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The Book of the Duchess – Middle English

1 I have gret wonder, be this lyght,
2 How that I lyve, for day ne nyght
3 I may nat slepe wel nygh noght;
4 I have so many an ydel thoght
5 Purely for defaute of slep
6 That, by my trouthe, I take no kep
7 Of nothing, how hyt cometh or gooth,
8 Ne me nys nothyng leef nor looth.
9 Al is ylyche good to me —
10 Joye or sorowe, wherso hyt be —
11 For I have felynge in nothyng,
12 But as yt were a mased thyng,
13 Alway in poynt to falle a-doun;
14 For sorwful ymagynacioun
15 Ys alway hooly in my mynde.
16 And wel ye woot, agaynes kynde
17 Hyt were to lyven in thys wyse,
18 For nature wolde nat suffyse
19 To noon erthly creature
20 Nat longe tyme to endure
21 Withoute slep and be in sorwe.
22 And I ne may, ne nyght ne morwe,
23 Slepe; and [thus] melancolye
24 And drede I have for to dye.
25 Defaute of slep and hevynesse
26 Hath sleyn my spirit of quyknesse
27 That I have lost al lustyhede.
28 Suche fantasies ben in myn hede
29 So I not what is best to doo.
30 But men myght axe me why soo
31 I may not slepe and what me is.
32 But natheles, who aske this
33 Leseth his asking trewely.
34 Myselven can not telle why
35 The sothe; but trewly, as I gesse,
36 I holde hit be a sicknesse
37 That I have suffred this eight yeer;
38 And yet my boote is never the ner,
39 For there is phisicien but oon
40 That may me hele; but that is don.
41 Passe we over untill eft;
42 That wil not be mot nede be left;
43 Our first mater is good to kepe.
44 So whan I saw I might not slepe
45 Til now late this other night,
46 Upon my bed I sat upright
47 And bad oon reche me a book,
48 A romaunce, and he it me tok
49 To rede and drive the night away;
50 For me thoughte it better play
51 Then playe either at ches or tables.
52 And in this bok were written fables
53 That clerkes had in olde tyme,
54 And other poetes, put in rime
55 To rede and for to be in minde,
56 While men loved the lawe of kinde.
57 This bok ne spak but of such thinges,
58 Of quenes lives, and of kinges,
59 And many other thinges smale.
60 Amonge al this I fond a tale
61 That me thoughte a wonder thing.
62 This was the tale: There was a king
63 That highte Seys, and had a wif,
64 The beste that mighte bere lyf,
65 And this quene highte Alcyone.
66 So it befil thereafter soone
67 This king wol wenden over see.
68 To tellen shortly, whan that he
69 Was in the see thus in this wise,
70 Such a tempest gan to rise
71 That brak her mast and made it falle,
72 And clefte her ship, and dreinte hem alle,
73 That never was founde, as it telles,
74 Bord ne man, ne nothing elles.
75 Right thus this king Seys loste his lif.
76 Now for to speke of Alcyone, his wif:
77 This lady, that was left at hom,
78 Hath wonder that the king ne com
79 Hom, for it was a longe terme.
80 Anon her herte began to [erme];
81 And for that her thoughte evermo
82 It was not wele [he dwelte] so,
83 She longed so after the king
84 That certes it were a pitous thing
85 To telle her hertely sorowful lif
86 That she had, this noble wif,
87 For him, alas, she loved alderbest.
88 Anon she sent bothe eest and west
89 To seke him, but they founde nought.
90 “Alas!” quod she, “that I was wrought!
91 And wher my lord, my love, be deed?
92 Certes, I nil never ete breed,
93 I make avow to my god here,
94 But I mowe of my lord here!”
95 Such sorowe this lady to her tok
96 That trewly I, that made this book,
97 Had such pittee and such rowthe
98 To rede hir sorwe that, by my trowthe,
99 I ferde the worse al the morwe
100 Aftir to thenken on hir sorwe.
101 So whan this lady koude here noo word
102 That no man myghte fynde hir lord,
103 Ful ofte she swouned, and sayed “Alas!”
104 For sorwe ful nygh wood she was,
105 Ne she koude no reed but oon;
106 But doun on knees she sat anoon
107 And wepte that pittee was to here.
108 “A, mercy, swete lady dere!”
109 Quod she to Juno, hir goddesse,
110 “Helpe me out of thys distresse,
111 And yeve me grace my lord to se
112 Soone or wite wher-so he be,
113 Or how he fareth, or in what wise,
114 And I shal make yow sacrifise,
115 And hooly youres become I shal
116 With good wille, body, herte, and al;
117 And but thow wolt this, lady swete,
118 Send me grace to slepe and mete
119 In my slep som certeyn sweven
120 Wherthourgh that I may knowen even
121 Whether my lord be quyk or ded.”
122 With that word she heng doun the hed
123 And fel a-swowne as cold as ston.
124 Hyr women kaught hir up anoon
125 And broghten hir in bed al naked,
126 And she, forweped and forwaked,
127 Was wery; and thus the dede slep
128 Fil on hir or she tooke kep,
129 Throgh Juno, that had herd hir bone,
130 That made hir to slepe sone.
131 For as she prayede, ryght so was don
132 In dede; for Juno ryght anon
133 Called thus hir messager
134 To doo hir erande, and he com ner.
135 Whan he was come, she bad hym thus:
136 “Go bet,” quod Juno, “to Morpheus —
137 Thou knowest hym wel, the god of slep.
138 Now understond wel and tak kep!
139 Sey thus on my half: that he
140 Go faste into the Grete Se,
141 And byd hym that, on alle thyng,
142 He take up Seys body the kyng,
143 That lyeth ful pale and nothyng rody.
144 Bid hym crepe into the body
145 And doo hit goon to Alcione
146 The quene, ther she lyeth allone,
147 And shewe hir shortly, hit ys no nay,
148 How hit was dreynt thys other day;
149 And do the body speke ryght soo,
150 Ryght as hyt was woned to doo
151 The whiles that hit was alyve.
152 Goo now faste, and hye the blyve!”
153 This messager tok leve and wente
154 Upon hys wey, and never ne stente
155 Til he com to the derke valeye
156 That stant betwixe roches tweye
157 Ther never yet grew corn ne gras,
158 Ne tre, ne noght that ought was,
159 Beste, ne man, ne noght elles,
160 Save ther were a fewe welles
161 Came rennynge fro the clyves adoun,
162 That made a dedly slepynge soun,
163 And ronnen doun ryght by a cave
164 That was under a rokke ygrave
165 Amydde the valey, wonder depe.
166 There these goddes lay and slepe,
167 Morpheus and Eclympasteyr,
168 That was the god of slepes heyr,
169 That slep and dide noon other werk.
170 This cave was also as derk
171 As helle-pit overal aboute.
172 They had good leyser for to route,
173 To envye who myghte slepe best.
174 Somme henge her chyn upon hir brest
175 And slept upryght, hir hed yhed,
176 And somme lay naked in her bed
177 And slepe whiles the dayes laste.
178 This messager com fleynge faste
179 And cried, “O, how! Awake anoon!”
180 Hit was for noght; there herde hym non.
181 “Awake!” quod he, “whoo ys lyth there?”
