The Assembly of Ladies
THE ASSEMBLY OF LADIES: FOOTNOTES
1 each according to a different plan
2 looked out for an advantage for themselves
3 forget-me-not's; remember-me's
4 believe me I would gladly be gone
5 your new clothes suit you very well
6 looking out every now and then
7 fashion; trimmed with gray fur
8 So many people that we had no notion of the number
9 The sooner dealt with, the sooner we may depart.
10 In the style of a herald's coat, the sleeves hanging down
11 According to the same pattern, the collar and the neck
12 They were studded all according to a single design
13 `Without ever (giving cause),' thus she wrote in her petition
14 I shall give you a full account of the matter
15 She discovered therein not the least bit of stability
THE ASSEMBLY OF LADIES: NOTES
1-3 The autumn opening is rare in comparison with the spring opening (as in FL), but was developed because of its appropriateness to rather sad and somber poems (like AL).
8 foure: Thynne, in the first print of AL, changed this to fayre, presumably because lines 10-11 obviously refer to more than four. But he was wrong, and we must assume that all nine of the felawship are there spoken of. The matter is made clear at line 408 and by the sequence of petitions at lines 582-623 and 624-79. There was a fine but clear social distinction between ladyes and gentil wymmen.
10 crosse aleys: These sanded alleys, bordered by low rails (see line 42), came to be laid out with greater symmetry in the fifteenth century; here the crosswise layout forms a kind of maze (see line 17). There is a very similar scene, with a group of ladies walking in a garden with 'rayled ... aleyes,' in Chaucer's Troilus, ii.813-26.
15 Whereof I serve?: The blurring of direct into indirect speech is common in Middle English poetry. The sense of the question, 'What are you doing here?' is, less politely, 'What is your function (office, purpose)?'
17 mase: Mazes became increasingly popular with the formalization of gardens in the late Middle Ages. They also became more difficult to negotiate, with hedges between the alleys (as Hampton Court) rather than low rails that could be stepped over, as here (see line 42).
22 must me wite: This impersonal use of must with personal object, 'it is necessary for (me) to' (also 74, 334, 509, 749), seems a peculiar favorite of the poet of AL, though not common elsewhere.
48 herber: See FL 49n.
55 tornyng whele: It is not quite clear what feature of the herber is here referred to, whether a spiral stair-case, a turnstile, or a circular flower-stand (like a sundial).
56 margoleyne, etc: All the flowers in the arbor are emblematic, some by their very names, of serious and constant love.
61 streames: jets of water issuing from natural spring-heads (ingeniously concealed, line 70) and led through conduits about the garden, in this case to one side of the arbor and below floor level (underneth).
83 blewe: The wearing of blue is emphasized throughout the poem because blue was traditionally the color of truth and fidelity, especially as opposed to green (see FL 329n).
85-86 enbrowdid: There is abundant testimony in France and England in the fifteenth century to the practice of embroidering garments with devices or emblems, especially flowers.
87-88 hir word: Mottoes, usually in French, were also frequently embroidered on garments, especially on the hems of wide hanging sleeves (see 119). This kind of ornamentation had a rich symbolic language of its own in the 'game of love'; such mottoes are quite different from family mottoes, being intended as an ingenious form of mystification and not for identification. The mottoes in AL (88, 208, 308, 364, 489, 583, 590, 598, 616, 627, 645, 666, 675) belong to no known historical persons, and were probably made up for the purposes of the poem.
102 ussher: The Usher of the Chamber looked after the food and service in the lord's room. Distinctions of rank and status (see 99) were carefully observed in a lord's household, and the carrying of a staff of office (see 103-5) was a jealously guarded privilege.
148 benedicite: Literally, 'bless ye (the Lord)!'
163 bay wyndowes: This is the first recorded use of the term in a literary text. One of the earliest buildings to have bay windows was the palace of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, at Plesaunce, near Greenwich.
165 galaries: sheltered walks along the side of a house, partly open at the sides, like a monastic cloister.
170 Plesaunt Regard: the allegorical reference (buildings often have such names in love-vision poetry) is to the pleasant aspect of a lady towards one who pleases her (cf Swete-Lokyng in Chaucer's Romaunt of the Rose, 2896), but it is easy to see how the name might be thought appropriate to the building itself (see 171-2).
224 seynt Julyan: a prayer for good lodging for the night, to St Julian the Hospitaller, patron saint of hospitality. After accidentally killing his parents, Julian set up a hospital to harbor poor people, and bore travellers across a nearby river as a penance.
231 hospital: In the Middle Ages the monastic and military-religious orders set up 'hospitals' for the accommodation of poor travellers and pilgrims, for the sick, aged and insane, and for lepers. The reference to the wal (230) is reminiscent of the high continuous walls surrounding leper hospitals.
322 marchal of the halle: An important functionary of the household, responsible for the arrangement of ceremonies, especially the ordering and serving of guests at banquets.
325 bille: The usual word in fifteenth-century literature for a written petition or a statement of complaint, especially one concerning faithless or unrequited love, but there is much in AL, in the administrative arrangements for the presentation of the bills and in the bills themselves, to suggest that the poet is aware too of the stricter legal sense of the word and is making some attempt to imitate current legal procedure. In law, as in AL, the bill was the initiatory action of all procedure in equity; it consisted of a statement of complaint and a prayer for redress; it tended to be vague in point of fact but vehement in presenting the enormity of the offense; it was written in semi-legal parlance, with a profusion of loosely related participles and a convoluted syntax. Closest to AL in point of style are bills presented to the King's Council, which, like the court of Lady Loyalty, was approached by suitors as the supreme authority, able to right wrongs of every kind.
337 secretarye: The main job of the secretary - to collect, read over, and read out (553, 564) the written bills - is strikingly reminiscent of the role of the Clerk to the King's Council.
