Legends and Sagas
The Canterbury Tales and Other Works of Chaucer (Middle English), by Geoffery Chaucer, [14th cent.], at sacred-texts.com
The Book of the Duchess I have gret wonder, be this lyght,
How that I lyve, for day ne nyght
I may nat slepe wel nygh noght;
I have so many an ydel thoght
Purely for defaute of slep
That, by my trouthe, I take no kep
Of nothing, how hyt cometh or gooth,
Ne me nys nothyng leef nor looth.
Al is ylyche good to me --
10 Joye or sorowe, wherso hyt be --
For I have felynge in nothyng,
But as yt were a mased thyng,
Alway in poynt to falle a-doun;
For sorwful ymagynacioun
Ys alway hooly in my mynde.
And wel ye woot, agaynes kynde
Hyt were to lyven in thys wyse,
For nature wolde nat suffyse
To noon erthly creature
20 Nat longe tyme to endure
Withoute slep and be in sorwe.
And I ne may, ne nyght ne morwe,
Slepe; and [thus] melancolye
And drede I have for to dye.
Defaute of slep and hevynesse
Hath sleyn my spirit of quyknesse
That I have lost al lustyhede.
Suche fantasies ben in myn hede
So I not what is best to doo.
30 But men myght axe me why soo
I may not slepe and what me is.
But natheles, who aske this
Leseth his asking trewely.
Myselven can not telle why
The sothe; but trewly, as I gesse,
I holde hit be a sicknesse
That I have suffred this eight yeer;
And yet my boote is never the ner,
For there is phisicien but oon
40 That may me hele; but that is don.
Passe we over untill eft;
That wil not be mot nede be left;
Our first mater is good to kepe.
So whan I saw I might not slepe
Til now late this other night,
Upon my bed I sat upright
And bad oon reche me a book,
A romaunce, and he it me tok
To rede and drive the night away;
50 For me thoughte it better play
Then playe either at ches or tables.
And in this bok were written fables
That clerkes had in olde tyme,
And other poetes, put in rime
To rede and for to be in minde,
While men loved the lawe of kinde.
This bok ne spak but of such thinges,
Of quenes lives, and of kinges,
And many other thinges smale.
60 Amonge al this I fond a tale
That me thoughte a wonder thing.
This was the tale: There was a king
That highte Seys, and had a wif,
The beste that mighte bere lyf,
And this quene highte Alcyone.
So it befil thereafter soone
This king wol wenden over see.
To tellen shortly, whan that he
Was in the see thus in this wise,
70 Such a tempest gan to rise
That brak her mast and made it falle,
And clefte her ship, and dreinte hem alle,
That never was founde, as it telles,
Bord ne man, ne nothing elles.
Right thus this king Seys loste his lif.
Now for to speke of Alcyone, his wif:
This lady, that was left at hom,
Hath wonder that the king ne com
Hom, for it was a longe terme.
80 Anon her herte began to [erme];
And for that her thoughte evermo
It was not wele [he dwelte] so,
She longed so after the king
That certes it were a pitous thing
To telle her hertely sorowful lif
That she had, this noble wif,
For him, alas, she loved alderbest.
Anon she sent bothe eest and west
To seke him, but they founde nought.
90 "Alas!" quod she, "that I was wrought!
And wher my lord, my love, be deed?
Certes, I nil never ete breed,
I make avow to my god here,
But I mowe of my lord here!"
Such sorowe this lady to her tok
That trewly I, that made this book,
Had such pittee and such rowthe
To rede hir sorwe that, by my trowthe,
I ferde the worse al the morwe
100 Aftir to thenken on hir sorwe.
So whan this lady koude here noo word
That no man myghte fynde hir lord,
Ful ofte she swouned, and sayed "Alas!"
For sorwe ful nygh wood she was,
Ne she koude no reed but oon;
But doun on knees she sat anoon
And wepte that pittee was to here.
"A, mercy, swete lady dere!"
Quod she to Juno, hir goddesse,
110 "Helpe me out of thys distresse,
And yeve me grace my lord to se
Soone or wite wher-so he be,
Or how he fareth, or in what wise,
And I shal make yow sacrifise,
And hooly youres become I shal
With good wille, body, herte, and al;
And but thow wolt this, lady swete,
Send me grace to slepe and mete
In my slep som certeyn sweven
120 Wherthourgh that I may knowen even
Whether my lord be quyk or ded."
With that word she heng doun the hed
And fel a-swowne as cold as ston.
Hyr women kaught hir up anoon
And broghten hir in bed al naked,
And she, forweped and forwaked,
Was wery; and thus the dede slep
Fil on hir or she tooke kep,
Throgh Juno, that had herd hir bone,
130 That made hir to slepe sone.
For as she prayede, ryght so was don
In dede; for Juno ryght anon
Called thus hir messager
To doo hir erande, and he com ner.
Whan he was come, she bad hym thus:
"Go bet," quod Juno, "to Morpheus --
Thou knowest hym wel, the god of slep.
Now understond wel and tak kep!
Sey thus on my half: that he
140 Go faste into the Grete Se,
And byd hym that, on alle thyng,
He take up Seys body the kyng,
That lyeth ful pale and nothyng rody.
Bid hym crepe into the body
And doo hit goon to Alcione
The quene, ther she lyeth allone,
And shewe hir shortly, hit ys no nay,
How hit was dreynt thys other day;
And do the body speke ryght soo,
150 Ryght as hyt was woned to doo
The whiles that hit was alyve.
Goo now faste, and hye the blyve!"
This messager tok leve and wente
Upon hys wey, and never ne stente
Til he com to the derke valeye
That stant betwixe roches tweye
Ther never yet grew corn ne gras,
Ne tre, ne noght that ought was,
Beste, ne man, ne noght elles,
160 Save ther were a fewe welles
Came rennynge fro the clyves adoun,
That made a dedly slepynge soun,
And ronnen doun ryght by a cave
That was under a rokke ygrave
Amydde the valey, wonder depe.
There these goddes lay and slepe,
Morpheus and Eclympasteyr,
That was the god of slepes heyr,
That slep and dide noon other werk.
170 This cave was also as derk
As helle-pit overal aboute.
