13. fele: many; German, "viele."
14. Arras: tapestry of silk, made at Arras, in France.
15. Danger, in the Provencal Courts of Love, was the allegorical personification of the husband; and Disdain suitably represents the lover's corresponding difficulty from the side of the lady.
16. In The Knight's Tale, Emily's yellow hair is braided in a tress, or plait, that hung a yard long behind her back; so that, both as regards colour and fashion, a singular resemblance seems to have existed between the female taste of 1369 and that of 1869.
17. In an old monkish story — reproduced by Boccaccio, and from him by La Fontaine in the Tale called "Les Oies de Frere Philippe" — a young man is brought up without sight or knowledge of women, and, when he sees them on a visit to the city, he is told that they are geese.
18. Tabernacle: A shrine or canopy of stone, supported by pillars.
19. Mister folk: handicraftsmen, or tradesmen, who have learned "mysteries."
20. The loves "Of Queen Annelida and False Arcite" formed the subject of a short unfinished poem by Chaucer, which was afterwards worked up into The Knight's Tale.
21. Blue was the colour of truth. See note 36 to the Squire's Tale.
22. Blife: quickly, eagerly; for "blive" or "belive."
23. It will be seen afterwards that Philogenet does not relish it, and pleads for its relaxation.
24. Feat: dainty, neat, handsome; the same as "fetis," oftener used in Chaucer; the adverb "featly" is still used, as applied to dancing, &c.
25. Solomon was beguiled by his heathenish wives to forsake the worship of the true God; Samson fell a victim to the wiles of Delilah.
26. Compare the speech of Proserpine to Pluto, in The Merchant's Tale.
27. See note 91 to the Knight's Tale for a parallel.
28. Flaw: yellow; Latin, "flavus," French, "fauve."
29. Bass: kiss; French, "baiser;" and hence the more vulgar "buss."
30. Maximian: Cornelius Maximianus Gallus flourished in the time of the Emperor Anastasius; in one of his elegies, he professed a preference for flaming and somewhat swelling lips, which, when he tasted them, would give him full kisses.
31. Dwale: sleeping potion, narcotic. See note 19 to the Reeve's Tale.
32. Environ: around; French, "a l'environ."
33. Cast off thine heart: i.e. from confidence in her.
34. Nesh: soft, delicate; Anglo-Saxon, "nese."
35. Perfection: Perfectly holy life, in the performance of vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and other modes of mortifying the flesh.
36. All the sin must on our friendes be: who made us take the vows before they knew our own dispositions, or ability, to keep them.
37. Cope: The large vestment worn in singing the service in the choir. In Chaucer's time it seems to have been a distinctively clerical piece of dress; so, in the prologue to The Monk's Tale, the Host, lamenting that so stalwart a man as the Monk should have gone into religion, exclaims, "Alas! why wearest thou so wide a cope?"
38. The three of fatal destiny: The three Fates.
39. Cythere: Cytherea — Venus, so called from the name of the island, Cythera, into which her worship was first introduced from Phoenicia.
40. Avaunter: Boaster; Philobone calls him out.
41. The statute: i.e. the 16th.
42. "Metamorphoses" Lib. ii. 768 et seqq., where a general description of Envy is given.
43. Golden Love and Leaden Love represent successful and unsuccessful love; the first kindled by Cupid's golden darts, the second by his leaden arrows.
44. "Domine, labia mea aperies — et os meam annunciabit laudem tuam" ("Lord, open my lips — and my mouth will announce your praise") Psalms li. 15, was the verse with which Matins began. The stanzas which follow contain a paraphrase of the matins for Trinity Sunday, allegorically setting forth the doctrine that love is the all-controlling influence in the government of the universe.
45. "Venite, exultemus," ("Come, let us rejoice") are the first words of Psalm xcv. called the "Invitatory."
46. "Domine Dominus noster:" The opening words of Psalm viii.; "O Lord our Lord."
47. "Coeli enarrant:" Psalm xix. 1; "The heavens declare (thy glory)."
48. "Domini est terra": Psalm xxiv. I; "The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof." The first "nocturn" is now over, and the lessons from Scripture follow.
49. "Jube, Domine:" "Command, O Lord;" from Matthew xiv. 28, where Peter, seeing Christ walking on the water, says "Lord, if it be thou, bid me come to thee on the water."
50: "Tu autem:" the formula recited by the reader at the end of each lesson; "Tu autem, Domine, miserere nobis." ("But do thou, O Lord, have pity on us!")
51. "Te Deum Amoris:" "Thee, God of Love (we praise)."
52. Not Tubal, who was the worker in metals; but Jubal, his brother, "who was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ" (Genesis iv. 21).
53. "Dominus regnavit:" Psalm xciii. 1, "The Lord reigneth." With this began the "Laudes," or morning service of praise.
54. "Jubilate:" Psalm c. 1, "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord."
55. "Benedicite:" "Bless ye the Lord;" the opening of the Song of the Three Children
56. "Laudate:" Psalm cxlvii.; "Praise ye the Lord."
57. "O admirabile:" Psalm viii 1; "O Lord our God, how excellent is thy name."
58. "Benedictus": The first word of the Song of Zacharias (Luke i. 68); "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel"
59. In The Knight's Tale we have exemplifications of the custom of gathering and wearing flowers and branches on May Day; where Emily, "doing observance to May," goes into the garden at sunrise and gathers flowers, "party white and red, to make a sotel garland for her head"; and again, where Arcite rides to the fields "to make him a garland of the greves; were it of woodbine, or of hawthorn leaves"
THE CUCKOO AND THE NIGHTINGALE.
[THE noble vindication of true love, as an exalting, purifying, and honour-conferring power, which Chaucer has made in "The Court of Love," is repeated in "The Cuckoo and the Nightingale." At the same time, the close of the poem leads up to "The Assembly of Fowls;" for, on the appeal of the Nightingale, the dispute between her and the Cuckoo, on the merits and blessings of love, is referred to a parliament of birds, to be held on the morrow after Saint Valentine's Day. True, the assembly of the feathered tribes described by Chaucer, though held on Saint Valentine's Day, and engaged in the discussion of a controversy regarding love, is not occupied with the particular cause which in the present poem the Nightingale appeals to the parliament. But "The Cuckoo and the Nightingale" none the less serves as a link between the two poems; indicating as it does the nature of those controversies, in matters subject to the supreme control of the King and Queen of Love, which in the subsequent poem we find the courtiers, under the guise of birds, debating in full conclave and under legal forms. Exceedingly simple in conception, and written in a metre full of musical irregularity and forcible freedom, "The Cuckoo and the Nightingale" yields in vividness, delicacy, and grace to none of Chaucer's minor poems. We are told that the poet, on the third night of May, is sleepless, and rises early in the morning, to try if he may hear the Nightingale sing. Wandering by a brook-side, he sits down on the flowery lawn, and ere long, lulled by the sweet melody of many birds and the well-according music of the stream, he falls into a kind of doze — "not all asleep, nor fully waking." Then (an evil omen) he hears the Cuckoo sing before the Nightingale; but soon he hears the Nightingale request the Cuckoo to remove far away, and leave the place to birds that can sing. The Cuckoo enters into a defence of her song, which becomes a railing accusation against Love and a recital of the miseries which Love's servants endure; the Nightingale vindicates Love in a lofty and tender strain, but is at last overcome with sorrow by the bitter words of the Cuckoo, and calls on the God of Love for help. On this the poet starts up, and, snatching a stone from the brook, throws it at the Cuckoo, who flies away full fast. The grateful Nightingale promises that, for this service, she will be her champion's singer all that May; she warns him against believing the Cuckoo, the foe of Love; and then, having sung him one of her new songs, she flies away to all the other birds that are in that dale, assembles them, and demands that they should do her right upon the Cuckoo. By one assent it is agreed that a parliament shall be held, "the morrow after Saint Valentine's Day," under a maple before the window of Queen Philippa at Woodstock, when judgment shall be passed upon the Cuckoo; then the Nightingale flies into a hawthorn, and sings a lay of love so loud that the poet awakes. The five-line stanza, of which the first, second, and fifth lines agree in one rhyme, the third and fourth in another, is peculiar to this poem; and while the prevailing measure is the decasyllabic line used in the "Canterbury Tales," many of the lines have one or two syllables less. The poem is given here without abridgement.] (Transcriber's note: Modern scholars believe that Chaucer was not the author of this poem)
THE God of Love, ah! benedicite, How mighty and how great a lord is he! For he can make of lowe heartes high, And of high low, and like for to die, And harde heartes he can make free.
He can make, within a little stound,* *moment Of sicke folke whole, and fresh, and sound, And of the whole he can make sick; He can bind, and unbinden eke, What he will have bounden or unbound.
To tell his might my wit may not suffice; For he can make of wise folk full nice,* — *foolish For he may do all that he will devise, — And lither* folke to destroye vice, *idle, vicious And proude heartes he can make agrise.* *tremble
Shortly, all that ever he will he may; Against him dare no wight say nay; For he can glad and grieve *whom him liketh.* *whom he pleases* And who that he will, he laugheth or siketh,* *sigheth And most his might he sheddeth ever in May.
For every true gentle hearte free, That with him is, or thinketh for to be, Against May now shall have some stirring,* *impulse Either to joy, or else to some mourning, In no season so much, as thinketh me.
For when that they may hear the birdes sing, And see the flowers and the leaves spring, That bringeth into hearte's remembrance A manner ease, *medled with grievance,* *mingled with sorrow* And lusty thoughtes full of great longing.