419-20 A medieval audience would need little reminding of the notorious dilatoriness of the law, whether in civil or criminal actions.
443 hir goodenesse: One can see here how an abstract noun comes to be used as a form of title.
455 berel and cristal: The idea of walls of beryl (not the modern semi-precious stone, but a form of crystal) and crystal is a fantasy, reminiscent of Chaucer's House of Fame and Lydgate's Temple of Glass, which in their turn form part of a descriptive tradition going back to the Book of Revelation, Chapter 21.
456 graven: Tapestries and painted cloths were much more common in domestic interiors (as distinct from churches) than mural decoration, but literary buildings are often embellished with murals, as in Chaucer's Parliament of Fowls (284-94), and the Knight's Tale (1918-2074), and Lydgate's Temple of Glass (42-142). The crystal engravings of AL are an added touch of fantasy. The storyes many oon, as befits the allegory, are of love's martyrs, true and faithful women unfortunate or wronged in love. Chaucer often finds occasion for introducing such lists of unfortunate women, and his Legend of Good Women is a systematic martyrology. Phyllis, Thisbe and Cleopatra usually figure in Chaucer's lists, and he tells the stories of all three in the Legend.
457 of wommanly pite: The idea is that Phyllis's misfortunes were due to her first taking pity on Demophon when he was shipwrecked on the shores of her kingdom. See Legend 2394-2561.
460 under a tre: The mulberry tree figures importantly in the story of Pyramus and Thisbe.
462 was slayne: This rather misses the point of Cleopatra's suicide. For the medieval view of Cleopatra as one of love's martyrs, see Legend 580-705.
463 Melusene: The heroine of a well-known story, translated from the French in two English fifteenth-century versions, Melusine (ed A.K. Donald, EETS, es 68, 1895) and Partenay (ed W.W. Skeat, EETS, os 22, 1866). Melusine was under a spell and used to turn into a serpent from the waist down every Saturday. When she married Count Raymond, she made him promise not to try to find out where she went on Saturdays. She proved a true and faithful wife, and bore him ten children, but Raymond's curiosity finally got the better of him. He followed her one Saturday, hacked a hole with his sword in the door of the room where she used to lock herself, and found her in the bath with her serpent's tail. His betrayal of the secret brings about her perpetual damnation.
465 Anelada: from Chaucer's Anelida and Arcite, much of which is devoted to Anelida's Compleynt.
477 stages: Mandeville describes an elaborate throne set on seven 'degrees' or steps in the palace of Prester John (Travels, ed. P. Hamelius, EETS, os 153, 1919, p. 183), very similar to the throne of Darius in the Alexander legend (see Wars of Alexander, ed. H. Duggan and T. Turville-Petre, EETS, ss 10, 1989, 3464-3519.
478 cassidony: chalcedony is a semi-transparent white quartz, which forms the third foundation of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:19, and is associated in the medieval lapidaries with authority.
480 saphirs: the most precious of all jewels in the lapidaries; they were a token of truth and constancy.
482 Ynde: India was, to the medieval imagination, the extreme limit of remoteness, as well as a symbol of fabulous splendor.
499 tappet: a piece of figured cloth used as a hanging over a door or doorway.
507 chaunceler: In medieval households, the chancellor was a very important official who supervised the running of the household and the estate.
523 In taberd wyse: The reference is to the tabard, the short sleeveless tunic (originally simply two panels of cloth joined over the shoulders) emblazoned with armorial bearings, worn by heralds; but clearly the phrase here describes the development of the late fifteenth-century surcoat (see FL 141n) with wide openings below the arms and long hanging sleeves.
526-30 The hems of the garment were studded with rows of pearls instead of ermine fur, and 'powdered' (sprinkled, a heraldic term) with diamonds instead of little black ermine tails. The details of Lady Loyalty's costume-decoration are very close to what can be seen in paintings of the mid to late fifteenth century, especially from Flanders, and what can be deduced from wills and inventories of the time.
533 serpe: a serpentine collar or neck-ring of precious metal, chased out or engraved, and set with white enamel flowers, each with a ruby in the center. Charles of Orleans had a similar collar.
536 balays of entaile: a balas ruby (a delicate rose-red variety of the spinel ruby), with an engraved design, set in the front of the diadem.
681 youre: Lady Loyalty addresses the narrator.
689 seynt Jame: St James (the Greater), brother of St John the Evangelist. His shrine at Compostella in north-western Spain was the greatest place of Christian pilgrimage in the Middle Ages.
694 The narrator's 'bill' is the only one of which we hear the exact words, as it is read out by the secretary.
720 parlement: The same distinction between an assembly (see 752), for the preliminary hearing of complaints, and a parliament, to pass judgment and enact laws, seems to be made in The Isle of Ladies 1967-72.
720-28 The postponed judgment is a frequent convention in poems involving an assembly or debate (eg, The Owl and the Nightingale, The Parliament of Fowls), though of course it was common enough in real life, in law as in politics.
736 water: Skeat suggested that the water was thrown in her face by her companion to wake her up; this seems rather drastic. Perhaps the spray from the fountain caught her face as her head nodded in sleep. Poets exercise considerable ingenuity in waking their dream-narrators from sleep.
740 this booke: She seems to move momentarily outside the fiction of oral retelling of her story, as happens not uncommonly in medieval narrative.
743 The lady's story (29-742) ends here, and the knight or squire who originally accosted her (line 15) speaks.
756 Punctuation here obliges an editor to decide that the narrator turns from her interlocutor to her reader. Cf the ambiguity in 740.
by: Derek Pearsall (Editor)
In Septembre, at fallyng of the leef,
The fressh season was al to-gydre done
And of the corn was gadred in the sheef;
In a gardyn, abowte tweyne after none,
There were ladyes walkying, as was ther wone,
Four in nombre, as to my mynde doth falle,
And I the fift, symplest of alle.