182 And blew his horn ryght in here eere,
183 And cried “Awaketh!” wonder hye.
184 This god of slep with hys oon ye
185 Cast up, and axed, “Who clepeth ther?”
186 “Hyt am I,” quod this messager.
187 “Juno bad thow shuldest goon” —
188 And tolde hym what he shulde doon
189 (As I have told yow here-to-fore;
190 Hyt ys no nede reherse hyt more)
191 And went hys wey whan he had sayd.
192 Anoon this god of slep abrayd
193 Out of hys slep, and gan to goon,
194 And dyde as he had bede hym doon:
195 Took up the dreynte body sone
196 And bar hyt forth to Alcione,
197 Hys wif the quene, ther as she lay
198 Ryght even a quarter before day,
199 And stood ryght at hyr beddes fet,
200 And called hir ryght as she het
201 By name, and sayde, “My swete wyf,
202 Awake! Let be your sorwful lyf,
203 For in your sorwe there lyth no red;
204 For, certes, swete, I am but ded.
205 Ye shul me never on lyve yse.
206 But, goode swete herte, that ye
207 Bury my body, for such a tyde
208 Ye mowe hyt fynde the see besyde;
209 And farewel, swete, my worldes blysse!
210 I praye God youre sorwe lysse.
211 To lytel while oure blysse lasteth!”
212 With that hir eyen up she casteth
213 And saw noght. “Allas!” quod she for sorwe,
214 And deyede within the thridde morwe.
215 But what she sayede more in that swow
216 I may not telle yow as now;
217 Hyt were to longe for to dwelle.
218 My first matere I wil yow telle,
219 Wherfore I have told this thyng
220 Of Alcione and Seys the kyng,
221 For thus moche dar I saye wel:
222 I had be dolven everydel
223 And ded, ryght thurgh defaute of slep,
224 Yif I ne had red and take kep
225 Of this tale next before.
226 And I wol telle yow wherfore:
227 For I ne myghte, for bote ne bale,
228 Slepe or I had red thys tale
229 Of this dreynte Seys the kyng
230 And of the goddes of slepyng.
231 Whan I had red thys tale wel
232 And overloked hyt everydel,
233 Me thoghte wonder yf hit were so,
234 For I had never herd speke or tho
235 Of noo goddes that koude make
236 Men to slepe, ne for to wake,
237 For I ne knew never god but oon.
238 And in my game I sayde anoon
239 (And yet me lyst ryght evel to pleye)
240 Rather then that y shulde deye
241 Thorgh defaute of slepynge thus,
242 I wolde yive thilke Morpheus,
243 Or hys goddesse, dame Juno,
244 Or som wight elles, I ne roghte who —
245 “To make me slepe and have som reste
246 I wil yive hym the alderbeste
247 Yifte that ever he abod hys lyve.
248 And here on warde, ryght now as blyve,
249 Yif he wol make me slepe a lyte,
250 Of down of pure dowves white
251 I wil yive hym a fether-bed,
252 Rayed with gold and ryght wel cled
253 In fyn blak satyn doutremer,
254 And many a pilowe, and every ber
255 Of cloth of Reynes, to slepe softe —
256 Hym thar not nede to turnen ofte —
257 And I wol yive hym al that falles
258 To a chambre, and al hys halles
259 I wol do peynte with pure gold
260 And tapite hem ful many fold
261 Of oo sute; this shal he have
262 (Yf I wiste where were hys cave),
263 Yf he kan make me slepe sone,
264 As did the goddesse quene Alcione.
265 And thus this ylke god, Morpheus,
266 May wynne of me moo fees thus
267 Than ever he wan; and to Juno,
268 That ys hys goddesse, I shal soo do,
269 I trow, that she shal holde hir payd.”
270 I hadde unneth that word ysayd
271 Ryght thus as I have told hyt yow,
272 That sodeynly, I nyste how,
273 Such a lust anoon me took
274 To slepe that ryght upon my book
275 Y fil aslepe, and therwith even
276 Me mette so ynly swete a sweven,
277 So wonderful that never yit
278 Y trowe no man had the wyt
279 To konne wel my sweven rede;
280 No, not Joseph, withoute drede,
281 Of Egipte, he that redde so
282 The kynges metynge Pharao,
283 No more than koude the lest of us;
284 Ne nat skarsly Macrobeus
285 (He that wrot al th’ avysyoun
286 That he mette, kyng Scipioun,
287 The noble man, the Affrikan —
288 Suche marvayles fortuned than),
289 I trowe, arede my dremes even.
290 Loo, thus hyt was; thys was my sweven.
291 Me thoghte thus: that hyt was May,
292 And in the dawenynge I lay
293 (Me mette thus) in my bed al naked
294 And loked forth, for I was waked
295 With smale foules a gret hep
296 That had affrayed me out of my slep
297 Thorgh noyse and swetnesse of her song.
298 And, as me mette, they sate among
299 Upon my chambre roof wythoute,
300 Upon the tyles, overal aboute,
301 And songe, everych in hys wyse,
302 The moste solempne servise
303 By noote that ever man, y trowe,
304 Had herd, for som of hem song lowe,
305 Som high, and al of oon acord.
306 To telle shortly, att oo word,
307 Was never herd so swete a steven
308 But hyt had be a thyng of heven —
309 So mery a soun, so swete entewnes,
310 That certes, for the toun of Tewnes
311 I nolde but I had herd hem synge;
312 For al my chambre gan to rynge
313 Thurgh syngynge of her armonye;
314 For instrument nor melodye
315 Was nowhere herd yet half so swete,
316 Nor of acord half so mete;
317 For ther was noon of hem that feyned
318 To synge, for ech of hem hym peyned
319 To fynde out mery crafty notes.
320 They ne spared not her throtes.
321 And sooth to seyn, my chambre was
322 Ful wel depeynted, and with glas
323 Were al the wyndowes wel yglased
324 Ful clere, and nat an hoole ycrased,
325 That to beholde hyt was gret joye.
326 For hooly al the story of Troye
327 Was in the glasynge ywroght thus,
328 Of Ector and of kyng Priamus,
329 Of Achilles and of kyng Lamedon,
330 And eke of Medea and of Jason,
331 Of Paris, Eleyne, and of Lavyne.
332 And alle the walles with colours fyne
333 Were peynted, bothe text and glose,
334 [Of] al the Romaunce of the Rose.
