A THOUSAND times I have hearde tell, That there is joy in heav'n, and pain in hell; And I accord* it well that it is so; *grant, agree But, natheless, yet wot* I well also, *know That there is none dwelling in this country That either hath in heav'n or hell y-be;* *been Nor may of it no other wayes witten* *know But as he hath heard said, or found it written; For by assay* there may no man it preve.** *practical trial **prove, test But God forbid but that men should believe Well more thing than men have seen with eye! Men shall not weenen ev'ry thing a lie *But if* himself it seeth, or else do'th; *unless For, God wot, thing is never the less sooth,* *true Though ev'ry wighte may it not y-see. Bernard, the Monke, saw not all, pardie! Then muste we to bookes that we find (Through which that olde thinges be in mind), And to the doctrine of these olde wise, Give credence, in ev'ry skilful* wise, *reasonable That tellen of these old approved stories, Of holiness, of regnes,* of victories, *reigns, kingdoms Of love, of hate, and other sundry things Of which I may not make rehearsings; And if that olde bookes were away, Y-lorn were of all remembrance the key. Well ought we, then, to honour and believe These bookes, where we have none other preve.* *proof
And as for me, though that I know but lite,* *little On bookes for to read I me delight, And to them give I faith and good credence, And in my heart have them in reverence, So heartily, that there is *game none* *no amusement* That from my bookes maketh me to go'n, But it be seldom on the holyday; Save, certainly, when that the month of May Is comen, and I hear the fowles sing, And that the flowers ginnen for to spring, Farewell my book and my devotion!
Now have I then such a condition, That, above all the flowers in the mead, Then love I most these flowers white and red, Such that men calle Day's-eyes in our town; To them have I so great affectioun, As I said erst, when comen is the May, That in my bed there dawneth me no day That I n'am* up, and walking in the mead, *am not To see this flow'r against the sunne spread, When it upriseth early by the morrow; That blissful sight softeneth all my sorrow, So glad am I, when that I have presence Of it, to do it alle reverence, As she that is of alle flowers flow'r, Fulfilled of all virtue and honour, And ever alike fair, and fresh of hue; As well in winter, as in summer new, This love I ever, and shall until I die; All* swear I not, of this I will not lie, *although There loved no wight hotter in his life. And when that it is eve, I runne blife,* *quickly, eagerly As soon as ever the sun begins to west,* *decline westward To see this flow'r, how it will go to rest, For fear of night, so hateth she darkness! Her cheer* is plainly spread in the brightness *countenance Of the sunne, for there it will unclose. Alas! that I had English, rhyme or prose, Sufficient this flow'r to praise aright! But help me, ye that have *cunning or might;* *skill or power* Ye lovers, that can make of sentiment, In this case ought ye to be diligent To further me somewhat in my labour, Whether ye be with the Leaf or the Flow'r; For well I wot, that ye have herebefore Of making ropen,* and led away the corn; *reaped And I come after, gleaning here and there, And am full glad if I may find an ear Of any goodly word that you have left. And though it hap me to rehearsen eft* *again What ye have in your freshe songes said, Forbeare me, and be not *evil apaid,* *displeased* Since that ye see I do it in th'honour Of love, and eke in service of the flow'r Whom that I serve as I have wit or might. She is the clearness, and the very* light, *true That in this darke world me winds* and leads; *turns, guides The heart within my sorrowful breast you dreads, And loves so sore, that ye be, verily, The mistress of my wit, and nothing I. My word, my works, are knit so in your bond, That, as a harp obeyeth to the hand, That makes it sound after his fingering, Right so may ye out of my hearte bring Such voice, right as you list, to laugh or plain;* *complain, mourn Be ye my guide, and lady sovereign. As to mine earthly god, to you I call, Both in this work, and in my sorrows all.
But wherefore that I spake to give credence To old stories, and do them reverence, And that men muste more things believe Than they may see at eye, or elles preve,* *prove That shall I say, when that I see my time; I may not all at ones speak in rhyme. My busy ghost,* that thirsteth always new *spirit To see this flow'r so young, so fresh of hue, Constrained me with so greedy desire, That in my heart I feele yet the fire, That made me to rise ere it were day, — And this was now the first morrow of May, — With dreadful heart, and glad devotion, For to be at the resurrection Of this flower, when that it should unclose Against the sun, that rose as red as rose, That in the breast was of the beast* that day *the sign of the Bull That Agenore's daughter led away. And down on knees anon right I me set, And as I could this freshe flow'r I gret,* *greeted Kneeling alway, till it unclosed was, Upon the smalle, softe, sweete grass, That was with flowers sweet embroider'd all, Of such sweetness and such odour *o'er all,* *everywhere* That, for to speak of gum, or herb, or tree, Comparison may none y-maked be; For it surmounteth plainly all odours, And for rich beauty the most gay of flow'rs. Forgotten had the earth his poor estate Of winter, that him naked made and mate,* *dejected, lifeless And with his sword of cold so sore grieved; Now hath th'attemper* sun all that releaved** *temperate **furnished That naked was, and clad it new again. anew with leaves The smalle fowles, of the season fain,* *glad That of the panter* and the net be scap'd, *draw-net Upon the fowler, that them made awhap'd* *terrified, confounded In winter, and destroyed had their brood, In his despite them thought it did them good To sing of him, and in their song despise The foule churl, that, for his covetise,* *greed Had them betrayed with his sophistry* *deceptions This was their song: "The fowler we defy, And all his craft:" and some sunge clear Layes of love, that joy it was to hear, In worshipping* and praising of their make;** *honouring **mate And for the blissful newe summer's sake, Upon the branches full of blossoms soft, In their delight they turned them full oft, And sunge, "Blessed be Saint Valentine! For on his day I chose you to be mine, Withoute repenting, my hearte sweet." And therewithal their heals began to meet, Yielding honour, and humble obeisances, To love, and did their other observances That longen unto Love and to Nature; Construe that as you list, I *do no cure.* *care nothing* And those that hadde *done unkindeness,* *committed offence As doth the tidife, for newfangleness, against natural laws* Besoughte mercy for their trespassing And humblely sange their repenting, And swore upon the blossoms to be true; So that their mates would upon them rue,* *take pity And at the laste made their accord.* *reconciliation All* found they Danger** for a time a lord, *although **disdain Yet Pity, through her stronge gentle might, Forgave, and made mercy pass aright Through Innocence, and ruled Courtesy. But I ne call not innocence folly Nor false pity, for virtue is the mean, As Ethic saith, in such manner I mean. And thus these fowles, void of all malice, Accorded unto Love, and lefte vice Of hate, and sangen all of one accord, "Welcome, Summer, our governor and lord!" And Zephyrus and Flora gentilly Gave to the flowers, soft and tenderly, Their sweete breath, and made them for to spread, As god and goddess of the flow'ry mead; In which me thought I mighte, day by day, Dwellen alway, the jolly month of May, Withoute sleep, withoute meat or drink. Adown full softly I began to sink, And, leaning on mine elbow and my side The longe day I shope* to abide, *resolved, prepared For nothing elles, and I shall not lie But for to look upon the daisy; That men by reason well it calle may The Daye's-eye, or else the Eye of Day, The empress and the flow'r of flowers all I pray to God that faire may she fall! And all that love flowers, for her sake: But, nathelesse, *ween not that I make* *do not fancy that I In praising of the Flow'r against the Leaf, write this poem* No more than of the corn against the sheaf; For as to me is lever none nor lother, I n'am withholden yet with neither n'other. *Nor I n'ot* who serves Leaf, nor who the Flow'r; *nor do I know* Well *brooke they* their service or labour! *may they profit by* For this thing is all of another tun, Of old story, ere such thing was begun.