Of gentil wymmen foure there were also,
Disportyng hem everiche after theyr guyse,
In crosse aleys walkyng be two and two,
And some alone after theyr fantasyes.
Thus occupied we were in dyvers wise,
And yit in trowth we were nat alone:
Theyr were knyghtis and sqyers many one.
Whereof I serve? on of hem asked me.
I seyde ageyne, as it fil in my thought:
'To walke aboute the mase, in certeynte,
As a womman that nothyng rought.'
He asked me ageyn whom I sought
And of my coloure why I was so pale.
'Forsoth,' quod I, 'and therby lith a tale.'
'That must me wite,' quod he, 'and that anon;
Telle on, late se, and make no taryeng.'
'Abide,' quod I, 'ye be an hasti one;
I let yow wite it is no litle thyng;
But for because ye have a grete longyng
In yowre desire this procese for to here
I shal yow telle the playne of this matiere.
It happed thus that in an after none
My felawship and I, bi one assent,
Whan al oure other busynesse was done,
To passe oure tyme in to this mase we went
And toke oure weyes yche aftyr other entent: 1
Som went inward and went they had gon oute,
Som stode amyddis and loked al aboute;
And soth to sey som were ful fer behynde
And right anon as ferforth as the best;
Other there were, so mased in theyr mynde,
Al weys were goode for hem, both est and west.
Thus went they furth and had but litel rest,
And som theyr corage dide theym so assaile
For verray wrath they stept over the rayle.
And as they sought hem self thus to and fro 2
I gate my self a litel avauntage;
Al for-weryed, I myght no further go,
Though I had wonne right grete for my viage;
So come I forth into a streyte passage,
Whiche brought me to an herber feyre and grene
Made with benchis ful craftily and clene;
That, as me thought, myght no creature
Devise a bettir by proporcioun.
Save it was closed wele, I yow ensure,
With masonry of compas environ
Ful secretly, with steyres goyng down
In myddes the place, a tornyng whele, sertayne,
And upon that a pot of margoleyne;
With margarites growyng in ordynaunce
To shewe hem self as folk went to and fro,
That to behold it was a grete plesaunce;
And how they were accompanyed with mo,
Ne m'oublie-mies and sovenez also; 3
The poore penses ne were nat disloged there -
No, no, God wote, theyr place was every where.
The floore beneth was paved faire and smoth
With stones square of many dyvers hewe
So wele joyned that, for to sey the soth,
Al semed on, who that non other knewe.
And underneth the streames, newe and newe,
As silver newe bright spryngyng in such wise
That whens it com ye cowde it nat devise.
A litel while thus was I alone
Beholdyng wele this delectable place;
My felawshyp were comyng everichone
So must me nede abide as for a space,
Remembryng of many dyvers cace
Of tyme past, musyng with sighes depe,
I set me downe and there fil in slepe.
And as I slept me thought ther com to me
A gentil womman metely of stature;
Of grete worship she semed for to be,
Atired wele, nat hye but bi mesure,
Hir contenaunce ful sad and ful demure,
Hir colours blewe, al that she had upon;
Theyr com no mo but hir silf alon.
Hir gowne was wele enbrowdid, certaynly,
With sovenez aftir hir owne devise;
On the purfil hir word, by and by,
Bien loialment, as I cowde me avise.
Than prayd I hir in every maner wise
That of hir name I myght have remembraunce.
She sayde she was callid Perseveraunce.
So furthermore to speke than was I bold:
Where she dwelt I prayed hir for to say.
And she ageyne ful curteisly me told:
'My dwellyng is and hath be many a day
With a lady.' 'What lady, I yow pray?'
'Of grete astate, thus warne I yow,' quod she.
'What calle ye hir?' 'Hir name is Loiaulte.'
'In what office stand ye, or in what degre?'
Quod I to hir, 'that wold I wit ful fayne.'
'I am,' quod she, 'unworthy though I be,
Of hir chamber hir ussher in certayne;
This rodde I bere as for a tokene playne,
Lyke as ye knowe the rule in suche service
Perteyneng unto the same office.
She charged me be hir comaundement
To warne yow and youre felawes everichone
That ye shuld come there as she is present
For a counsaile, whiche shuld be anone,
Or seven dayes bien comen and gone.
And more she badde that I shuld sey
Excuse ther myght be none nor delay.
Another thyng was nygh forgete behynd
Whiche in no wise I wold nat but ye knewe -
Remembre it wele and bere it in your mynde:
Al youre felawes and ye must com in blewe,
Everiche yowre matier for to sewe,
With more, whiche I pray yow thynk upon,
Yowre wordes on yowre slevis everichon.
And be nat ye abasshed in no wise,
As many as bien in suche an high presence;
Make youre request as ye can best devise
And she gladly wil yeve yow audience.
Ther is no grief nor no maner offence
Wherin ye fele your hert is displeased
But with hir help right sone ye shul bien eased.'
'I am right glad,' quod I, 'ye telle me this;
But ther is none of us that knowith the way.'
'And of your wey,' quod she, 'ye shul nat mys;
Ye shul have one to guyde yow day be day
Of my felawes - I can no better say -
Suche on as shal telle yow the wey ful right;
And Diligence this gentil womman hight,
A womman of right famous governaunce
And wele cherisshed, I sey yow for certeyne;
Hir felawship shal do yow grete plesaunce,
Hir porte is suche, hir manere is trewe and playne;
She with glad chiere wil do hir busy peyne
To bryng yow there.Farwele, now have I done.'
'Abide,' quod I, 'ye may nat go so soone.'
'Whi so?' quod she, 'and I have fer to go
To yeve warnyng in many dyvers place
To youre felawes and so to other moo,
And wele ye wote I have but litel space.'
