Robert Henryson, The Testament of Cresseid


1 In a few words to write statements full of meaning

2 All prosperity on earth, it blows away like the wind


Abbreviations: Bartholomaeus: Bartholomaeus Anglicus, On the Properties of Things; CA: Gower, Confessio Amantis; CT: Chaucer, Canterbury Tales; DOST: Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue; Eneados: Douglas, Eneados; Fox, ed.: The Poems of Robert Henryson, ed. Fox; Gray: Gray, Robert Henryson; MED: Middle English Dictionary; NIMEV: Boffey and Edwards, eds., New Index of Middle English Verse; OED: Oxford English Dictionary; Orpheus: Henryson, Orpheus and Eurydice; PF: Chaucer, Parliament of Fowls; Romaunt: Chaucer, Romaunt of the Rose; RR: Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, Romance of the Rose; Testament: Henryson, The Testament of Cresseid; TC: Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde.

The Testament of Cresseid (NIMEV 285)

The Testament of Cresseid, an inventively tragic completion in 79 rhyme royal stanzas with an inset complaint in seven nine-line (Anelida) stanzas of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde, can fairly be called Henryson's most controversial poem. A brief review of the narrative may be helpful. In the prologue, an aging man, forced by bitter wind to abandon his place at his window where he has been bestowing delighted attention on the ascent of the planet Venus, retreats to his chamber with its warming fire and begins to read in order to pass the time on a wintry Lenten night. First he reads the fifth book of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde; then he takes up another little book (a quair, "quire") about the fate of Cresseid, the story he proceeds to narrate. Diomeid's repudiation of Cresseid and the reader-poet's conflicted response to Cresseid's consequent degradation lead rapidly to Cresseid's withdrawal to the residence of her father Calchas, here depicted as a priest of Venus (lines 103–05n). In a private chapel, Cresseid rebukes her patron gods Venus and Cupid for not honoring what she considers their commitment to keep her in a perpetual springtime of desirability. On uttering these words, Cresseid falls into a trance, during which the planetary gods (Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Phoebus the sun, Venus, Mercury, and Cynthia the moon, each described in memorable detail) descend at Cupid's eerie bell-ringing summons. Cupid utters his complaint about Cresseid's disloyalty, and Mercury appoints Saturn and Cynthia to determine the punishment, which is to be leprosy. Cresseid awakens and departs for a lepers' hospital in a village nearby, where she spends much of the night lamenting her changed circumstances, in a formal complaint; a "lipper lady" advises her to accept her new life. The scene shifts out-of-doors, to the return of Troilus from battle along the road where the lepers are begging. Though neither Cresseid nor Troilus recognizes the other, Troilus, stirred by the recollection of the deeply-imprinted image of his beloved, hurls a quantity of money and jewels down upon Cresseid's "skirt" and rides on. Learning that the benefactor was Troilus, Cresseid is transfixed with pain, repeats her newfound realization of her falseness in contrast to Troilus' loyalty, composes her last testament, and dies. The poem ends with the reader-poet pointing the moral to "worthie wemen," not to mix love with deception.

Recent work on the poem has addressed some perennial topics of contention: Henryson's relation to Chaucer, the function of the narrator, the propriety of the planetary gods, and the attitude towards Cresseid. To begin with, the relation between the Testament and TC is the debatable land of Henryson scholarship. Condemnations of Henryson for being a flawed, "univocal" reader of Chaucer (Bennett, "Henryson's Testament"; Strohm, "Writers as Readers," pp. 100–01) have stimulated attention to the boldness of Henryson's "antithetical misreading" (Spearing, Medieval to Renaissance, p. 168) — fitting qualities given the prominence of debate in the Parliament of Fowls and the Canterbury Tales — in contrast to the voluminous responses to Chaucer by his English follower John Lydgate (Watson, "Outdoing Chaucer"). Explicitly connecting his poem to Chaucer's, Henryson initiated what became the dominant English response to the Testament, namely as a tailpiece to TC. Its inclusion in Thynne's edition of Chaucer's works, pendant to Troilus and Criseyde and preceding the Legend of Good Women, ensured that for English readers it would remain closely associated with Chaucer during the sixteenth century and after, notably in Gascoigne's "Dan Bartholomew his second Triumphe," Turbervile's Epitaphes, Epigrams, etc., and Whetstone's The Rocke of Regard (Forni, Chaucerian Apocrypha, p. 114), as well as Heywood's A Woman Killed with Kindness and Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida (Fradenburg, "Henryson Scholarship," p. 68). Indeed, the late sixteenth-century "Laste Epistle of Creseyde to Troyalus," despite its Scottish provenance, may best be seen as an element of this English reception of the Testament as virtually indistinguishable from TC (McKim, The Laste Epistle, Introduction; Kelly, Chaucerian Tragedy, pp. 232–33).

Well-worked as the question of literary relations may be, it offers scope for development. Anna Torti notes promisingly that the complementary relation between Testament and TC, Henryson's poem standing as "a parenthesis within Chaucer's narrative," is "severed by the end of Henryson's poem. The Testament is no longer an ideal parenthesis of TC, but a variation on it — a 'continuation' which radically changes its source's narrative sequence and meaning" ("From 'History' to 'Tragedy,'" pp. 186, 187). Finally, Cresseid's fate is not the least significant contrast Henryson makes to Troilus and Criseyde, which ends with Troilus' ascent "Up to the holughnesse of the eighthe spere" from whence he "fully gan despise / This wrecched world" (5.1809, 1816–17).

Considerations are ongoing over the implications for Scottish poetry, and for Henryson's authorship in particular, of his notorious question "Quha wait gif all that Chauceir wrait was trew?" with its emphasis on the moral ambiguity inherent in the poet's making of fiction. Between Denton Fox's edition of Henryson in 1981 and the present edition, essays and studies on The Testament of Cresseid have redefined the role of the poet in the work. The poem with its occasional "disjunctions" and "awkwardness" has been taken to project the "attitudes of sorrow, sympathy, understanding, and forgiveness" of an "imperfect, and vulnerable, author" (Kelly, Chaucerian Tragedy, p. 259). Of help in reading the passages of direct discourse in the first person is the perception that the "I" assumes a choric role, "not only the tale teller, but also a witness of the action" (McKenna, Henryson's Tragic Vision, p. 118). The Testament presents a first-person perspective at rhetorically apt junctures: the opening depiction of an old man's "retrospection on youth" shows "an 'I' that is explicitly brought into being by the act of writing" that establishes a "'comic' aspect of the poem" (Riddy, "'Abject Odious,'" p. 245; Torti, "From 'History' to 'Tragedy,'" p. 190). A more austere estimate of the narrative perspective emerges in considerations of the stanzas in which the poet apostrophizes his protagonist (lines 77–91): "a Chaucerian note of febrile sympathy for Cresseid which deliberately leaves us unsure of how to judge her" befits an ongoing effort to correlate the merged vices of pride and lechery with the "abhominabill" person of Cresseid (Godman, "Henryson's Masterpiece," p. 296; Riddy, "'Abject Odious,'" pp. 232, 234, qtd. line 308).

Early readers had no qualms about condemning Cresseid. The first allusion to her appears in The Spektakle of Luf (1492; Asloan MS fol. 141r), in a list of disloyal women: she "went common amang the Grekis and syn deid in gret mysere and pane" (qtd. Fox, ed., p. xix). Likewise, the early seventeenth-century Latin translator of TC and the Testament, Sir Francis Kinaston, observed that Henryson "learnedly takes uppon him in a fine poeticall way to expres the punishment and end due to a false unconstant whore, which commonly terminates in extreme misery" (qtd. Fox, ed., p. xiv; Rollins, "Troilus-Cressida Story," pp. 397, 400; compare Mieszkowski, "Reputation of Criseyde"). Taking Kinaston as authoritative, Susan Aronstein argues that Henryson vindicates traditional misogyny against Chaucer's many-sided, open-ended depiction of Criseyde ("Cresseid Reading Cresseid," p. 5; Strohm, "Writers as Readers," pp. 100–01). The continuing debate indicates that for some readers, Henryson's Cresseid has a complexity like that of Chaucer's Criseyde: for Sally Mapstone, it is possible to discuss Chaucer, Henryson, and Shakespeare (and behind them all, the Roman de Troie of Benoit de Saint Maure) as "a group of writers who utilize to great effect [the] contrast between what Criseyde may say and what may be said of her" ("Origins," p. 143). For such readers, "The Testament of Cresseid is not a text which is circumscribed, closed off, or finite in its interpretive scope but rather one which constantly undermines its apparently authoritative stance" (Dunnigan, "Feminizing the Text," p. 120).

No reader of the Testament can fail to be arrested by the punishment of leprosy the gods visit upon on Cresseid. Given the medieval belief that the disease could be contracted through sexual contact (Bartholomaeus VII.65, Seymour-Smith, On the Properties of Things, 1:426), the punishment seems to fit the crime, but the venereal associations are of secondary importance: the gods punish Cresseid for her verbal abuse of Venus and Cupid (Spearing, Medieval to Renaissance, p. 173; Torti, "From 'History' to 'Tragedy,'" p. 189; Grigsby, Pestilence, p. 99). From this perspective, she exemplifies the bringing low of pride. However, the gods themselves are imperfect: "[t]heir procedure is in accordance with legal forms, but (as is often the case too in Henryson's Moral Fables) the legal process merely serves the interest of the powerful" (Spearing, Medieval to Renaissance, p. 174). Not all readers have been impressed by the long passage in which the gods assemble in judgment over Cresseid. Seamus Heaney comments that "the roll-call of the immortals can feel a bit too operatic" (Testament, p. 9; Burrow, "Dunbar," p. 114). It would be a mistake to discount the gods: Bawcutt and Riddy cogently argue that "The large amount of space devoted to the planetary gods is far from being superfluous ornament. They have 'power of all thing generabill' (line 148) and symbolize certain natural forces or physical laws of the universe" (Longer Scottish Poems, pp. 135–36). Jill Mann writes attentively about "a sinister effect of claustrophobia" in the descent of the gods, whereby "the cosmos seems to be bearing down on Cresseid" ("Planetary Gods," p. 96).

The assembly of the gods articulates the extent and the limits of divine power in the poem; Cresseid is "not punished by God but only overwhelmed by the natural forces of mutability embodied in the planets" (Kelly, Chaucerian Tragedy, p. 257; MacQueen, Robert Henryson, p. 70). The machinery of power is of more than historical interest for a late medieval Christian reader: "As Chaucer does in the Knight's Tale or in Troilus and Criseyde, Henryson suggests that his pagan characters have a faith that they take seriously, in part by having them couch some of the utterances in which they refer to it in recognizably formal modes such as prayers" (Boffey, "Lydgate," p. 56; further, Watson, "Outdoing Chaucer," p. 105). Given this assumed parity of belief and practice between the character and the reader of Testament, it is not surprising that the poem can be read as an exemplary tale (Kindrick, Rhetoric, pp. 229–33). As in the Fables, the fiction enables a searching review of the ways law is practicsed in order to protect the privileges of the powerful; it is all a fiction, after all. The odd chronology, the inconsistent narrative perspectives, the incomplete characterization may indeed make it a "flawed masterpiece," as J. A. W. Bennett called it thirty years ago; but a masterpiece it remains ("Henryson's Testament").

1–2 Henryson makes vast and literal Chaucer's decorously "sory chere" for a "sorwful tale" (TC 1.14): not just a chere but a properly pathetic sessoun.

4 Terming his work a tragedie, Henryson again indicates a contrastive relation between it and Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde, in which the term appears only near the end (5.1786); see also Dunbar, Timor mortis conturbat me, line 59, where the word is linked to "balat making" (compare Testament, line 610–16n; Kelly, Chaucerian Tragedy, pp. 217, 218n4).

5 In mid-March the sun enters the zodiacal sign of Aries, "the colerike hoote signe" (CT V[F]51); according to the medieval encyclopedist Bartholomaeus Anglicus, "in Marche tyme is ful chaungeable and unstedefast" (IX.11, Seymour-Smith, On the Properties of Things, 1:530); calling the season Lent, Henryson stresses its penitential character (compare lines 248n, 320n, 2000-06n).