When that the sun out of the south gan west, And that this flow'r gan close, and go to rest, For darkness of the night, the which she dread;* *dreaded Home to my house full swiftly I me sped, To go to rest, and early for to rise, To see this flower spread, as I devise.* *describe And in a little arbour that I have, That benched was of turfes fresh y-grave,* *cut out I bade men shoulde me my couche make; For dainty* of the newe summer's sake, *pleasure I bade them strowe flowers on my bed. When I was laid, and had mine eyen hid, I fell asleep; within an hour or two, Me mette* how I lay in the meadow tho,** *dreamed **then To see this flow'r that I love so and dread. And from afar came walking in the mead The God of Love, and in his hand a queen; And she was clad in royal habit green; A fret* of gold she hadde next her hair, *band And upon that a white corown she bare, With flowrons* small, and, as I shall not lie, *florets For all the world right as a daisy Y-crowned is, with white leaves lite,* *small So were the flowrons of her crowne white. For of one pearle, fine, oriential, Her white crowne was y-maked all, For which the white crown above the green Made her like a daisy for to see'n,* *look upon Consider'd eke her fret of gold above. Y-clothed was this mighty God of Love In silk embroider'd, full of greene greves,* *boughs In which there was a fret of red rose leaves, The freshest since the world was first begun. His gilt hair was y-crowned with a sun, lnstead of gold, for* heaviness and weight; *to avoid Therewith me thought his face shone so bright, That well unnethes might I him behold; And in his hand me thought I saw him hold Two fiery dartes, as the gledes* red; *glowing coals And angel-like his winges saw I spread. And *all be* that men say that blind is he, *although* Algate* me thoughte that he might well see; *at all events For sternly upon me he gan behold, So that his looking *did my hearte cold.* *made my heart And by the hand he held this noble queen, grow cold* Crowned with white, and clothed all in green, So womanly, so benign, and so meek, That in this worlde, though that men would seek. Half of her beauty shoulde they not find In creature that formed is by Kind;* *Nature And therefore may I say, as thinketh me, This song in praising of this lady free:
"Hide, Absolon, thy gilte* tresses clear; *golden Esther, lay thou thy meekness all adown; Hide, Jonathan, all thy friendly mannere, Penelope, and Marcia Catoun, Make of your wifehood no comparisoun; Hide ye your beauties, Isoude and Helene; My lady comes, that all this may distain.* *outdo, obscure
"Thy faire body let it not appear, Lavine; and thou, Lucrece of Rome town; And Polyxene, that boughte love so dear, And Cleopatra, with all thy passioun, Hide ye your truth of love, and your renown; And thou, Thisbe, that hadst of love such pain My lady comes, that all this may distain.
"Hero, Dido, Laodamia, y-fere,* *together And Phyllis, hanging for Demophoon, And Canace, espied by thy cheer, Hypsipyle, betrayed by Jasoun, Make of your truthe neither boast nor soun'; Nor Hypermnestr' nor Ariadne, ye twain; My lady comes, that all this may distain."
This ballad may full well y-sungen be, As I have said erst, by my lady free; For, certainly, all these may not suffice *T'appaire with* my lady in no wise; *surpass in beauty For, as the sunne will the fire distain, or honour* So passeth all my lady sovereign, That is so good, so fair, so debonair, I pray to God that ever fall her fair! For *n'hadde comfort been* of her presence, *had I not the I had been dead, without any defence, comfort of* For dread of Love's wordes, and his cheer; As, when time is, hereafter ye shall hear. Behind this God of Love, upon the green, I saw coming of Ladies nineteen, In royal habit, a full easy pace; And after them of women such a trace,* *train That, since that God Adam had made of earth, The thirde part of mankind, or the ferth,* *fourth *Ne ween'd I not* by possibility, *I never fancied* Had ever in this wide world y-be;* *been And true of love these women were each one. Now whether was that a wonder thing, or non,* *not That, right anon as that they gan espy This flow'r, which that I call the daisy, Full suddenly they stenten* all at once, *stopped And kneeled down, as it were for the nonce, And sange with one voice, "Heal and honour To truth of womanhead, and to this flow'r, *That bears our aller prize in figuring;* *that in its figure bears Her white crowne bears the witnessing!" the prize from us all* And with that word, *a-compass enviroun* *all around in a ring* They sette them full softely adown. First sat the God of Love, and since* his queen, *afterwards With the white corowne, clad in green; And sithen* all the remnant by and by, *then As they were of estate, full courteously; And not a word was spoken in the place, The mountance* of a furlong way of space. *extent
I, kneeling by this flow'r, in good intent Abode, to knowe what this people meant, As still as any stone, till, at the last, The God of Love on me his eyen cast, And said, "Who kneeleth there? "and I answer'd Unto his asking, when that I it heard, And said, "It am I," and came to him near, And salued* him. Quoth he, "What dost thou here, *saluted So nigh mine owen flow'r, so boldely? It were better worthy, truely, A worm to nighe* near my flow'r than thou." *approach, draw nigh "And why, Sir," quoth I, "an' it liketh you?" "For thou," quoth he, "art thereto nothing able, It is my relic,* dign** and delectable, *emblem **worthy And thou my foe, and all my folk warrayest,* *molestest, censurest And of mine olde servants thou missayest, And hind'rest them, with thy translation, And lettest* folk from their devotion *preventest To serve me, and holdest it folly To serve Love; thou may'st it not deny; For in plain text, withoute need of glose,* *comment, gloss Thu hast translated the Romance of the Rose, That is a heresy against my law, And maketh wise folk from me withdraw; And of Cresside thou hast said as thee list, That maketh men to women less to trust, That be as true as e'er was any steel. Of thine answer *advise thee right weel;* *consider right well* For though that thou *renied hast my lay,* *abjured my law As other wretches have done many a day, or religion* By Sainte Venus, that my mother is, If that thou live, thou shalt repente this, So cruelly, that it shall well be seen."
