
That in contrary standen evermo’.
Alas! what wonder is this malady! —
For heat of cold, for cold of heat, I die!”
Devoting himself wholly to the thought of Cressida — though he yet knew not whether she was woman or goddess — Troilus, in spite of his royal blood, became the very slave of love. He set at naught every other charge, but to gaze on her as often as he could; thinking so to appease his hot fire, which thereby only burned the hotter. He wrought marvellous feats of arms against the Greeks, that she might like him the better for his renown; then love deprived him of sleep, and made his food his foe; till he had to “borrow a title of other sickness,” that men might not know he was consumed with love. Meantime, Cressida gave no sign that she heeded his devotion, or even knew of it; and he was now consumed with a new fear — lest she loved some other man. Bewailing his sad lot — ensnared, exposed to the scorn of those whose love he had ridiculed, wishing himself arrived at the port of death, and praying ever that his lady might glad him with some kind look — Troilus is surprised in his chamber by his friend Pandarus, the uncle of Cressida. Pandarus, seeking to divert his sorrow by making him angry, jeeringly asks whether remorse of conscience, or devotion, or fear of the Greeks, has caused all this ado. Troilus pitifully beseeches his friend to leave him to die alone, for die he must, from a cause which he must keep hidden; but Pandarus argues against Troilus’ cruelty in hiding from a friend such a sorrow, and Troilus at last confesses that his malady is love. Pandarus suggests that the beloved object may be such that his counsel might advance his friend’s desires; but Troilus scouts the suggestion, saying that Pandarus could never govern himself in love.
“Yea, Troilus, hearken to me,” quoth Pandare,
“Though I be nice;* it happens often so, *foolish
That one that access* doth full evil fare, *in an access of fever
By good counsel can keep his friend therefro’.
I have my selfe seen a blind man go
Where as he fell that looke could full wide;
A fool may eke a wise man often guide.
“A whetstone is no carving instrument,
But yet it maketh sharpe carving tooles;
And, if thou know’st that I have aught miswent,* *erred, failed
Eschew thou that, for such thing to thee school* is. *schooling, lesson
Thus oughte wise men to beware by fooles;
If so thou do, thy wit is well bewared;
By its contrary is everything declared.
“For how might ever sweetness have been know To him that never tasted bitterness? And no man knows what gladness is, I trow, That never was in sorrow or distress: Eke white by black, by shame eke worthiness, Each set by other, *more for other seemeth,* *its quality is made As men may see; and so the wise man deemeth.” more obvious by the contrast* Troilus, however, still begs his friend to leave him to mourn in peace, for all his proverbs can avail nothing. But Pandarus insists on plying the lover with wise saws, arguments, reproaches; hints that, if he should die of love, his lady may impute his death to fear of the Greeks; and finally induces Troilus to admit that the well of all his woe, his sweetest foe, is called Cressida. Pandarus breaks into praises of the lady, and congratulations of his friend for so well fixing his heart; he makes Troilus utter a formal confession of his sin in jesting at lovers and bids him think well that she of whom rises all his woe, hereafter may his comfort be also.
“For thilke* ground, that bears the weedes wick’ *that same
Bears eke the wholesome herbes, and full oft
Next to the foule nettle, rough and thick,
The lily waxeth,* white, and smooth, and soft; *grows
And next the valley is the hill aloft,
And next the darke night is the glad morrow,
And also joy is next the fine* of sorrow.” *end, border
Pandarus holds out to Troilus good hope of achieving his desire; and tells him that, since he has been converted from his wicked rebellion against Love, he shall be made the best post of all Love’s law, and most grieve Love’s enemies. Troilus gives utterance to a hint of fear; but he is silenced by Pandarus with another proverb — “Thou hast full great care, lest that the carl should fall out of the moon.” Then the lovesick youth breaks into a joyous boast that some of the Greeks shall smart; he mounts his horse, and plays the lion in the field; while Pandarus retires to consider how he may best recommend to his niece the suit of Troilus.
THE SECOND BOOK.
IN the Proem to the Second Book, the poet hails the clear weather that enables him to sail out of those black waves in which his boat so laboured that he could scarcely steer — that is, “the tempestuous matter of despair, that Troilus was in; but now of hope the kalendes begin.” He invokes the aid of Clio; excuses himself to every lover for what may be found amiss in a book which he only translates; and, obviating any lover’s objection to the way in which Troilus obtained his lady’s grace – – through Pandarus’ mediation — says it seems to him no wonderful thing:
“For ev’ry wighte that to Rome went
Held not one path, nor alway one mannere;
Eke in some lands were all the game y-shent
If that men far’d in love as men do here,
As thus, in open dealing and in cheer,
In visiting, in form, or saying their saws;* *speeches
For thus men say: Each country hath its laws.
“Eke scarcely be there in this place three
That have in love done or said *like in all;”* *alike in all respects*
And so that which the poem relates may not please the reader — but it actually was done, or it shall yet be done. The Book sets out with the visit of Pandarus to Cressida:—
In May, that mother is of monthes glade,* *glad
When all the freshe flowers, green and red,
Be quick* again, that winter deade made, *alive
And full of balm is floating ev’ry mead;
When Phoebus doth his brighte beames spread
Right in the white Bull, so it betid* *happened
As I shall sing, on Maye’s day the thrid, <11>
That Pandarus, for all his wise speech,
Felt eke his part of Love’s shottes keen,
That, could he ne’er so well of Love preach,
It made yet his hue all day full green;* *pale
So *shope it,* that him fell that day a teen* *it happened* *access
In love, for which full woe to bed he went,
And made ere it were day full many a went.* *turning <12>
The swallow Progne, <13> with a sorrowful lay,
When morrow came, gan make her waimenting,* *lamenting
Why she foshapen* was; and ever lay *transformed
Pandare a-bed, half in a slumbering,
Till she so nigh him made her chittering,
How Tereus gan forth her sister take,
That with the noise of her he did awake,
And gan to call, and dress* him to arise, *prepare
Rememb’ring him his errand was to do’n
From Troilus, and eke his great emprise;
And cast, and knew in *good plight* was the Moon *favourable aspect*
To do voyage, and took his way full soon
Unto his niece’s palace there beside
Now Janus, god of entry, thou him guide!
Pandarus finds his niece, with two other ladies, in a paved parlour, listening to a maiden who reads aloud the story of the Siege of Thebes. Greeting the company, he is welcomed by Cressida, who tells him that for three nights she has dreamed of him. After some lively talk about the book they had been reading, Pandarus asks his niece to do away her hood, to show her face bare, to lay aside the book, to rise up and dance, “and let us do to May some observance.” Cressida cries out, “God forbid!” and asks if he is mad — if that is a widow’s life, whom it better becomes to sit in a cave and read of holy saints’ lives. Pandarus intimates that he could tell her something which could make her merry; but he refuses to gratify her curiosity; and, by way of the siege and of Hector, “that was the towne’s wall, and Greekes’ yerd” or scourging-rod, the conversation is brought round to Troilus, whom Pandarus highly extols as “the wise worthy Hector the second.” She has, she says, already heard Troilus praised for his bravery “of them that her were liefest praised be” [by whom it would be most welcome to her to be praised].
“Ye say right sooth, y-wis,” quoth Pandarus;
For yesterday, who so had with him been,
Might have wonder’d upon Troilus;
For never yet so thick a swarm of been* *bees
Ne flew, as did of Greekes from him flee’n;
And through the field, in ev’ry wighte’s ear,
There was no cry but ‘Troilus is here.’
“Now here, now there, he hunted them so fast,
There was but Greekes’ blood; and Troilus
Now him he hurt, now him adown he cast;
Ay where he went it was arrayed thus:
He was their death, and shield of life for us,
That as that day there durst him none withstand,
While that he held his bloody sword in hand.”
Pandarus makes now a show of taking leave, but Cressida detains him, to speak of her affairs; then, the business talked over, he would again go, but first again asks his niece to arise and dance, and cast her widow’s garments to mischance, because of the glad fortune that has befallen her. More curious than ever, she seeks to find out Pandarus’ secret; but he still parries her curiosity, skilfully hinting all the time at her good fortune, and the wisdom of seizing on it when offered. In the end he tells her that the noble Troilus so loves her, that with her it lies to make him live or die — but if Troilus dies, Pandarus shall die with him; and then she will have “fished fair.” <14> He beseeches mercy for his friend:
“*Woe worth* the faire gemme virtueless! <15> *evil befall!*
Woe worth the herb also that *doth no boot!* *has no remedial power*
Woe worth the beauty that is rutheless!* *merciless
Woe worth that wight that treads each under foot!
And ye that be of beauty *crop and root* *perfection <16>
If therewithal in you there be no ruth,* *pity
Then is it harm ye live, by my truth!”
Pandarus makes only the slight request that she will show Troilus somewhat better cheer, and receive visits from him, that his life may be saved; urging that, although a man be soon going to the temple, nobody will think that he eats the images; and that “such love of friends reigneth in all this town.”
Cressida, which that heard him in this wise,
Thought: “I shall feele* what he means, y-wis;” *test
“Now, eme* quoth she, “what would ye me devise? *uncle
What is your rede* that I should do of this?” *counsel, opinion
“That is well said,” quoth he;” certain best it is
That ye him love again for his loving,
As love for love is *skilful guerdoning.* *reasonable recompense*
“Think eke how elde* wasteth ev’ry hour *age
In each of you a part of your beauty;
And therefore, ere that age do you devour,
Go love, for, old, there will no wight love thee
Let this proverb a lore* unto you be: *lesson
‘”Too late I was ware,” quoth beauty when it past;
And *elde daunteth danger* at the last.’ *old age overcomes disdain*
“The kinge’s fool is wont to cry aloud, When that he thinks a woman bears her high, ‘So longe may ye liven, and all proud, Till crowes’ feet be wox* under your eye! *grown And send you then a mirror *in to pry* *to look in* In which ye may your face see a-morrow!* *in the morning *I keep then wishe you no more sorrow.'”* *I care to wish you nothing worse* Weeping, Cressida reproaches her uncle for giving her such counsel; whereupon Pandarus, starting up, threatens to kill himself, and would fain depart, but that his niece detains him, and, with much reluctance, promises to “make Troilus good cheer in honour.” Invited by Cressida to tell how first he know her lover’s woe, Pandarus then relates two soliloquies which he had accidentally overheard, and in which Troilus had poured out all the sorrow of his passion.
With this he took his leave, and home he went
Ah! Lord, so was he glad and well-begone!* *happy
Cresside arose, no longer would she stent,* *stay
But straight into her chamber went anon,
And sat her down, as still as any stone,
And ev’ry word gan up and down to wind
That he had said, as it came to her mind.
And wax’d somedeal astonish’d in her thought,
Right for the newe case; but when that she
*Was full advised,* then she found right naught *had fully considered*
Of peril, why she should afeared be:
For a man may love, of possibility,
A woman so, that his heart may to-brest,* *break utterly
And she not love again, *but if her lest.* *unless it so please her*
But as she sat alone, and thoughte thus,
In field arose a skirmish all without;
And men cried in the street then:”
Troilus hath right now put to flight the Greekes’ rout.”* *host
With that gan all the meinie* for to shout: *(Cressida’s) household
“Ah! go we see, cast up the lattice wide,
For through this street he must to palace ride;
“For other way is from the gates none,
Of Dardanus,<18> where open is the chain.” <19>
With that came he, and all his folk anon,
An easy pace riding, in *routes twain,* *two troops*
Right as his *happy day* was, sooth to sayn: *good fortune <20>*
For which men say may not disturbed be
What shall betiden* of necessity. *happen
This Troilus sat upon his bay steed
All armed, save his head, full richely,
And wounded was his horse, and gan to bleed,
For which he rode a pace full softely
But such a knightly sighte* truly *aspect
As was on him, was not, withoute fail,
To look on Mars, that god is of Battaile.
So like a man of armes, and a knight,
He was to see, full fill’d of high prowess;
For both he had a body, and a might
To do that thing, as well as hardiness;* *courage
And eke to see him in his gear* him dress, *armour
So fresh, so young, so wieldy* seemed he, *active
It was a heaven on him for to see.* *look
His helmet was to-hewn in twenty places,
That by a tissue* hung his back behind; *riband
His shield to-dashed was with swords and maces,
In which men might many an arrow find,
That thirled* had both horn, and nerve, and rind; <21> *pierced
And ay the people cried, “Here comes our joy,
And, next his brother, <22> holder up of Troy.”
For which he wax’d a little red for shame,
When he so heard the people on him cryen
That to behold it was a noble game,
How soberly he cast adown his eyen:
Cresside anon gan all his cheer espien,
And let it in her heart so softly sink,
That to herself she said, “Who gives me drink?”<23>
For of her owen thought she wax’d all red,
Rememb’ring her right thus: “Lo! this is he
Which that mine uncle swears he might be dead,
But* I on him have mercy and pity:” *unless
And with that thought for pure shame she
Gan in her head to pull, and that full fast,
While he and all the people forth by pass’d.
And gan to cast,* and rollen up and down *ponder
Within her thought his excellent prowess,
And his estate, and also his renown,
His wit, his shape, and eke his gentleness
But most her favour was, for his distress
Was all for her, and thought it were ruth
To slay such one, if that he meant but truth.
. . . . . . . . . .
And, Lord! so gan she in her heart argue
Of this mattere, of which I have you told
And what to do best were, and what t’eschew,
That plaited she full oft in many a fold.<24>
Now was her hearte warm, now was it cold.
And what she thought of, somewhat shall I write,
As to mine author listeth to endite.
She thoughte first, that Troilus’ person
She knew by sight, and eke his gentleness;
And saide thus: *”All were it not to do’n,’* *although it were
To grant him love, yet for the worthiness impossible*
It were honour, with play* and with gladness, *pleasing entertainment
In honesty with such a lord to deal,
For mine estate,* and also for his heal.** *reputation **health
“Eke well I wot* my kinge’s son is he; *know
And, since he hath to see me such delight,
If I would utterly his sighte flee,
Parauntre* he might have me in despite, *peradventure
Through which I mighte stand in worse plight. <25>
Now were I fool, me hate to purchase* *obtain for myself
Withoute need, where I may stand in grace,* *favour
“In ev’rything, I wot, there lies measure;* *a happy medium
For though a man forbidde drunkenness,
He not forbids that ev’ry creature
Be drinkeless for alway, as I guess;
Eke, since I know for me is his distress,
I oughte not for that thing him despise,
Since it is so he meaneth in good wise.
“Now set a case, that hardest is, y-wis,
Men mighte deeme* that he loveth me; *believe
What dishonour were it unto me, this?
May I *him let of* that? Why, nay, pardie! *prevent him from*
I know also, and alway hear and see,
Men love women all this town about;
Be they the worse? Why, nay, withoute doubt!
“Nor me to love a wonder is it not;
For well wot I myself, so God me speed! —
*All would I* that no man wist of this thought — *although I would*
I am one of the fairest, without drede,* *doubt
And goodlieste, who so taketh heed;
And so men say in all the town of Troy;
What wonder is, though he on me have joy?
“I am mine owen woman, well at ease,
I thank it God, as after mine estate,
Right young, and stand untied in *lusty leas,* *pleasant leash
Withoute jealousy, or such debate: (of love)*
Shall none husband say to me checkmate;
For either they be full of jealousy,
Or masterful, or love novelty.
“What shall I do? to what fine* live I thus? *end
Shall I not love, in case if that me lest?
What? pardie! I am not religious;<26>
And though that I mine hearte set at rest
And keep alway mine honour and my name,
By all right I may do to me no shame.”
But right as when the sunne shineth bright
In March, that changeth oftentime his face,
And that a cloud is put with wind to flight,
Which overspreads the sun as for a space;
A cloudy thought gan through her hearte pace,* *pass
That overspread her brighte thoughtes all,
So that for fear almost she gan to fall.
The cloudy thought is of the loss of liberty and security, the stormy life, and the malice of wicked tongues, that love entails:
[But] after that her thought began to clear,
And saide, “He that nothing undertakes
Nothing achieveth, be him *loth or dear.”* *unwilling or desirous*
And with another thought her hearte quakes;
Then sleepeth hope, and after dread awakes,
Now hot, now cold; but thus betwixt the tway* *two
She rist* her up, and wente forth to play.** *rose **take recreation
Adown the stair anon right then she went
Into a garden, with her nieces three,
And up and down they made many a went,* *winding, turn <12>
Flexippe and she, Tarke, Antigone,
To playe, that it joy was for to see;
And other of her women, a great rout,* *troop
Her follow’d in the garden all about.
This yard was large, and railed the alleys,
And shadow’d well with blossomy boughes green,
And benched new, and sanded all the ways,
In which she walked arm and arm between;
Till at the last Antigone the sheen* *bright, lovely
Gan on a Trojan lay to singe clear,
That it a heaven was her voice to hear.
Antigone’s song is of virtuous love for a noble object; and it is singularly fitted to deepen the impression made on the mind of Cressida by the brave aspect of Troilus, and by her own cogitations. The singer, having praised the lover and rebuked the revilers of love, proceeds:
“What is the Sunne worse of his *kind right,* *true nature*
Though that a man, for feebleness of eyen,
May not endure to see on it for bright? <27>
Or Love the worse, tho’ wretches on it cryen?
No weal* is worth, that may no sorrow drien;** <28> *happiness **endure
And forthy,* who that hath a head of verre,** *therefore **glass <29>
From cast of stones ware him in the werre. <30>
“But I, with all my heart and all my might,
As I have lov’d, will love unto my last
My deare heart, and all my owen knight,
In which my heart y-growen is so fast,
And his in me, that it shall ever last
*All dread I* first to love him begin, *although I feared*
Now wot I well there is no pain therein.”
Cressida sighs, and asks Antigone whether there is such bliss among these lovers, as they can fair endite; Antigone replies confidently in the affirmative; and Cressida answers nothing, “but every worde which she heard she gan to printen in her hearte fast.” Night draws on:
The daye’s honour, and the heaven’s eye,
The nighte’s foe, — all this call I the Sun, —
Gan westren* fast, and downward for to wry,** *go west <31> **turn
As he that had his daye’s course y-run;
And white thinges gan to waxe dun
For lack of light, and starres to appear;
Then she and all her folk went home in fere.* *in company
So, when it liked her to go to rest,
And voided* were those that voiden ought, *gone out (of the house)
She saide, that to sleepe well her lest.* *pleased
Her women soon unto her bed her brought;
When all was shut, then lay she still and thought
Of all these things the manner and the wise;
Rehearse it needeth not, for ye be wise.
A nightingale upon a cedar green,
Under the chamber wall where as she lay,
Full loude sang against the moone sheen,
Parauntre,* in his birde’s wise, a lay *perchance
Of love, that made her hearte fresh and gay;
Hereat hark’d* she so long in good intent, *listened
Till at the last the deade sleep her hent.* *seized
And as she slept, anon right then *her mette* *she dreamed*
How that an eagle, feather’d white as bone,
Under her breast his longe clawes set,
And out her heart he rent, and that anon,
And did* his heart into her breast to go’n, *caused
Of which no thing she was *abash’d nor smert;* *amazed nor hurt*
And forth he flew, with hearte left for heart.
Leaving Cressida to sleep, the poet returns to Troilus and his zealous friend — with whose stratagems to bring the two lovers together the remainder of the Second Book is occupied. Pandarus counsels Troilus to write a letter to his mistress, telling her how he “fares amiss,” and “beseeching her of ruth;” he will bear the letter to his niece; and, if Troilus will ride past Cressida’s house, he will find his mistress and his friend sitting at a window. Saluting Pandarus, and not tarrying, his passage will give occasion for some talk of him, which may make his ears glow. With respect to the letter, Pandarus gives some shrewd hints:
“Touching thy letter, thou art wise enough,
I wot thou *n’ilt it dignely endite* *wilt not write it haughtily*
Or make it with these argumentes tough,
Nor scrivener-like, nor craftily it write;
Beblot it with thy tears also a lite;* *little
And if thou write a goodly word all soft,
Though it be good, rehearse it not too oft.
“For though the beste harper *pon live* *alive
Would on the best y-sounded jolly harp
That ever was, with all his fingers five
Touch ay one string, or *ay one warble harp,* *always play one tune*
Were his nailes pointed ne’er so sharp,
He shoulde maken ev’ry wight to dull* *to grow bored
To hear his glee, and of his strokes full.
“Nor jompre* eke no discordant thing y-fere,** *jumble **together
As thus, to use termes of physic;
In love’s termes hold of thy mattere
The form alway, and *do that it be like;* *make it consistent*
For if a painter woulde paint a pike
With ass’s feet, and head it as an ape,<32>
It *’cordeth not,* so were it but a jape.” *is not harmonious*
Troilus writes the letter, and next morning Pandarus bears it to Cressida. She refuses to receive “scrip or bill that toucheth such mattere;” but he thrusts it into her bosom, challenging her to throw it away. She retains it, takes the first opportunity of escaping to her chamber to read it, finds it wholly good, and, under her uncle’s dictation, endites a reply telling her lover that she will not make herself bound in love; “but as his sister, him to please, she would aye fain [be glad] to do his heart an ease.” Pandarus, under pretext of inquiring who is the owner of the house opposite, has gone to the window; Cressida takes her letter to him there, and tells him that she never did a thing with more pain than write the words to which he had constrained her. As they sit side by side, on a stone of jasper, on a cushion of beaten gold, Troilus rides by, in all his goodliness. Cressida waxes “as red as rose,” as she sees him salute humbly, “with dreadful cheer, and oft his hues mue [change];” she likes “all y-fere, his person, his array, his look, his cheer, his goodly manner, and his gentleness;” so that, however she may have been before, “to goode hope now hath she caught a thorn, she shall not pull it out this nexte week.” Pandarus, striking the iron when it is hot, asks his niece to grant Troilus an interview; but she strenuously declines, for fear of scandal, and because it is all too soon to allow him so great a liberty — her purpose being to love him unknown of all, “and guerdon [reward] him with nothing but with sight.” Pandarus has other intentions; and, while Troilus writes daily letters with increasing love, he contrives the means of an interview. Seeking out Deiphobus, the brother of Troilus, he tells him that Cressida is in danger of violence from Polyphete, and asks protection for her. Deiphobus gladly complies, promises the protection of Hector and Helen, and goes to invite Cressida to dinner on the morrow. Meantime Pandarus instructs Troilus to go to the house of Deiphobus, plead an access of his fever for remaining all night, and keep his chamber next day. “Lo,” says the crafty promoter of love, borrowing a phrase from the hunting-field; “Lo, hold thee at thy tristre [tryst <33>] close, and I shall well the deer unto thy bowe drive.” Unsuspicious of stratagem, Cressida comes to dinner; and at table, Helen, Pandarus, and others, praise the absent Troilus, until “her heart laughs” for very pride that she has the love of such a knight. After dinner they speak of Cressida’s business; all confirm Deiphobus’ assurances of protection and aid; and Pandarus suggests that, since Troilus is there, Cressida shall herself tell him her case. Helen and Deiphobus alone accompany Pandarus to Troilus’ chamber; there Troilus produces some documents relating to the public weal, which Hector has sent for his opinion; Helen and Deiphobus, engrossed in perusal and discussion, roam out of the chamber, by a stair, into the garden; while Pandarus goes down to the hall, and, pretending that his brother and Helen are still with Troilus, brings Cressida to her lover. The Second Book leaves Pandarus whispering in his niece’s ear counsel to be merciful and kind to her lover, that hath for her such pain; while Troilus lies “in a kankerdort,” <34> hearing the whispering without, and wondering what he shall say for this “was the first time that he should her pray of love; O! mighty God! what shall he say?”
THE THIRD BOOK.
To the Third Book is prefixed a beautiful invocation of Venus, under the character of light:
O Blissful light, of which the beames clear
Adornen all the thirde heaven fair!
O Sunne’s love, O Jove’s daughter dear!
Pleasance of love, O goodly debonair,* *lovely and gracious*
In gentle heart ay* ready to repair!** *always **enter and abide
O very* cause of heal** and of gladness, *true **welfare
Y-heried* be thy might and thy goodness! *praised
In heav’n and hell, in earth and salte sea.
Is felt thy might, if that I well discern;
As man, bird, beast, fish, herb, and greene tree,
They feel in times, with vapour etern, <35>
God loveth, and to love he will not wern forbid
And in this world no living creature
Withoute love is worth, or may endure. <36>
Ye Jove first to those effectes glad,
Through which that thinges alle live and be,
Commended; and him amorous y-made
Of mortal thing; and as ye list,* ay ye *pleased
Gave him, in love, ease* or adversity, *pleasure
And in a thousand formes down him sent
For love in earth; and *whom ye list he hent.* *he seized whom you
Ye fierce Mars appeasen of his ire,
And as you list ye make heartes dign* <37> *worthy
Algates* them that ye will set afire, *at all events
They dreade shame, and vices they resign
Ye do* him courteous to be, and benign; *make, cause
And high or low, after* a wight intendeth, *according as
The joyes that he hath your might him sendeth.