They had good leyser for to route,
To envye who myghte slepe best.
Somme henge her chyn upon hir brest
And slept upryght, hir hed yhed,
And somme lay naked in her bed
And slepe whiles the dayes laste.
This messager com fleynge faste
And cried, "O, how! Awake anoon!"
180 Hit was for noght; there herde hym non.
"Awake!" quod he, "whoo ys lyth there?"
And blew his horn ryght in here eere,
And cried "Awaketh!" wonder hye.
This god of slep with hys oon ye
Cast up, and axed, "Who clepeth ther?"
"Hyt am I," quod this messager.
"Juno bad thow shuldest goon" --
And tolde hym what he shulde doon
(As I have told yow here-to-fore;
190 Hyt ys no nede reherse hyt more)
And went hys wey whan he had sayd.
Anoon this god of slep abrayd
Out of hys slep, and gan to goon,
And dyde as he had bede hym doon:
Took up the dreynte body sone
And bar hyt forth to Alcione,
Hys wif the quene, ther as she lay
Ryght even a quarter before day,
And stood ryght at hyr beddes fet,
200 And called hir ryght as she het
By name, and sayde, "My swete wyf,
Awake! Let be your sorwful lyf,
For in your sorwe there lyth no red;
For, certes, swete, I am but ded.
Ye shul me never on lyve yse.
But, goode swete herte, that ye
Bury my body, for such a tyde
Ye mowe hyt fynde the see besyde;
And farewel, swete, my worldes blysse!
210 I praye God youre sorwe lysse.
To lytel while oure blysse lasteth!"
With that hir eyen up she casteth
And saw noght. "Allas!" quod she for sorwe,
And deyede within the thridde morwe.
But what she sayede more in that swow
I may not telle yow as now;
Hyt were to longe for to dwelle.
My first matere I wil yow telle,
Wherfore I have told this thyng
220 Of Alcione and Seys the kyng,
For thus moche dar I saye wel:
I had be dolven everydel
And ded, ryght thurgh defaute of slep,
Yif I ne had red and take kep
Of this tale next before.
And I wol telle yow wherfore:
For I ne myghte, for bote ne bale,
Slepe or I had red thys tale
Of this dreynte Seys the kyng
230 And of the goddes of slepyng.
Whan I had red thys tale wel
And overloked hyt everydel,
Me thoghte wonder yf hit were so,
For I had never herd speke or tho
Of noo goddes that koude make
Men to slepe, ne for to wake,
For I ne knew never god but oon.
And in my game I sayde anoon
(And yet me lyst ryght evel to pleye)
240 Rather then that y shulde deye
Thorgh defaute of slepynge thus,
I wolde yive thilke Morpheus,
Or hys goddesse, dame Juno,
Or som wight elles, I ne roghte who --
"To make me slepe and have som reste
I wil yive hym the alderbeste
Yifte that ever he abod hys lyve.
And here on warde, ryght now as blyve,
Yif he wol make me slepe a lyte,
250 Of down of pure dowves white
I wil yive hym a fether-bed,
Rayed with gold and ryght wel cled
In fyn blak satyn doutremer,
And many a pilowe, and every ber
Of cloth of Reynes, to slepe softe --
Hym thar not nede to turnen ofte --
And I wol yive hym al that falles
To a chambre, and al hys halles
I wol do peynte with pure gold
260 And tapite hem ful many fold
Of oo sute; this shal he have
(Yf I wiste where were hys cave),
Yf he kan make me slepe sone,
As did the goddesse quene Alcione.
And thus this ylke god, Morpheus,
May wynne of me moo fees thus
Than ever he wan; and to Juno,
That ys hys goddesse, I shal soo do,
I trow, that she shal holde hir payd."
270 I hadde unneth that word ysayd
Ryght thus as I have told hyt yow,
That sodeynly, I nyste how,
Such a lust anoon me took
To slepe that ryght upon my book
Y fil aslepe, and therwith even
Me mette so ynly swete a sweven,
So wonderful that never yit
Y trowe no man had the wyt
To konne wel my sweven rede;
280 No, not Joseph, withoute drede,
Of Egipte, he that redde so
The kynges metynge Pharao,
No more than koude the lest of us;
Ne nat skarsly Macrobeus
(He that wrot al th' avysyoun
That he mette, kyng Scipioun,
The noble man, the Affrikan --
Suche marvayles fortuned than),
I trowe, arede my dremes even.
290 Loo, thus hyt was; thys was my sweven.
Me thoghte thus: that hyt was May,
And in the dawenynge I lay
(Me mette thus) in my bed al naked
And loked forth, for I was waked
With smale foules a gret hep
That had affrayed me out of my slep
Thorgh noyse and swetnesse of her song.
And, as me mette, they sate among
Upon my chambre roof wythoute,
300 Upon the tyles, overal aboute,
And songe, everych in hys wyse,
The moste solempne servise
By noote that ever man, y trowe,
Had herd, for som of hem song lowe,
Som high, and al of oon acord.
To telle shortly, att oo word,
Was never herd so swete a steven
But hyt had be a thyng of heven --
So mery a soun, so swete entewnes,
310 That certes, for the toun of Tewnes
I nolde but I had herd hem synge;
For al my chambre gan to rynge
Thurgh syngynge of her armonye;
For instrument nor melodye
Was nowhere herd yet half so swete,
Nor of acord half so mete;
For ther was noon of hem that feyned
To synge, for ech of hem hym peyned
To fynde out mery crafty notes.
320 They ne spared not her throtes.
And sooth to seyn, my chambre was
Ful wel depeynted, and with glas
Were al the wyndowes wel yglased
Ful clere, and nat an hoole ycrased,
That to beholde hyt was gret joye.
For hooly al the story of Troye
Was in the glasynge ywroght thus,
Of Ector and of kyng Priamus,
Of Achilles and of kyng Lamedon,
330 And eke of Medea and of Jason,
Of Paris, Eleyne, and of Lavyne.
And alle the walles with colours fyne
Were peynted, bothe text and glose,
[Of] al the Romaunce of the Rose.
