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The Legend of Good Women – Middle English

The Prologe of. IX. Goode Wimmen.
A thousand tymes have I herd men telle,
That ther is Ioye in heven, and peyne in helle;
And I acorde wel that hit is so;
But natheles, yit wot I wel also,
That ther nis noon dwelling in this contree,
That either hath in heven or helle y-be,
Ne may of hit non other weyes witen,
But as he hath herd seyd, or founde hit writen;
For by assay ther may no man hit preve.
10 But god forbede but men should leve
Wel more thing then men han seen with ye!
Men shal nat wenen every-thing a lye
But-if him-self hit seeth, or elles dooth;
For, god wot, thing is never the lasse sooth,
Thogh every wight ne may hit nat y-see.
Bernard the monk ne saugh nat al, parde!

Than mote we to bokes that we finde,
Through which that olde thinges been in minde.
And to the doctrine of these olde wyse,
20 Yeve credence, in every skilful wyse,
That tellen of these olde appreved stories,
Of holinesse, or regnes, of victories,
Of love, of hate, of other sundry thinges,
Of whiche I may not maken rehersinges.
And if that olde bokes were a-weye,
Y-loren were of remembraunce the keye.
Wel oghte us than honouren and beleve
These bokes, ther we han non other preve.

And as for me, thogh that I can but lyte,
30 On bokes for to rede I me delyte,
And to hem yeve I feyth and ful credence,
And in myn herte have hem in reverence
So hertely, that ther is game noon
That fro my bokes maketh me to goon,
But hit be seldom, on the holyday;
Save, certeynly, whan that the month of May
Is comen, and that I here the foules singe,
And that the floures ginnen for to springe,
Farwel my book and my devocioun!

40 Now have I than swich a condicioun,
That, of alle the floures in the mede,
Than love I most these floures whyte and rede,
Swiche as men callen daysies in our toun.
To hem have I so great affeccioun,
As I seyde erst, whan comen is the May,
That in my bed ther daweth me no day
That I nam up, and walking in the mede
To seen this flour agein the sonne sprede,
Whan hit upryseth erly by the morwe;
50 That blisful sighte softneth al my sorwe,
So glad am I whan that I have presence
Of hit, to doon al maner reverence,
As she, that is of alle floures flour,
Fulfilled of al vertu and honour,
And ever y-lyke fair, and fresh of hewe;
And I love hit, and ever y-lyke newe,
And ever shal, til that myn herte dye;
Al swete I nat, of this I wol nat lye,
Ther loved no wight hotter in his lyve.

60 And whan that hit is eve, I renne blyve,
As sone as ever the sonne ginneth weste,
To seen this flour, how it wol go to reste,
For fere of night, so hateth she derknesse!
Hir chere is pleynly sprad in the brightnesse
Of the sonne, for ther hit wol unclose.
Allas! that I ne had English, ryme or prose,
Suffisant this flour to preyse aright!
But helpeth, ye that han conning and might,
Ye lovers, that can make of sentement;
70 In this cas oghte ye be diligent
To forthren me somwhat in my labour,
Whether ye ben with the leef or with the flour.
For wel I wot, that ye han her-biforn
Of making ropen, and lad awey the corn;
And I come after, glening here and there,
And am ful glad if I may finde an ere
Of any goodly word that ye han left.
And thogh it happen me rehercen eft
That ye han in your fresshe songes sayd,
80 For-bereth me, and beth nat evel apayd,
Sin that ye see I do hit in the honour
Of love, and eek in service of the flour,
Whom that I serve as I have wit or might.
She is the clerness and the verray light,
That in this derke worlde me wynt and ledeth,
The herte in-with my sorowful brest yow dredeth,
And loveth so sore, that ye ben verrayly
The maistresse of my wit, and nothing I.
My word, my werk, is knit so in your bonde,
90 That, as an harpe obeyeth to the honde
And maketh hit soune after his fingeringe,
Right so mowe ye out of myn herte bringe
Swich vois, right as yow list, to laughte or pleyne.
Be ye my gyde and lady sovereyne;
As to myn erthly god, to yow I calle,
Bothe in this werke and in my sorwes alle.

But wherfor that I spak, to give credence
To olde stories, and doon hem reverence,
And that men mosten more thing beleve
100 Then men may seen at eye or elles preve?
That shal I seyn, whan that I see my tyme;
I may not al at ones speke in ryme.
My besy gost, that thrusteth alwey newe
To seen this flour so yong, so fresh of hewe,
Constreyned me with so gledy desyr,
That in my herte I fele yit the fyr,
That made me to ryse er hit wer day —
And this was now the firste morwe of May —
With dredful herte and glad devocioun,
110 For to ben at the resureccioun
Of this flour, whan that it shuld unclose
Agayn the sonne, that roos as rede as rose,
That in the brest was of the beste that day,
That Agenores doghter ladde away.
And doun on knees anon-right I me sette,
And, as I coude, this fresshe flour I grette;
Kneling alwey, til hit unclosed was,
Upon the smale softe swote gras,
That was with floures swote enbrouded al,
120 Of swich swetnesse and swich odour over-al,
That, for to speke of gomme, or herbe, or tree,
Comparisoun may noon y-maked be;
For hit surmounteth pleynly alle odoures,
And eek of riche beautee alle floures.
Forgeten had the erthe his pore estat
Of winter, that him naked made and mat,
And with his swerd of cold so sore greved;
Now hath the atempre sonne al that releved
That naked was, and clad hit new agayn.
130 The smale foules, of the seson fayn,
That from the panter and the net ben scaped,
Upon the fouler, that hem made a-whaped
In winter, and distroyed had hir brood,
In his despyt, hem thoughte hit did hem good
To singe of him, and in hir song despyse
The foule cherl that, for his covetyse,
Had hem betrayed with his sophistrye.
This was hir song — “the fouler we defye,
And al his craft!” And somme songen clere
140 Layes of love, and Ioye hit was to here,
In worshipinge and preisinge of hir make.
And, for the newe blisful somers sake,
Upon the braunches ful of blosmes softe,
In hir delyt, they turned hem ful ofte,
And songen, “blessed be seynt Valentyn!
For on his day I chees yow to be myn,
Withouten repenting, myn herte swete!”
And therwith-al hir bekes gonnen mete,
Yelding honour and humble obeisaunces
150 love, and diden hir other observaunces
That longeth unto love and to nature;
Construeth that as yow list, I do no cure.

And tho that hadde doon unkindenesse —
As dooth the tydif, for new-fangelnesse —
Besoghte mercy of hir trespassinge,
And humblely songen hir repentinge,
And sworen on the blosmes to be trewe,
So that hir makes wolde upon hem rewe,
And at the laste maden hir acord.
160 Al founde they Daunger for a tyme a lord,
Yet Pitee, through his stronge gentil might,
Forgaf, and made Mercy passen Right,
Through innocence and ruled curtesye.
But I ne clepe nat innocence folye,
Ne fals pitee, for “vertu is the mene,”
As Etik saith, in swich maner I mene.
And thus thise foules, voide of al malyce,
Acordeden to love, and laften vyce
Of hate, and songen alle of oon acord,
170 “Welcome, somer, our governour and lord!”