335 My wyndowes were shette echon,
336 And throgh the glas the sonne shon
337 Upon my bed with bryghte bemes,
338 With many glade gilde stremes;
339 And eke the welken was so fair —
340 Blew, bryght, clere was the ayr,
341 And ful attempre for sothe hyt was;
342 For nother to cold nor hoot yt nas,
343 Ne in al the welken was a clowde.
344 And as I lay thus, wonder lowde
345 Me thoght I herde an hunte blowe
346 T’ assay hys horn and for to knowe
347 Whether hyt were clere or hors of soun.
348 And I herde goynge bothe up and doun
349 Men, hors, houndes, and other thyng;
350 And al men speken of huntyng,
351 How they wolde slee the hert with strengthe,
352 And how the hert had upon lengthe
353 So moche embosed — y not now what.
354 Anoon ryght whan I herde that,
355 How that they wolde on-huntynge goon,
356 I was ryght glad, and up anoon
357 Took my hors, and forth I wente
358 Out of my chambre; I never stente
359 Til I com to the feld withoute.
360 Ther overtok y a gret route
361 Of huntes and eke of foresteres,
362 With many relayes and lymeres,
363 And hyed hem to the forest faste
364 And I with hem. So at the laste
365 I asked oon, ladde a lymere:
366 “Say, felowe, who shal hunte here?”
367 Quod I, and he answered ageyn,
368 “Syr, th’ emperour Octovyen,”
369 Quod he, “and ys here faste by.”
370 “A Goddes half, in good tyme!” quod I,
371 “Go we faste!” and gan to ryde.
372 Whan we came to the forest syde,
373 Every man dide ryght anoon
374 As to huntynge fil to doon.
375 The mayster-hunte anoon, fot-hot,
376 With a gret horn blew thre mot
377 At the uncouplynge of hys houndes.
378 Withynne a while the hert yfounde ys,
379 Yhalowed, and rechased faste
380 Longe tyme; and so at the laste
381 This hert rused and staal away
382 Fro alle the houndes a privy way.
383 The houndes had overshote hym alle
384 And were on a defaute yfalle.
385 Therwyth the hunte wonder faste
386 Blew a forloyn at the laste.
387 I was go walked fro my tree,
388 And as I wente, ther cam by mee
389 A whelp, that fauned me as I stood,
390 That hadde yfolowed and koude no good.
391 Hyt com and crepte to me as lowe
392 Ryght as hyt hadde me yknowe,
393 Helde doun hys hed and joyned hys eres,
394 And leyde al smothe doun hys heres.
395 I wolde have kaught hyt, and anoon
396 Hyt fledde and was fro me goon;
397 And I hym folwed, and hyt forth wente
398 Doun by a floury grene wente
399 Ful thikke of gras, ful softe and swete.
400 With floures fele, faire under fete,
401 And litel used; hyt semed thus,
402 For both Flora and Zephirus,
403 They two that make floures growe,
404 Had mad her dwellynge ther, I trowe;
405 For hit was, on to beholde,
406 As thogh the erthe envye wolde
407 To be gayer than the heven,
408 To have moo floures, swiche seven,
409 As in the welken sterres bee.
410 Hyt had forgete the povertee
411 That wynter, thorgh hys colde morwes,
412 Had mad hyt suffre, and his sorwes;
413 All was forgeten, and that was sene,
414 For al the woode was waxen grene;
415 Swetnesse of dew had mad hyt waxe.
416 Hyt ys no nede eke for to axe
417 Wher there were many grene greves,
418 Or thikke of trees, so ful of leves;
419 And every tree stood by hymselve
420 Fro other wel ten foot or twelve —
421 So grete trees, so huge of strengthe,
422 Of fourty or fifty fadme lengthe,
423 Clene withoute bowgh or stikke,
424 With croppes brode, and eke as thikke —
425 They were nat an ynche asonder —
426 That hit was shadewe overal under.
427 And many an hert and many an hynde
428 Was both before me and behynde.
429 Of founes, sowres, bukkes, does
430 Was ful the woode, and many roes,
431 And many sqwirelles that sete
432 Ful high upon the trees and ete,
433 And in hir maner made festes.
434 Shortly, hyt was so ful of bestes
435 That thogh Argus, the noble countour,
436 Sete to rekene in hys countour,
437 And rekene with his figures ten —
438 For by tho figures mowe al ken,
439 Yf they be crafty, rekene and noumbre,
440 And telle of every thing the noumbre —
441 Yet shoulde he fayle to rekene even
442 The wondres me mette in my sweven.
443 But forth they romed ryght wonder faste
444 Doun the woode; so at the laste
445 I was war of a man in blak,
446 That sat and had yturned his bak
447 To an ook, an huge tree.
448 “Lord,” thoght I, “who may that be?
