The Court of Love
THE COURT OF LOVE: FOOTNOTES
1 To the paragon (flower) of feminine deportment
2 If my love is angry, [to] get away is a relief
3 Lines 498-99: And see [to it that] your heart, [neither] in repose nor in rest, / [Does not] passively await until the time that you see your lady again
4 [For] that chaste goddess (i.e., Diana) I care in no way
5 Lines 821-22: Then [neither] Callisto nor Alcmene / [Would] have ever lain in his arms
6 In virtue, disposition, deportment, and graciousness
7 And [to] uphold love, regardless of what others say
8 And nearer I went, and began to stare [at him] and examine [him]
THE COURT OF LOVE: EXPLANATORY NOTES2-12 of cunnyng naked . . . Why nam I cunnyng? The opening represents the common modesty topos - the writer's claim of poetic ineptitude - which is usually belied, as in this case, by his knowledge of the chief authorities on the "flowers" of rhetoric. Both the De Inventione of Tullius (line 8, Marcus Tullius Cicero) and the Poetria Nova of Galfride (line 11, Geoffrey de Vinsauf) were influential sources on medieval rhetoric. See Murphy, Rhetoric in the Middle Ages.
19-24 Callyope . . . Mynerva . . . Melpomene. In Greek mythology, Calliope is the muse of eloquence and epic poetry, and Melpomene is the muse of tragedy; in Roman mythology, Minerva is the goddess of wisdom and invention.
22 Elicone. Mount Helicon on the Gulf of Corinth, sacred to Apollo and home to the Muses. According to Ovid (Metamorphoses 5.250-63) a blow from the hoof of Pegasus created a miraculous and sacred stream on the mount, a stream later interpreted as a font of poetic inspiration (Hippocrene).
45 full sadde and ripe corage. Suggesting both psychological and sexual maturity.
46 Love arted me. Friedman detects a pun here: "The poet is constrained by Love to create his art, to write this poem, his 'observauance,' for his lady's pleasure" ("In Love's Thrall," p. 176). Chaucer uses the verb in a similar way in Troilus and Criseyde: "And over al this, yet muchel more he thoughte / What for to speke, and what to holden inne; / And what to arten hire to love he soughte" (1.386-88).
48 Courte of Love. John Stevens suggests that courts of love in medieval literature (such as those found here and in The Kingis Quair) have four principal meanings: 1) they are social courts, "in which the lover is at school and receives instruction in polite behavior"; 2) they resemble courts of law, "with its statutes, presided over by a judge"; 3) they invoke the image of the feudal court, "in which the subject pays homage to a sovereign"; and 4) because love is a religion, the court is a "congregation of the faithful" (Music and Poetry, p. 164).
49-50 Citharee. Skeat (Chaucerian, p. 541) points out that this is a common confusion (found also in Chaucer) of the mountain Cithaeron and the island Cythera (Cerigo), where Venus was thought to have risen from the foam of the sea. Citherea (line 50) is another name for Venus based on her association with the island.
66 lich a mayde. The description calls into question the gender of the speaker. Is it a woman who speaks like a youthful girl? Or is it a man whom love has made effeminate? The one interpretation might speak well of love, but which is meant is unclear until line 69, where the speaker is finally identified as male.
80 turkes. Skeat (Chaucerian, p. 542) suggests the adjective "Turkish"; similarly, Friedman states that the Turkish ruby represents infidelity, "as in other works" ("In Love's Thrall," p. 177), but I have been unable to find any supporting references. I have therefore suggested the noun "turkes," or turquoise, considered a semiprecious stone in the Middle Ages: "Turtogis, þat hatte turkeys also, is a white ʒelow stoon and haþ þat name of þe contre of Turkeys þer it is ybred. Þis stoon kepeþ and saveþ þe sight and bredeþ gladnesse and confort" (Trevisa, On the Properties of Things, 2.878 [xvi.lxxxxvi]).
83-91 Phebus shone, to make his pease . . . aftir loves grace. Following Ovid and Chaucer (Complaint of Mars), it is Phoebus (the sun) that is faulted for discovering the adultery of Venus and Mars, those "high estates tweyne" (line 84) caught in Vulcan's net ("in armes cheyned faste" - line 86). Friedman suggests that since Phoebus is in the service of Venus, "light and wisdom are subservient to sensuality in this place" ("In Love's Thrall," p. 177).
94 Jove, Pluto. Jove is another name for the Roman god Jupiter, renowned for his extramarital sexual exploits; Pluto (also known as Hades or Dis) is the god of the underworld. Both usually resort to kidnap and rape rather than laborious courtship.
99 unto Heven it streccheth. The idea of a building so high that it reaches for Heaven itself might remind readers of the tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9. Associating the court of love with that which gave rise to the confusion of tongues (and perhaps also with the vanity and egotism behind it) is another means of subtly undercutting the subject matter.
104-05 the quenes floure / Alceste. The flower of Queen Alceste (i.e., the daisy). Although the story of Alceste and Admetus is also found in Gower (Confessio Amantis 7.1917-43), the allusion is probably more directly to Chaucer's Legend of Good Women in which Alceste is the paragon of wifely fidelity who "for hire housbonde chees to dye, / And eke to goon to helle, rather than he" (F 513-14). She is later transformed into a daisy. The speaker's ignorance of what "tho deyses myght do signifie" is perhaps meant to be facetious given not only Chaucer's own ruminations on the flower but also the corpus of dits amoreaux by Machaut (Dit de la marguerite), Froissart (Dittie de la flour de la marguerite), and Deschamps (Lay de Franchise) known as the "marguerite" poems. See Wimsatt, Chaucer and the French Love Poets.
108 the ladyes gode nineteen. A reference to Chaucer's Legend of Good Women (F 283). Chaucer describes ten good women in nine tales, although manuscripts of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales variously refer to the number as twenty-five, nineteen, and fifteen. See Hammond, "Chaucer's 'Book,'" pp. 514-16.
119 Helise. Elysium, in Greek mythology, the eternal dwelling place of the virtuous, noted chiefly for its clement climate.
129-30 Daunger . . . Disdeyne. These two are also paired in Chaucer's Parliament of Fowls (line 136), and Lydgate's Temple of Glass (line 156). Daunger (Resistance) is the usual foil of Fair Welcoming; see RR (lines 2823-3325).
136 liche a darte. The queen's eyes being like darts might be an oblique reference to the medieval commonplace that love casts a dart into the heart of the lover. The poet's immediate source here is perhaps Chaucer's Knight's Tale, where Arcite proclaims that Emily has slain him with her eyes (CT I[A]1567): "Love hath his firy dart so brennyngly / Ystiked thurgh my trewe, careful herte" (1564-65), though in RR Cupid shoots several of his arrows into the lover's eye.
140 A yarde in length. In this feature this poet's Alceste resembles Chaucer's Emily in The Knight's Tale, whose "yelow heer was broyded in a tresse / Bihynde hir bak, a yerde long, I gesse" (CT I[A]1049-50). See also our poet's description of Rosiall's hair (lines 810-12).
160 Philobone. The name suggests either "good to lovers" (Neilson, Origins and Sources, p. 240), "love of the good," or the "good of love" (Friedman, "In Love's Thrall," p. 178).
171 Mercurius. Mercury, the messenger of the gods. Although he sometimes serves as Jupiter's henchman, his appearance is perhaps a bad omen since in the Aeneid Mercury delivers Jove's command that Aeneas fulfill his duty and leave Carthage for Italy (see Chaucer's Legend of Good Women, F 1297, and House of Fame, lines 427-32).
181 a woman from a swan. An allusion to a popular story, adopted by Boccaccio (Decameron, Introduction to Fourth Day) and La Fontaine (Les Oies de Frere Philippe), in which a boy who has been raised in a cave and shielded from worldly temptations visits Florence and, immediately attracted to some young ladies, is told by his father that they are geese (papere). The point is that young men have an innate affection for females, even though they may not be able to name it properly.
182 spanne. The distance from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the middle or the little finger when the hand is fully extended.
194 bayte on many an hevy mel. Although not listed in Whiting, this sounds proverbial. See also Chaucer's Man of Law's Tale: "On many a sory meel now may she bayte" (CT II[B1]466).
229 glasse. Similarly, in both in Chaucer's House of Fame and Lydgate's Temple of Glass, Venus' temple is made of glass, suggesting, perhaps, not only the privileged nature of courtly erotic desire but also its insubstantiality and impermanence. Painted glass windows depicting faithful (and therefore usually unhappy) lovers are also common in these abodes. But glasse also means mirror, thus, narcissism, as one looks about in a house of mirrors to see only oneself. This scene is most closely imitated from Lydgate's Temple of Glass (lines 44-142).
232 Dydo. Dido is the archetypal betrayed lover; her story is found in Virgil's Aeneid 4, Ovid's Heroides 7, and Chaucer's House of Fame (lines 239-432) and The Legend of Good Women (lines 924-1367).
234-35 Anelida, true . . . Arcite fals. In Chaucer's Anelida and Arcite, Anelida, who was faithful to "fals Arcite" (line 11), describes her ordeal in a long complaint.
255 in white, in russet, and in grene. Skeat suggests that white refers to the Carmelites and russet to hermits (Chaucerian, p. 543). Bell reads the green garments as alluding to "the unfaithfulness of these ecclesiastics to their religious vows" (Poetical Works, p. 140).
266 Another longer lament by cloistered lovers (at lines 1093-1176) somewhat incoherently interrupts Philogenet's introduction to the allegorical denizens of Love's court; although the transition is still rickety, it would make some sense if those twelve stanzas (consisting of two manuscript pages) were inserted here. See my note to line 1092.
270 an ho and crye. To make an outcry or clamor; distinct from the legalistic hue and cry which is more specifically the alarm raised against criminals (MED).
304-504 The firste statute . . . of old antiquité. Such statutes are quite common (compare Ovid's Art of Love, Capellanus' De Amore, and The Ten Commandments of Love [IMEV 590]); those statutes listed here most closely resemble the rules found in RR (lines 2023-2577) and Lydgate's Temple of Glass (lines 1152-1213). The more ribald rules (particularly sixteen and seventeen) are apparently the author's invention.
323 To purchace ever to here. Bell interprets this difficult phrase as "to acquire, or gain over proselytes" (Poetical Works, p. 142).
329 passe forby is an ease. Skeat suggests that this line means that "to pass by, i.e. to get out of his [Love's] way" is "a relief, a way of escape" (Chaucerian, p. 544). Stow reads, "If love be wroth, passe for there by is an ease" (Workes, p. 349v). Even emended, this line makes no sense since the second half of the line should have some bearing on the consequences of love's wrath.
431 The crowe is white. In Ovid's Metamorphoses (Book 2), in an effort to prevent the raven from revealing to Phoebus his wife's infidelity, the crow relates how his own plumage was changed from white to black for telling tales (i.e., the truth). See also Chaucer's Manciple's Tale: "Whit was this crowe as is a snow-whit swan, / And countrefete the speche of every man / He koude, whan he sholde telle a tale" (CT IX[H]133-35). The point of the fifteenth statute is, of course, to tell lies.
506 Rigour. Bell suggests that this personified official denotes "the strictness of the obedience required of his subjects" (Poetical Works, p. 148). But see note to line 521.
521 Rigour. MED n.1a: "Hardness of heart (obdurancy)." Compare La Belle Dame sans Mercy, lines 717-20: "O marble hert, and yet more harde . . . What vayleth you to shewe so gret rigoure?" See Symons, ed., Chaucerian Dream Visions.