'Yit,' quod I, 'ye must telle me this cace,
If we shal any men unto us calle?'
'Nat one,' quod she, 'may come among yow alle.'
'Nat one?' quod I, 'ey, benedicite!
What have they don?I pray yow, telle me that.'
'Now, be my lif, I trowe but wele,' quod she,
'But evere I can beleve ther is somwhat,
And for to sey yow trowth, more can I nat;
In questions nothyng may I be to large,
I medle me no further than is my charge.'
'Than thus,' quod I, 'do me til undrestond
What place is there this lady is dwellyng?'
'Forsoth,' quod she, 'and on sought al a lond,
Feirer is none, though it were fore a kyng;
Devised wele, and that in every thyng;
The toures high ful plesaunt shul ye fynde,
With fanes fressh tournyng with every wynde;
The chambres and parlours both of oo sort,
With bay wyndowes goodely as can be thought,
As for daunsyng and other wise disport;
The galaries right wonderfully wrought;
That wele I wote, yef ye were thider brought
And toke good hede therof in every wise,
Ye wold it thynk a verray paradise.'
'What hight this place?' quod I, 'now sey me that.'
'Plesaunt Regard,' quod she, 'to telle yow pleyne.'
'Of verray trouth?' quod I, 'and wote ye what,
It may wele be callid so sertayne.
But furthermore this wold I wite ful fayne,
What shal I do as soone as I com there
And after whom that I may best enquere?'
'A gentilwomman, porter at the yaate,
Ther shal ye fynde; hir name is Contenaunce.
If so happe ye com erly or late,
Of hir were goode to have som aqueyntaunce;
She can telle how ye shal yow best avaunce
And how to come to this ladyes presence;
To hir wordis I rede yow yeve credence.
Now it is tyme that I part yow fro,
For in goode soth I have grete busynesse.'
'I wote right wele,' quod I, 'that that is soo,
And I thanke yow of youre grete gentilnesse;
Yowre comfort hath yeve me suche hardynesse
That now I shal be bold withouten faile
To do after youre avise and counsaile.'
Thus parted she and I left al alone.
With that I sawe, as I behielde aside,
A womman come, a verray goodely oon,
And furth withal as I had hir aspied
Me thought anon that it shuld be the guyde;
And of hir name anon I did enquere.
Ful wommanly she yave this answere:
'I am,' quod she, 'a symple creature
Sent from the court; my name is Diligence.
As soone as I myght com, I yow ensure,
I taried nat after I had licence,
And now that I am com to yowre presence,
Looke what service that I can do or may
Comaunde me, I can no further say.'
I thanked hir and prayed hir to come nere
Because I wold se how she were arrayed.
Hir gowne was bliew, dressed in goode manere
With hir devise, hir worde also, that sayde
Taunt que je puis; and I was wele apayed,
For than wist I without any more
It was ful triew that I had herd afore.
'Though we toke now before a lite space
It were ful goode,' quod she, 'as I cowth gesse.'
'How fer,' quod I, 'have we unto that place?'
'A dayes journey,' quod she, 'but litel lesse,
Wherfor I rede that we onward dresse,
For I suppose oure felawship is past
And for nothyng I wold that we were last.'
Than parted we at spryngyng of the day
And furth we wente a soft and esy pase,
Til at the last we were on oure journay
So fer onward that we myght se the place.
'Nowe lete us rest,' quod I, 'a litel space,
And say we as devoutly as we can
A Pater Noster for seynt Julyan.'
'With al myn hert,' quod she, 'I gre me wele;
Moche better shul we spede whan we have done.'
Than taryed we and sayde it every dele.
And whan the day was fer gon after none
We sawe a place, and thider come we sone,
Whiche rounde about was closid with a wal
Semyng to me ful like an hospital.
There fonde I oon had brought al myn array,
A gentilwomman of myn acqueyntaunce.
'I have mervaile,' quod I, 'what maner wey
Ye had knowlache of al this governaunce?'
'Yis, yis,' quod she, 'I herd Perseveraunce,
How she warned youre felawes everichone,
And what array that ye shal have upon.'
'Now, for my love,' quod I, 'I yow pray,
Sith ye have take upon yow al this peyne,
That ye wold helpe me on with myne array,
For wite ye wele I wold be go ful fayne.' 4
'Al this prayer nedith nat certeyne,'
Quod she ageyne; 'com of, and hie yow soone,
And ye shal se how wele it shal be done.'
'But this I dowte me gretely, wote ye what,
That my felaws bien passed by and gone.'
'I waraunt yow,' quod she, 'that ar they nat,
For here they shul assemble everichon.
Natwithstandyng, I counseil yow anone
Make ye redy and tarye ye no more;
It is non harme though ye be there afore.'
So than I dressid me in myn array
And asked hir if it were wele or noo.
'It is,' quod she, 'right wele unto my pay;
Ye dare nat care to what place so ever ye goo.'
And while that she and I debated soo
Com Diligence, and sawe me al in bliew:
'Suster,' quod she, 'right wel broke ye your niewe.' 5
Than went we forth and met at aventure
A yong womman, an officer semyng.
'What is your name,' quod I, 'goode creature?'
'Discrecioun,' quod she, 'without lesyng.'
'And where,' quod I, 'is yowre abidyng?'
'I have,' quod she, 'this office of purchace,
Chief purviour that longith to this place.'
'Faire love,' quod I, 'in al youre ordynaunce,
What is hir name that is the herbegyer?'
'Forsoth,' quod she, 'hir name is Aqueyntaunce,
A womman of right graciouse maner.'
Than thus quod I, 'What straungiers have ye here?'
'But fewe,' quod she, 'of hie degre ne lowe;
Ye bien the first, as ferforth as I knowe.'
Thus with talis we com streyght to the yaate;
This yong womman departed was and gone.
