1 Thou ferse god of armes, Mars the rede,
2 That in the frosty contre called Trace,
3 Within thy grisly temple ful of drede
4 Honoured art as patroun of that place;
5 With thy Bellona, Pallas, ful of grace,
6 Be present and my song contynue and guye;
7 At my begynnyng thus to the I crye.
8 For hit ful depe is sonken in my mynde,
9 With pitous hert in Englyssh to endyte
10 This olde storie, in Latyn which I fynde,
11 Of quene ida and fals Arcite,
12 That elde, which that al can frete and bite,
13 As hit hath freten mony a noble storie,
14 Hath nygh devoured out of oure memorie.
15 Be favorable eke, thou Polymya,
16 On Parnaso that with thy sustres glade,
17 By Elycon, not fer from Cirrea,
18 Singest with vois memorial in the shade,
19 Under the laurer which that may not fade,
20 And do that I my ship to haven wynne.
21 First folowe I Stace, and after him Corynne.
22 When Theseus with werres longe and grete
23 The aspre folk of Cithe had overcome,
24 With laurer corouned, in his char gold-bete,
25 Hom to his contre-houses is he come,
26 For which the peple, blisful al and somme,
27 So cryeden that to the sterres hit wente,
28 And him to honouren dide al her entente.
29 Beforn this duk, in signe of victorie,
30 The trompes come, and in his baner large
31 The ymage of Mars, and in tokenyng of glorie
32 Men myghte sen of tresour many a charge,
33 Many a bright helm, and many a spere and targe,
34 Many a fresh knyght, and many a blysful route,
35 On hors, on fote, in al the feld aboute.
36 Ipolita his wif, the hardy quene
37 Of Cithia, that he conquered hadde,
38 With Emelye her yonge suster shene,
39 Faire in a char of gold he with him ladde,
40 That al the ground about her char she spradde
41 With brightnesse of the beaute in her face,
42 Fulfilled of largesse and of alle grace.
43 With his tryumphe and laurer-corouned thus,
44 In al the flour of Fortunes yevynge,
45 Let I this noble prince Theseus
46 Toward Athenes in his wey rydinge,
47 And founde I wol in shortly for to bringe
48 The slye wey of that I gan to write,
49 Of quene ida and fals Arcite.
50 Mars, which that through his furious cours of ire,
51 The olde wrathe of Juno to fulfille,
52 Hath set the peples hertes bothe on fire
53 Of Thebes and Grece, everich other to kille
54 With blody speres, ne rested never stille,
55 But throng now her, now ther, among hem bothe,
56 That everych other slough, so were they wrothe.
57 For when Amphiorax and Tydeus,
58 Ipomedon, Parthonope also
59 Were ded, and slayn proude Campaneus,
60 And when the wrecched Thebans, bretheren two,
61 Were slayn, and kyng Adrastus hom ago,
62 So desolat stod Thebes and so bare
63 That no wight coude remedie of his fare.
64 And when the olde Creon gan espye
65 How that the blood roial was broght a-doun,
66 He held the cite by his tyrannye
67 And dyde the gentils of that regioun
68 To ben his frendes and wonnen in the toun.
69 So, what for love of him and what for awe,
70 The noble folk were to the toun idrawe.
71 Among al these ida, the quene
72 Of Ermony, was in that toun dwellynge,
73 That fairer was then is the sonne shene.
74 Thurghout the world so gan her name springe
75 That her to seen had every wyght likynge,
76 For, as of trouthe, is ther noon her lyche
77 Of al the women in this worlde riche.
78 Yong was this quene, of twenty yer of elde,
79 Of mydel stature, and of such fairenesse
80 That Nature had a joye her to behelde;
81 And for to speken of her stidfastnesse,
82 She passed hath Penelope and Lucresse;
83 And shortly, yf she shal be comprehended,
84 In her ne myghte no thing been amended.
85 This Theban knyght Arcite eke, soth to seyn,
86 Was yong and therwithal a lusty knyght,
87 But he was double in love and no thing pleyn,
88 And subtil in that craft over any wyght,
89 And with his kunnyng wan this lady bryght;
90 For so ferforth he gan her trouthe assure