6 Bartholomaeus Anglicus provides a standard explanation for hail as the result of a clash between cold and warmth, "colde vapour and moist, ichasid and idryve by coolde to the innere partie of the cloude, and that by maystrie of hete that is aboute" (XI.10, Seymour-Smith, On the Properties of Things, 1:587); likewise in The Flower and the Leafe, "the sonne so fervently / Waxe whote [hot]" that "there came a storme of haile" (lines 355–56, 368).

8 That the poet has an oratur indicates privilege and education, as well as clerical status; the word can refer to a private chapel (as it does in line 120; DOST oratour; MED oratori(e).

11–14 The opposition of Venus to the sun at this initiatory moment may recall the poet-dreamer's prayer to Venus in PF, "As wisly as I sey the north-north-west, / Whan I began my sweven for to write, / So yif me myght to ryme, and endyte!" (lines 117–19).

17 The north wind, according to Bartholomaeus, "for they ben colde and drye, maketh bodies harde and spereth poores and purifieth humours, and clerith spiritis and wittis . . . [This] wynd is colde and drye and cometh out of streight contrey into large contreye and maketh the eyre sotile and thinne, cliere and drye, and fresith the moist partyes bothe of erthe and of watir" (XI.3, Seymour-Smith, On the Properties of Things, 1:577).

19 According to Martin J. Duffell and Dominique Billy, this line provides evidence of Henryson's awareness of the lyric caesura (inversion of the second foot) in French verse ("From Decasyllable to Pentameter," p. 389).

29–35 The expression "man of age" (venerabilis vir) also features in the fox's recommendation of the wolf (Fables, line 1013; compare Introduction, p. 2, above); with his amatory interests, the narrator has been compared to Pandarus in Troilus and Criseyde, to the "nasty narrator" of the Merchant's Tale, and to Amans in CA (Benson, "Critic and Poet," p. 39; Watson, "Outdoing Chaucer," p. 102).

34 Skill with phisike anticipates the leading role to be assigned in the tale proper to Mercury, "Doctour in physick" (line 250; J. Strauss, "To Speak," p. 11); for the use of phisike to stimulate nature, compare CT 4.1807–11.

39 Compare The Book of the Duchess line 49; as does Chaucer in the beginnings of his dream poems, Henryson here depicts the figure of the poet seeking a respite from the night in reading.

40 That this reading material is a quair (OED, quire, n.) may indicate that it is indeed a "litel boke" (TC 5.1786), a single gathering of four sheets into eight leaves; the reading material may thus consist of the concluding Book 5 of Troilus and Criseyde (compare DOST quair 4).

43–56 For Spearing, these two stanzas, summarizing a whole book of Chaucer, exemplify Henryson's compendious conciseness (Medieval to Renaissance, p. 170).

57–63 William Stephenson notes that the initial letters of the lines in this stanza spell out "O FICTIO," a phenomenon he argues to be a signal that the "uther quair" is a fabrication ("Acrostic 'Fictio'"). These letters are accordingly provided here in boldface.

61–63 Occasionally identifications are made of the "uther quair," though the reference is usually taken to be fictitious (Kindrick, "Henryson's 'Uther Quair' Again"; compare, e.g., Kelly, Chaucerian Tragedy, p. 216, Spearing, Medieval to Renaissance, pp. 166–67, Bawcutt and Riddy, Longer Scottish Poems, p. 367).

64–70 The opening question raises afresh a central concern of the Fables. A. C. Spearing notes that Henryson's "is apparently the first use in English of the term inventioun . . . to apply not to the 'finding' of material in existing sources but to a poet's 'making-up' of an untrue story" (Textual Subjectivity, p. 23; see also MacQueen, Robert, p. 55); Torti regards this stanza as "a milestone in the passage from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance in terms of their conceptions of poetry" ("From 'History' to 'Tragedy,'" p. 191; also Benson, "Critic and Poet," p. 34).

74 According to scripture, a "lybell of repudie" is a document of divorce, issuable by a man after having "taken a wife and consummated the marriage; but she has not pleased him and he has found some impropriety of which to accuse her"; the document is also issuable by that woman's second husband if he "takes a dislike to her"; in both cases, the woman is dismissed from the house of her former husband (Deuteronomy 24:1–4).

75 The recurrence of exclude in Saturn's sentence (Testament, line 315) may indicate an implied analogy between "the legal consequences of divorce" and "the destructive effects of leprosy" (Mathews, "Land," p. 59).

77 This line, pivotal to any interpretation of the poem, is ambiguous: crucially, commoun may modify "scho" (Cresseid; line 76) or "court," an uncertainty heightened by the placement of the adjective after the noun: vice versa, "common court" would refer to a courtyard or residence of general access to everyone in a noble or royal household (DOST court n.1, 2; commoun; MED court n.1.); given this ambiguity, a pejorative reading develops from commoun, "unsavory, notorious; promiscuous" (MED commun(e adj.9).

78–84 Elizabeth Allen notes that the interchange of active and passive verbs in this stanza bespeaks an unresolved conflict between sympathy and condemnation (False Fables, p. 143).

83 With the adverb giglotlike, "lasciviously" (MED gigelot, gigelotrie; DOST giglot, giglotry), the pejorative implications lurking in the previous stanza become explicit.

87 The impulse to excuse Cresseid recalls but does not parallel the wish to excuse Criseyde "For she so sory was for hire untrouthe / Iwis, I wolde excuse hire yet for routhe" (TC 5.1098–99).

92–98 The stanza epitomizes that variety of conciseness in which "specific emotional effects" are achieved by means of verbal compression: the effect Spearing identifies is "the cold relentlessness of suffering" (Medieval to Renaissance, p. 170).

94–95 Bennett notes the parallel with the departure of the burgh mouse in search of her sister, in "The Two Mice" (Fables, lines 180-85n; "Henryson's Testament," p. 8).

101 Cresseid's report contrasts with the scriptural conditions for the "lybell of repudie" (line 74n); it was Diomeid's mere sensuality that doomed her and no fault in herself.

103–05 In his effusive good will, worldly-wise sententiousness, and ineffectuality, Henryson's Calchas has justly been compared with Chaucer's Pandarus (Benson, "Critic and Poet," p. 36), a comparison that also draws him into a parallel with the figure of the poet here (lines 29–35n). Of significance is Henryson's innovation in making Calchas a priest of Venus (lines 107–09); elsewhere, as in Chaucer, he serves Apollo.

110–21 Kelly notes an apparent disjunction in the temporal sequence, Cresseid having just arrived at the mansion of Calchas and now being depicted habitually and sorrowfully visiting the temple until "at the last" she chooses to go to the private orature instead (Chaucerian Tragedy, pp. 229–30).

132 Cresseid's "failure to discriminate between her loss of Diomeid and Troilus is clear in the co-ordinating syntax, despite the perfunctory extra-metrical attribution of nobility to Troilus" (J. Strauss, "To Speak," p. 8).

135 When Gower's Thisbe rhetorically expands Cupid's blindness to include Venus by implication (CA 3.1465), her outcry can be read as an exculpation of the gods, "blinde / Of thilke unhapp" of her lover's death — that is, unknowing and therefore not responsible; in contrast, Cresseid deliberately calls Venus blind and blames her and her son for making false promises.

136–39 The reversion of spring into winter in Venus and Cupid's abandonment of Cresseid parallels the climatic inversion and hopes for Venus' reviving influence with which the poem began (Testament lines 4–7, 19, 24), and predicts the punishment, "Thy moisture and thy heit in cald and dry" (Testament line 318) Cresseid will undergo for her rebellious outcry. Bawcutt and Riddy note the antecedent in the Romance of the Rose (line 1588; Romaunt line 1616; Longer Scottish Poems, p. 368).

141–43 Citing Steven F. Kruger (Dreaming in the Middle Ages, pp. 136–37), Kelly describes Cresseid's extasie as "a miraculous 'action dream,' in which a usually supernatural figure does something physical to the dreamer" (Chaucerian Tragedy, p. 235); the passage is comparable to the dream concluding Gower's CA, in which Cupid summons a "Parlement" (8.2454ff.) and pulls "a fyri lancegay" from Amans' heart (8.2798); Venus anoints Amans and shows him a "wonder mirour" (8.2821), in which he sees his face "riveld and so wo besein" with age (8.2829); and when he awakens, "loves rage was aweie" (8.2863). In The Palis of Honoure, Douglas parodies Henryson when a prayer to Venus for guidance results in a sudden "extasy," at the onset of which "As femynine so feblyt fell I doun" (Prol.106, 108).

147 The order of appearance of the planets is from highest to lowest, as in Orpheus (lines 189–216).

148 The planetary gods rule all things "capable of being generated or developed" (MED gendrable), or, to complete the philosophical phrase, "all things generable and corruptible" (OED generable); in Henryson's indication of this power, the present tense of the verb hes deserves attention: ascending, descending, opposing, and aligning in turn, these gods also rule over the poet's world, as demonstrated in the opening scene of the poem.

153 Fox cites Raymond Klibansky et al. (Saturn and Melancholy, p. 203) for the late medieval iconographic emphasis on Saturn the "ragged peasant"; Henryson's passing emphasis on Saturn's lack of "reverence" and "busteous" manner connect this depiction to the theme of the rebelliousness of peasants (compare CT I[A]2459), a theme which anticipates the display of the churlish, thieving man in the moon on the dress of Cynthia, Saturn's co-adjutor (lines 260–63n).

154 To describe Saturn's manner of arrival, "crabitlie" (angrily) expresses his boorish rebelliousness, senile peevishness, and planetary imperiousness; Cresseid applies the adjective "craibit" to all the gods (Testament, line 353; compare Dunbar, The Goldyn Targe, line 114).

155ff. Though the "wysdom and usage" of "elde" are not evident in Henryson's description as they are in Chaucer's (CT I[A]2448; compare 2467–69), Saturn exhibits the characteristics of old age, in which "kynde hete quenchith, the vertu of governaunce and of reuleynge failith, humour is dissolved and wastid, myght and strengthe passith and faileth, fleisch and fairnes is consumpt and spendith, the skyn rivelith, the sinewis schrinken, the body bendith and croketh, fourme and schap is ilost, fairnes of the body brought to nought"; "by fablis," Saturn "is ipeyntid as an olde man . . . and is pale in colour othir wan as leed, and hath tweye dedliche qualitees, cooldnes and drynes" (Bartholomaeus VI.1, Seymour-Smith, On the Properties of Things, 1:293; VIII.12 [1:479]; compare Fables, line 2819; Orpheus, line 351).

160–64 Though Henryson's description of Saturn includes the icicles found in the description of this god in The Assembly of Gods (Chance, Assembly of Gods, lines 279–87), the fifteenth-century English poem does not emphasize the aspects of suffering, illness, and decrepitude featured here; Gray observes that Henryson's portrait "makes other fifteenth-century English descriptions of Saturn seem very feeble" (Gray, p. 183; e.g., Reason and Sensuality, line 1438; compare Mann, "Planetary Gods," p. 97).

165 By tugging the clothing "fra him," the wind is wearing it out (DOST wer v.3.3; MED weren, v.2.5a); the worn-out, weatherbeaten clothing compactly realizes the Saturnian associations with storms and decrepitude; compare the contrasting use of weir in line 182, where it means "repel" or "avert" (DOST wer v.1.2; MED weren v.1.1–2; compare line 467n, but also Fables, lines 2465n).

171 As Riddy observes, "nureis" is markedly feminine in its associations ("'Abject Odious,'" p. 247; DOST nuris n.); the term is also applied to Phebus (Testament, line 199).

174 The garland of flowers associates Jupiter with Cupid (Legend of Good Women G.Prol.160).

176–79 The simile "hair like gold wire" pertains to Venus in both The Assembly of Gods (line 373) and The Kingis Quair (line 4); in John Lydgate's Troy Book, Criseyde's own hair is "Like to gold wyr" (3.4125). Jupiter's conventionally attractive voice, eyes, and hair, and his predictably sumptuous clothing, all find their correlatives in Cresseid's losses, as she and her judges measure them (lines 337–38, 422–23, 443–45).