And of that longing cometh heaviness, And thereof groweth greate sickeness, And for the lack of that that they desire: And thus in May be heartes set on fire, So that they brennen* forth in great distress. *burn
I speake this of feeling truely; If I be old and unlusty, Yet I have felt the sickness thorough May *Both hot and cold, an access ev'ry day,* *every day a hot and a How sore, y-wis, there wot no wight but I. cold fit*
I am so shaken with the fevers white, Of all this May sleep I but lite;* *little And also it is not like* unto me *pleasing That any hearte shoulde sleepy be, In whom that Love his fiery dart will smite,
But as I lay this other night waking, I thought how lovers had a tokening,* *significance And among them it was a common tale, That it were good to hear the nightingale Rather than the lewd cuckoo sing.
And then I thought, anon* it was day, *whenever I would go somewhere to assay If that I might a nightingale hear; For yet had I none heard of all that year, And it was then the thirde night of May.
And anon as I the day espied, No longer would I in my bed abide; But to a wood that was fast by, I went forth alone boldely, And held the way down by a brooke's side,
Till I came to a laund* of white and green, *lawn So fair a one had I never in been; The ground was green, *y-powder'd with daisy,* *strewn with daisies* The flowers and the *greves like high,* *bushes of the same height* All green and white; was nothing elles seen.
There sat I down among the faire flow'rs, And saw the birdes trip out of their bow'rs, There as they rested them alle the night; They were so joyful of the daye's light, They began of May for to do honours.
They coud* that service all by rote; *knew There was many a lovely note! Some sange loud as they had plain'd, And some in other manner voice feign'd, And some all out with the full throat.
They proined* them, and made them right gay, *preened their feathers And danc'd and leapt upon the spray; And evermore two and two in fere,* *together Right so as they had chosen them to-year* *this year In Feverere* upon Saint Valentine's Day. *February
And the river that I sat upon,* *beside It made such a noise as it ran, Accordant* with the birde's harmony, *keeping time with Me thought it was the beste melody That might be heard of any man.
And for delight, I wote never how, I fell in such a slumber and a swow, — *swoon Not all asleep, nor fully waking, — And in that swow me thought I hearde sing The sorry bird, the lewd cuckow;
And that was on a tree right faste by. But who was then *evil apaid* but I? *dissatisfied "Now God," quoth I, "that died on the crois,* *cross Give sorrow on thee, and on thy lewed voice! Full little joy have I now of thy cry."
And as I with the cuckoo thus gan chide, I heard, in the next bush beside, A nightingale so lustily sing, That her clear voice she made ring Through all the greenwood wide.
"Ah, good Nightingale," quoth I then, "A little hast thou been too long hen;* *hence, absent For here hath been the lewd cuckow, And sung songs rather* than hast thou: *sooner I pray to God that evil fire her bren!"* *burn
But now I will you tell a wondrous thing: As long as I lay in that swooning, Me thought I wist what the birds meant, And what they said, and what was their intent And of their speech I hadde good knowing.
There heard I the nightingale say: "Now, good Cuckoo, go somewhere away, And let us that can singe dwelle here; For ev'ry wight escheweth* thee to hear, *shuns Thy songes be so elenge,* in good fay."** *strange **faith
"What," quoth she, "what may thee all now It thinketh me, I sing as well as thou, For my song is both true and plain, Although I cannot crakel* so in vain, *sing tremulously As thou dost in thy throat, I wot ne'er how.
"And ev'ry wight may understande me, But, Nightingale, so may they not do thee, For thou hast many a nice quaint* cry; *foolish I have thee heard say, 'ocy, ocy;' How might I know what that should be?"
"Ah fool," quoth she, "wost thou not what it is? When that I say, 'ocy, ocy,' y-wis, Then mean I that I woulde wonder fain That all they were shamefully slain, *die That meanen aught againe love amiss.
"And also I would that all those were dead, That thinke not in love their life to lead, For who so will the god of Love not serve, I dare well say he is worthy to sterve,* *die And for that skill,* 'ocy, ocy,' I grede."** *reason **cry
"Ey!" quoth the cuckoo, "this is a quaint* law, *strange That every wight shall love or be to-draw!* *torn to pieces But I forsake alle such company; For mine intent is not for to die, Nor ever, while I live, *on Love's yoke to draw.* *to put on love's yoke* "For lovers be the folk that be alive, That most disease have, and most unthrive,* *misfortune And most endure sorrow, woe, and care, And leaste feelen of welfare: What needeth it against the truth to strive?"
"What?" quoth she, "thou art all out of thy mind! How mightest thou in thy churlishness find To speak of Love's servants in this wise? For in this world is none so good service To ev'ry wight that gentle is of kind;
"For thereof truly cometh all gladness, All honour and all gentleness, Worship, ease, and all hearte's lust,* *pleasure Perfect joy, and full assured trust, Jollity, pleasance, and freshness,
"Lowlihead, largess, and courtesy, Seemelihead, and true company, Dread of shame for to do amiss; For he that truly Love's servant is, Were lother* to be shamed than to die. *more reluctant
"And that this is sooth that I say, In that belief I will live and dey; And, Cuckoo, so I rede* that thou, do y-wis." *counsel "Then," quoth he, "let me never have bliss, If ever I to that counsail obey!
"Nightingale, thou speakest wondrous fair, But, for all that, is the sooth contrair; For love is in young folk but rage, And in old folk a great dotage; Who most it useth, moste shall enpair.* *suffer harm
"For thereof come disease and heaviness, Sorrow and care, and many a great sickness, Despite, debate, anger, envy, Depraving,* shame, untrust, and jealousy, *loss of fame or character Pride, mischief, povert', and woodness.* *madness
"Loving is an office of despair, And one thing is therein that is not fair; For who that gets of love a little bliss, *But if he be away therewith, y-wis, He may full soon of age have his hair.* *see note *
"And, Nightingale, therefore hold thee nigh; For, 'lieve me well, for all thy quainte cry, If thou be far or longe from thy make,* *mate Thou shalt be as other that be forsake, And then thou shalt hoten* as do I." *be called
"Fie," quoth she, "on thy name and on thee! The god of Love let thee never the!* *thrive For thou art worse a thousand fold than wood,* *mad For many one is full worthy and full good, That had been naught, ne hadde Love y-be.
"For evermore Love his servants amendeth, And from all evile taches* them defendeth, *blemishes And maketh them to burn right in a fire, In truth and in worshipful* desire, *honourable And, when him liketh, joy enough them sendeth."
"Thou Nightingale," he said, "be still! For Love hath no reason but his will; For ofttime untrue folk he easeth, And true folk so bitterly displeaseth, That for default of grace* he lets them spill."** *favour **be ruined
Then took I of the nightingale keep, How she cast a sigh out of her deep, And said, "Alas, that ever I was bore! I can for teen* not say one worde more;" *vexation, grief And right with that word she burst out to weep.
"Alas!" quoth she, "my hearte will to-break To heare thus this lewd bird speak Of Love, and of his worshipful service. Now, God of Love, thou help me in some wise, That I may on this cuckoo be awreak!"* *revenged
Methought then I start up anon, And to the brook I ran and got a stone, And at the cuckoo heartly cast; And for dread he flew away full fast, And glad was I when he was gone.
And evermore the cuckoo, as he flay,* *flew He saide, "Farewell, farewell, popinjay," As though he had scorned, thought me; But ay I hunted him from the tree, Until he was far out of sight away.
And then came the nightingale to me, And said, "Friend, forsooth I thank thee That thou hast lik'd me to rescow;* *rescue And one avow to Love make I now, That all this May I will thy singer be."
I thanked her, and was right *well apaid:* *satisfied "Yea," quoth she, "and be thou not dismay'd, Though thou have heard the cuckoo *erst than* me; *before For, if I live, it shall amended be The next May, if I be not afraid.
"And one thing I will rede* thee also, Believe thou not the cuckoo, the love's foe, For all that he hath said is strong leasing."* *falsehood "Nay," quoth I, "thereto shall nothing me bring For love, and it hath done me much woe."
"Yea? Use," quoth she, "this medicine, Every day this May ere thou dine: Go look upon the fresh daisy, And, though thou be for woe in point to die, That shall full greatly less thee of thy pine.* *sorrow
"And look alway that thou be good and true, And I will sing one of my songes new For love of thee, as loud as I may cry:" And then she began this song full high: "I shrew* all them that be of love untrue." *curse
And when she had sung it to the end, "Now farewell," quoth she, "for I must wend,* *go And, God of Love, that can right well and may, As much joy sende thee this day, As any lover yet he ever send!"
Thus took the nightingale her leave of me. I pray to God alway with her be, And joy of love he send her evermore, And shield us from the cuckoo and his lore; For there is not so false a bird as he.
Forth she flew, the gentle nightingale, To all the birdes that were in that dale, And got them all into a place in fere,* *together And besought them that they would hear Her disease,* and thus began her tale. *distress, grievance
"Ye witte* well, it is not for to hide, *know How the cuckoo and I fast have chide,* *quarrelled Ever since that it was daylight; I pray you all that ye do me right On that foul false unkind bride."* *bird
Then spake one bird for all, by one assent: "This matter asketh good advisement; For we be fewe birdes here in fere, And sooth it is, the cuckoo is not here, And therefore we will have a parlement.
"And thereat shall the eagle be our lord, And other peers that been *of record,* *of established authority* And the cuckoo shall be *after sent;* *summoned There shall be given the judgment, Or else we shall finally *make accord.* *be reconciled*
"And this shall be, withoute nay,* *contradiction The morrow after Saint Valentine's Day, Under a maple that is fair and green, Before the chamber window of the Queen, At Woodstock upon the green lay."* *lawn
She thanked them, and then her leave took, And into a hawthorn by that brook, And there she sat and sang upon that tree, *"Term of life love hath withhold me;"* *love hath me in her So loude, that I with that song awoke. service all my life*
Explicit.* *The End
The Author to His Book.
O LEWD book! with thy foul rudeness, Since thou hast neither beauty nor eloquence, Who hath thee caus'd or giv'n the hardiness For to appear in my lady's presence? I am full sicker* thou know'st her benevolence, *certain Full agreeable to all her abying,* *merit For of all good she is the best living.