Ye holde realm and house in unity;
Ye soothfast* cause of friendship be also; *true
Ye know all thilke *cover’d quality* *secret power*
Of thinges which that folk on wonder so,
When they may not construe how it may go
She loveth him, or why he loveth her,
As why this fish, not that, comes to the weir.*<38> *fish-trap
Knowing that Venus has set a law in the universe, that whoso strives with her shall have the worse, the poet prays to be taught to describe some of the joy that is felt in her service; and the Third Book opens with an account of the scene between Troilus and Cressida:
Lay all this meane while Troilus
Recording* his lesson in this mannere; *memorizing
*”My fay!”* thought he, “thus will I say, and thus; *by my faith!*
Thus will I plain* unto my lady dear; *make my plaint
That word is good; and this shall be my cheer
This will I not forgetten in no wise;”
God let him worken as he can devise.
And, Lord! so as his heart began to quap,* *quake, pant
Hearing her coming, and *short for to sike;* *make short sighs*
And Pandarus, that led her by the lap,* *skirt
Came near, and gan in at the curtain pick,* *peep
And saide: “God do boot* alle sick! *afford a remedy to
See who is here you coming to visite;
Lo! here is she that is *your death to wite!”* *to blame for your death*
Therewith it seemed as he wept almost.
“Ah! ah! God help!” quoth Troilus ruefully;
“Whe’er* me be woe, O mighty God, thou know’st! *whether
Who is there? for I see not truely.”
“Sir,” quoth Cresside, “it is Pandare and I;
“Yea, sweete heart? alas, I may not rise
To kneel and do you honour in some wise.”
And dressed him upward, and she right tho* *then
Gan both her handes soft upon him lay.
“O! for the love of God, do ye not so
To me,” quoth she; “ey! what is this to say?
For come I am to you for causes tway;* *two
First you to thank, and of your lordship eke
Continuance* I woulde you beseek.”** *protection **beseech
This Troilus, that heard his lady pray
Him of lordship, wax’d neither quick nor dead;
Nor might one word for shame to it say, <39>
Although men shoulde smiten off his head.
But, Lord! how he wax’d suddenly all red!
And, Sir, his lesson, that he *ween’d have con,* *thought he knew
To praye her, was through his wit y-run. by heart*
Cresside all this espied well enow, —
For she was wise, — and lov’d him ne’er the less,
All n’ere he malapert, nor made avow,
Nor was so bold to sing a foole’s mass;<40>
But, when his shame began somewhat to pass,
His wordes, as I may my rhymes hold,
I will you tell, as teache bookes old.
In changed voice, right for his very dread,
Which voice eke quak’d, and also his mannere
Goodly* abash’d, and now his hue is red, *becomingly
Now pale, unto Cresside, his lady dear,
With look downcast, and humble *yielden cheer,* *submissive face*
Lo! *altherfirste word that him astert,* *the first word he said*
Was twice: “Mercy, mercy, my dear heart!”
And stent* a while; and when he might *out bring,* *stopped *speak*
The nexte was: “God wote, for I have,
*As farforthly as I have conning,* *as far as I am able*
Been youres all, God so my soule save,
And shall, till that I, woeful wight, *be grave;* *die*
And though I dare not, cannot, to you plain,
Y-wis, I suffer not the lesse pain.
“This much as now, O womanlike wife!
I may *out bring,* and if it you displease, *speak out*
That shall I wreak* upon mine owne life, *avenge
Right soon, I trow, and do your heart an ease,
If with my death your heart I may appease:
But, since that ye have heard somewhat say,
Now reck I never how soon that I dey.” *die
Therewith his manly sorrow to behold
It might have made a heart of stone to rue;
And Pandare wept as he to water wo’ld, <41>
And saide, “Woe-begone* be heartes true,” *in woeful plight
And procur’d* his niece ever new and new, *urged
“For love of Godde, make *of him an end,* *put him out of pain*
Or slay us both at ones, ere we wend.”* *go
“Ey! what?” quoth she; “by God and by my truth,
I know not what ye woulde that I say;”
“Ey! what?” quoth he; “that ye have on him ruth,* *pity
For Godde’s love, and do him not to dey.” *die
“Now thenne thus,” quoth she, “I would him pray
To telle me the *fine of his intent;* *end of his desire*
Yet wist* I never well what that he meant.” *knew
“What that I meane, sweete hearte dear?”
Quoth Troilus, “O goodly, fresh, and free!
That, with the streames* of your eyne so clear, *beams, glances
Ye woulde sometimes *on me rue and see,* *take pity and look on me*
And then agreen* that I may be he, *take in good part
Withoute branch of vice, in any wise,
In truth alway to do you my service,
“As to my lady chief, and right resort,
With all my wit and all my diligence;
And for to have, right as you list, comfort;
Under your yerd,* equal to mine offence, *rod, chastisement
As death, if that *I breake your defence;* *do what you
And that ye deigne me so much honour, forbid <42>*
Me to commanden aught in any hour.
“And I to be your very humble, true,
Secret, and in my paines patient,
And evermore desire, freshly new,
To serven, and be alike diligent,
And, with good heart, all wholly your talent
Receive in gree,* how sore that me smart; *gladness
Lo, this mean I, mine owen sweete heart.”
. . . . . . . . . .
With that she gan her eyen on him* cast, <43> *Pandarus
Full easily and full debonairly,* *graciously
*Advising her,* and hied* not too fast, *considering* **went
With ne’er a word, but said him softely,
“Mine honour safe, I will well truely,
And in such form as ye can now devise,
Receive him* fully to my service; *Troilus
“Beseeching him, for Godde’s love, that he
Would, in honour of truth and gentleness,
As I well mean, eke meane well to me;
And mine honour, with *wit and business,* *wisdom and zeal*
Aye keep; and if I may do him gladness,
From henceforth, y-wis I will not feign:
Now be all whole, no longer do ye plain.
“But, natheless, this warn I you,” quoth she,
“A kinge’s son although ye be, y-wis,
Ye shall no more have sovereignety
Of me in love, than right in this case is;
Nor will I forbear, if ye do amiss,
To wrathe* you, and, while that ye me serve, *be angry with, chide
To cherish you, *right after ye deserve.* *as you deserve*
“And shortly, deare heart, and all my knight,
Be glad, and drawe you to lustiness,* *pleasure
And I shall truely, with all my might,
Your bitter turnen all to sweeteness;
If I be she that may do you gladness,
For ev’ry woe ye shall recover a bliss:”
And him in armes took, and gan him kiss.
Pandarus, almost beside himself for joy, falls on his knees to thank Venus and Cupid, declaring that for this miracle he hears all the bells ring; then, with a warning to be ready at his call to meet at his house, he parts the lovers, and attends Cressida while she takes leave of the household — Troilus all the time groaning at the deceit practised on his brother and Helen. When he has got rid of them by feigning weariness, Pandarus returns to the chamber, and spends the night with him in converse. The zealous friend begins to speak “in a sober wise” to Troilus, reminding him of his love-pains now all at an end.
“So that through me thou standest now in way
To fare well; I say it for no boast;
And know’st thou why? For, shame it is to say,
For thee have I begun a game to play,
Which that I never shall do eft* for other,** *again **another
Although he were a thousand fold my brother.
“That is to say, for thee I am become,
Betwixte game and earnest, such a mean* *means, instrument
As make women unto men to come;
Thou know’st thyselfe what that woulde mean;
For thee have I my niece, of vices clean,* *pure, devoid
So fully made thy gentleness* to trust, *nobility of nature
That all shall be right *as thyselfe lust.* *as you please*
“But God, that *all wot,* take I to witness, *knows everything*
That never this for covetise* I wrought, *greed of gain
But only to abridge* thy distress, *abate
For which well nigh thou diedst, as me thought;
But, goode brother, do now as thee ought,
For Godde’s love, and keep her out of blame;
Since thou art wise, so save thou her name.
“For, well thou know’st, the name yet of her,
Among the people, as who saith hallow’d is;
For that man is unborn, I dare well swear,
That ever yet wist* that she did amiss; *knew
But woe is me, that I, that cause all this,
May thinke that she is my niece dear,
And I her eme,* and traitor eke y-fere.** *uncle <17> **as well
“And were it wist that I, through mine engine,* *arts, contrivance
Had in my niece put this fantasy* *fancy
To do thy lust,* and wholly to be thine, *pleasure
Why, all the people would upon it cry,
And say, that I the worste treachery
Did in this case, that ever was begun,
And she fordone,* and thou right naught y-won.” *ruined
Therefore, ere going a step further, Pandarus prays Troilus to give him pledges of secrecy, and impresses on his mind the mischiefs that flow from vaunting in affairs of love. “Of kind,”[by his very nature] he says, no vaunter is to be believed:
“For a vaunter and a liar all is one;
As thus: I pose* a woman granteth me *suppose, assume
Her love, and saith that other will she none,
And I am sworn to holden it secre,
And, after, I go tell it two or three;
Y-wis, I am a vaunter, at the least,
And eke a liar, for I break my hest.*<44> *promise
“Now looke then, if they be not to blame,
Such manner folk; what shall I call them, what?
That them avaunt of women, and by name,
That never yet behight* them this nor that, *promised (much
Nor knowe them no more than mine old hat? less granted)
No wonder is, so God me sende heal,* *prosperity
Though women dreade with us men to deal!
“I say not this for no mistrust of you,
Nor for no wise men, but for fooles nice;* *silly <45>
And for the harm that in the world is now,
As well for folly oft as for malice;
For well wot I, that in wise folk that vice
No woman dreads, if she be well advised;
For wise men be by fooles’ harm chastised.”* *corrected, instructed
So Pandarus begs Troilus to keep silent, promises to be true all his days, and assures him that he shall have all that he will in the love of Cressida: “thou knowest what thy lady granted thee; and day is set the charters up to make.”
Who mighte telle half the joy and feast
Which that the soul of Troilus then felt,
Hearing th’effect of Pandarus’ behest?
His olde woe, that made his hearte swelt,* *faint, die
Gan then for joy to wasten and to melt,
And all the reheating <46> of his sighes sore
At ones fled, he felt of them no more.
But right so as these *holtes and these hayes,* *woods and hedges*
That have in winter deade been and dry,
Reveste them in greene, when that May is,
When ev’ry *lusty listeth* best to play; *pleasant (one) wishes*
Right in that selfe wise, sooth to say,
Wax’d suddenly his hearte full of joy,
That gladder was there never man in Troy.
Troilus solemnly swears that never, “for all the good that God made under sun,” will he reveal what Pandarus asks him to keep secret; offering to die a thousand times, if need were, and to follow his friend as a slave all his life, in proof of his gratitude.
“But here, with all my heart, I thee beseech,
That never in me thou deeme* such folly *judge
As I shall say; me thoughte, by thy speech,
That this which thou me dost for company,* *friendship
I shoulde ween it were a bawdery;* *a bawd’s action
*I am not wood, all if I lewed be;* *I am not mad, though
It is not one, that wot I well, pardie! I be unlearned*
“But he that goes for gold, or for richess,
On such messages, call him *as thee lust;* *what you please*
And this that thou dost, call it gentleness,
Compassion, and fellowship, and trust;
Depart it so, for widewhere is wist
How that there is diversity requer’d
Betwixte thinges like, as I have lear’d. <47>
“And that thou know I think it not nor ween,* *suppose
That this service a shame be or a jape, *subject for jeering
I have my faire sister Polyxene,
Cassandr’, Helene, or any of the frape;* *set <48>
Be she never so fair, or well y-shape,
Telle me which thou wilt of ev’ry one,
To have for thine, and let me then alone.”
Then, beseeching Pandarus soon to perform out the great enterprise of crowning his love for Cressida, Troilus bade his friend good night. On the morrow Troilus burned as the fire, for hope and pleasure; yet “he not forgot his wise governance [self- control];”
But in himself with manhood gan restrain
Each rakel* deed, and each unbridled cheer,** *rash **demeanour
That alle those that live, sooth to sayn,
Should not have wist,* by word or by mannere, *suspicion
What that he meant, as touching this mattere;
From ev’ry wight as far as is the cloud
He was, so well dissimulate he could.
And all the while that I now devise* *describe, narrate
This was his life: with all his fulle might,
By day he was in Marte’s high service,
That is to say, in armes as a knight;
And, for the moste part, the longe night
He lay, and thought how that he mighte serve
His lady best, her thank* for to deserve. *gratitude
I will not swear, although he laye soft,
That in his thought he n’as somewhat diseas’d;* *troubled
Nor that he turned on his pillows oft,
And would of that him missed have been seis’d;* *possessed
But in such case men be not alway pleas’d,
For aught I wot, no more than was he;
That can I deem* of possibility. *judge
But certain is, to purpose for to go,
That in this while, as written is in gest,* *the history of
He saw his lady sometimes, and also these events
She with him spake, when that she *durst and lest;* *dared and pleased*
And, by their both advice,* as was the best, *consultation
*Appointed full warily* in this need, *made careful preparations*
So as they durst, how far they would proceed.
But it was spoken in *so short a wise, *so briefly, and always in such
In such await alway, and in such fear, vigilance and fear of being
Lest any wight divinen or devise* found out by anyone*
Would of their speech, or to it lay an ear,
*That all this world them not so lefe were,* *they wanted more than
As that Cupido would them grace send anything in the world*
To maken of their speeches right an end.
But thilke little that they spake or wrought,
His wise ghost* took ay of all such heed, *spirit
It seemed her he wiste what she thought
Withoute word, so that it was no need
To bid him aught to do, nor aught forbid;
For which she thought that love, all* came it late, *although
Of alle joy had open’d her the gate.
Troilus, by his discretion, his secrecy, and his devotion, made ever a deeper lodgment in Cressida’s heart; so that she thanked God twenty thousand times that she had met with a man who, as she felt, “was to her a wall of steel, and shield from ev’ry displeasance;” while Pandarus ever actively fanned the fire. So passed a “time sweet” of tranquil and harmonious love the only drawback being, that the lovers might not often meet, “nor leisure have, their speeches to fulfil.” At last Pandarus found an occasion for bringing them together at his house unknown to anybody, and put his plan in execution.
For he, with great deliberation,
Had ev’ry thing that hereto might avail* *be of service
Forecast, and put in execution,
And neither left for cost nor for travail;* *effort
Come if them list, them shoulde nothing fail,
*Nor for to be in aught espied there,
That wiste he an impossible were.* *he knew it was impossible*
that they could be discovered there*
And dreadeless* it clear was in the wind *without doubt
Of ev’ry pie, and every let-game; <49>
Now all is well, for all this world is blind,
In this mattere, bothe fremd* and tame; <50> *wild
This timber is all ready for to frame;
Us lacketh naught, but that we weete* wo’ld *know
A certain hour in which we come sho’ld. <51>
Troilus had informed his household, that if at any time he was missing, he had gone to worship at a certain temple of Apollo, “and first to see the holy laurel quake, or that the godde spake out of the tree.” So, at the changing of the moon, when “the welkin shope him for to rain,” [when the sky was preparing to rain] Pandarus went to invite his niece to supper; solemnly assuring her that Troilus was out of the town — though all the time he was safely shut up, till midnight, in “a little stew,” whence through a hole he joyously watched the arrival of his mistress and her fair niece Antigone, with half a score of her women. After supper Pandaras did everything to amuse his niece; “he sung, he play’d, he told a tale of Wade;” <52> at last she would take her leave; but
The bente Moone with her hornes pale,
Saturn, and Jove, in Cancer joined were, <53>
That made such a rain from heav’n avail,* *descend
That ev’ry manner woman that was there
Had of this smoky rain <54> a very fear;
At which Pandarus laugh’d, and saide then
“Now were it time a lady to go hen!”* *hence
He therefore presses Cressida to remain all night; she complies with a good grace; and after the sleeping cup has gone round, all retire to their chambers — Cressida, that she may not be disturbed by the rain and thunder, being lodged in the “inner closet” of Pandarus, who, to lull suspicion, occupies the outer chamber, his niece’s women sleeping in the intermediate apartment. When all is quiet, Pandarus liberates Troilus, and by a secret passage brings him to the chamber of Cressida; then, going forward alone to his niece, after calming her fears of discovery, he tells her that her lover has “through a gutter, by a privy went,” [a secret passage] come to his house in all this rain, mad with grief because a friend has told him that she loves Horastes. Suddenly cold about her heart, Cressida promises that on the morrow she will reassure her lover; but Pandarus scouts the notion of delay, laughs to scorn her proposal to send her ring in pledge of her truth, and finally, by pitiable accounts of Troilus’ grief, induces her to receive him and reassure him at once with her own lips.
This Troilus full soon on knees him set,
Full soberly, right by her bedde’s head,
And in his beste wise his lady gret* *greeted
But Lord! how she wax’d suddenly all red,
And thought anon how that she would be dead;
She coulde not one word aright out bring,
So suddenly for his sudden coming.
Cressida, though thinking that her servant and her knight should not have doubted her truth, yet sought to remove his jealousy, and offered to submit to any ordeal or oath he might impose; then, weeping, she covered her face, and lay silent. “But now,” exclaims the poet —
But now help, God, to quenchen all this sorrow!
So hope I that he shall, for he best may;
For I have seen, of a full misty morrow,* *morn
Followen oft a merry summer’s day,
And after winter cometh greene May;
Folk see all day, and eke men read in stories,
That after sharpe stoures* be victories. *conflicts, struggles
Believing his mistress to be angry, Troilus felt the cramp of death seize on his heart, “and down he fell all suddenly in swoon.” Pandarus “into bed him cast,” and called on his niece to pull out the thorn that stuck in his heart, by promising that she would “all forgive.” She whispered in his ear the assurance that she was not wroth; and at last, under her caresses, he recovered consciousness, to find her arm laid over him, to hear the assurance of her forgiveness, and receive her frequent kisses. Fresh vows and explanations passed; and Cressida implored forgiveness of “her own sweet heart,” for the pain she had caused him. Surprised with sudden bliss, Troilus put all in God’s hand, and strained his lady fast in his arms. “What might or may the seely [innocent] larke say, when that the sperhawk [sparrowhawk] hath him in his foot?”
Cressida, which that felt her thus y-take,
As write clerkes in their bookes old,
Right as an aspen leaf began to quake,
When she him felt her in his armes fold;
But Troilus, all *whole of cares cold,* *cured of painful sorrows*<55>
Gan thanke then the blissful goddes seven. <56>
Thus sundry paines bringe folk to heaven.
This Troilus her gan in armes strain,
And said, “O sweet, as ever may I go’n,* *prosper
Now be ye caught, now here is but we twain,
Now yielde you, for other boot* is none.” *remedy
To that Cresside answered thus anon,
“N’ had I ere now, my sweete hearte dear,
*Been yolden,* y-wis, I were now not here!” *yielded myself*
O sooth is said, that healed for to be
Of a fever, or other great sickness,
Men muste drink, as we may often see,
Full bitter drink; and for to have gladness
Men drinken often pain and great distress!
I mean it here, as for this adventure,
That thorough pain hath founden all his cure.
And now sweetnesse seemeth far more sweet,
That bitterness assayed* was beforn; *tasted <57>
For out of woe in blisse now they fleet,* *float, swim
None such they felte since that they were born;
Now is it better than both two were lorn! <58>
For love of God, take ev’ry woman heed
To worke thus, if it come to the need!
Cresside, all quit from ev’ry dread and teen,* *pain
As she that juste cause had him to trust,
Made him such feast,<59> it joy was for to see’n,
When she his truth and *intent cleane wist;* *knew the purity
And as about a tree, with many a twist, of his purpose*
*Bitrent and writhen* is the sweet woodbind, *plaited and wreathed*
Gan each of them in armes other wind.* *embrace, encircle
And as the *new abashed* nightingale, *newly-arrived and timid*
That stinteth,* first when she beginneth sing, *stops
When that she heareth any *herde’s tale,* *the talking of a shepherd*
Or in the hedges any wight stirring;
And, after, sicker* out her voice doth ring; *confidently
Right so Cressida, when *her dreade stent,* *her doubt ceased*
Open’d her heart, and told him her intent.* *mind
And might as he that sees his death y-shapen,* *prepared
And dien must, *in aught that he may guess,* *for all he can tell*
And suddenly *rescouse doth him escapen,* *he is rescued and escapes*
And from his death is brought *in sickerness;* *to safety*
For all the world, in such present gladness
Was Troilus, and had his lady sweet;
With worse hap God let us never meet!
Her armes small, her straighte back and soft,
Her sides longe, fleshly, smooth, and white,
He gan to stroke; and good thrift* bade full oft *blessing
On her snow-white throat, her breastes round and lite;* *small
Thus in this heaven he gan him delight,
And therewithal a thousand times her kist,
That what to do for joy *unneth he wist.* *he hardly knew*
The lovers exchanged vows, and kisses, and embraces, and speeches of exalted love, and rings; Cressida gave to Troilus a brooch of gold and azure, “in which a ruby set was like a heart;” and the too short night passed.
“When that the cock, commune astrologer, <60>
Gan on his breast to beat, and after crow,
And Lucifer, the daye’s messenger,
Gan for to rise, and out his beames throw;
And eastward rose, to him that could it know,
Fortuna Major, <61> then anon Cresseide,
With hearte sore, to Troilus thus said:
“My hearte’s life, my trust, and my pleasance!
That I was born, alas! that me is woe,
That day of us must make disseverance!
For time it is to rise, and hence to go,
Or else I am but lost for evermo’.
O Night! alas! why n’ilt thou o’er us hove,* *hover
As long as when Alcmena lay by Jove? <62>
“O blacke Night! as folk in bookes read
That shapen* art by God, this world to hide, *appointed
At certain times, with thy darke weed,* *robe
That under it men might in rest abide,
Well oughte beastes plain, and folke chide,
That where as Day with labour would us brest,* *burst, overcome
There thou right flee’st, and deignest* not us rest.* *grantest
“Thou dost, alas! so shortly thine office,* *duty
Thou rakel* Night! that God, maker of kind, *rash, hasty
Thee for thy haste and thine unkinde vice,
So fast ay to our hemisphere bind,
That never more under the ground thou wind;* *turn, revolve
For through thy rakel hieing* out of Troy *hasting
Have I forgone* thus hastily my joy!” *lost
This Troilus, that with these wordes felt,
As thought him then, for piteous distress,
The bloody teares from his hearte melt,
As he that never yet such heaviness
Assayed had out of so great gladness,
Gan therewithal Cresside, his lady dear,
In armes strain, and said in this mannere:
“O cruel Day! accuser of the joy
That Night and Love have stol’n, and *fast y-wrien!* *closely
Accursed be thy coming into Troy! concealed*
For ev’ry bow’r* hath one of thy bright eyen: *chamber
Envious Day! Why list thee to espyen?
What hast thou lost? Why seekest thou this place?
There God thy light so quenche, for his grace!
“Alas! what have these lovers thee aguilt?* *offended, sinned against
Dispiteous* Day, thine be the pains of hell! *cruel, spiteful
For many a lover hast thou slain, and wilt;
Thy peering in will nowhere let them dwell:
What! proff’rest thou thy light here for to sell?
Go sell it them that smalle seales grave!* *cut devices on
We will thee not, us needs no day to have.”
And eke the Sunne, Titan, gan he chide,
And said, “O fool! well may men thee despise!
That hast the Dawning <63> all night thee beside,
And suff’rest her so soon up from thee rise,
For to disease* us lovers in this wise! *annoy
What! hold* thy bed, both thou, and eke thy Morrow! *keep
I bidde* God so give you bothe sorrow!” *pray
The lovers part with many sighs and protestations of unswerving and undying love; Cressida responding to the vows of Troilus with the assurance —
“That first shall Phoebus* falle from his sphere, *the sun
And heaven’s eagle be the dove’s fere,
And ev’ry rock out of his place start,
Ere Troilus out of Cressida’s heart.”
When Pandarus visits Troilus in his palace later in the day, he warns him not to mar his bliss by any fault of his own:
“For, of Fortune’s sharp adversity,
The worste kind of infortune is this,
A man to have been in prosperity,
And it remember when it passed is.<64>
Thou art wise enough; forthy,*” do not amiss; *therefore
Be not too rakel,* though thou sitte warm; *rash, over-hasty
For if thou be, certain it will thee harm.