And Zephirus and Flora gentilly
Yaf to the floures, softe and tenderly,
Hir swote breth, and made hem for to sprede,
As god and goddesse of the floury mede;
In which me thoghte I mighte, day by day,
Dwellen alwey, the Ioly month of May,
Withouten sleep, withouten mete or drinke.
A-doun ful softely I gan to sinke;
And, leninge on myn elbowe and my syde,
180 The longe day I shoop me for to abyde
For nothing elles, and I shal nat lye,
But for to loke upon the dayesye,
That wel by reson men hit calle may
The “dayesye” or elles the “ye of day”,
The emperice and flour of floures alle.
I pray to god that faire mot she falle,
And alle that loven floures, for hir sake!
But natheles, ne wene nat that I make
In preysing of the flour agayn the leef,
190 No more than of the corn agayn the sheef:
For, as to me, nis lever noon ne lother;
I nam with-holden yit with never nother.
Ne I not who serveth leef, ne who the flour;
Wel brouken they hir service or labour;
For this thing is al of anther tonne,
Of olde story, er swich thing was be-gonne.

Whan that the sonne out of the south gan weste,
And that this flour gan close and goon to reste
For derknesse of the night, the which she dredde,
200 Hoom to myn hous ful swiftly I me spedde
To goon to reste, and erly for to ryse,
To seen this flour to sprede, as I devyse.
And, in a litel herber that I have,
That benched was on turves fresshe y-grave,
I bad men sholde me my couche make;
For deyntee of the newe someres sake,
I bad hem strawen floures on my bed.
Whan I was leyd, and had myn eyen hed,
I fel on slepe in-with an houre or two;
210 Me mette how I lay in the medew tho,
To seen this flour that I love so drede.
And from a-fer com walking in the mede
The god of love, and in his hande a quene;
And she was clad in real habit grene.
A fret of gold she hadde next hir heer,
And upon that a whyt coroun she beer
With florouns smale, and I shal nat lye;
For al the world, ryght as a dayesye
Y-corouned is with whyte leves lyte,
220 So were the florouns of hir coroun whyte;
For of a perle fyne, oriental,
Hir whyte coroun was y-maked al;
For which the whyte coroun, above the grene,
Made hir lyk a daysie for to sene,
Considered eek hir feet of gold above.

Y-clothed was this mighty god of love
In silke, enbrouded ful of grene greves,
In-with a fret of rede rose-leves,
The fresshest sin the world was first bigonne.
230 His gilte heer was corouned with a sonne,
In-stede of gold, for hevinesse and wighte;
Therwith me thoughte his face shoon so brighte
That wel unnethes mighte I him beholde;
And in his hande me thoughte I saugh him holde
Two fyry dartes, as the gledes rede;
And aungellyke his winges suagh I sprede.
And al be that men seyn that blind is he,
Al-gate me thoughte that he mighte see;
For sternly on me he gan biholde,
240 So that his loking doth myn herte colde.
And by the hande he held this noble quene,
Corouned with whyte, and clothed al in grene,
So womanly, so benigne, and so meke,
That in this world, thogh that men wolde seke,
Half hir beautee shulde men nat finde
In creature that formed is by kinde.
And therfor may I seyn, as thinketh me,
This song, in preysing of this lady fre.


Hyd, Absolon, thy gilte tresses clere;
250 Ester, ley thou thy meknesse al a-doun;
Hyd, Ionathas, al thy frendly manere;
Penalopee, and Marcia Catoun,
Mak of your wyfhod no comparisoun;
Hyde ye your beautes, Isoude and Eleyne,
My lady cometh, that al this may disteyne.

Thy faire body, lat hit nat appere,
Lavyne; and thou, Lucresse of Rome toun,
And Polixene, that boghten love so dere,
And Cleopatre, with al thy passioun,
260 Hyde ye your trouthe of love and your renoun;
And thou, Tisbe, that hast of love swich peyne;
My lady cometh, that al this may disteyne.

Herro, Dido, Laudomia, alle y-fere,
And Phyllis, hanging for thy Demophon,
And Canace, espyed by thy chere,
Ysiphile, betrayed with Jasoun,
Maketh of your trouthe neyther boost ne soun;
Nor Ypermistre or Adriane, ye tweyne;
My lady cometh, that al this may disteyne.

270 This balade may ful wel y-songen be,
As I have seyd erst, by my lady free;
For certeynly, alle these now nat suffyse
To apperen with my lady in no wyse.
For as the sonne wol the fyr disteyne,
So passeth al my lady sovereyne,
That is so good, so fair, so debonaire;
I prey to god that ever falle hir faire!
For, nadde comfort been of hir presence,
I had ben deed, withouten any defence,
280 For drede of Loves wordes and his chere;
As, when tyme is, her-after ye shal here.

Behind this god of love, upon the grene,
I saugh cominge of ladyes nyntene
In real habit, a ful esy paas;
And after hem com of women swich a traas,
That, sin that god Adam had mad of erthe,
The thridde part of mankynd, or the ferthe,
Ne wende I nat by possibilitee,
Had ever in this wyde worlde y-be;
290 And trewe of love thise women were echoon.

Now whether was that a wonder thing or noon,
That, right anoon as that they gonne espye
This flour, which that I clepe the dayesye,
Ful sodeinly they stinten alle at ones,
And kneled doun, as it were for the nones,
And songen with o vois, “hele and honour
To trouthe of womanhede, and to this flour
That berth our alder prys in figuringe!
Hir whyte coroun berth the witnessinge!”

300 And with that word, a compas enviroun,
They setten hem ful softly adoun.
First sat the god of love, and sith his quene
With the whyte coroun, clad in grene;
And sithen al the remenant by and by,
As they were of estaat, ful curteisly;
Ne nat a word was spoken in the place
The mountance of a furlong-wey of space.

I kneling by this flour, in good entente
Abood, to knowen what this peple mente,
310 As stille as any stoon; til at the laste,
This god of love on me his eyen caste,
And seyde, “who kneleth ther?” and I answerde
Unto his asking, whan that I hit herde,
And seyde, “sir, hit am I”; and com him neer,
And salued him. Quod he, “what dostow heer
So nigh myn owne flour, so boldely?
For it were better worthy, trewely,
A worm to neghen neer my flour than thou.”
“And why, sir,” quod I, “and hit lyke yow?”
320 “For thou,” quod he, “art ther-to nothing able.
Hit is my relik, digne and delytable,
And thou my fo, and al my folk werreyest,
And of myn olde servaunts thou misseyest,
And hindrest hem, with thy translacioun,
And lettest folk from hir devocioun
To serve me, and holdest hit folye
To serve Love. Thou mayest hit nat denye;
For in pleyn text, with-outen nede of glose,
Thou hast translated the Romaunce of the Rose,
330 That is an heresye ageyns my lawe,
And makest wyse folk fro me withdrawe.
And of Criseyde thou hast seyd as thee liste,
That maketh men to wommen lasse triste,
That ben as trewe as ever was any steel.
Of thyn answere avyse thee right weel;
For, thogh that thou reneyed hast my lay,
As other wrecches han doon many a day,
By seynt Venus, that my moder is,
If that thou live, thou shalt repenten this
340 So cruelly, that hit shal wel be sene!”