Alas! that thou ne haddest worthiness, To show to her some pleasant sentence, Since that she hath, thorough her gentleness, Accepted thee servant to her dign reverence! O! me repenteth that I n'had science, And leisure als', t'make thee more flourishing, For of all good she is the best living.
Beseech her meekly with all lowliness, Though I be ferre* from her in absence, *far To think on my truth to her and steadfastness, And to abridge of my sorrows the violence, Which caused is whereof knoweth your sapience;* *wisdom She like among to notify me her liking, For of all good she is the best living.
L'Envoy; To the Author's Lady.
Aurore of gladness, day of lustiness, Lucern* at night with heav'nly influence *lamp Illumin'd, root of beauty and goodness, Suspires* which I effund** in silence! *sighs **pour forth Of grace I beseech, allege* let your writing *declare Now of all good, since ye be best living.
Notes to the Cuckoo and the Nightingale
1. These two lines occur also in The Knight's Tale; they commence the speech of Theseus on the love follies of Palamon and Arcite, whom the Duke has just found fighting in the forest.
2. A stronger reading is "all."
3. "Ocy, ocy," is supposed to come from the Latin "occidere," to kill; or rather the old French, "occire," "occis," denoting the doom which the nightingale imprecates or supplicates on all who do offence to Love.
4. Grede: cry; Italian, "grido."
5."But if he be away therewith, y-wis, He may full soon of age have his hair": Unless he be always fortunate in love pursuits, he may full soon have gray hair, through his anxieties.
6. It was of evil omen to hear the cuckoo before the nightingale or any other bird.
7. The Queen: Philippa of Hainault, wife of Edward III.
THE ASSEMBLY OF FOWLS.
[In "The Assembly of Fowls" — which Chaucer's "Retractation" describes as "The Book of Saint Valentine's Day, or of the Parliament of Birds" — we are presented with a picture of the mediaeval "Court of Love" far closer to the reality than we find in Chaucer's poem which bears that express title. We have a regularly constituted conclave or tribunal, under a president whose decisions are final. A difficult question is proposed for the consideration and judgment of the Court — the disputants advancing and vindicating their claims in person. The attendants upon the Court, through specially chosen mouthpieces, deliver their opinions on the cause; and finally a decision is authoritatively pronounced by the president — which, as in many of the cases actually judged before the Courts of Love in France, places the reasonable and modest wish of a sensitive and chaste lady above all the eagerness of her lovers, all the incongruous counsels of representative courtiers. So far, therefore, as the poem reproduces the characteristic features of procedure in those romantic Middle Age halls of amatory justice, Chaucer's "Assembly of Fowls" is his real "Court of Love;" for although, in the castle and among the courtiers of Admetus and Alcestis, we have all the personages and machinery necessary for one of those erotic contentions, in the present poem we see the personages and the machinery actually at work, upon another scene and under other guises. The allegory which makes the contention arise out of the loves, and proceed in the assembly, of the feathered race, is quite in keeping with the fanciful yet nature-loving spirit of the poetry of Chaucer's time, in which the influence of the Troubadours was still largely present. It is quite in keeping, also, with the principles that regulated the Courts, the purpose of which was more to discuss and determine the proper conduct of love affairs, than to secure conviction or acquittal, sanction or reprobation, in particular cases — though the jurisdiction and the judgments of such assemblies often closely concerned individuals. Chaucer introduces us to his main theme through the vestibule of a fancied dream — a method which be repeatedly employs with great relish, as for instance in "The House of Fame." He has spent the whole day over Cicero's account of the Dream of Scipio (Africanus the Younger); and, having gone to bed, he dreams that Africanus the Elder appears to him — just as in the book he appeared to his namesake — and carries him into a beautiful park, in which is a fair garden by a river-side. Here the poet is led into a splendid temple, through a crowd of courtiers allegorically representing the various instruments, pleasures, emotions, and encouragements of Love; and in the temple Venus herself is found, sporting with her porter Richess. Returning into the garden, he sees the Goddess of Nature seated on a hill of flowers; and before her are assembled all the birds — for it is Saint Valentine's Day, when every fowl chooses her mate. Having with a graphic touch enumerated and described the principal birds, the poet sees that on her hand Nature bears a female eagle of surpassing loveliness and virtue, for which three male eagles advance contending claims. The disputation lasts all day; and at evening the assembled birds, eager to be gone with their mates, clamour for a decision. The tercelet, the goose, the cuckoo, and the turtle — for birds of prey, water-fowl, worm-fowl, and seed-fowl respectively — pronounce their verdicts on the dispute, in speeches full of character and humour; but Nature refers the decision between the three claimants to the female eagle herself, who prays that she may have a year's respite. Nature grants the prayer, pronounces judgment accordingly, and dismisses the assembly; and after a chosen choir has sung a roundel in honour of the Goddess, all the birds fly away, and the poet awakes. It is probable that Chaucer derived the idea of the poem from a French source; Mr Bell gives the outline of a fabliau, of which three versions existed, and in which a contention between two ladies regarding the merits of their respective lovers, a knight and a clerk, is decided by Cupid in a Court composed of birds, which assume their sides according to their different natures. Whatever the source of the idea, its management, and the whole workmanship of the poem, especially in the more humorous passages, are essentially Chaucer's own.]
THE life so short, the craft so long to learn, Th'assay so hard, so sharp the conquering, The dreadful joy, alway that *flits so yern;* *fleets so fast* All this mean I by* Love, that my feeling *with reference to Astoneth* with his wonderful working, *amazes So sore, y-wis, that, when I on him think, Naught wit I well whether I fleet* or sink, *float
For *all be* that I know not Love indeed, *albeit, although* Nor wot how that he *quiteth folk their hire,* *rewards folk for Yet happeth me full oft in books to read their service* Of his miracles, and of his cruel ire; There read I well, he will be lord and sire; I dare not saye, that his strokes be sore; But God save such a lord! I can no more.
Of usage, what for lust and what for lore, On bookes read I oft, as I you told. But wherefore speak I alle this? Not yore Agone, it happed me for to behold Upon a book written with letters old; And thereupon, a certain thing to learn, The longe day full fast I read and yern.* *eagerly
For out of the old fieldes, as men saith, Cometh all this new corn, from year to year; And out of olde bookes, in good faith, Cometh all this new science that men lear.* *learn But now to purpose as of this mattere: To reade forth it gan me so delight, That all the day me thought it but a lite.* *little while
This book, of which I make mention, Entitled was right thus, as I shall tell; "Tullius, of the Dream of Scipion:" Chapters seven it had, of heav'n, and hell, And earth, and soules that therein do dwell; Of which, as shortly as I can it treat, Of his sentence I will you say the great.* *important part
First telleth it, when Scipio was come To Africa, how he met Massinisse, That him for joy in armes hath y-nome.* *taken Then telleth he their speech, and all the bliss That was between them till the day gan miss.* *fail And how his ancestor Africane so dear Gan in his sleep that night to him appear.
Then telleth it, that from a starry place How Africane hath him Carthage y-shew'd, And warned him before of all his grace, And said him, what man, learned either lewd,* *ignorant That loveth *common profit,* well y-thew'd, *the public advantage* He should unto a blissful place wend,* *go Where as the joy is without any end.
Then asked he,* if folk that here be dead *i.e. the younger Scipio Have life, and dwelling, in another place? And Africane said, "Yea, withoute dread;"* *doubt And how our present worldly lives' space Meant but a manner death, what way we trace; And rightful folk should go, after they die, To Heav'n; and showed him the galaxy.
Then show'd he him the little earth that here is, *To regard* the heaven's quantity; *by comparison with And after show'd he him the nine spheres; And after that the melody heard he, That cometh of those spheres thrice three, That wells of music be and melody In this world here, and cause of harmony.
Then said he him, since earthe was so lite,* *small And full of torment and of *harde grace,* *evil fortune That he should not him in this world delight. Then told he him, in certain yeares' space, That ev'ry star should come into his place, Where it was first; and all should *out of mind,* *perish from memory* That in this world is done of all mankind.
Then pray'd him Scipio, to tell him all The way to come into that Heaven's bliss; And he said: "First know thyself immortal, And look aye busily that thou work and wiss* *guide affairs To common profit, and thou shalt not miss To come swiftly unto that place dear, That full of bliss is, and of soules clear.* *noble
"And breakers of the law, the sooth to sayn, And likerous* folk, after that they be dead, *lecherous Shall whirl about the world always in pain, Till many a world be passed, *out of dread;* *without doubt* And then, forgiven all their wicked deed, They shalle come unto that blissful place, To which to come God thee sende grace!"
The day gan failen, and the darke night, That reaveth* beastes from their business, *taketh away Berefte me my book for lack of light, And to my bed I gan me for to dress,* *prepare Full fill'd of thought and busy heaviness; For both I hadde thing which that I n'old,* *would not And eke I had not that thing that I wo'ld.
But, finally, my spirit at the last, Forweary* of my labour all that day, *utterly wearied Took rest, that made me to sleepe fast; And in my sleep I mette,* as that I say, *dreamed How Africane, right in the *self array* *same garb* That Scipio him saw before that tide,* *time Was come, and stood right at my bedde's side.
The weary hunter, sleeping in his bed, To wood again his mind goeth anon; The judge dreameth how his pleas be sped; The carter dreameth how his cartes go'n; The rich of gold, the knight fights with his fone;* *foes The sicke mette he drinketh of the tun; The lover mette he hath his lady won.