449 What ayleth hym to sitten her?”
450 Anoon-ryght I wente ner;
451 Than found I sitte even upryght
452 A wonder wel-farynge knyght —
453 By the maner me thoghte so —
454 Of good mochel, and ryght yong therto,
455 Of the age of foure and twenty yer,
456 Upon hys berd but lytel her,
457 And he was clothed al in blak.
458 I stalked even unto hys bak,
459 And there I stood as stille as ought,
460 That, soth to saye, he saw me nought;
461 For-why he heng hys hed adoun,
462 And with a dedly sorwful soun
463 He made of rym ten vers or twelve
464 Of a compleynte to hymselve —
465 The moste pitee, the moste rowthe,
466 That ever I herde; for, by my trowthe,
11-ch 467 Hit was gret wonder that Nature
468 Myght suffre any creature
469 To have such sorwe and be not ded.
470 Ful pitous pale and nothyng red,
471 He sayd a lay, a maner song,
472 Withoute noote, withoute song;
473 And was thys, for ful wel I kan
474 Reherse hyt; ryght thus hyt began:
475 “I have of sorwe so gret won
476 That joye gete I never non,
477 Now that I see my lady bryght,
478 Which I have loved with al my myght,
479 Is fro me ded and ys agoon.
481 “Allas, deth, what ayleth the,
482 That thou noldest have taken me,
483 Whan thou toke my lady swete,
484 That was so fair, so fresh, so fre,
485 So good that men may wel se
486 Of al goodnesse she had no mete!”
487 Whan he had mad thus his complaynte,
488 Hys sorwful hert gan faste faynte
489 And his spirites wexen dede;
490 The blood was fled for pure drede
491 Doun to hys herte, to make hym warm —
492 For wel hyt feled the herte had harm —
493 To wite eke why hyt was adrad
494 By kynde, and for to make hyt glad,
495 For hit ys membre principal
496 Of the body; and that made al
497 Hys hewe chaunge and wexe grene
498 And pale, for ther noo blood ys sene
499 In no maner lym of hys.
500 Anoon therwith whan y sawgh this —
501 He ferde thus evel there he set —
502 I went and stood ryght at his fet,
503 And grette hym; but he spak noght,
504 But argued with his owne thoght,
505 And in hys wyt disputed faste
506 Why and how hys lyf myght laste;
507 Hym thoughte hys sorwes were so smerte
508 And lay so colde upon hys herte.
509 So, throgh hys sorwe and hevy thoght,
510 Made hym that he herde me noght;
511 For he had wel nygh lost hys mynde,
512 Thogh Pan, that men clepeth god of kynde,
513 Were for hys sorwes never so wroth.
514 But at the last, to sayn ryght soth,
515 He was war of me, how y stood
516 Before hym and did of myn hood,
517 And had ygret hym as I best koude,
518 Debonayrly, and nothyng lowde.
519 He sayde, “I prey the, be not wroth.
520 I herde the not, to seyn the soth,
521 Ne I sawgh the not, syr, trewely.”
522 “A, goode sir, no fors,” quod y,
523 “I am ryght sory yif I have ought
524 Destroubled yow out of your thought.
525 Foryive me, yif I have mystake.”
526 “Yis, th’ amendes is lyght to make,”
527 Quod he, “for ther lyeth noon therto;
528 There ys nothyng myssayd nor do.”
529 Loo, how goodly spak thys knyght,
530 As hit had be another wyght;
531 He made hyt nouther towgh ne queynte.
532 And I saw that, and gan me aqueynte
533 With hym, and fond hym so tretable,
534 Ryght wonder skylful and resonable,
535 As me thoghte, for al hys bale.
536 Anoon ryght I gan fynde a tale
537 To hym, to loke wher I myght ought
538 Have more knowynge of hys thought.
539 “Sir,” quod I, “this game is doon.
540 I holde that this hert be goon;
541 These huntes konne hym nowher see.”
542 “Y do no fors therof,” quod he;
543 “My thought ys theron never a del.”
544 “By oure Lord,” quod I, “y trow yow wel;
545 Ryght so me thinketh by youre chere.
546 But, sir, oo thyng wol ye here?
547 Me thynketh in gret sorowe I yow see;
548 But certes, sire, yif that yee
549 Wolde ought discure me youre woo,
550 I wolde, as wys God helpe me soo,
551 Amende hyt, yif I kan or may.
552 Ye mowe preve hyt be assay;
553 For, by my trouthe, to make yow hool
554 I wol do al my power hool.
555 And telleth me of your sorwes smerte;
556 Paraunter hyt may ese youre herte,
557 That semeth ful sek under your syde.”
558 With that he loked on me asyde,
559 As who sayth, “Nay, that wol not be.”
560 “Graunt mercy, goode frend,” quod he,
561 “I thanke the that thow woldest soo,
562 But hyt may never the rather be doo.
563 No man may my sorwe glade,
564 That maketh my hewe to falle and fade,
565 And hath myn understondynge lorn
566 That me ys wo that I was born!
567 May noght make my sorwes slyde,
568 Nought al the remedyes of Ovyde,
569 Ne Orpheus, god of melodye,
570 Ne Dedalus with his playes slye;
571 Ne hele me may no phisicien,
572 Noght Ypocras ne Galyen;
573 Me ys wo that I lyve houres twelve.
574 But whooso wol assay hymselve
575 Whether his hert kan have pitee
576 Of any sorwe, lat hym see me.
577 Y wrecche, that deth hath mad al naked
578 Of al the blysse that ever was maked,
579 Yworthe worste of alle wyghtes,
580 That hate my dayes and my nyghtes!
581 My lyf, my lustes, be me loothe,
582 For al welfare and I be wroothe.
583 The pure deth ys so ful my foo
584 That I wolde deye, hyt wolde not soo;
585 For whan I folwe hyt, hit wol flee;
586 I wolde have hym, hyt nyl nat me.
587 This ys my peyne wythoute red,
588 Alway deynge and be not ded,
589 That Cesiphus, that lyeth in helle,
590 May not of more sorwe telle.
591 And whoso wiste al, by my trouthe,
592 My sorwe, but he hadde rowthe
593 And pitee of my sorwes smerte,
594 That man hath a fendly herte;
595 For whoso seeth me first on morwe
596 May seyn he hath met with sorwe,
597 For y am sorwe, and sorwe ys y.
598 “Allas! and I wol tel the why:
599 My [song] ys turned to pleynynge,
600 And al my laughtre to wepynge,
601 My glade thoghtes to hevynesse;
602 In travayle ys myn ydelnesse
603 And eke my reste; my wele is woo,
604 My good ys harm, and evermoo
605 In wrathe ys turned my pleynge
606 And my delyt into sorwynge.
607 Myn hele ys turned into seknesse,
608 In drede ys al my sykernesse;
609 To derke ys turned al my lyght,
610 My wyt ys foly, my day ys nyght,
611 My love ys hate, my slep wakynge,
612 My myrthe and meles ys fastynge,
613 My countenaunce ys nycete
614 And al abaved, where so I be;
615 My pees in pledynge and in werre.
616 Allas, how myghte I fare werre?
617 My boldnesse ys turned to shame,
618 For fals Fortune hath pleyd a game
619 Atte ches with me, allas the while!
620 The trayteresse fals and ful of gyle,
621 That al behoteth and nothyng halt,
622 She goth upryght and yet she halt,
623 That baggeth foule and loketh faire,
624 The dispitouse debonaire
625 That skorneth many a creature!
626 An ydole of fals portrayture
627 Ys she, for she wol sone wrien;
628 She is the monstres hed ywrien,
629 As fylthe over-ystrawed with floures.
630 Hir moste worshippe and hir flour ys
631 To lyen, for that ys hyr nature;
632 Withoute feyth, lawe, or mesure
633 She ys fals, and ever laughynge
634 With oon eye, and that other wepynge.
635 That ys broght up she set al doun.
636 I lykne hyr to the scorpioun,
637 That ys a fals, flaterynge beste,
638 For with his hed he maketh feste,
639 But al amydde hys flaterynge
640 With hys tayle he wol stynge
641 And envenyme; and so wol she.
642 She ys th’ envyouse charite
643 That ys ay fals and semeth wel;
644 So turneth she hyr false whel
645 Aboute, for hyt ys nothyng stable —
646 Now by the fire, now at table;
647 For many oon hath she thus yblent.
648 She ys pley of enchauntement,
649 That semeth oon and ys not soo.
650 The false thef! What hath she doo,
651 Trowest thou? By oure Lord I wol the seye:
652 “At the ches with me she gan to pleye;
653 With hir false draughtes dyvers
654 She staal on me and tok my fers.
655 And whan I sawgh my fers awaye,
656 Allas, I kouthe no lenger playe,
657 But seyde, ‘Farewel, swete, ywys,
658 And farewel al that ever ther ys!’
659 “Therwith Fortune seyde ‘Chek her!