536-37 Salamon and Sampson. The standard examples of wisdom and fortitude, neither of which is adequate defense against women's perfidy. For Sampson, see Chaucer's Monk's Tale (CT VII[B2]2015-94). Solomon is, of course, proverbially wise; sometimes his sagacity is attributed to his vast experience with women.
629 sauf that I wist nat where. The comic futility of the poet's presentation of love is neatly summed up by the speaker's impassioned, honest admission that he knows that he loves a lady, knows that he must give a fervent prayer for her graces, yet has no idea who she is or where she might be. He is left to request assignment to "som blissid place" (line 637).
647-48 For hote I love . . . by my trouth. Left to his own imagination, the would-be lover at last thinks of someone he saw in a dream. He wonders if she might be the object of his desires. There is, perhaps, a pun on the word hote, as well. Read one way, the speaker swears (be God and by my trouth - line 648) that he calls (hote - line 647) love, no matter where it is, nothing but the effects that it has on him (line 649). This reading would neatly parallel the beginning of Chaucer's Parliament of Fowls, where the narrator likewise knows love by its reported effects and not "in dede" (line 8). Yet one might also read hote as meaning "hotly"; thus the speaker claims that he loves most passionately, even if he does not know anything specific about the object of his love (not even where she is) aside from the mere fact that he swears he was troubled one night.
685 a figge for all her chastité. The OED lists this as an instance of a construction that conveys the meaning "not at all"; that is, the speaker cares not at all for Diana's chastity. The association with chastity (and thereby with sex), however, could mean that a sexual connotation is also implied. This indecent meaning (usually associated with the phrase "giving the fig" - i.e., making a gesture meant to replicate the female genitalia) is first cited by the OED in Fulwell's Art of Flattery (1579), over 100 years later than the present poem.
701 Pité. Although the personified figure of Pity is commonplace, there is a possible allusion here to Chaucer's Complaint Unto Pity, in which, in a "Bill of Complaint," the speaker unsuccessfully attempts to rally the moribund Pity to ward off Cruelty. Our poem's Pity is, of course, a personification in extremis, for she dies from pity at an eagle eating a fly (lines 702-03).
778-819 The poet's description of Rosiall, including her round head, golden hair, lily forehead, separated eyebrows, starry eyes, pregnant lips, straight and snowy teeth, sweet breath, and braided hair, closely follows Geoffrey of Vinsauf's rhetorical model for how to describe a beautiful woman found in his Nova Poetria. See Murphy, Three Medieval Rhetorical Arts, pp. 54-55.
787 mylke white path. The Milky Way, also referred to in the Middle Ages as the galaxye. Skeat suggests (Chaucerian, p. 547) that the poet refers to the "prominent ridge of Rosial's nose"; Seaton suggests the white skin betweeen the eyebrows (Sir Richard Roos, p. 452); and Friedman suggests the poet is describing Rosiall's "milk-white nose" ("In Love's Thrall," p. 182). Our poet appears to be following Vinsauf: "let the appearance of her eyebrow be like dark blueberries; let a milk-white path divide those twin arches" (Murphy, Three Medieval Rhetorical Arts, p. 54).
798 Maximyan. Cornelius Maximianus Gallus. The reference is to his First Elegy, lines 97-98: "flammea dilexi modicumque tumentia labra, / quae gustata mihi basia plena darent" ("I loved flaming and somewhat swollen lips, which gave me full kisses when tasted"). See Maximianus, Elegies of Maximianus, ed. Webster.
816 grene. Green can be an ambiguous color, associated with not only inconstancy, fickleness, and frivolity, but also youth and fecundity. See Chaucer's "Against Women Unconstant," with its refrain "In stede of blew, thus may ye were al grene." The color can also be emblematic of constancy: in Lydgate's Temple of Glass, his Lady wears green and white (line 299), and in the Legend of Good Women, Chaucer's Alceste is also dressed in green (F 214).
821-24 These lines are lifted from Vinsauf's Nova Poetria (Murphy, Three Medieval Rhetorical Arts, p. 55). Incidentally, it would, no doubt, be better if one's beauty did not catch Jove's attention. Jove's seduction/rape of each of these ladies, as well as the usually unhappy aftermath (occasioned by the jealous Juno) is described in Ovid's Metamorphoses. Calixto (Callisto) bore Jove's son and was turned into a bear (Book 2). Alcenia (Alcmene), the mother of Hercules, was forced to undergo her own Herculean labor as Juno delayed the birth of her son for a week (Book 9). Europa was seduced by Jove in the form of a bull (Book 2). Dane (Danae) was impregnated through the form of a golden shower and bore Perseus (Book 4). And Jove seduced Antiopa as a satyr; she later delivered twins (Book 6).
862 ure, i-blisse. The word ure derives from Latin augurium through the Old French eure, and carries with it the connotations of fortune, destiny, and, as I have glossed it here, luck (see MED eure [n]). The term i-blisse is idiomatic, meaning something like "may God bless me," or "if I may be so blessed by God."
890-96 The entrance of the lady's voice is abrupt and somewhat jarring. Perhaps we are meant to think of this "dialogue" as an internal debate of sorts, possibly akin to discussions between Amans and Genius in Gower's Confessio Amantis.
904-10 The "lady" is understandably confused and concerned. She does not know who this "lover" is, much less what he intends.
912 Philogenet. Our lover's name has been variously interpreted: Friedman suggests "he who generates love" or "love of generation" ("In Love's Thrall," p. 183), and Neilson guesses "a lover born" (Origins and Sources, p. 240).
995 in sounde. Here, the swoon, as in Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde, is an outward sign of the lover's sincerity, and is usually quite efficacious in eliciting the lady's pity.
1016 her coloure gan appeire. For Leonard, it is here that the poem has real "allegorical vitality," insofar as Rosiall's blush suggests "not only her namesake, the Rose of the Roman [de la Rose], but also Christ, the Rose of Sharon, and, more abstractly, Charity, whose symbolic color is red" (Laughter, p. 103).
1040 under hony gall. Proverbial; see Whiting G7; H505.
1092 tender nessh. Nessh[e] (adj.) is often used in conjunction with "tender" to describe a softened, compassionate, or receptive heart, but never as a compound adjective. This reflects the author's practice of sometimes joining two adjectives: e.g., "gentill debonayre" (line 357), "godely fressh" (line 832), "feithfull true" (line 993).
There appears to be a lacunae in the text here with the transition between Flattery's blandishments and the introduction of the malcontent religious having been lost. It seems to me that at line 1093 Philobone is speaking to Philogenet and I have placed the quotation marks accordingly. In addition, the twelve stanzas (lines 1093-1176) which describe the unhappy clerics and nuns seem out of place, since they interrupt Philogenet's discourse with the various allegorical personifications. Having reached this conclusion independently, I nonetheless agree with Neilson (Origins and Sources, pp. 6-7) that it would make some sense if this section followed line 266, where those constrained by religion are first introduced. The three stanzas (lines 1177-90) that follow this section could conceivably be attributed to Flattery, who stands "not ferre" (line 1191) from Dissemble. Neilson suggests that the speaker at line 1177 could be an allegorical figure, Contrite. See note below, line 1177.
1095-1155 The clerical laments are borrowed from Lydgate's Temple of Glass (lines 196-208); see Schick, Lydgate's Temple, pp. cxxix-cxxxi.
1096 blak and white and gray. The colors, respectively, of the Dominican, Carmelite, and Franciscan friars (Skeat, Chaucerian, p. 550).
1157 a sorte full languysshyng. In a scene reminiscent of Dante's Inferno, these grossly deformed lovers may be lepers, who were proverbially thought to be lecherous.
1172 thre of fatall destyné. The three fates of Greek myth: Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos.
1177 he was contrite. I.e., one of the company (line 1170) who has slandered the three sisters "of fatall destyné" (line 1172). In order to make sense of this confusing section, Bell (Poetical Works, p. 173) and Neilson (Origins and Sources, pp. 5-6) suggest that a personified abstraction, Contrite, is the subject of the line. Bell emends to "And there [eek] was Contrite, and gan repent," an emendation that Neilson does not follow.
1192 party mantill. Bell suggests that Dissemble's multicolored clothing represents his duplicity (Poetical Works, p. 173).
1234 broched. Perhaps a double entendre suggesting both pierced and decorated with ornaments.
1259 For the figure of Envy, see Ovid's Metamorphoses (Book 2) where, in an attempt to prevent Mercury from seducing Herse, Minerva visits Envy's house in order to arouse the jealousy of Herse's sister, Aglauros. For meddling in the affair, Aglauros is turned into a statue.
1268 Prevye Thought. Skeat suggests (Chaucerian, p. 551) that this figure is inspired by Douz Penser (Sweet-Thought) in RR (lines 2640-68).
1315 Skeat suggests (Chaucerian, pp. 551-52) for comparison RR (lines 907-85), and Ovid's Metamorphoses (1.470-71), where Cupid has two sets of arrows, one gold and the other iron or lead, corresponding, respectively, to attraction and repulsion. See also Gower's Confessio Amantis 3.1700-05 and The Kingis Quair, stanzas 94-95.
1317 Rosiall is speaking.
1353 To matens went. The notion of the birds' songs or matins in spring as a service or office in praise of love is a popular courtly conceit. In this case, opening phrases from Matins and Lauds of the Divine Office are appropriated to praise the power of erotic love. For a similar macaronic use of scripture see the Birds' Devotions (IMEV 357), Jean de Condé's La Messe des Oiseaux, As I went on a Yol Day (IMEV 377), and The Lovers' Mass (IMEV 4186). On the tradition of bird poems, see Neilson, Origins and Sources, pp. 216-27, and Davenport, "Bird Poems."
1356 Domine, labia. From the Oratio or opening prayer of Matins: "Domine, labia mea aperies" ("O Lord, open my lips").
1359 Venite. From Vulgate Psalm 94, the Invitatory: "Venite, exsultemus Domino" ("Come, let us give praise to the Lord").
1364 Domine, dominus noster. From Vulgate Psalm 8: "Domine, Dominus noster, quam admirabile est nomen tuum in universa terra!" ("Lord our Lord, how admirable is your name in the whole earth!").
1366 Cely enarant. From Vulgate Psalm 18: "Caeli enarrant gloriam Dei" ("The heavens show forth the glory of God").
1370 Domini este terra. Vulgate Psalm 23: "The earth is the Lord's."
1373 Jube, domine. From "Jube, Domine, benedicere" ("Lord, command us to bless"). The versicle of the Absolutio immediately preceeding the first lesson.
1390 gife us all an horne. To scorn or mock (Skeat, Chaucerian, p. 553). Later, of course, to make a cuckold.
1400 tue autem. From "Tu autem, Domine, miserere nobis" ("But you, O Lord, have mercy on us"). The versicle repeated at the conclusion of each lesson.
1401 Te deum amoris. A parody of "Te Deum laudamus" ("God, we praise you") recited at the end of Matins.
1402 Tuball. Tubal was a metalworker (see Gower, Confessio Amantis 4.2425); his brother, Jubal, "was the father of them that play upon the harp and the organs" (Genesis 4:21). Chaucer and others make the same mistake. See Book of the Duchess, line 1162.
1408 Dominus regnavit. From Vulgate Psalm 92, recited at the beginning of Lauds: "Dominus regnavit, decorem indutus est" ("The Lord hath reigned, he is clothed with beauty").
1411 Jubilate. From Vulgate Psalm 99, the second psalm of Lauds: "Jubilate Deo, omnis terra" ("Sing joyfully to God, all the earth").
1413 Benedicite. From the "Canticle of the Three Children" (Daniel 3:57-8:56): "Benedicite, omnia opera Domini, Domino" ("All ye works of the Lord, bless the Lord").
