And yet [moreover] there is a privy species of pride that waiteth first to be saluted ere he will salute, all [although] be he less worthy than that other is; and eke he waiteth [expecteth] or desireth to sit or to go above him in the way, or kiss the pax, or be incensed, or go to offering before his neighbour, and such semblable [like] things, against his duty peradventure, but that he hath his heart and his intent in such a proud desire to be magnified and honoured before the people. Now be there two manner of prides; the one of them is within the heart of a man, and the other is without. Of which soothly these foresaid things, and more than I have said, appertain to pride that is within the heart of a man and there be other species of pride that be without: but nevertheless, the one of these species of pride is sign of the other, right as the gay levesell [bush] at the tavern is sign of the wine that is in the cellar. And this is in many things: as in speech and countenance, and outrageous array of clothing; for certes, if there had been no sin in clothing, Christ would not so soon have noted and spoken of the clothing of that rich man in the gospel. And Saint Gregory saith, that precious clothing is culpable for the dearth [dearness] of it, and for its softness, and for its strangeness and disguising, and for the superfluity or for the inordinate scantness of it; alas! may not a man see in our days the sinful costly array of clothing, and namely [specially] in too much superfluity, or else in too disordinate scantness? As to the first sin, in superfluity of clothing, which that maketh it so dear, to the harm of the people, not only the cost of the embroidering, the disguising, indenting or barring, ounding, paling, winding, or banding, and semblable [similar] waste of cloth in vanity; but there is also the costly furring [lining or edging with fur] in their gowns, so much punching of chisels to make holes, so much dagging [cutting] of shears, with the superfluity in length of the foresaid gowns, trailing in the dung and in the mire, on horse and eke on foot, as well of man as of woman, that all that trailing is verily (as in effect) wasted, consumed, threadbare, and rotten with dung, rather than it is given to the poor, to great damage of the foresaid poor folk, and that in sundry wise: this is to say, the more that cloth is wasted, the more must it cost to the poor people for the scarceness; and furthermore, if so be that they would give such punched and dagged clothing to the poor people, it is not convenient to wear for their estate, nor sufficient to boot [help, remedy] their necessity, to keep them from the distemperance [inclemency] of the firmament. Upon the other side, to speak of the horrible disordinate scantness of clothing, as be these cutted slops or hanselines [breeches] , that through their shortness cover not the shameful member of man, to wicked intent alas! some of them shew the boss and the shape of the horrible swollen members, that seem like to the malady of hernia, in the wrapping of their hosen, and eke the buttocks of them, that fare as it were the hinder part of a she-ape in the full of the moon. And more over the wretched swollen members that they shew through disguising, in departing [dividing] of their hosen in white and red, seemeth that half their shameful privy members were flain [flayed]. And if so be that they depart their hosen in other colours, as is white and blue, or white and black, or black and red, and so forth; then seemeth it, by variance of colour, that the half part of their privy members be corrupt by the fire of Saint Anthony, or by canker, or other such mischance. And of the hinder part of their buttocks it is full horrible to see, for certes, in that part of their body where they purge their stinking ordure, that foul part shew they to the people proudly in despite of honesty [decency], which honesty Jesus Christ and his friends observed to shew in his life. Now as of the outrageous array of women, God wot, that though the visages of some of them seem full chaste and debonair [gentle], yet notify they, in their array of attire, likerousness and pride. I say not that honesty [reasonable and appropriate style] in clothing of man or woman unconvenable but, certes, the superfluity or disordinate scarcity of clothing is reprovable. Also the sin of their ornament, or of apparel, as in things that appertain to riding, as in too many delicate horses, that be holden for delight, that be so fair, fat, and costly; and also in many a vicious knave, [servant] that is sustained because of them; in curious harness, as in saddles, cruppers, peytrels, [breast-plates] and bridles, covered with precious cloth and rich bars and plates of gold and silver. For which God saith by Zechariah the prophet, "I will confound the riders of such horses." These folk take little regard of the riding of God's Son of heaven, and of his harness, when he rode upon an ass, and had no other harness but the poor clothes of his disciples; nor we read not that ever he rode on any other beast. I speak this for the sin of superfluity, and not for reasonable honesty [seemliness], when reason it requireth. And moreover, certes, pride is greatly notified in holding of great meinie [retinue of servants], when they be of little profit or of right no profit, and namely [especially] when that meinie is felonous [violent ] and damageous [harmful] to the people by hardiness [arrogance] of high lordship, or by way of office; for certes, such lords sell then their lordship to the devil of hell, when they sustain the wickedness of their meinie. Or else, when these folk of low degree, as they that hold hostelries, sustain theft of their hostellers, and that is in many manner of deceits: that manner of folk be the flies that follow the honey, or else the hounds that follow the carrion. Such foresaid folk strangle spiritually their lordships; for which thus saith David the prophet, "Wicked death may come unto these lordships, and God give that they may descend into hell adown; for in their houses is iniquity and shrewedness, [impiety] and not God of heaven." And certes, but if [unless] they do amendment, right as God gave his benison [blessing] to Laban by the service of Jacob, and to Pharaoh by the service of Joseph; right so God will give his malison [condemnation] to such lordships as sustain the wickedness of their servants, but [unless] they come to amendment. Pride of the table apaireth [worketh harm] eke full oft; for, certes, rich men be called to feasts, and poor folk be put away and rebuked; also in excess of divers meats and drinks, and namely [specially] such manner bake-meats and dish-meats burning of wild fire, and painted and castled with paper, and semblable [similar] waste, so that it is abuse to think. And eke in too great preciousness of vessel, [plate] and curiosity of minstrelsy, by which a man is stirred more to the delights of luxury, if so be that he set his heart the less upon our Lord Jesus Christ, certain it is a sin; and certainly the delights might be so great in this case, that a man might lightly [easily] fall by them into deadly sin.
[The sins that arise of pride advisedly and habitually are deadly; those that arise by frailty unadvised suddenly, and suddenly withdraw again, though grievous, are not deadly. Pride itself springs sometimes of the goods of nature, sometimes of the goods of fortune, sometimes of the goods of grace; but the Parson, enumerating and examining all these in turn, points out how little security they possess and how little ground for pride they furnish, and goes on to enforce the remedy against pride — which is humility or meekness, a virtue through which a man hath true knowledge of himself, and holdeth no high esteem of himself in regard of his deserts, considering ever his frailty.]
Now be there three manners [kinds] of humility; as humility in heart, and another in the mouth, and the third in works. The humility in the heart is in four manners: the one is, when a man holdeth himself as nought worth before God of heaven; the second is, when he despiseth no other man; the third is, when he recketh not though men hold him nought worth; the fourth is, when he is not sorry of his humiliation. Also the humility of mouth is in four things: in temperate speech; in humility of speech; and when he confesseth with his own mouth that he is such as he thinketh that he is in his heart; another is, when he praiseth the bounte [goodness] of another man and nothing thereof diminisheth. Humility eke in works is in four manners: the first is, when he putteth other men before him; the second is, to choose the lowest place of all; the third is, gladly to assent to good counsel; the fourth is, to stand gladly by the award [judgment] of his sovereign, or of him that is higher in degree: certain this is a great work of humility.
[The Parson proceeds to treat of the other cardinal sins, and their remedies: (2.) Envy, with its remedy, the love of God principally and of our neighbours as ourselves: (3.) Anger, with all its fruits in revenge, rancour, hate, discord, manslaughter, blasphemy, swearing, falsehood, flattery, chiding and reproving, scorning, treachery, sowing of strife, doubleness of tongue, betraying of counsel to a man's disgrace, menacing, idle words, jangling, japery or buffoonery, &c. — and its remedy in the virtues called mansuetude, debonairte, or gentleness, and patience or sufferance: (4.) Sloth, or "Accidie," which comes after the sin of Anger, because Envy blinds the eyes of a man, and Anger troubleth a man, and Sloth maketh him heavy, thoughtful, and peevish. It is opposed to every estate of man — as unfallen, and held to work in praising and adoring God; as sinful, and held to labour in praying for deliverance from sin; and as in the state of grace, and held to works of penitence. It resembles the heavy and sluggish condition of those in hell; it will suffer no hardness and no penance; it prevents any beginning of good works; it causes despair of God's mercy, which is the sin against the Holy Ghost; it induces somnolency and neglect of communion in prayer with God; and it breeds negligence or recklessness, that cares for nothing, and is the nurse of all mischiefs, if ignorance is their mother. Against Sloth, and these and other branches and fruits of it, the remedy lies in the virtue of fortitude or strength, in its various species of magnanimity or great courage; faith and hope in God and his saints; surety or sickerness, when a man fears nothing that can oppose the good works he has under taken; magnificence, when he carries out great works of goodness begun; constancy or stableness of heart; and other incentives to energy and laborious service: (5.) Avarice, or Covetousness, which is the root of all harms, since its votaries are idolaters, oppressors and enslavers of men, deceivers of their equals in business, simoniacs, gamblers, liars, thieves, false swearers, blasphemers, murderers, and sacrilegious. Its remedy lies in compassion and pity largely exercised, and in reasonable liberality — for those who spend on "fool-largesse," or ostentation of worldly estate and luxury, shall receive the malison [condemnation] that Christ shall give at the day of doom to them that shall be damned: (6.) Gluttony; — of which the Parson treats so briefly that the chapter may be given in full: — ]
After Avarice cometh Gluttony, which is express against the commandment of God. Gluttony is unmeasurable appetite to eat or to drink; or else to do in aught to the unmeasurable appetite and disordered covetousness [craving] to eat or drink. This sin corrupted all this world, as is well shewed in the sin of Adam and of Eve. Look also what saith Saint Paul of gluttony: "Many," saith he, "go, of which I have oft said to you, and now I say it weeping, that they be enemies of the cross of Christ, of which the end is death, and of which their womb [stomach] is their God and their glory;" in confusion of them that so savour [take delight in] earthly things. He that is usant [accustomed, addicted] to this sin of gluttony, he may no sin withstand, he must be in servage [bondage] of all vices, for it is the devil's hoard, [lair, lurking-place] where he hideth him in and resteth. This sin hath many species. The first is drunkenness, that is the horrible sepulture of man's reason: and therefore when a man is drunken, he hath lost his reason; and this is deadly sin. But soothly, when that a man is not wont to strong drink, and peradventure knoweth not the strength of the drink, or hath feebleness in his head, or hath travailed [laboured], through which he drinketh the more, all [although] be he suddenly caught with drink, it is no deadly sin, but venial. The second species of gluttony is, that the spirit of a man waxeth all troubled for drunkenness, and bereaveth a man the discretion of his wit. The third species of gluttony is, when a man devoureth his meat, and hath no rightful manner of eating. The fourth is, when, through the great abundance of his meat, the humours of his body be distempered. The fifth is, forgetfulness by too much drinking, for which a man sometimes forgetteth by the morrow what be did at eve. In other manner be distinct the species of gluttony, after Saint Gregory. The first is, for to eat or drink before time. The second is, when a man getteth him too delicate meat or drink. The third is, when men take too much over measure [immoderately]. The fourth is curiosity [nicety] with great intent [application, pains] to make and apparel [prepare] his meat. The fifth is, for to eat too greedily. These be the five fingers of the devil's hand, by which he draweth folk to the sin.