183–88 Mars "is an hoot planete and drye . . . and so hath maistrie over colera and fire and colerik complexioun. . . . Undir him is conteyned werre and bataille, prisoun, and enemie, and he tokeneth wraththe and swiftnesse and woodnesse, and is reede, and untrewe, and gilefulle" (Bartholomaeus VIII.13, Seymour-Smith, On the Properties of Things, 1:481; compare Chaucer, Complaint of Mars, lines 97–103; CT I[A]1995–2040); his falchion is appropriately rusty, "for iren taketh rust of nothing so soone as of mannes blood" (Bartholomaeus XVI.44, Seymour-Smith, 2:849).

195–96 The terms in which the blast of the horn is depicted echo those used for the horn-call that announces the arrival of the unicorn in The Trial of the Fox (Fables, lines 839–40n), although the use of the perfect tense deprives Mars' fanfare of the figural significance noted in the fable.

197–203 "The lines describing [Phebus] are placed exactly in the middle of the overall descriptio . . . [but] his sovereignty is affirmed only to be undermined" (Spearing, Medieval to Renaissance, p. 176).

205 Phaethon disastrously mishandled the chariot of the sun; see Ovid, Metamorphoses 2.31–328.

209–17 In a "touching example of how the schoolmaster-poet's imagination struck roots in the textbooks of his trade" (Burrow, "Dunbar," p. 120), Henryson draws on Eberhard of Béthune's versified Latin grammar Graecismus (9.226–27): "Erubet Eous aurora, pallet Ethous, / Fervet Pyrous, se mergit aquis Philogeus" (qtd. Fox, ed., p. 357); "Eous reddens in the dawn, Ethous is pale, / Pyrous glows, Philogeus immerses himself in the sea." Spearing notes the repetition in this stanza of a trajectory already marked at the beginning of the poem (lines 8–14), "Titan" the sun disappearing, "leaving only Venus visible in the wintry sky" (Medieval to Renaissance, p. 176).

221 Green is inherently ambiguous: alone and in the right circumstances, it proclaims youth, nature, and festive celebration (Bawcutt, Poems of William Dunbar, 2:418); set beside fatal black, its threatening, even demonic associations rise to the fore. Noting the arrangement of the planetary gods in contrasting pairs of malice and benevolence, Mann resolves the apparent anomaly of the partnerless Venus, who "fits into the pattern by virtue of containing a whole set of oppositions within herself" ("Planetary Gods," p. 97). Torti observes that "In the three stanzas describing Venus we find all the reasons for the fault for which Cresseid should be condemned" ("From 'History' to 'Tragedy,'" p. 189).

223–31 Venus "hath colour whight and schinynge . . . For among alle sterres Venus schinith most comfortabilly and whitly" (Bartholomaeus VIII.14, Seymour-Smith, On the Properties of Things, 1:482); into this portrait of Venus, however, Henryson infuses Cresseid's features along with those of Fortune. A precedent for such merging occurs in John Lydgate's Troy Book, in which the tale of Cryseide's disloyalty is initiated by a portrait of "chaungable" Fortune with her "stormy face" (3.4078–79), and Cryseide, "ful of doubilnes," utters "wordis white, softe, and blaundyshynge . . . For under hid was al the variaunce," "The sugre aforn, the galle hid behynde": in sum, "Thei can outward wepyn pitously, / The tother eye can laughe covertly" (3.4269, 4272, 4275, 4283, 4291–92; compare MacQueen, Robert Henryson, pp. 51–54; Mann, "Planetary Gods," p. 105n25). At one moment provocative, at the next envenomed, Venus encapsulates the fates of both Cresseid and Henryson's Eurydice (Orpheus, lines 75–84n, 105, 349–51n).

239–50 The portrait of Mercury as a rhetorical poet and "Doctour in phisick" recalls the presentation of the poet at the outset of Testament and is strikingly similar to the depiction of Aesop in the prologue to The Lion and the Mouse (line 34n; Fables, lines 1349–60n; compare Eneados 13.prol.87; MacQueen, Robert Henryson, p. 80; Gray, p. 187).

252 Henryson's recurrent concern with the relation between fiction and lying in poetry arises to clinch the portrait of Mercury as god of poetry (Fables, lines 1–7n, 397–400n, 1629n, 2480–89n; Mann, "Planetary Gods," p. 101).

253–59 "Amonge planetis the mone fulendith hire cours in most schort tyme . . . [and] passith in most uncerteyn and unstedfast mevinge . . . The mone in rewlinge hath most power over disposicioun of mannes body, for . . . under the mone is conteyned sikenesse, losse, fere and drede, harm and damage" (Bartholomaeus VIII.17, Seymour-Smith, On the Properties of Things, 1:491–93).

260–63 The churlish, rightly punished rebel (Numbers 15:32–36) features significantly in the depiction of Cynthia's spotted, leaden paleness (compare lines 339–40); like the churl, the rebellious Cresseid will be displayed perpetually as an example and warning.

266 Mercury is chosen to be an advocate for the plaintiff, not a judge (DOST forspekar). The court is a "parliament": an assembly "of the higher nobility and clergy, and of townsmen," the late medieval Scottish parliament "was the highest court in the land" (Wormald, Court, Kirk, and Community, p. 21; Walker, Legal History, pp. 223–24).

270 This statement embodies the ideal it depicts, and has been taken as Henryson's goal of eloquence, "fullness of matter with strong formal control" (Burrow, "Dunbar," p. 114; see also Spearing, Medieval to Renaissance, p. 169).

271–73 Like a pursuer (i.e., plaintiff) in a Scottish bishop's court, Cupid offers an oral petition "giving his grounds for raising the action" (Walker, Legal History, p. 408).

274–87 Cresseid's offense is comparable to false accusation, an offense that in late medieval Scotland fell under the jurisdiction of the bishop's court; investigation involved the bishop's Official summoning the supposed offender; as did the pursuer, the accused had a right to legal counsel; and a plea of not guilty was to be supported by the sworn testimony of "at least six compurgators"; if deemed to have been a malicious act, this offense could lead to a charge of defamation, punishable by penances — from this perspective, the arbitrary procedure and hasty sentence of the gods' parliament would have occasioned readerly head-shaking. However, Cresseid's blasphemy may be considered as apostasy or heresy, which were "more harshly dealt with": during 1407–33, Lollards were burnt at Perth, Glasgow, and St. Andrews (Walker, Legal History, pp. 405–07).

295–300 Mercury's counsel is that Saturn and Cynthia serve as if they were commissaries in a bishop's court, and act together "to impose fines and penance"; in cases of heresy, the officer with this authority was the inquisitor (Walker, Legal History, p. 407). As Mann observes, it was under Saturn and Cynthia — and Jupiter — that Troilus and Criseyde consummated their love ("Planetary Gods," p. 95; TC 3.624–25).

311 According to Scottish procedure, the coroner lays a wand upon an accused person to signify an arrest (compare Fables lines 1269–75n); Saturn performs this gesture in pronouncing sentence.

322 The punctuation of this line as a separate sentence follows Bawcutt and Riddy's advice that prominence and emphasis are improved thereby: "As a beggar thou shalt suffer and die" (Longer Scottish Poems, p. 372).

323–29 "At this point the narrator breaks in like a chorus, with an urgent exclamation expressing the audience's horror and pite" (Gray, p. 189).

344 Repetition of the adjective "doolie," previously found in the first line of the poem, indicates that the dream that has just ended is in some sense analogous to the circumstances in which the poem is depicted as having originated; this repetition substantiates Fradenburg's claim that, like The Kingis Quair, the Testament involves breaking "apart the structure of the dream-vision without discarding the fragments" ("Henryson Scholarship," p. 88n47), the possibility arising that Cresseid's plight "Suld correspond and be equivalent" (line 2) to that of the poet.

349 For readers who perceive a growth of moral insight in the later stages of the poem, this moment is significant: "the limits of her understanding are apparent in the fact that she sees only a physical deformity, without connecting it to the wrong she committed against Troilus" (Allen, False Fables, p. 145). For readers who find themselves less comfortable with the validity of such a pattern, "From this moment on Cresseid is a speculum and an exemplum: Henryson the moralizer takes over" (Torti, "From 'History' to 'Tragedy,'" p. 193). Kelly, however, refuses to grant the planetary gods the sort of reverence by analogy that these perspectives imply: for him, they are not so much "representatives of divinity as representatives of the natural world," they are "deificait" (line 288), "deified in the eyes of men" (Chaucerian Tragedy, p. 240).

350 Chaucer employs a similar circumlocution in the Merchant's Tale, when May watched her slack-necked bridegroom singing in bed; both poets indicate that the sensation is unknowable, at least by them — and then they proceed to describe it in terms of what the female character said or did not say (CT IV[E]1851–54). From this point on, increasingly emphatic references to an unnamed God begin to crop up in the poem (lines 402, 414, 493; Kelly, Chaucerian Tragedy, p. 241).

353 Spearing translates craibit as "touchy and callous" (Medieval to Renaissance, p. 174); Heaney, "ill-set" (Testament 28); either way, it is as if, from the perspective of Cresseid's initial horror and outrage at her punishment, all the gods are like querulous, doddering Saturn (line 154).

358 Considering "the child's arrival to announce supper," Mann admires Kurt Wittig's sense of Henryson's "tightlipped reticence": "When pathos seems to rise to the highest pitch, the poet looks away and sees the common reality of every day" (Wittig, Scottish Tradition, p. 46, qtd. Mann, "Planetary Gods," p. 99).

382–83 Scottish burgh law provided for the disposal of lepers: "if anyone were put out of the burgh for leprosy but have goods and gear sufficient for his clothing and sustenance, he should be put in the burgh hospital"; except at specified times, lepers should gather at the burgh ports and beg for alms; by 1466, no fewer than three parliamentary acts had provided for reform of the Crown's hospitals for lepers and other unfortunates (Walker, Legal History, pp. 587–88).

386 Another character is noted for wearing a voluminously concealing hat made of beaver pelts: Chaucer's unnamed, secretive Merchant (CT I[A]272).

392 At this point, despite his "daylie" provision of goods from those bestowed on him in his priestly capacity — his "almous" — Calchas ceases to provide any effective support to Cresseid. Kelly (Chaucerian Tragedy, p. 230) relates the resulting discrepancy between Calchas' promise and Cresseid's subsequent indigence (lines 441, 481–83) to an apparent flaw in chronology: Calchas' "daylie" support implies that Cresseid has spent "a good deal of time" with the lepers, but this implication is countered by Troilus' appearance the "samin tyme" (line 484) as Cresseid's first night in the hospital (line 230).

397–99 The lepers' opportunistic response to Cresseid's excessive grief arises from an attitude similar to that which produces the sardonic comment in the Franklin's Tale on Dorigen's weeping, "As doon thise noble wyves whan hem liketh" (CT V[F]818, 1348, 1462).

407–69 "The Complaint of Cresseid" is marked off from the narrative in various ways: the lead-in formula "scho maid hir mone" (also Orpheus, line 133); its exclamatory direct discourse in Cresseid's person; the title (compare the headings Litera and Canticus in Troilus and Criseyde); and also the change from rhyme royal to the Anelida stanza (so named from its use in Chaucer's experimental Anelida and Arcite) of nine lines, aabaabbab. The Complaint has been read as an indication of Cresseid's current lack of insight into the reasons for and conditions of her present situation; her complaint has been compared to Dorigen's (CT V[F]1355–1456; Spearing, Medieval to Renaissance, pp. 184–85) and also to the rhetorically elevated speeches of warning made by figures exemplifying pride brought low, such as the revenant corpse of Guinevere's mother in The Awntyrs off Arthure (lines 95–195) and the chastened owl in Sir Richard Holland's Buke of the Howlat (lines 958–84; Riddy, "Alliterative Revival," p. 45; Spearing, Medieval to Renaissance, p. 183); Gray regards this "elaborate planctus" as "perhaps Henryson's finest piece of rhetorical writing, a great tragic aria for his heroine at the lowest ebb of her fortune" (p. 197).

413 Depicting the onset of a new stage of life as if it is a crop sprouting out of the ground recalls Cresseid's rebuke of Cupid and Venus (lines 136–39); it also recalls comparable transformations in the Fables (lines 8–14, 1793–96).