My wyndowes were shette echon,
And throgh the glas the sonne shon
Upon my bed with bryghte bemes,
With many glade gilde stremes;
And eke the welken was so fair --
340 Blew, bryght, clere was the ayr,
And ful attempre for sothe hyt was;
For nother to cold nor hoot yt nas,
Ne in al the welken was a clowde.
And as I lay thus, wonder lowde
Me thoght I herde an hunte blowe
T' assay hys horn and for to knowe
Whether hyt were clere or hors of soun.
And I herde goynge bothe up and doun
Men, hors, houndes, and other thyng;
350 And al men speken of huntyng,
How they wolde slee the hert with strengthe,
And how the hert had upon lengthe
So moche embosed -- y not now what.
Anoon ryght whan I herde that,
How that they wolde on-huntynge goon,
I was ryght glad, and up anoon
Took my hors, and forth I wente
Out of my chambre; I never stente
Til I com to the feld withoute.
360 Ther overtok y a gret route
Of huntes and eke of foresteres,
With many relayes and lymeres,
And hyed hem to the forest faste
And I with hem. So at the laste
I asked oon, ladde a lymere:
"Say, felowe, who shal hunte here?"
Quod I, and he answered ageyn,
"Syr, th' emperour Octovyen,"
Quod he, "and ys here faste by."
370 "A Goddes half, in good tyme!" quod I,
"Go we faste!" and gan to ryde.
Whan we came to the forest syde,
Every man dide ryght anoon
As to huntynge fil to doon.
The mayster-hunte anoon, fot-hot,
With a gret horn blew thre mot
At the uncouplynge of hys houndes.
Withynne a while the hert yfounde ys,
Yhalowed, and rechased faste
380 Longe tyme; and so at the laste
This hert rused and staal away
Fro alle the houndes a privy way.
The houndes had overshote hym alle
And were on a defaute yfalle.
Therwyth the hunte wonder faste
Blew a forloyn at the laste.
I was go walked fro my tree,
And as I wente, ther cam by mee
A whelp, that fauned me as I stood,
390 That hadde yfolowed and koude no good.
Hyt com and crepte to me as lowe
Ryght as hyt hadde me yknowe,
Helde doun hys hed and joyned hys eres,
And leyde al smothe doun hys heres.
I wolde have kaught hyt, and anoon
Hyt fledde and was fro me goon;
And I hym folwed, and hyt forth wente
Doun by a floury grene wente
Ful thikke of gras, ful softe and swete.
400 With floures fele, faire under fete,
And litel used; hyt semed thus,
For both Flora and Zephirus,
They two that make floures growe,
Had mad her dwellynge ther, I trowe;
For hit was, on to beholde,
As thogh the erthe envye wolde
To be gayer than the heven,
To have moo floures, swiche seven,
As in the welken sterres bee.
410 Hyt had forgete the povertee
That wynter, thorgh hys colde morwes,
Had mad hyt suffre, and his sorwes;
All was forgeten, and that was sene,
For al the woode was waxen grene;
Swetnesse of dew had mad hyt waxe.
Hyt ys no nede eke for to axe
Wher there were many grene greves,
Or thikke of trees, so ful of leves;
And every tree stood by hymselve
420 Fro other wel ten foot or twelve --
So grete trees, so huge of strengthe,
Of fourty or fifty fadme lengthe,
Clene withoute bowgh or stikke,
With croppes brode, and eke as thikke --
They were nat an ynche asonder --
That hit was shadewe overal under.
And many an hert and many an hynde
Was both before me and behynde.
Of founes, sowres, bukkes, does
430 Was ful the woode, and many roes,
And many sqwirelles that sete
Ful high upon the trees and ete,
And in hir maner made festes.
Shortly, hyt was so ful of bestes
That thogh Argus, the noble countour,
Sete to rekene in hys countour,
And rekene with his figures ten --
For by tho figures mowe al ken,
Yf they be crafty, rekene and noumbre,
440 And telle of every thing the noumbre --
Yet shoulde he fayle to rekene even
The wondres me mette in my sweven.
But forth they romed ryght wonder faste
Doun the woode; so at the laste
I was war of a man in blak,
That sat and had yturned his bak
To an ook, an huge tree.
"Lord," thoght I, "who may that be?
What ayleth hym to sitten her?"
450 Anoon-ryght I wente ner;
Than found I sitte even upryght
A wonder wel-farynge knyght --
By the maner me thoghte so --
Of good mochel, and ryght yong therto,
Of the age of foure and twenty yer,
Upon hys berd but lytel her,
And he was clothed al in blak.
I stalked even unto hys bak,
And there I stood as stille as ought,
460 That, soth to saye, he saw me nought;
For-why he heng hys hed adoun,
And with a dedly sorwful soun
He made of rym ten vers or twelve
Of a compleynte to hymselve --
The moste pitee, the moste rowthe,
That ever I herde; for, by my trowthe,
467 Hit was gret wonder that Nature
Myght suffre any creature
To have such sorwe and be not ded.
470 Ful pitous pale and nothyng red,
He sayd a lay, a maner song,
Withoute noote, withoute song;
And was thys, for ful wel I kan
Reherse hyt; ryght thus hyt began:
"I have of sorwe so gret won
That joye gete I never non,
Now that I see my lady bryght,
Which I have loved with al my myght,
Is fro me ded and ys agoon.
"Allas, deth, what ayleth the,
That thou noldest have taken me,
Whan thou toke my lady swete,
That was so fair, so fresh, so fre,
So good that men may wel se
Of al goodnesse she had no mete!"
Whan he had mad thus his complaynte,
Hys sorwful hert gan faste faynte
And his spirites wexen dede;
490 The blood was fled for pure drede
Doun to hys herte, to make hym warm --
For wel hyt feled the herte had harm --
To wite eke why hyt was adrad
By kynde, and for to make hyt glad,
For hit ys membre principal
Of the body; and that made al
Hys hewe chaunge and wexe grene
And pale, for ther noo blood ys sene
In no maner lym of hys.
500 Anoon therwith whan y sawgh this --
He ferde thus evel there he set --
I went and stood ryght at his fet,
And grette hym; but he spak noght,
But argued with his owne thoght,
And in hys wyt disputed faste
Why and how hys lyf myght laste;
Hym thoughte hys sorwes were so smerte
And lay so colde upon hys herte.