Com Diligence and knokked fast therate.
'Who is without?' quod Contenaunce anone.
'Triewly,' quod she, 'faire suster, here is one.'
'Whiche oon?' quod she; and ther-withal she lough:
'I, Diligence, ye knowe me wele inough!'
Than opened she the gate and in we goo.
With wordis feyre she sayde ful gentily:
'Ye ben welcom, iwis; bien ye no mo?'
'No,' quod she, 'save this womman and I.'
'Now than,' quod she, 'I pray yow hertily,
Take my chambre as for a while to rest
To yowre felawes bien comen, I hold it for the best.'
I thanked hir and furth we gon echeon
Til hir chambre without wordes mo.
Come Diligence and toke hir leve anon;
'Where ever yow list,' quod I, 'nowe may ye goo,
And I thank yow right hertily also
Of yowre laboure, for whiche God do yow mede;
I can nomore, but Jhesu be yowre spede.'
Than Contenaunce asked me anone:
'Yowre felawship, where bien they now?' quod she.
'Forsoth,' quod I, 'they bien comyng echeone,
But in certeyne I knowe nat where they be.
At this wyndow whan they come ye may se;
Here wil I stande awaityng ever among, 6
For wele I wote they wil nat now be long.'
Thus as I stode musyng ful busily
I thought to take heede of hir array.
Hir gowne was bliew, this wote I verily,
Of goode facion and furred wele with gray; 7
Upon hir sleve hir worde, this is no nay,
The whiche saide thus, as my penne can endite,
A moy que je voy, writen with lettres white.
Than ferforth as she com streyght unto me,
'Yowre worde,' quod she 'fayne wold I that I knewe.'
'Forsoth,' quod I, 'ye shal wele know and se:
And for my word, I have none, this is trewe;
It is inough that my clothyng be blew
As here before I had comaundement,
And so to do I am right wele content.
But telle me this, I pray yow hertily,
The stiward here, sey me, what is hir name?'
'She hight Largesse, I say yow surely,
A faire lady and right of nobil fame;
Whan ye hir se ye wil report the same.
And undir hir, to bid yow welcom alle,
There is Bealchiere, the marchal of the halle.
Now al this while that ye here tary stille
Yowre owne matiers ye may wele have in mynde;
But telle me this, have ye brought any bille?'
'Ye, ye,' quod I, 'or ellis I were behynde;
Where is ther on, telle me, that I may fynde
To whom I may shewe my matiers playne?'
'Surely,' quod she, 'unto the chambrelayne.'
'The chambrelayne,' quod I, 'say ye trewe?'
'Ye verily,' quod she, 'be myn advise,
Be nat aferd but lowly til hir shewe.'
'It shal be don,' quod I, 'as ye devise,
But me must knowe hir name in every wyse.'
'Triewly,' quod she, 'to telle yow in substaunce,
Without feyneng, hir name is Remembraunce.
The secretarye yit may nat be forgete,
For she may do right moche in every thyng;
Wherfor I rede whan ye have with hir met
Yowre matier hole telle hir withoute feyneng;
Ye shal hir fynde ful goode and ful lovyng.'
'Telle me hir name,' quod I, 'of gentillesse.'
'Be my goode soth,' quod she, 'Avisenesse.'
'That name,' quod I, 'for hir is passyng goode,
For every bille and cedule she must se.
Now, goode,' quod I, 'com stonde where I stoode;
My felawes bien comyng, yonder they be.'
'Is it a jape, or say ye soth?' quod she.
'In jape? nay, nay! I say it for certeyne;
Se how they come togyder tweyne and tweyne.'
'Ye say ful soth,' quod she, 'it is no nay;
I se comyng a goodely company.'
'They bien,' quod I, 'suche folk, I dare wele say,
That list to love, thynk it ful verily;
And my faire love, I pray yow feithfully,
At any tyme whan they upon yow cal,
That ye wil be goode frend to theym al.'
'Of my frendship,' quod she, 'they shul nat mys,
As for ther case to put therto my payne.'
'God yield it yow,' quod I; 'but telle me this:
How shal we knowe whiche is the chambrelayne?'
'That shal ye wele knowe by hir worde certayne.'
'What is hir worde, suster, I pray yow say?'
'Plus ne purroy, thus writeth she alway.'
Thus as we stoode to-gydre, she and I,
At the yate my felawes were echon.
So mette I theym, as me thought was goodely,
And bad hem welcom al by one and oon.
Than forth com Contenaunce anon:
'Ful hertily, feyre sustres al,' quod she,
'Ye bien right welcom to this contre.
I counseile yow to take a litel rest
In my chambre, if it be youre plesaunce.
Whan ye bien there me thynk it for the best
That I gon in and cal Perseveraunce
Because she is oon of youre acqueyntaunce,
And she also wil telle yow every thyng
How ye shal be rulyd of your comyng.'
My felawes al and I, be oon avise,
Were wele agreed to do as she sayde.
Than we began to dresse us in oure guyse
That folk shuld se us nat unpurvayde,
And wageours among us there we layde
Whiche of us atired were goodeliest
And whiche of us al preysed shuld be best.
The porter than brought Perseveraunce;
She welcomd us in ful curteys manere:
'Thynk ye nat long,' quod she, 'youre attendaunce;
I wil go speke unto the herbergier
That she may purvey for youre loggyng here,
Than wil I gon to the chambrelayne
To speke for yow, and come anon agayne.'
And whan she departed and was agone
We sawe folkes comyng without the wal,
So grete people that nombre couthe we none. 8
Ladyes they were and gentil wymmen al
Clothed in bliew everiche, her wordes withal;
But for to knowe theyr wordis or devise
They com so thycke we myght in no wise.