“Thou art at ease, and hold thee well therein;
For, all so sure as red is ev’ry fire,
As great a craft is to keep weal as win; <65>
Bridle alway thy speech and thy desire,
For worldly joy holds not but by a wire;
That proveth well, it breaks all day so oft,
Forthy need is to worke with it soft.”
Troilus sedulously observes the counsel; and the lovers have many renewals of their pleasure, and of their bitter chidings of the Day. The effects of love on Troilus are altogether refining and ennobling; as may be inferred from the song which he sung often to Pandarus:
The Second Song of Troilus.
“Love, that of Earth and Sea hath governance!
Love, that his hestes* hath in Heaven high! *commandments
Love, that with a right wholesome alliance
Holds people joined, as him list them guy!* *guide
Love, that knitteth law and company,
And couples doth in virtue for to dwell,
Bind this accord, that I have told, and tell!
“That the worlde, with faith which that is stable,
Diverseth so, his *stoundes according;* *according to its seasons*
That elementes, that be discordable,* *discordant
Holden a bond perpetually during;
That Phoebus may his rosy day forth bring;
And that the Moon hath lordship o’er the night; —
All this doth Love, ay heried* be his might! *praised
“That the sea, which that greedy is to flowen,
Constraineth to a certain ende* so *limit
His floodes, that so fiercely they not growen
To drenchen* earth and all for evermo’; *drown
And if that Love aught let his bridle go,
All that now loves asunder shoulde leap,
And lost were all that Love holds now *to heap.* *together <66>*
“So woulde God, that author is of kind,
That with his bond Love of his virtue list
To cherish heartes, and all fast to bind,
That from his bond no wight the way out wist!
And heartes cold, them would I that he twist,* *turned
To make them love; and that him list ay rue* *have pity
On heartes sore, and keep them that be true.”
But Troilus’ love had higher fruits than singing:
In alle needes for the towne’s werre* *war
He was, and ay the first in armes dight,* *equipped, prepared
And certainly, but if that bookes err,
Save Hector, most y-dread* of any wight; *dreaded
And this increase of hardiness* and might *courage
Came him of love, his lady’s grace to win,
That altered his spirit so within.
In time of truce, a-hawking would he ride,
Or elles hunt the boare, bear, lioun;
The smalle beastes let he go beside;<67>
And when he came riding into the town,
Full oft his lady, from her window down,
As fresh as falcon coming out of mew,* *cage <68>
Full ready was him goodly to salue.* *salute
And most of love and virtue was his speech,
And *in despite he had all wretchedness* *he held in scorn all
And doubtless no need was him to beseech despicable actions*
To honour them that hadde worthiness,
And ease them that weren in distress;
And glad was he, if any wight well far’d,
That lover was, when he it wist or heard.
For he held every man lost unless he were in Love’s service; and, so did the power of Love work within him, that he was ay [always] humble and benign, and “pride, envy, ire, and avarice, he gan to flee, and ev’ry other vice.”
THE FOURTH BOOK
A BRIEF Proem to the Fourth Book prepares us for the treachery of Fortune to Troilus; from whom she turned away her bright face, and took of him no heed, “and cast him clean out of his lady’s grace, and on her wheel she set up Diomede.” Then the narrative describes a skirmish in which the Trojans were worsted, and Antenor, with many of less note, remained in the hands of the Greeks. A truce was proclaimed for the exchange of prisoners; and as soon as Calchas heard the news, he came to the assembly of the Greeks, to “bid a boon.” Having gained audience, he reminded the besiegers how he had come from Troy to aid and encourage them in their enterprise; willing to lose all that he had in the city, except his daughter Cressida, whom he bitterly reproached himself for leaving behind. And now, with streaming tears and pitiful prayer, he besought them to exchange Antenor for Cressida; assuring them that the day was at hand when they should have both town and people. The soothsayer’s petition was granted; and the ambassadors charged to negotiate the exchange, entering the city, told their errand to King Priam and his parliament.
This Troilus was present in the place
When asked was for Antenor Cresside;
For which to change soon began his face,
As he that with the wordes well nigh died;
But natheless he no word to it seid;* *said
Lest men should his affection espy,
With manne’s heart he gan his sorrows drie;* *endure
And, full of anguish and of grisly dread,
Abode what other lords would to it say,
And if they woulde grant, — as God forbid! —
Th’exchange of her, then thought he thinges tway:* *two
First, for to save her honour; and what way
He mighte best th’exchange of her withstand;
This cast he then how all this mighte stand.
Love made him alle *prest to do her bide,* *eager to make her stay*
And rather die than that she shoulde go;
But Reason said him, on the other side,
“Without th’assent of her, do thou not so,
Lest for thy worke she would be thy foe;
And say, that through thy meddling is y-blow* *divulged, blown abroad
Your bothe love, where it was *erst unknow.”* *previously unknown*
For which he gan deliberate for the best,
That though the lordes woulde that she went,
He woulde suffer them grant what *them lest,* *they pleased*
And tell his lady first what that they meant;
And, when that she had told him her intent,
Thereafter would he worken all so blive,* *speedily
Though all the world against it woulde strive.
Hector, which that full well the Greekes heard,
For Antenor how they would have Cresseide,
Gan it withstand, and soberly answer’d;
“Sirs, she is no prisoner,” he said;
“I know not on you who this charge laid;
But, for my part, ye may well soon him tell,
We use* here no women for to sell.” *are accustomed
The noise of the people then upstart at once,
As breme* as blaze of straw y-set on fire *violent, furious
For Infortune* woulde for the nonce *Misfortune
They shoulde their confusion desire
“Hector,” quoth they, “what ghost* may you inspire *spirit
This woman thus to shield, and *do us* lose *cause us to*
Dan Antenor? — a wrong way now ye choose, —
“That is so wise, and eke so bold baroun;
And we have need of folk, as men may see
He eke is one the greatest of this town;
O Hector! lette such fantasies be!
O King Priam!” quoth they, “lo! thus say we,
That all our will is to forego Cresseide;”
And to deliver Antenor they pray’d.
Though Hector often prayed them “nay,” it was resolved that Cressida should be given up for Antenor; then the parliament dispersed. Troilus hastened home to his chamber, shut himself up alone, and threw himself on his bed.
And as in winter leaves be bereft,
Each after other, till the tree be bare,
So that there is but bark and branch y-left,
Lay Troilus, bereft of each welfare,
Y-bounden in the blacke bark of care,
Disposed *wood out of his wit to braid,* *to go out of his senses*
*So sore him sat* the changing of Cresseide. *so ill did he bear*
He rose him up, and ev’ry door he shet,* *shut
And window eke; and then this sorrowful man
Upon his bedde’s side adown him set,
Full like a dead image, pale and wan,
And in his breast the heaped woe began
Out burst, and he to worken in this wise,
In his woodness,* as I shall you devise.** *madness **relate
Right as the wilde bull begins to spring,
Now here, now there, y-darted* to the heart, *pierced with a dart
And of his death roareth in complaining;
Right so gan he about the chamber start,
Smiting his breast aye with his fistes smart;* *painfully, cruelly
His head to the wall, his body to the ground,
Full oft he swapt,* himselfe to confound. *struck, dashed
His eyen then, for pity of his heart,
Out streameden as swifte welles* tway; *fountains
The highe sobbes of his sorrow’s smart
His speech him reft; unnethes* might he say, *scarcely
“O Death, alas! *why n’ilt thou do me dey?* *why will you not
Accursed be that day which that Nature make me die?*
Shope* me to be a living creature!” *shaped
Bitterly reviling Fortune, and calling on Love to explain why his happiness with Cressicla should be thus repealed, Troilus declares that, while he lives, he will bewail his misfortune in solitude, and will never see it shine or rain, but will end his sorrowful life in darkness, and die in distress.
“O weary ghost, that errest to and fro!
Why n’ilt* thou fly out of the woefulest *wilt not
Body that ever might on grounde go?
O soule, lurking in this woeful nest!
Flee forth out of my heart, and let it brest,* *burst
And follow alway Cresside, thy lady dear!
Thy righte place is now no longer here.
“O woeful eyen two! since your disport* *delight
Was all to see Cressida’s eyen bright,
What shall ye do, but, for my discomfort,
Stande for naught, and weepen out your sight,
Since she is quench’d, that wont was you to light?
In vain, from this forth, have I eyen tway
Y-formed, since your virtue is away!
“O my Cresside! O lady sovereign
Of thilke* woeful soule that now cryeth! *this
Who shall now give comfort to thy pain?
Alas! no wight; but, when my hearte dieth,
My spirit, which that so unto you hieth,* *hasteneth
Receive *in gree,* for that shall ay you serve; *with favour*
*Forthy no force is* though the body sterve.* *therefore no matter*
“O ye lovers, that high upon the wheel
Be set of Fortune, in good adventure,
God lene* that ye find ay** love of steel,<69> *grant **always
And longe may your life in joy endure!
But when ye come by my sepulture,* *sepulchre
Remember that your fellow resteth there;
For I lov’d eke, though I unworthy were.
“O old, unwholesome, and mislived man,
Calchas I mean, alas! what ailed thee
To be a Greek, since thou wert born Trojan?
O Calchas! which that will my bane* be, *destruction
In cursed time wert thou born for me!
As woulde blissful Jove, for his joy,
That I thee hadde where I would in Troy!”
Soon Troilus, through excess of grief, fell into a trance; in which he was found by Pandarus, who had gone almost distracted at the news that Cressida was to be exchanged for Antenor. At his friend’s arrival, Troilus “gan as the snow against the sun to melt;” the two mingled their tears a while; then Pandarus strove to comfort the woeful lover. He admitted that never had a stranger ruin than this been wrought by Fortune:
“But tell me this, why thou art now so mad
To sorrow thus? Why li’st thou in this wise,
Since thy desire all wholly hast thou had,
So that by right it ought enough suffice?
But I, that never felt in my service
A friendly cheer or looking of an eye,
Let me thus weep and wail until I die. <70>
“And over all this, as thou well wost* thy selve, *knowest
This town is full of ladies all about,
And, *to my doom,* fairer than suche twelve *in my judgment*
As ever she was, shall I find in some rout,* *company
Yea! one or two, withouten any doubt:
Forthy* be glad, mine owen deare brother! *therefore
If she be lost, we shall recover another.
“What! God forbid alway that each pleasance
In one thing were, and in none other wight;
If one can sing, another can well dance;
If this be goodly, she is glad and light;
And this is fair, and that can good aright;
Each for his virtue holden is full dear,
Both heroner, and falcon for rivere. <71>
“And eke as writ Zausis,<72> that was full wise,
The newe love out chaseth oft the old,
And upon new case lieth new advice; <73>
Think eke thy life to save thou art hold;* *bound
Such fire *by process shall of kinde cold;* *shall grow cold by
For, since it is but casual pleasance, process of nature*
Some case* shall put it out of remembrance. *chance
“For, all so sure as day comes after night,
The newe love, labour, or other woe,
Or elles seldom seeing of a wight,
Do old affections all *over go;* *overcome*
And for thy part, thou shalt have one of tho* *those
T’abridge with thy bitter paine’s smart;
Absence of her shall drive her out of heart.”
These wordes said he *for the nones all,* *only for the nonce*
To help his friend, lest he for sorrow died;
For, doubteless, to do his woe to fall,* *make his woe subside*
He raughte* not what unthrift** that he said; *cared **folly
But Troilus, that nigh for sorrow died,
Took little heed of all that ever he meant;
One ear it heard, at th’other out it went.
But, at the last, he answer’d and said,
“Friend, This leachcraft, or y-healed thus to be,
Were well sitting* if that I were a fiend, *recked
To traisen* her that true is unto me: *betray
I pray God, let this counsel never the,* *thrive
But do me rather sterve* anon right here, *die
Ere I thus do, as thou me wouldest lear!”* *teach
Troilus protests that his lady shall have him wholly hers till death; and, debating the counsels of his friend, declares that even if he would, he could not love another. Then he points out the folly of not lamenting the loss of Cressida because she had been his in ease and felicity — while Pandarus himself, though he thought it so light to change to and fro in love, had not done busily his might to change her that wrought him all the woe of his unprosperous suit.
“If thou hast had in love ay yet mischance,
And canst it not out of thine hearte drive,
I that lived in lust* and in pleasance *delight
With her, as much as creature alive,
How should I that forget, and that so blive?* *quickly
O where hast thou been so long hid in mew,*<74> *cage
That canst so well and formally argue!”
The lover condemns the whole discourse of his friend as unworthy, and calls on Death, the ender of all sorrows, to come to him and quench his heart with his cold stroke. Then he distils anew in tears, “as liquor out of alembic;” and Pandarus is silent for a while, till he bethinks him to recommend to Troilus the carrying off of Cressida. “Art thou in Troy, and hast no hardiment [daring, boldness] to take a woman which that loveth thee?” But Troilus reminds his counsellor that all the war had come from the ravishing of a woman by might (the abduction of Helen by Paris); and that it would not beseem him to withstand his father’s grant, since the lady was to be changed for the town’s good. He has dismissed the thought of asking Cressida from his father, because that would be to injure her fair fame, to no purpose, for Priam could not overthrow the decision of “so high a place as parliament;” while most of all he fears to perturb her heart with violence, to the slander of her name — for he must hold her honour dearer than himself in every case, as lovers ought of right:
“Thus am I in desire and reason twight:* *twisted
Desire, for to disturbe her, me redeth;* *counseleth
And Reason will not, so my hearte dreadeth.”* *is in doubt
Thus weeping, that he coulde never cease
He said, “Alas! how shall I, wretche, fare?
For well feel I alway my love increase,
And hope is less and less alway, Pandare!
Increasen eke the causes of my care;
So well-away! *why n’ ill my hearte brest?* *why will not
For us in love there is but little rest.” my heart break?*
Pandare answered, “Friend, thou may’st for me
Do as thee list;* but had I it so hot, *please
And thine estate,* she shoulde go with me! *rank
Though all this town cried on this thing by note,
I would not set* all that noise a groat; *value
For when men have well cried, then will they rown,* *whisper
Eke wonder lasts but nine nights ne’er in town.
“Divine not in reason ay so deep,
Nor courteously, but help thyself anon;
Bet* is that others than thyselfe weep; *better
And namely, since ye two be all one,
Rise up, for, by my head, she shall not go’n!
And rather be in blame a little found,
Than sterve* here as a gnat withoute wound! *die
“It is no shame unto you, nor no vice,
Her to withholde, that ye loveth most;
Parauntre* she might holde thee for nice,** *peradventure **foolish
To let her go thus unto the Greeks’ host;
Think eke, Fortune, as well thyselfe wost,
Helpeth the hardy man to his emprise,
And weiveth* wretches for their cowardice. *forsaketh
“And though thy lady would a lite* her grieve, *little
Thou shalt thyself thy peace thereafter make;
But, as to me, certain I cannot ‘lieve
That she would it as now for evil take:
Why shoulde then for fear thine hearte quake?
Think eke how Paris hath, that is thy brother,
A love; and why shalt thou not have another?
“And, Troilus, one thing I dare thee swear,
That if Cressida, which that is thy lief,* *love
Now loveth thee as well as thou dost her,
God help me so, she will not take agrief* *amiss
Though thou *anon do boot in* this mischief; *provide a remedy
And if she willeth from thee for to pass, immediately*
Then is she false, so love her well the lass.* *less
“Forthy,* take heart, and think, right as a knight, *therefore
Through love is broken all day ev’ry law;
Kithe* now somewhat thy courage and thy might; *show
Have mercy on thyself, *for any awe;* *in spite of any fear*
Let not this wretched woe thine hearte gnaw;
But, manly, set the world on six and seven, <75>
And, if thou die a martyr, go to heaven.”
Pandarus promises his friend all aid in the enterprise; it is agreed that Cressida shall be carried off, but only with her own consent; and Pandarus sets out for his niece’s house, to arrange an interview. Meantime Cressida has heard the news; and, caring nothing for her father, but everything for Troilus, she burns in love and fear, unable to tell what she shall do.
But, as men see in town, and all about,
That women use* friendes to visite, *are accustomed
So to Cresside of women came a rout,* *troop
For piteous joy, and *weened her delight,* *thought to please her*
And with their tales, *dear enough a mite,* *not worth a mite*
These women, which that in the city dwell,
They set them down, and said as I shall tell.
Quoth first that one, “I am glad, truely,
Because of you, that shall your father see;”
Another said, “Y-wis, so am not I,
For all too little hath she with us be.”* *been
Quoth then the third, “I hope, y-wis, that she
Shall bringen us the peace on ev’ry side;
Then, when she goes, Almighty God her guide!”
Those wordes, and those womanishe thinges,
She heard them right as though she thennes* were, *thence; in some
For, God it wot, her heart on other thing is; other place
Although the body sat among them there,
Her advertence* is always elleswhere; *attention
For Troilus full fast her soule sought;
Withoute word, on him alway she thought.
These women that thus weened her to please,
Aboute naught gan all their tales spend;
Such vanity ne can do her no ease,
As she that all this meane while brenn’d
Of other passion than that they wend;* *weened, supposed
So that she felt almost her hearte die
For woe, and weary* of that company. *weariness
For whiche she no longer might restrain
Her teares, they began so up to well,
That gave signes of her bitter pain,
In which her spirit was, and muste dwell,
Rememb’ring her from heav’n into which hell
She fallen was, since she forwent* the sight *lost
Of Troilus; and sorrowfully she sight.* *sighed
And thilke fooles, sitting her about,
Weened that she had wept and siked* sore, *sighed
Because that she should out of that rout* *company
Depart, and never playe with them more;
And they that hadde knowen her of yore
Saw her so weep, and thought it kindeness,
And each of them wept eke for her distress.
And busily they gonnen* her comfort *began
Of thing, God wot, on which she little thought;
And with their tales weened her disport,
And to be glad they her besought;
But such an ease therewith they in her wrought,
Right as a man is eased for to feel,
For ache of head, to claw him on his heel.
But, after all this nice* vanity, *silly
They took their leave, and home they wenten all;
Cressida, full of sorrowful pity,
Into her chamber up went out of the hall,
And on her bed she gan for dead to fall,
In purpose never thennes for to rise;
And thus she wrought, as I shall you devise.* *narrate
She rent her sunny hair, wrung her hands, wept, and bewailed her fate; vowing that, since, “for the cruelty,” she could handle neither sword nor dart, she would abstain from meat and drink until she died. As she lamented, Pandarus entered, making her complain a thousand times more at the thought of all the joy which he had given her with her lover; but he somewhat soothed her by the prospect of Troilus’s visit, and by the counsel to contain her grief when he should come. Then Pandarus went in search of Troilus, whom he found solitary in a temple, as one that had ceased to care for life:
For right thus was his argument alway:
He said he was but lorne,* well-away! *lost, ruined
“For all that comes, comes by necessity;
Thus, to be lorn,* it is my destiny. *lost, ruined
“For certainly this wot I well,” he said,
“That foresight of the divine purveyance* *providence
Hath seen alway me to forgo* Cresseide, *lose
Since God sees ev’ry thing, *out of doubtance,* *without doubt*
And them disposeth, through his ordinance,
In their merites soothly for to be,
As they should come by predestiny.
“But natheless, alas! whom shall I ‘lieve?
For there be greate clerkes* many one *scholars
That destiny through argumentes preve, *prove
And some say that needly* there is none, *necessarily
But that free choice is giv’n us ev’ry one;
O well-away! so sly are clerkes old,
That I n’ot* whose opinion I may hold. <76> *know not
“For some men say, if God sees all beforn,
Godde may not deceived be, pardie!
Then must it fallen,* though men had it sworn, *befall, happen
That purveyance hath seen before to be;
Wherefore I say, that from etern* if he *eternity
Hath wist* before our thought eke as our deed, *known
We have no free choice, as these clerkes read.* *maintain
“For other thought, nor other deed also,
Might never be, but such as purveyance,
Which may not be deceived never mo’,
Hath feeled* before, without ignorance; *perceived
For if there mighte be a variance,
To writhen out from Godde’s purveying,
There were no prescience of thing coming,
“But it were rather an opinion
Uncertain, and no steadfast foreseeing;
And, certes, that were an abusion,* *illusion
That God should have no perfect clear weeting,* *knowledge
More than we men, that have *doubtous weening;* *dubious opinion*
But such an error *upon God to guess,* *to impute to God*
Were false, and foul, and wicked cursedness.* *impiety
“Eke this is an opinion of some
That have their top full high and smooth y-shore, <77>
They say right thus, that thing is not to come,
For* that the prescience hath seen before *because
That it shall come; but they say, that therefore
That it shall come, therefore the purveyance
Wot it before, withouten ignorance.
“And, in this manner, this necessity
*Returneth in his part contrary again;* *reacts in the opposite
For needfully behoves it not to be, direction*
That thilke thinges *fallen in certain,* *certainly happen*
That be purvey’d; but needly, as they sayn,
Behoveth it that thinges, which that fall,
That they in certain be purveyed all.
“I mean as though I labour’d me in this
To inquire which thing cause of which thing be;
As, whether that the prescience of God is
The certain cause of the necessity
Of thinges that to come be, pardie!
Or if necessity of thing coming
Be cause certain of the purveying.
“But now *enforce I me not* in shewing *I do not lay stress*
How th’order of causes stands; but well wot I,
That it behoveth, that the befalling
Of thinges wiste* before certainly, *known
Be necessary, *all seem it not* thereby, *though it does not appear*
That prescience put falling necessair
To thing to come, all fall it foul or fair.
“For, if there sit a man yond on a see,* *seat
Then by necessity behoveth it
That certes thine opinion sooth be,
That weenest, or conjectest,* that he sit; *conjecturest
And, furtherover, now againward yet,
Lo! right so is it on the part contrary;
As thus, — now hearken, for I will not tarry; —
“I say that if th’opinion of thee
Be sooth, for that he sits, then say I this,
That he must sitte by necessity;
And thus necessity in either is,
For in him need of sitting is, y-wis,
And, in thee, need of sooth; and thus forsooth
There must necessity be in you both.
“But thou may’st say he sits not therefore
That thine opinion of his sitting sooth
But rather, for the man sat there before,
Therefore is thine opinion sooth, y-wis;
And I say, though the cause of sooth of this
Comes of his sitting, yet necessity
Is interchanged both in him and thee.
“Thus in the same wise, out of doubtance,
I may well maken, as it seemeth me,
My reasoning of Godde’s purveyance,
And of the thinges that to come be;
By whiche reason men may well y-see
That thilke* thinges that in earthe fall,** *those **happen
That by necessity they comen all.
“For although that a thing should come, y-wis,
Therefore it is purveyed certainly,
Not that it comes for it purveyed is;
Yet, natheless, behoveth needfully
That thing to come be purvey’d truely;
Or elles thinges that purveyed be,
That they betide* by necessity. *happen
“And this sufficeth right enough, certain,
For to destroy our free choice ev’ry deal;
But now is this abusion,* to sayn *illusion, self-deception
That falling of the thinges temporel
Is cause of Godde’s prescience eternel;
Now truely that is a false sentence,* *opinion, judgment
That thing to come should cause his prescience.
“What might I ween, an’* I had such a thought, *if
But that God purveys thing that is to come,
For that it is to come, and elles nought?
So might I ween that thinges, all and some,
That *whilom be befall and overcome,* *have happened
Be cause of thilke sov’reign purveyance, in times past*
That foreknows all, withouten ignorance.
“And over all this, yet say I more thereto, —
That right as when I wot there is a thing,
Y-wis, that thing must needfully be so;
Eke right so, when I wot a thing coming,
So must it come; and thus the befalling
Of thinges that be wist before the tide,* *time
They may not be eschew’d* on any side.” *avoided
While Troilus was in all this heaviness, disputing with himself in this matter, Pandarus joined him, and told him the result of the interview with Cressida; and at night the lovers met, with what sighs and tears may be imagined. Cressida swooned away, so that Troilus took her for dead; and, having tenderly laid out her limbs, as one preparing a corpse for the bier, he drew his sword to slay himself upon her body. But, as God would, just at that moment she awoke out of her swoon; and by and by the pair began to talk of their prospects. Cressida declared the opinion, supporting it at great length and with many reasons, that there was no cause for half so much woe on either part. Her surrender, decreed by the parliament, could not be resisted; it was quite easy for them soon to meet again; she would bring things about that she should be back in Troy within a week or two; she would take advantage of the constant coming and going while the truce lasted; and the issue would be, that the Trojans would have both her and Antenor; while, to facilitate her return, she had devised a stratagem by which, working on her father’s avarice, she might tempt him to desert from the Greek camp back to the city. “And truly,” says the poet, having fully reported her plausible speech,
And truely, as written well I find,
That all this thing was said *of good intent,* *sincerely*
And that her hearte true was and kind
Towardes him, and spake right as she meant,
And that she starf* for woe nigh when she went, *died
And was in purpose ever to be true;
Thus write they that of her workes knew.