1415 Laudaté. Vulgate Psalm 148: "Laudate Dominum de caelis" ("Praise ye the Lord from the heavens").
1416 O admiribile. The antiphon or refrain following the chapter and hymn.
1423 Benedictus. From the Canticle of Zachary (Luke 1:68-79): "Benedictus Dominus, Deus Israel" ("Blessed be the Lord God of Israel").
1433 hawthorn. In Lydgate's Temple of Glass (lines 503-23), the hawthorn represents fidelity and constancy in love, even under adverse circumstances; appropriately, the hawthorn is an evergreen shrub.
1440 trewe love. The herb paris (Paris quadrifolia), whose leaves and flowers are arranged in whorls of four, and which is usually symbolic of fidelity (MED); Skeat suggests the term may also refer to a truelove knot of herb paris used for ornamentation (Chaucerian, p. 553). See "The Four Leaves of the Truelove" in Fein, Moral Love Songs and Laments, pp. 161-254, where the leaf is linked to the Trinity and Mary.
COURT OF LOVE: TEXTUAL NOTES1 Marginalia. A later hand (probably Beaupré Bell's) has written "by G. Chaucer" in the right-hand margin. John Stow has provided the title "The courte of love" at the top of the page.
With. MS: ith. Space has been left for a 3-line initial that was never filled in. The same thing occurs at lines 43, 302, 1023, and 1352.
8 Tullius. MS: Tulluis.
105 A different hand as written in the margin:"Alceste þe dayse."
143 woneth. MS: weneth.
150 But. MS: B.
189 Than. MS: That.
235 Arcite. MS: Artice.
in peynting. MS: inpenytyng.
246 Lo. MS: To.
270 Throughoute. MS: Though oute, with r inserted above the line.
333 verely. MS: veryeuly.
356 faire. MS: fire.
377 ys. MS: yo.
386 remember. MS: reve canceled before.
403 hartes. MS: nyghtes hartes. See also line 679.
461 As. MS: And.
481 been. MS: but.
483 they. MS: the.
490 soverain. MS: savioure.
494-95 These lines are transposed in MS, corrected by Stow.
495 renewe. MS: revowe.
506 cleped. MS: clepes.
508 prayer. MS: payer.
519 leaves. MS: loves.
530 In MS this line appears at the end of the stanza and marginal markings indicate the correct order.
552 For. MS: Or.
561 pray her. MS: prayer.
595 unto man. MS: unto woman.
605 to. MS omits.
632 Lucerne. MS: Lucorne.
634 ure. MS: use.
639-40 These lines are transposed in MS.
640 This line repeats line 633.
654 that. MS: omits.
679 hartes. See note to line 403.
684 I kepen. MS: in kepen.
694 sormownting. MS: sormowting.
695 force. MS: fore.
703 ete. MS: eke.
710 Aslake. MS: Asshke.
733 mirth. MS: mir.
747 thank. MS: think.
760 hote. MS: ote.
770 gove. MS: you.
798 be. MS: he.
823 Europa. MS: Eurosa.
843 ye. MS: I.
846 grief. MS: give.
847 harm. MS: harte.
853 not. Inserted into MS in a later hand.
860 Loves. MS: Love.
884 refute. MS: refuce.
897 I. MS: and.
901 In MS this line occurs out of place, at the end of the stanza.
911 make it straunge?. Supplied by Skeat.
928 greven. MS: growen.
970 gife. MS: gise.
wounde. MS: wounder.
984 harde. Corrected from harte in MS.
1004 ye might. MS: might.
1009 statutes. MS: steutes.
1012 I I. MS: I.
1036 Dispaire. MS: Displesire.
1039 he. MS: she.
1041 hers. MS: his.
1076 love. MS: verray love.
1077 verray. MS omits.
1083 that women. MS: thou woman.
1108 here. MS: hire.
1116 copes. MS: copies.
1127 matier. MS: matiers.
1146 This line is missing from MS; supplied by Stow.
ourself. Stow: nor selfe.
1203 As. MS: And.
1205 arte. MS: harte.
1222 I ded wowe. MS: ded vowe.
1233 this. MS: the.
1246 Than lieth. MS: That leith.
1270 I. MS omits.
1294 to. MS: from.
1299 so. MS omits.
1305 cold or hoote. MS: hoote or cold.
1313 Twey. MS: Twenty.
1324 shryne. MS: shyne.
1325 ere. MS: eke.
1326 servaunte. MS: servnte, with a written above the line.
1327 brak. MS: blak.
1328 reuth. MS: reich.
1329 than. MS: and.
1331 but. MS: not.
1333 thou. MS: she.
1335 thanken. MS: taken.
1341 here. MS: heree.
1369 this. MS: thus.
1370 Domini. MS: Domine.
1377 singe. MS: signe.
1383 he. MS omits.
1411 sing. MS: sang.
1432 blome. MS: bleme.
With tymeros hert and tremlyng hand of drede,
Of cunnyng naked, bare of eloquence,
Unto the flour of poort in womanhede1
I write, as he that none intelligence
Of metres hath, ne floures of sentence,
Sauf that me list my writing to convey,
In that I can to please her hygh nobley.
The blosmes fresshe of Tullius garden soote
Present thaim not, my matere forto borne;
Poemys of Virgile taken here no rote,
Ne crafte of Galfride may not here sojorne.
Why nam I cunnyng? O well may I morne,
For lak of science, that I can not write,
Unto the princes of my life aright,
No termys digne unto her excellence,
So is she sprong of noble stripe and high;
A world of honoure and of reverence
There is in her, this wille I testifie.
Callyope, thowe sister wise and sly,
And thowe, Mynerva, guyde me with thy grace,
That langage rude my mater not deface.
Thy suger dropes swete of Elicone
Distill in me, thowe gentle muse I pray;
And thee, Melpomene, I calle anone,
Of ignoraunce, the miste to chace away,
And give me grace so forto write and sey,
That she, my lady, of her worthinesse,
Accepte in gree this litill short tretesse,
That is entitled thus The Courte of Love.
And ye that bene metriciens me excuse,
I you beseche for Venus sake above;
For whate I mene in this ye nede not muse.
And yf so be my lady it refuse
For lak of ornat speche, I wolde be woo,
That I presume to her to writen soo.
But myne entent and all my besy cure
Is forto write this tretesse, as I can,
Unto my lady, stable, true, and sure,
Feithfull and kynde, sith first that she began
Me to accept in service as her man;
To her be all the pleasure of this boke,
That when her like, she may it rede and loke.
When I was yong, at eighteen yere of age,
Lusty and light, desirous of plesaunce,
Approchyng on full sadde and ripe corage,
Love arted me to do myn observaunce
To his astate, and doon hym obeysaunce,
Commaundyng me the Courte of Love to see,
A lite beside the mounte of Citharee,
There Citherea goddesse was and quene,
Honowred highly for her majestie;
And eke her sonne, the myghty god, I wene,
Cupyde the blynde, that for his dignyté
A mille lovers worship on theire kne.
There was I bidde, in payn of deth, to pere
By Marcury, the wynged messengere.
So than I went be straunge and ferre contrees,
Enquiryng ay whate costes that it drewe,
The Courte of Love; and thiderward as bees,
At last I se the peple gan pursue.
Anon me thought som wight was there that knewe
Where that the courte was holden, ferre or nye,
And aftir thaim full faste I gan me hie.
Anone as I theim overtoke, I seide,
"Haile frendes, whider purpose ye to wende?"
"For sothe," quod one, that aunswered lich a mayde,
"To Loves Courte nowe goo we, gentill frend."
"Where is that place," quod I, "my felowe hend?"
"At Citheron, sir," seid he, "withoute dowte,
The Kyng of Love and all his noble rowte,
Dwellyng withynne a castell ryally."
So than apace I jorned forth among,
And as he seid, so fond I there truly:
For I behelde the towres high and strong,
And high pynacles, large of hight and long,
With plate of gold bespredde on every side,
And presious stone the stonewerke forto hide.
No saphir Ind, no rubé riche of price,
There lakked thaime, nor emerawd so grene,
Bales, turkes, ne thing to my devise,
That may the castell maken forto shene;
All was as bright as sterres in wynter bene.
And Phebus shone, to make his pease agayne,
For trespace doon to high estates tweyne --
Venus and Mars, the god and goddesse clere --
When he theim founde in armes cheyned faste.
Venus was than full sad of harte and chere,
But Phebus bemes, streight as is the maste,
Upon the castell gynith he to cast,
To please the lady, princesse of that place,
In signe he loketh aftir loves grace.
For there nys god in Heven or Helle, iwis,
But he hath ben right soget unto love:
Jove, Pluto, or whatesoever he is,
Ne creature in erth, or yet above;
Of thise the revers may no wight approve.
But furthermore, the castell to discrive,
Yet sawe I never none so large and high,
For unto Heven it streccheth, I suppose.
Withynne and oute depeynted wonderly,
With many a thousand daisy, rede as rose,
And white also, this sawe I verely;
But whate tho deyses myght do signifie,
Can I not tell, sauf that the quenes floure,
Alceste yit was, that kepte there her sojoure,
Which under Venus lady was and quene,
And Admete kyng and soverayn of that place,
To whom obeide the ladyes gode nineteen,
With many a thowsand other, bright of face.
And yong men fele came forth with lusty pace,
And aged eke, theire homage to dispose;
But whate thay were, I cowde not well disclose.
Yet nere and nere furth in I gan me dresse,
Into an halle of noble apparayle,
With arras spred and cloth of gold, I gesse,
And other silke of esier availe;
Under the cloth of theire estate, saunz faile,
The kyng and quene ther sat, as I beheld;
It passed joye of Helise the feld.
There saintes have theire commyng and resort
To seen the kyng, so ryally beseen,
In purple clad, and eke the quene, in sort;
And on theire hedes sawe I crownes twayn,
With stones frett so that it was no payne,
Withouten mete and drynke, to stand and see
The kynges honor and the ryaltie.
And forto trete of states with the kyng,
That bene of councell chief, and with the quene,
The kyng had Daunger nere to hym standyng,
The Quene of Love, Disdeyne, and that was seen;
For by the feith I shall to God, I wene,
Was never straunger in her degree
Than was the quene in castyng of her ye.
And as I stode perceyvyng her apart,
And eke the bemes shynyng of her yen,
Me thought thay were shapyn liche a darte,
Sherpe and persyng, smale, and streight as lyne.
And all her here, it shone as gold so fyne,
Disshivill, crispe, downe hyngyng at her bak
A yarde in length; and southly, than I spake:
"O bright Regina who made thee so faire?
Who made thy colour vermelet and white?
Where woneth that god? Howe fer above the eyre?
Grete was his crafte, and grete was his delite.
Now marvel I nothing that ye do hight
The Quene of Love, and occupie the place
Of Citharé; nowe, swete lady, thi grace."
In mewet spake I, so that nought astert,
By no condicion, worde that myght be harde;
But in myne inward thought I gan adverte
And oft I seid, "My witte is dulle and harde!"
For with her bewtie thus, God wot, I ferde
As doth the man i-ravisshed with sight,
Whenne I beheld her cristall yen so bright,
No respect havyng whate was best to doon.
Till right anon, beholding here and there,
I spied a frend of myne, and that full sone;
A gentil woman was the chamberer
Unto the quene, that hote, as ye shall here,
Philobone, that loved all her life.
Whan she me sey she led me furth as blyfe,
And me demaunded howe, and in whate wise,
I thider come and whate myne erand was.