I cannot say, if that the cause were, For* I had read of Africane beforn, *because That made me to mette that he stood there; But thus said he; "Thou hast thee so well borne In looking of mine old book all to-torn, Of which Macrobius *raught not a lite,* *recked not a little* That *somedeal of thy labour would I quite."* *I would reward you for some of your labour* Cytherea, thou blissful Lady sweet! That with thy firebrand dauntest *when thee lest,* *when you please* That madest me this sweven* for to mette, *dream Be thou my help in this, for thou may'st best! As wisly* as I saw the north-north-west, *surely When I began my sweven for to write, So give me might to rhyme it and endite.* *write down
This foresaid Africane me hent* anon, *took And forth with him unto a gate brought Right of a park, walled with greene stone; And o'er the gate, with letters large y-wrought, There were verses written, as me thought, On either half, of full great difference, Of which I shall you say the plain sentence.* *meaning
"Through me men go into the blissful place Of hearte's heal and deadly woundes' cure; Through me men go unto the well of grace; Where green and lusty May shall ever dure; This is the way to all good adventure; Be glad, thou reader, and thy sorrow off cast; All open am I; pass in and speed thee fast."
"Through me men go," thus spake the other side, "Unto the mortal strokes of the spear, Of which disdain and danger is the guide; There never tree shall fruit nor leaves bear; This stream you leadeth to the sorrowful weir, Where as the fish in prison is all dry; Th'eschewing is the only remedy."
These verses of gold and azure written were, On which I gan astonish'd to behold; For with that one increased all my fear, And with that other gan my heart to bold;* *take courage That one me het,* that other did me cold; *heated No wit had I, for error,* for to choose *perplexity, confusion To enter or fly, or me to save or lose.
Right as betwixten adamantes* two *magnets Of even weight, a piece of iron set, Ne hath no might to move to nor fro; For what the one may hale,* the other let;** *attract **restrain So far'd I, that *n'ist whether me was bet* *knew not whether it was T' enter or leave, till Africane, my guide, better for me* Me hent* and shov'd in at the gates wide. *caught
And said, "It standeth written in thy face, Thine error,* though thou tell it not to me; *perplexity, confusion But dread thou not to come into this place; For this writing *is nothing meant by* thee, *does not refer to* Nor by none, but* he Love's servant be; *unless For thou of Love hast lost thy taste, I guess, As sick man hath of sweet and bitterness.
"But natheless, although that thou be dull, That thou canst not do, yet thou mayest see; For many a man that may not stand a pull, Yet likes it him at wrestling for to be, And deeme* whether he doth bet,** or he; *judge **better And, if thou haddest cunning* to endite, *skill I shall thee showe matter *of to write."* *to write about*
With that my hand in his he took anon, Of which I comfort caught,* and went in fast. *took But, Lord! so I was glad and well-begone!* *fortunate For *over all,* where I my eyen cast, *everywhere* Were trees y-clad with leaves that ay shall last, Each in his kind, with colour fresh and green As emerald, that joy it was to see'n.
The builder oak; and eke the hardy ash; The pillar elm, the coffer unto carrain; The box, pipe tree; the holm, to whippe's lash The sailing fir; the cypress death to plain; The shooter yew; the aspe for shaftes plain; Th'olive of peace, and eke the drunken vine; The victor palm; the laurel, too, divine.
A garden saw I, full of blossom'd boughes, Upon a river, in a greene mead, Where as sweetness evermore enow is, With flowers white, blue, yellow, and red, And colde welle* streames, nothing dead, *fountain That swamme full of smalle fishes light, With finnes red, and scales silver bright.
On ev'ry bough the birdes heard I sing, With voice of angels in their harmony, That busied them their birdes forth to bring; The pretty conies* to their play gan hie; *rabbits **haste And further all about I gan espy The dreadful* roe, the buck, the hart, and hind, *timid Squirrels, and beastes small, of gentle kind.* *nature
Of instruments of stringes in accord Heard I so play a ravishing sweetness, That God, that Maker is of all and Lord, Ne hearde never better, as I guess: Therewith a wind, unneth* it might be less, *scarcely Made in the leaves green a noise soft, Accordant* the fowles' song on loft.** *in keeping with **above
Th'air of the place so attemper* was, *mild That ne'er was there grievance* of hot nor cold; *annoyance There was eke ev'ry wholesome spice and grass, Nor no man may there waxe sick nor old: Yet* was there more joy a thousand fold *moreover Than I can tell, or ever could or might; There ever is clear day, and never night.
Under a tree, beside a well, I sey* *saw Cupid our lord his arrows forge and file;* *polish And at his feet his bow all ready lay; And well his daughter temper'd, all the while, The heades in the well; and with her wile* *cleverness She couch'd* them after, as they shoulde serve *arranged in order Some for to slay, and some to wound and kerve.* *carve, cut
Then was I ware of Pleasance anon right, And of Array, and Lust, and Courtesy, And of the Craft, that can and hath the might To do* by force a wight to do folly; *make Disfigured* was she, I will not lie; *disguised And by himself, under an oak, I guess, Saw I Delight, that stood with Gentleness.
Then saw I Beauty, with a nice attire, And Youthe, full of game and jollity, Foolhardiness, Flattery, and Desire, Messagerie, and Meed, and other three; Their names shall not here be told for me: And upon pillars great of jasper long I saw a temple of brass y-founded strong.
And [all] about the temple danc'd alway Women enough, of whiche some there were Fair of themselves, and some of them were gay In kirtles* all dishevell'd went they there; *tunics That was their office* ever, from year to year; *duty, occupation And on the temple saw I, white and fair, Of doves sitting many a thousand pair.
Before the temple door, full soberly, Dame Peace sat, a curtain in her hand; And her beside, wonder discreetely, Dame Patience sitting there I fand,* *found With face pale, upon a hill of sand; And althernext, within and eke without, Behest,* and Art, and of their folk a rout.** *Promise **crowd
Within the temple, of sighes hot as fire I heard a swough,* that gan aboute ren,** *murmur **run Which sighes were engender'd with desire, That made every hearte for to bren* *burn Of newe flame; and well espied I then, That all the cause of sorrows that they dree* *endure Came of the bitter goddess Jealousy.
The God Priapus saw I, as I went Within the temple, in sov'reign place stand, In such array, as when the ass him shent* *ruined With cry by night, and with sceptre in hand: Full busily men gan assay and fand* *endeavour Upon his head to set, of sundry hue, Garlandes full of freshe flowers new.
And in a privy corner, in disport, Found I Venus and her porter Richess, That was full noble and hautain* of her port; *haughty Dark was that place, but afterward lightness I saw a little, unneth* it might be less; *scarcely And on a bed of gold she lay to rest, Till that the hote sun began to west.* *decline towards the wesr
Her gilded haires with a golden thread Y-bounden were, untressed,* as she lay; *loose And naked from the breast unto the head Men might her see; and, soothly for to say, The remnant cover'd, welle to my pay,* *satisfaction Right with a little kerchief of Valence; There was no thicker clothe of defence.
The place gave a thousand savours swoot;* *sweet And Bacchus, god of wine, sat her beside; And Ceres next, that *doth of hunger boot;* *relieves hunger* And, as I said, amiddes* lay Cypride, *in the midst To whom on knees the younge folke cried To be their help: but thus I let her lie, And farther in the temple gan espy,
<See note 21 for the stories of the lovers in the next two stanzas>
That, in despite of Diana the chaste, Full many a bowe broke hung on the wall, Of maidens, such as go their time to waste In her service: and painted over all Of many a story, of which I touche shall A few, as of Calist', and Atalant', And many a maid, of which the name I want.* *do not have
Semiramis, Canace, and Hercules, Biblis, Dido, Thisbe and Pyramus, Tristram, Isoude, Paris, and Achilles, Helena, Cleopatra, Troilus, Scylla, and eke the mother of Romulus; All these were painted on the other side, And all their love, and in what plight they died.
When I was come again into the place That I of spake, that was so sweet and green, Forth walk'd I then, myselfe to solace: Then was I ware where there sat a queen, That, as of light the summer Sunne sheen Passeth the star, right so *over measure* *out of all proportion* She fairer was than any creature.
And in a lawn, upon a hill of flowers, Was set this noble goddess of Nature; Of branches were her halles and her bowers Y-wrought, after her craft and her measure; Nor was there fowl that comes of engendrure That there ne were prest,* in her presence, *ready To *take her doom,* and give her audience. *receive her decision*
For this was on Saint Valentine's Day, When ev'ry fowl cometh to choose her make,* *mate Of every kind that men thinken may; And then so huge a noise gan they make, That earth, and sea, and tree, and ev'ry lake, So full was, that unnethes* there was space *scarcely For me to stand, so full was all the place.
And right as Alain, in his Plaint of Kind, Deviseth* Nature of such array and face; *describeth In such array men mighte her there find. This noble Emperess, full of all grace, Bade ev'ry fowle take her owen place, As they were wont alway, from year to year, On Saint Valentine's Day to stande there.
That is to say, the *fowles of ravine* *birds of prey* Were highest set, and then the fowles smale, That eaten as them Nature would incline; As worme-fowl, of which I tell no tale; But waterfowl sat lowest in the dale, And fowls that live by seed sat on the green, And that so many, that wonder was to see'n.