Against gluttony the remedy is abstinence, as saith Galen; but that I hold not meritorious, if he do it only for the health of his body. Saint Augustine will that abstinence be done for virtue, and with patience. Abstinence, saith he, is little worth, but if [unless] a man have good will thereto, and but it be enforced by patience and by charity, and that men do it for God's sake, and in hope to have the bliss in heaven. The fellows of abstinence be temperance, that holdeth the mean in all things; also shame, that escheweth all dishonesty [indecency, impropriety], sufficiency, that seeketh no rich meats nor drinks, nor doth no force of [sets no value on] no outrageous apparelling of meat; measure [moderation] also, that restraineth by reason the unmeasurable appetite of eating; soberness also, that restraineth the outrage of drink; sparing also, that restraineth the delicate ease to sit long at meat, wherefore some folk stand of their own will to eat, because they will eat at less leisure.
[At great length the Parson then points out the many varieties of the sin of (7.) Lechery, and its remedy in chastity and continence, alike in marriage and in widowhood; also in the abstaining from all such indulgences of eating, drinking, and sleeping as inflame the passions, and from the company of all who may tempt to the sin. Minute guidance is given as to the duty of confessing fully and faithfully the circumstances that attend and may aggravate this sin; and the Treatise then passes to the consideration of the conditions that are essential to a true and profitable confession of sin in general. First, it must be in sorrowful bitterness of spirit; a condition that has five signs — shamefastness, humility in heart and outward sign, weeping with the bodily eyes or in the heart, disregard of the shame that might curtail or garble confession, and obedience to the penance enjoined. Secondly, true confession must be promptly made, for dread of death, of increase of sinfulness, of forgetfulness of what should be confessed, of Christ's refusal to hear if it be put off to the last day of life; and this condition has four terms; that confession be well pondered beforehand, that the man confessing have comprehended in his mind the number and greatness of his sins and how long he has lain in sin, that he be contrite for and eschew his sins, and that he fear and flee the occasions for that sin to which he is inclined. — What follows under this head is of some interest for the light which it throws on the rigorous government wielded by the Romish Church in those days —]
Also thou shalt shrive thee of all thy sins to one man, and not a parcel [portion] to one man, and a parcel to another; that is to understand, in intent to depart [divide] thy confession for shame or dread; for it is but strangling of thy soul. For certes Jesus Christ is entirely all good, in him is none imperfection, and therefore either he forgiveth all perfectly, or else never a deal [not at all]. I say not that if thou be assigned to thy penitencer for a certain sin, that thou art bound to shew him all the remnant of thy sins, of which thou hast been shriven of thy curate, but if it like thee [unless thou be pleased] of thy humility; this is no departing [division] of shrift. And I say not, where I speak of division of confession, that if thou have license to shrive thee to a discreet and an honest priest, and where thee liketh, and by the license of thy curate, that thou mayest not well shrive thee to him of all thy sins: but let no blot be behind, let no sin be untold as far as thou hast remembrance. And when thou shalt be shriven of thy curate, tell him eke all the sins that thou hast done since thou wert last shriven. This is no wicked intent of division of shrift. Also, very shrift [true confession] asketh certain conditions. First, that thou shrive thee by thy free will, not constrained, nor for shame of folk, nor for malady [sickness], or such things: for it is reason, that he that trespasseth by his free will, that by his free will he confess his trespass; and that no other man tell his sin but himself; nor he shall not nay nor deny his sin, nor wrath him against the priest for admonishing him to leave his sin. The second condition is, that thy shrift be lawful, that is to say, that thou that shrivest thee, and eke the priest that heareth thy confession, be verily in the faith of Holy Church, and that a man be not despaired of the mercy of Jesus Christ, as Cain and Judas were. And eke a man must accuse himself of his own trespass, and not another: but he shall blame and wite [accuse] himself of his own malice and of his sin, and none other: but nevertheless, if that another man be occasion or else enticer of his sin, or the estate of the person be such by which his sin is aggravated, or else that be may not plainly shrive him but [unless] he tell the person with which he hath sinned, then may he tell, so that his intent be not to backbite the person, but only to declare his confession. Thou shalt not eke make no leasings [falsehoods] in thy confession for humility, peradventure, to say that thou hast committed and done such sins of which that thou wert never guilty. For Saint Augustine saith, "If that thou, because of humility, makest a leasing on thyself, though thou were not in sin before, yet art thou then in sin through thy leasing." Thou must also shew thy sin by thine own proper mouth, but [unless] thou be dumb, and not by letter; for thou that hast done the sin, thou shalt have the shame of the confession. Thou shalt not paint thy confession with fair and subtle words, to cover the more thy sin; for then beguilest thou thyself, and not the priest; thou must tell it plainly, be it never so foul nor so horrible. Thou shalt eke shrive thee to a priest that is discreet to counsel thee; and eke thou shalt not shrive thee for vain-glory, nor for hypocrisy, nor for no cause but only for the doubt [fear] of Jesus' Christ and the health of thy soul. Thou shalt not run to the priest all suddenly, to tell him lightly thy sin, as who telleth a jape [jest] or a tale, but advisedly and with good devotion; and generally shrive thee oft; if thou oft fall, oft arise by confession. And though thou shrive thee oftener than once of sin of which thou hast been shriven, it is more merit; and, as saith Saint Augustine, thou shalt have the more lightly [easily] release and grace of God, both of sin and of pain. And certes, once a year at the least way, it is lawful to be houseled, for soothly once a year all things in the earth renovelen [renew themselves].
[Here ends the Second Part of the Treatise; the Third Part, which contains the practical application of the whole, follows entire, along with the remarkable "Prayer of Chaucer," as it stands in the Harleian Manuscript:—]
De Tertia Parte Poenitentiae. [Of the third part of penitence]
Now have I told you of very [true] confession, that is the second part of penitence: The third part of penitence is satisfaction, and that standeth generally in almsdeed and bodily pain. Now be there three manner of almsdeed: contrition of heart, where a man offereth himself to God; the second is, to have pity of the default of his neighbour; the third is, in giving of good counsel and comfort, ghostly and bodily, where men have need, and namely [specially] sustenance of man's food. And take keep [heed] that a man hath need of these things generally; he hath need of food, of clothing, and of herberow [lodging], he hath need of charitable counsel and visiting in prison and malady, and sepulture of his dead body. And if thou mayest not visit the needful with thy person, visit them by thy message and by thy gifts. These be generally alms or works of charity of them that have temporal riches or discretion in counselling. Of these works shalt thou hear at the day of doom. This alms shouldest thou do of thine own proper things, and hastily [promptly], and privily [secretly] if thou mayest; but nevertheless, if thou mayest not do it privily, thou shalt not forbear to do alms, though men see it, so that it be not done for thank of the world, but only for thank of Jesus Christ. For, as witnesseth Saint Matthew, chap. v., "A city may not be hid that is set on a mountain, nor men light not a lantern and put it under a bushel, but men set it on a candlestick, to light the men in the house; right so shall your light lighten before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father that is in heaven."