"To sene the courte," quod I, "and all the guyse,
And eke to sue for pardon and for grace,
And mercy aske for all my grete trespace,
That I none erst come to the Courte of Love;
Forgeve me this ye goddes all above."
"That is well seid," quod Philobone, "in dede;
But were ye not assomaned to apere
By Mercurius? For that is all my drede."
"Yis, gentill feire," quod I, "nowe am I here.
Ye, yit whate thowe, though that be true, my dere?"
"Of youre fre wille ye shuld have come unsent;
For ye dide not I deme ye wille be shent.
"For ye that reigne in youth and lustynesse,
Pampired with ease, and joylof in youre age,
Youre dewtie is, as ferre as I canne gesse,
To Loves Courte to dressen youre viage,
As sone as nature maketh you so sage,
That ye may knowe a woman from a swan,
Or whanne youre fote is growen half a spanne.
"But sith that ye, be wilfull necgligence,
This eighteen yere have kepte youre self at large,
The gretter is youre trespace and offence,
And in youre nek ye motte bere all the charge;
For better were ye ben withouten barge,
A midde se in tempest and in rayne,
Than byden here receyvyng woo and payne,
"That ordeyned is for suche as thaim absente
Fro Loves Courte by yeres long and fele.
I ley my lyf ye shall full sone repent,
For Love wille reyve youre coloure, lust, and hele;
Eke ye most bayte on many an hevy mel.
No force, iwis, I stired you long agoone
To drawe to courte," quod litell Philobon.
"Ye shall well se howe rowhe and angry face
The Kyng of Love will shewe when ye hym se.
By myne advyse, knele downe and aske hym grace,
Eschewing perell and adversitee;
For welle I wot it wolle none other be,
Comforte is none, ne councell to youre ease.
Why wille ye thanne the Kyng of Love displese?"
"O mercy god," quod iche, "I me repent;
Caytif and wrecche, in hert, in wille, and thought.
And aftir this shall be myne hole entent
To serve and please, howe dere that love be bought;
Yit sith I have myne owen penaunce i-sought,
With humble sprite shall I it receyve,
Though that the Kyng of Love my life bereyve.
"And though the fervent loves qualité
In me did never worche truly, yit I,
With all obeysaunce and humilité,
And benigne harte, shall serve hym till I dye.
And he, that lord of myghtes, grete and high,
Right as hym lyste, me chastice and correcte,
And punyssh me with trespace thus enfecte."
Thise wordes seid, she caught me by the lap,
And led me furth intill a temple round,
Large, and wyde; and as my blessed hap
And gode aventure was, right sone I founde
A tabernacle reised from the grounde,
Where Venus sat, and Cupide by her side;
Yit half for drede I gan my visage hide.
And eft agayn I loked and behild,
Seyng full sundry peple in the place,
And myster folke, and som that myght not wild
Theire lymmes wele, me thought a wounder case;
The temple shone with wyndowes all of glasse,
Bright as the day, with many a feire ymage.
And there I sey the fressh quene of Cartage,
Dydo, that brent her bewtie for the love
Of fals Eneas; and the weymyntyng
Of hir Anelida, true as turtill dove,
To Arcite fals; and there was in peynting
Of many a prince and many a doughty kyng
Whose marterdom was shewed aboute the walles;
And howe that feale for love had suffred falles.
But sore I was abasshed and stonyed
Of all thoo folke that there were in that tide;
And than I asked where thay hade woned:
"In dyvers courtes," quod she, "here beside."
In sondry clothing, mantilwise full wide,
They were arrayed, and did theire sacrifice
Unto the god and goddesse in theire guyse.
"Lo, yonder folke," quod she, "that knele in blewe,
Thay were the coloure ay, and ever shall,
In signe thay were, and ever will be true,
Withouten chaunge; and southly, yonder all
That ben in blak with mornyng, cry and calle
Unto the goddes, for theire loves bene
Some ferre, some dede, some all to sherpe and kene."
"Ye than," quod I, "whate done thise prestes here,
Nonnes, and hermytes, freres, and all thoo
That sit in white, in russet, and in grene?"
"For soth," quod she, "thay waylen of theire woo:
'O mercy lord, may thay so come and goo
Frely to court, and have suche libertie?'
Ye, men of eche condicion and degree,
"And women eke; for truly there is none
Excepcion made ne never was, ne may:
This courte is ope and fre for everychone.
The Kyng of Love, he wille nat say thaim nay;
He takith all, in poore or riche arraye,
That mekely sewe unto his excellence
With all theire harte and all theire reverence."
And walkyng thus aboute with Philobone,
I se where come a messengere in high,
Streight from the kyng, which let commaunde anon,
Throughoute the courte to make an ho and crye:
"A! Newe come folke, abide! And wote ye whye?
The kynges luste is forto seen youe sone.
Come nere, let se! His wille mote nede be done."
Than gan I me present tofore the kyng,
Tremelyng for fere, with visage pale of hewe;
And many a lover with me was knelyng,
Abasshed sore, till unto the tyme thay knewe
The sentence gove of his entent full trewe.
And at the laste the kyng hath me behold,
With sterne visage, and seid, "Whate doth this old,
"Thus ferre i-stope in yeres, come so late
Unto the courte?" "For soth, my liege," quod I,
"An hundred tyme I have ben at the gate
Afore this tyme, yit coude I never espye
Of myne acqueyntaunce eny with myne ye,
And shamefastnes away me gane to chace,
But nowe I me submytte unto your grace."
"Well, all is perdoned, with condicion:
That thowe be trewe from hensforth to thy myght,
And serven love in thyne entencion.
Swere this and thanne, as fer as it is right,
Thowe shalte have grace here in my quenes sight."
"Yis, by the feith I owe youre crowne, I swere,
Though Deth therfore me thirlith with his spere."
And whan the kyng had sene us everychone,
He let commaunde an officer in hie
To take oure feith, and shewe us, one by one,
The statutis of the courte full besyly.
Anon the boke was leide before her ye,
To rede and se whate thyng we most observe
In Loves Courte, till that we dye and sterve.
And, for that I was lettred, there I redde
The statutis hole of Loves Courte and halle.
The firste statute that on the boke was spred,
Was to be true, in thought and dedes all,
Unto the Kyng of Love, the lord ryall,
And to the quene, as feithfull and as kynde,
As I coude thynke, with harte, and wille, and mynde.
The secunde statute: Secretely to kepe
Councell of love, nat blowyng everywhere
All that I knowe, and let it synk and flete,
It may not sowne in every wightes ere;
Exilyng slaunder ay for dred and fere,
And to my lady, which I love and serve,
Be true and kynde, her grace forto deserve.
The thridde statute was clerely write also:
Withouten chaunge, to lyve and dye same,
None other love to take, for wele ne woo,
For brynde delite, for ernest nor for game,
Withoute repent, for laughyng or for grame;
To biden still in full perseveraunce --
All this was hole the kynges ordynaunce.
The fourth statute: To purchace ever to here,
And stiren folke to love, and beten fire
On Venus awter, here aboute and there,
And preche to thaym of love and hote desire,
And tell howe love will quyten well theire hire;
This must be kepte -- and loth me to displease --
Yf love be wroth, passe forby is an ease.2
The fifth statute: Not to be daungerous,
Yf that a thought wold reyve me of my slepe,
Nor of a sight to be oversquymouse;
And so verely this statute was to kepe,
To turne and walowe in my bed and wepe,
When that my lady, of her crueltie,
Wold from her harte exilyn all pyté.
The sixte statute (it was for me to use):
Alone to wander, voyde of company,
And on my ladys bewtie forto muse,
And to thinke no force to lyve or dye;
And eft agayn to thynke the remedy,
Howe to her grace I myght anon attayn,
And tell my woo unto my souverayn.
The seventh statute was to be pacient,
Whether my lady joyfull were or wroth,
For wordes glad or hevy; dilygent,
Wheder that she me helden lefe or loth;
And hereupon I put was to myn othe,
Hir forto serve, and lowly to obey,
And shewing my chere, ye, twenty sith aday.
The eighth statute, to my remembraunce,
Was to speke and pray my lady dere
With hourely laboure, and grete attendaunce,
Me forto love with all her harte entier,
And me desire, and make me joyfull chere,
Right as she is, surmountyng every faire,
Of bewtie well, and gentill debonayre.
The ninth statute, with lettres writ of gold:
This was the sentence how that I, and all,
Shuld ever dred to be to over bolde
Her to displease -- and truly so I shall --
But ben content for thyng that may falle,
And mekely take her chastisement and yerde,
And to offende her ever ben aferd.
The tenth statute was egally discerne
Bytwene thy lady and thyn abilitee,
And thynke thyself arte never like to yerne,
By right, her mercy, nor of equité,
But of her grace and womanly pitee;
For though thyself be noble in thy strene,
A thowsand-fold more nobill is thy quene,
Thy lives lady and thy souverayn,
That hath thyne harte all hole in governaunce.
Thow maist no wise hit taken to disdayne,
To put thee humbly at her ordynaunce,
And yf her free the reyne of her plesaunce;
For libertie ys thing that woman loke,
And truly ellis the mater is acroke.
The eleventh statute: Thy signes forto knowe,
With ie, and fynger, and with smyles soft,
And lowe to kowigh, and always forto shon,
For dred of spies, forto wynken ofte;
But secretly to bring up a sigh aloft,
And eke beware of over moche resorte,
For that, peraventure, spilleth all thy sporte.
The twelfth statute remember to observe:
For all the payne thow haste for love and wo,
All is to lite her mercy to deserve,
Thow must thou thynke where ever thow ride or goo;
And mortall woundes suffer thow also,
All for her sake, and thynke it well beset
Upon thy love, for it may be no bette.
The thirteenth statute, whilom is to thynke,
Whate thyng may best thy lady lyke and please,
And in thyne hartes botom let it synke;
Som think devise, and take for thyne ease,
And sent it her, that may her harte pease:
Some hert, or ryng, or lettre, or devise,
Or precious stone -- but spare not for no price!
The fourteenth statute eke thou shalte assay
Formely to kepe the most parte of thy life:
Wisshe that thy lady in thyne armes lay,
And nyghtly dreme thow hast thy hartes wife
Swetely in armes, straynyng her as blife;
And whanne thou seest it is but fantasy,
Se that thow syng not over merely,
For to moche joye hath oft a wofull end.
It longith eke, this statute forto hold:
To deme thy lady evermore thy frende,
And thynke thyself in nowise a cocold.
In every thing she doth but as she shuld;
Construe the beste, beleve no tales newe,
For many a lie is told that semyth full trewe.
But thinke that she, so bounteous and fayre,
Cowde not be fals; imagyne this algate.
And thinke that tonges wykked wold her appaier,
Sklaunderyng her name and worshipfull estate,
And lovers true to setten at debate;
And though thow seest a fawte right at thyne ye,
Excuse it blive and glose it pretily.
The fifteenth statute: Use to swere and stare,
And counterfete a lesyng hardely,
To save thy ladys honoure everywhare,
And put thyself to fight boldely.
Sey she is gode, vertuous, and gostely,
Clere of entent, and harte, and thought, and wille;
And argue not, for reson ne for skille,
Agayne thy ladys plesire ne entent,
For love wille not be counterpleted, in dede.
Sey as she seith, than shalte thowe not be shent:
"The crowe is white"; "Ye, truly, so I rede!"
And ay whate thyng that she thee wille forbidde,
Eschewe all that, and give her soverentie;
Hir appetide felawe in all degree.
The sixteenth statute, kepe it yf thow may!
Seven sith at nyght thy lady forto please,
And seven at mydnyght, seven at moroweday;
And drynke a cawdell erly for thyne ease.