Then spake this Lady, clothed all in green, And saide, "God, right of your courtesy, Ye mighte hearken if he can reply Against all this, that ye have *to him meved;* *advanced against him* A godde shoulde not be thus aggrieved, But of his deity he shall be stable, And thereto gracious and merciable.* *merciful And if ye n'ere* a god, that knoweth all, *were not Then might it be, as I you telle shall, This man to you may falsely be accused, Whereas by right him ought to be excused; For in your court is many a losengeour,* *deceiver And many a *quaint toteler accusour,* *strange prating accuser * That tabour* in your eares many a soun', *drum Right after their imaginatioun, To have your dalliance,* and for envy; *pleasant conversation, These be the causes, and I shall not lie, company Envy is lavender* of the Court alway, *laundress For she departeth neither night nor day Out of the house of Caesar, thus saith Dant'; Whoso that go'th, algate* she shall not want. *at all events And eke, parauntre,* for this man is nice,** *peradventure **foolish He mighte do it guessing* no malice; *thinking For he useth thinges for to make;* *compose poetry Him *recketh naught of * what mattere he take; *cares nothing for* Or he was bidden *make thilke tway* *compose those two* Of* some person, and durst it not withsay;* *by **refuse, deny Or him repenteth utterly of this. He hath not done so grievously amiss, To translate what olde clerkes write, As though that he of malice would endite,* *write down *Despite of* Love, and had himself it wrought. *contempt for* This should a righteous lord have in his thought, And not be like tyrants of Lombardy, That have no regard but at tyranny. For he that king or lord is naturel, Him oughte not be tyrant or cruel, As is a farmer, to do the harm he can; He muste think, it is his liegeman, And is his treasure, and his gold in coffer; This is the sentence* of the philosopher: *opinion, sentiment A king to keep his lieges in justice, Withoute doubte that is his office. All* will he keep his lords in their degree, — *although As it is right and skilful* that they be, *reasonable Enhanced and honoured, and most dear, For they be halfe* in this world here, — *demigods Yet must he do both right to poor and rich, All be that their estate be not y-lich;* *alike And have of poore folk compassion. For lo! the gentle kind of the lion; For when a fly offendeth him, or biteth, He with his tail away the flye smiteth, All easily; for of his gentery* *nobleness Him deigneth not to wreak him on a fly, As doth a cur, or else another beast. *In noble corage ought to be arrest,* *in a noble nature ought And weighen ev'rything by equity, to be self-restraint* And ever have regard to his degree. For, Sir, it is no mastery for a lord To damn* a man, without answer of word; *condemn And for a lord, that is *full foul to use.* *most infamous practice* And it be so he* may him not excuse, *the offender But asketh mercy with a dreadful* heart, *fearing, timid And proffereth him, right in his bare shirt, To be right at your owen judgement, Then ought a god, by short advisement,* *deliberation Consider his own honour, and his trespass; For since no pow'r of death lies in this case, You ought to be the lighter merciable; Lette* your ire, and be somewhat tractable! *restrain This man hath served you of his cunning,* *ability, skill And further'd well your law in his making.* *composing poetry Albeit that he cannot well endite, Yet hath he made lewed* folk delight *ignorant To serve you, in praising of your name. He made the book that hight the House of Fame, And eke the Death of Blanche the Duchess, And the Parliament of Fowles, as I guess, And all the Love of Palamon and Arcite, Of Thebes, though the story is known lite;* *little And many a hymne for your holydays, That highte ballads, roundels, virelays. And, for to speak of other holiness, He hath in prose translated Boece, And made the Life also of Saint Cecile; He made also, gone is a greate while, Origenes upon the Magdalene. Him oughte now to have the lesse pain;* *penalty He hath made many a lay, and many a thing. Now as ye be a god, and eke a king, I your Alcestis, whilom queen of Thrace, I aske you this man, right of your grace, That ye him never hurt in all his life; And he shall sweare to you, and that blife,* *quickly He shall no more aguilten* in this wise, *offend But shall maken, as ye will him devise, Of women true in loving all their life, Whereso ye will, of maiden or of wife, And further you as much as he missaid Or* in the Rose, or elles in Cresseide." *either
The God of Love answered her anon: "Madame," quoth he, "it is so long agone That I you knew, so charitable and true, That never yet, since that the world was new, To me ne found I better none than ye; If that I woulde save my degree, I may nor will not warne* your request; *refuse All lies in you, do with him as you lest. I all forgive withoute longer space;* *delay For he who gives a gift, or doth a grace, Do it betimes, his thank is well the more; And deeme* ye what he shall do therefor. *adjudge Go thanke now my Lady here," quoth he. I rose, and down I set me on my knee, And saide thus; "Madame, the God above Foryielde* you that ye the God of Love *reward Have made me his wrathe to forgive; And grace* so longe for to live, *give me grace That I may knowe soothly what ye be, That have me help'd, and put in this degree! But truely I ween'd, as in this case, Naught t' have aguilt,* nor done to Love trespass;** *offended For why? a true man, withoute dread, **offence Hath not *to parte with* a thieve's deed. *any share in* Nor a true lover oughte me to blame, Though that I spoke a false lover some shame. They oughte rather with me for to hold, For that I of Cressida wrote or told, Or of the Rose, *what so mine author meant;* *made a true translation* Algate, God wot, it was mine intent *by all ways To further truth in love, and it cherice,* *cherish And to beware from falseness and from vice, By such example; this was my meaning."