This Troilus, with heart and ears y-sprad,* *all open
Heard all this thing devised to and fro,
And verily it seemed that he had
*The selfe wit;* but yet to let her go *the same opinion*
His hearte misforgave* him evermo’; *misgave
But, finally, he gan his hearte wrest* *compel
To truste her, and took it for the best.
For which the great fury of his penance* *suffering
Was quench’d with hope, and therewith them between
Began for joy the amorouse dance;
And as the birdes, when the sun is sheen, *bright
Delighten in their song, in leaves green,
Right so the wordes that they spake y-fere* *together
Delighten them, and make their heartes cheer.* *glad
Yet Troilus was not so well at ease, that he did not earnestly entreat Cressida to observe her promise; for, if she came not into Troy at the set day, he should never have health, honour, or joy; and he feared that the stratagem by which she would try to lure her father back would fail, so that she might be compelled to remain among the Greeks. He would rather have them steal away together, with sufficient treasure to maintain them all their lives; and even if they went in their bare shirt, he had kin and friends elsewhere, who would welcome and honour them.
Cressida, with a sigh, right in this wise
Answer’d; “Y-wis, my deare hearte true,
We may well steal away, as ye devise,
And finde such unthrifty wayes new;
But afterward full sore *it will us rue;* *we will regret it*
And help me God so at my moste need
As causeless ye suffer all this dread!
“For thilke* day that I for cherishing *that same
Or dread of father, or of other wight,
Or for estate, delight, or for wedding,
Be false to you, my Troilus, my knight,
Saturne’s daughter Juno, through her might,
As wood* as Athamante <78> do me dwell *mad
Eternally in Styx the pit of hell!
“And this, on ev’ry god celestial
I swear it you, and eke on each goddess,
On ev’ry nymph, and deity infernal,
On Satyrs and on Faunes more or less,
That *halfe goddes* be of wilderness; *demigods
And Atropos my thread of life to-brest,* *break utterly
If I be false! now trow* me if you lest.** *believe **please
“And thou Simois, <79> that as an arrow clear
Through Troy ay runnest downward to the sea,
Bear witness of this word that said is here!
That thilke day that I untrue be
To Troilus, mine owen hearte free,
That thou returne backward to thy well,
And I with body and soul sink in hell!”
Even yet Troilus was not wholly content, and urged anew his plan of secret flight; but Cressida turned upon him with the charge that he mistrusted her causelessly, and demanded of him that he should be faithful in her absence, else she must die at her return. Troilus promised faithfulness in far simpler and briefer words than Cressida had used.
“Grand mercy, good heart mine, y-wis,” quoth she;
“And blissful Venus let me never sterve,* *die
Ere I may stand *of pleasance in degree in a position to reward
To quite him* that so well can deserve; him well with pleasure*
And while that God my wit will me conserve,
I shall so do; so true I have you found,
That ay honour to me-ward shall rebound.
“For truste well that your estate* royal, *rank
Nor vain delight, nor only worthiness
Of you in war or tourney martial,
Nor pomp, array, nobley, nor eke richess,
Ne made me to rue* on your distress; *take pity
But moral virtue, grounded upon truth,
That was the cause I first had on you ruth.* *pity
“Eke gentle heart, and manhood that ye had,
And that ye had, — as me thought, — in despite
Every thing that *sounded unto* bad, *tended unto, accorded with*
As rudeness, and peoplish* appetite, *vulgar
And that your reason bridled your delight;
This made, aboven ev’ry creature,
That I was yours, and shall while I may dure.
“And this may length of yeares not fordo,* *destroy, do away
Nor remuable* Fortune deface; *unstable
But Jupiter, that of his might may do
The sorrowful to be glad, so give us grace,
Ere nightes ten to meeten in this place,
So that it may your heart and mine suffice!
And fare now well, for time is that ye rise.”
The lovers took a heart-rending adieu; and Troilus, suffering unimaginable anguish, “withoute more, out of the chamber went.”
THE FIFTH BOOK.
APPROACHE gan the fatal destiny
That Jovis hath in disposition,
And to you angry Parcae,* Sisters three, *The Fates
Committeth to do execution;
For which Cressida must out of the town,
And Troilus shall dwelle forth in pine,* *pain
Till Lachesis his thread no longer twine.* *twist
The golden-tressed Phoebus, high aloft,
Thries* had alle, with his beames clear, *thrice
The snowes molt,* and Zephyrus as oft *melted
Y-brought again the tender leaves green,
Since that *the son of Hecuba the queen* *Troilus <80>*
Began to love her first, for whom his sorrow
Was all, that she depart should on the morrow
In the morning, Diomede was ready to escort Cressida to the Greek host; and Troilus, seeing him mount his horse, could with difficulty resist an impulse to slay him — but restrained himself, lest his lady should be also slain in the tumult. When Cressida was ready to go,
This Troilus, in guise of courtesy,
With hawk on hand, and with a huge rout* *retinue, crowd
Of knightes, rode, and did her company,
Passing alle the valley far without;
And farther would have ridden, out of doubt,
Full fain,* and woe was him to go so soon, *gladly
But turn he must, and it was eke to do’n.
And right with that was Antenor y-come
Out of the Greekes’ host, and ev’ry wight
Was of it glad, and said he was welcome;
And Troilus, *all n’ere his hearte light,* *although his heart
He pained him, with all his fulle might, was not light*
Him to withhold from weeping at the least;
And Antenor he kiss’d and made feast.
And therewithal he must his leave take,
And cast his eye upon her piteously,
And near he rode, his cause* for to make *excuse, occasion
To take her by the hand all soberly;
And, Lord! so she gan weepe tenderly!
And he full soft and slily gan her say,
“Now hold your day, and *do me not to dey.”* *do not make me die*
With that his courser turned he about,
With face pale, and unto Diomede
No word he spake, nor none of all his rout;
Of which the son of Tydeus <81> tooke heed,
As he that couthe* more than the creed <82> *knew
In such a craft, and by the rein her hent;* *took
And Troilus to Troye homeward went.
This Diomede, that led her by the bridle,
When that he saw the folk of Troy away,
Thought, “All my labour shall not be *on idle,* *in vain*
If that I may, for somewhat shall I say;
For, at the worst, it may yet short our way;
I have heard say eke, times twice twelve,
He is a fool that will forget himselve.”
But natheless, this thought he well enough,
That “Certainly I am aboute naught,
If that I speak of love, or *make it tough;* *make any violent
For, doubteless, if she have in her thought immediate effort*
Him that I guess, he may not be y-brought
So soon away; but I shall find a mean,
That she *not wit as yet shall* what I mean.” *shall not yet know*
So he began a general conversation, assured her of not less friendship and honour among the Greeks than she had enjoyed in Troy, and requested of her earnestly to treat him as a brother and accept his service — for, at last he said, “I am and shall be ay, while that my life may dure, your own, aboven ev’ry creature.
“Thus said I never e’er now to woman born;
For, God mine heart as wisly* gladden so! *surely
I loved never woman herebeforn,
As paramours, nor ever shall no mo’;
And for the love of God be not my foe,
All* can I not to you, my lady dear, *although
Complain aright, for I am yet to lear.* *teach
“And wonder not, mine owen lady bright,
Though that I speak of love to you thus blive;* *soon
For I have heard ere this of many a wight
That loved thing he ne’er saw in his live;
Eke I am not of power for to strive
Against the god of Love, but him obey
I will alway, and mercy I you pray.”
Cressida answered his discourses as though she scarcely heard them; yet she thanked him for his trouble and courtesy, and accepted his offered friendship — promising to trust him, as well she might. Then she alighted from her steed, and, with her heart nigh breaking, was welcomed to the embrace of her father. Meanwhile Troilus, back in Troy, was lamenting with tears the loss of his love, despairing of his or her ability to survive the ten days, and spending the night in wailing, sleepless tossing, and troublous dreams. In the morning he was visited by Pandarus, to whom he gave directions for his funeral; desiring that the powder into which his heart was burned should be kept in a golden urn, and given to Cressida. Pandarus renewed his old counsels and consolations, reminded his friend that ten days were a short time to wait, argued against his faith in evil dreams, and urged him to take advantage of the truce, and beguile the time by a visit to King Sarpedon (a Lycian Prince who had come to aid the Trojans). Sarpedon entertained them splendidly; but no feasting, no pomp, no music of instruments, no singing of fair ladies, could make up for the absence of Cressida to the desolate Troilus, who was for ever poring upon her old letters, and recalling her loved form. Thus he “drove to an end” the fourth day, and would have then returned to Troy, but for the remonstrances of Pandarus, who asked if they had visited Sarpedon only to fetch fire? At last, at the end of a week, they returned to Troy; Troilus hoping to find Cressida again in the city, Pandarus entertaining a scepticism which he concealed from his friend. The morning after their return, Troilus was impatient till he had gone to the palace of Cressida; but when he found her doors all closed, “well nigh for sorrow adown he gan to fall.”
Therewith, when he was ware, and gan behold
How shut was ev’ry window of the place,
As frost him thought his hearte *gan to cold;* *began to grow cold*
For which, with changed deadly pale face,
Withoute word, he forth began to pace;
And, as God would, he gan so faste ride,
That no wight of his countenance espied.
Then said he thus: “O palace desolate!
O house of houses, *whilom beste hight!* *formerly called best*
O palace empty and disconsolate!
O thou lantern, of which quench’d is the light!
O palace, whilom day, that now art night!
Well oughtest thou to fall, and I to die,
Since she is gone that wont was us to guy!* *guide, rule
“O palace, whilom crown of houses all,
Illumined with sun of alle bliss!
O ring, from which the ruby is out fall!
O cause of woe, that cause hast been of bliss!
Yet, since I may no bet, fain would I kiss
Thy colde doores, durst I for this rout;
And farewell shrine, of which the saint is out!”
. . . . . . . . . . .
From thence forth he rideth up and down,
And ev’ry thing came him to remembrance,
As he rode by the places of the town,
In which he whilom had all his pleasance;
“Lo! yonder saw I mine own lady dance;
And in that temple, with her eyen clear,
Me caughte first my righte lady dear.
“And yonder have I heard full lustily
My deare hearte laugh; and yonder play:
Saw I her ones eke full blissfully;
And yonder ones to me gan she say,
‘Now, goode sweete! love me well, I pray;’
And yond so gladly gan she me behold,
That to the death my heart is to her hold.* *holden, bound
“And at that corner, in the yonder house,
Heard I mine allerlevest* lady dear, *dearest of all
So womanly, with voice melodious,
Singe so well, so goodly and so clear,
That in my soule yet me thinks I hear
The blissful sound; and in that yonder place
My lady first me took unto her grace.”
Then he went to the gates, and gazed along the way by which he had attended Cressida at her departure; then he fancied that all the passers-by pitied him; and thus he drove forth a day or two more, singing a song, of few words, which he had made to lighten his heart:
“O star, of which I lost have all the light,
With hearte sore well ought I to bewail,
That ever dark in torment, night by night,
Toward my death, with wind I steer and sail;
For which, the tenthe night, if that I fail* *miss; be left without
The guiding of thy beames bright an hour,
My ship and me Charybdis will devour.”
By night he prayed the moon to run fast about her sphere; by day he reproached the tardy sun — dreading that Phaethon had come to life again, and was driving the chariot of Apollo out of its straight course. Meanwhile Cressida, among the Greeks, was bewailing the refusal of her father to let her return, the certainty that her lover would think her false, and the hopelessness of any attempt to steal away by night. Her bright face waxed pale, her limbs lean, as she stood all day looking toward Troy; thinking on her love and all her past delights, regretting that she had not followed the counsel of Troilus to steal away with him, and finally vowing that she would at all hazards return to the city. But she was fated, ere two months, to be full far from any such intention; for Diomede now brought all his skill into play, to entice Cressida into his net. On the tenth day, Diomede, “as fresh as branch in May,” came to the tent of Cressida, feigning business with Calchas.
Cresside, at shorte wordes for to tell,
Welcomed him, and down by her him set,
And he was *eath enough to make dwell;* *easily persuaded to stay*
And after this, withoute longe let,* *delay
The spices and the wine men forth him fet,* *fetched
And forth they speak of this and that y-fere,* *together
As friendes do, of which some shall ye hear.
He gan first fallen of the war in speech
Between them and the folk of Troye town,
And of the siege he gan eke her beseech
To tell him what was her opinioun;
From that demand he so descended down
To aske her, if that her strange thought
The Greekes’ guise,* and workes that they wrought. *fashion
And why her father tarried* so long *delayed
To wedde her unto some worthy wight.
Cressida, that was in her paines strong
For love of Troilus, her owen knight,
So farforth as she cunning* had or might, *ability
Answer’d him then; but, as for his intent,* *purpose
It seemed not she wiste* what he meant. *knew
But natheless this ilke* Diomede *same
Gan *in himself assure,* and thus he said; *grow confident*
“If I aright have *taken on you heed,* *observed you*
Me thinketh thus, O lady mine Cresside,
That since I first hand on your bridle laid,
When ye out came of Troye by the morrow,
Ne might I never see you but in sorrow.
“I cannot say what may the cause be,
But if for love of some Trojan it were;
*The which right sore would a-thinke me* *which it would much
That ye for any wight that dwelleth there pain me to think*
Should [ever] spill* a quarter of a tear, *shed
Or piteously yourselfe so beguile;* *deceive
For dreadeless* it is not worth the while. *undoubtedly
“The folk of Troy, as who saith, all and some
In prison be, as ye yourselfe see;
From thence shall not one alive come
For all the gold betwixte sun and sea;
Truste this well, and understande me;
There shall not one to mercy go alive,
All* were he lord of worldes twice five. *although
. . . . . . . . . . . .
“What will ye more, lovesome lady dear?
Let Troy and Trojan from your hearte pace;
Drive out that bitter hope, and make good cheer,
And call again the beauty of your face,
That ye with salte teares so deface;
For Troy is brought into such jeopardy,
That it to save is now no remedy.
“And thinke well, ye shall in Greekes find
A love more perfect, ere that it be night,
Than any Trojan is, and more kind,
And better you to serve will do his might;
And, if ye vouchesafe, my lady bright,
I will be he, to serve you, myselve, —
Yea, lever* than be a lord of Greekes twelve!” *rather
And with that word he gan to waxe red,
And in his speech a little while he quoke,* *quaked; trembled
And cast aside a little with his head,
And stint a while; and afterward he woke,
And soberly on her he threw his look,
And said, “I am, albeit to you no joy,
As gentle* man as any wight in Troy. *high-born
“But, hearte mine! since that I am your man,* *leigeman, subject
And [you] be the first of whom I seeke grace, (in love)
To serve you as heartily as I can,
And ever shall, while I to live have space,
So, ere that I depart out of this place,
Ye will me grante that I may, to-morrow,
At better leisure, telle you my sorrow.”
Why should I tell his wordes that he said?
He spake enough for one day at the mest;* *most
It proveth well he spake so, that Cresseide
Granted upon the morrow, at his request,
Farther to speake with him, at the least,
So that he would not speak of such mattere;
And thus she said to him, as ye may hear:
As she that had her heart on Troilus
So faste set, that none might it arace;* *uproot <83>
And strangely* she spake, and saide thus; *distantly, unfriendlily
“O Diomede! I love that ilke place
Where I was born; and Jovis, for his grace,
Deliver it soon of all that doth it care!* *afflict
God, for thy might, so *leave it* well to fare!” *grant it*
She knows that the Greeks would fain wreak their wrath on Troy, if they might; but that shall never befall: she knows that there are Greeks of high condition — though as worthy men would be found in Troy: and she knows that Diomede could serve his lady well.
“But, as to speak of love, y-wis,” she said,
“I had a lord, to whom I wedded was, <84>
He whose mine heart was all, until he died;
And other love, as help me now Pallas,
There in my heart nor is, nor ever was;
And that ye be of noble and high kindred,
I have well heard it tellen, out of dread.* *doubt
“And that doth* me to have so great a wonder *causeth
That ye will scornen any woman so;
Eke, God wot, love and I be far asunder;
I am disposed bet, so may I go,* *fare or prosper
Unto my death to plain and make woe;
What I shall after do I cannot say,
But truely as yet *me list not play.* *I am not disposed
“Mine heart is now in tribulatioun;
And ye in armes busy be by day;
Hereafter, when ye wonnen have the town,
Parauntre* then, so as it happen may, *peradventure
That when I see that I never *ere sey,* *saw before*
Then will I work that I never ere wrought;
This word to you enough sufficen ought.
“To-morrow eke will I speak with you fain,* *willingly
So that ye touche naught of this mattere;
And when you list, ye may come here again,
And ere ye go, thus much I say you here:
As help me Pallas, with her haires clear,
If that I should of any Greek have ruth,
It shoulde be yourselfe, by my truth!
“I say not therefore that I will you love;
*Nor say not nay;* but, in conclusioun, *nor say I that
I meane well, by God that sits above!” I will not*
And therewithal she cast her eyen down,
And gan to sigh, and said; “O Troye town!
Yet bid* I God, in quiet and in rest *pray
I may you see, or *do my hearte brest!”* *cause my heart to break*
But in effect, and shortly for to say,
This Diomede all freshly new again
Gan pressen on, and fast her mercy pray;
And after this, the soothe for to sayn,
Her glove he took, of which he was full fain,
And finally, when it was waxen eve,
And all was well, he rose and took his leave.
Cressida retired to rest:
Returning in her soul ay up and down
The wordes of this sudden Diomede,<85>
His great estate,* the peril of the town, *rank
And that she was alone, and hadde need
Of friendes’ help; and thus began to dread
The causes why, the soothe for to tell,
That she took fully the purpose for to dwell.* *remain (with the
The morrow came, and, ghostly* for to speak, *plainly
This Diomede is come unto Cresseide;
And shortly, lest that ye my tale break,
So well he for himselfe spake and said,
That all her sighes sore adown he laid;
And finally, the soothe for to sayn,
He refte* her the great** of all her pain. *took away **the greater
And after this, the story telleth us
That she him gave the faire baye steed
The which she ones won of Troilus;
And eke a brooch (and that was little need)
That Troilus’ was, she gave this Diomede;
And eke, the bet from sorrow him to relieve,
She made him wear a pensel* of her sleeve. *pendant <86>
I find eke in the story elleswhere,
When through the body hurt was Diomede
By Troilus, she wept many a tear,
When that she saw his wide woundes bleed,
And that she took to keepe* him good heed, *tend, care for
And, for to heal him of his sorrow’s smart,
Men say, I n’ot,* that she gave him her heart. *know not
And yet, when pity had thus completed the triumph of inconstancy, she made bitter moan over her falseness to one of the noblest and worthiest men that ever was; but it was now too late to repent, and at all events she resolved that she would be true to Diomede — all the while weeping for pity of the absent Troilus, to whom she wished every happiness. The tenth day, meantime, had barely dawned, when Troilus, accompanied by Pandarus, took his stand on the walls, to watch for the return of Cressida. Till noon they stood, thinking that every corner from afar was she; then Troilus said that doubtless her old father bore the parting ill, and had detained her till after dinner; so they went to dine, and returned to their vain observation on the walls. Troilus invented all kinds of explanations for his mistress’s delay; now, her father would not let her go till eve; now, she would ride quietly into the town after nightfall, not to be observed; now, he must have mistaken the day. For five or six days he watched, still in vain, and with decreasing hope. Gradually his strength decayed, until he could walk only with a staff; answering the wondering inquiries of his friends, by saying that he had a grievous malady about his heart. One day he dreamed that in a forest he saw Cressida in the embrace of a boar; and he had no longer doubt of her falsehood. Pandarus, however, explained away the dream to mean merely that Cressida was detained by her father, who might be at the point of death; and he counselled the disconsolate lover to write a letter, by which he might perhaps get at the truth. Troilus complied, entreating from his mistress, at the least, a “letter of hope;” and the lady answered, that she could not come now, but would so soon as she might; at the same time “making him great feast,” and swearing that she loved him best — “of which he found but bottomless behest [which he found but groundless promises].” Day by day increased the woe of Troilus; he laid himself in bed, neither eating, nor drinking, nor sleeping, nor speaking, almost distracted by the thought of Cressida’s unkindness. He related his dream to his sister Cassandra, who told him that the boar betokened Diomede, and that, wheresoever his lady was, Diornede certainly had her heart, and she was his: “weep if thou wilt, or leave, for, out of doubt, this Diomede is in, and thou art out.” Troilus, enraged, refused to believe Cassandra’s interpretation; as well, he cried, might such a story be credited of Alcestis, who devoted her life for her husband; and in his wrath he started from bed, “as though all whole had him y-made a leach [physician],” resolving to find out the truth at all hazards. The death of Hector meanwhile enhanced the sorrow which he endured; but he found time to write often to Cressida, beseeching her to come again and hold her truth; till one day his false mistress, out of pity, wrote him again, in these terms:
“Cupide’s son, ensample of goodlihead,* *beauty, excellence
O sword of knighthood, source of gentleness!
How might a wight in torment and in dread,
And healeless,* you send as yet gladness? *devoid of health
I hearteless, I sick, I in distress?
Since ye with me, nor I with you, may deal,
You neither send I may nor heart nor heal.
“Your letters full, the paper all y-plainted,* *covered with
Commoved have mine heart’s pitt; complainings
I have eke seen with teares all depainted
Your letter, and how ye require me
To come again; the which yet may not be;
But why, lest that this letter founden were,
No mention I make now for fear.
“Grievous to me, God wot, is your unrest,
Your haste,* and that the goddes’ ordinance *impatience
It seemeth not ye take as for the best;
Nor other thing is in your remembrance,
As thinketh me, but only your pleasance;
But be not wroth, and that I you beseech,
For that I tarry is *all for wicked speech.* *to avoid malicious
“For I have heard well more than I wend* *weened, thought
Touching us two, how thinges have stood,
Which I shall with dissimuling amend;
And, be not wroth, I have eke understood
How ye ne do but holde me on hand; <87>
But now *no force,* I cannot in you guess *no matter*
But alle truth and alle gentleness.
“Comen I will, but yet in such disjoint* *jeopardy, critical
I stande now, that what year or what day position
That this shall be, that can I not appoint;
But in effect I pray you, as I may,
For your good word and for your friendship ay;
For truely, while that my life may dure,
As for a friend, ye may *in me assure.* *depend on me*
“Yet pray I you, *on evil ye not take* *do not take it ill*
That it is short, which that I to you write;
I dare not, where I am, well letters make;
Nor never yet ne could I well endite;
Eke *great effect men write in place lite;* *men write great matter
Th’ intent is all, and not the letter’s space; in little space*
And fare now well, God have you in his grace!
“La Vostre C.”
Though he found this letter “all strange,” and thought it like “a kalendes of change,” <88> Troilus could not believe his lady so cruel as to forsake him; but he was put out of all doubt, one day that, as he stood in suspicion and melancholy, he saw a “coat- armour” borne along the street, in token of victory, before Deiphobus his brother. Deiphobus had won it from Diomede in battle that day; and Troilus, examining it out of curiosity, found within the collar a brooch which he had given to Cressida on the morning she left Troy, and which she had pledged her faith to keep for ever in remembrance of his sorrow and of him. At this fatal discovery of his lady’s untruth,
Great was the sorrow and plaint of Troilus;
But forth her course Fortune ay gan to hold;
Cressida lov’d the son of Tydeus,
And Troilus must weep in cares cold.
Such is the world, whoso it can behold!
In each estate is little hearte’s rest;
God lend* us each to take it for the best! *grant
In many a cruel battle Troilus wrought havoc among the Greeks, and often he exchanged blows and bitter words with Diomede, whom he always specially sought; but it was not their lot that either should fall by the other’s hand. The poet’s purpose, however, he tells us, is to relate, not the warlike deeds of Troilus, which Dares has fully told, but his love-fortunes:
Beseeching ev’ry lady bright of hue,
And ev’ry gentle woman, *what she be,* *whatsoever she be*
Albeit that Cressida was untrue,
That for that guilt ye be not wroth with me;
Ye may her guilt in other bookes see;
And gladder I would writen, if you lest,
Of Penelope’s truth, and good Alceste.
Nor say I not this only all for men,
But most for women that betrayed be
Through false folk (God give them sorrow, Amen!)
That with their greate wit and subtilty
Betraye you; and this commoveth me
To speak; and in effect you all I pray,
Beware of men, and hearken what I say.
Go, little book, go, little tragedy!
There God my maker, yet ere that I die,
So send me might to make some comedy!
But, little book, *no making thou envy,* *be envious of no poetry* <89>
But subject be unto all poesy;
And kiss the steps, where as thou seest space,
Of Virgil, Ovid, Homer, Lucan, Stace.