Do this, and kepe thyne hede from all dyssease,
And wynne the garland here of lovers alle,
That ever come in courte, or ever shalle.
Full fewe, thynke I, this statute hold and kepe!
But truly, this, my reason giveth me fele:
That som lovers shuld rather fall aslepe,
Than take on hand to please so ofte and wele.
There lay none othe to this statute adele,
But kepe who myght, as gave hym his corage.
Nowe get this garlant lusty folke of age;
Nowe wynne whoo may, ye lusty folke of youth,
This garland fressh, of floures rede and white,
Purpill and blewe, and colours fel uncowth,
And I shall crowne hym kyng of all delite!
In all the courte there was not, to my sight,
A lover trewe, that he ne was adrede,
Whan he expresse hath hard the statute redde.
The seventeenth statute: When age approchith on,
And lust is leide, and all the fire is queynt,
As fresshly than thowe shalte begyn to fonne,
And dote in love, and all her ymage paynte
In the remembraunce till thow begyn to faynte,
As in the firste season thyne hart beganne.
And her desire, though thowe ne may ne can
Perfourme thy lyvyng actuell, and lust,
Regester this in thy remembraunce.
Eke whan thow maist not kepe thy thing from rust,
It speke and talke of plesaunt dalyaunce,
For that shall make thyne harte rejoyse and daunce;
And when thou maist no more the gam assay,
The statute bidde thee pray for hem that may.
The eighteenth statute, holy to commende
To please thy lady, is that thow eschewe
With sluttishnesse thyself forto offend;
Be jolif, fresshe, and fete with thinges newe,
Courtly with maner -- this is all thy due --
Gentill of porte, and loving clenlynesse,
This is the thing that liketh thi mastresse.
And not to wander liche a dulled asse,
Ragged and torn, disguysed in array,
Rybaude in speche, or oute of mesure passe,
Thy bounde excedyng; thynk on this always.
For women been of tender hartes aye,
And lightly set theire plesire in a place;
When they misthinke, they lightly let it passe.
The nineteenth statute: Mete and drynke forgete!
Eche other day, se that thow fast for love,
For in the courte thei live withouten mete,
Sauf suche as comyth from Venus all above;
Thei take none hede, in payne of grete reprove,
Of mete and drynke, for that is all in vayn;
Only they live be sight of theire soverain.
The twentieth statute, last of everychone,
Enrolle it in thyn harte privité:
To wring and waile, to turne, and sigh, and grone,
When that thy lady absent is from thee;
And eke renewe the wordes that she
Bitwene you twayn hath seid, and all the chere
That thee hath made, thy lives lady dere.
And se thyne harte, in quiete ne in rest,
Sojorne to tyme thowe sene thy lady eft;3
But where she wonne be south, or est, or west,
With all thy force, nowe se it be not left.
Be diligent, till tyme thy life be reft,
In that thowe maist, thy lady forto see;
This statute was of old antiquité.
An officer of high auctorité,
Cleped Rigour, made us swere anon
(He nas corrupt with parcialyté,
Favor, prayer, ne gold that cherely shone):
"Ye shall," quod he, "nowe sweren here ecchone,
Yong and old, to kepe in that they may,
The statutes truly all aftir this day."
O god, thought I, hard is to make this oth;
But to my power shall I thaim observe.
In all this world nas mater half so loth,
To swere for all; for though my body sterve,
I have no myght the hole forto reserve.
But herkyn nowe the cace how it befell:
Aftir my othe was made, the trouth to telle,
I turned leaves, lokyng on this boke,
Where other statutes were of women shene;
And right furthwith, Rigour on me gan loke
Full angrily, and seid unto the quene
I traitour was, and charged me let bene.
"There may no man," quod he, "the statute know,
That long to woman, hie degree ne low.
"In secrete wise thay kepten ben full close,
They sowne ecchone to Libertie, my frend;
Pleasaunt thay be, and to theire owen purpose.
There wot no wight of thaim but God and fend,
Ne naught shall witte, unto the worldes ende.
The quene hath gove me charge, in payne to dye,
Never to rede ne sen thaim with myne ye.
"For men shall not so nere of councell ben
With womanhode, ne knowen of her guyse,
Ne whate they thinke, ne of there wit th'engene;
I me reporte to Salamon the wise,
And mighty Sampson, which begyled thries
With Dalida was; he wot that, in a throwe,
There may no man statute of women knowe.
"For it paraventure may right so befalle,
That they be bounde be nature to disceyve,
And spynne, and wepe, and sugre strewe on gall,
The hart of man to ravissh and to reyve,
And whet theire tong as sharpe as swerd or gleyve;
It may betide, this is theire ordynaunce.
So must thei lowly done the observaunce,
"And kepe the statute goven thaim of kynde,
Or suche as love hath gove hem in theire life.
Men may not wete why turneth every wynde,
Nor waxen wise, nor ben inquisytyf
To knowe secret of mayde, widue, or wife.
For thai theire statutes have to thaim reserved,
And never man to knowe thaim hath deserved.
"Now dresse you furth, the god of love you guyde!"
Quod Rigour than, "and sike the temple bright
Of Cithera, goddes here beside.
Beseche her, by enfluence and myght
Of all her vertue, you to teche aright
How forto serve youre ladis, and to please,
Ye that ben sped, and set your hart in ease.
"And ye that ben unpurveied, pray her eke,
Comforte you sone with grace and destiné,
That ye may set youre hart there ye may like,
In suche a place, that it to love may be
Honoure, and worship, and filicité
To you for ay. Now goth, by one assent."
"Graunt mercy, sir," quod we, and furth we went
Devoutly, soft and esy pace, to se
Venus the goddes ymage, all of gold;
And there we founde a thousand on theire kne,
Sum fressh and feire, som dedely to behold,
In sondry mantils newe, and some were old,
Som paynted were with flames rede as fire,
Outeward to shewe theire inwarde hote desire:
With dolefull chere, full feele in theire complaynt
Cried, "Lady Venus, rewe upon oure sore!
Receyve oure billes with teres all bedreynte;
We may not wepe, there is no more in store,
But woo and payne us frettith more and more.
Thow blessedfull planet, lovers sterre so shene,
Have rowth on us, that sigh and carefull bene.
"And ponysshe, lady, grevously, we pray,
The false untrew with counterfete plesaunce,
That made theire othe, be trewe to live or dye,
With chere assured, and with countenaunce;
And falsely now thay foten loves daunce,
Baron of rewth, untrue of that they seid,
Now that theire lust and plesire is alleide."
Yit eft again, a mille milion,
Rejoysing love, ledyng theire life in blisse,
Thay seid: "Venus, redresse of all divysion,
Goddes eternel, thy name i-hired is!
By loves bond is knyt all thing, iwis:
Best unto best, the erth to water wanne,
Birde unto bird, and woman unto man.
"This is the life of joye that we ben in,
Resemblyng life of hevenly paradyse.
Love is exiler ay of vice and synne;
Love maketh hartes lusty to devise.
Honoure and grace have thay in every wise,
That ben to loves lawe obedyent.
Love makith folke benigne and diligent,
"Ay steryng theim to drede vice and shame.
In theire degree it maketh thaim honorable,
And swete it is of love to bere the name,
So that his love be feithfull, true, and stable.
Love prunyth hym to semen amyable;
Love hath no faute there it is excercised,
But sole with theim that have all love dispised.
"Honoure to thee, celestiall and clere
Goddes of love, and to thi celcitude,
That gevest us light so ferre downe from thi spere,
Persing our hartes with thi pulcritude.
Compersion none of similitude
May to thi grace be made in no degré,
That hast us set with love in unité.
"Grete cause have we to prayse thy name and thee,
For through thee we live in joye and blisse.
Blessed be thowe, most souverayn to se.
Thi holy courte of gladnesse may not mysse:
A thousand sith we may rejoise in this,
That we ben thyne with harte and all i-fere,
Enflamed with thi grace and hevynly fere."
Musyng of tho that spakyn in this wise,
I me bethought, in my remembraunce,
Myne oryson right godely to devise,
And pleasauntly, with hartes obeysaunce,
Beseche the goddes voiden my grevaunce:
For I loved eke, sauf that I wist nat where.
Yet downe I set and seid as ye shall here:
"Feirest of all that ever were or be,
Lucerne and light to pensif creature,
Myne hole affiaunce and my lady fre,
My goddes bright, my fortune, and my ure,
I geve and yeld my harte to thee, full sure,
Humbly beseching lady, of thi grace,
Me to bestowe into som blissed place.
"And here I vowe me feithfull, true, and kynde,
Withoute offence of mutabilité,
Humbly to serve, while I have witte and mynde,
Myne hole affiaunce, and my lady free,
In thilke place there ye me signe to be.
And sith this thing, of newe, is gove to me,
To love and serve, and nedely, most I obey.
"Be merciable with thi fire of grace,
And fix myne harte there bewtie is, and routh.
For hote I love, determyne in no place,
Sauf only this, be God and by my trouth:
Trowbled I was with slomber, slepe, and slouth
This other nyght, and in a vision
I se a woman romen up and downe --
"Of mene stature, and semly to behold,
Lusty and fressh, demure of countynaunce,
Yong and wel shap, with here that shone as gold,
With yen as cristall fercid with plesaunce --
And she gan stir myne harte alite to daunce;
But sodenly, she vanyssh gan right there.
Thus I may sey I love and wot not where!
"For whate she is, ne her dwellyng, I note,
And yit I fele that love distrayneth me;
Might iche her knowe, that wold I fayne, God wot,
Serve and obey with all benignité.
And yf that other by my destiné,
So that nowise I shall hir never see,
Than graunte me her that best may liken me,
"With glad rejoyse to live in parfite hele,
Devoide of wrath, repent, or variaunce.
And able me to do that may be wele
Unto my lady, with hartes hie plesaunce.
And, myghty goddes, through thy purviaunce,
My witte, my thought, my lust, and love so guyde,
That to thyne honoure I may me provyde
"To set myne harte in place there I may like,
And gladly serve with all affeccion.
Grete is the payn which at myne hart doth styke,
Till I be sped by thyne eleccion.
Helpe, lady goddes, that possession
I might of her have, that in all my life
I clepen shall my quene and hartes wife.
"And in the Courte of Love to dwell, for aye,
My wille it is, and done thee sacryfice
Dayly, with Diane eke, forto fight and fraye,
And holden werre as myght well me suffice.
That goddes chaste I kepen in no wise4
To serve; a figge for all her chastité!
Hir lawe is for religiosité!"
And thus gan fynyssh prerer, lawde, and preice
Which that I gove to Venus on my kne;
And in myne harte to ponder and to peice,
I gave anon hir ymage fressh bewtie:
"Heile to that figure swete, and heile to thee,
Cupide," quod I, and rose and yede my way.
And in the temple as I yede I sey
A shryne sormownting all in stones riche,
Of which the force was plesaunce to myne ye;
With diamant or saphire nevir liche
I have none seyen, ne wrought so wounderly.
So whan I met with Philobone, in hie
I gan demaund, "Who is this sepulture?"
"Forsoth," quod she, "a tender creature
"Ys shryned there, and Pité is her name.
She saw an egle wreke hym on a flye,
And pluk his wynge, and ete hym in his game;
And tender harte of that hath made her dye.
Eke she wold wepe and morne right piteously,
To sene a lover suffre grete destresse.
In all the courte nas none that, as I gesse,
"That coude a lover have so well availe,
Ne of his woo, the torment or the rage,
Aslake, for he was sure, withouten faile,
That of his gryfe she coude the hete aswage.
Insted of Pité, spedeth hote corage,
The maters all of courte, now she is dede;
I me report in this to womanhode.