And she answer'd; "Let be thine arguing, For Love will not counterpleaded be In right nor wrong, and learne that of me; Thou hast thy grace, and hold thee right thereto. Now will I say what penance thou shalt do For thy trespass;* and understand it here: *offence Thou shalt, while that thou livest, year by year, The moste partie of thy time spend In making of a glorious Legend Of Goode Women, maidenes and wives, That were true in loving all their lives; And tell of false men that them betray, That all their life do naught but assay How many women they may do a shame; For in your world that is now *held a game.* *considered a sport* And though thou like not a lover be, Speak well of love; this penance give I thee. And to the God of Love I shall so pray, That he shall charge his servants, by any way, To further thee, and well thy labour quite:* *requite Go now thy way, thy penance is but lite. And, when this book ye make, give it the queen On my behalf, at Eltham, or at Sheen."
The God of Love gan smile, and then he said: "Know'st thou," quoth he, "whether this be wife or maid, Or queen, or countess, or of what degree, That hath so little penance given thee, That hath deserved sorely for to smart? But pity runneth soon in gentle* heart; *nobly born That may'st thou see, she kitheth* what she is. *showeth And I answer'd: "Nay, Sir, so have I bliss, No more but that I see well she is good." "That is a true tale, by my hood," Quoth Love; "and that thou knowest well, pardie! If it be so that thou advise* thee. *bethink Hast thou not in a book, li'th* in thy chest, *(that) lies The greate goodness of the queen Alceste, That turned was into a daisy She that for her husbande chose to die, And eke to go to hell rather than he; And Hercules rescued her, pardie! And brought her out of hell again to bliss?" And I answer'd again, and saide; "Yes, Now know I her; and is this good Alceste, The daisy, and mine own hearte's rest? Now feel I well the goodness of this wife, That both after her death, and in her life, Her greate bounty* doubleth her renown. *virtue Well hath she quit* me mine affectioun *recompensed That I have to her flow'r the daisy; No wonder is though Jove her stellify, As telleth Agathon, for her goodness; Her white crowne bears of it witness; For all so many virtues hadde she As smalle flowrons in her crowne be. In remembrance of her, and in honour, Cybele made the daisy, and the flow'r, Y-crowned all with white, as men may see, And Mars gave her a crowne red, pardie! Instead of rubies set among the white."
Therewith this queen wax'd red for shame a lite When she was praised so in her presence. Then saide Love: "A full great negligence Was it to thee, that ilke* time thou made *that same 'Hide Absolon thy tresses,' in ballade, That thou forgot her in thy song to set, Since that thou art so greatly in her debt, And knowest well that calendar* is she *guide, example To any woman that will lover be: For she taught all the craft of true loving, And namely* of wifehood the living, *especially And all the boundes that she ought to keep: Thy little wit was thilke* time asleep. *that But now I charge thee, upon thy life, That in thy Legend thou make* of this wife, *poetise, compose When thou hast other small y-made before; And fare now well, I charge thee no more. But ere I go, thus much I will thee tell, — Never shall no true lover come in hell. These other ladies, sitting here a-row, Be in my ballad, if thou canst them know, And in thy bookes all thou shalt them find; Have them in thy Legend now all in mind; I mean of them that be in thy knowing. For here be twenty thousand more sitting Than that thou knowest, goode women all, And true of love, for aught that may befall; Make the metres of them as thee lest; I must go home, — the sunne draweth west, — To Paradise, with all this company: And serve alway the freshe daisy. At Cleopatra I will that thou begin, And so forth, and my love so shalt thou win; For let see now what man, that lover be, Will do so strong a pain for love as she. I wot well that thou may'st not all it rhyme, That suche lovers didden in their time; It were too long to readen and to hear; Suffice me thou make in this mannere, That thou rehearse of all their life the great,* *substance After* these old authors list for to treat; *according as For whoso shall so many a story tell, Say shortly, or he shall too longe dwell."
And with that word my bookes gan I take, And right thus on my Legend gan I make.
Thus endeth the Prologue.
Notes to The prologue to The Legend of Good Women
1. Bernard, the Monke, saw not all, pardie!: a proverbial saying, signifying that even the wisest, or those who claim to be the wisest, cannot know everything. Saint Bernard, who was the last, or among the last, of the Fathers, lived in the first half of the twelfth century.
2. Compare Chaucer's account of his habits, in "The House of Fame."
3. See introductory note to "The Flower and the Leaf."
4. "ye have herebefore Of making ropen, and led away the corn" The meaning is, that the "lovers" have long ago said all that can be said, by way of poetry, or "making" on the subject. See note 89 to "Troilus and Cressida" for the etymology of "making" meaning "writing poetry."
5. The poet glides here into an address to his lady.
6. Europa was the daughter of Agenores, king of Phrygia. She was carried away to Crete by Jupiter, disguised as a lovely and tame bull, on whose back Europa mounted as she was sporting with her maidens by the sea-shore. The story is beautifully told in Horace, Odes, iii. 27.
7. See "The Assembly of Fowls," which was supposed to happen on St. Valentine's day.
8. The tidife: The titmouse, or any other small bird, which sometimes brings up the cuckoo's young when its own have been destroyed. See note 44 to "The Assembly of Fowls."
9. Ethic: the "Ethics" of Aristotle.
10. "For as to me is lever none nor lother, I n'am withholden yet with neither n'other." i.e For as neither is more liked or disliked by me, I am not bound by, holden to, either the one or the other.
11. All of another tun i.e. wine of another tun — a quite different matter.
12. Compare the description of the arbour in "The Flower and the Leaf."
13. Flowrons: florets; little flowers on the disk of the main flower; French "fleuron."
14. Mr Bell thinks that Chaucer here praises the complaisance of Marcia, the wife of Cato, in complying with his will when he made her over to his friend Hortensius. It would be in better keeping with the spirit of the poet's praise, to believe that we should read "Porcia Catoun" — Porcia the daughter of Cato, who was married to Brutus, and whose perfect wifehood has been celebrated in The Franklin's Tale. See note 25 to the Franklin's Tale.
