John Lydgate: Beware (The Blynde Eteth Many a Flye)
JOHN LYDGATE, BEWARE (THE BLYNDE ETETH MANY A FLYE): EXPLANATORY NOTESABBREVIATIONS: see the Introduction to the Antifeminist Tradition.
1 R titles the poem "The blynde eteth many a flye"; similarly, O reads "Beware the blynd etyth meny flye." Skeat adopts Stow's title "A balade, warnyng men to beware of deceiptfull women."
4 Sampson the fort and Salomon the sage. The proverbial models of strength and wisdom, combining the ideals of fortitudo et sapientia.
7 the blynde eteth many a flie. Proverbial; see Whiting B348 and Tilley B451. This line is also incorporated into Of Theyre Nature (lines 14, 20-21).
24 They shave nerer than doth rasour or sheres. Perhaps related to the saying, "To make one's beard" (i.e., "to trick"). See Whiting B116, and Chaucer, House of Fame (lines 689-91).
25 Al is not gold that shineth. Proverbial; see Whiting G282.
26 Thaire galle is hid under a sugred wede. Proverbial; see Whiting G12.
29-34 Women of kynde have condicions thre / . . . in the eye. From the Latin "Fallere, flere, nere, tria sunt hec in muliere." Proverbial; see Whiting D120. A variation appears in Chaucer's Wife of Bath's Prologue: "For al swich wit is yeven us in our byrthe; / Deceite, wepyng, spynnyng God hath yive / To wommen kyndely, whil that they may lyve" (CT III[D]400-02).
33 but a sleight. Variants include asceyte (T), which Robbins, Secular Lyrics, reads as as teyte ("cheerful"), and but dysceyte (O).
36-41 thogh al the erthe so wan / . . . womens trecherie. Linn ("If All the Sky Were Parchment," pp. 951-70) traces the literary history of this formula back at least two thousand years. It has been adapted to praise the glory and power of God, to describe the misfortunes of the Jews, to describe the joys of the saints, and, by Oliver Wendell Holmes, to satirize the human compulsion "to write, and write, and write."
JOHN LYDGATE, BEWARE (THE BLYNDE ETETH MANY A FLYE): TEXTUAL NOTES1 Loke. O: Lokyth.
6 Men deeme. H: Myndemyth.
it. O: hit ys.
that. O: as.
at. T, H: with.
O adds an extra line: Be thynk yow well on thys passage.
7 But ever beware. T, H: Beware therfore; O: Byware.
8 in. T: of.
9 Trust. T, H: Trust hem.
geson. H: a geson.
10 wel. O: full well.
12 They fayne frendlynes and worchen treson. T: For they feyne frendlynes and worchen treson; H: For they can feyne friendles and worche by treason; O: For and hyt schuld it were agayn reson.
13 And sith. T, H: And for; O: Syth.
be. T, H: are.
O adds an extra line: Salomon seyth all thyng hath seson.
14 therfore. O omits.
15-28 Stanzas 3 and 4 are transposed in T.
15 this. T, O: the.
16 stande. O: to stonde.
17 may. T: woll.
18 doo whan. H: doubteful.
lak. H: lak no.
19 They. T, H: For they can.
not. H omits.
know men. T, H: ys.
20 In theyme to trust. T: To trust on theym; H, O: To trust in hem.
but. O: but a.
O adds an extra line: Y warne yow all both more and lasse.
21 Therfore beware. T, H: Beware therfore; O: Beware.
22 on lyve. O: a lyve.
that. T, O omit.
on. O: yn.
23 last. H: lust.
24 They T, H: For wemen can.
nerer. H: more nere; O: nere.
doth. T, H omit.
rasour. T: rasours.
sheres. H: sheere.
27 fantasies. T, H: fantasy.
queynte thaire fantasies. O: harde theyr queyntesye.
to. H: for to.
O adds an extra line: Thow schalt not forthynk and thow do by rede.
28 therfore. O omits.
29-42 Stanzas 5 and 6 transposed in O.
30 is. O: ys that.
31 spynne. H: spyen.
is. O: hyt ys.
33 They wepen. T, H: For they can wepe.
but a sleight. T: asceyte; O: but dysceyte.
34 And. T, H: And ever.
teere is in the. O: tyrys beth yn here.
O adds an extra line: Full hard ys here cherys truly to aweyte.
35 Therfore beware. T, H: Beware therfore; O: Beware.
36 In sothe. O: Yn schorte.
thogh al the erthe so wan. H: the erthe so broode and wane.
38 called. T: that callyd ys the; H: that clepid is; O: that clepyd ys the.
39 ink. T: in to ynke; H: to ynke; O: yn yngke.
is. T: omits.
40 Eche. T: Every.
ech man. H: echema.
41 Nought coude thay write. T: Nat cowde then wryte; H: Nat cowde write; O: They cowde nat wrytyn.
O adds an extra line: They beth fayre fals and unstabyll.
42 eteth. H: ete.
therfore. O omits.
O adds a seventh stanza:
What thyng than eyr is lyghter and meveabyll
The lyght men say that passyth yn a trowth
All yf the lyght be not so waryabyll
As ys the wynde that every weye blowth
And yut of reson sum men deme and trowe
Wymmen be lyghtyst of thes company
Let passe over yn ese and let the wynd blow
Beware the blynde ettyth many a flye
Loke wel aboute, ye that lovers bee,
Let not youre lustes lede you to dotage.
Be not anamoured on al thing that ye see:
Sampson the fort and Salomon the sage,
Deceyved were for al thaire grete courage.
Men deeme it right that they see at eye,
But ever beware: the blynde eteth many a flie!
I meen in women, for all thaire cheres queynt,
Trust not to moche; thaire trouthe is but geson.
The fairest outward wel can they peynt;
Thayre stedfastnesse endureth but a seson.
They fayne frendlynes and worchen treson,
And sith thay be chaungeable naturally,
Beware, therfore: the blynde eteth many a flye.
Thogh all this world doo his besy cure
To make women stande in stablenesse,
It may not be, it is ageyne nature:
The world is doo whan thay lak doublenesse.
They lagh and love not, this know men expresse;
In theyme to trust, it is but fantasie.
Therfore, beware: the blynde eteth many a flie.
What wight on lyve that trusteth on thaire cheres,
Shal have at last his guerdon and his mede.
They shave nerer than doth rasour or sheres;
Al is not gold that shineth, men take hede!
Thaire galle is hid under a sugred wede;
It is ful queynte thaire fantasies to aspie.
Beware, therfore: the blynde eteth many a flye.
Women of kynde have condicions thre:
The first is thay be full of deceite;
To spynne also is thaire propreté;
And women have a wonderful conceite:
They wepen oft, and all is but a sleight;
And whan hem lust, the teere is in the eye.
Therfore, beware: the blynde eteth many a flye.
In sothe to sey, thogh al the erthe so wan
Were parchemyn smothe, white, and scribable,
And the grete see, called occian,
Were turned ink, blacker than is sable,
Eche stikk a penne, ech man a scrivener able,
Nought coude thay write womens trecherie.
Beware, therfore: the blynde eteth many a flye!
(see note); (t-note)
strong; wise; (see note)
eat; fly; (see note); (t-note)
attractive looks; (t-note)
careful effort; (t-note)
person; faces; (t-note)
reward; compensation; (t-note)
razor or scissors; (see note); (t-note)
bile; garment; (see note)
clever; lies; detect; (t-note)
by nature; (see note); (t-note)
trick; (see note); (t-note)
ashen; (see note); (t-note)