So, throgh hys sorwe and hevy thoght,
510 Made hym that he herde me noght;
For he had wel nygh lost hys mynde,
Thogh Pan, that men clepeth god of kynde,
Were for hys sorwes never so wroth.
But at the last, to sayn ryght soth,
He was war of me, how y stood
Before hym and did of myn hood,
And had ygret hym as I best koude,
Debonayrly, and nothyng lowde.
He sayde, "I prey the, be not wroth.
520 I herde the not, to seyn the soth,
Ne I sawgh the not, syr, trewely."
"A, goode sir, no fors," quod y,
"I am ryght sory yif I have ought
Destroubled yow out of your thought.
Foryive me, yif I have mystake."
"Yis, th' amendes is lyght to make,"
Quod he, "for ther lyeth noon therto;
There ys nothyng myssayd nor do."
Loo, how goodly spak thys knyght,
530 As hit had be another wyght;
He made hyt nouther towgh ne queynte.
And I saw that, and gan me aqueynte
With hym, and fond hym so tretable,
Ryght wonder skylful and resonable,
As me thoghte, for al hys bale.
Anoon ryght I gan fynde a tale
To hym, to loke wher I myght ought
Have more knowynge of hys thought.
"Sir," quod I, "this game is doon.
540 I holde that this hert be goon;
These huntes konne hym nowher see."
"Y do no fors therof," quod he;
"My thought ys theron never a del."
"By oure Lord," quod I, "y trow yow wel;
Ryght so me thinketh by youre chere.
But, sir, oo thyng wol ye here?
Me thynketh in gret sorowe I yow see;
But certes, sire, yif that yee
Wolde ought discure me youre woo,
550 I wolde, as wys God helpe me soo,
Amende hyt, yif I kan or may.
Ye mowe preve hyt be assay;
For, by my trouthe, to make yow hool
I wol do al my power hool.
And telleth me of your sorwes smerte;
Paraunter hyt may ese youre herte,
That semeth ful sek under your syde."
With that he loked on me asyde,
As who sayth, "Nay, that wol not be."
560 "Graunt mercy, goode frend," quod he,
"I thanke the that thow woldest soo,
But hyt may never the rather be doo.
No man may my sorwe glade,
That maketh my hewe to falle and fade,
And hath myn understondynge lorn
That me ys wo that I was born!
May noght make my sorwes slyde,
Nought al the remedyes of Ovyde,
Ne Orpheus, god of melodye,
570 Ne Dedalus with his playes slye;
Ne hele me may no phisicien,
Noght Ypocras ne Galyen;
Me ys wo that I lyve houres twelve.
But whooso wol assay hymselve
Whether his hert kan have pitee
Of any sorwe, lat hym see me.
Y wrecche, that deth hath mad al naked
Of al the blysse that ever was maked,
Yworthe worste of alle wyghtes,
580 That hate my dayes and my nyghtes!
My lyf, my lustes, be me loothe,
For al welfare and I be wroothe.
The pure deth ys so ful my foo
That I wolde deye, hyt wolde not soo;
For whan I folwe hyt, hit wol flee;
I wolde have hym, hyt nyl nat me.
This ys my peyne wythoute red,
Alway deynge and be not ded,
That Cesiphus, that lyeth in helle,
590 May not of more sorwe telle.
And whoso wiste al, by my trouthe,
My sorwe, but he hadde rowthe
And pitee of my sorwes smerte,
That man hath a fendly herte;
For whoso seeth me first on morwe
May seyn he hath met with sorwe,
For y am sorwe, and sorwe ys y.
"Allas! and I wol tel the why:
My [song] ys turned to pleynynge,
600 And al my laughtre to wepynge,
My glade thoghtes to hevynesse;
In travayle ys myn ydelnesse
And eke my reste; my wele is woo,
My good ys harm, and evermoo
In wrathe ys turned my pleynge
And my delyt into sorwynge.
Myn hele ys turned into seknesse,
In drede ys al my sykernesse;
To derke ys turned al my lyght,
610 My wyt ys foly, my day ys nyght,
My love ys hate, my slep wakynge,
My myrthe and meles ys fastynge,
My countenaunce ys nycete
And al abaved, where so I be;
My pees in pledynge and in werre.
Allas, how myghte I fare werre?
My boldnesse ys turned to shame,
For fals Fortune hath pleyd a game
Atte ches with me, allas the while!
620 The trayteresse fals and ful of gyle,
That al behoteth and nothyng halt,
She goth upryght and yet she halt,
That baggeth foule and loketh faire,
The dispitouse debonaire
That skorneth many a creature!
An ydole of fals portrayture
Ys she, for she wol sone wrien;
She is the monstres hed ywrien,
As fylthe over-ystrawed with floures.
630 Hir moste worshippe and hir flour ys
To lyen, for that ys hyr nature;
Withoute feyth, lawe, or mesure
She ys fals, and ever laughynge
With oon eye, and that other wepynge.
That ys broght up she set al doun.
I lykne hyr to the scorpioun,
That ys a fals, flaterynge beste,
For with his hed he maketh feste,
But al amydde hys flaterynge
640 With hys tayle he wol stynge
And envenyme; and so wol she.
She ys th' envyouse charite
That ys ay fals and semeth wel;
So turneth she hyr false whel
Aboute, for hyt ys nothyng stable --
Now by the fire, now at table;
For many oon hath she thus yblent.
She ys pley of enchauntement,
That semeth oon and ys not soo.
650 The false thef! What hath she doo,
Trowest thou? By oure Lord I wol the seye:
"At the ches with me she gan to pleye;
With hir false draughtes dyvers
She staal on me and tok my fers.
And whan I sawgh my fers awaye,
Allas, I kouthe no lenger playe,
But seyde, `Farewel, swete, ywys,
And farewel al that ever ther ys!'
"Therwith Fortune seyde `Chek her!
660 And mat in the myd poynt of the chekker,
With a poun errant!' Allas,
Ful craftier to pley she was
Than Athalus, that made the game
First of the ches, so was hys name.
But God wolde I had oones or twyes
Ykoud and knowe the jeupardyes
That kowde the Grek Pictagores!