416–33 The ensuing two stanzas exemplify the topic Ubi sunt ("Where are they now?"), a deeply-seated theme, often with explicitly Christian penitential associations, as illustrated by various lyrics in the Vernon Manuscript; Chaucer allusively reworks the theme in passages of complaint in The Book of the Duchess (lines 599–616) and Troilus and Criseyde (e.g., 5.218–21). Boffey notes the distortion of the theme in Cresseid's complaint, which she describes as "a kind of perverted final testament" in which "she specifies some of her losses in terms that persuasively recall the items listed in many actual wills" ("Lydgate," p. 54).

425–33 Comparing this passage to its counterpart in Lydgate's Testament (lines 325–27, 367), Boffey perceives that "the alluring and carefree delights of spring are shown in retrospect to be empty of moral direction, and the juxtapositions of youth and age, or of beauty and decay, are used to point to the unalterably mutable condition of earthly life" ("Lydgate," p. 54).

429 A traditional Maytime pastime for young women in Scotland was to gather the morning dew with which to wash one's face for beauty (Fox, ed., pp. 372–73); compare Orpheus line 95.

434–42 "The middle stanza of Cresseid's complaint, the fourth, is the only one that contains any reference to triumph . . . but what it goes on to say is that all this is reduced to the leper's 'cop and clapper'" (Spearing, Medieval to Renaissance, p. 183).

452–60 Kelly contrasts this memento mori to other Henrysonian admonitions about the imminence of death (Thre Deid Pollis lines 5–6, 16–23, and especially 25–32; Ressoning betwix Deth and Man lines 1–3, 35–39); where the lesson elsewhere is to repent, Cresseid "is not warning the ladies to take preventive action against change, but only to be aware that change will come" (Chaucerian Tragedy, pp. 241, 246; compare TC 4.837–40). "The projection of her disfigured self as a 'mirror' to warn others of the physical decay that awaits them is . . . perhaps not entirely altruistic; Cresseid seems partly to seek consolation in anticipating the fragility of others' beauty" (Boffey, "Critic and Poet," p. 55).

467 This detail takes on added meaning given the mention earlier of Saturn's frayed, faded clothing twisting in the wind (line 165n).

471 As at the outset of the complaint, Cresseid's emotions take an ironic hue with an allusion to Dorigen's excess of lamentation, lasting "a day or tweye" (CT V[F]1457; compare 397–99n).

475 Kicking against a wall typifies the futile, destructive outlay of energy charac-teristic of anger; compare Chaucer, Truth lines 11–12, "Be war therefore to sporne ayeyns an al; / Stryve not, as doth the crokke with the wal"; Abbey Walk line 30.

478 Again the leper woman's remonstrance assumes a Chaucerian quality: "To maken vertu of necessitee" is Theseus' advice in the Knight's Tale (CT I[A]3042; compare CT V[F]593).

484–90 Benson upholds E. M. W. Tillyard's contention that the significance of the ensuing scene, culminating in the mutual "nonrecognition" of Cresseid and Troilus, depends on the reader's recollection of Criseyde's sighting of Troilus riding back from battle ("Lydgate," p. 35; TC 2.1247–1274; compare Bennett, "Henryson's Testament," pp. 5, 11).

498 Cresseid's effort to see has occasioned much comment: Burrow remarks that "The reference to 'both her eyes,' conventional in verse, acquires extra implications here: Cresseid shifts and focuses her bloodshot eyes (cf. . . . 337) with difficulty" (English Verse, p. 317n; Bawcutt and Riddy, Longer Scottish Poems, p. 374); John MacQueen interprets the failure of perception allegorically — "appetite, deformed by sin, cannot recognize Virtue" (Robert Henryson, p. 91).

505–11 Bennett ("Henryson's Testament," pp. 13–14) compares this stanza to the scientific explanations the Eagle foists upon the dreamer in Chaucer's House of Fame; more sympathetically, Burrow considers it "part of the scene's horror and pathos that a learned explanation is required for the fact that Troilus recognizes Cresseid at all, and that his recognition can only be explained as a form of delusion" (English Verse, p. 317n). The classic commentary on the passage is Marshall Stearns' (Robert Henryson, pp. 98–105); compare TC 5.1158–62.

507 Burrow comments on the scholastic context for the term idole and notes that in the Romance of the Rose, "Jean de Meun couples ydoles with fantasie in the same technical sense" (RR 18229–37; English Verse, p. 318n507–8); Chaucer offers a convenient, significant precedent in Troilus' initial meditation on Criseyde, "a mirour of his mynde, / In which he saugh al holly hire figure" (TC 1.365–66).

512–15 Compare Dido's admission that she is falling in love with Aeneas ("agnosco veteris vestigia flammae"; Virgil, Aeneid 4.23; Bennett, "Henryson's Testament," p. 13). The verb kendlit contrasts Troilus with the "man of age" at the outset of the poem, for whom love "kendillis nocht sa sone as in youtheid" (line 30); thus, the flame inside Troilus epitomizes his "youthful, sexual, and male" state, realized at the moment in which "loathing of and desire for the feminine can be seen to collapse into one another" (Riddy, "'Abject Odious,'" p. 245).

515 Here and again in line 525, Henryson is alluding to Troilus' extreme susceptibility to violent emotion (e.g., TC 3.1092, 5.197–203): after his first prayer to Cupid, "the fyre of love . . . brende hym so in soundry wise ay newe, / That sexti tyme a day he loste his hewe" (1.436, 440–41).

522 The colloquialism and the rough action it denotes make a shocking contrast to the refined styles in which the scene has been depicted so far: swak is typically associated with a powerful blow in combat or a heavy impact in the course of manual labor (e.g., Barbour, Bruce 5.643; Fables 2076; compare MED swap n); the violence of swak briefly articulates various levels of disgust, some less conscious than others, towards Cresseid.

537 It is unstated how much Cresseid "understude": she cannot know that Troilus did not recognize her and therefore cannot know that his gift lacked elements of volition and awareness; the compounding of misunderstanding is productive of ironies. Still, the problem is academic: this is what Troilus did, and this is how Cresseid understood it. Henryson has devised an instructive, emblematic situation in which motives matter less than the actual consequences.

538 Stound usually denotes a period of time with the potential for specialization into "a pang, shock" (MED stound(e 3: DOST stound n.2); as Burrow notes, "The stound, or pang, is imagined as a steel blade piercing Cresseid's heart — and, in effect, killing her" (English Verse, p. 319n538–9); Heaney translates this line, "A stun of pain, a stroke sharper than steel" (Testament, line 39); compare Fables, line 311.

547–74 "Although many critics have argued that this 'redemption' signals the author's humane and gentle treatment of his heroine," Aronstein will have none of it: "Henryson's Cresseid pays the price of complete self-denigration to perform his poem's double redemption" ("Cresseid Reading Cresseid," p. 9); Kelly finds room for enlightenment in Cresseid's reinterpretation of that "prosperitie" in which she set little worth on Troilus' gifts of love, loyalty, and gentleness (Chaucerian Tragedy, p. 247); L. M. Findlay interprets Cresseid's "coming to rest in personal accountability" as exemplary ("Reading and Teaching," p. 71).

550 Fortune's "fickle wheel" — a phrase that apparently originates here — becomes an Elizabethan cliché: Thomas Whythorne, "Who so that list" (Triplex of Songs, 1571) Shakespeare, Henry V 3.6.26 (it is Pistol's phrase); Locrine 2.6.44.

551–53 For Kelly, Cresseid admits to having made a promise to Troilus, equivalent to a vow of marriage, frivolously (Chaucerian Tragedy, p. 249); by extension, her defamation of the gods stands at the climax of a sequence of momentous utterances made without thought. There is a sense in which her never having meant it really does not matter; and in that sense, Cresseid is comparable to the Husbandman of Henryson's Fables, caught out by the efficacy of a promise meant as little more than an expletive (line 2251n; Green, Crisis of Truth, p. 312).

573 In reading this line as Cresseid's declaration "that there are fewer women than men who are worthy of trust," Kelly approaches Aronstein's perception that Henryson's depiction of his protagonist is inherently misogynistic; but Kelly proceeds to argue that the poet is about to expound "a more benign view of women than Cresseid does" (Chaucerian Tragedy, pp. 250–51).

577–88 Bawcutt and Riddy tersely observe that "Cresseid's testament observes three points of the common medieval formula: Terra terram tegat; demon peccata resumat; / Mundus res habiat; spiritus alta petat" (Longer Scottish Poems, p. 374; "May the earth cover [my] earth; may the devil take back [my] sins; may the world receive [my] goods; may [my] soul seek heaven"); on the possibility that the second and fourth points are left indistinguishable, see lines 587–88n. Christian Sheridan makes a case for treating the testament proper as an "embedded text," analogous to the earlier Complaint (lines 407–69), signaled in both the Charteris and the Anderson prints with a subhead; ornamental capitals mark the beginning of the embedded text and the return to the narrative proper ("Early Prints," p. 26). Here these capital letters are thus indicated in boldface.

583 On the night of consummation, Troilus and Criseyde exchange rings; she gives him a brooch "in which a rubye set was lik an herte" (TC 3.1368, 1371); elsewhere, Chaucer gives the jewel sentimental and sexual qualities, especially when Troilus bathes the ruby in his signet with his tears (TC 2.1086–90; discussed by McKim, "Tracing the Ring," p. 449); it "originally represented Troilus' gift of his heart to her" (Hodges, "Sartorial Signs," p. 242; TC 2.585, 5.549). Henryson changes the circumstances of the ring-giving; having Troilus give Cresseid the ring as a pledge of their union, he provides a counterbalance to the "libell of repudie" that is "send" to Cresseid by Diomeid (line 74n).

587–88 Cresseid's bequest of her spirit to Diana (whom Chaucer's Emelye called "chaste goddesse of the wodes grene" and "Queene of the regne of Pluto"; CT I[A]2297, 2299) poses challenges to the reader: according to canon law, for a woman to believe in Diana was tantamount to the sinful delusion of taking part in the nocturnal rites of witchcraft (Gratian, "Decretum" [cols. 1030–31] qtd. Kelly, Chaucerian Tragedy, p. 255); irony may be detected in Henryson's revision of Criseyde's testament (4.785–91; Spearing, Medieval to Renaissance, p. 167). Not every reader has been impressed by these lines: Bennett deprecates Henryson's "fondness for the set alliterative phrase" ("Henryson's Testament," p. 15); nevertheless, Heaney elicits a ballad-like quality from these lines: "I leave my spirit to stray by paths and springs / With Diana in her wildwood wanderings" (Testament, 40). Orpheus and Robene and Makyne both end with title characters in deserted woods; in Dunbar's Goldyn Targe, the dream ends in similar state of desertion: "thare was bot wildernes, / Thare was no more bot birdis, bank and bruke" (lines 233–34).

589–90 Compare TC 5.1037–43, 1660–66, 1688–94.

601–02 Troilus abruptly confirms Cresseid's estimate of her disloyalty; he suppresses full vituperation with the same turn of phrase as in the parallel moment in Troilus and Criseyde, "I kan namore seye" (5.1743); Henryson echoes these words in the last line of the poem.

603–09 Boffey notes that Troilus' epitaph "stresses at once Cresseid's physical degeneration and the possibility that her story, given visible form in the written letters, may have some kind of salutary afterlife in the minds of its readers" ("Lydgate," p. 53).

606 Goldin letteris commonly illuminate the names of triumphant heroes like Marcus Manlius (Lydgate, Fall of Princes IV.371) or Dunbar's Bernard Stewart (Bawcutt, Poems of William Dunbar, poem 56, lines 94–95).

610–16 Like a moralitas of the more literal sort — the one to The Two Mice or the first part of the one to The Paddock and the Mouse, for example — the closing stanza makes explicit the lesson with which the narrative concluded: the lesson the "worthie wemen" of Henryson's audience are to draw appears simple: do not mix love with deception; in other words, do not mix truth with fiction (compare 252n).


Abbreviations: A: the Asloan Manuscript; An: The Testament of Cresseid (Anderson); B: the Bannatyne Manuscript; Bd: the Bannatyne Manuscript Draft; Br: Bawcutt and Riddy, Longer Scottish Poems; Bu: Burrow, English Verse 1300–1500; C: The Morall Fabillis of Esope the Phrygian (Lekprevik and Charteris); Ch: The Testament of Cresseid (Charteris); Cm: the Chepman and Myllar Prints; DOST: Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue; Fox: Denton Fox, ed., The Poems of Robert Henryson; G: the Gray Manuscript; H: Harley 3865; Ht: The Morall Fabillis of Esope (Hart); MED: Middle English Dictionary; Mf: the Maitland Folio; Mk: the Makculloch Manuscript; OED: Oxford English Dictionary; R: the Ruthven Manuscript; T: The Testament of Creseyde, ed. Thynne.