Now as to speak of bodily pain, it is in prayer, in wakings, [watchings] in fastings, and in virtuous teachings. Of orisons ye shall understand, that orisons or prayers is to say a piteous will of heart, that redresseth it in God, and expresseth it by word outward, to remove harms, and to have things spiritual and durable, and sometimes temporal things. Of which orisons, certes in the orison of the Pater noster hath our Lord Jesus Christ enclosed most things. Certes, it is privileged of three things in its dignity, for which it is more digne [worthy] than any other prayer: for Jesus Christ himself made it: and it is short, for [in order] it should be coude the more lightly, [be more easily conned or learned] and to withhold [retain] it the more easy in heart, and help himself the oftener with this orison; and for a man should be the less weary to say it; and for a man may not excuse him to learn it, it is so short and so easy: and for it comprehendeth in itself all good prayers. The exposition of this holy prayer, that is so excellent and so digne, I betake [commit] to these masters of theology; save thus much will I say, when thou prayest that God should forgive thee thy guilts, as thou forgivest them that they guilt to thee, be full well ware that thou be not out of charity. This holy orison aminisheth [lesseneth] eke venial sin, and therefore it appertaineth specially to penitence. This prayer must be truly said, and in very faith, and that men pray to God ordinately, discreetly, and devoutly; and always a man shall put his will to be subject to the will of God. This orison must eke be said with great humbleness and full pure, and honestly, and not to the annoyance of any man or woman. It must eke be continued with the works of charity. It availeth against the vices of the soul; for, assaith Saint Jerome, by fasting be saved the vices of the flesh, and by prayer the vices of the soul
After this thou shalt understand, that bodily pain stands in waking [watching]. For Jesus Christ saith "Wake and pray, that ye enter not into temptation." Ye shall understand also, that fasting stands in three things: in forbearing of bodily meat and drink, and in forbearing of worldly jollity, and in forbearing of deadly sin; this is to say, that a man shall keep him from deadly sin in all that he may. And thou shalt understand eke, that God ordained fasting; and to fasting appertain four things: largeness [generosity] to poor folk; gladness of heart spiritual; not to be angry nor annoyed nor grudge [murmur] for he fasteth; and also reasonable hour for to eat by measure; that is to say, a man should not eat in untime [out of time], nor sit the longer at his meal for [because] he fasteth. Then shalt thou understand, that bodily pain standeth in discipline, or teaching, by word, or by writing, or by ensample. Also in wearing of hairs [haircloth] or of stamin [coarse hempen cloth], or of habergeons [mail-shirts] on their naked flesh for Christ's sake; but ware thee well that such manner penance of thy flesh make not thine heart bitter or angry, nor annoyed of thyself; for better is to cast away thine hair than to cast away the sweetness of our Lord Jesus Christ. And therefore saith Saint Paul, "Clothe you, as they that be chosen of God in heart, of misericorde [with compassion], debonairte [gentleness], sufferance [patience], and such manner of clothing," of which Jesus Christ is more apaid [better pleased] than of hairs or of hauberks. Then is discipline eke in knocking of thy breast, in scourging with yards [rods], in kneelings, in tribulations, in suffering patiently wrongs that be done to him, and eke in patient sufferance of maladies, or losing of worldly catel [chattels], or of wife, or of child, or of other friends.
Then shalt thou understand which things disturb penance, and this is in four things; that is dread, shame, hope, and wanhope, that is, desperation. And for to speak first of dread, for which he weeneth that he may suffer no penance, thereagainst is remedy for to think that bodily penance is but short and little at the regard of [in comparison with] the pain of hell, that is so cruel and so long, that it lasteth without end. Now against the shame that a man hath to shrive him, and namely [specially] these hypocrites, that would be holden so perfect, that they have no need to shrive them; against that shame should a man think, that by way of reason he that hath not been ashamed to do foul things, certes he ought not to be ashamed to do fair things, and that is confession. A man should eke think, that God seeth and knoweth all thy thoughts, and all thy works; to him may nothing be hid nor covered. Men should eke remember them of the shame that is to come at the day of doom, to them that be not penitent and shriven in this present life; for all the creatures in heaven, and in earth, and in hell, shall see apertly [openly] all that he hideth in this world.
Now for to speak of them that be so negligent and slow to shrive them; that stands in two manners. The one is, that he hopeth to live long, and to purchase [acquire] much riches for his delight, and then he will shrive him: and, as he sayeth, he may, as him seemeth, timely enough come to shrift: another is, the surquedrie [presumption ] that he hath in Christ's mercy. Against the first vice, he shall think that our life is in no sickerness, [security] and eke that all the riches in this world be in adventure, and pass as a shadow on the wall; and, as saith St Gregory, that it appertaineth to the great righteousness of God, that never shall the pain stint [cease] of them, that never would withdraw them from sin, their thanks [with their goodwill], but aye continue in sin; for that perpetual will to do sin shall they have perpetual pain. Wanhope [despair] is in two manners [of two kinds]. The first wanhope is, in the mercy of God: the other is, that they think they might not long persevere in goodness. The first wanhope cometh of that he deemeth that he sinned so highly and so oft, and so long hath lain in sin, that he shall not be saved. Certes against that cursed wanhope should he think, that the passion of Jesus Christ is more strong for to unbind, than sin is strong for to bind. Against the second wanhope he shall think, that as oft as he falleth, he may arise again by penitence; and though he never so long hath lain in sin, the mercy of Christ is always ready to receive him to mercy. Against the wanhope that he thinketh he should not long persevere in goodness, he shall think that the feebleness of the devil may nothing do, but [unless] men will suffer him; and eke he shall have strength of the help of God, and of all Holy Church, and of the protection of angels, if him list.
Then shall men understand, what is the fruit of penance; and after the word of Jesus Christ, it is the endless bliss of heaven, where joy hath no contrariety of woe nor of penance nor grievance; there all harms be passed of this present life; there as is the sickerness [security] from the pain of hell; there as is the blissful company, that rejoice them evermore each of the other's joy; there as the body of man, that whilom was foul and dark, is more clear than the sun; there as the body of man that whilom was sick and frail, feeble and mortal, is immortal, and so strong and so whole, that there may nothing apair [impair, injure] it; there is neither hunger, nor thirst, nor cold, but every soul replenished with the sight of the perfect knowing of God. This blissful regne [kingdom] may men purchase by poverty spiritual, and the glory by lowliness, the plenty of joy by hunger and thirst, the rest by travail, and the life by death and mortification of sin; to which life He us bring, that bought us with his precious blood! Amen.
Notes to the Parson's Tale
1. The Parson's Tale is believed to be a translation, more or less free, from some treatise on penitence that was in favour about Chaucer's time. Tyrwhitt says: "I cannot recommend it as a very entertaining or edifying performance at this day; but the reader will please to remember, in excuse both of Chaucer and of his editor, that, considering The Canterbury Tales as a great picture of life and manners, the piece would not have been complete if it had not included the religion of the time." The Editor of the present volume has followed the same plan adopted with regard to Chaucer's Tale of Meliboeus, and mainly for the same reasons. (See note 1 to that Tale). An outline of the Parson's ponderous sermon — for such it is — has been drawn; while those passages have been given in full which more directly illustrate the social and the religious life of the time — such as the picture of hell, the vehement and rather coarse, but, in an antiquarian sense, most curious and valuable attack on the fashionable garb of the day, the catalogue of venial sins, the description of gluttony and its remedy, &c. The brief third or concluding part, which contains the application of the whole, and the "Retractation" or "Prayer" that closes the Tale and the entire "magnum opus" of Chaucer, have been given in full.
2. Jeremiah vi. 16.
3. See Note 3 to the Sompnour's Tale.
4. Just before, the Parson had cited the words of Job to God (Job x. 20-22), "Suffer, Lord, that I may a while bewail and weep, ere I go without returning to the dark land, covered with the darkness of death; to the land of misease and of darkness, where as is the shadow of death; where as is no order nor ordinance, but grisly dread that ever shall last."
5. "I have lost everything - my time and my work."
6. Accidie: neglectfulness or indifference; from the Greek, akedeia.
7. The pax: an image which was presented to the people to be kissed, at that part of the mass where the priest said, "Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum." ("May the peace of the Lord be always with you") The ceremony took the place, for greater convenience, of the "kiss of peace," which clergy and people, at this passage, used to bestow upon each other.
8. Three ways of ornamenting clothes with lace, &c.; in barring it was laid on crossways, in ounding it was waved, in paling it was laid on lengthways.
9. Penitencer: a priest who enjoined penance in extraordinary cases.
10. To be houseled: to receive the holy sacrament; from Anglo- Saxon, "husel;" Latin, "hostia," or "hostiola," the host.
11. It was a frequent penance among the chivalric orders to wear mail shirts next the skin.
12. Surquedrie: presumption; from old French, "surcuider," to think arrogantly, be full of conceit.
*PRECES DE CHAUCERES* *Prayer of Chaucer*
Now pray I to you all that hear this little treatise or read it, that if there be anything in it that likes them, that thereof they thank our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom proceedeth all wit and all goodness; and if there be anything that displeaseth them, I pray them also that they arette [impute] it to the default of mine unconning [unskilfulness], and not to my will, that would fain have said better if I had had conning; for the book saith, all that is written for our doctrine is written. Wherefore I beseech you meekly for the mercy of God that ye pray for me, that God have mercy on me and forgive me my guilts, and namely [specially] my translations and of inditing in worldly vanities, which I revoke in my Retractions, as is the Book of Troilus, the Book also of Fame, the Book of Twenty-five Ladies, the Book of the Duchess, the Book of Saint Valentine's Day and of the Parliament of Birds, the Tales of Canter bury, all those that sounen unto sin, [are sinful, tend towards sin] the Book of the Lion, and many other books, if they were in my mind or remembrance, and many a song and many a lecherous lay, of the which Christ for his great mercy forgive me the sins. But of the translation of Boece de Consolatione, and other books of consolation and of legend of lives of saints, and homilies, and moralities, and devotion, that thank I our Lord Jesus Christ, and his mother, and all the saints in heaven, beseeching them that they from henceforth unto my life's end send me grace to bewail my guilts, and to study to the salvation of my soul, and grant me grace and space of very repentance, penitence, confession, and satisfaction, to do in this present life, through the benign grace of Him that is King of kings and Priest of all priests, that bought us with his precious blood of his heart, so that I may be one of them at the day of doom that shall be saved: Qui cum Patre et Spiritu Sancto vivis et regnas Deus per omnia secula. Amen.