15. Isoude: See note 21 to "The Assembly of Fowls".
16. Lavine: Lavinia, the heroine of the Aeneid, who became the wife of Aeneas.
17. Polyxena, daughter of Priam, king of Troy, fell in love with Achilles, and, when he was killed, she fled to the Greek camp, and slew herself on the tomb of her hero-lover.
18. Mountance: extent, duration. See note 84 to "The House of Fame".
19. Relic: emblem; or cherished treasure; like the relics at the shrines of saints.
20. Losengeour: deceiver. See note 31 to the Nun's Priest's Tale.
21. "Toteler" is an old form of the word "tatler," from the Anglo-Saxon, "totaelan," to talk much, to tattle.
22. Envy is lavender of the court alway: a "lavender" is a washerwoman or laundress; the word represents "meretrice"in Dante's original — meaning a courtezan; but we can well understand that Chaucer thought it prudent, and at the same time more true to the moral state of the English Court, to change the character assigned to Envy. He means that Envy is perpetually at Court, like some garrulous, bitter old woman employed there in the most servile offices, who remains at her post through all the changes among the courtiers. The passage cited from Dante will be found in the "Inferno," canto xiii. 64 — 69.
23. Chaucer says that the usurping lords who seized on the government of the free Lombard cities, had no regard for any rule of government save sheer tyranny — but a natural lord, and no usurper, ought not to be a tyrant.
24. Farmer: one who merely farms power or revenue for his own purposes and his own gain.
25. This was the first version of the Knight's tale. See the introductory note, above
26. Boece: Boethius' "De Consolatione Philosophiae;" to which frequent reference is made in The Canterbury Tales. See, for instances, note 91 to the Knight's Tale; and note 34 to the Squire's Tale.
27. A poem entitled "The Lamentation of Mary Magdalene," said to have been "taken out of St Origen," is included in the editions of Chaucer; but its authenticity, and consequently its identity with the poem here mentioned, are doubted.
28. For the story of Alcestis, see note 11 to "The Court of Love."
29. "For he who gives a gift, or doth a grace, Do it betimes, his thank is well the more" A paraphrase of the well-known proverb, "Bis dat qui cito dat." ("He gives twice who gives promptly")
30. The same prohibition occurs in the Fifteenth Statute of "The Court of Love."
31. Chaucer is always careful to allege his abstinence from the pursuits of gallantry; he does so prominently in "The Court of Love," "The Assembly of Fowls," and "The House of Fame."
32. Pity runneth soon in gentle heart: the same is said of Theseus, in The Knight's Tale, and of Canace, by the falcon, in The Squire's Tale.
33. Stellify: assign to a place among the stars; as Jupiter did to Andromeda and Cassiopeia.
34. Agathon: there was an Athenian dramatist of this name, who might have made the virtues and fortunes of Alcestis his theme; but the reference is too vague for the author to be identified with any confidence.
CHAUCER'S A. B. C. CALLED LA PRIERE DE NOSTRE DAME
ALMIGHTY and all-merciable* Queen, *all-merciful To whom all this world fleeth for succour, To have release of sin, of sorrow, of teen!* *affliction Glorious Virgin! of all flowers flow'r, To thee I flee, confounded in errour! Help and relieve, almighty debonair,* *gracious, gentle Have mercy of my perilous languour! Vanquish'd me hath my cruel adversair.
Bounty* so fix'd hath in thy heart his tent, *goodness, charity That well I wot thou wilt my succour be; Thou canst not *warne that* with good intent *refuse he who* Asketh thy help, thy heart is ay so free! Thou art largess* of plein** felicity, *liberal bestower **full Haven and refuge of quiet and rest! Lo! how that thieves seven chase me! Help, Lady bright, ere that my ship to-brest!* *be broken to pieces
Comfort is none, but in you, Lady dear! For lo! my sin and my confusion, Which ought not in thy presence to appear, Have ta'en on me a grievous action,* *control Of very right and desperation! And, as by right, they mighte well sustene That I were worthy my damnation, Ne were it mercy of you, blissful Queen!
Doubt is there none, Queen of misericorde,* *compassion That thou art cause of grace and mercy here; God vouchesaf'd, through thee, with us t'accord;* *to be reconciled For, certes, Christe's blissful mother dear! Were now the bow y-bent, in such mannere As it was first, of justice and of ire, The rightful God would of no mercy hear; But through thee have we grace as we desire.
Ever hath my hope of refuge in thee be'; For herebefore full oft in many a wise Unto mercy hast thou received me. But mercy, Lady! at the great assize, When we shall come before the high Justice! So little fruit shall then in me be found, That,* thou ere that day correcte me, *unless Of very right my work will me confound.
Flying, I flee for succour to thy tent, Me for to hide from tempest full of dread; Beseeching you, that ye you not absent, Though I be wick'. O help yet at this need! All* have I been a beast in wit and deed, *although Yet, Lady! thou me close in with thy grace; *Thine enemy and mine,* — Lady, take heed! — *the devil* Unto my death in point is me to chase.
Gracious Maid and Mother! which that never Wert bitter nor in earthe nor in sea, But full of sweetness and of mercy ever, Help, that my Father be not wroth with me! Speak thou, for I ne dare Him not see; So have I done in earth, alas the while! That, certes, but if thou my succour be, To sink etern He will my ghost exile.
He vouchesaf'd, tell Him, as was His will, Become a man, *as for our alliance,* *to ally us with god* And with His blood He wrote that blissful bill Upon the cross, as general acquittance To ev'ry penitent in full creance;* *belief And therefore, Lady bright! thou for us pray; Then shalt thou stenten* alle His grievance, *put an end to And make our foe to failen of his prey.
I wote well thou wilt be our succour, Thou art so full of bounty in certain; For, when a soule falleth in errour, Thy pity go'th, and haleth* him again; *draweth Then makest thou his peace with his Sov'reign, And bringest him out of the crooked street: Whoso thee loveth shall not love in vain, That shall he find *as he the life shall lete.* *when he leaves life* K.
*Kalendares illumined* be they *brilliant exemplars* That in this world be lighted with thy name; And whoso goeth with thee the right way, Him shall not dread in soule to be lame; Now, Queen of comfort! since thou art the same To whom I seeke for my medicine, Let not my foe no more my wound entame;* *injure, molest My heal into thy hand all I resign.