Tho spak this lady, clothed al in grene,
And seyde, “god, right of your curtesye,
Ye moten herknen if he can replye
Agayns al this that ye han to him meved;
A god ne sholde nat be thus agreved,
But of his deitee he shal be stable,
And therto gracious and merciable.
And if ye nere a god, that knowen al,
Than mighte hit be, as I yow tellen shal;
350 This man to you may falsly been accused,
Ther as by right him oghte been excused.
For in your court is many a losengeour,
And many a queynte totelere accusour,
That tabouren in your eres many a soun,
Right after hir imaginacioun,
To have your daliance, and for envye;
These been the causes, and I shall nat lye.
Envye is lavender of the court alway;
For she ne parteth, neither night ne day,
360 Out of the hous of Cesar; thus seith Dante;
Who-so that goth, algate she wol nat wante.
And eek, paraunter, for this man is nyce,
He mighte doon hit, gessing no malyce,
But for he useth thinges for to make;
Him rekketh noght of what matere he take;

Or him was boden maken thilke tweye
Of som persone, and durste hit nat with-seye;
Or him repenteth utterly of this.
He ne hath nat doon so grevously amis
370 To translaten that olde clerkes wryten,
As thogh that he of malice wolde endyten
Despyt of love, and had him-self hit wroght.
This shulde a rightwys lord have in his thoght,
And nat be lyk tiraunts of Lumbardye,
That han no reward but at tirannye.
For he that king or lord is naturel,
Him oghte nat be tiraunt ne cruel,
As is a fermour, to doon the harm he can.
He moste thinke hit is his lige man,
380 And is his tresour, and his gold in cofre.
This is the sentence of the philosophre:
A king to kepe his liges in Iustyce;
With-outen doute, that is his offyce.
Al wole he kepe his lordes hir degree,
As hit is right and skilful that they be
Enhaunced and honoured, and most dere —
For they ben half-goddes in this world here —
Yit mot he doon bothe right, to pore and riche,
Al be that hir estat be nay y-liche,
390 And han of pore folk compassioun,
For lo, the gentil kynd of the leoun!
For whan a flye offendeth him or byteth,
He with his tayl awey the flye smyteth
Al esily; for, of his genterye,
Him deyneth nat to wreke him on a flye,
As doth a curre or elles another beste.
In noble corage oghte been areste,
And weyen every thing by equitee,
And ever han reward to his owen degree.
400 For, sir, hit is no maystrie for a lord
To dampne a man with-oute answere of word;
And, for a lord, that is ful foul to use.
And if so be he may him nat excuse,
But asketh mercy with a dredful herte,
And profreth him, right in his bare sherte,
To been right at your owne Iugement,
Than oghte a god, by short avysement,
Considre his owne honour and his trespas.
For sith no cause of deeth lyth in his cas,
410 Yow oghte been the lighter merciable;
Leteth your yre, and beth somwhat tretable!
The man hath served yow of his conning,
And forthred wel your lawe in his making.

“Al be hit that he can nat wel endyte,
Yet hath he maked lewed folk delyte
To serve you, in preysing of your name.
He made of the book that hight the Hous of Fame,
And eek the Deeth of Blaunche the Duchesse,
And the Parlement of Foules, and I gesse,
420 And al the love of Palamon and Arcyte
Of Thebes, thogh the story is knowen lyte;
And many an ympne for your halydayes,
That highten Balades, Roundels, Virelayes;
And, for to speke of other holynesse,
He hath in prose translated Boece,
And mad the Lyf also of seynt Cecyle;
He made also, goon sithen a greet whyl,
Origenes upon the Maudeleyne;
Him oghte now to have the lesse peyne;
430 He hath mad many a lay and many a thing.

“Now as ye been a god, and eek a king,
I, your Alceste, whylom quene of Trace,
I aske yow this man, right of your grace,
That ye him never hurte in al his lyve;
And he shal sweren yow, and that as blyve,
He shal no more agilten in this wyse;
But he shal maken, as ye wil devyse,
Of wommen trewe in lovinge al hir lyve,
Wher-so ye wil, of maiden or of wyve,
440 And forthren yow, as muche as he misseyde
Or in the Rose or elles in Creseyde.”

The god of love answerde hir thus anoon,
“Madame,” quod he, “hit is so long agoon
That I yow knew so charitable and trewe,
That never yit, sith that the world was newe,
To me ne fond I better noon than ye.
If that I wolde save my degree,
I may ne wol nat werne your requeste;
Al lyth in yow, doth with him as yow leste.
450 I al foryeve, with-outen lenger space;
For who-so yeveth a yift, or doth a grace,
Do hit by tyme, his thank is wel the more;
And demeth ye what he shal do therfore.
Go thanke now my lady heer,” quod he.

I roos, and doun I sette me on my knee,
And seyde thus: “madame, the god above
Foryelde yow, that ye the god of love
Han maked me his wrathe to foryive;
And yeve me grace so long for to live,
460 That I may knowe soothly what ye be
That han me holpe and put in this degree.
But truly I wende, as in this cas,
Naught have agilt, ne doon to love trespas.
Forwhy a trewe man, with-outen drede,
Hath not to parten with a theves dede;
Ne a trewe lover oghte me nat blame,
Thogh that I speke a fals lover som shame.
They oghte rather with me for to holde,
For that I of Creseyde wroot or tolde,
470 Or of the Rose; what-so myn auctour mente,
Algate, god wot, hit was myn entente
To forthren trouthe in love and hit cheryce;
And to be war fro falsnesse and fro vyce
By swich ensample; this was my meninge.”

And she answerde, “lat be thyn arguinge;
For Love ne wol nat countrepleted be
In right ne wrong; and lerne that of me!
Thou hast thy grace, and hold thee right ther-to.
Now wol I seyn what penance thou shald do
480 For thy trespas, and understond hit here:
Thou shalt, whyl that thou livest, yeer by yere,
The moste party of thy tyme spende
In making of a glorious Legende
Of Gode Wommen, maidenes and wyves,
That weren trewe in lovinge al hir lyves;
And telle of false men that hem bitrayen,
That al hir lyf ne doon nat but assayen
How many wommen they may doon a shame;
For in your world that is now holde a game.
490 And thogh thee lyke nat a lover be,
Spek wel of love; this penance yive I thee.
And to the god of love I shal so preye,
That he shal charge his servants, by any weye,
To forthren thee, and wel thy labour quyte;
Go now thy wey, this penance is but lyte.
And whan this book is maad, yive hit the quene
On my behalfe, at Eltham, or at Shene.”

The god of love gan smyle, and than he seyde,
“Wostow,” quod he, “wher this be wyf or mayde,
500 Or quene, or countesse, or of what degree,
That hath so litel penance yiven thee,
That hast deserved sorer for to smerte?
But pitee renneth sone in gentil herte;
That maystow seen, she kytheth what she is.”
And I answerde, “nay, sir, so have I blis,
No more but that I see wel she is good.”

“That is a trewe tale, by myn hood,”
Quod Love, “and that thou knowest wel, pardee,
If hit be so that thou avyse thee.
510 Hastow nat in a book, lyth in thy cheste,
The grete goodnesse of the quene Alceste,
That turned was into a dayesye:
She that for hir husbande chees to dye,
And eek to goon to helle, rather than he,
And Ercules rescowed hir, pardee,
And broghte hir out of helle agayn to blis?”

