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The Lovers' Mass


1 It pleases her not to listen for her aloofness ever increases

147 plentyf, plaintiff; probacon, proof.

148 confrary, confraternity.

149 hospytlerys, members of a religious order that cared for the sick.

150 nouthyr, neither; notyd, notorious, stigmatized; atteynt, convicted; symulacon, dissimulation.

151 ypocrysé, hypocrisy; chose, chosen.

152 elthe, health.

153 t'abyde, to abide.

154 customable to, accustomed to.

155 underfange, undertake; consuetude, tradition.

157 fardellys, packs.

158 alleggen, relieve.

159 gadryn, acquire; goordys, gourds.

160 thruste, thirst.

161 rekne, reckon (count); myche, much.

162 seteys, cities.

164 dygne, worthy.

165 entytlen, record.

168 partyes, regions.

170 wythoute feyntyse, without delay.

172 semblable, similar.

176 inportable, unbearable.

177 ofte sythes, often times.

178 fardel, burden.

179 fyn, conclusion.

182 menyng, purpose; clennesse, purity.

185 gerdouns, rewards.

193 enspyre, inspire.


1-14 Introibo. Immediately following the initial sign of the Cross, the priest begins the Latin Mass by saying "Introibo ad altare Dei" ("I will go to the altar of God"), to which the congregation responds "Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam" ("To God who gives joy to my youth"). The Introibo, Confiteor, and Misereatur are in tetrameter couplets.

15-40 Confiteor. The Confession, beginning "Confiteor Deo omnipotenti" ("I confess to Almighty God"). Here, his sin is not only his youth and inexperience but also his tardiness in seeking out Love's court.

41-56 Misereatur. The Absolution: "Misereatur vestri omnipotens Deus" ("Almighty God have mercy on you"). Rather than life everlasting, mercy in the form of his lady's grace is hoped for here.

44 ther. MS: hys. The context seems to require a plural pronoun.

53 Ther. MS: The. Hammond suggests the emendation I have adopted.

56 Genius. The god or force associated with reproduction, regeneration, and natural inclination. Descending ultimately from Alain de Lille's De planctu naturae (The Complaint of Nature), Genius acts as Nature's priest (and bishop) in The Roman de la Rose (lines 16272-20704), and as Venus' priest and the Lover's confessor in John Gower's Confessio Amantis.

57-73 Officium. The Officium (the Introit or entrance hymn) is a roundel, a short poem based on two rhymes in which the opening lines serve as a refrain in the middle and at the end.

65-66 The antiphon (from lines 57-58) is abbreviated here. Hammond notes that "Scribes often write only the first word or two of the repeated lines" (English Verse, p. 466).

72-73 The antiphon is abbreviated here. See note to lines 65-66.

74-97 Kyrie. The Kyrie, composed of three lines which alternate "Kyrie eleison / Christe eleison / Kyrie eleison" ("Lord have mercy / Christ have mercy / Lord have mercy"), is the first invocation after the Introit in the Ordinary of the Mass. Each of the three 8-line stanzas is in pentameter and has double internal assonant rhymes which change with each line. For another parody of the Kyrie see Kyrie, so Kyrie (also known as the "Kyrie Alison") in Middle English Lyrics, ed. Luria and Hoffman, pp. 84-85.

98-138 Gloria in excelsis. "Gloria in excelsis Deo" ("Glory to God in the highest"). Tetrameter quatrains with dimeter bob.

124 A ful bryght day after gret reyn. Proverbial; see Whiting D41 and Tilley R8.

139-46 Oryson. The prayer or "Collect" for the day preceding the Epistle.

144 thy servauntes that be stable. In keeping with the blurring of the secular and the religious throughout, the phrase suggests not only those who are steadfast in love but also, in an ecclesiastical sense, those who persevere in monastic life.

