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The Laste Epistle of Creseyd to Troyalus


1 Which long desired sight, coming without my being aware of it, / Stops my vital breath

2 And had Paris, whom the prophets predicted would be / An unlucky youth, killed

3 Which in the end, as gods forbid, / Should reduce to flashing flames / Brave Troy, the princely palace / Of such renown and fame

4 Then should no ship have sheared the sea seeking the greater Aegean (i.e., Trojan) coast, bringing more than a thousand [Greeks] to thy shore, O city of Troy

5 For the length of three years there was only one life, / One love, to which you were devoted

6 You pierced his flesh / with many scarcely curable, / Grievous wounds

7 Would thou, O Troilus, have thought / That such misfortune should happen to me?

8 This leper's knight / Can give the remaining account of me


1-17 While Creseyd's salutation (benevolentiae captatio) follows epistolary conventions recommended by medieval manuals on the art of letter writing, it is also deeply ironic. She is sick and dying from leprosy as she sends these wishes for his welfare to her erstwhile lover. The opening of her letter also resonates with verbal echoes of both Troilus and Criseyde and The Testament of Cresseid. Healthe, healthe specifically recalls the final letters exchanged by the lovers in Book V of Chaucer's poem. Troilus had concluded his last letter with the words: "With hele swich that, but ye yeven me / The same hele, I shal none hele have" (V, 1415-16).

To which Criseyde had responded in the opening lines of her reply:
How myght a wight in torment and in drede
And heleles, yow sende as yet gladnesse?
I herteles, I sik, I in destresse!
Syn ye with me, nor I with yow, may dele,
Yow neyther sende ich herte may nor hele. (V, 1592-96)
The ambiguity of "herteles" was appreciated and developed in a different direction by the later poet at the end of the epistle when Creseyd decides not to send her heart to Troylus since "thou might refuse / And say it truthe dothe wante" (lines 291-92). Creseyd refers to her closing life and the writing of this final letter as simultaneous in a play on the word lynes. Compare Hugh Holland in his Prefatory verses to Shakespeare's first folio (1603): "Though his line of life went soone about, / The life yet of his lines shall neuer out."

The conventional idea that her life is a fragile thread is then developed in the references to the Parcae or Fates: Clotho and Lashesses who spin and the third fate, Atropos, who eventually cuts the fatall threid (lines 11-16), traditionally with scissors but here with the scythe more usually atttributed to Chronos. The image is a recurring one in contemporary Scottish poetry, e.g., The Testament and Tragedie of King Henry Stewart (1567) in Scottish Poems of the Sixteenth Century, ed. Sir John Graham Dalyell (Edinburgh: A. Constable, 1801), line 161; and in an elegy by the author of the Epistle (Meikle, I, 367-68, ll. 37-38). See Troilus V, 1-5 for the role of the "angry Parcas, sustren thre" in Criseyde's destiny, and specifically of Atropos (IV, 1546-47). See also references to Lachesis (V, 7) and Atropos (IV, 1208) in relation to Troilus' fate.

Echoes of Henryson's Testament are present too, with line 2 recalling Testament 504 and line 7 the final meeting with Troilus (Testament, lines 484-518) in which they fail to recognize each other: "And nevertheles not ane ane uther knew."

19-24 Compare Ovid's Briseis who, in her letter to Achilles, wishes the earth to open up and swallow her in its gaping mouth (devorer ante, precor, subito telluris hiatu, line 63). Text, with modern English translation, in Florence Verducci, Ovid's Toyshop of the Heart (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985). Troy and Phrygia (west-central Turkey) were in Asia Minor.

23 [that]. Meikle suggests this addition.

25-28 These lines on her reputation no doubt owe a good deal to Criseyde's painful anticipation of the obloquy which her desertion of Troilus will bring in Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde (V, 1057-67), but they are also novel in portraying a fictional character's response to the creators of her fickle nature, the poets who made her name synonymous with faithlessness.

33 god. MS: godes.