“And I answerde ageyn, and seyde, “yis,
Now knowe I hir! And is this good Alceste,
The dayesye, and myn owne hertes reste?
520 Now fele I wel the goodnesse of this wyf,
That bothe after hir deeth, and in hir lyf,
Hir grete bountee doubleth hir renoun!
Wel hath she quit me myn affeccioun
That I have to hir flour, the dayesye!
No wonder is thogh Iove hir stellifye,
As telleth Agaton, for hir goodnesse!
Hir whyte coroun berth of hit witnesse;
For also many vertues hadde she,
As smale floures in hir coroun be.
530 In remembraunce of hir and in honour,
Cibella made the dayesy and the flour
Y-coroned al with whyt, as men may see;
And Mars yaf to hir coroun reed, pardee,
In stede of rubies, set among the whyte.”

Therwith this quene wex reed for shame a lyte,
Whan she was preysed so in hir presence.
Than seyde Love, “a ful gret negligence
Was hit to thee, that ilke tyme thou made
‘Hyd, Absolon, thy tresses,’ in balade,
540 That thou forgete hir in thy song to sette,
Sin that thou art so gretly in hir dette,
And wost so wel, that kalender is she
To any woman that wol lover be.
For she taughte al the craft of fyn lovinge,
And namely of wyfhood the livinge,
And alle the boundes that she oghte kepe;
Thy litel wit was thilke tyme a-slepe.
But now I charge thee, upon thy lyf,
That in thy Legend thou make of this wyf,
550 Whan thou hast other smale y-maad before;
And fare now wel, I charge thee no more.

“But er I go, thus muche I wol thee telle,
Ne shal no trewe lover come in helle.
Thise other ladies sittinge here arowe
Ben in thy balade, if thou canst hem knowe,
And in thy bokes alle thou shalt hem finde;
Have hem now in thy Legend alle in minde,
I mene of hem that been in thy knowinge.
For heer ben twenty thousand mo sittinge
560 That thou knowest, that been good wommen alle
And trewe of love, for aught that may befalle;
Make the metres of hem as thee leste.
I mot gon hoom, the sonne draweth weste,
To Paradys, with al this companye;
And serve alwey the fresshe dayesye.

“At Cleopatre I wol that thou beginne;
And so forth; and my love so shalt thou winne.
For lat see now what man that lover be,
Wol doon so strong a peyne for love as she.
570 I wot wel that thou mayest nat al hit ryme,
That swiche lovers diden in hir tyme;
It were so long to reden and to here;
Suffyceth me, thou make in this manere,
That thou reherce of al hir lyf the grete,
After thise olde auctours listen to trete.
For who-so shal so many a storie telle,
Sey shortly, or he shal to longe dwelle.”
And with that word my bokes gan I take,
And right thus on my Legend gan I make.

Incipit Legenda Cleopatrie, Martiris, Egipti Regine.

580 After the deeth of Tholomee the king,
That al Egipte hadde in his governing,
Regned his quene Cleopataras;
Til on a tyme befel ther swiche a cas,
That out of Rome was sent a senatour,
For to conqueren regnes and honour
Unto the toun of Rome, as was usaunce,
To have the world unto her obeisaunce;
And, sooth to seye, Antonius was his name.
(10) So fil hit, as Fortune him oghte a shame
590 Whan he was fallen in prosperitee,
Rebel unto the toun of Rome is he.
And over al this, the suster of Cesar,
He lafte hir falsly, er that she was war,
And wolde algates han another wyf;
For whiche he took with Rome and Cesar stryf.

Natheles, for-sooth, this ilke senatour
Was a ful worthy gentil werreyour,
And of his deeth hit was ful greet damage.
(20) But love had broght this man in swiche a rage,
600 And him so narwe bounden in his las,
Al for the love of Cleopataras,
That al the world he sette at no value.
Him thoughte, nas to him no thing so due
As Cleopatras for to love and serve;
Him roghte nat in armes for to sterve
In the defence of hir, and of hir right.

This noble quene eek lovede so this knight,
Through his desert, and for his chivalrye;
(30) As certeinly, but-if that bokes lye,
610 He was, of persone and of gentilesse,
And of discrecioun and hardinesse,
Worthy to any wight that liven may.
And she was fair as is the rose in May.
And, for to maken shortly is the beste,
She wex his wyf, and hadde him as hir leste.

The wedding and the feste to devyse,
To me, that have y-take swiche empryse
Of so many a storie for to make,
(40) Hit were to long, lest that I sholde slake
620 Of thing that bereth more effect and charge;
For men may overlade a ship or barge;
And forthy to theffect than wol I skippe,
And al the remenant, I wol lete hit slippe.

Octovian, that wood was of this dede,
Shoop him an ost on Antony to lede
Al-outerly for his destruccioun,
With stoute Romains, cruel as leoun;
To ship they wente, and thus I let hem saile.

(50) Antonius was war, and wol nat faile
630 To meten with thise Romains, if he may;
Took eek his reed, and bothe, upon a day,
His wyf and he, and al his ost, forth wente
To shippe anoon, no lenger they ne stente;
And in the see hit happed hem to mete —
Up goth the trompe — and for to shoute and shete,
And peynen hem to sette on with the sonne.
With grisly soun out goth the grete gonne,
And heterly they hurtlen al at ones,
(60) And fro the top doun cometh the grete stones.
640 In goth the grapnel so ful of crokes
Among the ropes, and the shering-hokes.
In with the polax presseth he and he;
Behind the mast beginneth he to flee,
And out agayn, and dryveth him over-borde;
He stingeth him upon his speres orde;
He rent the sail with hokes lyke a sythe;
He bringeth the cuppe, and biddeth hem be blythe;
He poureth pesen upon the hacches slider;
(70) With pottes ful of lym they goon to-gider;
650 And thus the longe day in fight they spende
Til, at the laste, as every thing hath ende,
Anthony is shent, and put him to the flighte,
And al his folk to-go, that best go mighte.

Fleeth eek the queen, with al her purpre sail,
For strokes, which that wente as thikke as hail;
No wonder was, she mighte hit nat endure.
And what that Anthony saw that aventure,
“Allas!” quod he, “the day that I was born!
(80) My worshipe in this day thus have I lorn!”
660 And for dispeyr out of his witte he sterte,
And roof him-self anoon through-out the herte
Er that he ferther wente out of the place.
His wyf, that coude of Cesar have no grace,
To Egipte is fled, for drede and for distresse;
But herkneth, ye that speke of kindenesse.

Ye men, that falsly sweren many an ooth
That ye wol dye, if that your love be wrooth,
Heer may ye seen of women whiche a trouthe!
(90) This woful Cleopatre hath mad swich routhe
670 That ther nis tonge noon that may hit telle.
But on the morwe she wol no lenger dwelle,
But made hir subtil werkmen make a shryne
Of alle the rubies and the stones fyne
In al Egipte that she coude espye;
And putte ful the shryne of spycerye,
And leet the cors embaume; and forth she fette
This dede cors, and in the shryne hit shette.
And next the shryne a pit than doth she grave;
(100) And alle the serpents that she mighte have,
680 She putte hem in that grave, and thus she seyde:
“Now, love, to whom my sorweful herte obeyde
So ferforthly that, fro that blisful houre
That I yow swor to been al frely youre,
I mene yow, Antonius my knight!
That never waking, in the day or night,
Ye nere out of myn hertes remembraunce
For wele or wo, for carole or for daunce;
And in my-self this covenant made I tho,
(110) That, right swich as ye felten, wele or wo,
690 As ferforth as hit in my power lay,
Unreprovable unto my wyfhood ay,
The same wolde I felen, lyf or deeth.
And thilke covenant, whyl me lasteth breeth,
I wol fulfille, and that shal wel be sene;
Was never unto hir love a trewer quene.”
And with that word, naked, with ful good herte,
Among the serpents in the pit she sterte,
And ther she chees to han hir buryinge.
(120) Anoon the neddres gonne hir for to stinge,
700 And she hir deeth receyveth, with good chere,
For love of Antony, that was hir so dere: —
And this is storial sooth, hit is no fable.