91 That she him trusted over any creature.
92 What shuld I seyn? She loved Arcite so
93 That when that he was absent any throwe,
94 Anon her thoghte her herte brast a-two;
95 For in her sight to her he bar hym lowe,
96 So that she wende have al his hert yknowe;
97 But he was fals; hit nas but feyned chere —
98 As nedeth not to men such craft to lere.
99 But nevertheles ful mykel besynesse
100 Had he er that he myghte his lady wynne,
101 And swor he wolde dyen for distresse
102 Or from his wit he seyde he wolde twynne.
103 Alas, the while! For hit was routhe and synne
104 That she upon his sorowes wolde rewe;
105 But nothing thinketh the fals as doth the trewe.
106 Her fredom fond Arcite in such manere
107 That al was his that she hath, moche or lyte;
108 Ne to no creature made she chere
109 Ferther then that hit lyked to Arcite.
110 Ther nas no lak with which he myghte her wite;
111 She was so ferforth yeven hym to plese
112 That al that lyked hym hit dyde her ese.
113 Ther nas to her no maner lettre sent
114 That touched love, from any maner wyght,
115 That she ne shewed hit him er hit was brent;
116 So pleyn she was and dide her fulle myght
117 That she nyl hiden nothing from her knyght,
118 Lest he of any untrouthe her upbreyde.
119 Withoute bode his heste she obeyde.
120 And eke he made him jelous over here,
121 That what that any man had to her seyd
122 Anoon he wolde preyen her to swere
123 What was that word or make him evel apaid.
124 Then wende she out of her wyt have breyd;
125 But al this nas but sleght and flaterie;
126 Withoute love he feyned jelousye.
127 And al this tok she so debonerly
128 That al his wil her thoghte hit skilful thing,
129 And ever the lenger she loved him tendirly
130 And dide him honour as he were a kyng.
131 Her herte was to him wedded with a ring;
132 So ferforth upon trouthe is her entente
133 That wher he gooth her herte with him wente.
134 When she shal ete, on him is so her thoght
135 That wel unnethe of mete tok she kep;
136 And when that she was to her reste broght,
137 On him she thoghte alwey til that she slep;
138 When he was absent, prevely she wep:
139 Thus lyveth feire ida the quene
140 For fals Arcite, that dide her al this tene.
141 This fals Arcite, of his newfanglenesse,
142 For she to him so lowly was and trewe,
143 Tok lesse deynte of her stidfastnesse
144 And saw another lady, proud and newe,
145 And ryght anon he cladde him in her hewe —
146 Wot I not whethir in white, rede, or grene —
147 And falsed fair ida the quene.
148 But neverthelesse, gret wonder was hit noon
149 Thogh he were fals, for hit is kynde of man
150 Sith Lamek was, that is so longe agoon,
151 To ben in love as fals as evere he can;
152 He was the firste fader that began
153 To loven two, and was in bigamye,
154 And he found tentes first, but yf men lye.
155 This fals Arcite, sumwhat moste he feyne,
156 When he wex fals, to covere his traitorie,
157 Ryght as an hors that can both bite and pleyne,
158 For he bar her on honde of trecherie,
159 And swor he coude her doublenesse espie,
160 And al was falsnes that she to him mente.
161 Thus swor this thef, and forth his way he wente.
162 Alas, what herte myght enduren hit,
163 For routhe and wo, her sorwe for to telle?
164 Or what man hath the cunnyng or the wit?
165 Or what man mighte within the chambre dwelle,
166 Yf I to him rehersen sholde the helle
167 That suffreth fair ida the quene
168 For fals Arcite, that dide her al this tene.
169 She wepith, waileth, swowneth pitously;
170 To grounde ded she falleth as a ston;
171 Craumpyssheth her lymes crokedly;
172 She speketh as her wit were al agon;
173 Other colour then asshen hath she noon;
174 Non other word speketh she, moche or lyte,
175 But ‘Merci, cruel herte myn, Arcite!’
176 And thus endureth til that she was so mat
177 That she ne hath foot on which she may sustene,