And, for there is so great diversity
In English, and in writing of our tongue,
So pray I God, that none miswrite thee,
Nor thee mismetre for default of tongue!
And read whereso thou be, or elles sung,
That thou be understanden, God I ‘seech!* *beseech
But yet to purpose of my *rather speech.* *earlier subject* <90>
The wrath, as I began you for to say,
Of Troilus the Greekes boughte dear;
For thousandes his handes *made dey,* *made to die*
As he that was withouten any peer,
Save in his time Hector, as I can hear;
But, well-away! save only Godde’s will,
Dispiteously him slew the fierce Achill’.
And when that he was slain in this mannere,
His lighte ghost* full blissfully is went *spirit
Up to the hollowness of the seventh sphere <91>
In converse leaving ev’ry element;
And there he saw, with full advisement,* *observation, understanding
Th’ erratic starres heark’ning harmony,
With soundes full of heav’nly melody.
And down from thennes fast he gan advise* *consider, look on
This little spot of earth, that with the sea
Embraced is; and fully gan despise
This wretched world, and held all vanity,
*To respect of the plein felicity* *in comparison with
That is in heav’n above; and, at the last, the full felicity*
Where he was slain his looking down he cast.
And in himself he laugh’d right at the woe
Of them that wepte for his death so fast;
And damned* all our works, that follow so *condemned
The blinde lust, the which that may not last,
And shoulden* all our heart on heaven cast; *while we should
And forth he wente, shortly for to tell,
Where as Mercury sorted* him to dwell. *allotted <92>
Such fine* hath, lo! this Troilus for love! *end
Such fine hath all his *greate worthiness!* *exalted royal rank*
Such fine hath his estate royal above!
Such fine his lust,* such fine hath his nobless! *pleasure
Such fine hath false worlde’s brittleness!* *fickleness, instability
And thus began his loving of Cresside,
As I have told; and in this wise he died.
O young and freshe folke, *he or she,* *of either sex*
In which that love upgroweth with your age,
Repaire home from worldly vanity,
And *of your heart upcaste the visage* *”lift up the countenance
To thilke God, that after his image of your heart.”*
You made, and think that all is but a fair,
This world that passeth soon, as flowers fair!
And love Him, the which that, right for love,
Upon a cross, our soules for to bey,* *buy, redeem
First starf,* and rose, and sits in heav’n above; *died
For he will false* no wight, dare I say, *deceive, fail
That will his heart all wholly on him lay;
And since he best to love is, and most meek,
What needeth feigned loves for to seek?
Lo! here of paynims* cursed olde rites! *pagans
Lo! here what all their goddes may avail!
Lo! here this wretched worlde’s appetites! *end and reward
Lo! here the *fine and guerdon for travail,* of labour*
Of Jove, Apollo, Mars, and such rascaille* *rabble <93>
Lo! here the form of olde clerkes’ speech,
In poetry, if ye their bookes seech!* *seek, search
L’Envoy of Chaucer.
O moral Gower! <94> this book I direct.
To thee, and to the philosophical Strode, <95>
To vouchesafe, where need is, to correct,
Of your benignities and zeales good.
And to that soothfast Christ that *starf on rood* *died on the cross*
With all my heart, of mercy ever I pray,
And to the Lord right thus I speak and say:
“Thou One, and Two, and Three, *etern on live,* *eternally living*
That reignest ay in Three, and Two, and One,
Uncircumscrib’d, and all may’st circumscrive,* *comprehend
From visible and invisible fone* *foes
Defend us in thy mercy ev’ry one;
So make us, Jesus, *for thy mercy dign,* *worthy of thy mercy*
For love of Maid and Mother thine benign!”
Explicit Liber Troili et Cresseidis. <96>
Notes to Troilus and Cressida
1. The double sorrow: First his suffering before his love was successful; and then his grief after his lady had been separated from him, and had proved unfaithful.
2. Tisiphone: one of the Eumenides, or Furies, who avenged on men in the next world the crimes committed on earth. Chaucer makes this grim invocation most fitly, since the Trojans were under the curse of the Eumenides, for their part in the offence of Paris in carrying off Helen, the wife of his host Menelaus, and thus impiously sinning against the laws of hospitality.
3. See Chaucer’s description of himself in “The House Of Fame,” and note 11 to that poem.
4. The Palladium, or image of Pallas (daughter of Triton and foster-sister of Athena), was said to have fallen from heaven at Troy, where Ilus was just beginning to found the city; and Ilus erected a sanctuary, in which it was preserved with great honour and care, since on its safety was supposed to depend the safety of the city. In later times a Palladium was any statue of the goddess Athena kept for the safeguard of the city that possessed it.
5. “Oh, very god!”: oh true divinity! — addressing Cressida.
6. Ascaunce: as if to say — as much as to say. The word represents “Quasi dicesse” in Boccaccio. See note 5 to the Sompnour’s Tale.
7. Eft: another reading is “oft.”
8. Arten: constrain — Latin, “arceo.”
9. The song is a translation of Petrarch’s 88th Sonnet, which opens thus: “S’amor non e, che dunque e quel ch’i’sento.”
10. If maugre me: If (I burn) in spite of myself. The usual reading is, “If harm agree me” = if my hurt contents me: but evidently the antithesis is lost which Petrarch intended when, after “s’a mia voglia ardo,” he wrote “s’a mal mio grado” = if against my will; and Urry’s Glossary points out the probability that in transcription the words “If that maugre me” may have gradually changed into “If harm agre me.”
11. The Third of May seems either to have possessed peculiar favour or significance with Chaucer personally, or to have had a special importance in connection with those May observances of which the poet so often speaks. It is on the third night of May that Palamon, in The Knight’s Tale, breaks out of prison, and at early morn encounters in the forest Arcita, who has gone forth to pluck a garland in honour of May; it is on the third night of May that the poet hears the debate of “The Cuckoo and the Nightingale”; and again in the present passage the favoured date recurs.
12. Went: turning; from Anglo-Saxon, “wendan;” German, “wenden.” The turning and tossing of uneasy lovers in bed is, with Chaucer, a favourite symptom of their passion. See the fifth “statute,” in The Court of Love.
13. Procne, daughter of Pandion, king of Attica, was given to wife to Tereus in reward for his aid against an enemy; but Tereus dishonoured Philomela, Procne’s sister; and his wife, in revenge, served up to him the body of his own child by her. Tereus, infuriated, pursued the two sisters, who prayed the gods to change them into birds. The prayer was granted; Philomela became a nightingale, Procne a swallow, and Tereus a hawk.
14. Fished fair: a proverbial phrase which probably may be best represented by the phrase “done great execution.”
15. The fair gem virtueless: possessing none of the virtues which in the Middle Ages were universally believed to be inherent in precious stones.
16. The crop and root: the most perfect example. See note 29 to the Knight’s Tale.
17. Eme: uncle; the mother’s brother; still used in Lancashire. Anglo-Saxon, “eame;” German, “Oheim.”
18. Dardanus: the mythical ancestor of the Trojans, after whom the gate is supposed to be called.
19. All the other gates were secured with chains, for better defence against the besiegers.
20. Happy day: good fortune; French, “bonheur;” both “happy day” and “happy hour” are borrowed from the astrological fiction about the influence of the time of birth.
21. Horn, and nerve, and rind: The various layers or materials of the shield — called boagrion in the Iliad — which was made from the hide of the wild bull.
22. His brother: Hector.
23. Who gives me drink?: Who has given me a love-potion, to charm my heart thus away?
24. That plaited she full oft in many a fold: She deliberated carefully, with many arguments this way and that.
25. Through which I mighte stand in worse plight: in a worse position in the city; since she might through his anger lose the protection of his brother Hector.
26. I am not religious: I am not in holy vows. See the complaint of the nuns in “The Court of Love.”
27. The line recalls Milton’s “dark with excessive bright.”
28. No weal is worth, that may no sorrow drien: the meaning is, that whosoever cannot endure sorrow deserves not happiness.
29. French, “verre;” glass.
30. From cast of stones ware him in the werre: let him beware of casting stones in battle. The proverb in its modern form warns those who live in glass houses of the folly of throwing stones.
31. Westren: to west or wester — to decline towards the west; so Milton speaks of the morning star as sloping towards heaven’s descent “his westering wheel.”
32. A pike with ass’s feet etc.: this is merely another version of the well-known example of incongruity that opens the “Ars Poetica” of Horace.
33. Tristre: tryst; a preconcerted spot to which the beaters drove the game, and at which the sportsmen waited with their bows.
34. A kankerdort: a condition or fit of perplexed anxiety; probably connected with the word “kink” meaning in sea phrase a twist in an rope — and, as a verb, to twist or entangle.
35. They feel in times, with vapour etern: they feel in their seasons, by the emission of an eternal breath or inspiration (that God loves, &c.)
36. The idea of this stanza is the same with that developed in the speech of Theseus at the close of The Knight’s Tale; and it is probably derived from the lines of Boethius, quoted in note 91 to that Tale.
37. In this and the following lines reappears the noble doctrine of the exalting and purifying influence of true love, advanced in “The Court of Love,” “The Cuckoo and the Nightingale,” &c.
38. Weir: a trap or enclosed place in a stream, for catching fish. See note 10 to The Assembly of Fowls.
39. Nor might one word for shame to it say: nor could he answer one word for shame (at the stratagem that brought Cressida to implore his protection)
40. “All n’ere he malapert, nor made avow Nor was so bold to sing a foole’s mass;” i.e. although he was not over-forward and made no confession (of his love), or was so bold as to be rash and ill-advised in his declarations of love and worship.
41. Pandarus wept as if he would turn to water; so, in The Squire’s Tale, did Canace weep for the woes of the falcon.
42. If I breake your defence: if I transgress in whatever you may forbid; French, “defendre,” to prohibit.
43. These lines and the succeeding stanza are addressed to Pandarus, who had interposed some words of incitement to Cressida.
44. In “The Court of Love,” the poet says of Avaunter, that “his ancestry of kin was to Lier; and the stanza in which that line occurs expresses precisely the same idea as in the text. Vain boasters of ladies’ favours are also satirised in “The House of Fame”.
45. Nice: silly, stupid; French, “niais.”
46.”Reheating” is read by preference for “richesse,” which stands in the older printed editions; though “richesse” certainly better represents the word used in the original of Boccaccio — “dovizia,” meaning abundance or wealth.
47. “Depart it so, for widewhere is wist How that there is diversity requer’d Betwixte thinges like, as I have lear’d:” i.e. make this distinction, for it is universally known that there is a great difference between things that seem the same, as I have learned.
48. Frepe: the set, or company; French, “frappe,” a stamp (on coins), a set (of moulds).
49. To be “in the wind” of noisy magpies, or other birds that might spoil sport by alarming the game, was not less desirable than to be on the “lee-side” of the game itself, that the hunter’s presence might not be betrayed by the scent. “In the wind of,” thus signifies not to windward of, but to leeward of — that is, in the wind that comes from the object of pursuit.
50. Bothe fremd and tame: both foes and friends — literally, both wild and tame, the sporting metaphor being sustained.
51. The lovers are supposed to say, that nothing is wanting but to know the time at which they should meet.
52. A tale of Wade: see note 5 to the Merchant’s Tale.
53. Saturn, and Jove, in Cancer joined were: a conjunction that imported rain.
54. Smoky rain: An admirably graphic description of dense rain.
55. For the force of “cold,” see note 22 to the Nun’s Priest’s Tale.
56. Goddes seven: The divinities who gave their names to the seven planets, which, in association with the seven metals, are mentioned in The Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale.
57. Assayed: experienced, tasted. See note 6 to the Squire’s Tale.
58. Now is it better than both two were lorn: better this happy issue, than that both two should be lost (through the sorrow of fruitless love).
59. Made him such feast: French, “lui fit fete” — made holiday for him.
60. The cock is called, in “The Assembly of Fowls,” “the horologe of thorpes lite;” [the clock of little villages] and in The Nun’s Priest’s Tale Chanticleer knew by nature each ascension of the equinoctial, and, when the sun had ascended fifteen degrees, “then crew he, that it might not be amended.” Here he is termed the “common astrologer,” as employing for the public advantage his knowledge of astronomy.
61. Fortuna Major: the planet Jupiter.
62. When Jupiter visited Alcmena in the form of her husband Amphitryon, he is said to have prolonged the night to the length of three natural nights. Hercules was the fruit of the union.
63. Chaucer seems to confound Titan, the title of the sun, with Tithonus (or Tithon, as contracted in poetry), whose couch Aurora was wont to share.
64. So, in “Locksley Hall,” Tennyson says that “a sorrow’s crown of sorrow is rememb’ring better things.” The original is in Dante’s words:- – “Nessun maggior dolore Che ricordarsi del tempo felice Nella miseria.” — “Inferno,” v. 121. (“There is no greater sorrow than to remember happy times when in misery”)
65. As great a craft is to keep weal as win: it needs as much skill to keep prosperity as to attain it.
66. To heap: together. See the reference to Boethius in note 91 to the Knight’s Tale.
67. The smalle beastes let he go beside: a charming touch, indicative of the noble and generous inspiration of his love.
68. Mew: the cage or chamber in which hawks were kept and carefully tended during the moulting season.
69. Love of steel: love as true as steel.
70. Pandarus, as it repeatedly appears, was an unsucsessful lover.
71. “Each for his virtue holden is full dear, Both heroner, and falcon for rivere”:— That is, each is esteemed for a special virtue or faculty, as the large gerfalcon for the chase of heron, the smaller goshawk for the chase of river fowl.
72. Zausis: An author of whom no record survives.
73. And upon new case lieth new advice: new counsels must be adopted as new circumstances arise.
74. Hid in mew: hidden in a place remote from the world — of which Pandarus thus betrays ignorance.
75. The modern phrase “sixes and sevens,” means “in confusion:” but here the idea of gaming perhaps suits the sense better — “set the world upon a cast of the dice.”
76. The controversy between those who maintained the doctrine of predestination and those who held that of free-will raged with no less animation at Chaucer’s day, and before it, than it has done in the subsequent five centuries; the Dominicans upholding the sterner creed, the Franciscans taking the other side. Chaucer has more briefly, and with the same care not to commit himself, referred to the discussion in The Nun’s Priest’s Tale.
77. That have their top full high and smooth y-shore: that are eminent among the clergy, who wear the tonsure.
78. Athamante: Athamas, son of Aeolus; who, seized with madness, under the wrath of Juno for his neglect of his wife Nephele, slew his son Learchus.
79. Simois: one of the rivers of the Troad, flowing into the Xanthus.
80. Troilus was the son of Priam and Hecuba.
81. The son of Tydeus: Diomedes; far oftener called Tydides, after his father Tydeus, king of Argos.
82. Couthe more than the creed: knew more than the mere elements (of the science of Love).
83. Arache: wrench away, unroot (French, “arracher”); the opposite of “enrace,” to root in, implant.
84. It will be remembered that, at the beginning of the first book, Cressida is introduced to us as a widow.
85. Diomede is called “sudden,” for the unexpectedness of his assault on Cressida’s heart — or, perhaps, for the abrupt abandonment of his indifference to love.
86. Penscel: a pennon or pendant; French, “penoncel.” It was the custom in chivalric times for a knight to wear, on days of tournament or in battle, some such token of his lady’s favour, or badge of his service to her.
87. She has been told that Troilus is deceiving her.
88. The Roman kalends were the first day of the month, when a change of weather was usually expected.
89. Maker, and making, words used in the Middle Ages to signify the composer and the composition of poetry, correspond exactly with the Greek “poietes” and “poiema,” from “poieo,” I make.
90. My rather speech: my earlier, former subject; “rather” is the cormparative of the old adjective “rath,” early.
91. Up to the hollowness of the seventh sphere: passing up through the hollowness or concavity of the spheres, which all revolve round each other and are all contained by God (see note 5 to the Assembly of Fowls), the soul of Troilus, looking downward, beholds the converse or convex side of the spheres which it has traversed.
92. Sorted: allotted; from Latin, “sors,” lot, fortune.
93. Rascaille: rabble; French, “racaille” — a mob or multitude, the riff-raff; so Spencer speaks of the “rascal routs” of inferior combatants.
94. John Gower, the poet, a contemporary and friend of Chaucer’s; author, among other works, of the “Confessio Amantis.” See note 1 to the Man of Law’s Tale.
95. Strode was an eminent scholar of Merton College, Oxford, and tutor to Chaucer’s son Lewis.
96. Explicit Liber Troili et Cresseidis: “The end of the book of Troilus and Cressida.”
[This pretty allegory, or rather conceit, containing one or two passages that for vividness and for delicacy yield to nothing in the whole range of Chaucer’s poetry, had never been printed before the year 1597, when it was included in the edition of Speght. Before that date, indeed, a Dream of Chaucer had been printed; but the poem so described was in reality “The Book of the Duchess; or the Death of Blanche, Duchess of Lancaster” — which is not included in the present edition. Speght says that “This Dream, devised by Chaucer, seemeth to be a covert report of the marriage of John of Gaunt, the King’s son, with Blanche, the daughter of Henry, Duke of Lancaster; who after long love (during the time whereof the poet feigneth them to be dead) were in the end, by consent of friends, happily married; figured by a bird bringing in his bill an herb, which restored them to life again. Here also is showed Chaucer’s match with a certain gentlewoman, who, although she was a stranger, was, notwithstanding, so well liked and loved of the Lady Blanche and her Lord, as Chaucer himself also was, that gladly they concluded a marriage between them.” John of Gaunt, at the age of nineteen, and while yet Earl of Richmond, was married to the Lady Blanche at Reading in May 1359; Chaucer, then a prisoner in France, probably did not return to England till peace was concluded in the following year; so that his marriage to Philippa Roet, the sister of the Duchess Blanche’s favourite attendant Katharine Roet, could not have taken place till some time after that of the Duke. In the poem, it is represented to have immediately followed; but no consequence need be attached to that statement. Enough that it followed at no great interval of time; and that the intimate relations which Chaucer had already begun to form with John of Gaunt, might well warrant him in writing this poem on the occasion of the Duke’s marriage, and in weaving his own love-fortunes with those of the principal figures. In the necessary abridgement of the poem for the present edition, the subsidiary branch of the allegory, relating to the poet’s own love affair, has been so far as possible separated from the main branch, which shadows forth the fortunes of John and Blanche. The poem, in full, contains, with an “Envoy” arbitrarily appended, 2233 lines; of which 510 are given here.] (Transcriber’s note: modern scholars believe that Chaucer was not the author of this poem)
WHEN Flora, the queen of pleasance,
Had wholly *achiev’d the obeisance* *won the obedience*
Of the fresh and the new season,
Thorough ev’ry region;
And with her mantle *whole covert* *wholly covered*
What winter had *made discovert,* — *stripped*
On a May night, the poet lay alone, thinking of his lady, and all her beauty; and, falling asleep, he dreamed that he was in an island
Where wall, and gate, was all of glass,
And so was closed round about,
That leaveless* none came in nor out; *without permission
Uncouth and strange to behold;
For ev’ry gate, of fine gold,
A thousand fanes,* ay turning, *vanes, weathercocks
Entuned* had, and birds singing *contrived so as to emit
Diversely, on each fane a pair, a musical sound
With open mouth, against the air; <1>
And *of a suit* were all the tow’rs, *of the same plan*
Subtilly *carven aft* flow’rs *carved to represent*
Of uncouth colours, *during ay,* *lasting forever*
That never be none seen in May,
With many a small turret high;
But man alive I could not sigh,* *see
Nor creatures, save ladies play,* *disporting themselves
Which were such of their array,
That, as me thought, *of goodlihead* *for comeliness*
They passed all, and womanhead.
For to behold them dance and sing,
It seemed like none earthly thing;
And all were of the same age, save one; who was advanced in years, though no less gay in demeanour than the rest. While he stood admiring the richness and beauty of the place, and the fairness of the ladies, which had the notable gift of enduring unimpaired till death, the poet was accosted by the old lady, to whom he had to yield himself prisoner; because the ordinance of the isle was, that no man should dwell there; and the ladies’ fear of breaking the law was enhanced by the temporary absence of their queen from the realm. Just at this moment the cry was raised that the queen came; all the ladies hastened to meet her; and soon the poet saw her approach — but in her company his mistress, wearing the same garb, and a seemly knight. All the ladies wondered greatly at this; and the queen explained:
“My sisters, how it hath befall,* *befallen
I trow ye know it one and all,
That of long time here have I been
Within this isle biding as queen,
Living at ease, that never wight
More perfect joye have not might;
And to you been of governance
Such as you found in whole pleasance, <2>
In every thing as ye know,
After our custom and our law;
Which how they firste founded were,
I trow ye wot all the mannere.
And who the queen is of this isle, —
As I have been this longe while, —
Each seven years must, of usage,
Visit the heav’nly hermitage,
Which on a rock so highe stands,
In a strange sea, out from all lands,
That for to make the pilgrimage
Is call’d a perilous voyage;
For if the wind be not good friend,
The journey dureth to the end
Of him which that it undertakes;
Of twenty thousand not one scapes.
Upon which rock groweth a tree,
That certain years bears apples three;
Which three apples whoso may have,
Is *from all displeasance y-save* *safe from all pain*
That in the seven years may fall;
This wot you well, both one and all.
For the first apple and the hext,* *highest <3>
Which groweth unto you the next,
Hath three virtues notable,
And keepeth youth ay durable,
Beauty, and looks, ever-in-one,* *continually
And is the best of ev’ry one.
The second apple, red and green,
Only with lookes of your eyne,
You nourishes in great pleasance,
Better than partridge or fesaunce,* *pheasant
And feedeth ev’ry living wight
Pleasantly, only with the sight.
And the third apple of the three,
Which groweth lowest on the tree,
Whoso it beareth may not fail* *miss, fail to obtain
That* to his pleasance may avail. *that which
So your pleasure and beauty rich,
Your during youth ever y-lich,* *alike
Your truth, your cunning,* and your weal, *knowledge
Hath flower’d ay, and your good heal,
Without sickness or displeasance,
Or thing that to you was noyance.* *offence, injury
So that you have as goddesses
Lived above all princesses.
Now is befall’n, as ye may see;
To gather these said apples three,
I have not fail’d, against the day,
Thitherward to take the way,
*Weening to speed* as I had oft. *expecting to succeed*
But when I came, I found aloft
My sister, which that hero stands,
Having those apples in her hands,
Advising* them, and nothing said, *regarding, gazing on
But look’d as she were *well apaid:* *satisfied*
And as I stood her to behold,
Thinking how my joys were cold,
Since I these apples *have not might,* *might not have*
Even with that so came this knight,
And in his arms, of me unware,
Me took, and to his ship me bare,
And said, though him I ne’er had seen,
Yet had I long his lady been;
Wherefore I shoulde with him wend,
And he would, to his life’s end,
My servant be; and gan to sing,
As one that had won a rich thing.
Then were my spirits from me gone,
So suddenly every one,
That in me appear’d but death,
For I felt neither life nor breath,
Nor good nor harme none I knew,
The sudden pain me was so new,
That *had not the hasty grace be* *had it not been for the
Of this lady, that from the tree prompt kindness*
Of her gentleness so bled,* *hastened
Me to comforten, I had died;
And of her three apples she one
Into mine hand there put anon,
Which brought again my mind and breath,
And me recover’d from the death.
Wherefore to her so am I hold,* *beholden, obliged
That for her all things do I wo’ld,
For she was leach* of all my smart, *physician
And from great pain so quit* my heart. *delivered
And as God wot, right as ye hear,
Me to comfort with friendly cheer,
She did her prowess and her might.
And truly eke so did this knight,
In that he could; and often said,
That of my woe he was *ill paid,* *distressed, ill-pleased*
And curs’d the ship that him there brought,
The mast, the master that it wrought.
And, as each thing must have an end,
My sister here, our bother friend, <4>
Gan with her words so womanly
This knight entreat, and cunningly,
For mine honour and hers also,
And said that with her we should go
Both in her ship, where she was brought,
Which was so wonderfully wrought,
So clean, so rich, and so array’d,
That we were both content and paid;* *satisfied
And me to comfort and to please,
And my heart for to put at ease,
She took great pain in little while,
And thus hath brought us to this isle
As ye may see; wherefore each one
I pray you thank her one and one,
As heartily as ye can devise,
Or imagine in any wise.”