The Testament of Cresseid: T, Ch (base text), R (lines 1–21 only), An; Fox

6 gart. T, Ch, An: can. Can "does not have the causative sense" (Br, p. 367).

48 Esperus. T: esperous. An, Fox: esperance. Although Bawcutt and Riddy argue that "the context seems to require an opposition with wanhope" (Br, p. 367; compare Garmont, line 29), there is a thematic neatness to the astronomical Venus (as the evening star Hesperus) inspiring Troilus to hope once more; this is the influence the poet has sought at the outset of the work (lines 11–26).

89 quhilk. Ch: quhik. T, An: whiche.

94 on fute. T, Fox: or refute. Bawcutt and Riddy note that "Refute, although recorded in Scots as late as 1535, was obsolescent and hence likely to be misread by the later printers (Brp. 367); on the other hand, the reading in Charteris reflects a strongly Henrysonian idiom (e.g., Fables, lines 734, 953, 2376, 2476; compare the table of contents of the Asloan Manuscript, where the title of a no longer extant poem is given as "Master Robert Hendersonnis Dreme on Fut by Forth").

95 Disagysit. T: Disshevelde. H. A. Kelly notes the precision and evocativeness of Thynne's reading (Chaucerian Tragedy, p. 228).

109 was thame. T, An, Fox: was. Despite its greater clarity of reference to the gods near whom Calchas resides, C's reading appears hypermetrical; this problem is resolved by reading honourit without treating the suffix as a distinct syllable, an option in Henryson's Scots.

151 made apparence. Ch, T, An, Fox: gave his sentence. Kelly posits that the apparent anticipation in all the witnesses of an action Saturn will not perform for some stanzas yet (compare line 315) is a textual error; Kelly proposes presence for sentence but notes that in Scots to make appearance "is attested to signify 'Appearance in sight or view'" (DOST apperance; Kelly, Chaucerian Tragedy, p. 234n44); this emendation is made slightly less persuasive by the use of apperance above, at line 143.

155 fronsit. Ch: frosnit. T: frounsed. An: frozned. The scribal error of inverting two letters produces a new, adventitiously relevant word, "frozen" for "wrinkled."

164 gyte. T: gate. Ch: gyis. An: guise. As Fox notes (ed., pp. 352–53), the corrupt reading in T points the way to a word for "robe" that was obsolete by the late six­teenth century and hence unfamiliar to Charteris; see also lines 178, 260.

178 gyte full gay. Ch: gyis full. An: guise full gay.

205 upricht. T, Fox: unricht. The variant in the Scottish printers' texts can be explained as a blandly ironic reference to the course of the chariot guided by Phaeton: upwards but not aright. If that explanation is valid and upricht can be posited to be the earlier reading, then Thynne can be argued to have sought to clarify the implication with an explicitly pejorative adverb.

216 and. T, Ch omit.
Philogie. T, Ch: Philologie.

218 gay. Ch omits.

222 Quhyte. T: White. An, Fox: With.

260 gyte. Ch, An: gyse.

267 liken. T: lykyng. An: listned. Liken is best explained a a rare variant of T's lyking (Br, p. 372).

275 or. Ch: in.

286 returne on. T, Fox: retorte in. Bawcutt and Riddy acknowledge the difficulty of choosing which of the variants is superior (Br, p. 372); in her review of Fox's edition, Ridley notes that returne "in the sense appropriate here, 'to send a thing back again,' is first recorded in the OED in 1459, 'retorte' not until 1557" (Review of Fox, Poems of Henryson, p. 627; compare DOST retort; return III.10).

290 injure. Ch: injurie. C uses the form of the noun more regular in English, while T and An preserve a regular Scots one.

328 throw. T, Fox: through. Ch, An: thow. Rather than using the English spelling through from T, it makes sense to treat Ch's thow as a typographical error and reinsert the missing r.

334 I thee now. T, Fox: here I the. An: I do thee here. The line is metrically regular in Ch, if at cost of easy colloquial pace — but, given the formality of this proclamation, the wrench is not inappropriate.

337 mingit. T: menged. Ch: minglit. An: mingled. T points to the error in the insertion of an l in the reading in Ch.

363 beedes. Ch, An: prayers. The Scottish printers have expurgated the offensively Catholic term.

374 oftymes he. T: oftymes. An: he oft-times.

382 Unto. T, An: To. The disyllabic beginning to the line in Ch is hyper-metrical unless an ellipsis of the first or second syllable in hospitall occurs.

401 overheled. Ch, An: ovirquhelmit. T preserves a word no longer familiar to the later Scottish printers.

title T: Here foloweth the complaynt of Creseyde.

408 now. T: nowe. Ch, An: for now.

411 saif or sound. T: helpe. Ch: saif the of. An: save or sound.

420 Ch: The. T, An, Fox: Thy. Ridley observes that the agreement between An (which Fox admits is "suspect here"; ed., p. 372) and T is not a good basis for preferring Thy (Review pf Fox, Poemse of Henryson, p. 627).

432 aray. Arguably, the aphetic form preserved in T is metrically appropriate but was obsolete by the later sixteenth century and hence unfamiliar to the later Scottish printers (DOST ray n1.2); still, array is current in Scots throughout the fifteenth century (DOST array, aray, n.).

433–37 T omits.

444 T omits.

446–47 T omits.

453 T omits.

456 T places after 460.

468 the. T, An, Fox: your.

469 T omits.

479 To. T, An, Fox: Go. The variant preferred by Fox is attractive in its rhetorical emphasis on the imperative; the alternative preferred here has the advantage of cohesiveness.

480 leif. T: lerne. Ch, An: leir Fox emends a mistake (compare leir in line 479) that "indicates that Ch, T, and An all go back to a faulty archetype" (ed., p. 376).

491 that companie. T: that company come. Ch: that companie thai come. An: the troup they came Fox bases this emendation on the conjectural reduplication of the syllable com- (companie . . . come; ed., p. 377).

493 Said, "Worthie. T: Worthy Fox: Worthie Fox's emendation produces a metrically headless line; he defends this departure from Henryson's metrical practice as "harder, and so slightly preferable" (ed., p. 377); in the present edition, the poet's common practice is taken as the deciding factor.

523 he. Ch omits.

544 swounit scho. T, An, Fox: fel in swoun. The agreement of T and An is not taken to be decisive here.
full oft or ever scho fane. T: ful ofte or she wolde fone. Ch: oft or scho culd refrane. An: full oft ere she would fane Fox conjectures that Ch reflects a misunderstanding of fane, and that the auxiliary verbs were "introduced erroneously" in each of the witnesses (ed., p. 379).

549 elevait. T: effated Fox: efflated. Pace Fox, the reading in Ch is possible for Henryson (DOST elevat p.p.).

583 drowrie. T, An: dowry. Ch feasibly refers to a marriage gift and need not be a corruption: "drowry, which properly in this context should mean only 'love-token,' had come to mean 'dowry' before the end of the fifteenth century" (Kelly, Chaucerian Tragedy, p. 248; DOST drowry n.2).

607 Troyis. T, An, Fox: Troy the.

614 sore. Ch, An: schort. T appears to preserve a reading obscured in the other witnesses by the repetition of the rhyme word from line 610.

615a T: Thus endeth the pyteful and dolorous testament of fayre Creseyde, and here foloweth the Legende of Good Women. Ch, An: Finis.
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Robert Henryson, The Testament of Cresseid




























































































































Ane doolie sessoun to ane cairfull dyte
Suld correspond and be equivalent
Richt sa it wes quhen I began to wryte
This tragedie, the wedder richt fervent
Quhen Aries in middis of the Lent
Schouris of haill gart fra the north discend
That scantlie fra the cauld I micht defend,

Yit nevertheles within myne oratur
I stude quhen Titan had his bemis bricht
Withdrawin doun and sylit under cure
And fair Venus the bewtie of the nicht
Uprais and set unto the west full richt
Hir goldin face in oppositioun
Of god Phebus direct discending doun.

Throwout the glas hir bemis brast sa fair
That I micht se on everie syde me by
The northin wind had purifyit the air
And sched the mistie cloudis fra the sky,
The froist freisit, the blastis bitterly
Fra pole artick come quhisling loud and schill
And causit me remufe aganis my will.

For I traistit that Venus luifis quene
To quhome sum tyme I hecht obedience
My faidit hart of lufe scho wald mak grene,
And therupon with humbill reverence
I thocht to pray hir hie magnificence.
Bot for greit cald as than I lattit was
And in my chalmer to the fyre can pas.

Thocht lufe be hait yit in ane man of age
It kendillis nocht sa sone as in youtheid
Of quhome the blude is flowing in ane rage,
And in the auld the curage doif and deid
Of quhilk the fyre outward is best remeid.
To help be phisike quhair that nature faillit
I am expert for baith I have assaillit.

I mend the fyre and beikit me about
Than tuik ane drink my spreitis to comfort
And armit me weill fra the cauld thairout.
To cut the winter nicht and mak it schort
I tuik ane quair, and left all uther sport,
Writtin be worthie Chaucer glorious
Of fair Creisseid and worthie Troylus.

And thair I fand efter that Diomeid
Ressavit had that lady bricht of hew
How Troilus neir out of wit abraid
And weipit soir with visage paill of hew
For quhilk wanhope his teiris can renew
Quhill Esperus rejoisit him agane.
Thus quhyle in joy he levit, quhyle in pane.

Of hir behest he had greit comforting,
Traisting to Troy that scho suld mak retour
Quhilk he desyrit maist of eirdly thing
For quhy scho was his only paramour.
Bot quhen he saw passit baith day and hour
Of hir ganecome than sorrow can oppres
His wofull hart in cair and hevines.

Of his distres me neidis nocht reheirs
For worthie Chauceir in the samin buik
In gudelie termis and in joly veirs
Compylit hes his cairis quha will luik.
To brek my sleip ane uther quair I tuik
In quhilk I fand the fatall destenie
Of fair Cresseid that endit wretchitlie.

Quha wait gif all that Chauceir wrait was trew?
Nor I wait nocht gif this narratioun
Be authoreist or fenyeit of the new
Be sum poeit throw his inventioun,
Maid to report the lamentatioun
And wofull end of this lustie Creisseid
And quhat distres scho thoillit and quhat deid.

Quhen Diomeid had all his appetyte
And mair fulfillit of this fair ladie,
Upon ane uther he set his haill delyte
And send to hir ane lybell of repudie
And hir excludit fra his companie.
Than desolait scho walkit up and doun
And, sum men sayis, into the court commoun.

O fair Creisseid the flour and A per se
Of Troy and Grece, how was thow fortunait
To change in filth all thy feminitie
And be with fleschelie lust sa maculait
And go amang the Greikis air and lait
Sa giglotlike takand thy foull plesance!
I have pietie thee suld fall sic mischance.

Yit nevertheles, quhatever men deme or say
In scornefull langage of thy brukkilnes,
I sall excuse als far furth as I may
Thy womanheid, thy wisdome and fairnes,
The quhilk Fortoun hes put to sic distres
As hir pleisit, and nathing throw the gilt
Of thee — throw wickit langage to be spilt.

This fair lady, in this wyse destitute
Of all comfort and consolatioun,
Richt privelie, but fellowschip, on fute,
Disagysit passit far out of the toun
Ane myle or twa unto ane mansioun
Beildit full gay quhair hir father Calchas
Quhilk than amang the Greikis dwelland was.

Quhen he hir saw, the caus he can inquyre
Of hir cumming. Scho said, siching full soir,
“Fra Diomeid had gottin his desyre
He wox werie and wald of me no moir.”
Quod Calchas, “Douchter, weip thow not thairfoir,
Peraventure all cummis for the best.
Welcum, to me thow art full deir ane gest.”