33-70 Creseyd's personal fate is here linked to the Greek-Trojan war, in particular to the fateful events which led to its outbreak, with the focus on the consequences for her. She imagines that if only Hecuba had heeded her husband Priam's command to have their son, Paris, killed in an attempt to avert the destruction of Troy predicted by the seers or if, having escaped by his mother's stratagems, he had remained with his love Oenon on Mount Ida (near Troy) tending his flock on the banks of the river Scamander instead of setting sail for Greece, abducting Helen, and provoking the wrath of her husband Meneleus who embarked with over a thousand Greeks to bring her back by force, then her father Calcas would not have betrayed his native Troy, her husband would not have died in the war, and consequently her honor would not have been defiled. On the "ravysshyng" of Helen and the revenge taken by the Greeks, see Troilus I, 57-63.

40 Scamanders. Meikle prints Flamanders but the MS has Scamanders.

43 froward fates. The hostility of fate or fortune is highly conventional. Compare Cresseid's "fraward language" to her gods in the Testament, where she is said to be "chydand with hir drerie destenye" (line 470). Here Creseyd expresses the view that fate is responsible (framde, line 44) for the unfavorable fortune which led Paris to abduct Helen of Greece.

47 The MS frequently uses ampersands, which I have retained as well-suited to Creseyd's epistolary style.

49-52 An extremely terse allusion to the end of the Trojan war with the burning of the city of Troy or Illium by Greeks hidden in a wooden horse.

53 songe. Shire suggests this should be sorge but the MS has songe.

55 leiches twayne. Leche (physician), with a pun on lechery, is commonly used in Middle English romances to designate lovers who "remedy" each other's desire. Leche also means stream, which suggests, possibly, further wordplay with water metaphors.

58-61 The text is not clear here but the poet alludes to the Greek fleet launched to avenge the abduction of Helen by Paris. It is difficult to ascertain whether more than a thousand ships, or ships carrying more than a thousand warriors, is intended. Both versions were current in the sixteenth century: late in the century Marlowe coined the phrase "the face that launched a thousand ships" (Doctor Faustus, xviii, 99), whereas at the beginning of the century Gavin Douglas wrote of "Full mony thousand knychtis, hastely / Thaym till revenge salyt towart Troy" (The Palis of Honoure, lines 1617-18). Chaucer, the most likely influence, writes that the Greeks "with a thousand shippes wente / To Troye-wardes" (Troilus I, 58-59).

61-64 According to BenoTt de Ste. Maure and Boccaccio, Creseyd's father, Calcas, defected to the Greek camp after Apollo revealed to him the outcome of the war. Compare Chaucer's account, Troilus I, 64-77. Craigie notes that the rhyming of fledd: neid is unusual. See The Works of William Fowler, ed. Henry W. Meikle, James Craigie, and John Purvis (Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood, 1940), III, lviii.

63 Tenidos. Tenedos was an island in the Aegean off the coast of Troy where the Greeks kept a fleet after capturing the citadel early in the war. It was also where the famous Trojan horse was built.

66 stand. A past participle here. Compare Leslie's Hist. Scot. (translated Dalrymple, 1596) I, VI, 310: "Because stoutlie they had stande with him in his defence." Criseyde is a widow according to Chaucer (Troilus I, 97) and Boccaccio (Filostrato, canto 1), although neither makes explicit that her husband was a war victim. The alliterated h of haples husband (line 65) and the f linking fielde to fight and furious, effectively convey both her husband's valor and her own vulnerability as a consequence of his death.

72 thester colde. Craigie (p. 32, see note to lines 61-64) notes that this is a later occurrence of thester than the latest instance cited in OED. Inversion of the noun and adjective at the end of a line is not uncommon in the poem (see, for example, lines 27, 127, 133, 270, 275, 281). The idea of the cold night being a preserver of chastity may be proverbial.

73-76 Troylus has the chief attributes of the courtly lover: he is loyal, patient, and committed to keeping the relationship secret to avoid damage to his lady's reputation. There is a possible echo of V, 1075-77: "the gentileste, trewely, / That evere I say, to serven feythfully, / And best kan ay his lady honour kepe." Patience in the lover is advocated by Chaucer's Franklin (CT V [F] 773-84).

77-78 There seems to be some corruption here, but the sense is clear: for three years Troylus dedicated himself to, and protected, Creseyd. The source is Troilus V, 9.