With that anon come Perseveraunce
And wher I stoode she com streight to me:
'Ye bien,' quod she, 'of myn old acqueyntaunce,
Yow to enquere the bolder dare I be
What worde they bere eche after theyr degre;
I pray yow telle it me in secrete wise
And I shal kepe it close on warantise.'
'We bien,' quod I, 'fyve ladies al in feere,
And gentil wymmen foure in company;
Whan they begynne to opyn theyr matiere
There shal ye knowe her wordis, by and by.
But as for me I have none verily
And so I told to Countenaunce here afore;
Al myn array is bliew, what nedith more?'
'Now,' quod she, 'I wil go in agayne,
That ye may know what ye shal do.'
'Forsoth,' quod I, 'yif ye wil take the peyne,
Ye dide right moche for us, yif ye did so;
The rather spede the sonner may we go. 9
Grete cost alwey there is in taryeng,
And long to sue it is a wery thyng.'
Than parted she and come agayne anon:
'Ye must,' quod she, 'com to the chambrelayne.'
'We bien,' quod I, 'now redy, everichone,
To folowe yow whan ever yow list, certeyne.
We have none eloquence, to telle yow pleyne,
Besechyng yow we may be so excused
Oure triewe meanyng that it be nat refused.'
Than went we forth after Perseveraunce.
To se the prease it was a wonder case;
There for to passe it was grete combraunce,
The people stoode so thykk in every place.
'Now stonde ye stille,' quod she, 'a litel space,
And for yowre ease somwhat shal I assay
Yif I can make yow any better way.'
And furth she goth among hem everychon,
Makyng a wey that we myght thurgh passe
More at oure ease, and whan she had don
She bekened us to com ther as she was,
So after hir we folowed more and lasse.
She brought us streight unto the chambrelayne;
There left she us and than she went agayne.
We salwed hir as reson wold it soo,
Ful humbly besechyng hir goodenesse,
In oure matiers that we had for to doo,
That she wold be goode lady and maystresse.
'Ye bien welcom,' quod she, 'in sothfastnesse,
And so what I can do yow for to please
I am redy, that may be for youre ease.'
We folowed hir unto the chambre doore;
'Suster,' quod she, 'come in ye after me.'
But wite ye wele, ther was a paved floore,
The goodeliest that any wight myght see;
And furthermore aboute than loked we
On eche a corner and upon every wal,
The whiche is made of berel and cristal;
Wheron was graven of storyes many oon:
First how Phillis of wommanly pite
Deyd pitously for the love of Demephon;
Next after was the story of Thesbe,
How she slowe hir self under a tre;
Yit sawe I more how in pitous case
For Antony was slayne Cleopatrace;
That other syde was how Melusene
Untriewly was disceyved in hir bayne;
Ther was also Anelada the quene
Upon Arcite how sore she did complayne;
Al these storyes wer graven ther certayne
And many mo than I reherce yow here -
It were to long to telle yow al in feere.
And bicause the wallis shone so bright
With fyne umple they were al over-spredde
To that entent folk shuld nat hurt theyr sight,
And thurgh that the storyes myght be redde.
Than further I went as I was ledde
And there I sawe without any faile
A chayer set with ful riche apparaile;
And fyve stages it was set from the grounde,
Of cassidony ful curiously wrought,
With foure pomels of gold and verray rounde
Set with saphirs as fyne as myght be thought.
Wote ye what, yif it were thurgh sought
As I suppose from this contre til Ynde,
Another suche it were hard to fynde.
For wete ye wele, I was ful nere that,
So as I durst beholdyng by and by.
Above ther was a riche cloth of state
Wrought with the nedil ful straungely,
Hir worde theron, and thus it sayde triewly:
A Endurer, to telle in wordis fewe,
With grete lettres, the better for to shewe.
Thus as we stoode a doore opened anon;
A gentil womman semely of stature,
Beryng a mace, com out, hir self alone -
Triewly, me thought, a goodely creature.
She spak nothyng to lowde, I yow ensure,
Nor hastily, but bi goodely warnyng:
'Make roome,' quod she, 'my lady is comyng.'
With that anon I saw Perseveraunce
How she hield up the tappet in hir hande.
I sawe also in right goode ordynaunce
This grete lady withyn the tappet gan stande,
Comyng outward, I wil ye undrestande,
And after hir a noble company,
I cowde nat telle the nombre sikerly.
Of theyr names I wold nothyng enquere
Further than suche as we wold sue unto,
Sauf oo lady whiche was the chaunceler -
Attemperaunce, sothly, hir name was soo -
For us must with hir have moche to doo
In oure matiers and alwey more and more.
And so furth to telle yow furthermore:
Of this lady hir beauties to discryve
My konnyng is to symple verily,
For never yit the dayes of al my live
So inly fayre I have none sene triewly,
In hir astate assured utterly;
Ther lakked naught, I dare yow wele ensure,
That longged to a goodely creature.
And furthermore to speke of hyr aray
I shall yow tell the maner of hyr goune:
Of cloth of gold full ryche, hyt ys no nay,
The colour blew of a ryght good fassion,
In taberd wyse, the slevys hangyng don; 10
And what purfyll ther was and in what wyse
So as I can I shall hyt yow devyse.
Aftyr a sort the coler and the vent, 11
Lyke as ermyn ys made in purfelyng,
With gret perles full fyne and oryent
They were couchyd all aftyr oon worchyng 12
With dyamondes in stede of pouderyng;
The slevys and purfyllys of assyse,
They were made lyke in every wyse;
Abowte hir nekke a serpe of fayre rubies
In white floures of right fyne enemayle;
Upon hir hede sette in the fresshest wise
A cercle with grete balays of entaile;
That in ernest to speke, withouten faile,
For yong and old and every maner age
It was a world to loke on hir visage.
This comyng to sit in hir astate,
In hir presence we knelid downe echeon
Presentyng up oure billis and, wote ye what,
Ful humbly she toke hem by oon and oon.