There mighte men the royal eagle find, That with his sharpe look pierceth the Sun; And other eagles of a lower kind, Of which that *clerkes well devise con;* *which scholars well There was the tyrant with his feathers dun can describe* And green, I mean the goshawk, that doth pine* *cause pain To birds, for his outrageous ravine.* *slaying, hunting
The gentle falcon, that with his feet distraineth* *grasps The kinge's hand; the hardy* sperhawk eke, *pert The quaile's foe; the merlion that paineth Himself full oft the larke for to seek; There was the dove, with her eyen meek; The jealous swan, against* his death that singeth; *in anticipation of The owl eke, that of death the bode* bringeth. *omen
The crane, the giant, with his trumpet soun'; The thief the chough; and eke the chatt'ring pie; The scorning jay; the eel's foe the heroun; The false lapwing, full of treachery; The starling, that the counsel can betray; The tame ruddock,* and the coward kite; *robin-redbreast The cock, that horologe* is of *thorpes lite.* *clock *little villages*
The sparrow, Venus' son; the nightingale, That calleth forth the freshe leaves new; The swallow, murd'rer of the bees smale, That honey make of flowers fresh of hue; The wedded turtle, with his hearte true; The peacock, with his angel feathers bright; The pheasant, scorner of the cock by night;
The waker goose; the cuckoo ever unkind; The popinjay,* full of delicacy; *parrot The drake, destroyer of his owen kind; The stork, the wreaker* of adultery; *avenger The hot cormorant, full of gluttony; The raven and the crow, with voice of care; The throstle old;* and the frosty fieldfare. *long-lived
What should I say? Of fowls of ev'ry kind That in this world have feathers and stature, Men mighten in that place assembled find, Before that noble goddess of Nature; And each of them did all his busy cure* *care, pains Benignely to choose, or for to take, By her accord,* his formel or his make.** *consent **mate
But to the point. Nature held on her hand A formel eagle, of shape the gentilest That ever she among her workes fand, The most benign, and eke the goodliest; In her was ev'ry virtue at its rest,* *highest point So farforth that Nature herself had bliss To look on her, and oft her beak to kiss.
Nature, the vicar of th'Almighty Lord, — That hot, cold, heavy, light, and moist, and dry, Hath knit, by even number of accord, — In easy voice began to speak, and say: "Fowles, take heed of my sentence,"* I pray; *opinion, discourse And for your ease, in furth'ring of your need, As far as I may speak, I will me speed.
"Ye know well how, on Saint Valentine's Day, By my statute, and through my governance, Ye choose your mates, and after fly away With them, as I you *pricke with pleasance;* *inspire with pleasure* But natheless, as by rightful ordinance, May I not let,* for all this world to win, *hinder But he that most is worthy shall begin.
"The tercel eagle, as ye know full weel,* *well The fowl royal, above you all in degree, The wise and worthy, secret, true as steel, The which I formed have, as ye may see, In ev'ry part, as it best liketh me, — It needeth not his shape you to devise,* — *describe He shall first choose, and speaken *in his guise.* *in his own way*
"And, after him, by order shall ye choose, After your kind, evereach as you liketh; And as your hap* is, shall ye win or lose; *fortune But which of you that love most entriketh,* *entangles God send him her that sorest for him siketh."* *sigheth And therewithal the tercel gan she call, And said, "My son, the choice is to thee fall.
"But natheless, in this condition Must be the choice of ev'reach that is here, That she agree to his election, Whoso he be, that shoulde be her fere;* *companion This is our usage ay, from year to year; And whoso may at this time have this grace, *In blissful time* he came into this place." *in a happy hour* With head inclin'd, and with full humble cheer,* *demeanour
This royal tercel spake, and tarried not: "Unto my sov'reign lady, and not my fere,* *companion I chose and choose, with will, and heart, and thought, The formel on your hand, so well y-wrought, Whose I am all, and ever will her serve, Do what her list, to do me live or sterve.* *die
"Beseeching her of mercy and of grace, As she that is my lady sovereign, Or let me die here present in this place, For certes long may I not live in pain; *For in my heart is carven ev'ry vein:* *every vein in my heart is Having regard only unto my truth, wounded with love* My deare heart, have on my woe some ruth.* *pity
"And if that I be found to her untrue, Disobeisant,* or wilful negligent, *disobedient Avaunter,* or *in process* love a new, *braggart *in the course I pray to you, this be my judgement, of time* That with these fowles I be all to-rent,* *torn to pieces That ilke* day that she me ever find *same To her untrue, or in my guilt unkind.
"And since none loveth her so well as I, Although she never of love me behet,* *promised Then ought she to be mine, through her mercy; For *other bond can I none on her knit;* *I can bind her no other way* For weal or for woe, never shall I let* *cease, fail To serve her, how far so that she wend;* *go Say what you list, my tale is at an end."
Right as the freshe redde rose new Against the summer Sunne colour'd is, Right so, for shame, all waxen gan the hue Of this formel, when she had heard all this; *Neither she answer'd well, nor said amiss,* *she answered nothing, So sore abashed was she, till Nature either well or ill* Said, "Daughter, dread you not, I you assure."* *confirm, support
Another tercel eagle spake anon, Of lower kind, and said that should not be; "I love her better than ye do, by Saint John! Or at the least I love her as well as ye, And longer have her serv'd in my degree; And if she should have lov'd for long loving, To me alone had been the guerdoning.* *reward
"I dare eke say, if she me finde false, Unkind, janglere,* rebel in any wise, *boastful Or jealous, *do me hange by the halse;* *hang me by the neck* And but* I beare me in her service *unless As well ay as my wit can me suffice, From point to point, her honour for to save, Take she my life and all the good I have."
A thirde tercel eagle answer'd tho:* *then "Now, Sirs, ye see the little leisure here; For ev'ry fowl cries out to be ago Forth with his mate, or with his lady dear; And eke Nature herselfe will not hear, For tarrying her, not half that I would say; And but* I speak, I must for sorrow dey.** *unless **die
Of long service avaunt* I me no thing, *boast But as possible is me to die to-day, For woe, as he that hath been languishing This twenty winter; and well happen may A man may serve better, and *more to pay,* *with more satisfaction* In half a year, although it were no more. Than some man doth that served hath *full yore.* *for a long time*
"I say not this by me for that I can Do no service that may my lady please; But I dare say, I am her truest man,* *liegeman, servant *As to my doom,* and fainest would her please; *in my judgement *At shorte words,* until that death me seize, *in one word* I will be hers, whether I wake or wink. And true in all that hearte may bethink."
Of all my life, since that day I was born, *So gentle plea,* in love or other thing, *such noble pleading* Ye hearde never no man me beforn; Whoso that hadde leisure and cunning* *skill For to rehearse their cheer and their speaking: And from the morrow gan these speeches last, Till downward went the Sunne wonder fast.
The noise of fowles for to be deliver'd* *set free to depart So loude rang, "Have done and let us wend,"* *go That well ween'd I the wood had all to-shiver'd:* *been shaken to "Come off!" they cried; "alas! ye will us shend!* pieces* *ruin When will your cursed pleading have an end? How should a judge either party believe, For yea or nay, withouten any preve?"* *proof
The goose, the duck, and the cuckoo also, So cried "keke, keke," "cuckoo," "queke queke," high, That through mine ears the noise wente tho.* *then The goose said then, "All this n'is worth a fly! But I can shape hereof a remedy; And I will say my verdict, fair and swith,* *speedily For water-fowl, whoso be wroth or blith."* *glad
"And I for worm-fowl," said the fool cuckow; For I will, of mine own authority, For common speed,* take on me the charge now; *advantage For to deliver us is great charity." "Ye may abide a while yet, pardie,"* *by God Quoth then the turtle; "if it be your will A wight may speak, it were as good be still.
"I am a seed-fowl, one th'unworthiest, That know I well, and the least of cunning; But better is, that a wight's tongue rest, Than *entremette him of* such doing *meddle with* Of which he neither rede* can nor sing; *counsel And who it doth, full foul himself accloyeth,* *embarrasseth For office uncommanded oft annoyeth."
Nature, which that alway had an ear To murmur of the lewedness behind, With facond* voice said, "Hold your tongues there, *eloquent, fluent And I shall soon, I hope, a counsel find, You to deliver, and from this noise unbind; I charge of ev'ry flock* ye shall one call, *class of fowl To say the verdict of you fowles all."
The tercelet* said then in this mannere; *male hawk "Full hard it were to prove it by reason, Who loveth best this gentle formel here; For ev'reach hath such replication,* *reply That by skilles* may none be brought adown; *arguments I cannot see that arguments avail; Then seemeth it that there must be battaile."
"All ready!" quoth those eagle tercels tho;* *then "Nay, Sirs!" quoth he; "if that I durst it say, Ye do me wrong, my tale is not y-do,* *done For, Sirs, — and *take it not agrief,* I pray, — *be not offended* It may not be as ye would, in this way: Ours is the voice that have the charge in hand, And *to the judges' doom ye muste stand.* *ye must abide by the judges' decision* "And therefore 'Peace!' I say; as to my wit, Me woulde think, how that the worthiest Of knighthood, and had longest used it, Most of estate, of blood the gentilest, Were fitting most for her, *if that her lest;* *if she pleased* And, of these three she knows herself, I trow,* *am sure Which that he be; for it is light* to know." *easy
The water-fowles have their heades laid Together, and *of short advisement,* *after brief deliberation* When evereach his verdict had y-said They saide soothly all by one assent, How that "The goose with the *facond gent,* *refined eloquence* That so desired to pronounce our need,* business Shall tell our tale;" and prayed God her speed.
And for those water-fowles then began The goose to speak. and in her cackeling She saide, "Peace, now! take keep* ev'ry man, *heed And hearken what reason I shall forth bring; My wit is sharp, I love no tarrying; I say I rede him, though he were my brother, But* she will love him, let him love another!" *unless
"Lo! here a perfect reason of a goose!" Quoth the sperhawke. "Never may she the!* *thrive Lo such a thing 'tis t'have a tongue loose! Now, pardie: fool, yet were it bet* for thee *better Have held thy peace, than show'd thy nicety;* *foolishness It lies not in his wit, nor in his will, But sooth is said, a fool cannot be still."
The laughter rose of gentle fowles all; And right anon the seed-fowls chosen had The turtle true, and gan her to them call, And prayed her to say the *soothe sad* *serious truth* Of this mattere, and asked what she rad;* *counselled And she answer'd, that plainly her intent She woulde show, and soothly what she meant.
"Nay! God forbid a lover shoulde change!" The turtle said, and wax'd for shame all red: "Though that his lady evermore be strange,* *disdainful Yet let him serve her ay, till he be dead; For, sooth, I praise not the goose's rede* *counsel For, though she died, I would none other make;* *mate I will be hers till that the death me take."