Notes to the Prayer of Chaucer
1. The genuineness and real significance of this "Prayer of Chaucer," usually called his "Retractation," have been warmly disputed. On the one hand, it has been declared that the monks forged the retractation. and procured its insertion among the works of the man who had done so much to expose their abuses and ignorance, and to weaken their hold on popular credulity: on the other hand, Chaucer himself at the close of his life, is said to have greatly lamented the ribaldry and the attacks on the clergy which marked especially "The Canterbury Tales," and to have drawn up a formal retractation of which the "Prayer" is either a copy or an abridgment. The beginning and end of the "Prayer," as Tyrwhitt points out, are in tone and terms quite appropriate in the mouth of the Parson, while they carry on the subject of which he has been treating; and, despite the fact that Mr Wright holds the contrary opinion, Tyrwhitt seems to be justified in setting down the "Retractation" as interpolated into the close of the Parson's Tale. Of the circumstances under which the interpolation was made, or the causes by which it was dictated, little or nothing can now be confidently affirmed; but the agreement of the manuscripts and the early editions in giving it, render it impossible to discard it peremptorily as a declaration of prudish or of interested regret, with which Chaucer himself had nothing whatever to do.
2. "[You] Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest God for ever and ever. Amen."
THE END OF THE CANTERBURY TALES
THE COURT OF LOVE.
"The Court Of Love" was probably Chaucer's first poem of any consequence. It is believed to have been written at the age, and under the circumstances, of which it contains express mention; that is, when the poet was eighteen years old, and resided as a student at Cambridge, — about the year 1346. The composition is marked by an elegance, care, and finish very different from the bold freedom which in so great measure distinguishes the Canterbury Tales; and the fact is easily explained when we remember that, in the earlier poem, Chaucer followed a beaten path, in which he had many predecessors and competitors, all seeking to sound the praises of love with the grace, the ingenuity, and studious devotion, appropriate to the theme. The story of the poem is exceedingly simple. Under the name of Philogenet, a clerk or scholar of Cambridge, the poet relates that, summoned by Mercury to the Court of Love, he journeys to the splendid castle where the King and Queen of Love, Admetus and Alcestis, keep their state. Discovering among the courtiers a friend named Philobone, a chamberwoman to the Queen, Philogenet is led by her into a circular temple, where, in a tabernacle, sits Venus, with Cupid by her side. While he is surveying the motley crowd of suitors to the goddess, Philogenet is summoned back into the King's presence, chidden for his tardiness in coming to Court, and commanded to swear observance to the twenty Statutes of Love — which are recited at length. Philogenet then makes his prayers and vows to Venus, desiring that he may have for his love a lady whom he has seen in a dream; and Philobone introduces him to the lady herself, named Rosial, to whom he does suit and service of love. At first the lady is obdurate to his entreaties; but, Philogenet having proved the sincerity of his passion by a fainting fit, Rosial relents, promises her favour, and orders Philobone to conduct him round the Court. The courtiers are then minutely described; but the description is broken off abruptly, and we are introduced to Rosial in the midst of a confession of her love. Finally she commands Philogenet to abide with her until the First of May, when the King of Love will hold high festival; he obeys; and the poem closes with the May Day festival service, celebrated by a choir of birds, who sing an ingenious, but what must have seemed in those days a more than slightly profane, paraphrase or parody of the matins for Trinity Sunday, to the praise of Cupid. From this outline, it will be seen at once that Chaucer's "Court of Love" is in important particulars different from the institutions which, in the two centuries preceding his own, had so much occupied the attention of poets and gallants, and so powerfully controlled the social life of the noble and refined classes. It is a regal, not a legal, Court which the poet pictures to us; we are not introduced to a regularly constituted and authoritative tribunal in which nice questions of conduct in the relations of lovers are discussed and decided — but to the central and sovereign seat of Love's authority, where the statutes are moulded, and the decrees are issued, upon which the inferior and special tribunals we have mentioned frame their proceedings. The "Courts of Love," in Chaucer's time, had lost none of the prestige and influence which had been conferred upon them by the patronage and participation of Kings, Queens, Emperors, and Popes. But the institution, in its legal or judicial character, was peculiar to France; and although the whole spirit of Chaucer's poem, especially as regards the esteem and reverence in which women were held, is that which animated the French Courts, his treatment of the subject is broader and more general, consequently more fitted to enlist the interest of English readers. (Transcriber's note: Modern scholars believe that Chaucer was not the author of this poem)
The poem consists of 206 stanzas of seven lines each; of which, in this edition, eighty-three are represented by a prose abridgement.
With timorous heart, and trembling hand of dread, Of cunning* naked, bare of eloquence, *skill Unto the *flow'r of port in womanhead* *one who is the perfection I write, as he that none intelligence of womanly behaviour* Of metres hath, nor flowers of sentence, Save that me list my writing to convey, In that I can, to please her high nobley.* *nobleness
The blossoms fresh of Tullius'* garden swoot** *Cicero **sweet Present they not, my matter for to born:* *burnish, polish Poems of Virgil take here no root, Nor craft of Galfrid may not here sojourn; Why *n'am I* cunning? O well may I mourn, *am I not* For lack of science, that I cannot write Unto the princess of my life aright!
No terms are dign* unto her excellence, *worthy So is she sprung of noble stirp* and high; *stock A world of honour and of reverence There is in her, this will I testify. Calliope, thou sister wise and sly,* *skilful And thou, Minerva, guide me with thy grace, That language rude my matter not deface!
Thy sugar droppes sweet of Helicon Distil in me, thou gentle Muse, I pray; And thee, Melpomene, I call anon Of ignorance the mist to chase away; And give me grace so for to write and say, That she, my lady, of her worthiness, Accept *in gree* this little short treatess,* *with favour* *treatise
That is entitled thus, The Court of Love. And ye that be metricians,* me excuse, *skilled versifiers I you beseech, for Venus' sake above; For what I mean in this ye need not muse: And if so be my lady it refuse For lack of ornate speech, I would be woe That I presume to her to write so.
But my intent, and all my busy cure,* *care Is for to write this treatise, as I can, Unto my lady, stable, true, and sure, Faithful and kind, since first that she began Me to accept in service as her man; To her be all the pleasure of this book, That, when *her like,* she may it read and look. *it pleases her*
When [he] was young, at eighteen year of age, Lusty and light, desirous of pleasance, Approaching* full sad and ripe corage, *gradually attaining
Then — says the poet — did Love urge him to do him obeisance, and to go "the Court of Love to see, a lite [little] beside the Mount of Citharee." Mercury bade him, on pain of death, to appear; and he went by strange and far countries in search of the Court. Seeing at last a crowd of people, "as bees," making their way thither, the poet asked whither they went; and "one that answer'd like a maid" said that they were bound to the Court of Love, at Citheron, where "the King of Love, and all his noble rout [company],
"Dwelleth within a castle royally." So them apace I journey'd forth among, And as he said, so found I there truly; For I beheld the town — so high and strong, And high pinnacles, large of height and long, With plate of gold bespread on ev'ry side, And precious stones, the stone work for to hide.
No sapphire of Ind, no ruby rich of price, There lacked then, nor emerald so green, Balais, Turkeis, nor thing, *to my devise,* *in my judgement* That may the castle make for to sheen;* *be beautiful All was as bright as stars in winter be'n; And Phoebus shone, to make his peace again, For trespass* done to high estates twain, — *offence
When he had found Venus in the arms of Mars, and hastened to tell Vulcan of his wife's infidelity . Now he was shining brightly on the castle, "in sign he looked after Love's grace;" for there is no god in Heaven or in Hell "but he hath been right subject unto Love." Continuing his description of the castle, Philogenet says that he saw never any so large and high; within and without, it was painted "with many a thousand daisies, red as rose," and white also, in signification of whom, he knew not; unless it was the flower of Alcestis , who, under Venus, was queen of the place, as Admetus was king;
To whom obey'd the ladies good nineteen , With many a thousand other, bright of face. And young men fele* came forth with lusty pace, *many And aged eke, their homage to dispose; But what they were, I could not well disclose.
Yet nere* and nere* forth in I gan me dress, *nearer Into a hall of noble apparail,* *furnishings With arras spread, and cloth of gold, I guess, And other silk *of easier avail;* *less difficult, costly, to attain* Under the *cloth of their estate,* sans fail, *state canopy* The King and Queen there sat, as I beheld; It passed joy of *Elysee the feld.* *The Elysian Fields*
There saintes* have their coming and resort, *martyrs for love To see the King so royally beseen,* *adorned In purple clad, and eke the Queen *in sort;* *suitably* And on their heades saw I crownes twain, With stones frett,* so that it was no pain, *adorned Withoute meat or drink, to stand and see The Kinge's honour and the royalty.
To treat of state affairs, Danger stood by the King, and Disdain by the Queen; who cast her eyes haughtily about, sending forth beams that seemed "shapen like a dart, sharp and piercing, and small and straight of line;" while her hair shone as gold so fine, "dishevel, crisp, down hanging at her back a yard in length." Amazed and dazzled by her beauty, Philogenet stood perplexed, till he spied a Maid, Philobone — a chamberwoman of the Queen's — who asked how and on what errand he came thither. Learning that he had been summoned by Mercury, she told him that he ought to have come of his free will, and that he "will be shent [rebuked, disgraced]" because he did not.
"For ye that reign in youth and lustiness, Pamper'd with ease, and jealous in your age, Your duty is, as far as I can guess, To Love's Court to dresse* your voyage, *direct, address As soon as Nature maketh you so sage That ye may know a woman from a swan, Or when your foot is growen half a span.
"But since that ye, by wilful negligence, This eighteen year have kept yourself at large, The greater is your trespass and offence, And in your neck you must bear all the charge: For better were ye be withoute barge* *boat Amid the sea in tempest and in rain, Than bide here, receiving woe and pain
"That ordained is for such as them absent From Love's Court by yeares long and fele.* many I lay* my life ye shall full soon repent; *wager For Love will rive your colour, lust, and heal:* *health Eke ye must bait* on many a heavy meal: *feed *No force,* y-wis; I stirr'd you long agone *no matter* To draw to Court," quoth little Philobone.