Now, er I finde a man thus trewe and stable,
And wol for love his deeth so freely take,
I pray god lat our hedes never ake!

Incipit Legenda Tesbe Babilonie, Martiris.
At Babiloine whylom fil it thus,
The whiche toun the queen Semiramus
Leet dichen al about, and walles make
Ful hye, of harde tyles wel y-bake.
710 Ther weren dwellinge in this noble toun
Two lordes, which that were of greet renoun,
And woneden so nigh, upon a grene,
That ther nas but a stoon-wal hem bitwene,
As ofte in grete tounes is the wone.
(10) And sooth to seyn, that o man hadde a sone,
Of al that londe oon of the lustieste.
That other hadde a doghter, the faireste,
That estward in the world was tho dwellinge.
The name of everich gan to other springe
720 By wommen, that were neighebores aboute.
For in that contree yit, withouten doute,
Maidens been y-kept, for Ielosye,
Ful streite, lest they diden som folye.

This yonge man was cleped Piramus,
(20) And Tisbe hight the maid, Naso seith thus;
And thus by report was hir name y-shove
That, as they wexe in age, wex hir love;
And certein, as by reson of hir age,
Ther mighte have been bitwix hem mariage,
730 But that hir fadres nolde hit nat assente;
And bothe in love y-lyke sore they brente,
That noon of alle hir frendes mighte hit lette
But prively somtyme yit they mette
By sleighte, and speken som of hir desyr;
(30) As, wry the gleed, and hotter is the fyr;
Forbede a love, and it is ten so wood.

This wal, which that bitwix hem bothe stood,
Was cloven a-two, right fro the toppe adoun.
Of olde tyme of his fundacioun;
740 But yit this clifte was so narwe and lyte,
It as nat sene, dere y-nogh a myte.
But what is that, that love can nat espye?
Ye lovers two, if that I shal nat lye,
Ye founden first this litel narwe clifte;
(40) And, with a soun as softe as any shrifte,
They lete hir wordes through the clifte pace,
And tolden, whyl that they stode in the place,
Al hir compleynt of love, and al hir wo,
At every tyme whan they dorste so.

750 Upon that o syde of the wal stood he,
And on that other syde stood Tisbe,
The swote soun of other receyve,
And thus hir wardeins wolde they deceyve.
And every day this wal they wolde threte,
(50) And wisshe to god, that it were doun y-bete.
Thus wolde they seyn — “allas! Thou wikked wal,
Through thyn envye thou us lettest al!
Why nilt thou cleve, or fallen al a-two?
Or, at the leste, but thou woldest so,
760 Yit woldestow but ones lete us mete,
Or ones that we mighte kissen swete,
Than were we covered of our cares colde.
But natheles, yit be we to thee holde
In as muche as thou suffrest for to goon
(60) Our wordes through thy lyme and eek thy stoon.
Yit oghte we with thee ben wel apayd.”

And whan thise ydel wordes weren sayd,
The colde wal they wolden kisse of stoon,
And take hir leve, and forth they wolden goon.
770 And this was gladly in the even-tyde
Or wonder erly, lest men hit espyde;
And longe tyme they wroghte in this manere
Til on a day, whan Phebus gan to clere,
Aurora with the stremes of hir hete
(70) Had dryed up the dew of herbes were;
Unto this clifte, as it was wont to be,
Com Pyramus, and after com Tisbe,
And plighten trouthe fully in hir fey
That ilke same night to stele awey,
780 And to begyle hir wardiens everichoon,
And forth out of the citee for to goon;
And, for the feldes been so brode and wyde,
For to mete in o place at o tyde,
They sette mark hir meting sholde be
(80) Ther king Ninus was graven, under a tree;
For olde payens that ydoles heried
Useden tho in feldes to ben beried.
And faste by this grave was a welle.
And, shortly of this tale for to telle,
790 This covenant was affermed wonder faste;
And longe hem thoughte that the sonne laste,
That hit nere goon under the see adoun.

This Tisbe hath so greet affeccioun
And so greet lyking Piramus to see,
(90) That, whan she seigh her tyme mighte be,
At night she stal awey ful prively
With her face y-wimpled subtiny;
For alle her frendes — for to save her trouthe —
She hath for-sake; allas! and that is routhe
800 That ever woman wolde be so trewe
To trusten man, but she the bet him knewe!
And to the tree she goth a ful good pas,
For love made her so hardy in this cas;
And by the welle adoun she gan her dresse.
(100) Allas! than comth a wilde leonesse
Out of the wode, withouten more areste,
With blody mouthe, of strangling of a beste,
To drinken of the welle, ther as she sat;
And, whan that Tisbe had espyed that,
810 She rist her up, with a ful drery herte,
And in a cave with dredful foot she sterte,
For by the mone she seigh hit wel with-alle.
And, as she ran, her wimpel leet she falle,
And took noon heed, so sore she was a-whaped.
(110) And eek so glad of that she was escaped;
And thus she sit, and darketh wonder stille.
Whan that this leonesse hath dronke her fille,
Aboute the welle gan she for to winde,
And right anoon the wimpel gan she finde,
820 And with her blody mouth hit al to-rente.
Whan this was doon, no lenger she ne stente,
But to the wode her wey than hath she nome.

And, at the laste, this Piramus is come,
But al to longe, allas! at hoom was he.
(120) The mone shoon, men mighte wel y-see,
And in his weye, as that he com ful faste,
His eyen to the grounde adoun he caste,
And in the sonde, as he beheld adoun,
He seigh the steppes brode of a leoun,
830 And in his herte he sodeinly agroos,
And pale he wex, therwith his heer aroos,
And neer he com, and fond the wimpel torn.
“Allas!” quode he, “the day that I was born!
This o night wol us lovers bothe slee!
(130) How sholde I axen mercy of Tisbe
Whan I am he that have yow slain, allas!
My bidding hath yow slain, as in this cas.
Allas! to bidde a woman goon by nighte
In place ther as peril fallen mighte,
840 And I so slow! allas, I ne hadde be
Here in this place a furlong-wey or ye!
Now what leoun that be in this foreste,
My body mote he renden, or what beste
That wilde is, gnawen mote he now myn herte!”
(140) And with that worde he to the wimpel sterte,
And kiste hit ofte, and weep on hit ful sore,
And seide, “wimpel, allas! ther nis no more
But thou shalt fele as wel the blood of me
As thou hast felt the bleding of Tisbe!”
850 And with that worde he smoot him to the herte.
The blood out of the wounde as brode sterte
As water, whan the conduit broken is.