"For weile and wepe, and crye, and speke, and pray --
Women wold not have pité on thi playnt;
Ne by that meane to ease thyne hart convey,
But thee receyven for theire owen talent,
And sey that Pité causith thee, in consent
Of rewth, to take thy service and thy payne
In that thow maist, to please thy souverayn.
"But this is councell, kepe it secretly,"
Quod she, "I nold for all the world abowte,
The Quene of Love it wist. And witte ye why?
For yf, by me, this mater spryngen oute,
In courte no lenger shuld I, owte of dowte,
Dwellen, but shame in all my life endry.
Nowe kepe it close," quod she, "this hardely.
"Well, all is well nowe, shall ye sene," she seid,
"The feirest lady under sonne that is!
Come on with me, demeane you liche a mayde,
With shamefast drede, for ye shall spede, iwis,
With her that is the mirth, and joye, and blisse --
But sumwhate straunge and sad of her demeane
She is -- beware youre countenaunce be sene,
"Nor over light, ne rechelesse, ne to bold,
Ne malapert, ne rymyng with your tong.
For she will you abeisen and behold,
And you demaund why ye were hens so long
Oute of this courte, withouten resorte among;
An Rosiall her name is hote aright,
Whose harte is yet goven to no wight.
"And ye also ben, as I understond,
With love but light avaunced, by your worde;
Might ye, be happe, youre fredome maken bond,
And fall in grace with her, and wele accorde,
Well myght ye thank the god of love and lord.
For she that ye sawe in youre dreme appere,
To love suche one, whate ar thee than the nere?
"Yit wote ye whate? As my remembraunce
Me gevith nowe, ye fayne where that ye sey
That ye with love had never acqueyntaunce,
Sauf in your dreme right late this other day.
Why, yis, pardé! my life -- that durst I lay --
That ye were caught opon an heth, when I
Saw you complayn and sigh full piteously.
"Withynne an erber and a garden faier,
With floures growe and herbes vertuse,
Of which the savour swete was and the heire,
There were youre self full hote and amerous:
Iwis, ye ben to nyse and daungerouce.
A! Wold ye nowe repent, and love some newe?"
"Nay, by my trouth," I seid, "I never knewe
"The godely wight, whoes I shall be for aye.
Guyde me the lord that love hath made and me."
But furth we went intill a chambre gay:
There was Rosiall, womanly to se,
Whose stremes, sotell persyng, of her ye
Myne harte gann thrill for bewtie in the stound.
"Alas," quod I, "whoo hath me gove this wounde?"
And than I dred to speke, till at the laste
I grete the lady reverently and wele,
Whan that my sigh was gon and over past;
And downe on knees full humbly gan I knele,
Beseching her my fervent woo to kele,
For there I toke full purpose, in my mynde,
Unto her grace my paynfull harte to bynde.
For yf I shall all fully her discryve,
Her hede was rounde, by compace of nature;
Here here as gold -- she passed all on live --
And lylly forhede had this creature,
With loveliessh browes, flawe, of coloure pure,
Bytwene the whiche was mene disseveraunce
From every browe, to shewe a distaunce.
Her nose, directed streight and even as lyne
With fourme and shap therto convenient,
In which the goddes mylke white path doth shyne;
And eke her yen ben bright and orient
As is the smaragde, unto my juggement,
Or yet thise sterres hevenly, smale, and bright.
Hir visage is of lovely rede and white,
Her mouth is shorte and shitte in litill space,
Flamyng somdele, not over rede, I mene,
With prengnaunte lippes, and thik to kisse, percas!
For lippes thynne, not fatte, but ever lene,
They serve of naught, thay be not worth a bene.
For yf the basse ben full, there is delite,
Maximyan truly thus doth be write.
But to my purpose: I sey, white as snowe
Ben all her teth, and in order thay stand
Of one stature; and eke her breth, I trowe,
Surmounteth all oders, that ever I found,
In switnesse; and her body, face, and hond
Ben sharply slender, so that from the hede
Unto the fote, all is but womanhede.
I hold my pease of other thinges hidde:
Here shall my soule, and not my tong, bewry.
But how she was arrayed, yf ye me bidde,
That shall I well discover you and say:
A bend of gold and silke, full fressh and gay,
With her in tresse, browdered full well,
Right smothly kepte and shynyng every dele.
Aboute her nec a floure of fressh devise
With rubies set, that lusty were to sene;
And she in gowne was, light and somerwise,
Shapen full wele, the coloure was of grene,
With awreat seint aboute her sides clene,
With dyvers stones, precious and riche:
Thus was she raied, yit saugh I never her liche.
For yf that Jove had this lady seyn,
Tho Calixto ne Alcenia,
Thay never hadden in his armes leyne;5
Ne he had loved the faire Europa,
Ye, ne yit Dane, ne Antiopa!
For all theire bewtie stode in Rosiall;
She semed lich a thyng celestiall
In bownté, favor, porte, and semlynesse,6
Plesaunt of figure, myrroure of delite,
Gracious to sene, and rote of gentilnesse,
With angell visage, lusty, rede and white.
There was not lak, sauf Daunger had, a lite,
This godely fressh in rule and governaunce;
And somdele straunge she was, for her plesaunce.
And, truly, sone I toke my leve and went
Whanne she had me enquired whate I was;
For more and more impressen gan the dent
Of loves darte, while I beheld her face;
And eft agayn I com to seken grace,
And up I put my bille, with sentence clere,
That folowith aftir; rede and ye shall here:
"O ye fressh, of bewtie the rote,
That nature hath fourmed so wele and made
Pryncesse and quene! And ye that may do bote
Of all my langoure with youre wordes glad!
Ye wounded me, ye made me wo bestad;
Of grace, redresse my mortall grief, as ye,
Of all myne harm, the verrey causer be.
"Now am I caught, and unware sodenly,
With persant stremes of your yen clere,
Subjecte to ben, and serven you mekely,
And all youre man, iwis, my lady dere;
Abidyng grace, of which I you require,
That merciles ye cause me not to sterve,
But guerdon me liche as I may deserve.
"For, by my trouth, the dayes of my breth,
I am and wille be youre in wille and harte,
Pacient and meke, for you to suffree dethe
If it require; nowe rewe upon my smert!
And this I swere: I never shall oute sterte
From Loves Courte for none adversité,
So ye wold rewe on my distresse and me.
"My destiné, and me fate, and ure, i-blisse,
That have me set to ben obedient
Only to you, the floure of all, iwis;
I truste to Venus never to repent --
Forever redy glad and dyligent
Ye shall me fynde, in service to your grace,
Tyll deth my life oute of my body rase.
"Humble unto your excellence so digne,
Enforcyng ay my wittes and delite
To serve and please with glad harte and benigne,
And ben as Troylus, Troyes knyghte,
Or Antony for Cleapatre bright,
And never you me thynkes to reney:
This shall I kepe unto myne endyng day.
"Enprint my speche in youre memoriall
Sadly, my princes, salve of all my sore!
And think that, for I wold becommen thrall,
And ben youre owyn, as I have seid before,
Ye most of pité cherissh more and more
Youre man, and tender aftir his deserte,
And yf hym corage forto ben expert.
"For where that one hath sette his harte on fire,
And fyndeth nether refute, ne plesaunce,
Ne worde of comforte, deth will quite his hire.
Allas, that there is none allegaunce
Of all theire woo! Allas, the grete grevaunce
To love unloved! But ye, my lady dere,
In other wise may governe this matere."
"Truly, gramercy, frende, of your gode wille,
And of youre profer, in youre humble wise.
But for youre service, take and kepe it stille;
And where ye say, I ought you well cheryssh,
And of youre gref the remedy devise,
I knowe not why: I nam acqueynted well
With you ne wote not, southly, where ye dwell."
"In arte of love I write, and songes make,
That may be song in honour of the Kyng
And Quene of Love; and than I undertake,
He that is sadde shall than full mery syng.
And daungerus not ben in everything
Beseche I you, but sene my wille and rede,
And let your aunswere put me oute of drede."
"Whate is youre name? Reherse it here, I pray,
Of whens, and where, of whate condicion,
That ye ben of. Let se, com of, and say!
Fayne wold I knowe your dysposicioun;
Ye have putte uppon youre old entencioun,
But whate ye meane to serve me I nete,
Sauf that ye say ye love me wounder hete."
"My name, allas, my hart, why make it straunge?
Philogenet I cald am, fer and nere,
Of Cambrige clerke, that never think to chaunge
For you, that with youre hevenly stremes clere,
Ravissh myne harte and goste and all in fere.
This is the firste I write my bille for grace;
Me thynke I se som mercy in youre face.
"And whate I mene, by goddes that all hath wrought,
My bille, that maketh fynall mencion,
That ye bene, lady, in myne inward thought,
Of all myne harte withouten offencion,
That I beste love, and have, sith I beganne
To drawe to courte. Lo thanne, whate myght I say?
I yeld me here unto youre nobly.
"And yf that I offend, or wilfully,
Be pompe of harte, youre precepte disobey,
Or done agayn youre wille unskyllfully,
Or greven you, for ernest or for play,
Correcte ye me right sharply than, I pray,
As it is sene unto youre womanhede,`
And rewe on me, or ellis I nam but dede."
"Nay, god forbede to feffe you so with grace,
And for a worde of sugred eloquence,
To have compassion in so litell space!
Than were it tyme that som of us were hens!
Ye shall not fynde in me suche insolence.
Ay, whate is this? May ye not suffer sight?
How may ye loke upon the candill lyght
"That clere is and hatter than myn ye?
And yet ye seid the bemes perse and frete;
Howe shall ye thanne the candelight endry?
For well wotte ye, that hath the sharper hete.
And there ye bidde me you correcte and bete
Yf ye offende; nay, that may not be done!
There come but fewe that speden here so sone.
"Withdrawe youre ye, withdrawe from presens eke;
Hurte not youreself, thrugh foly, with a loke!
I wold be sorry so to make you syke.
A woman shuld beware eke whom she toke.
Ye beth a clarke -- go serch ynne my boke --
Yf any women ben so light to wynne.
Nay, abide a while; thowe ye were all my kynne,
"So sone ye may not wynne myne harte, in trouth;
The guyse of courte wille sene youre stedfastnesse,
And as ye done, to have upon you rewth.
Youre owen deserte and lawly gentilnesse --
That wille reward you, joy for hevynesse.
And thowe ye waxen pale, and grene, and dede,
Ye most it use a while, withouten drede,
"And it accept, and grucchen in no wise.
But where as ye me hastily desire
To bene to love, me thynke ye be not wise.
Cease of youre language, cease, I you require!
For he, that hath this twenty yere bene here,
May not optayne; than marveile I that ye
Be nowe so bold, of love to trete with me."
"A! Mercy, hart, my lady, and my love,
My rightwose princesse and my lives guyde!
Nowe may I playn to Venus all above,
That, rewthles, ye may gife this wounde wide!
Whate have I done? Why may it not betide,
That for my trouth I may receyved be?
Allas thanne, youre daunger and your crueltie!
"In wofull howre I gote was, welaway!
In wofull oure fostered and i-fedde,
In wofull oure i-borne, that I ne may
My supplicacion swetely have i-spedde.
The frosty grave and cold miste be my bedde,
Withoute ye list youre grace and mercy shewe,
Deth with his axe so faste on me doth hewe.
"So grete disease and in so litell while,
So litell joy, that felte I never yet;
And at my wo fortune gynnyth to smyle,
That never arst I felte so harde a fitte.
Confounded ben my spiritis and my witte,
Tylle that my lady take me to her cure,
Which I love best of erthely creature.