I shulde have pleyd the bet at ches
And kept my fers the bet therby.
670 And thogh wherto? For trewely
I holde that wyssh nat worth a stree!
Hyt had be never the bet for me,
For Fortune kan so many a wyle
Ther be but fewe kan hir begile;
And eke she ys the lasse to blame;
Myself I wolde have do the same,
Before God, hadde I ben as she;
She oghte the more excused be.
For this I say yet more therto:
680 Had I be God and myghte have do
My wille whan she my fers kaughte,
I wolde have drawe the same draughte.
For, also wys God yive me reste,
I dar wel swere she took the beste.
But through that draughte I have lorn
My blysse; allas, that I was born!
For evermore, y trowe trewly,
For al my wille, my lust holly
Ys turned; but yet, what to doone?
690 Be oure Lord, hyt ys to deye soone.
For nothyng I leve hyt noght,
But lyve and deye ryght in this thoght;
For there nys planete in firmament,
Ne in ayr ne in erthe noon element,
That they ne yive me a yifte echone
Of wepynge whan I am allone.
For whan that I avise me wel
And bethenke me every del
How that ther lyeth in rekenyng,
700 In my sorwe, for nothyng,
And how ther leveth no gladnesse
May glade me of my distresse,
And how I have lost suffisance,
And therto I have no plesance,
Than may I say I have ryght noght.
And whan al this falleth in my thoght,
Allas, than am I overcome!
For that ys doon ys not to come.
I have more sorowe than Tantale."
710 And whan I herde hym tel thys tale
Thus pitously, as I yow telle,
Unnethe myght y lenger dwelle,
Hyt dyde myn herte so moche woo.
"A, goode sir," quod I, "say not soo!
Have som pitee on your nature
That formed yow to creature.
Remembre yow of Socrates,
For he ne counted nat thre strees
Of noght that Fortune koude doo."
720 "No," quod he, "I kan not soo."
"Why so, good syr? Yis parde!" quod y;
"Ne say noght soo, for trewely,
Thogh ye had lost the ferses twelve,
And ye for sorwe mordred yourselve,
Ye sholde be dampned in this cas
By as good ryght as Medea was,
That slough hir children for Jasoun;
And Phyllis also for Demophoun
Heng hirself -- so weylaway! --
730 For he had broke his terme-day
731 To come to hir. Another rage
Had Dydo, the quene eke of Cartage,
That slough hirself for Eneas
Was fals -- which a fool she was!
And Ecquo died for Narcisus
Nolde nat love hir, and ryght thus
Hath many another foly doon;
And for Dalida died Sampson,
That slough hymself with a piler.
740 But ther is no man alyve her
Wolde for a fers make this woo!"
"Why so?" quod he, "hyt ys nat soo.
Thou wost ful lytel what thou menest;
I have lost more than thow wenest."
"Loo, [sey] how that may be?" quod y;
"Good sir, telle me al hooly
In what wyse, how, why, and wherfore
That ye have thus youre blysse lore."
"Blythely," quod he; "com sytte adoun!
750 I telle the upon a condicioun
That thou shalt hooly, with al thy wyt,
Doo thyn entent to herkene hit."
"Yis, syr." "Swere thy trouthe therto."
"Gladly." "Do thanne holde hereto!"
"I shal ryght blythely, so God me save,
Hooly, with al the wit I have,
Here yow as wel as I kan."
"A Goddes half!" quod he, and began:
"Syr," quod he, "sith first I kouthe
760 Have any maner wyt fro youthe,
Or kyndely understondyng
To comprehende in any thyng
What love was, in myn owne wyt,
Dredeles, I have ever yit
Be tributarye and yive rente
To Love, hooly with good entente,
And throgh plesaunce become his thral
With good wille, body, hert, and al.
Al this I putte in his servage,
770 As to my lord, and dide homage;
And ful devoutly I prayed hym to
He shulde besette myn herte so
That hyt plesance to hym were
And worship to my lady dere.
"And this was longe, and many a yer
Or that myn herte was set owher,
That I dide thus, and nyste why;
I trowe hit cam me kyndely.
Paraunter I was therto most able,
780 As a whit wal or a table,
For hit ys redy to cacche and take
Al that men wil theryn make,
Whethir so men wil portreye or peynte,
Be the werkes never so queynte.
"And thilke tyme I ferde ryght so,
I was able to have lerned tho,
And to have kend as wel or better,
Paraunter, other art or letre;
But for love cam first in my thoght,
790 Therfore I forgat hyt noght.
I ches love to my firste craft;
Therfore hit ys with me laft,
For-why I tok hyt of so yong age
That malyce hadde my corage
Nat that tyme turned to nothyng
Thorgh to mochel knowlechyng.
For that tyme Yowthe, my maistresse,
Governed me in ydelnesse;
For hyt was in my firste youthe,
800 And thoo ful lytel good y couthe,
For al my werkes were flyttynge
That tyme, and al my thoght varyinge.
Al were to me ylyche good
That I knew thoo; but thus hit stood:
"Hit happed that I cam on a day
Into a place ther that I say
Trewly the fayrest companye
Of ladyes that evere man with ye
Had seen togedres in oo place.
810 Shal I clepe hyt hap other grace
That broght me there? Nay, but Fortune,
That ys to lyen ful comune,
813 The false trayteresse pervers!
God wolde I koude clepe hir wers,
For now she worcheth me ful woo,
And I wol telle sone why soo.
"Among these ladyes thus echon,
Soth to seyen, y sawgh oon
That was lyk noon of the route;
820 For I dar swere, withoute doute,
That as the someres sonne bryght
Ys fairer, clerer, and hath more lyght
Than any other planete in heven,
The moone or the sterres seven,
For al the world so hadde she
Surmounted hem alle of beaute,
Of maner, and of comlynesse,
Of stature, and of wel set gladnesse,
Of goodlyhede so wel beseye --
830 Shortly, what shal y more seye?
By God and by his halwes twelve,
Hyt was my swete, ryght as hirselve.