At once there then men mighte see’n,
A world of ladies fall on kneen
Before my lady, —
Thanking her, and placing themselves at her commandment. Then the queen sent the aged lady to the knight, to learn of him why he had done her all this woe; and when the messenger had discharged her mission, telling the knight that in the general opinion he had done amiss, he fell down suddenly as if dead for sorrow and repentance. Only with great difficulty, by the queen herself, was he restored to consciousness and comfort; but though she spoke kind and hope-inspiring words, her heart was not in her speech,
For her intent was, to his barge
Him for to bring against the eve,
With certain ladies, and take leave,
And pray him, of his gentleness,
To *suffer her* thenceforth in peace, *let her dwell*
As other princes had before;
And from thenceforth, for evermore,
She would him worship in all wise
That gentlenesse might devise;
And *pain her* wholly to fulfil, *make her utmost efforts*
In honour, his pleasure and will.
And during thus this knighte’s woe, —
Present* the queen and other mo’, *(there being) present*
My lady and many another wight, —
Ten thousand shippes at a sight
I saw come o’er the wavy flood,
With sail and oar; that, as I stood
Them to behold, I gan marvail
From whom might come so many a sail;
For, since the time that I was born,
Such a navy therebeforn
Had I not seen, nor so array’d,
That for the sight my hearte play’d
Ay to and fro within my breast;
For joy long was ere it would rest.
For there were sailes *full of flow’rs;* *embroidered with flowers*
After, castles with huge tow’rs, <5>
Seeming full of armes bright,
That wond’rous lusty* was the sight; *pleasant
With large tops, and mastes long,
Richly depaint’ and *rear’d among.* *raised among them*
At certain times gan repair
Smalle birdes down from the air,
And on the shippes’ bounds* about *bulwarks
Sat and sang, with voice full out,
Ballads and lays right joyously,
As they could in their harmony.
The ladies were alarmed and sorrow-stricken at sight of the ships, thinking that the knight’s companions were on board; and they went towards the walls of the isle, to shut the gates. But it was Cupid who came; and he had already landed, and marched straight to the place where the knight lay. Then he chid the queen for her unkindness to his servant; shot an arrow into her heart; and passed through the crowd, until he found the poet’s lady, whom he saluted and complimented, urging her to have pity on him that loved her. While the poet, standing apart, was revolving all this in his mind, and resolving truly to serve his lady, he saw the queen advance to Cupid, with a petition in which she besought forgiveness of past offences, and promised continual and zealous service till her death. Cupid smiled, and said that he would be king within that island, his new conquest; then, after long conference with the queen, he called a council for the morrow, of all who chose to wear his colours. In the morning, such was the press of ladies, that scarcely could standing-room be found in all the plain. Cupid presided; and one of his counsellors addressed the mighty crowd, promising that ere his departure his lord should bring to an agreement all the parties there present. Then Cupid gave to the knight and the dreamer each his lady; promised his favour to all the others in that place who would truly and busily serve in love; and at evening took his departure. Next morning, having declined the proffered sovereignty of the island, the poet’s mistress also embarked, leaving him behind; but he dashed through the waves, was drawn on board her ship from peril of death, and graciously received into his lady’s lasting favour. Here the poet awakes, finding his cheeks and body all wet with tears; and, removing into another chamber, to rest more in peace, he falls asleep anew, and continues the dream. Again he is within the island, where the knight and all the ladies are assembled on a green, and it is resolved by the assembly, not only that the knight shall be their king, but that every lady there shall be wedded also. It is determined that the knight shall depart that very day, and return, within ten days, with such a host of Benedicts, that none in the isle need lack husbands. The knight
Anon into a little barge
Brought was, late against an eve,
Where of all he took his leave.
Which barge was, as a man thought,
Aft* his pleasure to him brought; *according to*
The queen herself accustom’d ay
In the same barge to play.* *take her sport
It needed neither mast nor rother* *rudder
(I have not heard of such another),
Nor master for the governance;* *steering
It sailed by thought and pleasance,
Withoute labour, east and west;
All was one, calm or tempest. <6>
And I went with, at his request,
And was the first pray’d to the feast.* *the bridal feast
When he came unto his country,
And passed had the wavy sea,
In a haven deep and large
He left his rich and noble barge,
And to the court, shortly to tell,
He went, where he was wont to dwell, —
And was gladly received as king by the estates of the land; for during his absence his father, “old, and wise, and hoar,” had died, commending to their fidelity his absent son. The prince related to the estates his journey, and his success in finding the princess in quest of whom he had gone seven years before; and said that he must have sixty thousand guests at his marriage feast. The lords gladly guaranteed the number within the set time; but afterwards they found that fifteen days must be spent in the necessary preparations. Between shame and sorrow, the prince, thus compelled to break his faith, took to his bed, and, in wailing and self-reproach,
— Endur’d the days fifteen,
Till that the lords, on an evene,* *evening
Him came and told they ready were,
And showed in few wordes there,
How and what wise they had *purvey’d *provided suitably
For his estate,* and to him said, to his rank*
That twenty thousand knights of name,
And forty thousand without blame,
Alle come of noble ligne* *line, lineage
Together in a company
Were lodged on a river’s side,
Him and his pleasure there t’abide.
The prince then for joy uprose,
And, where they lodged were, he goes,
Withoute more, that same night,
And there his supper *made to dight;* *had prepared*
And with them bode* till it was day. *abode, waited*
And forthwith to take his journey,
Leaving the strait, holding the large,
Till he came to his noble barge:
And when the prince, this lusty knight,
With his people in armes bright,
Was come where he thought to pass,* *cross to the isle
And knew well none abiding was
Behind, but all were there present,
Forthwith anon all his intent
He told them there, and made his cries* *proclamation
Thorough his hoste that day twice,
Commanding ev’ry living wight
There being present in his sight,
To be the morrow on the rivage,* *shore
There he begin would his voyage.
The morrow come, the *cry was kept* *proclamation was obeyed*
But few were there that night that slept,
But *truss’d and purvey’d* for the morrow; *packed up and provided*
For fault* of ships was all their sorrow; *lack, shortage
For, save the barge, and other two,
Of shippes there I saw no mo’.
Thus in their doubtes as they stood,
Waxing the sea, coming the flood,
Was cried “To ship go ev’ry wight!”
Then was but *hie that hie him might,* *whoever could hasten, did*
And to the barge, me thought, each one
They went, without was left not one,
Horse, nor male*, truss, nor baggage, *trunk, wallet
Salad*, spear, gardebrace,** nor page, *helmet<7> **arm-shield<8>
But was lodged and room enough;
At which shipping me thought I lough,* *laughed
And gan to marvel in my thought,
How ever such a ship was wrought.* *constructed
For *what people that can increase,* *however the numbers increased*
Nor ne’er so thick might be the prease,* *press, crowd
But alle hadde room at will;
There was not one was lodged ill.
For, as I trow, myself the last
Was one, and lodged by the mast;
And where I look’d I saw such room
As all were lodged in a town.
Forth went the ship, said was the creed;<9>
And on their knees, *for their good speed,* *to pray for success*
Down kneeled ev’ry wight a while,
And prayed fast that to the isle
They mighte come in safety,
The prince and all the company.
With worship and withoute blame,
Or disclander* of his name, *reproach, slander
Of the promise he should return
Within the time he did sojourn
In his lande biding* his host; *waiting for
This was their prayer least and most:
To keep the day it might not be’n,
That he appointed with the queen.
Wherefore the prince slept neither day nor night, till he and his people landed on the glass-walled isle, “weening to be in heav’n that night.” But ere they had gone a little way, they met a lady all in black, with piteous countenance, who reproached the prince for his untruth, and informed him that, unable to bear the reproach to their name, caused by the lightness of their trust in strangers, the queen and all the ladies of the isle had vowed neither to eat, nor drink, nor sleep, nor speak, nor cease weeping till all were dead. The queen had died the first; and half of the other ladies had already “under the earth ta’en lodging new.” The woeful recorder of all these woes invites the prince to behold the queen’s hearse:
“Come within, come see her hearse
Where ye shall see the piteous sight
That ever yet was shown to knight;
For ye shall see ladies stand,
Each with a greate rod in hand,
Clad in black, with visage white,
Ready each other for to smite,
If any be that will not weep;
Or who makes countenance to sleep.
They be so beat, that all so blue
They be as cloth that dy’d is new.”
Scarcely has the lady ceased to speak, when the prince plucks forth a dagger, plunges it into his heart, and, drawing but one breath, expires.
For whiche cause the lusty host,
Which [stood] in battle on the coast,
At once for sorrow such a cry
Gan rear, thorough* the company, *throughout
That to the heav’n heard was the soun’,
And under th’earth as far adown,
And wilde beastes for the fear
So suddenly affrayed* were, *afraid
That for the doubt, while they might dure,* *have a chance of safety
They ran as of their lives unsure,
From the woodes into the plain,
And from valleys the high mountain
They sought, and ran as beastes blind,
That clean forgotten had their kind.* *nature
The lords of the laggard host ask the woebegone lady what should be done; she answers that nothing can now avail, but that for remembrance they should build in their land, open to public view, “in some notable old city,” a chapel engraved with some memorial of the queen. And straightway, with a sigh, she also “pass’d her breath.”
Then said the lordes of the host,
And so concluded least and most,
That they would ay in houses of thack* *thatch
Their lives lead, <10> and wear but black,
And forsake all their pleasances,
And turn all joy to penances;
And bare the dead prince to the barge,
And named *them should* have the charge; *those who should*
And to the hearse where lay the queen
The remnant went, and down on kneen,
Holding their hands on high, gan cry,
“Mercy! mercy!” *evereach thry;* *each one thrice*
And curs’d the time that ever sloth
Should have such masterdom of troth.
And to the barge, a longe mile,
They bare her forth; and, in a while,
All the ladies, one and one,
By companies were brought each one.
And pass’d the sea, and took the land,
And in new hearses, on a sand,
Put and brought were all anon,
Unto a city clos’d with stone,
Where it had been used ay
The kinges of the land to lay,
After they reigned in honours;
And writ was which were conquerours;
In an abbey of nunnes black,
Which accustom’d were to wake,
And of usage rise each a-night,
To pray for ev’ry living wight.
And so befell, as is the guise,
Ordain’d and said was the service
Of the prince and eke of the queen,
So devoutly as mighte be’n;
And, after that, about the hearses,
Many orisons and verses,
Withoute note* <11> full softely *music
Said were, and that full heartily;
That all the night, till it was day,
The people in the church gan pray
Unto the Holy Trinity,
Of those soules to have pity.
And when the nighte past and run
Was, and the newe day begun, —
The young morrow with rayes red,
Which from the sun all o’er gan spread,
Attemper’d* cleare was and fair, *clement, calm
And made a time of wholesome air, —
Befell a wondrous case* and strange *chance, event
Among the people, and gan change
Soon the word, and ev’ry woe
Unto a joy, and some to two.
A bird, all feather’d blue and green,
With brighte rays like gold between,
As small thread over ev’ry joint,
All full of colour strange and coint,* *quaint
Uncouth* and wonderful to sight, *unfamiliar
Upon the queene’s hearse gan light,
And sung full low and softely
Three songes in their harmony,
*Unletted of* every wight; *unhindered by*
Till at the last an aged knight,
Which seem’d a man in greate thought,
Like as he set all thing at nought,
With visage and eyes all forwept,* *steeped in tears
And pale, as a man long unslept,
By the hearses as he stood,
With hasty handling of his hood
Unto a prince that by him past,
Made the bird somewhat aghast.* *frightened
Wherefore he rose and left his song,
And departed from us among,
And spread his winges for to pass
By the place where he enter’d was.
And in his haste, shortly to tell,
Him hurt, that backward down he fell,
From a window richly paint,
With lives of many a divers saint,
And beat his winges and bled fast,
And of the hurt thus died and past;
And lay there well an hour and more
Till, at the last, of birds a score
Came and assembled at the place
Where the window broken was,
And made such waimentatioun,* *lamentation
That pity was to hear the soun’,
And the warbles of their throats,
And the complaint of their notes,
Which from joy clean was reversed.
And of them one the glass soon pierced,
And in his beak, of colours nine,
An herb he brought, flow’rless, all green,
Full of smalle leaves, and plain,* *smooth
Swart,* and long, with many a vein. *black
And where his fellow lay thus dead,
This herb he down laid by his head,
And dressed* it full softely, *arranged
And hung his head, and stood thereby.
Which herb, in less than half an hour,
Gan over all knit,* and after flow’r *bud
Full out; and waxed ripe the seed;
And, right as one another feed
Would, in his beak he took the grain,
And in his fellow’s beak certain
It put, and thus within the third* *i.e. third hour after it
Upstood and pruned him the bird, had died
Which dead had been in all our sight;
And both together forth their flight
Took, singing, from us, and their leave;
Was none disturb them would nor grieve.
And, when they parted were and gone,
Th’ abbess the seedes soon each one
Gathered had, and in her hand
The herb she took, well avisand* *considering <12>
The leaf, the seed, the stalk, the flow’r,
And said it had a good savour,
And was no common herb to find,
And well approv’d of *uncouth kind,* *strange nature*
And more than other virtuous;
Whoso might it have for to use
In his need, flower, leaf, or grain,
Of his heal might be certain.
[She] laid it down upon the hearse
Where lay the queen; and gan rehearse
Each one to other what they had seen.
And, *taling thus,* the seed wax’d green, *as they gossiped*
And on the dry hearse gan to spring, —
Which me thought was a wondrous thing, —
And, after that, flow’r and new seed;
Of which the people all took heed,
And said it was some great miracle,
Or medicine fine more than treacle; <12>
And were well done there to assay
If it might ease, in any way,
The corpses, which with torchelight
They waked had there all that night.
Soon did the lordes there consent,
And all the people thereto content,
With easy words and little fare;* *ado, trouble
And made the queene’s visage bare,
Which showed was to all about,
Wherefore in swoon fell all the rout,* *company, crowd
And were so sorry, most and least,
That long of weeping they not ceas’d;
For of their lord the remembrance
Unto them was such displeasance.* *cause of grief
That for to live they called pain,
So were they very true and plain.
And after this the good abbess
Of the grains gan choose and dress* *prepare
Three, with her fingers clean and smale,* *small
And in the queenes mouth, by tale,
One after other, full easily
She put, and eke full cunningly.* *skilfully
Which showed some such virtue.
That proved was the medicine true.
For with a smiling countenance
The queen uprose, and of usance* *custom
As she was wont, to ev’ry wight
She *made good cheer;* for whiche sight *showed a gracious
The people, kneeling on the stones, countenance*
Thought they in heav’n were, soul and bones;
And to the prince, where that he lay,
They went to make the same assay.* *trial, experiment
And when the queen it understood,
And how the medicine was good,
She pray’d that she might have the grains,
To relieve him from the pains
Which she and he had both endur’d.
And to him went, and so him cur’d,
That, within a little space,
Lusty and fresh alive he was,
And in good heal, and whole of speech,
And laugh’d, and said, *”Gramercy, leach!”* *”Great thanks,
For which the joy throughout the town my physician!”*
So great was, that the belles’ soun’
Affray’d the people a journey* *to the distance of
About the city ev’ry way; a day’s journey*
And came and ask’d the cause, and why
They rungen were so stately.* *proudly, solemnly
And after that the queen, th’abbess,
Made diligence, <14> ere they would cease,
Such, that of ladies soon a rout* *company, crowd
Suing* the queen was all about; *following
And, call’d by name each one and told,* *numbered
Was none forgotten, young nor old.
There mighte men see joyes new,
When the medicine, fine and true,
Thus restor’d had ev’ry wight,
So well the queen as the knight,
Unto perfect joy and heal,
That *floating they were in such weal* *swimming in such
As folk that woulden in no wise happiness*
Desire more perfect paradise.
On the morrow a general assembly was convoked, and it was resolved that the wedding feast should be celebrated within the island. Messengers were sent to strange realms, to invite kings, queens, duchesses, and princesses; and a special embassy was despatched, in the magic barge, to seek the poet’s mistress — who was brought back after fourteen days, to the great joy of the queen. Next day took place the wedding of the prince and all the knights to the queen and all the ladies; and a three months’ feast followed, on a large plain “under a wood, in a champaign, betwixt a river and a well, where never had abbey nor cell been, nor church, house, nor village, in time of any manne’s age.” On the day after the general wedding, all entreated the poet’s lady to consent to crown his love with marriage; she yielded; the bridal was splendidly celebrated; and to the sound of marvellous music the poet awoke, to find neither lady nor creature — but only old portraitures on the tapestry, of horsemen, hawks, and hounds, and hurt deer full of wounds. Great was his grief that he had lost all the bliss of his dream; and he concludes by praying his lady so to accept his love-service, that the dream may turn to reality.
Or elles, without more I pray,
That this night, ere it be day,
I may unto my dream return,
And sleeping so forth ay sojourn
Aboute the Isle of Pleasance,
*Under my lady’s obeisance,* *subject to my lady*
In her service, and in such wise,
As it may please her to devise;
And grace once to be accept’,
Like as I dreamed when I slept,
And dure a thousand year and ten
In her good will: Amen, amen!
Notes to Chaucer’s Dream
1. The birds on the weathervanes were set up facing the wind, so that it entered their open mouths, and by some mechanism produced the musical sound.
2. “And to you been of governance Such as you found in whole pleasance” That is, “and have governed you in a manner which you have found wholly pleasant.”
3. Hext: highest; from “high,” as “next” from “nigh.” Compare the sounds of the German, “hoechst,” highest, and “naechst,” next.
4. “Your brother friend,” is the common reading; but the phrase has no apparent applicability; and perhaps the better reading is “our bother friend” — that is, the lady who has proved herself a friend both to me and to you. In the same way, Reason, in Troilus’ soliloquy on the impending loss of his mistress, is made, addressing Troilus and Cressida, to speaks of “your bother,” or “bothe,” love.
5. The ships had high embattled poops and forecastles, as in mediaeval ships of war.
6. Compare Spenser’s account of Phaedria’s barque, in “The
Faerie Queen,” canto vi. book ii.; and, mutatis mutandis,
Chaucer’s description of the wondrous horse, in The Squire’s
7. Salad: a small helmet; french, “salade.”
8. Gardebrace: French, “garde-bras,” an arm-shield; probably resembling the “gay bracer” which the Yeoman, in the Prologue to The Canterbury Tales, wears on his arm.
9. Confession and prayer were the usual preliminaries of any enterprise in those superstitious days; and in these days of enlightenment the fashion yet lingers among the most superstitious class — the fisher-folk.
10. The knights resolved that they would quit their castles and houses of stone for humble huts.
11. The knight and lady were buried without music, although the office for the dead was generally sung.
12. Avisand: considering; present participle from “avise” or “advise.”
13. Treacle; corrupted from Latin, “therisca,” an antidote. The word is used for medicine in general.
14. The abbess made diligence: i.e. to administer the grain to the dead ladies.
THE PROLOGUE TO THE LEGEND OF GOOD WOMEN.
[SOME difference of opinion exists as to the date at which Chaucer wrote “The Legend of Good Women.” Those who would fix that date at a period not long before the poet’s death — who would place the poem, indeed, among his closing labours — support their opinion by the fact that the Prologue recites most of Chaucer’s principal works, and glances, besides, at a long array of other productions, too many to be fully catalogued. But, on the other hand, it is objected that the “Legend” makes no mention of “The Canterbury Tales” as such; while two of those Tales — the Knight’s and the Second Nun’s — are enumerated by the titles which they bore as separate compositions, before they were incorporated in the great collection: “The Love of Palamon and Arcite,” and “The Life of Saint Cecile” (see note 1 to the Second Nun’s tale). Tyrwhitt seems perfectly justified in placing the composition of the poem immediately before that of Chaucer’s magnum opus, and after the marriage of Richard II to his first queen, Anne of Bohemia. That event took place in 1382; and since it is to Anne that the poet refers when he makes Alcestis bid him give his poem to the queen “at Eltham or at Sheen,” the “Legend” could not have been written earlier. The old editions tell us that “several ladies in the Court took offence at Chaucer’s large speeches against the untruth of women; therefore the queen enjoin’d him to compile this book in the commendation of sundry maidens and wives, who show’d themselves faithful to faithless men. This seems to have been written after The Flower and the Leaf.” Evidently it was, for distinct references to that poem are to be found in the Prologue; but more interesting is the indication which it furnishes, that “Troilus and Cressida” was the work, not of the poet’s youth, but of his maturer age. We could hardly expect the queen — whether of Love or of England — to demand seriously from Chaucer a retractation of sentiments which he had expressed a full generation before, and for which he had made atonement by the splendid praises of true love sung in “The Court of Love,” “The Cuckoo and the Nightingale,” and other poems of youth and middle life. But “Troilus and Cressida” is coupled with “The Romance of the Rose,” as one of the poems which had given offence to the servants and the God of Love; therefore we may suppose it to have more prominently engaged courtly notice at a later period of the poet’s life, than even its undoubted popularity could explain. At whatever date, or in whatever circumstances, undertaken, “The Legend of Good Women” is a fragment. There are several signs that it was designed to contain the stories of twenty-five ladies, although the number of the good women is in the poem itself set down at nineteen; but nine legends only were actually composed, or have come down to us. They are, those of Cleopatra Queen of Egypt (126 lines), Thisbe of Babylon (218), Dido Queen of Carthage (442), Hypsipyle and Medea (312), Lucrece of Rome (206), Ariadne of Athens (340), Phiomela (167), Phyllis (168), and Hypermnestra (162). Prefixed to these stories, which are translated or imitated from Ovid, is a Prologue containing 579 lines — the only part of the “Legend” given in the present edition. It is by far the most original, the strongest, and most pleasing part of the poem; the description of spring, and of his enjoyment of that season, are in Chaucer’s best manner; and the political philosophy by which Alcestis mitigates the wrath of Cupid, adds another to the abounding proofs that, for his knowledge of the world, Chaucer fairly merits the epithet of “many-sided” which Shakespeare has won by his knowledge of man.]
A THOUSAND times I have hearde tell,
That there is joy in heav’n, and pain in hell;
And I accord* it well that it is so; *grant, agree
But, natheless, yet wot* I well also, *know
That there is none dwelling in this country
That either hath in heav’n or hell y-be;* *been
Nor may of it no other wayes witten* *know
But as he hath heard said, or found it written;
For by assay* there may no man it preve.** *practical trial
But God forbid but that men should believe
Well more thing than men have seen with eye!
Men shall not weenen ev’ry thing a lie
*But if* himself it seeth, or else do’th; *unless
For, God wot, thing is never the less sooth,* *true
Though ev’ry wighte may it not y-see.
Bernard, the Monke, saw not all, pardie! <1>
Then muste we to bookes that we find
(Through which that olde thinges be in mind),
And to the doctrine of these olde wise,
Give credence, in ev’ry skilful* wise, *reasonable
That tellen of these old approved stories,
Of holiness, of regnes,* of victories, *reigns, kingdoms
Of love, of hate, and other sundry things
Of which I may not make rehearsings;
And if that olde bookes were away,
Y-lorn were of all remembrance the key.
Well ought we, then, to honour and believe
These bookes, where we have none other preve.* *proof
And as for me, though that I know but lite,* *little
On bookes for to read I me delight,
And to them give I faith and good credence,
And in my heart have them in reverence,
So heartily, that there is *game none* <2> *no amusement*
That from my bookes maketh me to go’n,
But it be seldom on the holyday;
Save, certainly, when that the month of May
Is comen, and I hear the fowles sing,
And that the flowers ginnen for to spring,
Farewell my book and my devotion!
Now have I then such a condition,
That, above all the flowers in the mead,
Then love I most these flowers white and red,
Such that men calle Day’s-eyes in our town;
To them have I so great affectioun,
As I said erst, when comen is the May,
That in my bed there dawneth me no day
That I n’am* up, and walking in the mead, *am not
To see this flow’r against the sunne spread,
When it upriseth early by the morrow;
That blissful sight softeneth all my sorrow,
So glad am I, when that I have presence
Of it, to do it alle reverence,
As she that is of alle flowers flow’r,
Fulfilled of all virtue and honour,
And ever alike fair, and fresh of hue;
As well in winter, as in summer new,
This love I ever, and shall until I die;
All* swear I not, of this I will not lie, *although
There loved no wight hotter in his life.
And when that it is eve, I runne blife,* *quickly, eagerly
As soon as ever the sun begins to west,* *decline westward
To see this flow’r, how it will go to rest,
For fear of night, so hateth she darkness!
Her cheer* is plainly spread in the brightness *countenance
Of the sunne, for there it will unclose.
Alas! that I had English, rhyme or prose,
Sufficient this flow’r to praise aright!
But help me, ye that have *cunning or might;* *skill or power*
Ye lovers, that can make of sentiment,
In this case ought ye to be diligent
To further me somewhat in my labour,
Whether ye be with the Leaf or the Flow’r; <3>
For well I wot, that ye have herebefore
Of making ropen,* and led away the corn; <4> *reaped
And I come after, gleaning here and there,
And am full glad if I may find an ear
Of any goodly word that you have left.