660 And mat in the myd poynt of the chekker,
661 With a poun errant!’ Allas,
662 Ful craftier to pley she was
663 Than Athalus, that made the game
664 First of the ches, so was hys name.
665 But God wolde I had oones or twyes
666 Ykoud and knowe the jeupardyes
667 That kowde the Grek Pictagores!
668 I shulde have pleyd the bet at ches
669 And kept my fers the bet therby.
670 And thogh wherto? For trewely
671 I holde that wyssh nat worth a stree!
672 Hyt had be never the bet for me,
673 For Fortune kan so many a wyle
674 Ther be but fewe kan hir begile;
675 And eke she ys the lasse to blame;
676 Myself I wolde have do the same,
677 Before God, hadde I ben as she;
678 She oghte the more excused be.
679 For this I say yet more therto:
680 Had I be God and myghte have do
681 My wille whan she my fers kaughte,
682 I wolde have drawe the same draughte.
683 For, also wys God yive me reste,
684 I dar wel swere she took the beste.
685 But through that draughte I have lorn
686 My blysse; allas, that I was born!
687 For evermore, y trowe trewly,
688 For al my wille, my lust holly
689 Ys turned; but yet, what to doone?
690 Be oure Lord, hyt ys to deye soone.
691 For nothyng I leve hyt noght,
692 But lyve and deye ryght in this thoght;
693 For there nys planete in firmament,
694 Ne in ayr ne in erthe noon element,
695 That they ne yive me a yifte echone
696 Of wepynge whan I am allone.
697 For whan that I avise me wel
698 And bethenke me every del
699 How that ther lyeth in rekenyng,
700 In my sorwe, for nothyng,
701 And how ther leveth no gladnesse
702 May glade me of my distresse,
703 And how I have lost suffisance,
704 And therto I have no plesance,
705 Than may I say I have ryght noght.
706 And whan al this falleth in my thoght,
707 Allas, than am I overcome!
708 For that ys doon ys not to come.
709 I have more sorowe than Tantale.”
710 And whan I herde hym tel thys tale
711 Thus pitously, as I yow telle,
712 Unnethe myght y lenger dwelle,
713 Hyt dyde myn herte so moche woo.
714 “A, goode sir,” quod I, “say not soo!
715 Have som pitee on your nature
716 That formed yow to creature.
717 Remembre yow of Socrates,
718 For he ne counted nat thre strees
719 Of noght that Fortune koude doo.”
720 “No,” quod he, “I kan not soo.”
721 “Why so, good syr? Yis parde!” quod y;
722 “Ne say noght soo, for trewely,
723 Thogh ye had lost the ferses twelve,
724 And ye for sorwe mordred yourselve,
725 Ye sholde be dampned in this cas
726 By as good ryght as Medea was,
727 That slough hir children for Jasoun;
728 And Phyllis also for Demophoun
729 Heng hirself — so weylaway! —
730 For he had broke his terme-day
11-ch 731 To come to hir. Another rage
732 Had Dydo, the quene eke of Cartage,
733 That slough hirself for Eneas
734 Was fals — which a fool she was!
735 And Ecquo died for Narcisus
736 Nolde nat love hir, and ryght thus
737 Hath many another foly doon;
738 And for Dalida died Sampson,
739 That slough hymself with a piler.
740 But ther is no man alyve her
741 Wolde for a fers make this woo!”
742 “Why so?” quod he, “hyt ys nat soo.
743 Thou wost ful lytel what thou menest;
744 I have lost more than thow wenest.”
745 “Loo, [sey] how that may be?” quod y;
746 “Good sir, telle me al hooly
747 In what wyse, how, why, and wherfore
748 That ye have thus youre blysse lore.”
749 “Blythely,” quod he; “com sytte adoun!
750 I telle the upon a condicioun
751 That thou shalt hooly, with al thy wyt,
752 Doo thyn entent to herkene hit.”
753 “Yis, syr.” “Swere thy trouthe therto.”
754 “Gladly.” “Do thanne holde hereto!”
755 “I shal ryght blythely, so God me save,
756 Hooly, with al the wit I have,
757 Here yow as wel as I kan.”
758 “A Goddes half!” quod he, and began:
759 “Syr,” quod he, “sith first I kouthe
760 Have any maner wyt fro youthe,
761 Or kyndely understondyng
762 To comprehende in any thyng
763 What love was, in myn owne wyt,
764 Dredeles, I have ever yit
765 Be tributarye and yive rente
766 To Love, hooly with good entente,
767 And throgh plesaunce become his thral
768 With good wille, body, hert, and al.
769 Al this I putte in his servage,
770 As to my lord, and dide homage;
771 And ful devoutly I prayed hym to
772 He shulde besette myn herte so
773 That hyt plesance to hym were
774 And worship to my lady dere.
775 “And this was longe, and many a yer
776 Or that myn herte was set owher,
777 That I dide thus, and nyste why;
778 I trowe hit cam me kyndely.
779 Paraunter I was therto most able,
780 As a whit wal or a table,
781 For hit ys redy to cacche and take
782 Al that men wil theryn make,
783 Whethir so men wil portreye or peynte,
784 Be the werkes never so queynte.
785 “And thilke tyme I ferde ryght so,
786 I was able to have lerned tho,
787 And to have kend as wel or better,
788 Paraunter, other art or letre;
789 But for love cam first in my thoght,
790 Therfore I forgat hyt noght.
791 I ches love to my firste craft;
792 Therfore hit ys with me laft,
793 For-why I tok hyt of so yong age
794 That malyce hadde my corage
795 Nat that tyme turned to nothyng
796 Thorgh to mochel knowlechyng.
797 For that tyme Yowthe, my maistresse,
798 Governed me in ydelnesse;
799 For hyt was in my firste youthe,
800 And thoo ful lytel good y couthe,
801 For al my werkes were flyttynge
802 That tyme, and al my thoght varyinge.
803 Al were to me ylyche good
804 That I knew thoo; but thus hit stood:
805 “Hit happed that I cam on a day
806 Into a place ther that I say
807 Trewly the fayrest companye
808 Of ladyes that evere man with ye
809 Had seen togedres in oo place.
810 Shal I clepe hyt hap other grace
811 That broght me there? Nay, but Fortune,
812 That ys to lyen ful comune,
11-ch 813 The false trayteresse pervers!
814 God wolde I koude clepe hir wers,
815 For now she worcheth me ful woo,
816 And I wol telle sone why soo.
817 “Among these ladyes thus echon,
818 Soth to seyen, y sawgh oon
819 That was lyk noon of the route;
820 For I dar swere, withoute doute,
821 That as the someres sonne bryght
822 Ys fairer, clerer, and hath more lyght
823 Than any other planete in heven,
824 The moone or the sterres seven,
825 For al the world so hadde she
826 Surmounted hem alle of beaute,
827 Of maner, and of comlynesse,
828 Of stature, and of wel set gladnesse,
829 Of goodlyhede so wel beseye —
830 Shortly, what shal y more seye?
831 By God and by his halwes twelve,
832 Hyt was my swete, ryght as hirselve.
833 She had so stedfast countenaunce,
834 So noble port and meyntenaunce,
835 And Love, that had wel herd my boone,
836 Had espyed me thus soone,
837 That she ful sone in my thoght,
838 As helpe me God, so was ykaught
839 So sodenly that I ne tok
840 No maner counseyl but at hir lok
841 And at myn herte; for-why hir eyen
842 So gladly, I trow, myn herte seyen
843 That purely tho myn owne thoght
844 Seyde hit were beter serve hir for noght
845 Than with another to be wel.
846 And hyt was soth, for everydel
847 I wil anoon ryght telle thee why.
848 “I sawgh hyr daunce so comlily,
849 Carole and synge so swetely,
850 Laughe and pleye so womanly,
851 And loke so debonairly,
852 So goodly speke and so frendly,
853 That certes y trowe that evermor
854 Nas seyn so blysful a tresor.
855 For every heer on hir hed,
856 Soth to seyne, hyt was not red,
857 Ne nouther yelowe ne broun hyt nas;
858 Me thoghte most lyk gold hyt was.
859 “And whiche eyen my lady hadde!