She had so stedfast countenaunce,
So noble port and meyntenaunce,
And Love, that had wel herd my boone,
Had espyed me thus soone,
That she ful sone in my thoght,
As helpe me God, so was ykaught
So sodenly that I ne tok
840 No maner counseyl but at hir lok
And at myn herte; for-why hir eyen
So gladly, I trow, myn herte seyen
That purely tho myn owne thoght
Seyde hit were beter serve hir for noght
Than with another to be wel.
And hyt was soth, for everydel
I wil anoon ryght telle thee why.
"I sawgh hyr daunce so comlily,
Carole and synge so swetely,
850 Laughe and pleye so womanly,
And loke so debonairly,
So goodly speke and so frendly,
That certes y trowe that evermor
Nas seyn so blysful a tresor.
For every heer on hir hed,
Soth to seyne, hyt was not red,
Ne nouther yelowe ne broun hyt nas;
Me thoghte most lyk gold hyt was.
"And whiche eyen my lady hadde!
860 Debonaire, goode, glade, and sadde,
Symple, of good mochel, noght to wyde.
Therto hir look nas not asyde
Ne overthwert, but beset so wel
Hyt drew and took up everydel
Al that on hir gan beholde.
Hir eyen semed anoon she wolde
Have mercy -- fooles wenden soo --
But hyt was never the rather doo.
Hyt nas no countrefeted thyng;
870 Hyt was hir owne pure lokyng
That the goddesse, dame Nature,
Had mad hem opene by mesure
And close; for were she never so glad,
Hyr lokynge was not foly sprad,
Ne wildely, thogh that she pleyde;
But ever, me thoght, hir eyen seyde,
`Be God, my wrathe ys al foryive!'
"Therwith hir lyste so wel to lyve,
That dulnesse was of hir adrad.
880 She nas to sobre ne to glad;
In alle thynges more mesure
Had never, I trowe, creature.
But many oon with hire lok she herte,
And that sat hyr ful lyte at herte,
For she knew nothyng of her thoght;
But whether she knew or knew it nowght
Algate she ne roughte of hem a stree! --
To gete her love no ner nas he
That woned at hom than he in Ynde;
890 The formest was alway behynde.
But goode folk, over al other,
She loved as man may do hys brother;
Of which love she was wonder large,
In skilful places that bere charge.
"But which a visage had she thertoo!
Allas, myn herte ys wonder woo
That I ne kan discryven hyt!
Me lakketh both Englyssh and wit
For to undo hyt at the fulle;
900 And eke my spirites be so dulle
So gret a thyng for to devyse.
I have no wit that kan suffise
To comprehende hir beaute.
But thus moche dar I sayn, that she
Was whit, rody, fressh, and lyvely hewed,
And every day hir beaute newed.
And negh hir face was alderbest,
For certes Nature had swich lest
To make that fair that trewly she
910 Was hir chef patron of beaute,
And chef ensample of al hir werk,
And moustre; for be hyt never so derk,
Me thynketh I se hir ever moo.
And yet moreover, thogh alle thoo
That ever livede were now alyve,
Ne sholde have founde to discryve
Yn al hir face a wikked sygne,
For hit was sad, symple, and benygne.
"And which a goodly, softe speche
920 Had that swete, my lyves leche!
So frendly, and so wel ygrounded,
Up al resoun so wel yfounded,
And so tretable to alle goode
That I dar swere wel, by the roode,
Of eloquence was never founde
So swete a sownynge facounde,
Ne trewer tonged, ne skorned lasse,
Ne bet koude hele -- that, by the masse
I durste swere, thogh the pope hit songe,
930 That ther was never yet throgh hir tonge
Man ne woman gretly harmed;
As for her, was al harm hyd --
Ne lasse flaterynge in hir word,
That purely hir symple record
Was founde as trewe as any bond
Or trouthe of any mannes hond;
Ne chyde she koude never a del;
That knoweth al the world ful wel.
"But swich a fairnesse of a nekke
940 Had that swete that boon nor brekke
Nas ther non sene that myssat.
Hyt was whit, smothe, streght, and pure flat,
Wythouten hole or canel-boon,
As be semynge had she noon.
Hyr throte, as I have now memoyre,
Semed a round tour of yvoyre,
Of good gretnesse, and noght to gret.
"And goode faire White she het;
That was my lady name ryght.
950 She was bothe fair and bryght;
She hadde not hir name wrong.
Ryght faire shuldres and body long
She had, and armes, every lyth
Fattyssh, flesshy, not gret therwith;
Ryght white handes, and nayles rede;
Rounde brestes; and of good brede
Hyr hippes were; a streight flat bak.
I knew on hir noon other lak
That al hir lymmes nere pure sewynge
960 In as fer as I had knowynge.
"Therto she koude so wel pleye,
Whan that hir lyste, that I dar seye
That she was lyk to torche bryght
That every man may take of lyght
Ynogh, and hyt hath never the lesse.
Of maner and of comlynesse
Ryght so ferde my lady dere,
For every wight of hir manere
Myght cacche ynogh, yif that he wolde,
970 Yif he had eyen hir to beholde;
For I dar swere wel, yif that she
Had among ten thousand be,
She wolde have be, at the leste,
A chef myrour of al the feste,
Thogh they had stonden in a rowe,
To mennes eyen that koude have knowe;
For wher-so men had pleyd or waked,
Me thoghte the felawsshyppe as naked
Withouten hir that sawgh I oones
980 As a corowne withoute stones.
981 Trewly she was, to myn ye
The soleyn fenix of Arabye,
For ther livyth never but oon,
Ne swich as she ne knowe I noon.
"To speke of godnesse, trewly she
Had as moche debonairte
As ever had Hester in the Bible,
And more, yif more were possyble.
And soth to seyne, therwythal
990 She had a wyt so general,
So hool enclyned to alle goode,
That al hir wyt was set, by the rode,
Withoute malyce, upon gladnesse;
And therto I saugh never yet a lesse
Harmful than she was in doynge.
I sey nat that she ne had knowynge
What harm was, or elles she
Had koud no good, so thinketh me.
"And trewly for to speke of trouthe,
1000 But she had had, hyt hadde be routhe.
Therof she had so moche hyr del --
And I dar seyn and swere hyt wel --
That Trouthe hymself over al and al
Had chose hys maner principal
In hir that was his restyng place.