And though it hap me to rehearsen eft* *again
What ye have in your freshe songes said,
Forbeare me, and be not *evil apaid,* *displeased*
Since that ye see I do it in th’honour
Of love, and eke in service of the flow’r
Whom that I serve as I have wit or might. <5>
She is the clearness, and the very* light, *true
That in this darke world me winds* and leads; *turns, guides
The heart within my sorrowful breast you dreads,
And loves so sore, that ye be, verily,
The mistress of my wit, and nothing I.
My word, my works, are knit so in your bond,
That, as a harp obeyeth to the hand,
That makes it sound after his fingering,
Right so may ye out of my hearte bring
Such voice, right as you list, to laugh or plain;* *complain, mourn
Be ye my guide, and lady sovereign.
As to mine earthly god, to you I call,
Both in this work, and in my sorrows all.
But wherefore that I spake to give credence
To old stories, and do them reverence,
And that men muste more things believe
Than they may see at eye, or elles preve,* *prove
That shall I say, when that I see my time;
I may not all at ones speak in rhyme.
My busy ghost,* that thirsteth always new *spirit
To see this flow’r so young, so fresh of hue,
Constrained me with so greedy desire,
That in my heart I feele yet the fire,
That made me to rise ere it were day, —
And this was now the first morrow of May, —
With dreadful heart, and glad devotion,
For to be at the resurrection
Of this flower, when that it should unclose
Against the sun, that rose as red as rose,
That in the breast was of the beast* that day *the sign of the Bull
That Agenore’s daughter led away. <6>
And down on knees anon right I me set,
And as I could this freshe flow’r I gret,* *greeted
Kneeling alway, till it unclosed was,
Upon the smalle, softe, sweete grass,
That was with flowers sweet embroider’d all,
Of such sweetness and such odour *o’er all,* *everywhere*
That, for to speak of gum, or herb, or tree,
Comparison may none y-maked be;
For it surmounteth plainly all odours,
And for rich beauty the most gay of flow’rs.
Forgotten had the earth his poor estate
Of winter, that him naked made and mate,* *dejected, lifeless
And with his sword of cold so sore grieved;
Now hath th’attemper* sun all that releaved** *temperate **furnished
That naked was, and clad it new again. anew with leaves
The smalle fowles, of the season fain,* *glad
That of the panter* and the net be scap’d, *draw-net
Upon the fowler, that them made awhap’d* *terrified, confounded
In winter, and destroyed had their brood,
In his despite them thought it did them good
To sing of him, and in their song despise
The foule churl, that, for his covetise,* *greed
Had them betrayed with his sophistry* *deceptions
This was their song: “The fowler we defy,
And all his craft:” and some sunge clear
Layes of love, that joy it was to hear,
In worshipping* and praising of their make;** *honouring **mate
And for the blissful newe summer’s sake,
Upon the branches full of blossoms soft,
In their delight they turned them full oft,
And sunge, “Blessed be Saint Valentine! <7>
For on his day I chose you to be mine,
Withoute repenting, my hearte sweet.”
And therewithal their heals began to meet,
Yielding honour, and humble obeisances,
To love, and did their other observances
That longen unto Love and to Nature;
Construe that as you list, I *do no cure.* *care nothing*
And those that hadde *done unkindeness,* *committed offence
As doth the tidife, <8> for newfangleness, against natural laws*
Besoughte mercy for their trespassing
And humblely sange their repenting,
And swore upon the blossoms to be true;
So that their mates would upon them rue,* *take pity
And at the laste made their accord.* *reconciliation
All* found they Danger** for a time a lord, *although **disdain
Yet Pity, through her stronge gentle might,
Forgave, and made mercy pass aright
Through Innocence, and ruled Courtesy.
But I ne call not innocence folly
Nor false pity, for virtue is the mean,
As Ethic <9> saith, in such manner I mean.
And thus these fowles, void of all malice,
Accorded unto Love, and lefte vice
Of hate, and sangen all of one accord,
“Welcome, Summer, our governor and lord!”
And Zephyrus and Flora gentilly
Gave to the flowers, soft and tenderly,
Their sweete breath, and made them for to spread,
As god and goddess of the flow’ry mead;
In which me thought I mighte, day by day,
Dwellen alway, the jolly month of May,
Withoute sleep, withoute meat or drink.
Adown full softly I began to sink,
And, leaning on mine elbow and my side
The longe day I shope* to abide, *resolved, prepared
For nothing elles, and I shall not lie
But for to look upon the daisy;
That men by reason well it calle may
The Daye’s-eye, or else the Eye of Day,
The empress and the flow’r of flowers all
I pray to God that faire may she fall!
And all that love flowers, for her sake:
But, nathelesse, *ween not that I make* *do not fancy that I
In praising of the Flow’r against the Leaf, write this poem*
No more than of the corn against the sheaf;
For as to me is lever none nor lother,
I n’am withholden yet with neither n’other.<10>
*Nor I n’ot* who serves Leaf, nor who the Flow’r; *nor do I know*
Well *brooke they* their service or labour! *may they profit by*
For this thing is all of another tun, <11>
Of old story, ere such thing was begun.
When that the sun out of the south gan west,
And that this flow’r gan close, and go to rest,
For darkness of the night, the which she dread;* *dreaded
Home to my house full swiftly I me sped,
To go to rest, and early for to rise,
To see this flower spread, as I devise.* *describe
And in a little arbour that I have,
That benched was of turfes fresh y-grave,* <12> *cut out
I bade men shoulde me my couche make;
For dainty* of the newe summer’s sake, *pleasure
I bade them strowe flowers on my bed.
When I was laid, and had mine eyen hid,
I fell asleep; within an hour or two,
Me mette* how I lay in the meadow tho,** *dreamed **then
To see this flow’r that I love so and dread.
And from afar came walking in the mead
The God of Love, and in his hand a queen;
And she was clad in royal habit green;
A fret* of gold she hadde next her hair, *band
And upon that a white corown she bare,
With flowrons* small, and, as I shall not lie, *florets <13>
For all the world right as a daisy
Y-crowned is, with white leaves lite,* *small
So were the flowrons of her crowne white.
For of one pearle, fine, oriential,
Her white crowne was y-maked all,
For which the white crown above the green
Made her like a daisy for to see’n,* *look upon
Consider’d eke her fret of gold above.
Y-clothed was this mighty God of Love
In silk embroider’d, full of greene greves,* *boughs
In which there was a fret of red rose leaves,
The freshest since the world was first begun.
His gilt hair was y-crowned with a sun,
lnstead of gold, for* heaviness and weight; *to avoid
Therewith me thought his face shone so bright,
That well unnethes might I him behold;
And in his hand me thought I saw him hold
Two fiery dartes, as the gledes* red; *glowing coals
And angel-like his winges saw I spread.
And *all be* that men say that blind is he, *although*
Algate* me thoughte that he might well see; *at all events
For sternly upon me he gan behold,
So that his looking *did my hearte cold.* *made my heart
And by the hand he held this noble queen, grow cold*
Crowned with white, and clothed all in green,
So womanly, so benign, and so meek,
That in this worlde, though that men would seek.
Half of her beauty shoulde they not find
In creature that formed is by Kind;* *Nature
And therefore may I say, as thinketh me,
This song in praising of this lady free:
“Hide, Absolon, thy gilte* tresses clear; *golden
Esther, lay thou thy meekness all adown;
Hide, Jonathan, all thy friendly mannere,
Penelope, and Marcia Catoun,<14>
Make of your wifehood no comparisoun;
Hide ye your beauties, Isoude <15> and Helene;
My lady comes, that all this may distain.* *outdo, obscure
“Thy faire body let it not appear,
Lavine; <16> and thou, Lucrece of Rome town;
And Polyxene, <17> that boughte love so dear,
And Cleopatra, with all thy passioun,
Hide ye your truth of love, and your renown;
And thou, Thisbe, that hadst of love such pain
My lady comes, that all this may distain.
“Hero, Dido, Laodamia, y-fere,* *together
And Phyllis, hanging for Demophoon,
And Canace, espied by thy cheer,
Hypsipyle, betrayed by Jasoun,
Make of your truthe neither boast nor soun’;
Nor Hypermnestr’ nor Ariadne, ye twain;
My lady comes, that all this may distain.”
This ballad may full well y-sungen be,
As I have said erst, by my lady free;
For, certainly, all these may not suffice
*T’appaire with* my lady in no wise; *surpass in beauty
For, as the sunne will the fire distain, or honour*
So passeth all my lady sovereign,
That is so good, so fair, so debonair,
I pray to God that ever fall her fair!
For *n’hadde comfort been* of her presence, *had I not the
I had been dead, without any defence, comfort of*
For dread of Love’s wordes, and his cheer;
As, when time is, hereafter ye shall hear.
Behind this God of Love, upon the green,
I saw coming of Ladies nineteen,
In royal habit, a full easy pace;
And after them of women such a trace,* *train
That, since that God Adam had made of earth,
The thirde part of mankind, or the ferth,* *fourth
*Ne ween’d I not* by possibility, *I never fancied*
Had ever in this wide world y-be;* *been
And true of love these women were each one.
Now whether was that a wonder thing, or non,* *not
That, right anon as that they gan espy
This flow’r, which that I call the daisy,
Full suddenly they stenten* all at once, *stopped
And kneeled down, as it were for the nonce,
And sange with one voice, “Heal and honour
To truth of womanhead, and to this flow’r,
*That bears our aller prize in figuring;* *that in its figure bears
Her white crowne bears the witnessing!” the prize from us all*
And with that word, *a-compass enviroun* *all around in a ring*
They sette them full softely adown.
First sat the God of Love, and since* his queen, *afterwards
With the white corowne, clad in green;
And sithen* all the remnant by and by, *then
As they were of estate, full courteously;
And not a word was spoken in the place,
The mountance* of a furlong way of space. *extent <18>
I, kneeling by this flow’r, in good intent
Abode, to knowe what this people meant,
As still as any stone, till, at the last,
The God of Love on me his eyen cast,
And said, “Who kneeleth there? “and I answer’d
Unto his asking, when that I it heard,
And said, “It am I,” and came to him near,
And salued* him. Quoth he, “What dost thou here, *saluted
So nigh mine owen flow’r, so boldely?
It were better worthy, truely,
A worm to nighe* near my flow’r than thou.” *approach, draw nigh
“And why, Sir,” quoth I, “an’ it liketh you?”
“For thou,” quoth he, “art thereto nothing able,
It is my relic,* dign** and delectable, *emblem <19> **worthy
And thou my foe, and all my folk warrayest,* *molestest, censurest
And of mine olde servants thou missayest,
And hind’rest them, with thy translation,
And lettest* folk from their devotion *preventest
To serve me, and holdest it folly
To serve Love; thou may’st it not deny;
For in plain text, withoute need of glose,* *comment, gloss
Thu hast translated the Romance of the Rose,
That is a heresy against my law,
And maketh wise folk from me withdraw;
And of Cresside thou hast said as thee list,
That maketh men to women less to trust,
That be as true as e’er was any steel.
Of thine answer *advise thee right weel;* *consider right well*
For though that thou *renied hast my lay,* *abjured my law
As other wretches have done many a day, or religion*
By Sainte Venus, that my mother is,
If that thou live, thou shalt repente this,
So cruelly, that it shall well be seen.”
Then spake this Lady, clothed all in green,
And saide, “God, right of your courtesy,
Ye mighte hearken if he can reply
Against all this, that ye have *to him meved;* *advanced against him*
A godde shoulde not be thus aggrieved,
But of his deity he shall be stable,
And thereto gracious and merciable.* *merciful
And if ye n’ere* a god, that knoweth all, *were not
Then might it be, as I you telle shall,
This man to you may falsely be accused,
Whereas by right him ought to be excused;
For in your court is many a losengeour,* *deceiver <20>
And many a *quaint toteler accusour,* *strange prating accuser <21>*
That tabour* in your eares many a soun’, *drum
Right after their imaginatioun,
To have your dalliance,* and for envy; *pleasant conversation,
These be the causes, and I shall not lie, company
Envy is lavender* of the Court alway, *laundress
For she departeth neither night nor day <22>
Out of the house of Caesar, thus saith Dant’;
Whoso that go’th, algate* she shall not want. *at all events
And eke, parauntre,* for this man is nice,** *peradventure **foolish
He mighte do it guessing* no malice; *thinking
For he useth thinges for to make;* *compose poetry
Him *recketh naught of * what mattere he take; *cares nothing for*
Or he was bidden *make thilke tway* *compose those two*
Of* some person, and durst it not withsay;* *by **refuse, deny
Or him repenteth utterly of this.
He hath not done so grievously amiss,
To translate what olde clerkes write,
As though that he of malice would endite,* *write down
*Despite of* Love, and had himself it wrought. *contempt for*
This should a righteous lord have in his thought,
And not be like tyrants of Lombardy,
That have no regard but at tyranny.
For he that king or lord is naturel,
Him oughte not be tyrant or cruel, <23>
As is a farmer, <24> to do the harm he can;
He muste think, it is his liegeman,
And is his treasure, and his gold in coffer;
This is the sentence* of the philosopher: *opinion, sentiment
A king to keep his lieges in justice,
Withoute doubte that is his office.
All* will he keep his lords in their degree, — *although
As it is right and skilful* that they be, *reasonable
Enhanced and honoured, and most dear,
For they be halfe* in this world here, — *demigods
Yet must he do both right to poor and rich,
All be that their estate be not y-lich;* *alike
And have of poore folk compassion.
For lo! the gentle kind of the lion;
For when a fly offendeth him, or biteth,
He with his tail away the flye smiteth,
All easily; for of his gentery* *nobleness
Him deigneth not to wreak him on a fly,
As doth a cur, or else another beast.
*In noble corage ought to be arrest,* *in a noble nature ought
And weighen ev’rything by equity, to be self-restraint*
And ever have regard to his degree.
For, Sir, it is no mastery for a lord
To damn* a man, without answer of word; *condemn
And for a lord, that is *full foul to use.* *most infamous practice*
And it be so he* may him not excuse, *the offender
But asketh mercy with a dreadful* heart, *fearing, timid
And proffereth him, right in his bare shirt,
To be right at your owen judgement,
Then ought a god, by short advisement,* *deliberation
Consider his own honour, and his trespass;
For since no pow’r of death lies in this case,
You ought to be the lighter merciable;
Lette* your ire, and be somewhat tractable! *restrain
This man hath served you of his cunning,* *ability, skill
And further’d well your law in his making.* *composing poetry
Albeit that he cannot well endite,
Yet hath he made lewed* folk delight *ignorant
To serve you, in praising of your name.
He made the book that hight the House of Fame,
And eke the Death of Blanche the Duchess,
And the Parliament of Fowles, as I guess,
And all the Love of Palamon and Arcite, <25>
Of Thebes, though the story is known lite;* *little
And many a hymne for your holydays,
That highte ballads, roundels, virelays.
And, for to speak of other holiness,
He hath in prose translated Boece, <26>
And made the Life also of Saint Cecile;
He made also, gone is a greate while,
Origenes upon the Magdalene. <27>
Him oughte now to have the lesse pain;* *penalty
He hath made many a lay, and many a thing.
Now as ye be a god, and eke a king,
I your Alcestis, <28> whilom queen of Thrace,
I aske you this man, right of your grace,
That ye him never hurt in all his life;
And he shall sweare to you, and that blife,* *quickly
He shall no more aguilten* in this wise, *offend
But shall maken, as ye will him devise,
Of women true in loving all their life,
Whereso ye will, of maiden or of wife,
And further you as much as he missaid
Or* in the Rose, or elles in Cresseide.” *either
The God of Love answered her anon:
“Madame,” quoth he, “it is so long agone
That I you knew, so charitable and true,
That never yet, since that the world was new,
To me ne found I better none than ye;
If that I woulde save my degree,
I may nor will not warne* your request; *refuse
All lies in you, do with him as you lest.
I all forgive withoute longer space;* *delay
For he who gives a gift, or doth a grace,
Do it betimes, his thank is well the more; <29>
And deeme* ye what he shall do therefor. *adjudge
Go thanke now my Lady here,” quoth he.
I rose, and down I set me on my knee,
And saide thus; “Madame, the God above
Foryielde* you that ye the God of Love *reward
Have made me his wrathe to forgive;
And grace* so longe for to live, *give me grace
That I may knowe soothly what ye be,
That have me help’d, and put in this degree!
But truely I ween’d, as in this case,
Naught t’ have aguilt,* nor done to Love trespass;** *offended
For why? a true man, withoute dread, **offence
Hath not *to parte with* a thieve’s deed. *any share in*
Nor a true lover oughte me to blame,
Though that I spoke a false lover some shame.
They oughte rather with me for to hold,
For that I of Cressida wrote or told,
Or of the Rose, *what so mine author meant;* *made a true translation*
Algate, God wot, it was mine intent *by all ways
To further truth in love, and it cherice,* *cherish
And to beware from falseness and from vice,
By such example; this was my meaning.”
And she answer’d; “Let be thine arguing,
For Love will not counterpleaded be <30>
In right nor wrong, and learne that of me;
Thou hast thy grace, and hold thee right thereto.
Now will I say what penance thou shalt do
For thy trespass;* and understand it here: *offence
Thou shalt, while that thou livest, year by year,
The moste partie of thy time spend
In making of a glorious Legend
Of Goode Women, maidenes and wives,
That were true in loving all their lives;
And tell of false men that them betray,
That all their life do naught but assay
How many women they may do a shame;
For in your world that is now *held a game.* *considered a sport*
And though thou like not a lover be, <31>
Speak well of love; this penance give I thee.
And to the God of Love I shall so pray,
That he shall charge his servants, by any way,
To further thee, and well thy labour quite:* *requite
Go now thy way, thy penance is but lite.
And, when this book ye make, give it the queen
On my behalf, at Eltham, or at Sheen.”
The God of Love gan smile, and then he said:
“Know’st thou,” quoth he, “whether this be wife or maid,
Or queen, or countess, or of what degree,
That hath so little penance given thee,
That hath deserved sorely for to smart?
But pity runneth soon in gentle* heart; <32> *nobly born
That may’st thou see, she kitheth* what she is. *showeth
And I answer’d: “Nay, Sir, so have I bliss,
No more but that I see well she is good.”
“That is a true tale, by my hood,”
Quoth Love; “and that thou knowest well, pardie!
If it be so that thou advise* thee. *bethink
Hast thou not in a book, li’th* in thy chest, *(that) lies
The greate goodness of the queen Alceste,
That turned was into a daisy
She that for her husbande chose to die,
And eke to go to hell rather than he;
And Hercules rescued her, pardie!
And brought her out of hell again to bliss?”
And I answer’d again, and saide; “Yes,
Now know I her; and is this good Alceste,
The daisy, and mine own hearte’s rest?
Now feel I well the goodness of this wife,
That both after her death, and in her life,
Her greate bounty* doubleth her renown. *virtue
Well hath she quit* me mine affectioun *recompensed
That I have to her flow’r the daisy;
No wonder is though Jove her stellify, <33>
As telleth Agathon, <34> for her goodness;
Her white crowne bears of it witness;
For all so many virtues hadde she
As smalle flowrons in her crowne be.
In remembrance of her, and in honour,
Cybele made the daisy, and the flow’r,
Y-crowned all with white, as men may see,
And Mars gave her a crowne red, pardie!
Instead of rubies set among the white.”
Therewith this queen wax’d red for shame a lite
When she was praised so in her presence.
Then saide Love: “A full great negligence
Was it to thee, that ilke* time thou made *that same
‘Hide Absolon thy tresses,’ in ballade,
That thou forgot her in thy song to set,
Since that thou art so greatly in her debt,
And knowest well that calendar* is she *guide, example
To any woman that will lover be:
For she taught all the craft of true loving,
And namely* of wifehood the living, *especially
And all the boundes that she ought to keep:
Thy little wit was thilke* time asleep. *that
But now I charge thee, upon thy life,
That in thy Legend thou make* of this wife, *poetise, compose
When thou hast other small y-made before;
And fare now well, I charge thee no more.
But ere I go, thus much I will thee tell, —
Never shall no true lover come in hell.
These other ladies, sitting here a-row,
Be in my ballad, if thou canst them know,
And in thy bookes all thou shalt them find;
Have them in thy Legend now all in mind;
I mean of them that be in thy knowing.
For here be twenty thousand more sitting
Than that thou knowest, goode women all,
And true of love, for aught that may befall;
Make the metres of them as thee lest;
I must go home, — the sunne draweth west, —
To Paradise, with all this company:
And serve alway the freshe daisy.
At Cleopatra I will that thou begin,
And so forth, and my love so shalt thou win;
For let see now what man, that lover be,
Will do so strong a pain for love as she.
I wot well that thou may’st not all it rhyme,
That suche lovers didden in their time;
It were too long to readen and to hear;
Suffice me thou make in this mannere,
That thou rehearse of all their life the great,* *substance
After* these old authors list for to treat; *according as
For whoso shall so many a story tell,
Say shortly, or he shall too longe dwell.”
And with that word my bookes gan I take,
And right thus on my Legend gan I make.
Thus endeth the Prologue.
Notes to The prologue to The Legend of Good Women
1. Bernard, the Monke, saw not all, pardie!: a proverbial saying, signifying that even the wisest, or those who claim to be the wisest, cannot know everything. Saint Bernard, who was the last, or among the last, of the Fathers, lived in the first half of the twelfth century.
2. Compare Chaucer’s account of his habits, in “The House of Fame.”
3. See introductory note to “The Flower and the Leaf.”
4. “ye have herebefore Of making ropen, and led away the corn” The meaning is, that the “lovers” have long ago said all that can be said, by way of poetry, or “making” on the subject. See note 89 to “Troilus and Cressida” for the etymology of “making” meaning “writing poetry.”
5. The poet glides here into an address to his lady.
6. Europa was the daughter of Agenores, king of Phrygia. She was carried away to Crete by Jupiter, disguised as a lovely and tame bull, on whose back Europa mounted as she was sporting with her maidens by the sea-shore. The story is beautifully told in Horace, Odes, iii. 27.
7. See “The Assembly of Fowls,” which was supposed to happen on St. Valentine’s day.
8. The tidife: The titmouse, or any other small bird, which sometimes brings up the cuckoo’s young when its own have been destroyed. See note 44 to “The Assembly of Fowls.”
9. Ethic: the “Ethics” of Aristotle.
10. “For as to me is lever none nor lother, I n’am withholden yet with neither n’other.” i.e For as neither is more liked or disliked by me, I am not bound by, holden to, either the one or the other.
11. All of another tun i.e. wine of another tun — a quite different matter.
12. Compare the description of the arbour in “The Flower and the Leaf.”
13. Flowrons: florets; little flowers on the disk of the main flower; French “fleuron.”
14. Mr Bell thinks that Chaucer here praises the complaisance of Marcia, the wife of Cato, in complying with his will when he made her over to his friend Hortensius. It would be in better keeping with the spirit of the poet’s praise, to believe that we should read “Porcia Catoun” — Porcia the daughter of Cato, who was married to Brutus, and whose perfect wifehood has been celebrated in The Franklin’s Tale. See note 25 to the Franklin’s Tale.
15. Isoude: See note 21 to “The Assembly of Fowls”.
16. Lavine: Lavinia, the heroine of the Aeneid, who became the wife of Aeneas.
17. Polyxena, daughter of Priam, king of Troy, fell in love with Achilles, and, when he was killed, she fled to the Greek camp, and slew herself on the tomb of her hero-lover.
18. Mountance: extent, duration. See note 84 to “The House of Fame”.
19. Relic: emblem; or cherished treasure; like the relics at the shrines of saints.
20. Losengeour: deceiver. See note 31 to the Nun’s Priest’s Tale.
21. “Toteler” is an old form of the word “tatler,” from the Anglo-Saxon, “totaelan,” to talk much, to tattle.
22. Envy is lavender of the court alway: a “lavender” is a washerwoman or laundress; the word represents “meretrice”in Dante’s original — meaning a courtezan; but we can well understand that Chaucer thought it prudent, and at the same time more true to the moral state of the English Court, to change the character assigned to Envy. He means that Envy is perpetually at Court, like some garrulous, bitter old woman employed there in the most servile offices, who remains at her post through all the changes among the courtiers. The passage cited from Dante will be found in the “Inferno,” canto xiii. 64 — 69.
23. Chaucer says that the usurping lords who seized on the government of the free Lombard cities, had no regard for any rule of government save sheer tyranny — but a natural lord, and no usurper, ought not to be a tyrant.