79-80 The futility of her wishing things had turned out differently is succinctly and poignantly expressed in these two lines.

81-86 These lines with their reference to Creseyd's moral decline owe more to the Testament than to the Troilus. The Grekish kinge is Diomeid. The metaphor for this decline extends to a simile, one of a number in the poem. Despite the illicit nature of their relationship, Creseyd sees her honor as something intact, protected by Troylus, but ruined by Diomede.

89-92 The Trojan warrior Antenor later betrayed Troy. On the capture of Antenor, Calcas's plea to Priam's court for the release of Creseyd as part of the exchange of prisoners, and the subsequent exchange of Creseyd and Thoas for Antenor see Troilus IV, 50-138. In Chaucer's account Hector objected to the exchange on the ground that Creseyd was not a prisoner of war.

89 Lindsay refers to chance of Weir and chance of Armes (Squyer Meldrum, ed. James Kinsley [London and Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd., 1959], lines 832, 577).

91 Thoas is identified as king of Lemnos in Troilus IV, 138.

94 "Or did they [specifically] seek me?" It was at Calcas' instigation that the handing over of Creseyd was requested by the Greeks.

97-100 Creseyd returns to the idea that the exchange for Antenor is a part of her destiny determined by the Fates at her birth.

101-08 Self-pity here gives way to a defiance of the Fates (dreyry dames, angry nimphes; compare angry Parcas cited above, see notes to lines 1-17) and Fortune. These lines are reminiscent of Cresseid's angry outburst against her gods Venus and Cupid in the Testament. The plagues (afflictions with implications of divine punishment) she refers to are no doubt the poverty, leprosy, and outcast status she suffers as a consequence of the gods' sentence in the Testament.

109 The direct address to Troylus, here and at lines 163 and 281, reminds us of the letter frame.

111-16 Creseyd refers to the emotionally fraught exchange in which she was handed over to Diomede. Her imagined questions to Troylus echo Troilus's self-ques-tioning in Troilus V, 46-48, where he thought of slaying Diomede and fleeing with Criseyde, but did nothing. Stray: to wander away, but also perhaps in the sense of "err."

121-22 Troilus V, 78: "And therwithal he moste his leve take."

123 sleated lipps. No other instances of sleated are known. If it is related to the verb sleten: to hunt or bait, it may be used by the poet to suggest the predatory nature of Diomede. Chaucer used the image of a fisherman laying nets and bait to trap (V, 773-77) to describe Diomede's pursuit of Criseyde, concluding "To fisshen hire he leyde out hook and line" (V, 777). A further association may be with deceptive rhetoric (see note on lines 125-27 below), and is borne out by the phrase sleatyng of wordes (Destruction of Troy, line 194), meaning verbal provocation or incitement.

124 See Troilus V, 89 and 92, where Diomede seizes the bridle of Criseyde's horse.

125-27 According to Chaucer, Diomede had a reputation for being lavish of speech: "of tonge large" (V, 804). The figurative language used here to describe Diomede's arts of persuasion suggests that his words resemble carefully prepared and directed arrows.

135-36 See Troilus V, 932-35, where Diomedes boasts his royal ancestry from Tideus, who, had he lived, would have made Diomede king of "Calydoyne and Arge."

137-40 This account of Diomede's ancestry is probably drawn from Cassandra's interpretation of Troilus's dream in which the boar is said to represent Diomede. How Meleager (from whom, according to Chaucer, following Boccaccio, Diomede is descended [V, 1480, 1514]) came to slay the boar is related in V, 1464-84; and how Diomede's father, Tydeus, slew fifty knights singlehanded (recounted by Statius in his Thebaid) is summarized in V, 1485-93.

141-44 The various promises Diomede apparently makes to Creseyd illustrate her point that he spared no persuasion to win her over. The precise promises he makes do not derive from Chaucer, although the emptiness of at least one of them - to make her queen of Callidon and Arge - may have seemed all too evident to readers who recalled that Diomede had not inherited Calydon and Argos because his father Tydeus had lost these when he died (V, 932-35).

145-50 Once again the poet employs a simile, this time issuing in a rather blunt statement.