Therto she hadde the moste grace
To have stedefast perseveraunce
And esy, atempre governaunce
That ever I knew or wyste yit,
1010 So pure suffraunt was hir wyt;
And reson gladly she understood;
Hyt folowed wel she koude good.
She used gladly to do wel;
These were hir maners everydel.
"Therwith she loved so wel ryght
She wrong do wolde to no wyght.
No wyght myghte do hir noo shame,
She loved so wel hir owne name.
Hyr lust to holde no wyght in honde,
1020 Ne, be thou siker, she wolde not fonde
To holde no wyght in balaunce
By half word ne by countenaunce --
But if men wolde upon hir lye --
Ne sende men into Walakye,
To Pruyse, and into Tartarye,
To Alysaundre, ne into Turkye,
And byd hym faste anoon that he
Goo hoodles into the Drye Se
And come hom by the Carrenar,
1030 And seye, `Sir, be now ryght war
That I may of yow here seyn
Worshyp or that ye come ageyn!'
She ne used no suche knakkes smale.
"But wherfore that y telle my tale?
Ryght on thys same, as I have seyd,
Was hooly al my love leyd;
For certes she was, that swete wif,
1038 My suffisaunce, my lust, my lyf,
Myn hap, myn hele, and al my blesse,
1040 My worldes welfare, and my goddesse,
And I hooly hires and everydel."
"By oure Lord," quod I, "y trowe yow wel!
Hardely, your love was wel beset;
I not how ye myghte have do bet."
"Bet? Ne no wyght so wel," quod he.
"Y trowe hyt wel, sir," quod I, "parde!"
"Nay, leve hyt wel!" "Sire, so do I;
I leve yow wel, that trewely
Yow thoghte that she was the beste
1050 And to beholde the alderfayreste,
Whoso had loked hir with your eyen."
"With myn? Nay, alle that hir seyen
Seyde and sworen hyt was soo.
And thogh they ne hadde, I wolde thoo
Have loved best my lady free,
Thogh I had had al the beaute
That ever had Alcipyades,
And al the strengthe of Ercules,
And therto had the worthynesse
1060 Of Alysaunder, and al the rychesse
That ever was in Babyloyne,
In Cartage, or in Macedoyne,
1063 Or in Rome, or in Nynyve;
And therto also hardy be
As was Ector, so have I joye,
That Achilles slough at Troye --
And therfore was he slayn alsoo
In a temple, for bothe twoo
Were slayne, he and Antylegyus
1070 (And so seyth Dares Frygius),
For love of Polixena --
Or ben as wis as Mynerva,
I wolde ever, withoute drede,
Have loved hir, for I moste nede.
`Nede?' Nay, trewly, I gabbe now;
Noght `nede,' and I wol tellen how:
For of good wille myn herte hyt wolde,
And eke to love hir I was holde
As for the fairest and the beste.
1080 She was as good, so have I reste,
As ever was Penelopee of Grece,
Or as the noble wif Lucrece,
That was the beste -- he telleth thus,
The Romayn, Tytus Lyvyus --
She was as good, and nothyng lyk
(Thogh hir stories be autentyk),
Algate she was as trewe as she.
"But wherfore that I telle thee
Whan I first my lady say?
1090 I was ryght yong, soth to say,
And ful gret nede I hadde to lerne;
Whan my herte wolde yerne
To love, hyt was a gret empryse.
But as my wyt koude best suffise,
After my yonge childly wyt,
Withoute drede, I besette hyt
To love hir in my beste wyse,
To do hir worship and the servise
That I koude thoo, be my trouthe,
1100 Withoute feynynge outher slouthe,
For wonder feyn I wolde hir se.
So mochel hyt amended me
That whan I saugh hir first a-morwe
I was warished of al my sorwe
Of al day after; til hyt were eve
Me thoghte nothyng myghte me greve,
Were my sorwes never so smerte.
And yet she syt so in myn herte
That, by my trouthe, y nolde noght
1110 For al thys world out of my thoght
Leve my lady; noo, trewely!"
"Now, by my trouthe, sir," quod I,
"Me thynketh ye have such a chaunce
As shryfte wythoute repentaunce."
"Repentaunce? Nay, fy!" quod he,
"Shulde y now repente me
To love? Nay, certes, than were I wel
Wers than was Achitofel,
Or Anthenor, so have I joye,
1120 The traytor that betraysed Troye,
Or the false Genelloun,
He that purchased the tresoun
Of Rowland and of Olyver.
Nay, while I am alyve her,
I nyl foryete hir never moo."
"Now, goode syre," quod I thoo,
"Ye han wel told me herebefore;
Hyt ys no nede to reherse it more,
How ye sawe hir first, and where.
1130 But wolde ye tel me the manere
To hire which was your firste speche --
Therof I wolde yow beseche --
And how she knewe first your thoght,
Whether ye loved hir or noght?
And telleth me eke what ye have lore,
I herde yow telle herebefore."
"Yee!" seyde he, "thow nost what thow menest;
I have lost more than thou wenest."
"What los ys that?" quod I thoo;
1140 "Nyl she not love yow? Ys hyt soo?
Or have ye oght doon amys,
That she hath left yow? Ys hyt this?
For Goddes love, telle me al."
"Before God," quod he, "and I shal.
I saye ryght as I have seyd,
On hir was al my love leyd,
And yet she nyste hyt nat, never a del
Noght longe tyme, leve hyt wel!
For be ryght siker, I durste noght
1150 For al this world telle hir my thoght,
Ne I wolde have wraththed hir, trewely.
For wostow why? She was lady
Of the body; she had the herte,
And who hath that may not asterte.
But for to kepe me fro ydelnesse,
Trewly I dide my besynesse
To make songes, as I best koude,
And ofte tyme I song hem loude;
And made songes thus a gret del,
1160 Althogh I koude not make so wel
Songes, ne knewe the art al,
As koude Lamekes sone Tubal,
That found out first the art of songe;
For as hys brothres hamers ronge
Upon hys anvelt up and doun,
Therof he took the firste soun --
But Grekes seyn Pictagoras,
That he the firste fynder was
Of the art (Aurora telleth so);
1170 But therof no fors of hem two.
Algates songes thus I made
Of my felynge, myn herte to glade;
And, lo, this was [the] altherferste --
I not wher hyt were the werste.