860 Debonaire, goode, glade, and sadde,
861 Symple, of good mochel, noght to wyde.
862 Therto hir look nas not asyde
863 Ne overthwert, but beset so wel
864 Hyt drew and took up everydel
865 Al that on hir gan beholde.
866 Hir eyen semed anoon she wolde
867 Have mercy — fooles wenden soo —
868 But hyt was never the rather doo.
869 Hyt nas no countrefeted thyng;
870 Hyt was hir owne pure lokyng
871 That the goddesse, dame Nature,
872 Had mad hem opene by mesure
873 And close; for were she never so glad,
874 Hyr lokynge was not foly sprad,
875 Ne wildely, thogh that she pleyde;
876 But ever, me thoght, hir eyen seyde,
877 ‘Be God, my wrathe ys al foryive!’
878 “Therwith hir lyste so wel to lyve,
879 That dulnesse was of hir adrad.
880 She nas to sobre ne to glad;
881 In alle thynges more mesure
882 Had never, I trowe, creature.
883 But many oon with hire lok she herte,
884 And that sat hyr ful lyte at herte,
885 For she knew nothyng of her thoght;
886 But whether she knew or knew it nowght
887 Algate she ne roughte of hem a stree! —
888 To gete her love no ner nas he
889 That woned at hom than he in Ynde;
890 The formest was alway behynde.
891 But goode folk, over al other,
892 She loved as man may do hys brother;
893 Of which love she was wonder large,
894 In skilful places that bere charge.
895 “But which a visage had she thertoo!
896 Allas, myn herte ys wonder woo
897 That I ne kan discryven hyt!
898 Me lakketh both Englyssh and wit
899 For to undo hyt at the fulle;
900 And eke my spirites be so dulle
901 So gret a thyng for to devyse.
902 I have no wit that kan suffise
903 To comprehende hir beaute.
904 But thus moche dar I sayn, that she
905 Was whit, rody, fressh, and lyvely hewed,
906 And every day hir beaute newed.
907 And negh hir face was alderbest,
908 For certes Nature had swich lest
909 To make that fair that trewly she
910 Was hir chef patron of beaute,
911 And chef ensample of al hir werk,
912 And moustre; for be hyt never so derk,
913 Me thynketh I se hir ever moo.
914 And yet moreover, thogh alle thoo
915 That ever livede were now alyve,
916 Ne sholde have founde to discryve
917 Yn al hir face a wikked sygne,
918 For hit was sad, symple, and benygne.
919 “And which a goodly, softe speche
920 Had that swete, my lyves leche!
921 So frendly, and so wel ygrounded,
922 Up al resoun so wel yfounded,
923 And so tretable to alle goode
924 That I dar swere wel, by the roode,
925 Of eloquence was never founde
926 So swete a sownynge facounde,
927 Ne trewer tonged, ne skorned lasse,
928 Ne bet koude hele — that, by the masse
929 I durste swere, thogh the pope hit songe,
930 That ther was never yet throgh hir tonge
931 Man ne woman gretly harmed;
932 As for her, was al harm hyd —
933 Ne lasse flaterynge in hir word,
934 That purely hir symple record
935 Was founde as trewe as any bond
936 Or trouthe of any mannes hond;
937 Ne chyde she koude never a del;
938 That knoweth al the world ful wel.
939 “But swich a fairnesse of a nekke
940 Had that swete that boon nor brekke
941 Nas ther non sene that myssat.
942 Hyt was whit, smothe, streght, and pure flat,
943 Wythouten hole or canel-boon,
944 As be semynge had she noon.
945 Hyr throte, as I have now memoyre,
946 Semed a round tour of yvoyre,
947 Of good gretnesse, and noght to gret.
948 “And goode faire White she het;
949 That was my lady name ryght.
950 She was bothe fair and bryght;
951 She hadde not hir name wrong.
952 Ryght faire shuldres and body long
953 She had, and armes, every lyth
954 Fattyssh, flesshy, not gret therwith;
955 Ryght white handes, and nayles rede;
956 Rounde brestes; and of good brede
957 Hyr hippes were; a streight flat bak.
958 I knew on hir noon other lak
959 That al hir lymmes nere pure sewynge
960 In as fer as I had knowynge.
961 “Therto she koude so wel pleye,
962 Whan that hir lyste, that I dar seye
963 That she was lyk to torche bryght
964 That every man may take of lyght
965 Ynogh, and hyt hath never the lesse.
966 Of maner and of comlynesse
967 Ryght so ferde my lady dere,
968 For every wight of hir manere
969 Myght cacche ynogh, yif that he wolde,
970 Yif he had eyen hir to beholde;
971 For I dar swere wel, yif that she
972 Had among ten thousand be,
973 She wolde have be, at the leste,
974 A chef myrour of al the feste,
975 Thogh they had stonden in a rowe,
976 To mennes eyen that koude have knowe;
977 For wher-so men had pleyd or waked,
978 Me thoghte the felawsshyppe as naked
979 Withouten hir that sawgh I oones
980 As a corowne withoute stones.
11-ch 981 Trewly she was, to myn ye
982 The soleyn fenix of Arabye,
983 For ther livyth never but oon,
984 Ne swich as she ne knowe I noon.
985 “To speke of godnesse, trewly she
986 Had as moche debonairte
987 As ever had Hester in the Bible,
988 And more, yif more were possyble.
989 And soth to seyne, therwythal
990 She had a wyt so general,
991 So hool enclyned to alle goode,
992 That al hir wyt was set, by the rode,
993 Withoute malyce, upon gladnesse;
994 And therto I saugh never yet a lesse
995 Harmful than she was in doynge.
996 I sey nat that she ne had knowynge
997 What harm was, or elles she
998 Had koud no good, so thinketh me.
999 “And trewly for to speke of trouthe,
1000 But she had had, hyt hadde be routhe.
1001 Therof she had so moche hyr del —
1002 And I dar seyn and swere hyt wel —
1003 That Trouthe hymself over al and al
1004 Had chose hys maner principal
1005 In hir that was his restyng place.
1006 Therto she hadde the moste grace
1007 To have stedefast perseveraunce
1008 And esy, atempre governaunce
1009 That ever I knew or wyste yit,
1010 So pure suffraunt was hir wyt;
1011 And reson gladly she understood;
1012 Hyt folowed wel she koude good.
1013 She used gladly to do wel;
1014 These were hir maners everydel.
1015 “Therwith she loved so wel ryght
1016 She wrong do wolde to no wyght.
1017 No wyght myghte do hir noo shame,
1018 She loved so wel hir owne name.
1019 Hyr lust to holde no wyght in honde,
1020 Ne, be thou siker, she wolde not fonde
1021 To holde no wyght in balaunce
1022 By half word ne by countenaunce —
1023 But if men wolde upon hir lye —
1024 Ne sende men into Walakye,
1025 To Pruyse, and into Tartarye,
1026 To Alysaundre, ne into Turkye,
1027 And byd hym faste anoon that he
1028 Goo hoodles into the Drye Se
1029 And come hom by the Carrenar,
1030 And seye, ‘Sir, be now ryght war
1031 That I may of yow here seyn
1032 Worshyp or that ye come ageyn!’
1033 She ne used no suche knakkes smale.
1034 “But wherfore that y telle my tale?