Now Tisbe, which that wiste nat of this,
But sitting in her drede, she thoghte thus,
(150) “If hit so falle that my Piramus
Be comen hider, and may me nat y-finde,
He may me holden fals and eek unkinde.”
And out she comth, and after him gan espyen
Bothe with her herte and with her yen,
860 And thoghte, “I wol him tellen of my drede
Bothe of the leonesse and al my dede.”
And at the laste her love than hath she founde
Beting with his heles on the grounde,
Al blody, and therwith-al a-bak she sterte,
(160) And lyke the wawes quappe gan her herte,
And pale as box she wex, and in a throwe
Avysed her, and gan him wel to knowe,
That hit was Piramus, her herte dere.
Who coude wryte whiche a deedly chere
870 Hath Tisbe now, and how her heer she rente,
And how she gan her-selve to turmente,
And how she lyth and swowneth on the grounde,
And how she weep of teres ful his wounde,
How medeleth she his blood with her compleynte,
(170) And with his blood her-selven gan she peynte;
How clippeth she the dede cors, allas?
How doth this woful Tisbe in this cas!
How kisseth she his frosty mouth so cold!
“Who hath doon this, and who hath been so bold
880 To sleen my leef? O spek, my Piramus!
I am thy Tisbe, that thee calleth thus!”
And therwith-al she lifteth up his heed.

This woful man, that was nat fully deed,
Whan that he herde the name of Tisbe cryen,
(180) On her he caste his hevy deedly yen
And doun again, and yeldeth up the gost.

Tisbe rist up, withouten noise or bost,
And seigh her wimpel and his empty shethe,
And eek his swerd, that him hath doon to dethe;
890 Than spak she thus: “my woful hand,” quod she,
“Is strong y-nogh in swiche a werk to me;
For love shal yive me strengthe and hardinesse
To make my wounde large y-nogh, I gesse.
I wol thee folwen deed, and I wol be
(190) Felawe and cause eek of thy deeth,” quod she.
“And thogh that nothing save the deeth only
Mighte thee fro me departe trewely,
Thou shalt no more departe now fro me
Than fro the deeth, for I wol go with thee!

900 “And now, ye wrecched Ielous fadres oure,
We, that weren whylom children youre,
We prayen yow, withouten more envye,
That in o grave y-fere we moten lye,
Sin love hath brought us to this pitous ende!
(200) And rightwis god to every lover sende,
That loveth trewely, more prosperitee
Than ever hadde Piramus and Tisbe!
And lat no gentil woman her assure
To putten her in swiche an aventure.
910 But god forbede but a woman can
Been as trewe and loving as a man!
And, for my part, I shal anoon it kythe!”
And, with that worde, his swerd she took as swythe,
That warm was of her loves blood and hoot,
(210) And to the herte she her-selven smoot.

And thus ar Tisbe and Piramus ago.
Of trewe men I finde but fewe mo
In alle my bokes, save this Piramus,
And therfor have I spoken of him thus.
920 For hit is deyntee to us men to finde
A man that can in love be trewe and kinde.
Heer may ye seen, what lover so he be,
A woman dar and can as wel as he.

Incipit Legenda Didonis Martiris, Cartaginis Regine.
Glory and honour, Virgil Mantuan,
Be to thy name! and I shal, as I can,
Folow thy lantern, as thou gost biforn,
How Eneas to Dido was forsworn.
In thyn Eneid and Naso wol I take
The tenour, and the grete effectes make.

930 Whan Troye broght was to destuccioun
By Grekes sleighte, and namely of Sinoun,
Feyning the hors y-offred to Minerve,
(10) Through which that many a Troyan moste sterve;
And Ector had, after his deeth, appered,
And fyr so wood, it mighte nat be stered,
In al the noble tour of Ilioun,
That of the citee was the cheef dungeoun;
And al the contree was so lowe y-broght,
And Priamus the king fordoon and noght;
940 And Eneas was charged by Venus
To fleen away, he took Ascanius,
That was his sone, in his right hand, and fledde;
(20) And on his bakke he bar and with him ledde
His olde fader, cleped Anchises,
And by the weye his wyf Creusa he lees.
And mochel sorwe hadde he in his minde
Er that he coude his felawshippe finde.
But, at the laste, whan he had hem founde,
He made him redy in a certein stounde,
950 And to the see ful faste he gan him hye,
And saileth forth with al his companye
Toward Itaile, as wolde destinee.
(30) But of his aventures in the see
Nis nat to purpos for to speke of here,
For hit acordeth nat to my matere.
But, as I seide, of him and of Dido
Shal be my tale, til that I have do.

So longe he sailed in the salte see
Til in Libye unnethe aryved he,
960 With shippes seven and with no more navye;
And glad was he to londe for to hye,
So was he with the tempest al to-shake.
(40) And whan that he the haven had y-take,
He had a knight, was called Achates;
And him of al his felawshippe he chees
To goon with him, the contre for tespye;
He took with him no more companye.
But forth they goon, and lafte his shippes ryde,
His fere and he, with-outen any gyde.
970 So longe he walketh in this wildernesse
Til, at the laste, he mette an hunteresse.
A bowe in honde and arwes hadde she,
(50) Her clothes cutted were unto the knee;
But she was yit the fairest creature
That ever was y-formed by nature;
And Eneas and Achates she grette,
And thus she to hem spak, whan she hem mette.
“Sawe ye,” quod she, “as ye han walked wyde,
And of my sustren walke yow besyde,
980 With any wilde boor or other beste
That they han hunted to, in this foreste,
Y-tukked up, with arwes in her cas?”

(60) “Nay, soothly, lady,” quod this Eneas;
“But, by thy beaute, as hit thinketh me,
Thou mightest never erthely womman be,
But Phebus suster artow, as I gesse.
And, if so be that thou be a goddesse,
Have mercy on our labour and our wo.”

“I nam no goddes, soothly,” quod she tho;
990 “For maidens walken in this contree here,
With arwes and with bowe, I this manere.
This is the regne of Libie, ther ye been,
(70) Of which that Dido lady is and queen” —
And shortly tolde him al the occasioun
Why Dido com into that regioun,
Of which as now me lusteth nat to ryme;
Hit nedeth nat; hit nere but los of tyme.
For this is al and som, it was Venus,
His owne moder, that spak with him thus;
1000 And to Cartage she bad he sholde him dighte,
And vanished anoon out o fhis sighte.
I coude folwe, word for word, Virgyle,
(80) But it wolde lasten al to longe a whyle.

This noble queen, that cleped was Dido,
That whylom was the wyf of Sitheo,
That fairer was then is the brighte sonne,
This noble toun of Cartage hath begonne;
In which she regneth in so greet honour,
That she was holde of alle quenes flour,
1010 Of gentilesse, of freedom, of beautee;
That wel was him that mighte her ones see;
Of kinges and of lordes so desyred,
(90) That al the world her beaute hadde y-fyred;
She stood so wel in every wightes grace.

Whan Eneas was come un-to that place,
Unto the maister-temple of al the toun
Ther Dido was in her devocioun,
Ful prively his wey than hath he nome.
Whan he was in the large temple come,
1020 I can nat seyn if that hit be possible,
But Venus hadde him maked invisible —
Thus seith the book, with-outen any lees.
(100) And whan this Eneas and Achates
Hadden in this temple been over-al,
Than founde they, depeynted on a wal,
How Troye and al the lond destroyed was.
“Allas! that I was born,” quod Eneas,
“Through-out the world our shame is kid so wyde,
Now it is peynted upon every side!
1030 We, that weren in prosperitee,
Be now disslaudred, and in swich degre,
No lenger for to liven I ne kepe!”
(110) And, with that worde, he brast out for to wepe
So tenderly, that routhe hit was to sene.
This fresshe lady, of the citee quene,
Stood in the temple, in her estat royal,
So richely, and eek so fair with-al,
So yong, so lusty, with her eyen glade,
That, if that god, that heven and erthe made,
1040 Wolde han a love, for beaute and goodnesse,
And womanhod, and trouthe, and seemlinesse,
Whom sholde he loven but this lady swete?
(120) There nis no womman to him half so mete.