"Ye shall well see how rough and angry face The King of Love will show, when ye him see; By mine advice kneel down and ask him grace, Eschewing* peril and adversity; *avoiding For well I wot it will none other be; Comfort is none, nor counsel to your ease; Why will ye then the King of Love displease?"
Thereupon Philogenet professed humble repentance, and willingness to bear all hardship and chastisement for his past offence.
These wordes said, she caught me by the lap,* *edge of the garment And led me forth into a temple round, Both large and wide; and, as my blessed hap And good. adventure was, right soon I found A tabernacle raised from the ground, Where Venus sat, and Cupid by her side; Yet half for dread I gan my visage hide.
And eft* again I looked and beheld, *afterwards Seeing *full sundry people* in the place, *people of many sorts* And *mister folk,* and some that might not weld *craftsmen * Their limbes well, — me thought a wonder case. *use The temple shone with windows all of glass, Bright as the day, with many a fair image; And there I saw the fresh queen of Carthage,
Dido, that brent* her beauty for the love *burnt Of false Aeneas; and the waimenting* *lamenting Of her, Annelide, true as turtle dove To Arcite false; and there was in painting Of many a Prince, and many a doughty King, Whose martyrdom was show'd about the walls; And how that fele* for love had suffer'd falls.** *many **calamities
Philogenet was astonished at the crowd of people that he saw, doing sacrifice to the god and goddess. Philobone informed him that they came from other courts; those who knelt in blue wore the colour in sign of their changeless truth ; those in black, who uttered cries of grief, were the sick and dying of love. The priests, nuns, hermits, and friars, and all that sat in white, in russet and in green, "wailed of their woe;" and for all people, of every degree, the Court was open and free. While he walked about with Philobone, a messenger from the King entered, and summoned all the new-come folk to the royal presence. Trembling and pale, Philogenet approached the throne of Admetus, and was sternly asked why he came so late to Court. He pleaded that a hundred times he had been at the gate, but had been prevented from entering by failure to see any of his acquaintances, and by shamefacedness. The King pardoned him, on condition that thenceforth he should serve Love; and the poet took oath to do so, "though Death therefor me thirle [pierce] with his spear." When the King had seen all the new-comers, he commanded an officer to take their oaths of allegiance, and show them the Statutes of the Court, which must be observed till death.
And, for that I was letter'd, there I read The statutes whole of Love's Court and hail: The first statute that on the book was spread, Was, To be true in thought and deedes all Unto the King of Love, the lord royal; And, to the Queen, as faithful and as kind As I could think with hearte, will, and mind.
The second statute, Secretly to keep Counsel* of love, not blowing** ev'rywhere *secrets **talking All that I know, and let it sink and fleet;* *float It may not sound in ev'ry wighte's ear: Exiling slander ay for dread and fear, And to my lady, which I love and serve, Be true and kind, her grace for to deserve.
The third statute was clearly writ also, Withoute change to live and die the same, None other love to take, for weal nor woe, For blind delight, for earnest nor for game: Without repent, for laughing or for grame,* *vexation, sorrow To bide still in full perseverance: All this was whole the Kinge's ordinance.
The fourth statute, To *purchase ever to her,* *promote her cause* And stirre folk to love, and bete* fire *kindle On Venus' altar, here about and there, And preach to them of love and hot desire, And tell how love will quite* well their hire: *reward This must be kept; and loth me to displease: If love be wroth, pass; for thereby is ease.
The fifth statute, Not to be dangerous,* *fastidious, angry If that a thought would reave* me of my sleep: *deprive Nor of a sight to be over squaimous;* *desirous And so verily this statute was to keep, To turn and wallow in my bed and weep, When that my lady, of her cruelty, Would from her heart exilen all pity.
The sixth statute, It was for me to use Alone to wander, void of company, And on my lady's beauty for to muse, And thinken it *no force* to live or die; *matter of indifference* And eft again to think* the remedy, *think upon How to her grace I might anon attain, And tell my woe unto my sovereign.
The sev'nth statute was, To be patient, Whether my lady joyful were or wroth; For wordes glad or heavy, diligent, Whether that she me helde *lefe or loth:* *in love or loathing* And hereupon I put was to mine oath, Her for to serve, and lowly to obey, And show my cheer,* yea, twenty times a day. *countenance
The eighth statute, to my rememberance, Was, For to speak and pray my lady dear, With hourly labour and great entendance,* *attention Me for to love with all her heart entere,* *entire And me desire and make me joyful cheer, Right as she is, surmounting every fair; Of beauty well,* and gentle debonair. *the fountain
The ninth statute, with letters writ of gold, This was the sentence, How that I and all Should ever dread to be too overbold Her to displease; and truly so I shall; But be content for all thing that may fall, And meekly take her chastisement and yerd,* *rod, rule And to offend her ever be afear'd.
The tenth statute was, Equally* to discern *justly Between the lady and thine ability, And think thyself art never like to earn, By right, her mercy nor her equity, But of her grace and womanly pity: For, though thyself be noble in thy strene,* *strain, descent A thousand fold more noble is thy Queen.
Thy life's lady and thy sovereign, That hath thine heart all whole in governance, Thou may'st no wise it take to disdain, To put thee humbly at her ordinance, And give her free the rein of her pleasance; For liberty is thing that women look,* *look for, desire And truly else *the matter is a crook.* *things go wrong*
Th' eleventh statute, Thy signes for to know With eye and finger, and with smiles soft, And low to couch, and alway for to show, For dread of spies, for to winken oft: And secretly to bring a sigh aloft, But still beware of over much resort; For that peradventure spoileth all thy sport.
The twelfth statute remember to observe: For all the pain thou hast for love and woe, All is too lite* her mercy to deserve, *little Thou muste think, where'er thou ride or go; And mortal woundes suffer thou also, All for her sake, and think it well beset* *spent Upon thy love, for it may not be bet.* *better (spent)
The thirteenth statute, Whilom is to think What thing may best thy lady like and please, And in thine hearte's bottom let it sink: Some thing devise, and take for it thine ease, And send it her, that may her heart appease: Some heart, or ring, or letter, or device, Or precious stone; but spare not for no price.
The fourteenth statute eke thou shalt assay Firmly to keep, the most part of thy life: Wish that thy lady in thine armes lay, And nightly dream, thou hast thy nighte's wife Sweetly in armes, straining her as blife:* *eagerly And, when thou seest it is but fantasy, See that thou sing not over merrily;
For too much joy hath oft a woeful end. It *longeth eke this statute for to hold,* *it belongs to the proper To deem thy lady evermore thy friend, observance of this statute* And think thyself in no wise a cuckold. In ev'ry thing she doth but as she sho'ld: Construe the best, believe no tales new, For many a lie is told, that seems full true.
But think that she, so bounteous and fair, Could not be false: imagine this algate;* *at all events And think that wicked tongues would her apair,* *defame Sland'ring her name and *worshipful estate,* *honourable fame* And lovers true to setten at debate: And though thou seest a fault right at thine eye, Excuse it blife, and glose* it prettily. *gloss it over
The fifteenth statute, Use to swear and stare, And counterfeit a leasing* hardily,** *falsehood **boldly To save thy lady's honour ev'rywhere, And put thyself for her to fight boldly; Say she is good, virtuous, and ghostly,* *spiritual, pure Clear of intent, and heart, and thought, and will; And argue not for reason nor for skill
Against thy lady's pleasure nor intent, For love will not be counterpled* indeed: *met with counterpleas Say as she saith, then shalt thou not be shent;* *disgraced "The crow is white;" "Yea truly, so I rede:"* *judge And aye what thing that she will thee forbid, Eschew all that, and give her sov'reignty, Her appetite to follow in all degree.
The sixteenth statute, keep it if thou may: Sev'n times at night thy lady for to please, And sev'n at midnight, sev'n at morrow day, And drink a caudle early for thine ease. Do this, and keep thine head from all disease, And win the garland here of lovers all, That ever came in Court, or ever shall.
Full few, think I, this statute hold and keep; But truly this my reason *gives me feel,* *enables me to perceive* That some lovers should rather fall asleep, Than take on hand to please so oft and weel.* *well There lay none oath to this statute adele,* *annexed But keep who might *as gave him his corage:* *as his heart Now get this garland, folk of lusty age! inspired him*
Now win who may, ye lusty folk of youth, This garland fresh, of flowers red and white, Purple and blue, and colours full uncouth,* *strange And I shall crown him king of all delight! In all the Court there was not, to my sight, A lover true, that he was not adread, When he express* had heard the statute read. *plainly
The sev'nteenth statute, When age approacheth on, And lust is laid, and all the fire is queint,* *quenched As freshly then thou shalt begin to fon,* *behave fondly And doat in love, and all her image paint In thy remembrance, till thou gin to faint, As in the first season thine heart began: And her desire, though thou nor may nor can
Perform thy living actual and lust; Register this in thine rememberance: Eke when thou may'st not keep thy thing from rust, Yet speak and talk of pleasant dalliance; For that shall make thine heart rejoice and dance; And when thou may'st no more the game assay, The statute bids thee pray for them that may.
The eighteenth statute, wholly to commend, To please thy lady, is, That thou eschew With sluttishness thyself for to offend; Be jolly, fresh, and feat,* with thinges new, *dainty Courtly with manner, this is all thy due, Gentle of port, and loving cleanliness; This is the thing that liketh thy mistress.
And not to wander like a dulled ass, Ragged and torn, disguised in array, Ribald in speech, or out of measure pass, Thy bound exceeding; think on this alway: For women be of tender heartes ay, And lightly set their pleasure in a place; When they misthink,* they lightly let it pace. *think wrongly
The nineteenth statute, Meat and drink forget: Each other day see that thou fast for love, For in the Court they live withoute meat, Save such as comes from Venus all above; They take no heed, *in pain of great reprove,* *on pain of great Of meat and drink, for that is all in vain, reproach* Only they live by sight of their sov'reign.