147 The Epystel in Prose. The first reading, from either the Old or the New Testament. This Epistle, which compares courtship to a touristic pilgrimage, draws freely from Laurent de Premierfait's French prose translation (c. 1409) of Boccaccio's De Casibus Virorum Illustrium, Book 3 (see Hammond, English Verse, p. 467). On the "at once commonplace and curiously elusive" motif of the pilgrimage in the Middle Ages, see Dyas, Pilgrimage.
The author omits the rest of the Mass, including, for instance, the Gospel, Homily, Nicene Creed, Offertory, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei.

181-89 And ther I . . . that I ha don. Our amorous pilgrim is indeed in a bad way if he is "on of the most forsake" of this group of exemplary lovers. The Holy Legende of Martyrs of Cupydo (i.e., Chaucer's Legend of Good Women, which is referred to as "the Seintes Legende of Cupide" in the Introduction to the Man of Law's Tale - CT II[B1]61) demonstrates that faithful love is usually both unrewarded and cruelly abused. Although Penelope's steadfast rejection of her predatory suitors is rewarded with Odysseus' return, in Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde, Criseyde remains in the Greek camp with Diomede despite Troilus' "grete trouthe"; Aeneas abandons Dido despite her "kyndenesse" (Chaucer, LGW F924-1367); Polixena (Priam's daughter), sacrificed on Achilles' tomb to appease either his desire or his vengeance, modestly covers her exposed breast as she dies (Ovid, Metamorphoses 13.475-82); the "secre trouthe" of Tristram and Isolde causes both the illicit lovers only misery; and Palamides, Isolde's unrequited lover, has few rewards for his faithful service - see Lydgate, The Complaint of the Black Knight, lines 330-43 (Symons, ed., Chaucerian Dream Visions).

Wyth all myn hool herte enter,
Tofore the famous riche auter
Of the myghty God of Love,
Whiche that stondeth high above,
In the chapel of Cytheron,
I will, wyth gret devocion,
Go knele and make sacrifyse,
Lyke as the custom doth devyse,
Afor that God preye and wake,
Of entent I may be take
To hys servyse, and there assure,
As longe as my lyf may dure,
To contune as I best kan,
Whil I lyve, to ben hys man.


I am aknowe and wot ryght well,
I speke pleynly as I fel,
Touchynge the grete tendyrnesse
Of my youthe, and my symplesse,
Of myn unkonyng and grene age,
Wil lete me han noon avantage;
To serve Love I kan so lyte,
And yet myn hert doth delyte
Of hys servauntys forto here,
By exaumple of hem I myghte lere
To folowe the wey of ther servyse,
Yif I hadde konnyng to devyse,
That I myght a servant be,
Amongys other in my degré;
Havynge ful gret repentaunce
That I non erste me gan avaunce
In Love court, myselfe to offre,
And my servyse forto profre,
For fer of my tender youthe;
Nouther be Est, nouther by Southe,
Lyst Daunger putte me abake,
And Dysdeyn to make wrake,
Wolde hyndre me in myn entente;
Of al this thyng I me repente
As my conscience kan recorde,
I sey lowly, Myserycorde.


By God of Lovys ordynaunce,
Folkys that have repentaunce,
Sorowful in herte, and nothyng lyght,
Whiche ha nat spent ther tyme aryght,
But wastyd yt in ydelnesse,
Only for lake of lustynesse,
In slep, slogardye, and slouthe,
Of whom ys pyté and gret routhe;
But when they repente hem ageyn
Of al ther tyme spent in veyn,
The God of Love thorgh hys myght -
Syth that mercy passeth ryght -
Ther mot acceptyd be to grace,
And pute daunger out of place;
This, the wyl of Dame Venus
And of hyr bisshop, Genius.


In honour of the god Cupide,
First that he may be my guyde;
In worshepe eke of the pryncesse,
Whyche is lady and maystresse:
By grace they may for me provyde,
Humble of herte, devoyde of pryde,
Envye and rancour set asyde,
Withoute change or doubilnesse.
In honour of the [god Cupide,]
first that he [may be my guyde.]