149-52 See Troilus V, 173-80 and 953-54 for a possible further source of lines 151-52, where Criseyde, thinking about her sorrow, scarcely hears Diomede's words.

159-61 The poet seems to conflate a number of occasions in the Troilus where Diomede importunes Creseyd. He asks to serve her at Troilus V, 173 , and at line 186 she accepts his friendship. Diomede again offers to be Criseyde's servant at V, 923 and line 941. Criseyde then accedes to his request to see her the following day (lines 944-45, 947-50).

161 In Troilus II, 424 Criseyde accuses Pandarus of employing "al this paynted proces" in his attempts to persuade her to consider Troilus as her lover.

171 Pandarus does curse Criseyde when he finally accepts that she has been false to Troilus: "And fro this world, almyghty God I preye / Delivere hire soon!" (Troilus V, 1742-43).

173-76 A standard antifeminist view.

183-84 See Troilus V, 190-92, where old Calchas receives Criseyde.

185 Thatredes. "The Atridae," i.e., Menelaus and Agamemnon, the sons of Atreus according to Homer. Other instances of crasis in the poem are: thend (line 49), ta (line 208), thawked (line 245), tentere (line 303), and with apostrophe: t'other (line 150) and t'accept (line 159).

187 Not in Chaucer, but see Le Roman de Troie : "Molt fu la danzele esgardee / Moll'unt entre'elz Grezeis loee" (vv. 13815-16) and "Mes li haut prince e li demeine / sunt venu por li remirer / e ses noveles demander" (vv. 13850-52).

189-90 The passage says: "As soon as Phoebus (the sun) arose from the couch on the moon to ascend the skies" - which seems a difficult reading. One might be tempted to emend moone to morne, in which case the passage simply says "In the morning the sun rose and ascended the skies." But moone may well be the correct reading. When Phoebus and the moon are couched (i.e., housed) together, it is, perforce, new moon. In Chaucer, Criseyde was to return to Troy on the tenth day, at new moon (IV, 1590-96; V, 647-58; V, 1016-22). The house Phebus and Cynthia are both couched in is Leo. Chaucer describes Phebus ascending the skies in V, 1107-09: "The laurer-crowned Phebus with his heete / Gan, in his cours ay upward as he wente, / To warmen of the est se the wawes weete," though no mention there is made of his being housed with Cynthia. In Chaucer, Troilus had hoped that Criseyde would return when the moon was "horned newe" (V, 650). In the Epistle his worst fears are borne out as Cresyd, flattered by the Greek lords and the welcoming eyes of all the soldiers (lines 187-88), cuckolds Troyalus by giving Diomede access to her tent (line 191), where she's been couched.

191 See Troilus V, 845, where Diomede approaches Calcas' tent "as fressh as braunche in May."

193-95 In the Troilus, Criseyde gives Diomede a glove (V, 1013).

195 See Troilus V, 939: "But herte myn, syn that I am youre man."

203-04 See Troilus V, 694-96, where Criseyde on the night before the tenth day, when she said she would return, asserts: "My fader nyl for nothyng do me grace / To gon ayeyn."

205 See Troilus V, 1023: "Retornyng in hire soule ay up and down."

208 I. he in MS, but I canceled. It doesn't make much sense for either Troyalus or Cresyd to be turned into a fountain, but I makes the best sense, as if to say Creseyd wept a lot when she realized she had lost Troyalus.

210-16 "And then, considering carefully how I was a woman alone and [how], with fortunes changing daily [because of the war], I did not know what might happen to me: I studied this for a very long time. As my father [was] old and Troyalus [was] lost, then I must endure each wrong." The lines derive from Troilus V, 1023-29.

220 See Troilus V, 702 and 752, where Criseyde thinks to travel by night but fears what might happen to her and puts off going.

221 A sevenight thus. Chaucer avoids saying how long it took Criseyde to forsake Troilus:
But trewely, how longe it was bytwene
That she forsok hym for this Diomede,
Ther is non auctour telleth it, I wene. (V, 1086-88)
In the Troilus Criseyde promises to return to Troy ten days after her departure (V, 239). On the morning of the tenth day Diomede goes to the tent Criseyde shares with her father Calcas (V, 842-45), and we learn that she started to yield to Diomede's pressing claims to her affection on the twelfth day (V, 1033ff.).