This auld Calchas efter the law was tho
Wes keiper of the tempill as ane preist
In quhilk Venus and hir sone Cupido
War honourit, and his chalmer was thame neist,
To quhilk Cresseid with baill aneuch in breist
Usit to pas, hir prayeris for to say
Quhill at the last upon ane solempne day,

As custome was, the pepill far and neir
Befoir the none unto the tempill went
With sacrifice devoit in thair maneir.
Bot still Cresseid, hevie in hir intent,
Into the kirk wald not hirself present
For giving of the pepill ony deming
Of hir expuls fra Diomeid the king

Bot past into ane secreit orature
Quhair scho micht weip hir wofull desteny.
Behind hir bak scho cloisit fast the dure
And on hir kneis bair fell doun in hy,
Upon Venus and Cupide angerly
Scho cryit out and said on this same wyse,
“Allace that ever I maid yow sacrifice!

“Ye gave me anis ane devine responsaill
That I suld be the flour of luif in Troy,
Now am I maid ane unworthie outwaill
And all in cair translatit is my joy.
Quha sall me gyde, quha sall me now convoy
Sen I fra Diomeid and nobill Troylus
Am clene excludit as abject odious?

“O fals Cupide, is nane to wyte bot thow
And thy mother of lufe the blind goddes.
Ye causit me alwayis understand and trow
The seid of lufe was sawin in my face
And ay grew grene throw your supplie and grace,
Bot now allace that seid with froist is slane
And I fra luifferis left and all forlane.”

Quhen this was said, doun in ane extasie,
Ravischit in spreit intill ane dreame scho fell
And be apperance hard quhair scho did ly,
Cupide the king ringand ane silver bell
Quhilk men micht heir fra hevin unto hell,
At quhais sound befoir Cupide appeiris
The sevin planetis discending fra thair spheiris

Quhilk hes power of all thing generabill
To reull and steir be thair greit influence
Wedder and wind and coursis variabill,
And first of all Saturne made apparence
Quhilk gave to Cupide litill reverence
Bot as ane busteous churle on his maneir
Come crabitlie with auster luik and cheir.

His face fronsit, his lyre was lyke the leid,
His teith chatterit and cheverit with the chin,
His ene drowpit, how sonkin in his heid,
Out of his nois the meldrop fast can rin,
With lippis bla and cheikis leine and thin.
The ice schoklis that fra his hair doun hang
Was wonder greit and as ane speir als lang.

Atouir his belt his lyart lokkis lay
Felterit unfair, ovirfret with froistis hoir,
His garmound and his gyte full gay of gray,
His widderit weid fra him the wind out woir,
Ane busteous bow within his hand he boir,
Under his girdill ane flasche of felloun flanis
Fedderit with ice and heidit with hailstanis.

Than Juppiter richt fair and amiabill,
God of the starnis in the firmament
And nureis to all thing generabill,
Fra his father Saturne far different
With burelie face and browis bricht and brent,
Upon his heid ane garland wonder gay
Of flouris fair as it had bene in May.

His voice was cleir, as cristall wer his ene,
As goldin wyre sa glitterand was his hair,
His garmound and his gyte full gay of grene
With goldin listis gilt on everie gair.
Ane burelie brand about his middill bair,
In his richt hand he had ane groundin speir
Of his father the wraith fra us to weir.

Nixt efter him come Mars the god of ire,
Of strife, debait, and all dissensioun,
To chide and fecht als feirs as ony fyre
In hard harnes, hewmound, and habirgeoun,
And on his hanche ane roustie, fell fachioun
And in his hand he had ane roustie sword.
Wrything his face with mony angrie word.

Schaikand his sword, befoir Cupide he come
With reid visage and grislie glowrand ene
And at his mouth ane bullar stude of fome,
Lyke to ane bair quhetting his tuskis kene,
Richt tuilyeour-lyke, but temperance in tene.
Ane horne he blew with mony bosteous brag
Quhilk all this warld with weir hes maid to wag.

Than fair Phebus, lanterne and lamp of licht
Of man and beist, baith frute and flourisching,
Tender nureis and banischer of nicht
And of the warld causing be his moving
And influence lyfe in all eirdlie thing,
Without comfort of quhome, of force to nocht
Must all ga die that in this warld is wrocht.

As king royall he raid upon his chair
The quhilk Phaeton gydit sumtyme upricht.
The brichtnes of his face quhen it was bair
Nane micht behald for peirsing of his sicht.
This goldin cart with fyrie bemis bricht
Four yokkit steidis full different of hew
But bait or tyring throw the spheiris drew.

The first was soyr with mane als reid as rois
Callit Eoye, into the orient.
The secund steid to name hecht Ethios,
Quhitlie and paill, and sumdeill ascendent.
The thrid, Peros, richt hait and richt fervent.
The feird was blak and callit Philogie
Quhilk rollis Phebus doun into the sey.

Venus was thair present, that goddes gay,
Hir sonnis querrell for to defend and mak
Hir awin complaint, cled in ane nyce array,
The ane half grene, the uther half sabill blak,
Quhyte hair as gold kemmit and sched abak
Bot in hir face semit greit variance,
Quhyles perfyte treuth, and quhyles inconstance.

Under smyling scho was dissimulait,
Provocative with blenkis amorous
And suddanely changit and alterait,
Angrie as ony serpent vennemous,
Richt pungitive with wordis odious.
Thus variant scho was, quha list tak keip,
With ane eye lauch and with the uther weip

In taikning that all fleschelie paramour
Quhilk Venus hes in reull and governance
Is sumtyme sweit, sumtyme bitter and sour,
Richt unstabill and full of variance
Mingit with cairfull joy and fals plesance,
Now hait, now cauld, now blyith, now full of wo,
Now grene as leif, now widderit and ago.

With buik in hand than come Mercurius,
Richt eloquent and full of rethorie,
With polite termis and delicious,
With pen and ink to report all reddie,
Setting sangis and singand merilie.
His hude was reid, heklit atouir his croun
Lyke to ane poeit of the auld fassoun.

Boxis he bair with fyne electuairis
And sugerit syropis for digestioun,
Spycis belangand to the pothecairis
With mony hailsum sweit confectioun —
Doctour in phisick, cled in ane skarlot goun
And furrit weill as sic ane aucht to be,
Honest and gude and not ane word culd lie.

Nixt efter him come lady Cynthia
The last of all and swiftest in hir spheir,
Of colour blak, buskit with hornis twa
And in the nicht scho listis best appeir
Haw as the leid, of colour nathing cleir,
For all hir licht scho borrowis at hir brother
Titan, for of hirself scho hes nane uther.

Hir gyte was gray and full of spottis blak,
And on hir breist ane churle paintit full evin
Beirand ane bunche of thornis on his bak
Quhilk for his thift micht clim na nar the hevin.
Thus quhen thay gadderit war, thir goddes sevin,
Mercurius thay cheisit with ane assent
To be foirspeikar in the parliament.

Quha had bene thair and liken for to heir
His facound toung and termis exquisite,
Of rethorick the prettick he micht leir
In breif sermone ane pregnant sentence wryte.1
Befoir Cupide veiling his cap alyte,
Speiris the caus of that vocatioun
And he anone schew his intentioun.

“Lo,” quod Cupide, “quha will blaspheme the name
Of his awin god, outher in word or deid,
To all goddis he dois baith lak and schame
And suld have bitter panis to his meid.
I say this by yone wretchit Cresseid,
The quhilk throw me was sumtyme flour of lufe,
Me and my mother starklie can reprufe,

“Saying of hir greit infelicitie
I was the caus and my mother Venus
Ane blind goddes hir cald that micht not se,
With sclander and defame injurious.
Thus hir leving unclene and lecherous
Scho wald returne on me and my mother,
To quhome I schew my grace abone all uther.

“And sen ye ar all sevin deificait,
Participant of devyne sapience,
This greit injure done to our hie estait
Me think with pane we suld mak recompence.
Was never to goddes done sic violence,
Asweill for yow as for myself I say.
Thairfoir ga help to revenge, I yow pray.”

Mercurius to Cupide gave answeir
And said, “Schir king, my counsall is that ye
Refer yow to the hiest planeit heir
And tak to him the lawest of degre
The pane of Cresseid for to modifie,
As god Saturne with him tak Cynthia.”
“I am content,” quod he, “to tak thay twa.”

Than thus proceidit Saturne and the mone
Quhen thay the mater rypelie had degest:
For the dispyte to Cupide scho had done
And to Venus, oppin and manifest,
In all hir lyfe with pane to be opprest
And torment sair with seiknes incurabill
And to all lovers be abhominabill.

This duleful sentence Saturne tuik on hand
And passit doun quhair cairfull Cresseid lay
And on hir heid he laid ane frostie wand
Than lawfullie on this wyse can he say,
“Thy greit fairnes and all thy bewtie gay,
Thy wantoun blude and eik thy goldin hair
Heir I exclude fra thee for evermair.

“I change thy mirth into melancholy
Quhilk is the mother of all pensivenes,
Thy moisture and thy heit in cald and dry,
Thyne insolence, thy play and wantones
To greit diseis, thy pomp and thy riches
In mortall neid and greit penuritie.
Thow suffer sall and as ane beggar die.”

O cruell Saturne fraward and angrie,
Hard is thy dome and to malitious!
On fair Cresseid quhy hes thow na mercie
Quhilk was sa sweit, gentill, and amorous?
Withdraw thy sentence and be gracious —
As thow was never — sa schawis throw thy deid,
Ane wraikfull sentence gevin on fair Cresseid.

Than Cynthia quhen Saturne past away
Out of hir sait discendit doun belyve
And red ane bill on Cresseid quhair scho lay
Contening this sentence diffinityve,
“Fra heit of bodie I thee now depryve
And to thy seiknes sall be na recure
Bot in dolour thy dayis to indure.

Thy cristall ene mingit with blude I mak,
Thy voice sa cleir, unplesand, hoir and hace,
Thy lustie lyre, ovirspred with spottis blak
And lumpis haw appeirand in thy face.
Quhair thow cummis, ilk man sall fle the place.
This sall thow go begging fra hous to hous
With cop and clapper lyke ane lazarous.”

This doolie dreame, this uglye visioun
Brocht to ane end, Cresseid fra it awoik,
And, all that court and convocatioun
Vanischit away, than rais scho up and tuik
Ane poleist glas and hir schaddow culd luik
And quhen scho saw hir face sa deformait,
Gif scho in hart was wa aneuch, God wait.

Weiping full sair, “Lo, quhat it is,” quod sche,
“With fraward langage for to mufe and steir
Our craibit goddis and sa is sene on me.
My blaspheming now have I bocht full deir.
All eirdlie joy and mirth I set areir.
Allace this day, allace this wofull tyde
Quhen I began with my goddis for to chyde!”

Be this was said, ane chyld, come fra the hall
To warne Cresseid the supper was reddy,
First knokkit at the dure and syne culd call,
“Madame, your father biddis yow cum in hy.
He hes merwell sa lang on grouf ye ly
And sayis your beedes bene to lang sumdeill.
The goddis wait all your intent full weill.”

Quod scho, “Fair chyld, ga to my father deir
And pray him cum to speik with me anone,”
And sa he did and said, “Douchter, quhat cheir?”
“Allace,” quod scho, “father, my mirth is gone.”
“How sa?” quod he, and scho can all expone
As I have tauld, the vengeance and the wraik
For hir trespas Cupide on hir culd tak.

He luikit on hir uglye lipper face
The quhylk befor was quhite as lillie flour.
Wringand his handis oftymes he said allace
That he had levit to se that wofull hour
For he knew weill that thair was na succour
To hir seiknes, and that dowblit his pane,
Thus was thair cair aneuch betuix thame twane.

Quhen thay togidder murnit had full lang,
Quod Cresseid, “Father, I wald not be kend,
Thairfoir in secreit wyse ye let me gang
Unto yone hospitall at the tounis end
And thidder sum meit for cheritie me send
To leif upon, for all mirth in this eird
Is fra me gane, sic is my wickit weird.”

Than in ane mantill and ane baver hat
With cop and clapper, wonder prively
He opnit ane secreit yet and out thairat
Convoyit hir that na man suld espy
Unto ane village half ane myle thairby,
Delyverit hir in at the spittaill hous
And daylie sent hir part of his almous.