Joye and welfare in every tyde
Be gove to hem, wherso they byde,
And give to hem grace on my dystresse,
To have pyté of ther hyghnesse,
For in what place I go or ryde.
In honour [of the god Cupide,]
first that [he may be my guyde.]


Mercy, mercy, contynuely I crye,
In gret disjoynt, upon the poynt to deye,
For that pyté ys unto me contrayre,
Daunger my fo, Dysdeyn also, whylk tweye
Causen myn herte, of mortal smert, dyspeyre,
For she that ys fayrest, ywys, of fayre,
Hath gladnesse of my syknesse to pleye,
Thus my trouble, double and double, doth repayre.


Repeyreth ay, which, nyght nor day, ne cesseth nought,
Now hope, now dred, now pensyfhede, now thought,
As thyse yfere palen myn chere and hewe,
Yet to hyr grace, ech hour and space, I ha besought;
Hyr lyst nat here for hyr daunger doth ay renewe1
Towardys me, for certys, she lyst nat rewe
Up on my peyne, and thus my cheyne ys wrought,
Which hath me bounde never to be founde untrewe.


Untrewe, nay, to se that day, God forbede!
Voyde slouthe, kepe my trouthe in dede,
Eve and morowe, for joye or sorowe, I have behyght,
Til I sterve, evere to serve hir womanhede;
In erthe lyvynge ther is nothyng maketh me so lyght.
For I shal dye ne but wer hir mercye mor than ryght,
Of no decertys, but mercy certys, my journé spede.
Adieu al play, thus may I say, I, woful wyght.

Gloria in excelsis

Worsshyppe to that lord above
That callyd ys the God of Love;
Pes to hys servantes everychon,
Trewe of herte, stable as ston,
That feythful be.
To hertes trewe of ther corage,
That lyst chaunge for no rage,
But kep hem in ther hestys stylle
In all maner wedris ylle,
Pes, concord, and unyté.
God send hem sone ther desyrs,
And reles of ther hoote fyrs
That brenneth at her herte sore,
And encresseth more and more,
This my prayere.
And aftyr wynter wyth hys shourys
God send hem counfort of May flourys,
After gret wynd and stormys kene,
The glade sonne with bemys shene
May appere.
To give hem lyght after dyrknesse,
Joye eke after hevynesse,
And after dool and ther wepynge,
To here the somer foulys synge,
God give grace.
For ofte sythe man ha seyn
A ful bryght day after gret reyn,
And tyl the storme be leyd asyde,
The herdys under bussh abyde,
And taketh place.
After also the dirke nyght,
Voyde of the mone and sterre lyght,
And after nyghtys dool and sorowe,
Folweth ofte a ful glade morowe,
Of aventure.By chance
Now lorde that knowest hertys alle
Of lovers that for helpe calle,
On her trouthe of mercy rewe,
Namely on swyche as be trewe,
Helpe to recure.restore

The Oryson

Most myghty and most dredful lord,
That knowest hertys fals and trewe,
As wel ther thynkyng as ther word,
Bothe of lovers olde and newe,
Of pyté and of mercy, rewe
On thy servauntes that be stable,
And make ther joye to renewe,
Swich as wyl never be chaungable.