225-28 See Troilus V, 1045-48, where Chaucer reports that Troilus wounded Diomede.

234-36 There are definite echoes of Troilus V, 1049-50 in these lines.

239-40 See Troilus V, 1650-66, where Troilus discovers the brooch he has given Criseyde pinned to the collar of Diomede's "cote-armure." In Chaucer it's Deiphebus who wins the armor from Diomede and shows it to Troilus. Here Creseyd simply understands that Troyalus spied the brooch himself.

241-48 See Troilus V, 1751-64, where Troilus perpetually seeks Diomede on the battlefield, but Fortune's hand denies either victory.

245 thawked. No other known occurrences. It may be an instance of crasis, a contraction of the and hawked. The verb hawk occurs from the early seventeenth century meaning to attack or fly at as a hawk does.

246 Compare Troilus IV, 43: "with speres sharpe igrounde."

253-308 Most of this final section of the poem derives from the Testament, with its account of how Cresseid was forced to leave the court after Diomede cast her off (Testament, lines 74-77), her return to her father's house (lines 95-98), her punishment by the gods (lines 302-43), her secretive removal to a leper hospital (lines 386-92), the meeting with Troilus (lines 484-518), the bequest of the ring, and her subsequent death (lines 582-95). Specific echoes and allusions are noted below.

254 lightlied. Meikle printed it as two words, and his version is cited by DOST with the note that it should be one word. The word is chiefly or only Scots according to Craigie (p. 32), and its use strongly suggests a Scottish provenance for the poem. See Henryson, "The Wolf and the Wether," where servants who are lychtlie lordis are criticized (line 2604).

259-60 See Testament, lines 372 and 339-41, describing Cresseid's leprous face.

261-62 See Testament, lines 380-82, where Cresseid is secreted off to the leper hospital.

263-64 clappinge dishe. A wooden dish with a lid used by lepers and beggars to warn of their arrival, and to receive alms. See Testament, lines 342-43 and 479-83, where Cresseid receives "cop and clapper."

265-66 See Testament, lines 521-22, where Troilus, moved by a spark of love, flings a purse of gold and "mony gay jowall" into Cresseid's lap.

268-79 The poet extends the Aristotelian theory of imprinted memory images described by Henryson, lines 505-11, who in turn was developing references encountered in Chaucer's account of the love of Troilus and Criseyde. Chaucer had described the imprinting of Criseyde's image in Troilus' heart, "in his herte botme gan to stiken / Of hir his fixe and depe impressioun" (I, 295-98) when he first saw her in the temple. The author of the Epistle reaches back through Henryson to Chaucer.

289-90 See Testament, lines 580-81, where Cresseid gives what gold she has left to the lepers.

291-92 An ironic allusion to the occasions in the Troilus when Criseyde "gave her heart" first to Troilus, and then to Diomede. There may be a particularly subtle reference to the night when Criseyde gave Troilus a brooch enclosing a heart-shaped ruby symbolizing her vow of constancy to him, as part of an exchange of love tokens. See note below.

294-96 While the poet follows Henryson in having Creseyd convey the news of her death by returning the ring Troilus had given her as a love token (lines 582-85), he chooses to evoke the occasion on which Troilus gave the ring to Criseyde, the night they consummated their relationship (III, 1368-69, 1395).

304 oft. MS: of (and Meikle).

305-08 The debt to Henryson (lines 603-09) is evident. If lipers is the genitive singular form, the liper Cresyd refers to is herself. The messenger was a "lipper man" in the Testament, not a knight as here. Henryson had conveyed how great her fall had been in terms of the loss of society, of ladies and knights, both in Cresseid's Complaint, and in his account of her arrival at the leper colony.