1035 Ryght on thys same, as I have seyd,
1036 Was hooly al my love leyd;
1037 For certes she was, that swete wif,
11-ch 1038 My suffisaunce, my lust, my lyf,
1039 Myn hap, myn hele, and al my blesse,
1040 My worldes welfare, and my goddesse,
1041 And I hooly hires and everydel.”
1042 “By oure Lord,” quod I, “y trowe yow wel!
1043 Hardely, your love was wel beset;
1044 I not how ye myghte have do bet.”
1045 “Bet? Ne no wyght so wel,” quod he.
1046 “Y trowe hyt wel, sir,” quod I, “parde!”
1047 “Nay, leve hyt wel!” “Sire, so do I;
1048 I leve yow wel, that trewely
1049 Yow thoghte that she was the beste
1050 And to beholde the alderfayreste,
1051 Whoso had loked hir with your eyen.”
1052 “With myn? Nay, alle that hir seyen
1053 Seyde and sworen hyt was soo.
1054 And thogh they ne hadde, I wolde thoo
1055 Have loved best my lady free,
1056 Thogh I had had al the beaute
1057 That ever had Alcipyades,
1058 And al the strengthe of Ercules,
1059 And therto had the worthynesse
1060 Of Alysaunder, and al the rychesse
1061 That ever was in Babyloyne,
1062 In Cartage, or in Macedoyne,
11-ch 1063 Or in Rome, or in Nynyve;
1064 And therto also hardy be
1065 As was Ector, so have I joye,
1066 That Achilles slough at Troye —
1067 And therfore was he slayn alsoo
1068 In a temple, for bothe twoo
1069 Were slayne, he and Antylegyus
1070 (And so seyth Dares Frygius),
1071 For love of Polixena —
1072 Or ben as wis as Mynerva,
1073 I wolde ever, withoute drede,
1074 Have loved hir, for I moste nede.
1075 ‘Nede?’ Nay, trewly, I gabbe now;
1076 Noght ‘nede,’ and I wol tellen how:
1077 For of good wille myn herte hyt wolde,
1078 And eke to love hir I was holde
1079 As for the fairest and the beste.
1080 She was as good, so have I reste,
1081 As ever was Penelopee of Grece,
1082 Or as the noble wif Lucrece,
1083 That was the beste — he telleth thus,
1084 The Romayn, Tytus Lyvyus —
1085 She was as good, and nothyng lyk
1086 (Thogh hir stories be autentyk),
1087 Algate she was as trewe as she.
1088 “But wherfore that I telle thee
1089 Whan I first my lady say?
1090 I was ryght yong, soth to say,
1091 And ful gret nede I hadde to lerne;
1092 Whan my herte wolde yerne
1093 To love, hyt was a gret empryse.
1094 But as my wyt koude best suffise,
1095 After my yonge childly wyt,
1096 Withoute drede, I besette hyt
1097 To love hir in my beste wyse,
1098 To do hir worship and the servise
1099 That I koude thoo, be my trouthe,
1100 Withoute feynynge outher slouthe,
1101 For wonder feyn I wolde hir se.
1102 So mochel hyt amended me
1103 That whan I saugh hir first a-morwe
1104 I was warished of al my sorwe
1105 Of al day after; til hyt were eve
1106 Me thoghte nothyng myghte me greve,
1107 Were my sorwes never so smerte.
1108 And yet she syt so in myn herte
1109 That, by my trouthe, y nolde noght
1110 For al thys world out of my thoght
1111 Leve my lady; noo, trewely!”
1112 “Now, by my trouthe, sir,” quod I,
1113 “Me thynketh ye have such a chaunce
1114 As shryfte wythoute repentaunce.”
1115 “Repentaunce? Nay, fy!” quod he,
1116 “Shulde y now repente me
1117 To love? Nay, certes, than were I wel
1118 Wers than was Achitofel,
1119 Or Anthenor, so have I joye,
1120 The traytor that betraysed Troye,
1121 Or the false Genelloun,
1122 He that purchased the tresoun
1123 Of Rowland and of Olyver.
1124 Nay, while I am alyve her,
1125 I nyl foryete hir never moo.”
1126 “Now, goode syre,” quod I thoo,
1127 “Ye han wel told me herebefore;
1128 Hyt ys no nede to reherse it more,
1129 How ye sawe hir first, and where.
1130 But wolde ye tel me the manere
1131 To hire which was your firste speche —
1132 Therof I wolde yow beseche —
1133 And how she knewe first your thoght,
1134 Whether ye loved hir or noght?
1135 And telleth me eke what ye have lore,
1136 I herde yow telle herebefore.”
1137 “Yee!” seyde he, “thow nost what thow menest;
1138 I have lost more than thou wenest.”
1139 “What los ys that?” quod I thoo;
1140 “Nyl she not love yow? Ys hyt soo?
1141 Or have ye oght doon amys,
1142 That she hath left yow? Ys hyt this?
1143 For Goddes love, telle me al.”
1144 “Before God,” quod he, “and I shal.