*"Well bourded!"* quoth the ducke, "by my hat! *a pretty joke!* That men should loven alway causeless, Who can a reason find, or wit, in that? Danceth he merry, that is mirtheless? Who shoulde *reck of that is reckeless?* *care for one who has Yea! queke yet," quoth the duck, "full well and fair! no care for him* There be more starres, God wot, than a pair!"
"Now fy, churl!" quoth the gentle tercelet, "Out of the dunghill came that word aright; Thou canst not see which thing is well beset; Thou far'st by love, as owles do by light,— The day them blinds, full well they see by night; Thy kind is of so low a wretchedness, That what love is, thou caust not see nor guess."
Then gan the cuckoo put him forth in press,* *in the crowd For fowl that eateth worm, and said belive:* *quickly "So I," quoth he, "may have my mate in peace, I recke not how longe that they strive. Let each of them be solain* all their life; *single This is my rede,* since they may not accord; *counsel This shorte lesson needeth not record."
"Yea, have the glutton fill'd enough his paunch, Then are we well!" saide the emerlon;* *merlin "Thou murd'rer of the heggsugg,* on the branch *hedge-sparrow That brought thee forth, thou most rueful glutton, Live thou solain, worme's corruption! *For no force is to lack of thy nature;* *the loss of a bird of your Go! lewed be thou, while the world may dare!" depraved nature is no matter of regret.* "Now peace," quoth Nature, "I commande here; For I have heard all your opinion, And in effect yet be we ne'er the nere.* *nearer But, finally, this is my conclusion, — That she herself shall have her election Of whom her list, whoso be *wroth or blith;* *angry or glad* Him that she chooseth, he shall her have as swith.* *quickly
"For since it may not here discussed be Who loves her best, as said the tercelet, Then will I do this favour t' her, that she Shall have right him on whom her heart is set, And he her, that his heart hath on her knit: This judge I, Nature, for* I may not lie *because To none estate; I *have none other eye.* *can see the matter in no other light* "But as for counsel for to choose a make, If I were Reason, [certes] then would I Counsaile you the royal tercel take, As saith the tercelet full skilfully,* *reasonably As for the gentilest, and most worthy, Which I have wrought so well to my pleasance, That to you it ought be *a suffisance."* *to your satisfaction*
With dreadful* voice the formel her answer'd: *frightened "My rightful lady, goddess of Nature, Sooth is, that I am ever under your yerd,* *rod, or government As is every other creature, And must be yours, while that my life may dure; And therefore grante me my firste boon,* *favour And mine intent you will I say right soon."
"I grant it you," said she; and right anon This formel eagle spake in this degree:* *manner "Almighty queen, until this year be done I aske respite to advise me; And after that to have my choice all free; This is all and some that I would speak and say; Ye get no more, although ye *do me dey.* *slay me*
"I will not serve Venus, nor Cupide, For sooth as yet, by no manner [of] way." "Now since it may none other ways betide,"* *happen Quoth Dame Nature, "there is no more to say; Then would I that these fowles were away, Each with his mate, for longer tarrying here." And said them thus, as ye shall after hear.
"To you speak I, ye tercels," quoth Nature; "Be of good heart, and serve her alle three; A year is not so longe to endure; And each of you *pain him* in his degree *strive* For to do well, for, God wot, quit is she From you this year, what after so befall; This *entremess is dressed* for you all." *dish is prepared*
And when this work y-brought was to an end, To ev'ry fowle Nature gave his make, By *even accord,* and on their way they wend: *fair agreement* And, Lord! the bliss and joye that they make! For each of them gan other in his wings take, And with their neckes each gan other wind,* *enfold, caress Thanking alway the noble goddess of Kind.
But first were chosen fowles for to sing,— As year by year was alway their usance,* — *custom To sing a roundel at their departing, To do to Nature honour and pleasance; The note, I trowe, maked was in France; The wordes were such as ye may here find The nexte verse, as I have now in mind:
Qui bien aime, tard oublie.
"Now welcome summer, with thy sunnes soft, That hast these winter weathers overshake * *dispersed, overcome Saint Valentine, thou art full high on loft, Which driv'st away the longe nightes blake;* *black Thus singe smalle fowles for thy sake: Well have they cause for to gladden* oft, *be glad, make mirth Since each of them recover'd hath his make;* *mate Full blissful may they sing when they awake."
And with the shouting, when their song was do,* *done That the fowls maden at their flight away, I woke, and other bookes took me to, To read upon; and yet I read alway. I hope, y-wis, to reade so some day, That I shall meete something for to fare The bet;* and thus to read I will not spare. *better
Explicit.* *the end
Notes to The Assembly of Fowls
1. "The Dream of Scipio" — "Somnium Scipionis" — occupies most of the sixth book of Cicero's "Republic;" which, indeed, as it has come down to us, is otherwise imperfect. Scipio Africanus Minor is represented as relating a dream which he had when, in B.C. 149, he went to Africa as military tribune to the fourth legion. He had talked long and earnestly of his adoptive grandfather with Massinissa, King of Numidia, the intimate friend of the great Scipio; and at night his illustrious ancestor appeared to him in a vision, foretold the overthrow of Carthage and all his other triumphs, exhorted him to virtue and patriotism by the assurance of rewards in the next world, and discoursed to him concerning the future state and the immortality of the soul. Macrobius, about AD. 500, wrote a Commentary upon the "Somnium Scipionis," which was a favourite book in the Middle Ages. See note 17 to The Nun's Priest's Tale.
2. Y-nome: taken; past participle of "nime," from Anglo-Saxon, "niman," to take.
3. His grace: the favour which the gods would show him, in delivering Carthage into his hands.
4. "Vestra vero, quae dicitur, vita mors est." ("Truly, as is said, your life is a death")
5. The nine spheres are God, or the highest heaven, constraining and containing all the others; the Earth, around which the planets and the highest heaven revolve; and the seven planets: the revolution of all producing the "music of the spheres."
6. Clear: illustrious, noble; Latin, "clarus."
7. The sicke mette he drinketh of the tun: The sick man dreams that he drinks wine, as one in health.
8. The significance of the poet's looking to the NNW is not plain; his window may have faced that way.
9. The idea of the twin gates, leading to the Paradise and the Hell of lovers, may have been taken from the description of the gates of dreams in the Odyssey and the Aeneid; but the iteration of "Through me men go" far more directly suggests the legend on Dante's gate of Hell:—
Per me si va nella citta dolente, Per me si va nell' eterno dolore; Per me si va tra la perduta gente.
("Through me is the way to the city of sorrow, Through me is the way to eternal suffering; Through me is the way of the lost people")
The famous line, "Lasciate ogni speranza, voi che entrate" — "All hope abandon, ye who enter here" — is evidently paraphrased in Chaucer's words "Th'eschewing is the only remedy;" that is, the sole hope consists in the avoidance of that dismal gate.
10. A powerful though homely description of torment; the sufferers being represented as fish enclosed in a weir from which all the water has been withdrawn.
11. Compare with this catalogue raisonne of trees the ampler list given by Spenser in "The Faerie Queen," book i. canto i. In several instances, as in "the builder oak" and "the sailing pine," the later poet has exactly copied the words of the earlier. The builder oak: In the Middle Ages the oak was as distinctively the building timber on land, as it subsequently became for the sea. The pillar elm: Spenser explains this in paraphrasing it into "the vineprop elm" — because it was planted as a pillar or prop to the vine; it is called "the coffer unto carrain," or "carrion," because coffins for the dead were made from it. The box, pipe tree: the box tree was used for making pipes or horns. Holm: the holly, used for whip-handles. The sailing fir: Because ships' masts and spars were made of its wood. The cypress death to plain: in Spenser's imitation, "the cypress funeral." The shooter yew: yew wood was used for bows. The aspe for shaftes plain: of the aspen, or black poplar, arrows were made. The laurel divine: So called, either because it was Apollo's tree — Horace says that Pindar is "laurea donandus Apollinari" ("to be given Apollo's laurel") — or because the honour which it signified, when placed on the head of a poet or conqueror, lifted a man as it were into the rank of the gods.
12. If Chaucer had any special trio of courtiers in his mind when he excluded so many names, we may suppose them to be Charms, Sorcery, and Leasings who, in The Knight's Tale, come after Bawdry and Riches — to whom Messagerie (the carrying of messages) and Meed (reward, bribe) may correspond.
13. The dove was the bird sacred to Venus; hence Ovid enumerates the peacock of Juno, Jove's armour bearing bird, "Cythereiadasque columbas" ("And the Cythereian doves") — "Metamorphoses. xv. 386
14. Priapus: fitly endowed with a place in the Temple of Love, as being the embodiment of the principle of fertility in flocks and the fruits of the earth. See note 23 to the Merchant's Tale.
15. Ovid, in the "Fasti" (i. 433), describes the confusion of Priapus when, in the night following a feast of sylvan and Bacchic deities, the braying of the ass of Silenus wakened the company to detect the god in a furtive amatory expedition.
16. Hautain: haughty, lofty; French, "hautain."
17. Well to my pay: Well to my satisfaction; from French, "payer," to pay, satisfy; the same word often occurs, in the phrases "well apaid," and "evil apaid."
18. Valentia, in Spain, was famed for the fabrication of fine and transparent stuffs.
19. The obvious reference is to the proverbial "Sine Cerere et Libero friget Venus," ("Love is frozen without freedom and food") quoted in Terence, "Eunuchus," act iv. scene v.
20. Cypride: Venus; called "Cypria," or "Cypris," from the island of Cyprus, in which her worship was especially celebrated.