The Epystel in Prose

From the party of the por plentyf in love, wyth many yers of probacon pro-
fessyd to be trewe, to all the holy fraternite and confrary of the same bretherhede;
and to alle hospytlerys and relygious, nat spottyd nor mad foul wyth no cryme of
apostasye, nouthyr notyd nor atteynt with no double face of symulacon, nor con-
streyned countenaunce of ypocrysé: to alle swiche chose chyldre of stabylnesse --
wyth oute variaunce of corage or of herte -- joye, elthe, and long prosperyte, wyth
perfeccon of perseveraunce in ther trouthe perpetually t'abyde.
Experyence techeth that pilgrymes and folkes customable to vyage, whan they
underfange any long weye wiche that ys laboryous, somwhile of consuetude and
custom they use a maner to reste on ther wey, of entent to wype and wasshe away
the soot of ther vysages. And sum also usen to ley adoun the hevy fardellys of ther
bake forto alleggen ther wery lemys of her grete berthene. And some outher usen
to gadryn wyne; and some to drynken outher water or wyn of ther botell or goordys
to asswage the grete dryhnesse of ther gredy thruste. And somme of hem somwhile
rekne and accounten how myche they ha passyd of ther journe; and sodeynly
tourne ageyn ther bakkys towardys som notable seteys, which they of newe be par-
tyd fro. And therwyth al recorden and remembren hem of cytes, castelles, and
touns which they ha passyd by, and nat forgete hylles, ne valeys, dygne to be put
in remembraunce of hyt for a memoryal. Some entytlen hem in smale bookes of
report or in tabylys to callen hem to mynde whan they sene her tyme. And som
ought callen to mynde grete ryvers and smale, and pereylles of the see that they
ha passyd by. And whan they han alle accountyd and ageyn relatyd the partyes
passyd of her journé, of newe they take to hem force, vigour, and strengthe
myghtyly, wythoute feyntyse, to performe and manly to acomplysshe the resydue
and the remnaunt of her labour.

And thus I, in semblable wyse, al the tyme of my lyf, from my grene tendre
youthe and tyme that I hadde yerys of dyscrecon, beynge, and contynuynge as an
errynge pylgrym in the servyse of the myghty and dredful God of Love, how many
perylous passages and wayes that I ha passyd by! How ofte, in compleynynge, I
have setyn don to wypen away the soot of myn inportable labour, and dronken ever
among of my botell and goordes the bytter drynkes of drerynesse and, ofte sythes,
assayed to casten adoun the inportable fardel of myn hevy thoughtys. And amongys
al this thyngys, lookyd bakward to consydren and sen the fyn and the ende of my
worthy bretheren and predecessours in love that ha passyd the same pilgrymage
toforn. And ther I ha founden and seyn the grete trouthe of Troylus, perseverant
to hys lyves ende, the trewe, stable menyng of Penalope, the clennesse of Polycene,
the kyndenesse of Dydo, quen of Cartage, and rad also ful often in my con-
templatyf medytacons, The Holy Legende of Martyrs of Cupydo, the secre trouthe of
Trystram and Ysoude, and the smale gerdouns of woful Palamydes. All thyse, and
an hondryd thousand mo, callyd to mynde me semeth amonges all I am on of the
most forsake, and ferthest set behynde of grace, and moste hyndred to the mercy
of my lady dere, nat wythstondynge the grete party of my pilgrymage that I ha
don. But that I shal evere, for lyfe or deth, contynue and persevere, trewe to my
lyves ende, besechynge ful lowly to alle yow my brethere unto whom thys lytel
epystel ys dyrect, that yt lyke yow of pyté amonge your devout observaunces to han
me recomendyd with som especial memorye in your prayers that yet, or I dye, I
may sum mercy fynde, or that the God of Love enspyre my ladyes herte, of hys
grace, what I endure for hyr sake.

entire; (see note)
Before; altar

Venus (Citherea)

keep vigil


I confess and know; (see note)
have no
know so little

them; learn



Neither by


humbly, Mercy

(see note)

(see note)

indolence; sloth

must; (see note)

(see note)

(see note)


(see note)

at all times
given; reside

because of; high rank

(see note)

(see note)
distress; just about

which two


Return always
together make pale

deserves not [to have] pity


Of no merit

(see note)

promises continually
weathers ill (bad)

release from their hot fires



give them
hear; birds

many times; has seen
(see note)



(see note)

From; have pity
(see note)

(see note)

Go To The Antifeminist Tradition: Introduction