Whan we had don than com they al anon
And dide the same iche after in theyr manere,
Knelyng attones and risyng al in feere.
Whan this was don, and she sette in hir place,
The chambrelayne she dide unto hir cal,
And she goodely comyng til hir a-pace
Of hir intent knowyng nothyng at al:
'Voyde bak the prease,' quod she, 'unto the wal;
Make larger rome, but loke ye do nat tarye,
And take these billes unto the secretarye.'
The chambrelayne dide hir comaundement
And come ageyne as she was bode to doo;
The secretarie there beyng present
The billes were delyvered til hir also,
Nat only oures but many another moo.
Than this lady with gode avise ageyne
Anone withal callid hir chambrelayne.
'We wil,' quod she, 'the first thyng that ye doo,
The secretary make hir come anon
With hir billes, and thus we wille also,
In oure presence she rede hem everychone
That we may take goode avise theron
Of the ladyes whiche bien of oure counsaile.
Looke this be don without any faile.'
The chambrelayn whan she wist hir entent
Anon she dide the secretary calle:
'Lete yowre billes,' quod she, 'be here present;
My lady it wil.' 'Madame,' quod she, 'I shal.'
'In hir presence she wil ye rede hem al.'
'With goode wil I am redy,' quod she,
'At hir plesure whan she comaundith me.'
And upon that was made an ordynaunce
They that com first theyr billes to be redde.
Ful gently than seyde Perseveraunce:
'Reason it wold that they were sonnest spedde.'
Anon withal upon a tappet spredde
The secretary layde hem downe everichon;
Oure billes first she red oon by oon.
The first lady, beryng in hir devise
Sanz que jamais, thus wrote she in hir bille: 13
Compleyneng sore and in ful pitous wise
Of promesse made with feithful hert and wil
And so broken ayenst al maner skille,
Without desert alweys in hir party,
In this matier desiryng remedy.
Hir next felawes word was in this wise -
Une sans chaungier; and thus she did compleyne:
Though she had bien gwerdoned for hir service,
Yit nothyng, as she takith it, pleyne,
Wherfor she cowde in no wise restreyne
But in this case sue until hir presence,
As reason wold, to have recompence.
So furthermore to speke of other tweyne:
Oon of hem wrote after hir fantasye
Oncques puis lever, and for to telle yow pleyne,
Hir compleynt was grevous verily
For as she sayde ther was grete reason why,
And as I can remembre that matiere
I shal yow telle the processe al in fere. 14
Hir bille was made compleyneng in her guyse
That of hir joye, comfort and gladnesse
Was no suerte, for in no maner wise
She fonde therin no poynt of stabilnesse, 15
Now ill now wele, out of al sikernesse;
Ful humble desiryng of her grace
Som remedy to shewe in this case.
Hir felaw made hir bille, and thus she sayde
In pleyneng wise: ther as she lovid best,
Whethir she were wroth or ill apayde,
She myght nat se whan she wold faynest,
And wroth was she in verray ernest
To telle hir worde, and forsoth, as I wote,
Entierment vostre right thus she wrote.
And upon that she made a grete request,
With hert and wil and al that myght be done,
As until hir that myght redresse it best,
For in hir mynde thus myght she fynde it sone
The remedy of that whiche was hir bone;
Rehersyng that she had seyd before,
Besechyng hir it myght be so no more.
And in like wise as they had don before
The gentil wymmen of oure company
Put up their billes; and for to telle yow more,
One of hem wrote C'est sanz dire, verily;
Of hir compleynt also the cause why
Withyn hir bille she put it in writyng,
And what it saide ye shul have knowlachyng.
It sayde, God wote, and that ful pitously,
Like as she was disposed in hir hert,
No mysfortune that she toke grevously,
Al on til hir it was the joy or smert;
Somtyme no thank for al hir desert;
Other comfort she wayted non comyng,
And so used it greved hir nothyng;
Desiryng hir and lowly hir besechyng
That she for hir wold se a bettir way,
As she that had bien al hir dayes livyng
Stadefast and triewe and so wil be alway.
Of hir felaw somwhat shal I yow say,
Whos bille was redde next after forth withal,
And what it ment reherce yow I shal.
En dieu est she wrote in hir devise,
And thus she sayde, without any faile:
Hir trowth myght be take in no wise
Like as she thought, wherfor she had mervaile,
For trowth somtyme was wont to take availe
In eche matiere, but now al that is goo -
The more pite that it is suffred soo.
Moche more ther was wherof she shuld compleyne
But she thought it to grete encombraunce
So moche to write, and therfor, in certayne,
In God and hir she put hir affiaunce,
As in hir worde is made a remembraunce,
Besechyng hir that she wold in that case
Shewe til hir the favour of hir grace.
The thridde she wrote rehersyng hir grevaunce,
Yee, wote ye what, a pitous thyng to here,
For as me thought she felt grete displesaunce -
One myght wele perceyve bi hir chiere,
And no wonder, it sat hir passyng neere;
Yit loth she was to put it in writyng,
But neede wil have his cours in every thyng.
Sejour ensure this was hir worde certeyne,
And thus she wrote but in litel space:
There she loved hir labour was in vayne
For he was sette al in another place;
Ful humble desiryng in that cace
Som goode comfort hir sorow to appese
That she myght live more at hertis ease.
The fourth surely, me thought, she liked wele,
As in hir port and in hir havyng,
And Bien monest, as ferre as I cowth feele,
That was hir worde, til hir wele belongyng;
Wherfor til her she prayde above al thyng,
Ful hertily, to say yow in substaunce,
That she wold sende hir goode contenuaunce.
'Ye have rehersed me these billis alle,
But now late se somwhat of youre entente.'
'It may so happe peraventure ye shal.'