Fortune, that hath the world in governaunce,
Hath sodeinly broght in so newe a chaunce,
That never was ther yit so fremd a cas.
For al the companye of Eneas,
Which that he wende han loren in the see,
Aryved is, nat fer fro that citee;
1050 For which, the grettest of his lordes some
By aventure ben to the citee come,
Unto that same temple, for to seke
(130) The quene, and of her socour her beseke;
Swich renoun was ther spronge of her goodnesse.
And, whan they hadden told al hir distresse,
And al hir tempest and hir harde cas,
Unto the quene appered Eneas,
And openly beknew that hit was he.
Who hadde Ioye than but his meynee,
1060 That hadden founde hir lord, hir governour?

The quene saw they dide him swich honour,
And had herd ofte of Eneas, er tho,
(140) And in her herte she hadde routhe and wo
That ever swich a noble man as he
Shal been disherited in swich degree;
And saw the man, that he was lyk a knight,
And suffisaunt of persone and of might,
And lyk to been a veray gentil man;
And wel his wordes he besette can,
1070 And had a noble visage for the nones,
And formed wel of braunes and of bones.
For, after Venus, hadde he swich fairnesse,
(150) That no man might be half so fair, I gesse.
And wel a lord he seemed for to be.
And, for he was a straunger, somwhat she
Lyked him the bet, as, god do bote,
To som folk ofte newe thing is swote.
Anoon her herte hath pitee of his wo,
And, with that pitee, love com in also;
1080 And thus, for pitee and for gentilesse,
Refressed moste he been of his distresse.
She seide, certes, that she sory was
(160) That he hath had swich peril and swich cas;
And, in her frendly speche, in this manere
She to him spak, and seide as ye may here.

“Be ye nat Venus sone and Anchises?
In good feith, al the worship and encrees
That I may goodly doon yow, ye shul have.
Your shippes and your meynee shal I save;”
1090 And many a gentil word she spak him to;
And comaunded her messageres go
The same day, with-outen any faile,
(170) His shippes for to seke, and hem vitaile.
She many a beste to the shippes sente,
And with the wyn she gan hem to presente;
And to her royal paleys she her spedde,
And Eneas alwey with her she ledde.
What nedeth yow the feste to descryve?
He never beter at ese was his lyve.
1100 Ful was the feste of deyntees and richesse,
Of instruments, of song, and of gladnesse,
And many an amorous loking and devys.

(180) This Eneas is come to Paradys
Out of the swolow of helle, and thus in Ioye
Remembreth him of his estat in Troye.
To dauncing-chambres ful of parements,
Of riche beddes, and of ornaments,
This Eneas is lad, after the mete.
And with the quene whan that he had sete,
1110 And spyces parted, and the wyn agoon,
Unto his chambres was he lad anoon
To take his ese and for to have his reste,
(190) With al his folk, to doon what so hem leste.

Ther nas coursere wel y-brydled noon,
Ne stede, for the Iusting wel to goon,
Ne large palfrey, esy for the nones,
Ne Iuwel, fretted ful of riche stones,
Ne sakkes ful of gold, of large wighte,
Ne ruby noon, that shynede by nighte,
1120 Ne gentil hautein faucon heronere,
Ne hound, for hert or wilde boor or dere,
Ne coupe of gold, with florins newe y-bete,
(200) That in the lond of Libie may be gete,
That Dido ne hath hit Eneas y-sent;
And al is payed, what that he hath spent.
Thus can this [noble] quene her gestes calle,
As she that can in freedom passen alle.

Eneas sothly eek, with-outen lees,
Hath sent un-to his shippe, by Achates,
1130 After his sone, and after riche thinges,
Both ceptre, clothes, broches, and eek ringes,
Som for to were, and som for to presente
(210) To her, that all thise noble thinges him sente;
And bad his sone, how that he sholde make
The presenting, and to the quene hit take.

Repaired is this Achates again,
And Eneas ful blisful is and fain
To seen his yonge sone Ascanius.
But natheles, our autour telleth us,
1140 That Cupido, that is the god of love,
At preyere of his moder, hye above,
Hadde the lyknes of the child y-take,
(220) This noble quene enamoured to make
On Eneas; but, as of that scripture,
Be as be may, I make of hit no cure.
But sooth is this, the quene hath mad swich chere
Un-to this child, that wonder is to here;
And of the present that his fader sente
She thanked him ful ofte, in good entente.

1150 Thus is this quene in plesaunce and in Ioye,
With al this newe lusty folk of Troye.
And of the dedes hath she more enquered
(230) Of Eneas, and al the story lered
Of Troye; and al the longe day they tweye
Entendeden to speken and to pleye;
Of which ther gan to breden swich a fyr,
That sely Dido hath now swich desyr
With Eneas, her newe gest, to dele,
That she hath lost her hewe, and eek her hele.
1160 Now to theffect, now to the fruit of al,
Why I have told this story, and tellen shal.

Thus I beginne; hit fil, upon a night,
(240) When that the mone up-reysed had her light,
This noble quene un-to her reste wente;
She syketh sore, and gan her-self turmente.
She waketh, walweth, maketh many a brayd,
As doon thise loveres, as I have herd sayd.
And at the laste, unto her suster Anne
She made her moon, and right thus spak she thanne.

1170 “Now, dere suster myn, what may hit be
That me agasteth in my dreme?” quod she.
“This ilke Troyan is so in my thoght,
(250) For that me thinketh he is so wel y-wroght,
And eek so lykly for to be a man,
And therwithal so mikel good he can,
That al my love and lyf lyth in his cure.
Have ye not herd him telle his aventure?
Now certes, Anne, if that ye rede hit me,
I wolde fain to him y-wedded be;
1180 This is theffect; what sholde I more seye?
In him lyth al, to do me live or deye.”

Her suster Anne, as she that coude her good,
(260) Seide as her thoughte, and somdel hit with-stood.
But her-of was so long a sermoning,
Hit were to long to make rehersing;
But fynally, hit may not been with-stonde;
Love wol love — for no wight wol hit wonde.

The dawning up-rist out of the see;
This amorous quene chargeth her meynee
1190 The nettes dresse, and speres brode and kene;
An hunting wol this lusty fresshe quene;
So priketh her this newe Ioly wo.
(270) To hors is al her lusty folk y-go;
Un-to the court the houndes been y-broght,
And up-on coursers, swift as any thoght,
Her yonge knightes hoven al aboute,
And of her wommen eek an huge route.
Up-on a thikke palfrey, paper-whyt,
With sadel rede, enbrouded with delyt,
1200 Of gold the barres up-enbossed hye,
Sit Dido, al in gold and perre wrye;
And she is fair, as is the brighte morwe,
(280) That heleth seke folk of nightes sorwe.

Upon a courser, startling as the fyr,
Men mighte turne him with a litel wyr,
Sit Eneas, lyk Phebus to devyse;
So was he fresshe arayed in his wyse.
The fomy brydel with the bit of gold
Governeth he, right as him-self hath wold.
1210 And forth this noble guene thus lat I ryde
An hunting, with this Troyan by her syde.