The twentieth statute, last of ev'ry one, Enrol it in thy hearte's privity; To wring and wail, to turn, and sigh, and groan, When that thy lady absent is from thee; And eke renew the wordes all that she Between you twain hath said, and all the cheer That thee hath made thy life's lady dear.
And see thy heart in quiet nor in rest Sojourn, till time thou see thy lady eft,* *again But whe'er* she won** by south, or east, or west, *whether **dwell With all thy force now see it be not left Be diligent, *till time* thy life be reft, *until the time that* In that thou may'st, thy lady for to see; This statute was of old antiquity.
The officer, called Rigour — who is incorruptible by partiality, favour, prayer, or gold — made them swear to keep the statutes; and, after taking the oath, Philogenet turned over other leaves of the book, containing the statutes of women. But Rigour sternly bade him forbear; for no man might know the statutes that belong to women.
"In secret wise they kepte be full close; They sound* each one to liberty, my friend; *tend, accord Pleasant they be, and to their own purpose; There wot* no wight of them, but God and fiend, *knows Nor aught shall wit, unto the worlde's end. The queen hath giv'n me charge, in pain to die, Never to read nor see them with mine eye.
"For men shall not so near of counsel be'n With womanhead, nor knowen of their guise, Nor what they think, nor of their wit th'engine;* *craft *I me report to* Solomon the wise, *I refer for proof to* And mighty Samson, which beguiled thrice With Delilah was; he wot that, in a throw, There may no man statute of women know.
"For it peradventure may right so befall, That they be bound by nature to deceive, And spin, and weep, and sugar strew on gall, The heart of man to ravish and to reave, And whet their tongue as sharp as sword or gleve:* *glaive, sword It may betide this is their ordinance, So must they lowly do their observance,
"And keep the statute given them *of kind,* *by nature* Of such as Love hath giv'n them in their life. Men may not wit why turneth every wind, Nor waxe wise, nor be inquisitife To know secret of maid, widow, or wife; For they their statutes have to them reserved, And never man to know them hath deserved."
Rigour then sent them forth to pay court to Venus, and pray her to teach them how they might serve and please their dames, or to provide with ladies those whose hearts were yet vacant. Before Venus knelt a thousand sad petitioners, entreating her to punish "the false untrue," that had broken their vows, "barren of ruth, untrue of what they said, now that their lust and pleasure is allay'd." But the mourners were in a minority;
Yet eft again, a thousand million, Rejoicing, love, leading their life in bliss: They said: "Venus, redress* of all division, *healer Goddess eternal, thy name heried* is! *glorified By love's bond is knit all thing, y-wis,* *assuredly Beast unto beast, the earth to water wan,* *pale Bird unto bird, and woman unto man;
"This is the life of joy that we be in, Resembling life of heav'nly paradise; Love is exiler ay of vice and sin; Love maketh heartes lusty to devise; Honour and grace have they in ev'ry wise, That be to love's law obedient; Love maketh folk benign and diligent;
"Aye stirring them to dreade vice and shame: In their degree it makes them honourable; And sweet it is of love to bear the name, So that his love be faithful, true, and stable: Love pruneth him to seemen amiable; Love hath no fault where it is exercis'd, But sole* with them that have all love despis'd:" *only
And they conclude with grateful honours to the goddess — rejoicing hat they are hers in heart, and all inflamed with her grace and heavenly fear. Philogenet now entreats the goddess to remove his grief; for he also loves, and hotly, only he does not know where —
"Save only this, by God and by my troth; Troubled I was with slumber, sleep, and sloth This other night, and in a vision I saw a woman roamen up and down,
"Of *mean stature,* and seemly to behold, *middling height* Lusty and fresh, demure of countenance, Young and well shap'd, with haire sheen* as gold, *shining With eyne as crystal, farced* with pleasance; *crammed And she gan stir mine heart a lite* to dance; *little But suddenly she vanish gan right there: Thus I may say, I love, and wot* not where." *know
If he could only know this lady, he would serve and obey her with all benignity; but if his destiny were otherwise, he would gladly love and serve his lady, whosoever she might be. He called on Venus for help to possess his queen and heart's life, and vowed daily war with Diana: "that goddess chaste I keepen [care] in no wise to serve; a fig for all her chastity!" Then he rose and went his way, passing by a rich and beautiful shrine, which, Philobone informed him, was the sepulchre of Pity. "A tender creature," she said,
"Is shrined there, and Pity is her name. She saw an eagle wreak* him on a fly, *avenge And pluck his wing, and eke him, *in his game;* *for sport* And tender heart of that hath made her die: Eke she would weep, and mourn right piteously, To see a lover suffer great distress. In all the Court was none, as I do guess,
"That could a lover half so well avail,* *help Nor of his woe the torment or the rage Aslake;* for he was sure, withoute fail, *assuage That of his grief she could the heat assuage. Instead of Pity, speedeth hot Courage The matters all of Court, now she is dead; *I me report in this to womanhead.* *for evidence I refer to the behaviour of women themselves.*
"For wail, and weep, and cry, and speak, and pray, — Women would not have pity on thy plaint; Nor by that means to ease thine heart convey, But thee receive for their own talent:* *inclination And say that Pity caus'd thee, in consent Of ruth,* to take thy service and thy pain, *compassion In that thou may'st, to please thy sovereign."
Philobone now promised to lead Philogenet to "the fairest lady under sun that is," the "mirror of joy and bliss," whose name is Rosial, and "whose heart as yet is given to no wight;" suggesting that, as he also was "with love but light advanc'd," he might set this lady in the place of her of whom he had dreamed. Entering a chamber gay, "there was Rosial, womanly to see;" and the subtle-piercing beams of her eyes wounded Philogenet to the heart. When he could speak, he threw himself on his knees, beseeching her to cool his fervent woe:
For there I took full purpose in my mind, Unto her grace my painful heart to bind.
For, if I shall all fully her descrive,* *describe Her head was round, by compass of nature; Her hair as gold, she passed all alive, And lily forehead had this creature, With lively *browes flaw,* of colour pure, *yellow eyebrows Between the which was mean disseverance From ev'ry brow, to show a due distance.
Her nose directed straight, even as line, With form and shape thereto convenient, In which the *goddes' milk-white path* doth shine; *the galaxy* And eke her eyne be bright and orient As is the smaragd,* unto my judgment, *emerald Or yet these starres heav'nly, small, and bright; Her visage is of lovely red and white.
Her mouth is short, and shut in little space, Flaming somedeal,* not over red I mean, *somewhat With pregnant lips, and thick to kiss, percase* *as it chanced (For lippes thin, not fat, but ever lean, They serve of naught, they be not worth a bean; For if the bass* be full, there is delight; *kiss Maximian truly thus doth he write).
But to my purpose: I say, white as snow Be all her teeth, and in order they stand Of one stature; and eke her breath, I trow, Surmounteth all odours that e'er I fand* *found In sweetness; and her body, face, and hand Be sharply slender, so that, from the head Unto the foot, all is but womanhead.* *womanly perfection
I hold my peace of other thinges hid: Here shall my soul, and not my tongue, bewray; But how she was array'd, if ye me bid, That shall I well discover you and say: A bend* of gold and silk, full fresh and gay, *band With hair *in tress, y-broidered* full well, *plaited in tresses* Right smoothly kempt,* and shining every deal. *combed
About her neck a flow'r of fresh device With rubies set, that lusty were to see'n; And she in gown was, light and summer-wise, Shapen full well, the colour was of green, With *aureate seint* about her sides clean, *golden cincture* With divers stones, precious and rich: Thus was she ray'd,* yet saw I ne'er her lich,** *arrayed **like
If Jove had but seen this lady, Calisto and Alcmena had never lain in his arms, nor had he loved the fair Europa, nor Danae, nor Antiope; "for all their beauty stood in Rosial; she seemed like a thing celestial." By and by, Philogenet presented to her his petition for love, which she heard with some haughtiness; she was not, she said, well acquainted with him, she did not know where he dwelt, nor his name and condition. He informed her that "in art of love he writes," and makes songs that may be sung in honour of the King and Queen of Love. As for his name —
"My name? alas, my heart, why mak'st thou strange?* *why so cold Philogenet I call'd am far and near, or distant?* Of Cambridge clerk, that never think to change From you, that with your heav'nly streames* clear *beams, glances Ravish my heart; and ghost, and all in fere:* *all together Since at the first I writ my bill* for grace, *petition Me thinks I see some mercy in your face;"
And again he humbly pressed his suit. But the lady disdained the idea that, "for a word of sugar'd eloquence," she should have compassion in so little space; "there come but few who speede here so soon." If, as he says, the beams of her eyes pierce and fret him, then let him withdraw from her presence:
"Hurt not yourself, through folly, with a look; I would be sorry so to make you sick! A woman should beware eke whom she took: Ye be a clerk: go searche well my book, If any women be so light* to win: *easy Nay, bide a while, though ye were *all my kin."* *my only kindred*
He might sue and serve, and wax pale, and green, and dead, without murmuring in any wise; but whereas he desired her hastily to lean to love, he was unwise, and must cease that language. For some had been at Court for twenty years, and might not obtain their mistresses' favour; therefore she marvelled that he was so bold as to treat of love with her. Philogenet, on this, broke into pitiful lamentation; bewailing the hour in which he was born, and assuring the unyielding lady that the frosty grave and cold must be his bed, unless she relented.
With that I fell in swoon, and dead as stone, With colour slain,* and wan as ashes pale; *deathlike And by the hand she caught me up anon: "Arise," quoth she; "what? have ye drunken dwale?* *sleeping potion Why sleepe ye? It is no nightertale."* *night-time "Now mercy! sweet," quoth I, y-wis afraid; "What thing," quoth she, "hath made you so dismay'd?"