`Lord, hyt maketh myn herte lyght
Whan I thenke on that swete wyght
That is so semely on to see;
And wisshe to God hit myghte so bee
That she wolde holde me for hir knyght,
1180 My lady, that is so fair and bryght!'
"Now have I told thee, soth to say,
My firste song. Upon a day
I bethoghte me what woo
And sorwe that I suffred thoo
For hir, and yet she wyste hyt noght,
Ne telle hir durste I nat my thoght.
`Allas,' thoghte I, `y kan no red;
And but I telle hir, I [nam] but ded;
And yif I telle hyr, to seye ryght soth,
1190 I am adred she wol be wroth.
Allas, what shal I thanne do?'
"In this debat I was so wo
Me thoghte myn herte braste atweyne!
So at the laste, soth to sayne,
I bethoghte me that Nature
Ne formed never in creature
So moche beaute, trewely,
And bounte, wythoute mercy.
In hope of that, my tale I tolde
1200 With sorwe, as that I never sholde,
For nedes, and mawgree my hed,
I most have told hir or be ded.
I not wel how that I began;
Ful evel rehersen hyt I kan;
And eke, as helpe me God withal,
I trowe hyt was in the dismal,
That was the ten woundes of Egipte --
For many a word I over-skipte
In my tale, for pure fere
1210 Lest my wordes mysset were.
With sorweful herte and woundes dede,
Softe and quakynge for pure drede
And shame, and styntynge in my tale
For ferde, and myn hewe al pale --
Ful ofte I wex bothe pale and red --
Bowynge to hir, I heng the hed;
I durste nat ones loke hir on,
For wit, maner, and al was goon.
I seyde `Mercy!' and no more.
1220 Hyt nas no game; hyt sat me sore.
"So at the laste, soth to seyn,
Whan that myn hert was come ageyn,
To telle shortly al my speche,
With hool herte I gan hir beseche
That she wolde be my lady swete;
And swor, and gan hir hertely hete
Ever to be stedfast and trewe,
And love hir alwey fresshly newe,
And never other lady have,
1230 And al hir worship for to save
As I best koude. I swor hir this:
`For youres is alle that ever ther ys
For evermore, myn herte swete!
And never to false yow, but I mete,
I nyl, as wys God helpe me soo!'
"And whan I had my tale y-doo,
God wot, she acounted nat a stree
Of al my tale, so thoghte me.
To telle shortly ryght as hyt ys,
1240 Trewly hir answere hyt was this --
I kan not now wel counterfete
Hir wordes, but this was the grete
Of hir answere: she sayde `Nay'
Al outerly. Allas, that day
The sorowe I suffred and the woo
That trewly Cassandra, that soo
Bewayled the destruccioun
Of Troye and of Ilyoun,
Had never swich sorwe as I thoo.
1250 I durste no more say thertoo
For pure fere, but stal away;
1252 And thus I lyved ful many a day,
That trewely I hadde no ned
Ferther than my beddes hed
Never a day to seche sorwe;
I fond hyt redy every morwe,
For-why I loved hyr in no gere.
"So hit befel, another yere
I thoughte ones I wolde fonde
1260 To do hir knowe and understonde
My woo; and she wel understod
That I ne wilned thyng but god,
And worship, and to kepe hir name
Over alle thynges, and drede hir shame,
And was so besy hyr to serve,
And pitee were I shulde sterve,
Syth that I wilned noon harm, ywis.
So whan my lady knew al this,
My lady yaf me al hooly
1270 The noble yifte of hir mercy,
Savynge hir worship by al weyes --
Dredles, I mene noon other weyes.
And therwith she yaf me a ryng;
I trowe hyt was the firste thyng;
But if myn herte was ywaxe
Glad, that is no nede to axe!
As helpe me God, I was as blyve
Reysed as fro deth to lyve --
Of al happes the alderbeste,
1280 The gladdest, and the moste at reste.
For trewely that swete wyght,
Whan I had wrong and she the ryght,
1283 She wolde alway so goodly
Foryeve me so debonairly.
In al my yowthe, in al chaunce,
She took me in hir governaunce.
Therwyth she was alway so trewe
Our joye was ever ylyche newe;
Oure hertes wern so evene a payre
1290 That never nas that oon contrayre
To that other for no woo.
For sothe, ylyche they suffred thoo
Oo blysse and eke oo sorwe bothe;
Ylyche they were bothe glad and wrothe;
Al was us oon, withoute were.
And thus we lyved ful many a yere
So wel I kan nat telle how."
"Sir," quod I, "where is she now?"
"Now?" quod he, and stynte anoon.
1300 Therwith he wax as ded as stoon
And seyde, "Allas, that I was bore!
That was the los that here-before
I tolde the that I hadde lorn.
Bethenke how I seyde here-beforn,
`Thow wost ful lytel what thow menest;
I have lost more than thow wenest.'
God wot, allas! Ryght that was she!"
"Allas, sir, how? What may that be?"
"She ys ded!" "Nay!" "Yis, be my trouthe!"
1310 "Is that youre los? Be God, hyt ys routhe!"
And with that word ryght anoon
They gan to strake forth; al was doon,
For that tyme, the hert-huntyng.
With that me thoghte that this kyng
Gan homwarde for to ryde
Unto a place, was there besyde,
Which was from us but a lyte --
A long castel with walles white,
Be Seynt Johan, on a ryche hil,
1320 As me mette; but thus hyt fil.
Ryght thus me mette, as I yow telle,
That in the castell ther was a belle,
As hyt hadde smyten houres twelve.
Therwyth I awook myselve
And fond me lyinge in my bed;
And the book that I hadde red,
Of Alcione and Seys the kyng,
And of the goddes of slepyng,
I fond hyt in myn hond ful even.
1330 Thoghte I, "Thys ys so queynt a sweven
That I wol, be processe of tyme,
Fonde to put this sweven in ryme
As I kan best, and that anoon."
This was my sweven; now hit ys doon.
Next: The House of Fame