21. Callisto, daughter of Lycaon, was seduced by Jupiter, turned into a bear by Diana, and placed afterwards, with her son, as the Great Bear among the stars. Atalanta challenged Hippomenes, a Boetian youth, to a race in which the prize was her hand in marriage — the penalty of failure, death by her hand. Venus gave Hippomenes three golden apples, and he won by dropping them one at a time because Atalanta stopped to pick them up. Semiramis was Queen of Ninus, the mythical founder of Babylon; Ovid mentions her, along with Lais, as a type of voluptuousness, in his "Amores," 1.5, 11. Canace, daughter of Aeolus, is named in the prologue to The Man of Law's Tale as one of the ladies whose "cursed stories" Chaucer refrained from writing. She loved her brother Macareus, and was slain by her father. Hercules was conquered by his love for Omphale, and spun wool for her in a woman's dress, while she wore his lion's skin. Biblis vainly pursued her brother Caunus with her love, till she was changed to a fountain; Ovid, "Metamorphoses." lib. ix. Thisbe and Pyramus: the Babylonian lovers, whose death, through the error of Pyramus in fancying that a lion had slain his mistress, forms the theme of the interlude in the "Midsummer Night's Dream." Sir Tristram was one of the most famous among the knights of King Arthur, and La Belle Isoude was his mistress. Their story is mixed up with the Arthurian romance; but it was also the subject of separate treatment, being among the most popular of the Middle Age legends. Achilles is reckoned among Love's conquests, because, according to some traditions, he loved Polyxena, the daughter of Priam, who was promised to him if he consented to join the Trojans; and, going without arms into Apollo's temple at Thymbra, he was there slain by Paris. Scylla: Love-stories are told of two maidens of this name; one the daughter of Nisus, King of Megara, who, falling in love with Minos when he besieged the city, slew her father by pulling out the golden hair which grew on the top of his head, and on which which his life and kingdom depended. Minos won the city, but rejected her love in horror. The other Scylla, from whom the rock opposite Charybdis was named, was a beautiful maiden, beloved by the sea-god Glaucus, but changed into a monster through the jealousy and enchantments of Circe. The mother of Romulus: Silvia, daughter and only living child of Numitor, whom her uncle Amulius made a vestal virgin, to preclude the possibility that his brother's descendants could wrest from him the kingdom of Alba Longa. But the maiden was violated by Mars as she went to bring water from a fountain; she bore Romulus and Remus; and she was drowned in the Anio, while the cradle with the children was carried down the stream in safety to the Palatine Hill, where the she-wolf adopted them.
22. Prest: ready; French, "pret."
23. Alanus de Insulis, a Sicilian poet and orator of the twelfth century, who wrote a book "De Planctu Naturae" — "The Complaint of Nature."
24. The falcon was borne on the hand by the highest personages, not merely in actual sport, but to be caressed and petted, even on occasions of ceremony, Hence also it is called the "gentle" falcon — as if its high birth and breeding gave it a right to august society.
25. The merlion: elsewhere in the same poem called "emerlon;" French, "emerillon;" the merlin, a small hawk carried by ladies.
26. The scorning jay: scorning humbler birds, out of pride of his fine plumage.
27. The false lapwing: full of stratagems and pretences to divert approaching danger from the nest where her young ones are.
28. The sparrow, Venus' son: Because sacred to Venus.
29. Coming with the spring, the nightingale is charmingly said to call forth the new leaves.
30. Many-coloured wings, like those of peacocks, were often given to angels in paintings of the Middle Ages; and in accordance with this fashion Spenser represents the Angel that guarded Sir Guyon ("Faerie Queen," book ii. canto vii.) as having wings "decked with diverse plumes, like painted jay's."
31. The pheasant, scorner of the cock by night: The meaning of this passage is not very plain; it has been supposed, however, to refer to the frequent breeding of pheasants at night with domestic poultry in the farmyard — thus scorning the sway of the cock, its rightful monarch.
32. The waker goose: Chaucer evidently alludes to the passage in Ovid describing the crow of Apollo, which rivalled the spotless doves, "Nec servataris vigili Capitolia voce cederet anseribus" — "nor would it yield (in whiteness) to the geese destined with wakeful or vigilant voice to save the Capitol" ("Metam.," ii. 538) when about to be surprised by the Gauls in a night attack.
33. The cuckoo ever unkind: the significance of this epithet is amply explained by the poem of "The Cuckoo and the Nightingale."
34. The drake, destroyer: of the ducklings — which, if not prevented, he will kill wholesale.
35. The stork is conspicuous for faithfulness to all family obligations, devotion to its young, and care of its parent birds in their old age. Mr Bell quotes from Bishop Stanley's "History of Birds" a little story which peculiarly justifies the special character Chaucer has given: — "A French surgeon, at Smyrna, wishing to procure a stork, and finding great difficulty, on account of the extreme veneration in which they are held by the Turks, stole all the eggs out of a nest, and replaced them with those of a hen: in process of time the young chickens came forth, much to the astonishment of Mr and Mrs Stork. In a short time Mr S. went off, and was not seen for two or three days, when he returned with an immense crowd of his companions, who all assembled in the place, and formed a circle, taking no notice of the numerous spectators whom so unusual an occurrence had collected. Mrs Stork was brought forward into the midst of the circle, and, after some consultation, the whole flock fell upon her and tore her to pieces; after which they immediately dispersed, and the nest was entirely abandoned."
36. The cormorant feeds upon fish, so voraciously, that when the stomach is crammed it will often have the gullet and bill likewise full, awaiting the digestion of the rest.
37. So called from the evil omens supposed to be afforded by their harsh cries.
38. The fieldfare visits this country only in hard wintry weather.
39. "Formel," strictly or originally applied to the female of the eagle and hawk, is here used generally of the female of all birds; "tercel" is the corresponding word applied to the male.
40. Entriketh: entangles, ensnares; french, "intriguer," to perplex; hence "intricate."
41. Entremette him of: meddle with; French, ' entremettre," to interfere.
42. The duck exhorts the contending lovers to be of light heart and sing, for abundance of other ladies were at their command.
43. Solain: single, alone; the same word originally as "sullen."
44. The cuckoo is distinguished by its habit of laying its eggs in the nests of other and smaller birds, such as the hedge-sparrow ("heggsugg"); and its young, when hatched, throw the eggs or nestlings of the true parent bird out of the nest, thus engrossing the mother's entire care. The crime on which the emerlon comments so sharply, is explained by the migratory habits of the cuckoo, which prevent its bringing up its own young; and nature has provided facilities for the crime, by furnishing the young bird with a peculiarly strong and broad back, indented by a hollow in which the sparrow's egg is lifted till it is thrown out of the nest.
45. "Who well loves, late forgets;" the refrain of the roundel inculcates the duty of constancy, which has been imposed on the three tercels by the decision of the Court.
THE FLOWER AND THE LEAF
["The Flower and the Leaf" is pre-eminently one of those poems by which Chaucer may be triumphantly defended against the charge of licentious coarseness, that, founded upon his faithful representation of the manners, customs, and daily life and speech of his own time, in "The Canterbury Tales," are sweepingly advanced against his works at large. In an allegory — rendered perhaps somewhat cumbrous by the detail of chivalric ceremonial, and the heraldic minuteness, which entered so liberally into poetry, as into the daily life of the classes for whom poetry was then written — Chaucer beautifully enforces the lasting advantages of purity, valour, and faithful love, and the fleeting and disappointing character of mere idle pleasure, of sloth and listless retirement from the battle of life. In the "season sweet" of spring, which the great singer of Middle Age England loved so well, a gentle woman is supposed to seek sleep in vain, to rise "about the springing of the gladsome day," and, by an unfrequented path in a pleasant grove, to arrive at an arbour. Beside the arbour stands a medlar-tree, in which a Goldfinch sings passing sweetly; and the Nightingale answers from a green laurel tree, with so merry and ravishing a note, that the lady resolves to proceed no farther, but sit down on the grass to listen. Suddenly the sound of many voices singing surprises her; and she sees "a world of ladies" emerge from a grove, clad in white, and wearing garlands of laurel, of agnus castus, and woodbind. One, who wears a crown and bears a branch of agnus castus in her hand, begins a roundel, in honour of the Leaf, which all the others take up, dancing and singing in the meadow before the arbour. Soon, to the sound of thundering trumps, and attended by a splendid and warlike retinue, enter nine knights, in white, crowned like the ladies; and after they have jousted an hour and more, they alight and advance to the ladies. Each dame takes a knight by the hand; and all incline reverently to the laurel tree, which they encompass, singing of love, and dancing. Soon, preceded by a band of minstrels, out of the open field comes a lusty company of knights and ladies in green, crowned with chaplets of flowers; and they do reverence to a tuft of flowers in the middle of the meadow, while one of their number sings a bergerette in praise of the daisy. But now it is high noon; the sun waxes fervently hot; the flowers lose their beauty, and wither with the heat; the ladies in green are scorched, the knights faint for lack of shade. Then a strong wind beats down all the flowers, save such as are protected by the leaves of hedges and groves; and a mighty storm of rain and hail drenches the ladies and knights, shelterless in the now flowerless meadow. The storm overpast, the company in white, whom the laurel-tree has safely shielded from heat and storm, advance to the relief of the others; and when their clothes have been dried, and their wounds from sun and storm healed, all go together to sup with the Queen in white — on whose hand, as they pass by the arbour, the Nightingale perches, while the Goldfinch flies to the Lady of the Flower. The pageant gone, the gentlewoman quits the arbour, and meets a lady in white, who, at her request, unfolds the hidden meaning of all that she has seen; "which," says Speght quaintly, "is this: They which honour the Flower, a thing fading with every blast, are such as look after beauty and worldly pleasure. But they that honour the Leaf, which abideth with the root, notwithstanding the frosts and winter storms, are they which follow Virtue and during qualities, without regard of worldly respects." Mr Bell, in his edition, has properly noticed that there is no explanation of the emblematical import of the medlar-tree, the goldfinch, and the nightingale. "But," he says, "as the fruit of the medlar, to use Chaucer's own expression (see Prologue to the Reeve's Tale), is rotten before it is ripe, it may be the emblem of sensual pleasure, which palls before it confers real enjoyment. The goldfinch is remarkable for the beauty of its plumage, the sprightliness of its movements, and its gay, tinkling song, and may be supposed to represent the showy and unsubstantial character of frivolous pleasures. The nightingale's sober outward appearance and impassioned song denote greater depth of feeling." The poem throughout is marked by the purest and loftiest moral tone; and it amply deserved Dryden's special recommendation, "both for the invention and the moral." It is given without abridgement.] (Transcriber's note: Modern scholars believe that Chaucer was not the author of this poem)
WHEN that Phoebus his car of gold so high Had whirled up the starry sky aloft, And in the Bull enter'd certainly; When showers sweet of rain descended soft, Causing the grounde, fele* times and oft, *many Up for to give many a wholesome air, And every plain was y-clothed fair
With newe green, and maketh smalle flow'rs To springe here and there in field and mead; So very good and wholesome be the show'rs, That they renewe what was old and dead In winter time; and out of ev'ry seed Springeth the herbe, so that ev'ry wight Of thilke* season waxeth glad and light. *this
And I, so glad of thilke season sweet, Was *happed thus* upon a certain night, *thus circumstanced* As I lay in my bed, sleep full unmeet* *unfit, uncompliant Was unto me; but why that I not might Rest, I not wist; for there n'as* earthly wight, *was not As I suppose, had more hearte's ease Than I, for I n'had* sickness nor disease.** *had not **distress
Wherefore I marvel greatly of myself, That I so long withoute sleepe lay; And up I rose three houres after twelf, About the springing of the [gladsome] day; And on I put my gear* and mine array, *garments And to a pleasant grove I gan to pass, Long ere the brighte sun uprisen was;
In which were oakes great, straight as a line, Under the which the grass, so fresh of hue, Was newly sprung; and an eight foot or nine Every tree well from his fellow grew, With branches broad, laden with leaves new, That sprangen out against the sunne sheen; Some very red; and some a glad light green;
Which, as me thought, was right a pleasant sight. And eke the birdes' songes for to hear Would have rejoiced any earthly wight; And I, that could not yet, in no mannere, Heare the nightingale of* all the year, *during Full busy hearkened with heart and ear, If I her voice perceive could anywhere.