Healthe, healthe to worthy Troylus dothe
His sometyme Cresyed send,
If so she may whose lothed lyfe
And lynes at ones must end.
My wish unseene was but to see
The ones before my deathe,
Which sight unawares yet longe desyred
Dothe stopp my vitall breathe. 1
For destinies hathe me well assured
My rewfull race is ronne,
And Atropos with sythe in hande
Is redye to undone
The fatall threid that Lashesses
And Clotho once did twyne,
And hightes to haste my welcome deathe
And longe desyred fyne.
The cruell goddes to Creaseyda
Unfrindlye foes have beyne,
That would to god some savage beaste
Had me devoured cleane.
When I of Troye was calld a chylde
And Phrigia soyle I sawe,
Would [that] the earthe my little lymms
Into hir wombe had drawe.
Then should no poet have the cause
Faire Creyseydes treuthe to blame,
Nor after this with ladyes falce
Remember Creseydes name;
Ne yet no mann his fickle dame
With Creseyd should upbraid,
Nor by examples bringe me in
Howe Troyolus was betrayde.
But would to god that Hecuba
Had Priamus will fulfilld,
And Paris as the prophetts had
Unlucky ladd had killd; 2
Or ells that he with Oenon yet
Had taried still in Ide,
And lyke a sheperd fed his flocke
By olde Scamanders syde,
And not for Priams sonne beyne know,
Nor Hectors brother namde.
But O the fates, the froward fates,
Hath thus his fortune framde
That he the swellinge seas should sayle
And Menelaus wyfe
By rape should bringe, & breid tweene Greekes
And Trojans mortall stryfe;
Which in thend, as godes forbidd,
Should tourne in flashye flame
The princely pallace, Illion brave,
Of moste renowme & fame. 3
O rather wish I that the songe
Of sousinge seas had drencht
The leiches twayne, & all the fyre
Of love by water quencht.
Then should no greater Eageon sandes 4
With shearing shipp have sought
Mo thousande barged to thy shore,
O Troya towne, have brought.
Then should my father Calcas not
His natyve soyle have fledd,
When he to Tenidos was sent
To seeke Appolloes neid,
And then my haples husband had
Not stand in deadly feilde
In fight amongst the furious Greekes
All armed under sheilde.
Then should myne honour have beyne kept
Myne honestye unfoulde.
But Troyalus thou didst that defend
As well as thester colde:
For thou moste trewe, most pacient was,
Moste secret to thy love,
That ever ladye had ere this,
Or after this may proove.
For 3 yeares space no lyffe but one,
One love that did espye. 5
But why doe I thus wish & woulde?
I waste but tyme therby.
All thinges that womans prayse should bringe
In me is quyte defyled,
That ought a worthy ladye have
A Grekish kinge hathe spoylde;
That shrouded is the shyninge light
As nyght dothe blisfull daye.
So curse I may the hatefull hower
Yea, well it curse I maye,
That Anthono by chance of warr
And force of Greekes was take,
For whom they me & Thoas sende
A full exchange to make.
Was ther no other pledge, allas,
Or was it me they seike?
Why might not for a Trojayne duke
Suffise a kinge, a Greik?
Nay, mans provision was it not,
It was the deadlye doome
The fates ay from my birthe did threat
Uppon my head should come.
Than out on all these dreyry dames
That destenyes dothe dispyse,
And out on Fortune, fy on hope,
The weaver of my woes.
And nowe you angry nimphes whose plagues
I feile uppon me ryffe,
Your hate from hence can harme me nought
Except ye lengthe me lyfe.
But O my Troylus, if I darr
Usurpe this phrase aright,
Howe could thy knightly harte consent,
Or eyes abyde the sight,
To see me under Diomedes guarde
From Troy to Greikes so stray?
Why slewest thou not thy mortall foe
And fled with me awaye?
No, thou extemed myne honour soe
Myne honestye to blott
Thou was affrayde, or ells thou shouldst
Have done it well I wote.
For thou no sooner tooke thy love
Of me, nor from me went,
When Diomede with his sleated lipps
Hathe faste my bridle hent;
And then he sharpes his subtill will,
And faste his brayne he fyles,
And tipps his tongue with retoricks sweit,
Bewitchinge me with wyles,
And layethe me forthe his love alonge,
He no persuasion spares:
Sometymes he piteous tears dothe shedd,
Some tyme as madd he stayres;
Then dothe he bragg of parentes stout,
And in these eares of myne
He ringes me out his royall race
And tells his stately lyne;
Of Meliagers force he boastes,
And howe the Bore he smightes,
And howe his father Tedeus slewe
Well armed fiftye knightes.
Then dothe he promise golden hills,
Nowe hight me giftes full large;
Forthwith he swears to make me quene
Of Callidon & Arge.
But looke, even as the whiskinge wyndes
Of Borias blasting boulde
Amid the playne & champion feildes
May take no staye or holde,
His talke so one eare fills & out
At t'other streight dothe goe;
For then I was to Troyalus vowed,
I swore to love no moe.
And thus so prates me on the waye,
Till of the Grekish hoste