178 But forth languisshing evere in this estat,
179 Of which Arcite hath nouther routhe ne tene.
180 His herte was elleswhere, newe and grene,
181 That on her wo ne deyneth him not to thinke;
182 Him rekketh never wher she flete or synke.
183 His newe lady holdeth him so narowe
184 Up by the bridil, at the staves ende,
185 That every word he dredeth as an arowe;
186 Her daunger made him bothe bowe and bende,
187 And as her liste, made him turne or wende,
188 For she ne graunted him in her lyvynge
189 No grace whi that he hath lust to singe,
190 But drof hym forth. Unnethe liste her knowe
191 That he was servaunt unto her ladishippe;
192 But lest that he were proud, she held him lowe.
193 Thus serveth he withoute fee or shipe;
194 She sent him now to londe, now to shippe;
195 And for she yaf him daunger al his fille,
196 Therfor she hadde him at her owne wille.
197 Ensample of this, ye thrifty wymmen alle,
198 Take her of ida and Arcite,
199 That for her liste him ‘dere herte’ calle
200 And was so meke, therfor he loved her lyte.
201 The kynde of mannes herte is to delyte
202 In thing that straunge is, also God me save!
203 For what he may not gete, that wolde he have.
204 Now turne we to ida ageyn,
205 That pyneth day be day in langwisshinge,
206 But when she saw that her ne gat no geyn,
207 Upon a day, ful sorowfully wepinge,
208 She caste her for to make a compleynynge,
209 And of her owne hond she gan hit write,
210 And sente hit to her Theban knyght, Arcite.
211 So thirleth with the poynt of remembraunce
212 The swerd of sorowe, ywhet with fals plesaunce,
213 Myn herte, bare of blis and blak of hewe,
214 That turned is in quakyng al my daunce,
215 My surete in awhaped countenaunce,
216 Sith hit availeth not for to ben trewe;
217 For whoso trewest is, hit shal hir rewe
218 That serveth love and doth her observaunce
219 Alwey til oon, and chaungeth for no newe.
220 I wot myself as wel as any wight,
221 For I loved oon with al myn herte and myght,
222 More then myself an hundred thousand sithe,
223 And called him myn hertes lif, my knyght,
224 And was al his, as fer as hit was ryght;
225 And when that he was glad, then was I blithe,
226 And his disese was my deth as swithe;
227 And he ayein his trouthe hath me plyght
228 For evermore, his lady me to kythe.
229 Now is he fals, alas, and causeles,
230 And of my wo he is so routheles
231 That with a word him list not ones deyne
232 To bringe ayen my sorowful herte in pes,
233 For he is caught up in another les.
234 Ryght as him list, he laugheth at my peyne,
235 And I ne can myn herte not restreyne
236 For to love him alwey neveretheles;
237 And of al this I not to whom me pleyne.
238 And shal I pleyne — alas, the harde stounde! —
239 Unto my foo that yaf myn herte a wounde
240 And yet desireth that myn harm be more?
241 Nay, certis, ferther wol I never founde
242 Non other helpe, my sores for to sounde.
243 My destinee hath shapen hit so ful yore;
244 I wil non other medecyne ne lore;
245 I wil ben ay ther I was ones bounde.
246 That I have seid, be seid for evermore!
247 Alas! Wher is become your gentilesse,
248 Youre wordes ful of plesaunce and humblesse,
249 Youre observaunces in so low manere,
250 And your awayting and your besynesse
251 Upon me, that ye calden your maistresse,
252 Your sovereyne lady in this world here?
253 Alas! Is ther now nother word ne chere
254 Ye vouchen sauf upon myn hevynesse?
255 Alas! Youre love, I bye hit al to dere.
256 Now, certis, swete, thogh that ye
257 Thus causeles the cause be
258 Of my dedly adversyte,
259 Your manly resoun oghte hit to respite
260 To slen your frend, and namely me,
261 That never yet in no degre
262 Offended yow, as wisly He
263 That al wot, out of wo my soule quyte!
264 But for I shewed yow, Arcite,
265 Al that men wolde to me write,
266 And was so besy yow to delyte —
267 Myn honor save — meke, kynde, and fre,