Lady, thy sorrow can I not portray Under that cross, nor his grievous penance; But, for your bothe's pain, I you do pray, Let not our *aller foe* make his boastance, *the foe of us all — That he hath in his listes, with mischance, Satan* *Convicte that* ye both have bought so dear; *ensnared that which* As I said erst, thou ground of all substance! Continue on us thy piteous eyen clear.
Moses, that saw the bush of flames red Burning, of which then never a stick brenn'd,* *burned Was sign of thine unwemmed* maidenhead. *unblemished Thou art the bush, on which there gan descend The Holy Ghost, the which that Moses wend* *weened, supposed Had been on fire; and this was in figure. Now, Lady! from the fire us do defend, Which that in hell eternally shall dure.
Noble Princess! that never haddest peer; Certes if any comfort in us be, That cometh of thee, Christe's mother dear! We have none other melody nor glee,* *pleasure Us to rejoice in our adversity; Nor advocate, that will and dare so pray For us, and for as little hire as ye, That helpe for an Ave-Mary or tway.
O very light of eyen that be blind! O very lust* of labour and distress! *relief, pleasure O treasurer of bounty to mankind! The whom God chose to mother for humbless! From his ancill* he made thee mistress *handmaid Of heav'n and earth, our *billes up to bede;* *offer up our petitions* This world awaiteth ever on thy goodness; For thou ne failedst never wight at need.
Purpose I have sometime for to enquere Wherefore and why the Holy Ghost thee sought, When Gabrielis voice came to thine ear; He not to war* us such a wonder wrought, *afflict But for to save us, that sithens us bought: Then needeth us no weapon us to save, But only, where we did not as we ought, Do penitence, and mercy ask and have.
Queen of comfort, right when I me bethink That I aguilt* have bothe Him and thee, *offended And that my soul is worthy for to sink, Alas! I, caitiff, whither shall I flee? Who shall unto thy Son my meane* be? *medium of approach Who, but thyself, that art of pity well?* *fountain Thou hast more ruth on our adversity Than in this world might any tongue tell!
Redress me, Mother, and eke me chastise! For certainly my Father's chastising I dare not abiden in no wise, So hideous is his full reckoning. Mother! of whom our joy began to spring, Be ye my judge, and eke my soule's leach;* *physician For ay in you is pity abounding To each that will of pity you beseech.
Sooth is it that He granteth no pity Withoute thee; for God of his goodness Forgiveth none, *but it like unto thee;* *unless it please He hath thee made vicar and mistress thee* Of all this world, and eke governess Of heaven; and represseth his justice After* thy will; and therefore in witness *according to He hath thee crowned in so royal wise.
Temple devout! where God chose his wonning,* *abode From which, these misbeliev'd deprived be, To you my soule penitent I bring; Receive me, for I can no farther flee. With thornes venomous, O Heaven's Queen! For which the earth accursed was full yore, I am so wounded, as ye may well see, That I am lost almost, it smart so sore!
Virgin! that art so noble of apparail,* *aspect That leadest us into the highe tow'r Of Paradise, thou me *wiss and counsail* *direct and counsel* How I may have thy grace and thy succour; All have I been in filth and in errour, Lady! *on that country thou me adjourn,* *take me to that place* That called is thy bench of freshe flow'r, There as that mercy ever shall sojourn.
Xpe thy Son, that in this world alight, Upon a cross to suffer his passioun, And suffer'd eke that Longeus his heart pight,* *pierced And made his hearte-blood to run adown; And all this was for my salvatioun: And I to him am false and eke unkind, And yet he wills not my damnation; *This thank I you,* succour of all mankind! *for this I am indebted to you* Y.
Ysaac was figure of His death certain, That so farforth his father would obey, That him *ne raughte* nothing to be slain; *he cared not* Right so thy Son list as a lamb to dey:* *die Now, Lady full of mercy! I you pray, Since he his mercy 'sured me so large, Be ye not scant, for all we sing and say, That ye be from vengeance alway our targe.* *shield, defence
Zachary you calleth the open well That washed sinful soul out of his guilt; Therefore this lesson out I will to tell, That, n'ere* thy tender hearte, we were spilt.** *were it not for Now, Lady brighte! since thou canst and wilt, *destroyed, undone* Be to the seed of Adam merciable;* *merciful Bring us unto that palace that is built To penitents that be *to mercy able!* *fit to receive mercy*
Explicit.* *The end
Notes to Chaucer's A. B. C.
1. Chaucer's A. B. C. — a prayer to the Virgin, in twenty three verses, beginning with the letters of the alphabet in their order — is said to have been written "at the request of Blanche, Duchess of Lancaster, as a prayer for her private use, being a woman in her religion very devout." It was first printed in Speght's edition of 1597.
2. La Priere De Nostre Dame: French, "The Prayer of Our Lady."
3. Thieves seven: i.e. the seven deadly sins
4. Mary's name recalls the waters of "Marah" or bitterness (Exod. xv. 23), or the prayer of Naomi in her grief that she might be called not Naomi, but "Mara" (Ruth i. 20). Mary, however, is understood to mean "exalted."
5. A typical representation. See The Prioress's Tale, third stanza.
6. The reference evidently is to Luke i. 38 — "Ecce ancilla Domini," ("Behold the handmaid of the Lord") the Virgin's humble answer to Gabriel at the Annunciation.
7. "Xpe" represents the Greek letters chi rho epsilon, and is a contraction for "Christe."
8. According to tradition, the soldier who struck the Saviour to the heart with his spear was named Longeus, and was blind; but, touching his eyes by chance with the mingled blood and water that flowed down the shaft upon his hands, he was instantly restored to sight.
9. "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness" (Zech. xiii. 1).
A GOODLY BALLAD OF CHAUCER.
MOTHER of nurture, best belov'd of all, And freshe flow'r, to whom good thrift God send Your child, if it lust* you me so to call, *please *All be I* unable myself so to pretend, *although I be To your discretion I recommend My heart and all, with ev'ry circumstance, All wholly to be under your governance.
Most desire I, and have and ever shall, Thinge which might your hearte's ease amend Have me excus'd, my power is but small; Nathless, of right, ye oughte to commend My goode will, which fame would entend* *attend, strive To do you service; for my suffisance* *contentment Is wholly to be under your governance.