24. Farmer: one who merely farms power or revenue for his own purposes and his own gain.
25. This was the first version of the Knight’s tale. See the introductory note, above
26. Boece: Boethius’ “De Consolatione Philosophiae;” to which frequent reference is made in The Canterbury Tales. See, for instances, note 91 to the Knight’s Tale; and note 34 to the Squire’s Tale.
27. A poem entitled “The Lamentation of Mary Magdalene,” said to have been “taken out of St Origen,” is included in the editions of Chaucer; but its authenticity, and consequently its identity with the poem here mentioned, are doubted.
28. For the story of Alcestis, see note 11 to “The Court of Love.”
29. “For he who gives a gift, or doth a grace,
Do it betimes, his thank is well the more”
A paraphrase of the well-known proverb, “Bis dat qui cito dat.”
(“He gives twice who gives promptly”)
30. The same prohibition occurs in the Fifteenth Statute of “The Court of Love.”
31. Chaucer is always careful to allege his abstinence from the pursuits of gallantry; he does so prominently in “The Court of Love,” “The Assembly of Fowls,” and “The House of Fame.”
32. Pity runneth soon in gentle heart: the same is said of Theseus, in The Knight’s Tale, and of Canace, by the falcon, in The Squire’s Tale.
33. Stellify: assign to a place among the stars; as Jupiter did to Andromeda and Cassiopeia.
34. Agathon: there was an Athenian dramatist of this name, who might have made the virtues and fortunes of Alcestis his theme; but the reference is too vague for the author to be identified with any confidence.
CHAUCER’S A. B. C. <1>
LA PRIERE DE NOSTRE DAME <2>
ALMIGHTY and all-merciable* Queen, *all-merciful
To whom all this world fleeth for succour,
To have release of sin, of sorrow, of teen!* *affliction
Glorious Virgin! of all flowers flow’r,
To thee I flee, confounded in errour!
Help and relieve, almighty debonair,* *gracious, gentle
Have mercy of my perilous languour!
Vanquish’d me hath my cruel adversair.
Bounty* so fix’d hath in thy heart his tent, *goodness, charity
That well I wot thou wilt my succour be;
Thou canst not *warne that* with good intent *refuse he who*
Asketh thy help, thy heart is ay so free!
Thou art largess* of plein** felicity, *liberal bestower **full
Haven and refuge of quiet and rest!
Lo! how that thieves seven <3> chase me!
Help, Lady bright, ere that my ship to-brest!* *be broken to pieces
Comfort is none, but in you, Lady dear!
For lo! my sin and my confusion,
Which ought not in thy presence to appear,
Have ta’en on me a grievous action,* *control
Of very right and desperation!
And, as by right, they mighte well sustene
That I were worthy my damnation,
Ne were it mercy of you, blissful Queen!
Doubt is there none, Queen of misericorde,* *compassion
That thou art cause of grace and mercy here;
God vouchesaf’d, through thee, with us t’accord;* *to be reconciled
For, certes, Christe’s blissful mother dear!
Were now the bow y-bent, in such mannere
As it was first, of justice and of ire,
The rightful God would of no mercy hear;
But through thee have we grace as we desire.
Ever hath my hope of refuge in thee be’;
For herebefore full oft in many a wise
Unto mercy hast thou received me.
But mercy, Lady! at the great assize,
When we shall come before the high Justice!
So little fruit shall then in me be found,
That,* thou ere that day correcte me, *unless
Of very right my work will me confound.
Flying, I flee for succour to thy tent,
Me for to hide from tempest full of dread;
Beseeching you, that ye you not absent,
Though I be wick’. O help yet at this need!
All* have I been a beast in wit and deed, *although
Yet, Lady! thou me close in with thy grace;
*Thine enemy and mine,* — Lady, take heed! — *the devil*
Unto my death in point is me to chase.
Gracious Maid and Mother! which that never
Wert bitter nor in earthe nor in sea, <4>
But full of sweetness and of mercy ever,
Help, that my Father be not wroth with me!
Speak thou, for I ne dare Him not see;
So have I done in earth, alas the while!
That, certes, but if thou my succour be,
To sink etern He will my ghost exile.
He vouchesaf’d, tell Him, as was His will,
Become a man, *as for our alliance,* *to ally us with god*
And with His blood He wrote that blissful bill
Upon the cross, as general acquittance
To ev’ry penitent in full creance;* *belief
And therefore, Lady bright! thou for us pray;
Then shalt thou stenten* alle His grievance, *put an end to
And make our foe to failen of his prey.
I wote well thou wilt be our succour,
Thou art so full of bounty in certain;
For, when a soule falleth in errour,
Thy pity go’th, and haleth* him again; *draweth
Then makest thou his peace with his Sov’reign,
And bringest him out of the crooked street:
Whoso thee loveth shall not love in vain,
That shall he find *as he the life shall lete.* *when he leaves
*Kalendares illumined* be they *brilliant exemplars*
That in this world be lighted with thy name;
And whoso goeth with thee the right way,
Him shall not dread in soule to be lame;
Now, Queen of comfort! since thou art the same
To whom I seeke for my medicine,
Let not my foe no more my wound entame;* *injure, molest
My heal into thy hand all I resign.
Lady, thy sorrow can I not portray
Under that cross, nor his grievous penance;
But, for your bothe’s pain, I you do pray,
Let not our *aller foe* make his boastance, *the foe of us all —
That he hath in his listes, with mischance, Satan*
*Convicte that* ye both have bought so dear; *ensnared that which*
As I said erst, thou ground of all substance!
Continue on us thy piteous eyen clear.
Moses, that saw the bush of flames red
Burning, of which then never a stick brenn’d,* *burned
Was sign of thine unwemmed* maidenhead. *unblemished
Thou art the bush, on which there gan descend
The Holy Ghost, the which that Moses wend* *weened, supposed
Had been on fire; and this was in figure. <5>
Now, Lady! from the fire us do defend,
Which that in hell eternally shall dure.
Noble Princess! that never haddest peer;
Certes if any comfort in us be,
That cometh of thee, Christe’s mother dear!
We have none other melody nor glee,* *pleasure
Us to rejoice in our adversity;
Nor advocate, that will and dare so pray
For us, and for as little hire as ye,
That helpe for an Ave-Mary or tway.
O very light of eyen that be blind!
O very lust* of labour and distress! *relief, pleasure
O treasurer of bounty to mankind!
The whom God chose to mother for humbless!
From his ancill* <6> he made thee mistress *handmaid
Of heav’n and earth, our *billes up to bede;* *offer up our petitions*
This world awaiteth ever on thy goodness;
For thou ne failedst never wight at need.
Purpose I have sometime for to enquere
Wherefore and why the Holy Ghost thee sought,
When Gabrielis voice came to thine ear;
He not to war* us such a wonder wrought, *afflict
But for to save us, that sithens us bought:
Then needeth us no weapon us to save,
But only, where we did not as we ought,
Do penitence, and mercy ask and have.
Queen of comfort, right when I me bethink
That I aguilt* have bothe Him and thee, *offended
And that my soul is worthy for to sink,
Alas! I, caitiff, whither shall I flee?
Who shall unto thy Son my meane* be? *medium of approach
Who, but thyself, that art of pity well?* *fountain
Thou hast more ruth on our adversity
Than in this world might any tongue tell!
Redress me, Mother, and eke me chastise!
For certainly my Father’s chastising
I dare not abiden in no wise,
So hideous is his full reckoning.
Mother! of whom our joy began to spring,
Be ye my judge, and eke my soule’s leach;* *physician
For ay in you is pity abounding
To each that will of pity you beseech.
Sooth is it that He granteth no pity
Withoute thee; for God of his goodness
Forgiveth none, *but it like unto thee;* *unless it please
He hath thee made vicar and mistress thee*
Of all this world, and eke governess
Of heaven; and represseth his justice
After* thy will; and therefore in witness *according to
He hath thee crowned in so royal wise.
Temple devout! where God chose his wonning,* *abode
From which, these misbeliev’d deprived be,
To you my soule penitent I bring;
Receive me, for I can no farther flee.
With thornes venomous, O Heaven’s Queen!
For which the earth accursed was full yore,
I am so wounded, as ye may well see,
That I am lost almost, it smart so sore!
Virgin! that art so noble of apparail,* *aspect
That leadest us into the highe tow’r
Of Paradise, thou me *wiss and counsail* *direct and counsel*
How I may have thy grace and thy succour;
All have I been in filth and in errour,
Lady! *on that country thou me adjourn,* *take me to that place*
That called is thy bench of freshe flow’r,
There as that mercy ever shall sojourn.
Xpe <7> thy Son, that in this world alight,
Upon a cross to suffer his passioun,
And suffer’d eke that Longeus his heart pight,* <8> *pierced
And made his hearte-blood to run adown;
And all this was for my salvatioun:
And I to him am false and eke unkind,
And yet he wills not my damnation;
*This thank I you,* succour of all mankind! *for this I am
indebted to you*
Ysaac was figure of His death certain,
That so farforth his father would obey,
That him *ne raughte* nothing to be slain; *he cared not*
Right so thy Son list as a lamb to dey:* *die
Now, Lady full of mercy! I you pray,
Since he his mercy ‘sured me so large,
Be ye not scant, for all we sing and say,
That ye be from vengeance alway our targe.* *shield, defence
Zachary you calleth the open well <9>
That washed sinful soul out of his guilt;
Therefore this lesson out I will to tell,
That, n’ere* thy tender hearte, we were spilt.** *were it not for
Now, Lady brighte! since thou canst and wilt, *destroyed, undone*
Be to the seed of Adam merciable;* *merciful
Bring us unto that palace that is built
To penitents that be *to mercy able!* *fit to receive mercy*
Explicit.* *The end
Notes to Chaucer’s A. B. C.
1. Chaucer’s A. B. C. — a prayer to the Virgin, in twenty three verses, beginning with the letters of the alphabet in their order — is said to have been written “at the request of Blanche, Duchess of Lancaster, as a prayer for her private use, being a woman in her religion very devout.” It was first printed in Speght’s edition of 1597.
2. La Priere De Nostre Dame: French, “The Prayer of Our Lady.”
3. Thieves seven: i.e. the seven deadly sins
4. Mary’s name recalls the waters of “Marah” or bitterness (Exod. xv. 23), or the prayer of Naomi in her grief that she might be called not Naomi, but “Mara” (Ruth i. 20). Mary, however, is understood to mean “exalted.”
5. A typical representation. See The Prioress’s Tale, third stanza.
6. The reference evidently is to Luke i. 38 — “Ecce ancilla Domini,” (“Behold the handmaid of the Lord”) the Virgin’s humble answer to Gabriel at the Annunciation.
7. “Xpe” represents the Greek letters chi rho epsilon, and is a contraction for “Christe.”
8. According to tradition, the soldier who struck the Saviour to the heart with his spear was named Longeus, and was blind; but, touching his eyes by chance with the mingled blood and water that flowed down the shaft upon his hands, he was instantly restored to sight.
9. “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness” (Zech. xiii. 1).
A GOODLY BALLAD OF CHAUCER.<1>
MOTHER of nurture, best belov’d of all,
And freshe flow’r, to whom good thrift God send
Your child, if it lust* you me so to call, *please
*All be I* unable myself so to pretend, *although I be
To your discretion I recommend
My heart and all, with ev’ry circumstance,
All wholly to be under your governance.
Most desire I, and have and ever shall,
Thinge which might your hearte’s ease amend
Have me excus’d, my power is but small;
Nathless, of right, ye oughte to commend
My goode will, which fame would entend* *attend, strive
To do you service; for my suffisance* *contentment
Is wholly to be under your governance.
Mieux un in heart which never shall apall, <2>
Ay fresh and new, and right glad to dispend
My time in your service, what so befall,
Beseeching your excellence to defend
My simpleness, if ignorance offend
In any wise; since that mine affiance
Is wholly to be under your governance.
Daisy of light, very ground of comfort,
The sunne’s daughter ye light, as I read;
For when he west’reth, farewell your disport!
By your nature alone, right for pure dread
Of the rude night, that with his *boistous weed* *rude garment*
Of darkness shadoweth our hemisphere,
Then close ye, my life’s lady dear!
Dawneth the day unto his kind resort,
And Phoebus your father, with his streames red,
Adorns the morrow, consuming the sort* *crowd
Of misty cloudes, that would overlade
True humble heartes with their mistihead.* *dimness, mistiness
New comfort adaws,* when your eyen clear *dawns, awakens
Disclose and spread, my life’s lady dear.
Je voudrais* — but the greate God disposeth, *I would wish
And maketh casual, by his Providence,
Such thing as manne’s fraile wit purposeth,
All for the best, if that your conscience
Not grudge it, but in humble patience
It receive; for God saith, withoute fable,
A faithful heart ever is acceptable.
Cauteles* whoso useth gladly, gloseth;** *cautious speeches
To eschew such it is right high prudence; **deceiveth
What ye said ones mine heart opposeth,
That my writing japes* in your absence *jests, coarse stories
Pleased you much better than my presence:
Yet can I more; ye be not excusable;
A faithful heart is ever acceptable.
Quaketh my pen; my spirit supposeth
That in my writing ye will find offence;
Mine hearte welketh* thus; anon it riseth; *withers, faints
Now hot, now cold, and after in fervence;
That is amiss, is caus’d of negligence,
And not of malice; therefore be merciable;
A faithful heart is ever acceptable.
Forthe, complaint! forth, lacking eloquence;
Forth little letter, of enditing lame!
I have besought my lady’s sapience
On thy behalfe, to accept in game
Thine inability; do thou the same.
Abide! have more yet! *Je serve Joyesse!* *I serve Joy*
Now forth, I close thee in holy Venus’ name!
Thee shall unclose my hearte’s governess.
Notes To a Goodly Ballad Of Chaucer
1. This elegant little poem is believed to have been addressed to Margaret, Countess of Pembroke, in whose name Chaucer found one of those opportunities of praising the daisy he never lost. (Transcriber’s note: Modern scholars believe that Chaucer was not the author of this poem)
2. Mieux un in heart which never shall apall: better one who in heart shall never pall — whose love will never weary.
A BALLAD SENT TO KING RICHARD.
SOMETIME this world was so steadfast and stable,
That man’s word was held obligation;
And now it is so false and deceivable,* *deceitful
That word and work, as in conclusion,
Be nothing one; for turned up so down
Is all this world, through meed* and wilfulness, *bribery
That all is lost for lack of steadfastness.
What makes this world to be so variable,
But lust* that folk have in dissension? *pleasure
For now-a-days a man is held unable* *fit for nothing
*But if* he can, by some collusion,** *unless* *fraud, trick
Do his neighbour wrong or oppression.
What causeth this but wilful wretchedness,
That all is lost for lack of steadfastness?
Truth is put down, reason is holden fable;
Virtue hath now no domination;
Pity exil’d, no wight is merciable;
Through covetise is blent* discretion; *blinded
The worlde hath made permutation
From right to wrong, from truth to fickleness,
That all is lost for lack of steadfastness.
O Prince! desire to be honourable;
Cherish thy folk, and hate extortion;
Suffer nothing that may be reprovable* *a subject of reproach
To thine estate, done in thy region;* *kingdom
Show forth the sword of castigation;
Dread God, do law, love thorough worthiness,
And wed thy folk again to steadfastness!
L’ENVOY OF CHAUCER TO BUKTON. <1>
My Master Bukton, when of Christ our King
Was asked, What is truth or soothfastness?
He not a word answer’d to that asking,
As who saith, no man is all true, I guess;
And therefore, though I highte* to express *promised
The sorrow and woe that is in marriage,
I dare not write of it no wickedness,
Lest I myself fall eft* in such dotage.** *again **folly
I will not say how that it is the chain
Of Satanas, on which he gnaweth ever;
But I dare say, were he out of his pain,
As by his will he would be bounden never.
But thilke* doated fool that eft had lever *that
Y-chained be, than out of prison creep,
God let him never from his woe dissever,
Nor no man him bewaile though he weep!
But yet, lest thou do worse, take a wife;
Bet is to wed than burn in worse wise; <2>
But thou shalt have sorrow on thy flesh *thy life,* *all thy life*
And be thy wife’s thrall, as say these wise.
And if that Holy Writ may not suffice,
Experience shall thee teache, so may hap,
That thee were lever to be taken in Frise, <3>
Than eft* to fall of wedding in the trap. *again
This little writ, proverbes, or figure,
I sende you; take keep* of it, I read! *heed
“Unwise is he that can no weal endure;
If thou be sicker,* put thee not in dread.”** *in security **danger
The Wife of Bath I pray you that you read,
Of this mattere which that we have on hand.
God grante you your life freely to lead
In freedom, for full hard is to be bond.
Notes to L’Envoy of Chaucer to Bukton.
1. Tyrwhitt, founding on the reference to the Wife of Bath, places this among Chaucer’s latest compositions; and states that one Peter de Bukton held the office of king’s escheator for Yorkshire in 1397. In some of the old editions, the verses were made the Envoy to the Book of the Duchess Blanche — in very bad taste, when we consider that the object of that poem was to console John of Gaunt under the loss of his wife.
2. “But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” 1 Cor. vii. 9
3. Lever to be taken in Frise: better to be taken prisoner in Friesland — where probably some conflict was raging at the time.
A BALLAD OF GENTLENESS.
THE firste stock-father of gentleness, <1>
What man desireth gentle for to be,
Must follow his trace, and all his wittes dress,* *apply
Virtue to love, and vices for to flee;
For unto virtue longeth dignity,
And not the reverse, safely dare I deem,
*All wear he* mitre, crown, or diademe. *whether he wear*
This firste stock was full of righteousness,
True of his word, sober, pious, and free,
*Clean of his ghost,* and loved business, *pure of spirit*
Against the vice of sloth, in honesty;
And, but his heir love virtue as did he,
He is not gentle, though he riche seem,
All wear he mitre, crown, or diademe.
Vice may well be heir to old richess,
But there may no man, as men may well see,
Bequeath his heir his virtuous nobless;
That is appropried* to no degree, *specially reserved
But to the first Father in majesty,
Which makes his heire him that doth him queme,* *please
All wear he mitre, crown, or diademe.
Notes to A Ballad of Gentleness
1. The firste stock-father of gentleness: Christ
THE COMPLAINT OF CHAUCER TO HIS PURSE.
To you, my purse, and to none other wight,
Complain I, for ye be my lady dear!
I am sorry now that ye be so light,
For certes ye now make me heavy cheer;
Me were as lief be laid upon my bier.
For which unto your mercy thus I cry,
Be heavy again, or elles must I die!
Now vouchesafe this day, ere it be night,
That I of you the blissful sound may hear,
Or see your colour like the sunne bright,
That of yellowness hadde peer.
Ye be my life! Ye be my hearte’s steer!* *rudder
Queen of comfort and of good company!
Be heavy again, or elles must I die!
Now, purse! that art to me my life’s light
And savour, as down in this worlde here,
Out of this towne help me through your might,
Since that you will not be my treasurere;
For I am shave as nigh as any frere. <1>
But now I pray unto your courtesy,
Be heavy again, or elles must I die!
Chaucer’s Envoy to the King.
O conqueror of Brute’s Albion, <2>
Which by lineage and free election
Be very king, this song to you I send;
And ye which may all mine harm amend,
Have mind upon my supplication!
Notes to The Complaint of Chaucer to his Purse
1. “I am shave as nigh as any frere” i.e. “I am as bare of coin as a friar’s tonsure of hair.”
2. Brute, or Brutus, was the legendary first king of Britain.
GOOD COUNSEL OF CHAUCER. <1>
FLEE from the press, and dwell with soothfastness;
Suffice thee thy good, though it be small;
For hoard hath hate, and climbing tickleness,* *instability
Press hath envy, and *weal is blent* o’er all, *prosperity is blinded*
Savour* no more than thee behove shall; *have a taste for
Read* well thyself, that other folk canst read; *counsel
And truth thee shall deliver, it is no dread.* *doubt
Paine thee not each crooked to redress,
In trust of her that turneth as a ball; <2>
Great rest standeth in little business:
Beware also to spurn against a nail; <3>
Strive not as doth a crocke* with a wall; *earthen pot
Deeme* thyself that deemest others’ deed, *judge
And truth thee shall deliver, it is no dread.
What thee is sent, receive in buxomness;* *submission
The wrestling of this world asketh a fall;
Here is no home, here is but wilderness.
Forth, pilgrim! Forthe beast, out of thy stall!
Look up on high, and thank thy God of all!
*Weive thy lust,* and let thy ghost* thee lead, *forsake thy
And truth thee shall deliver, it is no dread. inclinations*
Notes to Good Counsel of Chaucer
1. This poem is said to have been composed by Chaucer “upon his deathbed, lying in anguish.”
2. Her that turneth as a ball: Fortune.
3. To spurn against a nail; “against the pricks.”
PROVERBS OF CHAUCER. <1>
WHAT should these clothes thus manifold,
Lo! this hot summer’s day?
After great heate cometh cold;
No man cast his pilche* away. *pelisse, furred cloak
Of all this world the large compass
Will not in mine arms twain;
Who so muche will embrace,
Little thereof he shall distrain.* *grasp
The world so wide, the air so remuable,* *unstable
The silly man so little of stature;
The green of ground and clothing so mutable,
The fire so hot and subtile of nature;
The water *never in one* — what creature *never the same*
That made is of these foure <2> thus flitting,
May steadfast be, as here, in his living?
The more I go, the farther I am behind;
The farther behind, the nearer my war’s end;
The more I seek, the worse can I find;
The lighter leave, the lother for to wend; <3>
The better I live, the more out of mind;
Is this fortune, *n’ot I,* or infortune;* *I know not* *misfortune
Though I go loose, tied am I with a loigne.* *line, tether
Notes to Proverbs of Chaucer
1. (Transcriber’s Note: Modern scholars believe that Chaucer’s may have been the author of the first stanza of this poem, but was not the author of the second and third).
2. These foure: that is, the four elements, of which man was believed to be composed.
3. The lighter leave, the lother for to wend: The more easy (through age) for me to depart, the less willing I am to go.
In thought plaining,
And sore sighing;
Of my living;
My death wishing
Both early and late.
Is so my fate,
That, wot ye what?
Out of measure
My life I hate;
In such poor estate,
Do I endure.
Of other cure
Am I not sure;
Thus to endure
Is hard, certain;
Such is my ure,* *destiny <2>
I you ensure;
May have more pain?
My truth so plain
Is taken in vain,
And great disdain
Yet I full fain
Would me complain,
Me to abstain
From this penance.
But, in substance,
None alleggeance* *alleviation
Of my grievance
Can I not find;
Right so my chance,
Doth me advance;
And thus an end.
Notes to Virelay
1. (Transcriber’s note: Modern scholars believe that Chaucer was not the author of this poem)
2. Ure: “heur,” or destiny; the same word that enters into “bonheur” and “malheur.” (French: happiness & unhappiness)
“SINCE I FROM LOVE.” <1>
SINCE I from Love escaped am so fat,
I ne’er think to be in his prison ta’en;
Since I am free, I count him not a bean.
He may answer, and saye this and that;
I *do no force,* I speak right as I mean; *care not*
Since I from Love escaped am so fat.
Love hath my name struck out of his slat,* *slate, list
And he is struck out of my bookes clean,
For ever more; there is none other mean;
Since I from Love escaped am so fat.
Notes to “Since I from Love”
1. (Transcriber’s note: Modern scholars believe that Chaucer was not the author of this poem)
CHAUCER’S WORDS TO HIS SCRIVENER.
ADAM Scrivener, if ever it thee befall
Boece or Troilus for to write anew,
Under thy long locks thou may’st have the scall* *scab
But *after my making* thou write more true! *according to my
So oft a day I must thy work renew, composing*
It to correct, and eke to rub and scrape;
And all is through thy negligence and rape.* *haste
CHAUCER’S PROPHECY. <1>
WHEN priestes *failen in their saws,* *come short of their
And lordes turne Godde’s laws profession*
Against the right;
And lechery is holden as *privy solace,* *secret delight*
And robbery as free purchase,
Beware then of ill!
Then shall the Land of Albion
Turne to confusion,
As sometime it befell.
Ora pro Anglia Sancta Maria, quod Thomas Cantuaria. <2>
Sweet Jesus, heaven’s King,
Fair and best of all thing,
You bring us out of this mourning,
To come to thee at our ending!
Notes to Chaucer’s Prophecy.
1. (Transcriber’s note: Modern scholars believe that Chaucer was not the author of this poem)
2. “Holy Mary, pray for England, as does Thomas of Canterbury” (i.e. St Thomas a Beckett)
The end of the Project Gutenberg e-text of The Canterbury
Tales and Other Poems by Geoffrey Chaucer.