She said that by his hue she knew well that he was a lover; and if he were secret, courteous, and kind, he might know how all this could be allayed. She would amend all that she had missaid, and set his heart at ease; but he must faithfully keep the statutes, "and break them not for sloth nor ignorance." The lover requests, however, that the sixteenth may be released or modified, for it "doth him great grievance;" and she complies.
And softly then her colour gan appear, As rose so red, throughout her visage all; Wherefore methinks it is according* her *appropriate to That she of right be called Rosial. Thus have I won, with wordes great and small, Some goodly word of her that I love best, And trust she shall yet set mine heart in rest.
Rosial now told Philobone to conduct Philogenet all over the Court, and show him what lovers and what officers dwelt there; for he was yet a stranger.
And, stalking soft with easy pace, I saw About the king standen all environ,* *around Attendance, Diligence, and their fellaw Furtherer, Esperance,* and many one; *Hope Dread-to-offend there stood, and not alone; For there was eke the cruel adversair, The lover's foe, that called is Despair;
Which unto me spake angrily and fell,* *cruelly And said, my lady me deceive shall: "Trow'st thou," quoth she, "that all that she did tell Is true? Nay, nay, but under honey gall. Thy birth and hers they be no thing egal:* *equal Cast off thine heart, for all her wordes white, For in good faith she loves thee but a lite.* *little
"And eke remember, thine ability May not compare with her, this well thou wot." Yea, then came Hope and said, "My friend, let be! Believe him not: Despair he gins to doat." "Alas," quoth I, "here is both cold and hot: The one me biddeth love, the other nay; Thus wot I not what me is best to say.
"But well wot I, my lady granted me Truly to be my wounde's remedy; Her gentleness* may not infected be *noble nature With doubleness,* this trust I till I die." *duplicity So cast I t' avoid Despair's company, And take Hope to counsel and to friend. "Yea, keep that well," quoth Philobone, "in mind."
And there beside, within a bay window, Stood one in green, full large of breadth and length, His beard as black as feathers of the crow; His name was Lust, of wondrous might and strength; And with Delight to argue there he think'th, For this was alway his opinion, That love was sin: and so he hath begun
To reason fast, and *ledge authority:* *allege authorities "Nay," quoth Delight, "love is a virtue clear, And from the soul his progress holdeth he: Blind appetite of lust doth often steer,* *stir (the heart) And that is sin; for reason lacketh there: For thou dost think thy neighbour's wife to win; Yet think it well that love may not be sin;
"For God, and saint, they love right verily, Void of all sin and vice: this know I weel,* *well Affection of flesh is sin truly; But very* love is virtue, as I feel; *true For very love may frail desire akele:* *cool For very love is love withoute sin." "Now stint,"* quoth Lust, "thou speak'st not worth a pin." *cease
And there I left them in their arguing, Roaming farther into the castle wide, And in a corner Liar stood talking Of leasings* fast, with Flattery there beside; *falsehoods He said that women *ware attire of pride, *wore And men were found of nature variant, And could be false and *showe beau semblant.* *put on plausible appearances to deceive* Then Flattery bespake and said, y-wis: "See, so she goes on pattens fair and feat;* *pretty, neat It doth right well: what pretty man is this That roameth here? now truly drink nor meat Need I not have, my heart for joy doth beat Him to behold, so is he goodly fresh: It seems for love his heart is tender and nesh."* *soft
This is the Court of lusty folk and glad, And well becomes their habit and array: O why be some so sorry and so sad, Complaining thus in black and white and gray? Friars they be, and monkes, in good fay: Alas, for ruth! great dole* it is to see, *sorrow To see them thus bewail and sorry be.
See how they cry and ring their handes white, For they so soon* went to religion!, *young And eke the nuns with veil and wimple plight,* *plaited Their thought is, they be in confusion: "Alas," they say, "we feign perfection, In clothes wide, and lack our liberty; But all the sin must on our friendes be.
"For, Venus wot, we would as fain* as ye, *gladly That be attired here and *well beseen,* *gaily clothed* Desire man, and love in our degree,' Firm and faithful, right as would the Queen: Our friendes wick', in tender youth and green, Against our will made us religious; That is the cause we mourn and waile thus."
Then said the monks and friars *in the tide,* *at the same time* "Well may we curse our abbeys and our place, Our statutes sharp to sing in copes wide, Chastely to keep us out of love's grace, And never to feel comfort nor solace;* *delight Yet suffer we the heat of love's fire, And after some other haply we desire.
"O Fortune cursed, why now and wherefore Hast thou," they said, "bereft us liberty, Since Nature gave us instrument in store, And appetite to love and lovers be? Why must we suffer such adversity, Dian' to serve, and Venus to refuse? Full *often sithe* these matters do us muse. *many a time*
"We serve and honour, sore against our will, Of chastity the goddess and the queen; *Us liefer were* with Venus bide still, *we would rather* And have regard for love, and subject be'n Unto these women courtly, fresh, and sheen.* *bright, beautiful Fortune, we curse thy wheel of variance! Where we were well, thou reavest* our pleasance." *takest away
Thus leave I them, with voice of plaint and care, In raging woe crying full piteously; And as I went, full naked and full bare Some I beheld, looking dispiteously, On Poverty that deadly cast their eye; And "Well-away!" they cried, and were not fain, For they might not their glad desire attain.
For lack of riches worldly and of good, They ban and curse, and weep, and say, "Alas! That povert' hath us hent,* that whilom stood *seized At hearte's ease, and free and in good case! But now we dare not show ourselves in place, Nor us embold* to dwell in company, *make bold, venture Where as our heart would love right faithfully."
And yet againward shrieked ev'ry nun, The pang of love so strained them to cry: "Now woe the time," quoth they, "that we be boun'!* *bound This hateful order nice* will do us die! *into which we foolishly We sigh and sob, and bleeden inwardly, entered Fretting ourselves with thought and hard complaint, That nigh for love we waxe wood* and faint." *mad
And as I stood beholding here and there, I was ware of a sort* full languishing, *a class of people Savage and wild of looking and of cheer, Their mantles and their clothes aye tearing; And oft they were of Nature complaining, For they their members lacked, foot and hand, With visage wry, and blind, I understand.
They lacked shape and beauty to prefer Themselves in love: and said that God and Kind* *Nature Had forged* them to worshippe the sterre,** *fashioned **star Venus the bright, and leften all behind His other workes clean and out of mind: "For other have their full shape and beauty, And we," quoth they, "be in deformity."
And nigh to them there was a company, That have the Sisters warray'd and missaid, I mean the three of fatal destiny, That be our workers: suddenly abraid,* *aroused Out gan they cry as they had been afraid; "We curse," quoth they, "that ever hath Nature Y-formed us this woeful life t'endure."
And there eke was Contrite, and gan repent, Confessing whole the wound that Cythere Had with the dart of hot desire him sent, And how that he to love must subject be: Then held he all his scornes vanity, And said that lovers held a blissful life, Young men and old, and widow, maid, and wife.
"Bereave me, Goddess!" quoth he, "of thy might, My scornes all and scoffes, that I have No power for to mocken any wight That in thy service dwell: for I did rave; This know I well right now, so God me save, And I shall be the chief post* of thy faith, *prop, pillar And love uphold, the reverse whoso saith."
Dissemble stood not far from him in truth, With party* mantle, party hood and hose; *parti-coloured And said he had upon his lady ruth,* *pity And thus he wound him in, and gan to glose, Of his intent full double, I suppose: In all the world he said he lov'd her weel; But ay me thought he lov'd her *ne'er a deal.* *never a jot*
Eke Shamefastness was there, as I took heed, That blushed red, and durst not be y-know She lover was, for thereof had she dread; She stood and hung her visage down alow; But such a sight it was to see, I trow, As of these roses ruddy on their stalk: There could no wight her spy to speak or talk
In love's art, so gan she to abash, Nor durst not utter all her privity: Many a stripe and many a grievous lash She gave to them that woulde lovers be, And hinder'd sore the simple commonalty, That in no wise durst grace and mercy crave, For *were not she,* they need but ask and have; *but for her*
Where if they now approache for to speak, Then Shamefastness *returneth them* again: *turns them back* They think, "If we our secret counsel break, Our ladies will have scorn us certain, And peradventure thinke great disdain:" Thus Shamefastness may bringen in Despair; When she is dead the other will be heir.
"Come forth Avaunter! now I ring thy bell!" I spied him soon; to God I make avow,* *confession He looked black as fiendes do in Hell: "The first," quoth he, "that ever I did wow,* *woo *Within a word she came,* I wot not how, *she was won with So that in armes was my lady free, a single word* And so have been a thousand more than she.
"In England, Britain,* Spain, and Picardy, *Brittany Artois, and France, and up in high Holland, In Burgoyne,* Naples, and in Italy, *Burgundy Navarre, and Greece, and up in heathen land, Was never woman yet that would withstand To be at my commandment when I wo'ld: I lacked neither silver coin nor gold.
"And there I met with this estate and that; And her I broach'd, and her, and her, I trow: Lo! there goes one of mine; and, wot ye what? Yon fresh attired have I laid full low; And such one yonder eke right well I know; I kept the statute when we lay y-fere:* *together And yet* yon same hath made me right good cheer." *also
Thus hath Avaunter blowen ev'rywhere All that he knows, and more a thousand fold; His ancestry of kin was to Lier,* *Liar For first he maketh promise for to hold His lady's counsel, and it not unfold; — Wherefore, the secret when he doth unshit,* *disclose Then lieth he, that all the world may wit.* *know
For falsing so his promise and behest,* *trust I wonder sore he hath such fantasy; He lacketh wit, I trow, or is a beast, That can no bet* himself with reason guy** *better **guide By mine advice, Love shall be contrary To his avail,* and him eke dishonour, *advantage So that in Court he shall no more sojour.* *sojourn, remain
"Take heed," quoth she, this little Philobone, "Where Envy rocketh in the corner yond,* *yonder And sitteth dark; and ye shall see anon His lean body, fading both face and hand; Himself he fretteth,* as I understand devoureth (Witness of Ovid Metamorphoseos); The lover's foe he is, I will not glose.* *gloss over
"For where a lover thinketh *him promote,* *to promote himself* Envy will grudge, repining at his weal; It swelleth sore about his hearte's root, That in no wise he cannot live in heal;* *health And if the faithful to his lady steal, Envy will noise and ring it round about, And say much worse than done is, out of doubt."