268 Therfor ye put on me this wite,
269 And of me rekke not a myte,
270 Thogh that the swerd of sorwe byte
271 My woful herte through your cruelte.
272 My swete foo, why do ye so, for shame?
273 And thenke ye that furthered be your name
274 To love a newe, and ben untrewe? Nay!
275 And putte yow in sclaunder now and blame,
276 And do to me adversite and grame,
277 That love yow most — God, wel thou wost — alway?
278 Yet come ayein, and yet be pleyn som day,
279 And than shal this, that now is mys, be game,
280 And al foryive, while that I lyve may.
281 Lo, herte myn, al this is for to seyne
282 As whether shal I preye or elles pleyne?
283 Which is the wey to doon yow to be trewe?
284 For either mot I have yow in my cheyne
285 Or with the deth ye mote departe us tweyne;
286 Ther ben non other mene weyes newe.
287 For God so wisly upon my soule rewe,
288 As verrayly ye sleen me with the peyne;
289 That may ye se unfeyned of myn hewe.
290 For thus ferforth have I my deth y-soght?
291 Myself I mordre with my privy thoght;
292 For sorowe and routhe of your unkyndenesse
293 I wepe, I wake, I faste; al helpeth noght;
294 I weyve joye that is to speke of oght,
295 I voyde companye, I fle gladnesse.
296 Who may avaunte her beter of hevynesse
297 Then I? And to this plyte have ye me broght,
298 Withoute gilt — me nedeth no witnesse.
299 And shal I preye, and weyve womanhede? —
300 Nay! Rather deth then do so foul a dede! —
301 And axe merci, gilteles — what nede?
302 And yf I pleyne what lyf that I lede,
303 Yow rekketh not; that knowe I, out of drede;
304 And if that I to yow myne othes bede
305 For myn excuse, a skorn shal be my mede.
306 Your chere floureth, but it wol not sede;
307 Ful longe agoon I oghte have taken hede.
308 For thogh I hadde yow to-morowe ageyn,
309 I myghte as wel holde Aperill fro reyn
310 As holde yow, to make yow be stidfast.
311 Almyghty God, of trouthe sovereyn,
312 Wher is the trouthe of man? Who hath hit slayn?
313 Who that hem loveth, she shal hem fynde as fast
314 As in a tempest is a roten mast.
315 Is that a tame best that is ay feyn
316 To fleen away when he is lest agast?
317 Now merci, swete, yf I mysseye!
318 Have I seyd oght amys, I preye?
319 I noot; my wit is al aweye.
320 I fare as doth the song of Chaunte-pleure;
321 For now I pleyne, and now I pleye;
322 I am so mased that I deye;
323 Arcite hath born awey the keye
324 Of al my world, and my good aventure.
325 For in this world nis creature
326 Wakynge in more discomfiture
327 Then I, ne more sorowe endure.
328 And yf I slepe a furlong wey or tweye,
329 Then thynketh me that your figure
330 Before me stont, clad in asure,
331 To profren eft and newe assure
332 For to be trewe, and merci me to preye.
333 The longe nyght this wonder sight I drye,
334 And on the day for thilke afray I dye,
335 And of al this ryght noght, iwis, ye reche.
336 Ne nevere mo myn yen two be drie,
337 And to your routhe, and to your trouthe, I crie.
338 But welawey! To fer be they to feche;
339 Thus holdeth me my destinee a wreche.
340 But me to rede out of this drede, or guye,
341 Ne may my wit, so weyk is hit, not streche.
342 Then ende I thus, sith I may do no more.
343 I yeve hit up for now and evermore,
344 For I shal never eft putten in balaunce
345 My sekernes, ne lerne of love the lore.
346 But as the swan, I have herd seyd ful yore,
347 Ayeins his deth shal singen his penaunce,
348 So singe I here my destinee or chaunce,
349 How that Arcite ida so sore
350 Hath thirled with the poynt of remembraunce.
351 When that ida, this woful quene,
352 Hath of her hand ywriten in this wise,
353 With face ded, betwixe pale and grene,
354 She fel a-swowe; and sith she gan to rise,
355 And unto Mars avoweth sacrifise
356 Withinne the temple, with a sorowful chere,
357 That shapen was as ye shal after here.
1 Thou ferse god of armes, Mars the rede,