"But that I like, that may I not com by;
Of that I playn, that have I habondaunce
Sorowe and thought; thay sit me wounder nye.
Me is withhold that myght be my plesaunce;
Yet turne agayn my worldly suffisaunce,
O lady bright, and sauf your feithfull true,
And, ar I dye, yet ons upon me rewe."
With that I fell in sounde, and dede as stone,
With coloure slayn and wanne as assh pale;
And by the hande she caught me up anon:
"Aryse anon," quod she, "whate, have ye dronken dwale?
Why slepen ye? It is no nytirtale!"
"Now mercy, swete," quod I, iwis affraied.
"What thyng," quod she, "hath made you so dysmayed?
"Now wote I well that ye a lover be --
Youre hewe is witnesse in this thyng," she seid.
"Yf ye were secrete, ye might knowe," quod she,
"Curteise and kynde, all this shuld be aleyde.
And nowe, myne harte, all that I have mysseide
I shall amend, and set youre harte in ease."
"That worde, it is," quod I, "that doth me please."
"But this I charge -- that ye the statutes kepe --
And breke thaym not for slouth nor ignoraunce."
With that she gan to smyle and laughen depe.
"Iwis," quod I, "I wille do youre plesaunce.
The sixteenth statute doth me grete grevaunce:
But ye most that relesse or modifie!"
"I graunte," quod she, "and so I wille, truly."
And softly thanne her coloure gan appeire,
As rose so rede, throughoute her visage all;
Wherefore me thynke that it is accordyng here,
That she of right be cleped Rosyall.
Thus have I wonne, with wordes grete and small,
Some godely worde of hir that I love best,
And trust she shall yit sette myne harte in rest.
"Goth on," she seid to Phelobone, "and take
This man with you, and lede hym all abowte
Withynne the courte, and shewe hym, for my sake,
Whate lovers dwell withynne, and all the rowte
Of officers him shewe; for he is, oute of dowte,
A straunger yit." "Come on," quod Philobone,
"Philogenet, with me nowe must ye gon."
And stalkyng softe with easy pase, I sawe
Aboute the kyng stonden environ,
Attendaunce, Diligence, and theire felowe
Fortherer, Asperaunce, and many one.
Dred-to-Offende there stode, and not alone;
For there was eke the cruell adversary,
The lovers foo, that cleped is Dispaire,
Which unto me spak angrely and felle,
And seid my lady me dysseyvene shall:
"Throwest thowe," quod he, "that all that she did tell
Ys true? Nay, nay, but under hony gall!
Thy birth and hers be nothing egall;
Caste of thyne harte for all her wordes white,
For, gode faith, she lovith thee but alite.
"And eke remember, thyne habilité
May not compare with hir, this well thowe wote."
Ye, than came Hope and seid, "My frende, let be!
Beleve hym not; Dispaire, he gynneth dote."
"Alas," quod I, "here is both cold and hote:
The tone me biddeth love, the toder nay.
Thus wote I not whate me is best to say.
"But well wote I, my lady graunted me,
Truly to be my woundes remedy.
Her gentilnesse may not infected be
With doblenesse; this trust I till I dye.
So cast I voide Dispaires company,
And taken Hope to councell and to frande."
"Ye, kepe that wele," quod Phelibone, "in mynde."
And there beside, withyn a bay wyndowe,
Stode one in grene, full large of brede and length,
His berd as blak as fethers of the crowe:
His name was Lust, of wounder might and strength.
And with Delite to argue there he thynketh,
For this was all his opynyon,
That love was synne; and so he hath begonne
To reason faste and legge auctorité.
"Nay," quod Delite, "love is a vertue clere,
And from the soule his progresse holdeth he;
Blynd appityde of lust doth often stirre,
And that is synne, for reason lakketh there.
For thowe thinke thi neighbours wife do wyn,
Yit thynk it well that love may not be synne.
"For God and seint, thay love right verely,
Voide of all synne and vise, this knowe I wele;
Affeccion of flessh is synne, truly,
But verray love is vertue, as I fele,
For love may not thy freyle desire akkele:
For verray love is love withouten synne."
"Nowe stynte," quod Lust, "thow spekest not worth a pynne."
And there I left thaim in theire arguyng,
Romyng ferther in the castell wide,
And in a corner Lier stode talkyng
Of lesinges fast, with Flatery there beside:
He seid that women were attire of pride,
And men were founde of nature variaunte
And coude be false, and shewen beawe semblaunt.
Than Flatery bespake and seid, iwis:
"Se, so she goth on patens faire and fete,
Hit doth right wele; whate prety man is this
That rometh her? Nowe truly, drynke ne mete
Nede I not have; myne harte for joye doth bete,
Hym to behold, so is he godely fressh.
It semeth for love his harte is tender nessh."
"This is the courte of lusty folke and glad,
And welbecometh theire abite and arraye."
"O why be som so sory and so sadde,
Complaynyng thus in blak and white and gray?"
"Freres thay ben, and monkes, in gode fay.
Alas, for rewth, grete dole it is to sene,
To se thaim thus bewaile and sory bene.
"Se howe thei crye and wryng theire handes white,
For thei so sone went to religion!
And eke the nonnes, with vaile and wymple plight,
There thought that thei ben in confusion:
'Alas,' thay sayn, 'we fayn perfeccion,
In clothes wide, and lake oure libertie;
But all the synne mote on oure frendes be.
"'For Venus wote, we wold, as fayne as ye
That bene attired here and welbesene,
Desiren man and love in oure degree,
Ferme and feithfull, right as wold the quene.
Oure frendes wikke, in tender youth and grene,
Agenst oure wille made us religious;
That is the cause we morne and waylen thus.'"
Than seid the monke and freres in the tide,
"Well may we course oure abbes and our place,
Oure statutes sharpe: to syng in copes wide,
Chastly to kepe us oute of loves grace,
And never to fele comforte ne solace.
Yit suffre we the hete of loves fire,
And aftir than other happly we desire.
"O Fortune cursed, why nowe and wherefore
Hast thowe," thay seid, "berafte us libartie,
Sith nature gave us instrument in store,
And appetide to love and lovers be?
Why mot we suffer suche adversité,
Dyane to serve and Venus to refuse?
Full often sith this matier doth us muse.
"We serve and honour sore agenst oure wille,
Of chastité the goddes and the quene;
Us leffer were with Venus biden stille,
And have reward for love, and soget bene
Unto thise women courtly, fressh, and shene.
Fortune, we curse thi whele of variaunce!
There we were wele thou revist our plesaunce."
Thus leve I thaym, with voice of pleint and care,
In ragyng woo crying full petiously;
And as I yede, full naked and full bare
Some I beholde, lokyng dispiteously
On Poverté, that dedely cast theire ye;
And "Welaway!" thei cried, and were not fayne,
For they ne myght theire glad desire attayne.
For lak of richesse worldely and of gold,
Thay banne and curse, and wepe, and seyn, "Allas,
That Poverté hath us hent that whilom stode
At hartis eas, and fre, and in gode case!
But now we dare not shew ourself in place,
Ne us embolde to duelle in company,
There as oure harte wolde love right faithfully."
And yit agaynewarde shryked every nonne,
The prange of love so strayneth thaym to crye:
"Nowe woo the tyme," quod thay, "that we be boune!
This hatefull ordre nyse will done us dye!
We sigh and sobbe and bleden inwardly,
Fretyng oureself with thought and hard complaynt,
Than nay, for love, we waxen wode and faynt."
And as I stode beholdyng here and there,
I was ware of a sorte full languysshyng,
Savage and wilde of lokyng and of chere,
Theire mantaylles and theire clothes ay teryng;
And ofte thay were of nature complaynyng,
For they there membres lakked, fote and hand,
With visage wry and blynde, I understand.
They lakked shap and beautie to preferre
Theymself in love, and seid that God and Kynde
Hath forged thaym to worshippen the sterre,
Venus the bright, and leften all behynde
His other werkes clene and oute of mynde:
"For other have theire full shappe and bewtie,
And we," quod thay, "ben in deformyté."
And nye to thaym there was a company,
That have the susters waried and mysseid;
I mene, the thre of fatall destyné,
That be our wordes. And sone, in a brayde
Oute gan thay crye as thay had ben affrayed:
"We curse," quod thay, "that ever hath nature
I-formed us this wofull life to endure!"
And there he was contrite and gan repent,
Confessyng hole the wounde that Citheré
Hath with the darte of hote desire hym sent,
And howe that he to love muste subjet be;
Thanne held he all his skornes vanyté,
And seid, that lovers lede a blissedfull life,
Yong men and old, and widue, maide, and wife.
"Bereve, my goddesse," quod he, "thi myght,
My skornes all and skoffes, that I have
No power forth to mokken any wight
That in thi service dwell; for I ded rave,
This knowe I welle right nowe, so God me save.
And I shal be the chife post of thy feith,
And love uphold, the revers who so seith."7
Dissemble stode not ferre from hym, in trouth,
With party mantill, party hode and hose;
And seid, he had upon his lady rowth,
And thus he wounde hym in, and gan to glose
Of his entent full doble, I suppose.
And all the world, he seid, he lovid it wele;
But ay, me thoughte, he loved hir nere adele.
Eke Shamefastnesse was there, as I toke hede,
That blasshed rede and darst nat ben a knowe
She lover was, for therof had she drede.
She stode and hyng her visage downe alowe.
But suche a sight it was to sene, I trowe,
As of thise roses rody on theire stalke;
There cowde no wight her spy to speke or talke
In loves arte, so gan she to abasshe,
Ne durst not utter all her previté.
Many a stripe and many a grevouse lasshe
She gaven to thaym that wolden lovers be,
And hindered sore the sympill comonaltie,
That in nowise durste grace and mercy crave.
For were not she, thei nede but aske and have,
Where yf thay nowe approchyn forto speke,
Thanne Shamefastnesse returnyth thaym agayn:
Thay thynke if thay oure secrites councell breke,
Oure ladys wille have scorne on us certen,
And, aventure, thynken grete disdayne.
Thus Shamefastnesse may bryngyn in Dispeire;
When she is dede, the toder will be heire.
Com forth, Avaunter, nowe I ryng thy bell!
I spied hym sone; to God I make a vowe,
He loked blak as fendes doth in Hell.
"The firste," quod he, "that ever I ded wowe,
Withynne a worde she com, I wotte not howe,
So that in armes was my lady fre;
And so hath ben a thousand mo than she.
"In Englond, Bretayn, Spayn, and Pycardie,
Artyes, and Fraunce, and up in hie Holand,
In Burgoyne, Naples, and Italy,
Naverne, and Grece, and up in hethen lond,
Was never woman yit that wold withstond
To ben at myne commaundement, whan I wold!
I lakked neither silver coyne ne gold,
"And there I met with this estate and that,
And here I broched her, and here, I trowe;
Lo, there goith one of myne; and wotte ye whate?
Yonne fressh attired have I leyde full lowe,
And suche one yonder eke right well I knowe --
I kepte the statute whan we lay i-fere,
And yet yon same hath made me right goode chere."
Thus hath Avaunter blowen everywhere
All that he knowith, and more, a thousand fold.
His auncetrye of kynne was to Lier,
For first he makith promyse forto hold
His ladys councell, and it not unfold;
Wherefore, the secrete when he doth unshitte,
Than lieth he, that all the world may witte.
For falsing so his promyse and beheste,
I wounder sore he hath suche fantasie;
He lakketh witte, I trowe, or is a beste,
That canne no bette hymself with reason guy.
Be myne advice, love shal be contrarie
To his avayle, and hym eke dishonoure,
So that in courte he shall no more sojorne.