Mieux un in heart which never shall apall, Ay fresh and new, and right glad to dispend My time in your service, what so befall, Beseeching your excellence to defend My simpleness, if ignorance offend In any wise; since that mine affiance Is wholly to be under your governance.
Daisy of light, very ground of comfort, The sunne's daughter ye light, as I read; For when he west'reth, farewell your disport! By your nature alone, right for pure dread Of the rude night, that with his *boistous weed* *rude garment* Of darkness shadoweth our hemisphere, Then close ye, my life's lady dear!
Dawneth the day unto his kind resort, And Phoebus your father, with his streames red, Adorns the morrow, consuming the sort* *crowd Of misty cloudes, that would overlade True humble heartes with their mistihead.* *dimness, mistiness New comfort adaws,* when your eyen clear *dawns, awakens Disclose and spread, my life's lady dear.
Je voudrais* — but the greate God disposeth, *I would wish And maketh casual, by his Providence, Such thing as manne's fraile wit purposeth, All for the best, if that your conscience Not grudge it, but in humble patience It receive; for God saith, withoute fable, A faithful heart ever is acceptable.
Cauteles* whoso useth gladly, gloseth;** *cautious speeches To eschew such it is right high prudence; **deceiveth What ye said ones mine heart opposeth, That my writing japes* in your absence *jests, coarse stories Pleased you much better than my presence: Yet can I more; ye be not excusable; A faithful heart is ever acceptable.
Quaketh my pen; my spirit supposeth That in my writing ye will find offence; Mine hearte welketh* thus; anon it riseth; *withers, faints Now hot, now cold, and after in fervence; That is amiss, is caus'd of negligence, And not of malice; therefore be merciable; A faithful heart is ever acceptable.
Forthe, complaint! forth, lacking eloquence; Forth little letter, of enditing lame! I have besought my lady's sapience On thy behalfe, to accept in game Thine inability; do thou the same. Abide! have more yet! *Je serve Joyesse!* *I serve Joy* Now forth, I close thee in holy Venus' name! Thee shall unclose my hearte's governess.
Notes To a Goodly Ballad Of Chaucer
1. This elegant little poem is believed to have been addressed to Margaret, Countess of Pembroke, in whose name Chaucer found one of those opportunities of praising the daisy he never lost. (Transcriber's note: Modern scholars believe that Chaucer was not the author of this poem)
2. Mieux un in heart which never shall apall: better one who in heart shall never pall — whose love will never weary.
A BALLAD SENT TO KING RICHARD.
SOMETIME this world was so steadfast and stable, That man's word was held obligation; And now it is so false and deceivable,* *deceitful That word and work, as in conclusion, Be nothing one; for turned up so down Is all this world, through meed* and wilfulness, *bribery That all is lost for lack of steadfastness.
What makes this world to be so variable, But lust* that folk have in dissension? *pleasure For now-a-days a man is held unable* *fit for nothing *But if* he can, by some collusion,** *unless* *fraud, trick Do his neighbour wrong or oppression. What causeth this but wilful wretchedness, That all is lost for lack of steadfastness?
Truth is put down, reason is holden fable; Virtue hath now no domination; Pity exil'd, no wight is merciable; Through covetise is blent* discretion; *blinded The worlde hath made permutation From right to wrong, from truth to fickleness, That all is lost for lack of steadfastness.
O Prince! desire to be honourable; Cherish thy folk, and hate extortion; Suffer nothing that may be reprovable* *a subject of reproach To thine estate, done in thy region;* *kingdom Show forth the sword of castigation; Dread God, do law, love thorough worthiness, And wed thy folk again to steadfastness!
L'ENVOY OF CHAUCER TO BUKTON.
My Master Bukton, when of Christ our King Was asked, What is truth or soothfastness? He not a word answer'd to that asking, As who saith, no man is all true, I guess; And therefore, though I highte* to express *promised The sorrow and woe that is in marriage, I dare not write of it no wickedness, Lest I myself fall eft* in such dotage.** *again **folly
I will not say how that it is the chain Of Satanas, on which he gnaweth ever; But I dare say, were he out of his pain, As by his will he would be bounden never. But thilke* doated fool that eft had lever *that Y-chained be, than out of prison creep, God let him never from his woe dissever, Nor no man him bewaile though he weep!
But yet, lest thou do worse, take a wife; Bet is to wed than burn in worse wise; But thou shalt have sorrow on thy flesh *thy life,* *all thy life* And be thy wife's thrall, as say these wise. And if that Holy Writ may not suffice, Experience shall thee teache, so may hap, That thee were lever to be taken in Frise, Than eft* to fall of wedding in the trap. *again
This little writ, proverbes, or figure, I sende you; take keep* of it, I read! *heed "Unwise is he that can no weal endure; If thou be sicker,* put thee not in dread."** *in security **danger The Wife of Bath I pray you that you read, Of this mattere which that we have on hand. God grante you your life freely to lead In freedom, for full hard is to be bond.
Notes to L'Envoy of Chaucer to Bukton.
1. Tyrwhitt, founding on the reference to the Wife of Bath, places this among Chaucer's latest compositions; and states that one Peter de Bukton held the office of king's escheator for Yorkshire in 1397. In some of the old editions, the verses were made the Envoy to the Book of the Duchess Blanche — in very bad taste, when we consider that the object of that poem was to console John of Gaunt under the loss of his wife.
2. "But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn." 1 Cor. vii. 9
3. Lever to be taken in Frise: better to be taken prisoner in Friesland — where probably some conflict was raging at the time.
A BALLAD OF GENTLENESS.
THE firste stock-father of gentleness, What man desireth gentle for to be, Must follow his trace, and all his wittes dress,* *apply Virtue to love, and vices for to flee; For unto virtue longeth dignity, And not the reverse, safely dare I deem, *All wear he* mitre, crown, or diademe. *whether he wear*
This firste stock was full of righteousness, True of his word, sober, pious, and free, *Clean of his ghost,* and loved business, *pure of spirit* Against the vice of sloth, in honesty; And, but his heir love virtue as did he, He is not gentle, though he riche seem, All wear he mitre, crown, or diademe.
Vice may well be heir to old richess, But there may no man, as men may well see, Bequeath his heir his virtuous nobless; That is appropried* to no degree, *specially reserved But to the first Father in majesty, Which makes his heire him that doth him queme,* *please All wear he mitre, crown, or diademe.