And at the last a path of little brede* *breadth I found, that greatly had not used be; For it forgrowen* was with grass and weed, *overgrown That well unneth* a wight mighte see: *scarcely Thought I, "This path some whither goes, pardie!"* *of a surety And so I follow'd [it], till it me brought To a right pleasant arbour, well y-wrought,
That benched was, and [all] with turfes new Freshly y-turf'd, whereof the greene grass, So small, so thick, so short, so fresh of hue, That most like to green wool, I wot, it was; The hedge also, that *yeden in compass,* *went all around * And closed in all the greene herbere,* *arbour With sycamore was set and eglatere,* *eglantine, sweet-briar
Wreathed *in fere* so well and cunningly, *together* That ev'ry branch and leaf grew *by measure,* *regularly* Plain as a board, of *a height by and by:* *the same height side I saw never a thing, I you ensure, by side* So well y-done; for he that took the cure* *pains, care To maken it, I trow did all his pain To make it pass all those that men have seen.
And shapen was this arbour, roof and all, As is a pretty parlour; and also The hedge as thick was as a castle wall, That whoso list without to stand or go, Though he would all day pryen to and fro, He should not see if there were any wight Within or no; but one within well might
Perceive all those that wente there without Into the field, that was on ev'ry side Cover'd with corn and grass; that out of doubt, Though one would seeken all the worlde wide, So rich a fielde could not be espied Upon no coast, *as of the quantity;* *for its abundance For of all goode thing there was plenty. or fertility*
And I, that all this pleasant sight [did] see, Thought suddenly I felt so sweet an air Of the eglentere, that certainly There is no heart, I deem, in such despair, Nor yet with thoughtes froward and contrair So overlaid, but it should soon have boot,* *remedy, relief* If it had ones felt this *savour swoot.* *sweet smell*
And as I stood, and cast aside mine eye, I was ware of the fairest medlar tree That ever yet in all my life I seye,* *saw As full of blossoms as it mighte be; Therein a goldfinch leaping prettily From bough to bough; and as him list he eat Here and there of the buds and flowers sweet.
And to the arbour side was adjoining This fairest tree, of which I have you told; And at the last the bird began to sing (When he had eaten what he eate wo'ld) So passing sweetly, that by many fold It was more pleasant than I could devise;* *tell, describe And, when his song was ended in this wise,
The nightingale with so merry a note Answered him, that all the woode rung, So suddenly, that, *as it were a sote,* *like a fool * I stood astound'; so was I with the song Thorough ravished, that, *till late and long,* *for a long time* I wist not in what place I was, nor where; Again, me thought, she sung e'en by mine ear.
Wherefore I waited about busily On ev'ry side, if that I might her see; And at the last I gan full well espy Where she sat in a fresh green laurel tree, On the further side, even right by me, That gave so passing a delicious smell, *According to* the eglantere full well. *blending with*
Whereof I had so inly great pleasure, That, as me thought, I surely ravish'd was Into Paradise, where [as] my desire Was for to be, and no farther to pass, As for that day; and on the sweete grass I sat me down; for, *as for mine intent,* *to my mind* The birde's song was more *convenient,* *appropriate to my humour*
And more pleasant to me, by many fold, Than meat, or drink, or any other thing; Thereto the arbour was so fresh and cold, The wholesome savours eke so comforting, That, as I deemed, since the beginning Of the world was [there] never seen *ere than* *before then* So pleasant a ground of none earthly man.
And as I sat, the birdes heark'ning thus, Me thought that I heard voices suddenly, The most sweetest and most delicious That ever any wight, I *trow truely,* *verily believe* Heard in their life; for the harmony And sweet accord was in so good musike, That the voices to angels' most were like.
At the last, out of a grove even by, That was right goodly, and pleasant to sight, I saw where there came, singing lustily, A world of ladies; but to tell aright Their greate beauty, lies not in my might, Nor their array; nevertheless I shall Tell you a part, though I speak not of all.
In surcoats* white, of velvet well fitting, *upper robes They were clad, and the seames each one, As it were a mannere [of] garnishing, Was set with emeraldes, one and one, *By and by;* but many a riche stone *in a row* Was set upon the purfles,* out of doubt, *embroidered edges Of collars, sleeves, and traines round about;
As greate pearles, round and orient,* *brilliant And diamondes fine, and rubies red, And many another stone, of which I went* *cannot recall The names now; and ev'reach on her head [Had] a rich fret* of gold, which, without dread,** *band **doubt Was full of stately* riche stones set; *valuable, noble And ev'ry lady had a chapelet
Upon her head of branches fresh and green, So well y-wrought, and so marvellously, That it was a right noble sight to see'n; Some of laurel, and some full pleasantly Had chapelets of woodbine; and sadly,* *sedately Some of agnus castus wearen also Chapelets fresh; but there were many of tho'* *those
That danced and eke sung full soberly; And all they went *in manner of compass;* *in a circle* But one there went, in mid the company, Sole by herself; but all follow'd the pace That she kept, whose heavenly figur'd face So pleasant was, and her well shap'd person, That in beauty she pass'd them ev'ry one.
And more richly beseen, by many fold, She was also in ev'ry manner thing: Upon her head, full pleasant to behold, A crown of golde, rich for any king; A branch of agnus castus eke bearing In her hand, and to my sight truely She Lady was of all that company.
And she began a roundell lustily, That "Suse le foyle, devers moi," men call, "Siene et mon joly coeur est endormy;" And then the company answered all, With voices sweet entuned, and so small,* *fine That me thought it the sweetest melody That ever I heard in my life, soothly.* *truly
And thus they came, dancing and singing, Into the middest of the mead each one, Before the arbour where I was sitting; And, God wot, me thought I was well-begone,* *fortunate For then I might advise* them one by one, *consider Who fairest was, who best could dance or sing, Or who most womanly was in all thing.
They had not danced but a *little throw,* *short time* When that I hearde far off, suddenly, So great a noise of thund'ring trumpets blow, As though it should departed* have the sky; *rent, divide And after that, within a while, I sigh,* *saw From the same grove, where the ladies came out, Of men of armes coming such a rout,* *company
As* all the men on earth had been assembled *as if Unto that place, well horsed for the nonce* *occasion Stirring so fast, that all the earthe trembled But for to speak of riches, and of stones, And men and horse, I trow the large ones* *i.e. jewels Of Prester John, nor all his treasury, Might not unneth* have bought the tenth party** *hardly **part
Of their array: whoso list heare more, I shall rehearse so as I can a lite.* *little Out of the grove, that I spake of before, I saw come first, all in their cloakes white, A company, that wore, for their delight, Chapelets fresh of oake cerrial, Newly y-sprung; and trumpets* were they all. *trumpeters
On ev'ry trump hanging a broad bannere Of fine tartarium was, full richly beat;* *embroidered with gold Every trumpet his lord's armes bare; About their necks, with greate pearles set, [Were] collars broad; for cost they would not let,* *be hindered by As it would seem, for their scutcheons each one Were set about with many a precious stone.
Their horses' harness was all white also. And after them next, in one company, Came kinges at armes and no mo', In cloakes of white cloth with gold richly; Chaplets of green upon their heads on high; The crownes that they on their scutcheons bare Were set with pearl, and ruby, and sapphire,
And eke great diamondes many one: But all their horse harness, and other gear, Was in a suit according, ev'ry one, As ye have heard the foresaid trumpets were; And, by seeming, they *were nothing to lear,* *had nothing to learn* And their guiding they did all mannerly.* *perfectly And after them came a great company