"Take hede," quod she, this litell Philobone,
"Where Envye rokketh in the cornor yonde,
And sitteth dirke; and ye shall se anone
His lene bodie, fading face and hond;
Hymself he fretteth, as I understond.
Witnesse of Ovide Methamorphosees;
The lovers foo he is, I will not gloose.
"For where a lover thinketh hym promote,
Envye will grucche, repynyng at his wele;
Hit swelleth sore aboute his hartes rote,
That in no wise he canne not live in hele.
And yf the feithfull to his lady stele,
Envye will noise and ryng it rounde aboute,
And sey moche worse than done is, oute of dowte."
And Prevye Thought, rejoysing of hymself,
Stode not ferre thens in abite mervelous;
Yonne is, thought I, som sprite or some elf,
His sotill image is so corious.
"Howe is," quod I, "that he is shaded thus
With yonder cloth, I note of whate coloure?"
And nere I went, and gan to lere and pore,8
And frayned hym question full hard:
"Whate is," quod I, "the thyng thou lovest beste?
Or whate is bote unto thi paynes hard?
Me think thowe liveste here in grete unreste;
Thowe wandrest ay from south to est and weste,
And eft to north: as ferre as I canne see,
There is no place in courte may holden thee.
"Whom folowest thowe? Where is thi harte i-set?
But my demaunde asoile, I thee require."
"Me thought," quod he, "no creature may lette,
Nowe to ben here, and where, as I desire;
For where as absence hath done oute the fire,
My mery thought it kyndelith yet agayne,
That bodely, me thinke, with my souverayne
"I stand, and speke, and laugh, and kisse, and halse,
So that my thought comforteth me full oft.
I think, God wote, though all the world be false,
I wille be trewe; I think also howe softe
My lady is in speche, and this on lofte
Bryngeth myne harte to joye and gladnesse;
This prevey thought alayeth myne hevynesse.
"And whate I thinke, or where to be, no man
In all this erth can tell, iwis, but I.
And eke there nys no swalowe swifte, ne swan
So wight of wyng ne half so yerne can flye;
For I canne ben, and that right sodenly,
In Heven, in Helle, in Paradise, and here,
And with my laday, whan I wylle desire.
"I am of councell ferre and wide, I wote,
With lord and lady and there previté,
I wotte it all, and be it cold or hoote,
Thay shall not speke withouten licence of me --
I mene in suche as sesonable bee --
For firste the thing is thought withynne the harte,
Er any worde oute from the mouth astarte."
And with that worde Thought bad farewell and yeede.
Eke furth went I to sene the cortis guyse;
And at the dore came in, so God me spede,
Twey courteours, of age and of assise,
Liche high and brode; and as I me advise,
The Golden Love and Leden Love, thay hight:
The tone was sad the toder glad and light.
"Yis, drawe youre harte, with all your force and myght,
To lustynesse, and bene as ye have seid.
And thinke that I no drope of favour hight,
Ne never hade unto youre desire obeide,
Tille sodenly, me thought me was affrayed
To sene you wax so dede of countenaunce,
And Pité bade me done you som plesaunce.
"Oute of her shryne she rose from deth to live,
And in myne ere full prively she spake:
'Doth not youre servaunte hens a way to drive,
Rosiall,' quod she; and than myn harte brak
For tender reuth. And where I founde moche lak
In youre personne, than I me bethought,
And seid, 'thus is the man myne harte hath sought.'"
"Gramercy, Pité! Myght I but suffice
To yeve the lawde unto thy shryne of gold,
God wotte, I wold, for sitth that thou dide rise
From deth to live for me, I am behold
To thanken you a mille tymes told,
And eke my lady Rosyall the shene,
Which hath in comforte set myne harte, I wene.
"And here I make myne protestacion,
And depely swere, as myne power, to bene
Feithfull, devoide of variacion,
And here forbere in anger or in tene,
And serviceable to my worldes quene,
With all my reason and intelligence,
To done her honoure high and reverence."
I had not spoke so sone the worde, but she,
My souverayn, dyde thanke me hartily,
And seid, "Abide, ye shall dwelle stille with me
Tylle season come of May; for than, truly,
The Kyng of Love and all his company
Shalle hold his feste full ryally and welle."
And there I bode till that the season felle.
On May day whan the larke began to ryse,
To matens went the lusty nithingale,
Withyn a temple shapen hawthorne wise.
He myght not slepe in all the nyghtertale,
But "Domine, labia" gan he crye and gale,
"My lippes open, lord of love, I crye,
And let my mouth thi prysing nowe bewrey."
The egle sang "Venite, bodies all,
And let us joye to love that is oure helth."
And to the deske anon thay gan to falle,
And who come late, he preced in by stelth.
Than seide the fawcon, "Oure owen hartis welth,
Domine, dominus noster, I wote,
Ye be the god that done us brenne thus hote."
"Cely enarant," seid the popyngay,
"Youre myght is told in heven and firmament!"
And than came inne the gold fynche fresh and gay,
And seid this psalme with hartily glad intent:
"Domini este terra, this Laten intent,
The god of love hath erth in governaunce."
And than the wren gan skippen and to daunce,
"Jube, domine, lorde of love, I pray,
Commaunde me well this lesson forto rede:
This legend is of all that wolden dye
Marters for love; god yf the sowles spede!
And to thee, Venus, singe we oute of drede,
By influence of all thy vertue greate,
Beseching thee to kepe us in oure hete."
The seconde lesson Robyn Redebreste sang:
"Hayle to thee, god and goddes of oure lay!"
And to the lectorn amoryly he sprong:
"Haile," quod he eke, "O fresshe season of May,
Oure moneth glad that syngen on the spray.
Haile to the floures rede, and white, and blewe,
Which by theire vertue maketh oure lustes newe!"
The thridde lesson the turtill dove toke up,
And therat lough the mavis in scorne.
He seid, "O god, as mut I dyene or suppe,
This folissh dove wille gife us all an horne!
There ben right here a mille better borne
To rede this lesson, which, as welle as he
And eke as hote, can love in all degree."
The turtylle dove seid, "Welcom, welcom May,
Gladsom and light to lovers that ben trewe!
I thanke thee, lord of love, that doth purvey
For me to rede this lesson all of dewe;
For in gode south, of corage I purpose
To serve my make till deth us most departe."
And than tue autem sang he all aparte.
"Te deum amoris," sang the thrustell cok;
Tuball hymself, the firste musician,
With key of armony coude not onlok
So swete tewne as that the thrustill can:
"The lord of love we praysen," quod he than,
"And so done all the fowles, grete and light,
Honoure we May, in fals lovers dispite."
"Dominus regnavit," seid the pecok there,
"The lord of love, that myghty prynce, iwis,
He hath receyved her and everywhere;
Nowe Jubilate sing!" "Whate meneth this?"
Seid than the lynette, "welcom, lord of blisse!"
Oute sterte the owle with "Benedicité,
What meneth all this mery fare?" quod he.
"Laudaté," sang the larke with voice full shirll;
And eke the kight, "O admirabile,
This quere will throwe myne eris pers and thrille.
But whate? Welcom this May season," quod he,
"And honoure to the lord of love mot be,
That hath this feeste so solempne and so high."
"Amen," seid all, and so seid eke the pye.
And furth the cokkowe gan procede anon,
With "Benedictus," thankyng god in hast,
That in this May wold visite thaim echon,
And gladden thaym all while the feste shall lest.
And therewithall a loughter oute he braste,
"I thanke it god that I shuld end the song,
And all the service which hath ben so long."
Thus sang thay all the service of the feste,
And that was done right erly, to my dome;
And furth goith all the courte, both most and lest,
To feche the floures fressh, and braunche, and blome;
And namly hawthorn brought both page and grome,
With fressh garlantis partie blewe and white,
And thaim rejoyson in theire grete delite.
Eke eche at other threwe the floures bright,
The prymerose, the violet, the gold;
So than as I beheld the riall sight,
My lady gan me sodenly behold,
And with a trewe love, plited many fold,
She smote me thrugh the harte as blive;
And Venus yet I thanke I am alive!
timorous heart; trembling; (t-note)
lacking wit, stripped; (see note)
nor flourishes of learning
Except; I wish
Cicero's; sweet; (t-note)
Nor the abilities of Geoffrey
Why am I not clever?
whenever she wants to
mature disposition; (see note)
compelled; (see note)
Close beside; (see note)
far or near
Truly; like; (see note)
Indian sapphire; ruby
Baleis (ruby), turquoise; (see note)
Phebus' (i.e., the sun's) beams
is not; certainly
whoever; (see note)
of less value
the Elysian field; (see note)
Resistance; (see note)
truly; (see note)
[give me] your grace
saw; at once
yet what if it were true
hand's breadth; (see note)
feast; meal; (see note)
skilled; control (wield)
who burned; (see note)
at that time
with wide robes
Who; brown; (see note)
wail about their woe
saw; in haste
an outcry; (see note); (t-note)
king's desire is to see you soon
Trembling from fear
Why does this old [person]
So far advanced
because; literate; read
sound; person's ear
cause [folk] perpetually to pay heed; (see note)
sixth; to follow
friend or foe
fair [thing]; (t-note)
[to] justly distinguish
or else; awry
coming together too often
heart-shaped jewelry; ornament
It is also befitting
fortified drink; benefit
pleases your mistress
wherever she lives
is taken away
Hardness-of-heart (obduracy); (see note); (t-note)
Bias; luxuriously; (t-note)
speak each one
none; know; (t-note)
has given; on pain of death
nor see; eye
the mechanism of their wit
knew; short time
given [to them] by nature
unprovided for; (t-note)
lover's star (Venus); bright
execute the steps of
perform [good deeds]
moving them to fear
No similar comparison
[I] beseeched; to void
also, except; knew not; (see note)
Lamp; melancholy; (t-note)
give and yield
well-shaped; hair; (t-note)
caused; to dance a little
I know not
[If] I might; then would I desire
another [girl is to] be
sorrow, or infidelity
[In] all the matters
you shall see
rays, subtly piercing
in an instant
(see note); (t-note)
clothed, if you ask me [to say]
reveal [to] you
gold sash; shapely sides
formal petition; purport
provide a remedy; (t-note)
beset with woe
piercing beams; eyes
fortune (luck), [God] bless me; (see note)
Fully; princess, remedy
And give; experienced (in love)
render his due
great thanks; (see note)
frame of mind
As seems appropriate
eye; [my] presence
merciless; give; (t-note)
a swoon; (see note)
begins to act foolishly
[to] appeal to
equipped with; (t-note)
Who reaches [for] her
softened; (see note)
in good faith (i.e., truly)
it is distressing to behold
at the same time
times; ponder; (t-note)
We would rather
were bound [to religion]
strict; cause us [to] die
fully; (see note)
weirds (fates); outburst
multi-colored mantle; (see note)
not at all
blushed; dared not be revealed
be embarassed; (t-note)
pierced; (see note)
nimble; swiftly; (t-note)
Two; feature; (t-note)
Leaden; are called; (see note)
ear; privately; (t-note)
be capable; (t-note)
morning service; (see note)
like a hawthorn tree
shout; (see note)
believe; (see note)
makes us burn
parrot; (see note)
Latin means; (see note); (t-note)
Martyrs; give; success
without doubt; (t-note)
laughed; song thrush
(i.e., mock us); (see note)
in due form
truth, with all my heart
"but you"; (see note)
"You, lord of love"; blackbird; (see note)
(see note); (t-note)
"Praise you"; shrill; (see note)
kite; (see note)
in laughter he burst out
in my judgment
pleated; (see note)