'Now, I pray yow, while I am here present.'
'Ye shal, parde, have knowlache what I ment;
But thus I say in trowth, and make no fable,
The case it silf is inly lamentable,
And wele I wote that ye wil thynk the same
Like as I say whan ye han herd my bil.'
'Now, goode, telle on, I hate yow, be seynt Jame.'
'Abide a while, it is nat yit my wil;
Yet must ye wite, bi reason and bi skil,
Sith ye knowe al that hath be done afore.'
And thus it sayde, without any more:
'Nothyng so lief as death to come to me
For fynal end of my sorwes and peyne;
What shuld I more desire, as seme ye -
And ye knewe al aforne it for certeyne
I wote ye wold; and for to telle yow pleyne,
Without hir help that hath al thyng in cure
I can nat thynk that it may long endure;
And for my trouth, preved it hath bien wele -
To sey the soth, it can be no more -
Of ful long tyme, and suffred every dele
In pacience and kept it al in store;
Of hir goodenesse besechyng hir therfor
That I myght have my thank in suche wise
As my desert deservith of justice.'
Whan these billes were redde everichone
This lady toke goode avisement,
And hem til aunswere, eche on by oon,
She thought it to moche in hir entent,
Wherfor she yaf in comaundement
In hir presence to come both oon and al
To yeve hem there hir answere in general.
What did she than, suppose yow, verily?
She spak hir silf and seyde in this manere:
'We have wele sen youre billis by and by
And som of hem ful pitous for to here.
We wil therfor ye knowen this al in feere:
Withyn short tyme oure court of parlement
Here shal be holde in oure paleys present,
And in al this wherein ye fynde yow greved
There shal ye fynde an open remedy,
In suche wise as ye shul be releved
Of al that ye reherce heere triewly.
As of the date ye shal knowe verily,
Than ye may have a space in your comyng,
For Diligence shall bryng it yow bi writyng.'
We thanked hir in oure most humble wise,
Oure felawship echon bi on assent,
Submyttyng us lowly til hir servise,
For as us thought we had oure travel spent
In suche wise as we hielde us content.
Than eche of us toke other by the sleve,
And furth withal, as we shuld take oure leve.
Al sodainly the water sprang anone
In my visage and therwithal I woke.
'Wher am I now?' thought I, 'al this is goon,'
Al amased; and up I gan to looke.
With that anon I went and made this booke,
Thus symply rehersyng the substaunce
Because it shuld nat out of remembraunce,
'Now verily your dreame is passyng goode
And worthy to be had in remembraunce,
For though I stande here as long as I stoode
It shuld to me be none encombraunce,
I toke therin so inly grete plesaunce.
But tel me now what ye the booke do cal,
For me must wite.' 'With right goode wil ye shal:
As for this booke, to sey yow verray right
And of the name to tel the certeynte,
"La semble de Dames", thus it hight;
How thynk ye that the name is?' 'Goode, parde!'
'Now go, farwele, for they cal after me,
My felawes al, and I must after sone.'
Rede wele my dreame, for now my tale is done.
two in the afternoon
themselves each; fashion
according to their fancies
many a one
What am I doing here?; (see note)
in reply; came
maze; (see note)
had no cares
I know; straightway; (see note)
let me see; delay
in the middle
to tell the truth; far
arbor fair; (see note)
a better proportioned one
in a circle all around
marjoram; (see note)
daisies; in regular patterns
a single unbroken whole
springs; ever afresh
whence; came; could
So I had of necessity to; time
honor and worthiness
There; others; herself
embroidered; (see note)
hem; motto; word for word; (see note)
'Very loyally'; discern
I tell you for a fact
would; gladly know
certainly; (see note)
nearly forgotten in passing
Though many are
shall not go wrong
wise and discreet conduct
held in great affection
for I have far
time to spare
oh, my goodness!; (see note)
by my life; believe
too open and unconstrained
get involved; responsibility
give to me
even if one searched
of the same kind
kinds of amusement
whether it happens
put yourself forward
to one side
permission to leave
'As much as I can'; pleased
set off; little while
not for anything
An 'Our Father'; (see note)
I heartily agree
is quite unnecessary
come on; hasten
to my satisfaction
need not worry
as far as
it pleases you
can say; help
there is no denying it
'To me what I see'
is called Generosity
of truly noble
Good Cheer; (see note)
petition; (see note)
by my advice
humbly; make petition
in any case
out of courtesy
two by two
it cannot be denied
That desire; believe
'I could (do) no more'
one by one
concerning your arrival
by unanimous judgment
our appointed attire
with their mottoes too
all in company
their; one after another
Great harm; (see note)
throng; wonderful thing
one and all
beryl; (see note)
engraved; (see note)
because of; (see note)
slew; (see note)
steps; (see note)
chalcedony; intricately; (see note)
i>if; thoroughly searched
India; (see note)
know you well
every detail in turn
'(Ever) to endure'
with polite warning
held; cloth-hanging; (see note)
Except for one; (see note)
i>used in trimming borders
'powdering' with ermine tails
in the same fashion
neck-ring; (see note)
i>diadem; ruby with engraving; (see note)
This (lady) having come
at the same time; together
with brisk stride
straightway with that
soonest dealt with
on her part
'One without changing'
'I can never rise'
in her fashion
'It needs no words'
took to heart
All one to her; pain
In the past no reward
expected none to come
And being so used
'In God is (my trust)'
accepted as of value
affected her very deeply
necessity; its way; (see note)
was well pleased
'Well advised'; perceive
good lady; bid; (see note)
according to reason
dear; (see note)
in her care
suffered it all in silence
one by one
held in this very palace
time to get here
with one accord
And that straightway
essentials of the story
'The Assembly of Ladies'
Go To Introduction to The Isle of Ladies
Go To The Isle of Ladies