Sum knew hir weill and sum had na knawledge
Of hir becaus scho was sa deformait
With bylis blak ovirspred in hir visage
And hir fair colour faidit and alterait,
Yit thay presumit for hir hie regrait
And still murning, scho was of nobill kin.
With better will thairfoir they tuik hir in.

The day passit and Phebus went to rest.
The cloudis blak overheled all the sky.
God wait gif Cresseid was ane sorrowfull gest,
Seing that uncouth fair and harbery.
But meit or drink scho dressit hir to ly
In ane dark corner of the hous allone
And on this wyse, weiping, scho maid hir mone:

The Complaint of Cresseid

O sop of sorrow, sonkin into cair,
O cative Cresseid, now and evermair
Gane is thy joy and all thy mirth in eird!
Of all blyithnes now art thow blaiknit bair,
Thair is na salve may saif or sound thy sair,
Fell is thy fortoun, wickit is thy weird,
Thy blys is baneist and thy baill on breird.
Under the eirth God gif I gravin wer
Quhair nane of Grece nor yit of Troy micht heird!

Quhair is thy chalmer wantounlie besene
With burely bed and bankouris browderit bene,
Spycis and wyne to thy collatioun,
The cowpis all of gold and silver schene,
The sweitmeitis servit in plaittis clene
With saipheron sals of ane gude sessoun,
Thy gay garmentis with mony gudely goun,
Thy plesand lawn pinnit with goldin prene,
All is areir, thy greit royall renoun.

Quhair is thy garding with thir greissis gay
And fresche flowris, quhilk the quene Floray
Had paintit plesandly in everie pane,
Quhair thou was wont full merilye in May
To walk and tak the dew be it was day
And heir the merle and mawis mony ane,
With ladyis fair in carrolling to gane
And se the royall rinkis in thair ray,
In garmentis gay garnischit on everie grane?

Thy greit triumphand fame and hie honour
Quhair thou was callit of eirdlye wichtis flour,
All is decayit, thy weird is welterit so
Thy hie estait is turnit in darknes dour.
This lipper ludge tak for thy burelie bour
And for thy bed tak now ane bunche of stro,
For waillit wyne and meitis thou had tho
Tak mowlit breid, peirrie and ceder sour.
Bot cop and clapper, now is all ago.

My cleir voice and courtlie carrolling,
Quhair I was wont with ladyis for to sing,
Is rawk as ruik, full hiddeous, hoir, and hace.
My plesand port, all utheris precelling,
Of lustines I was hald maist conding,
Now is deformit the figour of my face,
To luik on it na leid now lyking hes.
Sowpit in syte, I say, with sair siching,
Ludgeit amang the lipper leid, allace!

O ladyis fair of Troy and Grece, attend
My miserie quhilk nane may comprehend,
My frivoll fortoun, my infelicitie,
My greit mischeif quhilk na man can amend.
Be war in tyme, approchis neir the end,
And in your mynd ane mirrour mak of me.
As I am now, peradventure that ye
For all your micht may cum to that same end
Or ellis war, gif ony war may be.

Nocht is your fairnes bot ane faiding flour,
Nocht is your famous laud and hie honour
Bot wind inflat in uther mennis eiris;
Your roising reid to rotting sall retour.
Exempill mak of me in your memour
Quhilk of sic thingis wofull witnes beiris.
All welth in eird, away as wind it weiris,2
Be war thairfor, approchis neir the hour,
Fortoun is fikkill quhen scho beginnis and steiris.”

Thus chydand with hir drerie destenye,
Weiping scho woik the nicht fra end to end
Bot all in vane, hir dule, hir cairfull cry
Micht not remeid nor yit hir murning mend.
Ane lipper lady rais and till hir wend
And said, “Quhy spurnis thow aganis the wall
To sla thyself and mend nathing at all?

“Sen thy weiping dowbillis bot thy wo,
I counsall thee mak vertew of ane neid,
To leir to clap thy clapper to and fro,
And leif efter the law of lipper leid.”
Thair was na buit, bot furth with thame scho yeid
Fra place to place quhill cauld and hounger sair
Compellit hir to be ane rank beggair.

That samin tyme of Troy the garnisoun
Quhilk had to chiftane worthie Troylus
Throw jeopardie of weir had strikken doun
Knichtis of Grece in number mervellous.
With greit tryumphe and laude victorious
Agane to Troy richt royallie thay raid
The way quhair Cresseid with the lipper baid.

Seing that companie, all with ane stevin
Thay gaif ane cry and schuik coppis gude speid,
Said, “Worthie lordis, for goddis lufe of hevin,
To us lipper part of your almous deid!”
Than to thair cry nobill Troylus tuik heid
Having pietie — neirby the place can pas
Quhair Cresseid sat, not witting quhat scho was.

Than upon him scho kest up baith hir ene
And with ane blenk it come into his thocht
That he sumtime hir face befoir had sene
Bot scho was in sic plye he knew hir nocht,
Yit than hir luik into his mynd it brocht
The sweit visage and amorous blenking
Of fair Cresseid, sumtyme his awin darling.

Na wonder was suppois in mynd that he
Tuik hir figure sa sone, and lo now quhy:
The idole of ane thing in cace may be
Sa deip imprentit in the fantasy
That it deludis the wittis outwardly
And sa appeiris in forme and lyke estait
Within the mynd as it was figurait.

Ane spark of lufe than till his hart culd spring
And kendlit all his bodie in ane fyre,
With hait fevir ane sweit and trimbling
Him tuik quhill he was reddie to expyre,
To beir his scheild his breist began to tyre,
Within ane quhyle he changit mony hew,
And nevertheles not ane ane uther knew.

For knichtlie pietie and memoriall
Of fair Cresseid, ane gyrdill can he tak,
Ane purs of gold and mony gay jowall,
And in the skirt of Cresseid doun can swak,
Than raid away and not ane word he spak,
Pensive in hart, quhill he come to the toun
And for greit cair oft syis almaist fell doun.

The lipper folk to Cresseid than can draw
To se the equall distributioun
Of the almous, bot quhen the gold thay saw,
Ilkane to uther prevelie can roun,
And said, “Yone lord hes mair affectioun,
However it be, unto yone lazarous
Than to us all, we knaw be his almous.”

“Quhat lord is yone,” quod scho, “have ye na feill
Hes done to us so greit humanitie?”
“Yes,” quod a lipper man, “I knaw him weill,
Schir Troylus it is, gentill and fre.”
Quhen Cresseid understude that it was he,
Stiffer than steill thair stert ane bitter stound
Throwout hir hart, and fell doun to the ground.

Quhen scho ovircome with siching sair and sad,
With mony cairfull cry and cald ochane —
“Now is my breist with stormie stoundis stad,
Wrappit in wo, ane wretch full will of wane!” —
Than swounit scho full oft or ever scho fane
And ever in hir swouning cryit scho thus,
“O fals Cresseid and trew knicht Troylus!

“Thy lufe, thy lawtie, and thy gentilnes
I countit small in my prosperitie,
Sa elevait I was in wantones
And clam upon the fickill quheill sa hie.
All faith and lufe I promissit to thee
Was in the self fickill and frivolous,
O fals Cresseid, and trew knicht Troilus!”

“For lufe of me thow keipt continence,
Honest and chaist in conversatioun.
Of all wemen protectour and defence
Thou was and helpit thair opinioun.
My mynd in fleschelie foull affectioun
Was inclynit to lustis lecherous,
Fy fals Cresseid, O trew knicht Troylus!”

“Lovers be war and tak gude heid about
Quhome that ye lufe, for quhome ye suffer paine,
I lat yow wit thair is richt few thairout
Quhome ye may traist to have trew lufe agane.
Preif quhen ye will, your labour is in vaine,
Thairfoir, I reid ye tak thame as ye find
For thay ar sad as widdercok in wind.

“Becaus I knaw the greit unstabilnes
Brukkil as glas into myself I say,
Traisting in uther als greit unfaithfulnes,
Als unconstant and als untrew of fay,
Thocht sum be trew, I wait richt few ar thay,
Quha findis treuth, lat him his lady ruse;
Nane but myself as now I will accuse.”

Quhen this was said, with paper scho sat doun
And on this maneir maid hir testament.
Heir I beteiche my corps and carioun
With wormis and with taidis to be rent.
My cop and clapper and myne ornament
And all my gold the lipper folk sall have
Quhen I am deid to burie me in grave.

“This royall ring set with this rubie reid
Quhilk Troylus in drowrie to me send,
To him agane I leif it quhen I am deid
To mak my cairfull deid unto him kend.
Thus I conclude schortlie and mak ane end:
My spreit I leif to Diane quhair scho dwellis
To walk with hir in waist woddis and wellis.

O Diomeid, thou hes baith broche and belt
Quhilk Troylus gave me in takning
Of his trew lufe!” and with that word scho swelt.
And sone ane lipper man tuik of the ring,
Syne buryit hir withouttin tarying.
To Troylus furthwith the ring he bair
And of Cresseid the deith he can declair.

Quhen he had hard hir greit infirmitie,
Hir legacie and lamentatioun
And how scho endit in sic povertie,
He swelt for wo and fell doun in ane swoun,
For greit sorrow his hart to brist was boun,
Siching full sadlie, said, “I can no moir:
Scho was untrew, and wo is me thairfoir.”

Sum said he maid ane tomb of merbell gray
And wrait hir name and superscriptioun
And laid it on hir grave quhair that scho lay
In goldin letteris conteining this ressoun:
Lo fair ladyis, Cresseid of Troyis toun
Sumtyme countit the flour of womanheid
Under this stane, lait lipper, lyis deid.”

Now worthie wemen, in this ballet schort,
Maid for your worschip and instructioun,
Of cheritie I monische and exhort
Ming not your lufe with fals deceptioun;
Beir in your mynd this sore conclusioun
Of fair Cresseid as I have said befoir.
Sen scho is deid, I speik of hir no moir.
A dismal season; sad poem; (see note)
Should answer; concordant
Just as; when
weather very bitter; (see note)
When; in the middle; (see note)
Made showers of hail fall from the north; (see note); (t-note)
So that hardly could I shelter from the cold

Yet; my private chapel; (see note)
stood; Phoebus; bright sunbeams
down; retracted; cover
beauty; night; (see note)
Rose up; directed to; straight

To; directly; down

Through; window; rays broke so clearly
could see all around me
northern; purified; (see note)
scattered; from
frost froze; gusts; (see note)
From; came whistling; shrill
forced; step back against

believed; queen of love
whom for some time; vowed
withered; she would make green with love
to that purpose; devout
intended; pray to her high
great cold just then; prevented
to the fire in my room did go

hot still; an old man; (see note)
kindles not; soon; youth
In whom; blood; in haste
vigor [is] faint; dead
For which; externally; remedy
with medicine where; failed; (see note)
for I have tried both

stoked; warmed myself all around
took; to soothe my spirits
protected myself well from
night; make; (see note)
book; abandoned; pastime; (see note)
by great, renowned Chaucer
About lovely; great Troilus

there I discovered after; (see note)
Had received; lovely of hue
almost went out of his mind
wept bitterly; a face pale
which despair; tears did revive
Until Hesperus gladdened; (t-note)
awhile; lived; torment

her vow; consolation
Trusting; she should; return
Which; wanted most [of] any earthly
Because she; lover
when; elapsed both the
coming again then; did
heart; care; dejection

need not be repeated by me; (see note)
same book
eloquent words; lively verse
Has compiled; whoever; look
prevent; another book; took; (see note)
which; found; fated
died in distress

Who knows if; wrote; true; (see note)
Nor do I know if; narrative
authoritative; devised anew
By some poet through; creative skill
Devised; narrate; lament
sorrowful death; beautiful
Both what; suffered; death

more sated by
another; whole pleasure
sent; declaration; divorce; (see note)
banished her from; (see note)
left alone; wandered
(see note)

flower; first and foremost; (see note)
did it befall you
into; womanliness
so defiled
early and late
lewdly taking; (see note)
pity such misfortune should befall you

whatever; [may] judge
about your frailty
to the utmost that I can; (see note)
which; has placed in such; (t-note)
pleased her; not at all; guilt
to be ruined by slander

deprived in this way; (see note)