The herd of hertes founden is anoon,
(290) With “hey! go bet! prik thou! lat goon, lat goon!
Why nil the leoun comen of the bere,
That I mighte ones mete him with this spere?”
Thus seyn thise yonge folk, and up they kille
These hertes wilde, and han hem at hir wille.

Among al this to-romblen gan the heven,
The thunder roret with a grisly steven;
1220 Doun com the rain, with hail and sleet so faste,
With hevenes fyr, that hit so sore agaste
This noble quene, and also her meynee,
(300) That ech of hem was glad a-wey to flee.
And shortly, for the tempest her to save,
She fledde her-self into a litel cave,
And with her wente this Eneas al-so;
I noot, with hem if ther wente any mo;
The autour maketh of hit no mencioun.
And heer began the depe affeccioun
1230 Betwix hem two; this was the firste morwe
Of her gladnesse, and ginning of her sorwe.
For ther hath Eneas y-kneled so,
(310) And told her al his herte, and al his wo,
And sworn so depe, to her to be trewe,
For wele or wo, and chaunge for no newe,
And as a fals lover so wel can pleyne,
That sely Dido rewed on his peyne,
And took him for husband, [to been] his wyf
For ever-mo, whyl that hem laste lyf,
1240 And after this, whan that the tempest stente,
With mirth out as they comen, hoom they wente.

The wikked fame up roos, and that anon,
(320) How Eneas hath with the queen y-gon
In-to the cave; and demed as hem liste;
And whan the king, that Yarbas hight, hit wiste,
As he that had her loved ever his lyf,
And wowed her, to have her to his wyf,
Swich sorwe as he hath, maked, and swich chere,
Hit is a routhe and pitee for to here.
1250 But, as in love, al-day hit happeth so,
That oon shal laughen at anothers wo;
Now laugheth Eneas, and is in Ioye
(330) And more richesse than ever he was in Troye.

O sely womman, ful of innocence,
Ful of pitee, of trouthe, and conscience,
What maked yow to men to trusten so?
Have ye swich routhe upon hir feined wo,
And han swich olde ensamples yow beforn?
See ye nat alle, how they been for-sworn?
1260 Wher see ye oon, that he ne hath laft his leef,
Or been unkinde, or doon her som mischeef,
Or pilled her, or bosted of his dede?
(340) Ye may as wel hit seen, as ye may rede;
Tak heed now of this grete gentil-man,
This Troyan, that so wel her plesen can,
That feineth him so trewe and obeising,
So gentil and so privy of his doing,
And can so wel doon alle his obeisaunces,
And waiten her at festes and at daunces,
1270 And whan she goth to temple and hoom ageyn,
And fasten til he hath his lady seyn,
And bere in his devyses, for her sake,
(350) Noot I nat what; and songes wolde he make,
Iusten, and doon of armes many thinges,
Sende her lettres, tokens, broches, ringes —
Now herkneth, how he shal his lady serve!
Ther-as he was in peril for to sterve
For hunger, and for mischeef in the see,
And desolat, and fled from his contree,
1280 And al his folk with tempest al to-driven,
She hath her body and eek her reame yiven
In-to his hond, ther-as she mighte have been
(360) Of other lond than of Cartage a queen,
And lived in Ioye y-nogh; what wolde ye more?

This Eneas, that hath so depe y-swore,
Is wery of his craft with-in a throwe;
The hote ernest is al over-blowe.
And prively he doth his shippes dighte,
And shapeth him to stele a-wey by nighte.

1290 This Dido hath suspecioun of this,
And thoughte wel, that hit was al a-mis;
For in his bedde he lyth a-night and syketh;
(370) She asketh him anoon, what him mislyketh —
“My dere herte, which that I love most?”

“Certes,” quod he, “this night my fadres gost
Hath in my sleep so sore me tormented,
And eek Mercurie his message hath presented,
That nedes to the conquest of Itaile
My destinee is sone for to saile;
1300 For which, me thinketh, brosten is myn herte!”
Ther-with his false teres out they sterte;
And taketh her with-in his armes two.

(380) “Is that in ernest,” quod she; “wil ye so?
Have ye nat sworn to wyve me to take,
Alas! what womman wil ye of me make?
I am a gentil-woman and a queen,
Ye wil nat fro your wyf thus foule fleen?
That I was born! allas! what shal I do?”

To telle in short, this noble queen Dido,
1310 She seketh halwes, and doth sacrifyse;
She kneleth, cryeth, that routhe is to devyse;
Coniureth him, and profreth him to be
(390) His thral, his servant in the leste gree;
She falleth him to fote, and swowneth there
Dischevele, with her brighte gilte here,
And seith, “have mercy! let me with yow ryde!
Thise lordes, which that wonen me besyde
Wil me destroyen only for your sake.
And, so ye wil me now to wyve take,
1320 As ye han sworn, than wol I yive yow leve
To sleen me with your swerd now sone at eve!
For than yit shal I dyen as your wyf.
(400) I am with childe, and yive my child his lyf.
Mercy, lord! have pite in your thoght!”
But al this thing availeth her right noght;
For on a night, slepinge, he let her lye,
And stal a-wey un-to his companye,
And, as a traitour, forth he gan to saile
Toward the large contree of Itaile.
1330 Thus hath he laft Dido in wo and pyne;
And wedded ther a lady hight Lavyne.

A cloth he lafte, and eek his swerd stonding,
(410) Whan he fro Dido stal in her sleping,
Right at her beddes heed, so gan he hye
Whan that he stal a-wey to his navye;
Which cloth, whan sely Dido gan awake,
She hath hit kist ful ofte for his sake;
And seide, “O cloth, whyl Iupiter hit leste,
Tak now my soule, unbind me of this unreste!
1340 I have fulfild of fortune al the cours.”
And thus, allas! with-outen his socours,
Twenty tyme y-swowned hath she thanne.
(420) And, whan that she un-to her suster Anne
Compleyned had, of which I may nat wryte —
So greet a routhe I have hit for tendyte —
And bad her norice and her suster goon
To fecchen fyr and other thing anoon,
And seide, that she wolde sacrifye.
And, whan she mighte her tyme wel espye,
1350 Up-on the fyr of sacrifys she sterte,
And with his swerd she roof her to the herte.

But, as myn autour seith, right thus she seyde;
(430) Or she was hurt, before that she deyde,
She wroot a lettre anoon, that thus began: —
“Right so,” quod she, “as that the whyte swan
Ayeins his deeth beginneth for to singe,
Right so to yow make I my compleyninge.
Nat that I trowe to geten yow again,
For wel I woot that it is al in vain,
1360 Sin that the goddes been contraire to me.
But sin my name is lost through yow,” quod she,
“I may wel lese a word on yow, or letter,
(440) Al-be-it that I shal be never the better;
For thilke wind that blew your ship a-wey,
The same wind hath blowe a-wey your fey,” —

But who wol al this letter have in minde,
Rede Ovide, and in him he shal hit finde.

Incipit Legenda Ysiphile et Medee, Martirum.


Thou rote of false lovers, duk Iasoun!
Thou sly devourer and confusioun
1370 Of gentil-wommen, tender creatures,
Thou madest thy reclaiming and thy lures
To ladies of thy statly apparaunce,
And of thy wordes, farced with pl

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The Legend of Good Women – Middle English - GEOFFREY CHAUCER