1145 I saye ryght as I have seyd,
1146 On hir was al my love leyd,
1147 And yet she nyste hyt nat, never a del
1148 Noght longe tyme, leve hyt wel!
1149 For be ryght siker, I durste noght
1150 For al this world telle hir my thoght,
1151 Ne I wolde have wraththed hir, trewely.
1152 For wostow why? She was lady
1153 Of the body; she had the herte,
1154 And who hath that may not asterte.
1155 But for to kepe me fro ydelnesse,
1156 Trewly I dide my besynesse
1157 To make songes, as I best koude,
1158 And ofte tyme I song hem loude;
1159 And made songes thus a gret del,
1160 Althogh I koude not make so wel
1161 Songes, ne knewe the art al,
1162 As koude Lamekes sone Tubal,
1163 That found out first the art of songe;
1164 For as hys brothres hamers ronge
1165 Upon hys anvelt up and doun,
1166 Therof he took the firste soun —
1167 But Grekes seyn Pictagoras,
1168 That he the firste fynder was
1169 Of the art (Aurora telleth so);
1170 But therof no fors of hem two.
1171 Algates songes thus I made
1172 Of my felynge, myn herte to glade;
1173 And, lo, this was [the] altherferste —
1174 I not wher hyt were the werste.
1175 ‘Lord, hyt maketh myn herte lyght
1176 Whan I thenke on that swete wyght
1177 That is so semely on to see;
1178 And wisshe to God hit myghte so bee
1179 That she wolde holde me for hir knyght,
1180 My lady, that is so fair and bryght!’
1181 “Now have I told thee, soth to say,
1182 My firste song. Upon a day
1183 I bethoghte me what woo
1184 And sorwe that I suffred thoo
1185 For hir, and yet she wyste hyt noght,
1186 Ne telle hir durste I nat my thoght.
1187 ‘Allas,’ thoghte I, ‘y kan no red;
1188 And but I telle hir, I [nam] but ded;
1189 And yif I telle hyr, to seye ryght soth,
1190 I am adred she wol be wroth.
1191 Allas, what shal I thanne do?’
1192 “In this debat I was so wo
1193 Me thoghte myn herte braste atweyne!
1194 So at the laste, soth to sayne,
1195 I bethoghte me that Nature
1196 Ne formed never in creature
1197 So moche beaute, trewely,
1198 And bounte, wythoute mercy.
1199 In hope of that, my tale I tolde
1200 With sorwe, as that I never sholde,
1201 For nedes, and mawgree my hed,
1202 I most have told hir or be ded.
1203 I not wel how that I began;
1204 Ful evel rehersen hyt I kan;
1205 And eke, as helpe me God withal,
1206 I trowe hyt was in the dismal,
1207 That was the ten woundes of Egipte —
1208 For many a word I over-skipte
1209 In my tale, for pure fere
1210 Lest my wordes mysset were.
1211 With sorweful herte and woundes dede,
1212 Softe and quakynge for pure drede
1213 And shame, and styntynge in my tale
1214 For ferde, and myn hewe al pale —
1215 Ful ofte I wex bothe pale and red —
1216 Bowynge to hir, I heng the hed;
1217 I durste nat ones loke hir on,
1218 For wit, maner, and al was goon.
1219 I seyde ‘Mercy!’ and no more.
1220 Hyt nas no game; hyt sat me sore.
1221 “So at the laste, soth to seyn,
1222 Whan that myn hert was come ageyn,
1223 To telle shortly al my speche,
1224 With hool herte I gan hir beseche
1225 That she wolde be my lady swete;
1226 And swor, and gan hir hertely hete
1227 Ever to be stedfast and trewe,
1228 And love hir alwey fresshly newe,
1229 And never other lady have,
1230 And al hir worship for to save
1231 As I best koude. I swor hir this:
1232 ‘For youres is alle that ever ther ys
1233 For evermore, myn herte swete!
1234 And never to false yow, but I mete,
1235 I nyl, as wys God helpe me soo!’
1236 “And whan I had my tale y-doo,
1237 God wot, she acounted nat a stree
1238 Of al my tale, so thoghte me.
1239 To telle shortly ryght as hyt ys,
1240 Trewly hir answere hyt was this —
1241 I kan not now wel counterfete
1242 Hir wordes, but this was the grete
1243 Of hir answere: she sayde ‘Nay’
1244 Al outerly. Allas, that day
1245 The sorowe I suffred and the woo
1246 That trewly Cassandra, that soo
1247 Bewayled the destruccioun
1248 Of Troye and of Ilyoun,
1249 Had never swich sorwe as I thoo.
1250 I durste no more say thertoo
1251 For pure fere, but stal away;
11-ch 1252 And thus I lyved ful many a day,
1253 That trewely I hadde no ned
1254 Ferther than my beddes hed
1255 Never a day to seche sorwe;
1256 I fond hyt redy every morwe,
1257 For-why I loved hyr in no gere.
1258 “So hit befel, another yere
1259 I thoughte ones I wolde fonde
1260 To do hir knowe and understonde
1261 My woo; and she wel understod
1262 That I ne wilned thyng but god,
1263 And worship, and to kepe hir name
1264 Over alle thynges, and drede hir shame,
1265 And was so besy hyr to serve,
1266 And pitee were I shulde sterve,
1267 Syth that I wilned noon harm, ywis.
1268 So whan my lady knew al this,
1269 My lady yaf me al hooly
1270 The noble yifte of hir mercy,
1271 Savynge hir worship by al weyes —
1272 Dredles, I mene noon other weyes.
1273 And therwith she yaf me a ryng;
1274 I trowe hyt was the firste thyng;
1275 But if myn herte was ywaxe
1276 Glad, that is no nede to axe!
1277 As helpe me God, I was as blyve
1278 Reysed as fro deth to lyve —
1279 Of al happes the alderbeste,
1280 The gladdest, and the moste at reste.
1281 For trewely that swete wyght,
1282 Whan I had wrong and she the ryght,
11-ch 1283 She wolde alway so goodly
1284 Foryeve me so debonairly.
1285 In al my yowthe, in al chaunce,
1286 She took me in hir governaunce.
1287 Therwyth she was alway so trewe
1288 Our joye was ever ylyche newe;
1289 Oure hertes wern so evene a payre
1290 That never nas that oon contrayre
1291 To that other for no woo.
1292 For sothe, ylyche they suffred thoo
1293 Oo blysse and eke oo sorwe bothe;
1294 Ylyche they were bothe glad and wrothe;
1295 Al was us oon, withoute were.
1296 And thus we lyved ful many a yere
1297 So wel I kan nat telle how.”
1298 “Sir,” quod I, “where is she now?”
1299 “Now?” quod he, and stynte anoon.
1300 Therwith he wax as ded as stoon
1301 And seyde, “Allas, that I was bore!
1302 That was the los that here-before
1303 I tolde the that I hadde lorn.
1304 Bethenke how I seyde here-beforn,
1305 ‘Thow wost ful lytel what thow menest;
1306 I have lost more than thow wenest.’
1307 God wot, allas! Ryght that was she!”
1308 “Allas, sir, how? What may that be?”
1309 “She ys ded!” “Nay!” “Yis, be my trouthe!”
1310 “Is that youre los? Be God, hyt ys routhe!”
1311 And with that word ryght anoon
1312 They gan to strake forth; al was doon,
1313 For that tyme, the hert-huntyng.
1314 With that me thoghte that this kyng
1315 Gan homwarde for to ryde
1316 Unto a place, was there besyde,
1317 Which was from us but a lyte —
1318 A long castel with walles white,
1319 Be Seynt Johan, on a ryche hil,
1320 As me mette; but thus hyt fil.
1321 Ryght thus me mette, as I yow telle,
1322 That in the castell ther was a belle,
1323 As hyt hadde smyten houres twelve.
1324 Therwyth I awook myselve
1325 And fond me lyinge in my bed;
1326 And the book that I hadde red,
1327 Of Alcione and Seys the kyng,
1328 And of the goddes of slepyng,
1329 I fond hyt in myn hond ful even.
1330 Thoghte I, “Thys ys so queynt a sweven
1331 That I wol, be processe of tyme,
1332 Fonde to put this sweven in ryme
1333 As I kan best, and that anoon.”
1334 This was my sweven; now hit ys doon.

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The Book of the Duchess – Middle English - GEOFFREY CHAUCER