Very discreetly, without; foot; (see note); (t-note)
In disguise departed; town; (t-note)
A mile or two
Built very finely where
Who then; was living

When; saw her; did ask
visit; sighing very bitterly
Once; taken his pleasure; (see note)
grew weary; wanted no more of me
Said; Daughter, weep; about that; (see note)
Perhaps everything comes
a very dear guest

old; according to; then
keeper; priest
which; son
Were; chamber; nearest to them; (t-note)
which; sorrow aplenty; breast; (see note)
Used to go, her prayers
Until; a holy feast day

was the custom; people; near
Before noon
devout; according to; custom
gloomy; mind
church would; show herself
To give people any inkling
About; expulsion from

went; a private chapel
Where; could bemoan
she closed the door tight
bare knees; down; haste
in this very way
Alas; offered sacrifice to you

once a divine reply
would; flower; love
made into; outcast
into sorrow; transferred
Who shall guide me; convey
Since; from; (see note)
utterly; as a hateful castoff

no one is to blame but you
the blind goddess of love; (see note)
caused; believe; (see note)
seed; love; sown
always; help; favor
apart from lovers; utterly shunned

When; trance; (see note)
Enraptured; spirit, into a
in an illusion heard where
was ringing
Which; could hear from
the sound of which; [there] appear
from their spheres; (see note)

have; over all created things; (see note)
rule; control
Weather; mutable processes
made his appearance; (t-note)
Who showed; scant respect
blustering peasant in; (see note)
angrily; grim; expression; (see note)

wrinkled; complexion; lead; (see note); (t-note)
shivered along with
eyes drooped, sunk deep; head
nose; thin mucus; did run
livid lips; cheeks lean
icicles; from; hung down; (see note)
Were amazingly large; spear; long

Over; gray hair
Matted unattractively, spangled; hoarfrost
robe; very attractive gown of gray; (t-note)
faded clothing; stretched out; (see note)
powerful; in; carried
belt; quiver; sturdy arrows
Feathered; tipped; hailstones

very pleasant; friendly
over; stars; heavens
nurse; engendered things; (see note)
From; very
noble; fine; unwrinkled
head; very splendid wreath; (see note)
flowers; as if it; been May

clear; crystal were his eyes; (see note)
wire; glittering
most attractive in green; (t-note)
edgings gilded; pleat
sturdy sword; at; waist [he] wore
right; held; sharpened spear
To avert his father’s wrath from us

came; anger; (see note)

Keen as any fire to quarrel and fight
sturdy armor, helmet; habergeon
hip; rusty, deadly falchion

Brandishing; in front of; came
red face; frightful staring eyes
hung a blob of spittle
boar whetting; sharp tusks
like a brawler, without; wrath
many a harsh bray; (see note)
Which; war has made; shake

Then; light; (see note)
For; both fruit; flowers
nurturer; banisher; night
for; by his motion
from whom, perforce to nothing
go to die; created

rode; chariot
which; once guided upwards; (see note); (t-note)
when; uncovered
No one could; piercing; sight
fiery sunbeams
harnessed horses; altogether; color; (see note)
Without rest or wearying

sorrel; as red; rose
at the sunrise
horse; was called
Whitish; somewhat higher
third; very hot; burning
fourth; (t-note)
Which; down; sea

present there; goddess; (t-note)
son’s accusation; to make
own; clad; showy outfit
one; green; other; sable; (see note)
Blonde; combed; pulled back; (t-note)
appeared; variability; (see note)
Sometimes; faith; inconstancy

While smiling; two-faced
Alluring; loving glances
any poisonous snake
Very caustic; offensive words
fickle; whoever cared to; heed
one; to laugh; other to weep

As token; passion
Which; under control
sometimes sweet
Wholly unstable; variability
Mixed; anxious; delight
hot; blithe
leaf; withered; bygone

book; came; (see note)
Very; rhetorical skill
polished and delightful diction
to record the proceedings
Composing songs; singing
hood; red, fringed over; crown
old style

carried; medicinal compotes
health-giving sweet nostrum
of medicine, clad; scarlet
furred well; such; ought
good; did lie; (see note)

Next after; came; (see note)
adorned; two horns
night; most prefers to appear
Livid; lead; not at all bright
The sun; has no other [light]

gown; black spots; (see note); (t-note)
[was] painted very accurately
Bearing; bundle; back
Who because of; theft; could; nearer
when; were convened, these
they chose unanimously
chairman; (see note)

been there; [had] liking; hear; (t-note)
eloquent tongue
rhetoric; art; could learn
(see note)
tipping; a little; (see note)
[He] asks; summoning
promptly revealed; purpose

whoever chooses to; (see note)
own; either; or deed; (t-note)
does; insult; shame
should; torments as his reward
about that wretched
She who because of; once
[who] brazenly denounces

great misfortune
called her who could not see
slander; harmful defamation
her way of life
would deflect back upon; (t-note)
whom; bestowed; above

since; deified
Sharing in; wisdom
high rank; (t-note)
It seems to me; torment; should make
[There] was; gods; such
As much; speak
For which reason; pray you

answer; (see note)
Entrust yourself; highest
take with him; lowest; rank
punishment; determine
Namely; [and] with; select
select those two

Then; proceeded; [Cynthia] the moon
thoroughly; pondered
injury; she [Cresseid]
patient and revealed
Through; pain; oppressed
tormented; incurable sickness

grievous; took in
descended to where sad
upon her head; placed; (see note)
according to law in; way did
great; glorious beauty
lustful blood; also
Here; banish from; forever

bilious depression
Which; gloomy anxiety
heat into cold
arrogance; pleasure; lust
Into great distress; wealth
Into desperate need; poverty
shalt suffer; (see note)

spiteful; (see note)
judgment; too
why hast thou no
Retract; merciful
as is plain through; deed; (t-note)
vengeful; delivered upon

when; went
throne descended; promptly
read a document over; where
Containing; determinative sentence
Of bodily heat; deprive; (t-note)
for; sickness; remedy
misery; span of life

crystal eyes mingled; blood; cause to be
clear [I cause to be]; harsh and hoarse; (t-note)
lovely skin, [to be]
purplish lumps appearing on
you approach, each; shall flee
Thus; from
begging bowl; rattle; leper

dismal; (see note)
Brought; awoke from it
rose; took
polished mirror; saw her reflection
when; deformed; (see note)
If; woeful enough; knows; (see note)

Weeping; bitterly; what; said
bold; incite; provoke
ireful gods; thus; proven; (see note)
paid very dearly for
earthly; set behind me
Alas; time
When; to upbraid

Once; boy [who had]; from; (see note)

knocked; door; then did
commands you; haste
is amazed; long you lie prone
prayers are too; somewhat; (t-note)
understand; very well

speak; at once
Daughter; how [is your] mood
she explained everything
offense [that]; had taken

looked upon; leprous
which; white; lily flower
Wringing; repeatedly; (t-note)
lived; see
well; there; no remedy
For; sickness; doubled; pain
sorrow enough between; both

had lamented together very
do not want to be recognized
So help me get away unobserved
that; edge of town; (see note); (t-note)
there some food; charity send me
subsist; on this earth
departed from me, such; miserable fate

cloak; hat of beaver fur; (see note)
bowl; rattle, very furtively
opened; gate; from there
Guided; should catch sight
lepers’ lodge
each day; priestly income of donations; (see note)

Some; well
she; so deformed
black boils covering her face
complexion faded; altered
surmised from; loud sobbing; (see note)
unceasing; noble family
greater eagerness

black clouds blanketed; (t-note)
knows whether; guest
unfamiliar food; lodging
Without food; prepared herself; lie
in; manner; made her lament


wafer; dipped deep in care; (see note)
wretched; (t-note)
Gone; on earth
bleached bare
ointment; cure; heal your disease; (t-note)
Cruel; fate
bliss; banished; sorrow in first bud; (see note)
God grant that I were buried
Where no one; hear of it

lavishly furnished chamber; (see note)
fine; well embroidered cushions
for your repast
cups; gleaming gold and silver
desserts; on clean plates; (t-note)
saffron; seasoning
many a fine gown
linen [dress]; brooch
in the past; renown

garden; such pretty grasses; (see note)
which; queen Flora
painted; separate part
accustomed; merrily
collect; as soon as; (see note)
hear; thrush; blackbird
singing and dancing to go
see; princes; splendor (array); (t-note)
ornamented; stitch; (t-note)

triumphant; high; (see note)
worldly people the flower
decayed; fate; overwhelmed
high rank; turned into; grim
leper’s lodge in the place of; fine bedroom
choice wine; foods [which]; then
moldy; pear and apple cider
Except; over and gone

In which; accustomed; (t-note)
raucous; crow; most hoarse; harsh
bearing; surpassing; (t-note)
attractiveness; fitting
look; no man; takes pleasure
Steeped; grief; bitter sighing
Lodged; leper folk, alas

consider; (see note)
unstable; lack of felicity
great distress which; alleviate
Be prepared; the end draws nigh; (t-note)
use me as a mirror
perhaps you
else worse, if; could

Nothing; flower
praise; high
puffed up; other; ears
rosy red; rottenness; revert
make; memory
such; bears
(see note)
the hour draws near; (t-note)
fickle; begins to move; (t-note)

complaining against; cruel
she stayed awake; from; (see note)
vain; distress; sorrowful
Could; cure; heal
got up; went over to her
Why do you dash yourself against; (see note)

Since; only redoubles; woe
advise; to make a virtue of necessity; (see note)
learn to shake; rattle; (t-note)
live following; leper folk; (t-note)
There; no use; out; went
until; grinding hunger
Forced; full-fledged beggar

same; defending army; (see note)
Which; as chieftain
Through exploit; war; cut
Knights; in prodigious numbers
great; exultant praise
Back; very regally; rode
By the route; lepers waited

in one voice; (t-note)
gave; shook cups promptly
for the love of the gods in; (t-note)
give some; donations
Then; paid notice
pity — did pass near the place
realizing what

she raised; both her eyes; (see note)
in a glance; his mind
at some time; before; seen
such straits
But even so; look; brought
expression; glances
once; own

if mentally; (see note)
Perceived; form so readily; why
mental image; by chance; (see note)
deeply imprinted; imagination
frustrates; outer senses
thus appears; equivalent state
as it was perceived mentally

then into; heart did leap; (see note)
kindled his whole body
A sweat and tremor with hot fever
Overcame him until; die; (see note)
carry; shield; chest; tire
In a short time; hues
neither recognized one another

pity; remembrance
belt did; take
many a fine jewel
onto; did hurl down; (see note)
rode; he spoke not a word; (t-note)
until; town
sorrow often nearly

did approach
make sure about
when they saw the gold
Each one; whispered quietly
That; more fondness
might be, for yonder leper
for; know; donation

What lord is that; any notion
[Who] has; kindness
know; well
noble; generous
When; (see note)
Harder; steel; shot; pain; (see note)
Straight through; [she] fell

recovered; bitter and sad sighing
sorrowful; gloomy “alas”
by; beleaguered
very far from home
swooned; before; stopped; (t-note)
she cried

loyalty; nobility; (see note)
regarded as; during
exalted; lustfulness; (t-note)
climbed; fickle wheel so high; (see note)
(see note)
in itself; superficial

practiced self-restraint
Honorable; chaste; conduct
sustained their reputation
given over

be alert; take careful thought
I’ll have; know there; around
can trust; in return
Try when; wish
advise; judge; find [them]
they; stable; weather vane

know; great unreliability
Brittle; within; declare
Expecting; others as great an
As disloyal; faith
Although; know they are very few
Whoever; loyalty; let; praise; (see note)
No one; at this time

in; manner made her last will
Here; bequeath; dead body; (see note)
toads; lacerated


red ruby
as a love token gave to me; (see note); (t-note)
make; sorrowful death known to him

spirit; Diana where; resides; (see note)
among deserted forests; springs

you have both brooch; (see note)
in token
at once; took off
Then buried; delay
immediately; brought
he reported

heard about; great

ended her life; such
was ready to burst
Sighing; am able to do nothing more; (see note)

Some; made; marble; (see note)
statement; (see note)

stone; at the end a leper

poem; (see note)
Made; honor
For; admonish [that you]
[That you] mix
Bear; bitter; (t-note)
declared it previously
Since; more; (t-note)


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