We had a sight; he seinge then
His mynde in vayne was loste
Did hartely pray, & me intreat,
As humblie as he can,
T'accept him as my servant. Lo,
What should I doe? As then
I tooke him, so his painted wordes
So muche did me abuse.
But Troyalus, O moste worthy knight,
Of the I crave excuse.
Too hastye thou may thinke I was:
I might have yet delayed.
Allas, to hastye may I saye.
What travells longe thou made,
And Pandarus, eare ye could bringe
The halfe of this to passe;
His cursinges weighe me downe to hell:
I feile ther payse, allas.
Nowe, nowe, my witt, wher be your help?
Some apte excuse to make
All wemen can devyse at will,
Yet myne, allas, are slacke.
But what excuse may me availe?
My consience is attaint.
For shame I feile my blood to faile,
My dyenge lymmes are faynte.
And nowe amidd the campe of Greekes
We came, & as we paste,
Myne aged father, glad to se
Me, ledd me in as faste.
Thatredes, wreakfull brethern bothe,
Doe muche my bewtye prayse:
The Lordes of Greece me welcomes bring,
The soldiers on me gaze.
As soone as Phoebus on the moone
From coutche did clymbe the skyes,
Sir Diomede to the tent I lay
With spedy pace him plyes,
And faste he prayes, desyres, intreates
Me him some signe to plight
Wherby he might be knowne my man,
My servant, or my knight;
And kyndenes dothe he on me threape,
As all were his at firste;
But yet he frustrate was as then,
Althoughe his harte should burste.
But then my father tolde me that
I must still ther sojourne,
And me assurd I never shoulde
To Troye againe retourne.
Then caste I in my troubled mynde
That Troyalus I had lorne;
Who sorrowed then but Cresyda
As ta fountaine I shoulde tourne.
No consolacion could I fynde,
And then, considderinge well
Howe I a woman was alone
And dayly fortunes fell,
What happs might chance me I ne knewe,
I studyed this full longe.
My father olde, Sir Troyalus loste,
Then must I beare eche wronge.
Nowe this, nowe that, I ryfle upp
Within my buissy brayne,
Whyles will I with my father staye,
Whyles steale to Troye againe.
A sevenight thus I lived; huge fight
Was dayly still without,
Stronge garde within, eche thinge presentes
Unto my harte a doubte.
I pondringe thus, thou sent the Greik,
Sir Diomeid, to his tent
With woundes profounde & lardge which thou
In irefull rage him lent;
To whom I came, not myndinge evill
But frindely him to veiwe,
And tooke my leave; but he anon
Did fresh his mater shewe,
And me besought in humble wyse
To rewe uppon his smarte.
I, reckles wight, to soone, allas,
Did hight him ther my harte.
Thou demed full lyte of all this fare.
Thou thoght I was none suche
Till that on Diomeds cote of armes
Thou spyed the little bruche.
For after that full oft thou wouldste
With Creseyd him uprayde,
And for my sake, as was me tolde,
Thou haste him sore outrayde.
With thawked armes, & helme to dasht,
With speare full sharpe igrounde,
Scarce curable thou pearst his fleshe
With many a grevous wounde. 6
Why on this traytour stay I thus?
The goddes me on him wreake.
Let fate worke on: lyfe leaves my limms,
Even scarcely may I speake.
He falsed hathe his faithe to me,
And lightlied me, allas.
Of force the courte I left, & to
My fathers house did passe.
The crewell godes not yet content
With me to make accordd,
My luringe face they leaper made:
To se me, men abhord.
To hospitall by night I stole
My self from sight to save,
Wher me was given a clappinge dishe
My wretched cromms to crave;
As thou me foundst, when as thou caste
Thy golde into my lapp.
Wouldst thou, O Troyalus, thought ther should
Have chaunst me suche mishapp? 7
Ye famous painters wonted were
To drawe with coulers pure
The forme of thinge, with dainty hande,
For evermore endure;
And ye ingravers, purposely,
Suche artes as erste were paste,
Did beate in massy marble stronge
Eternally to laste.
But love, in mowld of memory,
Imprintes in perfitt harte
The loved, so that deathe itself
Can noght the same devert.
As nowe by the, O Troyalus deare,
I plainely may appeare,
Dothe ought resemble yet the shape
That Cresyade once did beare?
It cannot be; but nowe, but nowe,
My ghost must hence depart.
I feile the stinge of gaspinge deathe
Dothe strayne me by the harte.
No gratefull token may I send,
My golden giftes are scante.
My harte to send thou might refuse
And say it truthe dothe wante.
Except a ringe, nought ells I have,
Which thou me gave that night
That joyned was our hartes in one
And faythe to others plight,
The which I send in paper lapte,
Bewashed with teares,
By him that beares my latest lynes
And funerall that heares.
But this had I almoste forgott,
So troubleth deathe my mynde,
That thou voutchsafe tentere the coirps
That oft thyne armes hathe wynde;
And on my tombe some epitaphe
Engrave as lykes the beste.
So fayre the well: this lipers knight
Can showe of me the rest. 8