And Privy Thought, rejoicing of himself, — Stood not far thence in habit marvellous; "Yon is," thought I, "some spirit or some elf, His subtile image is so curious: How is," quoth I, "that he is shaded thus With yonder cloth, I n'ot* of what color?" *know not And near I went and gan *to lear and pore,* *to ascertain and gaze curiously* And frained* him a question full hard. *asked "What is," quoth I, "the thing thou lovest best? Or what is boot* unto thy paines hard? *remedy Me thinks thou livest here in great unrest, Thou wand'rest aye from south to east and west, And east to north; as far as I can see, There is no place in Court may holde thee.
"Whom followest thou? where is thy heart y-set? But *my demand assoil,* I thee require." *answer my question* "Me thought," quoth he, "no creature may let* *hinder Me to be here, and where as I desire; For where as absence hath out the fire, My merry thought it kindleth yet again, That bodily, me thinks, with *my sov'reign* *my lady*
"I stand, and speak, and laugh, and kiss, and halse;* *embrace So that my thought comforteth me full oft: I think, God wot, though all the world be false, I will be true; I think also how soft My lady is in speech, and this on loft Bringeth my heart with joy and great gladness; This privy thought allays my heaviness.
"And what I think, or where, to be, no man In all this Earth can tell, y-wis, but I: And eke there is no swallow swift, nor swan So wight* of wing, nor half so yern** can fly; *nimble **eagerly For I can be, and that right suddenly, In Heav'n, in Hell, in Paradise, and here, And with my lady, when I will desire.
"I am of counsel far and wide, I wot, With lord and lady, and their privity I wot it all; but, be it cold or hot, They shall not speak without licence of me. I mean, in such as seasonable* be, *prudent Tho* first the thing is thought within the heart, *when Ere any word out from the mouth astart."* *escape
And with the word Thought bade farewell and yede:* *went away Eke forth went I to see the Courte's guise, And at the door came in, so God me speed, Two courtiers of age and of assise* *size Like high, and broad, and, as I me advise, The Golden Love and Leaden Love they hight:* *were called The one was sad, the other glad and light.
At this point there is a hiatus in the poem, which abruptly ceases to narrate the tour of Philogenet and Philobone round the Court, and introduces us again to Rosial, who is speaking thus to her lover, apparently in continuation of a confession of love:
"Yes! draw your heart, with all your force and might, To lustiness, and be as ye have said."
She admits that she would have given him no drop of favour, but that she saw him "wax so dead of countenance;" then Pity "out of her shrine arose from death to life," whisperingly entreating that she would do him some pleasance. Philogenet protests his gratitude to Pity, his faithfulness to Rosial; and the lady, thanking him heartily, bids him abide with her till the season of May, when the King of Love and all his company will hold his feast fully royally and well. "And there I bode till that the season fell."
On May Day, when the lark began to rise, To matins went the lusty nightingale, Within a temple shapen hawthorn-wise; He might not sleep in all the nightertale,* *night-time But "Domine" gan he cry and gale,* *call out "My lippes open, Lord of Love, I cry, And let my mouth thy praising now bewry."* *show forth
The eagle sang "Venite," bodies all, And let us joy to love that is our health." And to the desk anon they gan to fall, And who came late he pressed in by stealth Then said the falcon, "Our own heartes' wealth, 'Domine Dominus noster,' I wot, Ye be the God that do* us burn thus hot." *make
"Coeli enarrant," said the popinjay,* *parrot "Your might is told in Heav'n and firmament." And then came in the goldfinch fresh and gay, And said this psalm with heartly glad intent, "Domini est terra;" this Latin intent,* *means The God of Love hath earth in governance: And then the wren began to skip and dance.
"Jube Domine; O Lord of Love, I pray Command me well this lesson for to read; This legend is of all that woulde dey* *die Martyrs for love; God yet their soules speed! And to thee, Venus, sing we, *out of dread,* *without doubt* By influence of all thy virtue great, Beseeching thee to keep us in our heat."
The second lesson robin redbreast sang, "Hail to the God and Goddess of our lay!"* *law, religion And to the lectern amorously he sprang: "Hail now," quoth be, "O fresh season of May, *Our moneth glad that singen on the spray!* *glad month for us that Hail to the flowers, red, and white, and blue, sing upon the bough* Which by their virtue maken our lust new!"
The third lesson the turtle-dove took up, And thereat laugh'd the mavis* in a scorn: *blackbird He said, "O God, as might I dine or sup, This foolish dove will give us all a horn! There be right here a thousand better born, To read this lesson, which as well as he, And eke as hot, can love in all degree."
The turtle-dove said, "Welcome, welcome May, Gladsome and light to lovers that be true! I thank thee, Lord of Love, that doth purvey For me to read this lesson all *of due;* *in due form* For, in good sooth, *of corage* I pursue *with all my heart* To serve my make* till death us must depart:" *mate And then "Tu autem" sang he all apart.
"Te Deum amoris" sang the throstel* cock: *thrush Tubal himself, the first musician, With key of harmony could not unlock So sweet a tune as that the throstel can: "The Lord of Love we praise," quoth he than,* *then And so do all the fowles great and lite;* *little "Honour we May, in false lovers' despite."
"Dominus regnavit," said the peacock there, "The Lord of Love, that mighty prince, y-wis, He is received here and ev'rywhere: Now Jubilate sing:" "What meaneth this?" Said then the linnet; "welcome, Lord of bliss!" Out start the owl with "Benedicite," "What meaneth all this merry fare?"* quoth he. *doing, fuss
"Laudate," sang the lark with voice full shrill; And eke the kite "O admirabile;" This quire* will through mine eares pierce and thrill; *choir But what? welcome this May season," quoth he; "And honour to the Lord of Love must be, That hath this feast so solemn and so high:" "Amen," said all; and so said eke the pie.* *magpie
And forth the cuckoo gan proceed anon, With "Benedictus" thanking God in haste, That in this May would visit them each one, And gladden them all while the feast shall last: And therewithal a-laughter* out he brast;"** *in laughter **burst "I thanke God that I should end the song, And all the service which hath been so long."
Thus sang they all the service of the feast, And that was done right early, to my doom;* *judgment And forth went all the Court, both *most and least,* *great and small To fetch the flowers fresh, and branch and bloom; And namely* hawthorn brought both page and groom, *especially With freshe garlands party* blue and white, *parti-coloured And then rejoiced in their great delight.
Eke each at other threw the flowers bright, The primerose, the violet, and the gold; So then, as I beheld the royal sight, My lady gan me suddenly behold, And with a true love, plighted many a fold, She smote me through the very heart *as blive;* *straightway* And Venus yet I thank I am alive.
Explicit* *The End
Notes to The Court of Love
1. So the Man of Law, in the prologue to his Tale, is made to say that Chaucer "can but lewedly (ignorantly or imperfectly) on metres and on rhyming craftily." But the humility of those apologies is not justified by the care and finish of his earlier poems.
2. Born: burnish, polish: the poet means, that his verses do not display the eloquence or brilliancy of Cicero in setting forth his subject-matter.
3. Galfrid: Geoffrey de Vinsauf to whose treatise on poetical composition a less flattering allusion is made in The Nun's Priest's Tale. See note 33 to that Tale.
4. Stirp: race, stock; Latin, "stirps."
5. Calliope is the epic muse — "sister" to the other eight.
6. Melpomene was the tragic muse.
7. The same is said of Griselda, in The Clerk's Tale; though she was of tender years, "yet in the breast of her virginity there was inclos'd a sad and ripe corage"
8. The confusion which Chaucer makes between Cithaeron and Cythera, has already been remarked. See note 41 to the Knight's Tale.
9. Balais: Bastard rubies; said to be so called from Balassa, the Asian country where they were found. Turkeis: turquoise stones.
10. Spenser, in his description of the House of Busirane, speaks of the sad distress into which Phoebus was plunged by Cupid, in revenge for the betrayal of "his mother's wantonness, when she with Mars was meint [mingled] in joyfulness"
11. Alcestis, daughter of Pelias, was won to wife by Admetus, King of Pherae, who complied with her father's demand that he should come to claim her in a chariot drawn by lions and boars. By the aid of Apollo — who tended the flocks of Admetus during his banishment from heaven — the suitor fulfilled the condition; and Apollo further induced the Moirae or Fates to grant that Admetus should never die, if his father, mother, or wife would die for him. Alcestis devoted herself in his stead; and, since each had made great efforts or sacrifices for love, the pair are fitly placed as king and queen in the Court of Love.
12. In the prologue to the "Legend of Good Women," Chaucer says that behind the God of Love, upon the green, he "saw coming in ladies nineteen;" but the stories of only nine good women are there told. In the prologue to The Man of Law's Tale, sixteen ladies are named as having their stories written in the "Saints' Legend of Cupid" — now known as the "Legend of Good Women" — (see note 5 to the Prologue to the Man of Law's Tale); and in the "Retractation," at the end of the Parson's Tale, the "Book of the Twenty-five Ladies" is enumerated among the works of which the poet repents — but there "xxv" is supposed to have been by some copyist written for "xix."