Notes to A Ballad of Gentleness
1. The firste stock-father of gentleness: Christ
THE COMPLAINT OF CHAUCER TO HIS PURSE.
To you, my purse, and to none other wight, Complain I, for ye be my lady dear! I am sorry now that ye be so light, For certes ye now make me heavy cheer; Me were as lief be laid upon my bier. For which unto your mercy thus I cry, Be heavy again, or elles must I die!
Now vouchesafe this day, ere it be night, That I of you the blissful sound may hear, Or see your colour like the sunne bright, That of yellowness hadde peer. Ye be my life! Ye be my hearte's steer!* *rudder Queen of comfort and of good company! Be heavy again, or elles must I die!
Now, purse! that art to me my life's light And savour, as down in this worlde here, Out of this towne help me through your might, Since that you will not be my treasurere; For I am shave as nigh as any frere. But now I pray unto your courtesy, Be heavy again, or elles must I die!
Chaucer's Envoy to the King.
O conqueror of Brute's Albion, Which by lineage and free election Be very king, this song to you I send; And ye which may all mine harm amend, Have mind upon my supplication!
Notes to The Complaint of Chaucer to his Purse
1. "I am shave as nigh as any frere" i.e. "I am as bare of coin as a friar's tonsure of hair."
2. Brute, or Brutus, was the legendary first king of Britain.
GOOD COUNSEL OF CHAUCER.
FLEE from the press, and dwell with soothfastness; Suffice thee thy good, though it be small; For hoard hath hate, and climbing tickleness,* *instability Press hath envy, and *weal is blent* o'er all, *prosperity is blinded* Savour* no more than thee behove shall; *have a taste for Read* well thyself, that other folk canst read; *counsel And truth thee shall deliver, it is no dread.* *doubt
Paine thee not each crooked to redress, In trust of her that turneth as a ball; Great rest standeth in little business: Beware also to spurn against a nail; Strive not as doth a crocke* with a wall; *earthen pot Deeme* thyself that deemest others' deed, *judge And truth thee shall deliver, it is no dread.
What thee is sent, receive in buxomness;* *submission The wrestling of this world asketh a fall; Here is no home, here is but wilderness. Forth, pilgrim! Forthe beast, out of thy stall! Look up on high, and thank thy God of all! *Weive thy lust,* and let thy ghost* thee lead, *forsake thy And truth thee shall deliver, it is no dread. inclinations* *spirit
Notes to Good Counsel of Chaucer
1. This poem is said to have been composed by Chaucer "upon his deathbed, lying in anguish."
2. Her that turneth as a ball: Fortune.
3. To spurn against a nail; "against the pricks."
PROVERBS OF CHAUCER.
WHAT should these clothes thus manifold, Lo! this hot summer's day? After great heate cometh cold; No man cast his pilche* away. *pelisse, furred cloak Of all this world the large compass Will not in mine arms twain; Who so muche will embrace, Little thereof he shall distrain.* *grasp
The world so wide, the air so remuable,* *unstable The silly man so little of stature; The green of ground and clothing so mutable, The fire so hot and subtile of nature; The water *never in one* — what creature *never the same* That made is of these foure thus flitting, May steadfast be, as here, in his living?
The more I go, the farther I am behind; The farther behind, the nearer my war's end; The more I seek, the worse can I find; The lighter leave, the lother for to wend; The better I live, the more out of mind; Is this fortune, *n'ot I,* or infortune;* *I know not* *misfortune Though I go loose, tied am I with a loigne.* *line, tether
Notes to Proverbs of Chaucer
1. (Transcriber's Note: Modern scholars believe that Chaucer's may have been the author of the first stanza of this poem, but was not the author of the second and third).
2. These foure: that is, the four elements, of which man was believed to be composed.
3. The lighter leave, the lother for to wend: The more easy (through age) for me to depart, the less willing I am to go.
ALONE walking In thought plaining, And sore sighing; All desolate, Me rememb'ring Of my living; My death wishing Both early and late.
Infortunate Is so my fate, That, wot ye what? Out of measure My life I hate; Thus desperate, In such poor estate, Do I endure.
Of other cure Am I not sure; Thus to endure Is hard, certain; Such is my ure,* *destiny I you ensure; What creature May have more pain?
My truth so plain Is taken in vain, And great disdain In remembrance; Yet I full fain Would me complain, Me to abstain From this penance.
But, in substance, None alleggeance* *alleviation Of my grievance Can I not find; Right so my chance, With displeasance, Doth me advance; And thus an end.
Notes to Virelay
1. (Transcriber's note: Modern scholars believe that Chaucer was not the author of this poem)
2. Ure: "heur," or destiny; the same word that enters into "bonheur" and "malheur." (French: happiness & unhappiness)
"SINCE I FROM LOVE."
SINCE I from Love escaped am so fat, I ne'er think to be in his prison ta'en; Since I am free, I count him not a bean.
He may answer, and saye this and that; I *do no force,* I speak right as I mean; *care not* Since I from Love escaped am so fat.
Love hath my name struck out of his slat,* *slate, list And he is struck out of my bookes clean, For ever more; there is none other mean; Since I from Love escaped am so fat.
Notes to "Since I from Love"
1. (Transcriber's note: Modern scholars believe that Chaucer was not the author of this poem)
CHAUCER'S WORDS TO HIS SCRIVENER.
ADAM Scrivener, if ever it thee befall Boece or Troilus for to write anew, Under thy long locks thou may'st have the scall* *scab But *after my making* thou write more true! *according to my So oft a day I must thy work renew, composing* It to correct, and eke to rub and scrape; And all is through thy negligence and rape.* *haste
WHEN priestes *failen in their saws,* *come short of their And lordes turne Godde's laws profession* Against the right; And lechery is holden as *privy solace,* *secret delight* And robbery as free purchase, Beware then of ill! Then shall the Land of Albion Turne to confusion, As sometime it befell.
Ora pro Anglia Sancta Maria, quod Thomas Cantuaria.
Sweet Jesus, heaven's King, Fair and best of all thing, You bring us out of this mourning, To come to thee at our ending!
Notes to Chaucer's Prophecy.
1. (Transcriber's note: Modern scholars believe that Chaucer was not the author of this poem)
2. "Holy Mary, pray for England, as does Thomas of Canterbury" (i.e. St Thomas a Beckett)