(see note)

writing; once
You once

the fates
doleful course [of life]

promises to hasten

Unpropitious; been
(see note)

(see note)
(see note)
faithfulness; find wanting

Nor; mistress

by [way of] illustration

(see note)


Mount Ida

(see note)
been known

adverse; (see note)

i.e., Helen
abduction; generat; (see note)

the end; (see note)
reduce (transform); flashing

(see note)
drenching; drowned
two lovers; (see note)

dividing; (see note)
brought by boat

(see note)

Tenedos; (see note)
To discover Apollo's will
stood; battlefield; (see note)

reputation; preserved
virtue (chastity); undefiled
darkness; (see note)
faithful; (see note)
discreet in

(see note)

(see note)

(see note)


Antenor; fortune of war; (see note)
taken [prisoner]
(see note)

Was no there other hostage
(see note)

(see note)
fatal judgment
ever; threaten

dismal; (see note)

feel; rife
cannot harm me
dare; (see note)
(see note)

wander away

[good] reputation; sully

well I know
leave; (see note)

sly lips; (see note)
firmly (swiftly); seized; (see note)
sharpens; cunning; (see note)
quickly; brain; sharpens
expounds [as we went] along

he sheds affecting tears
as if mad; stares
forefathers bold (proud)

proclaims to me; ancestry; (see note)
describes; noble lineage
strength; (see note)

fifty well-armed knights
(see note)
promises; generous

briskly blowing; (see note)
Boreas (the North Wind); boldly
plain and open fields

(see note)

speaks boastfully to me

What he had in mind
heartily beseech; entreat

(see note)

rhetoric; (see note)


imprecations; (see note)
their weight
(see note)


accused (tainted)


(see note)

vengeful; (see note)
(see note)

(see note)

[where] I lay; (see note)
addresses himself (applies himself)
(see note)
(see note)

at the first attempt
at that time

(see note)

I considered; (see note)

to a; (see note)

(see note)

(unfortunate) events; happen to me

examine thoroughly
At one time
At another time; (see note)
(see note)

(see note)

in a friendly manner

renewed his advances
to pity his pain; (see note)
knew; little

(see note)
very often; (see note)

severely vanquished
(see note)
sharply ground; (see note)

avenge me on him

he has broken his promise; (see note)
scorned (jilted); (see note)
Of necessity

alluring; they leprous made; (see note)

(see note)
To keep me out of sight
(see note)
threw; (see note)

misfortune; (see note)


perfect heart
[The image of] the beloved



overcome (afflict)
(see note)

(see note)
faithfulness; lack

(see note)


final letter

to bury the body
embraced; (see note)
(see note)
pleases you

(see note)