Back to top

Poem 5, Balade [The Castoff Lady]


Abbreviations: A: Neuchâtel; B: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS lat. 3343; C: Barcelona text; CT: Chaucer, Canterbury Tales; LGW: Chaucer, The Legend of Good Women; P: University of Pennsylvania MS French 15.

[Ch I; MS #235] Chançon Royal

12ff Many of the personifications that appear in the “Ch” poems, such as Franchise, Esperance, Dangier, and Doulz Regart here, are closely associated with the allegory of the Roman de la Rose, which Chaucer says he translated (LGW F.329).

Textual Notes

16 conforte. P: confort a.

42 entrer. P: en tron.

48 or 49 Line missing.

52 clamerai. P: clamera.

[Ch II; MS #237] Balade

10 The burning lover is a familiar figure. Thus Damian in Chaucer’s Merchant’s Tale, at the sight of May, almost “swelte and swowned,” so is he burnt by Venus’ torch (CT IV[E]1776–77).

[Ch III; MS #239] Balade

There are no notes for this poem.

[Ch IV; MS #240] Chançon Royal

32 sejour. P: ce jour.

[Ch V; MS #241] Balade

1 The story of the false judge Apius is found in Livy’s History III; Roman de la Rose, lines 5559–5628; Gower’s Confessio Amantis 7.5131–5306; and Chaucer’s Physician’s Tale. Ovid tells the story of how the impious Lycaon prepares a meal of human flesh for Jupiter in Metamorphoses I.198–243.

3 Herod the Great is perhaps best remembered for the Massacre of the Innocents episode related in Matthew 2:16–18. His son, another Herod, reluctantly had John the Baptist beheaded to fulfill a promise made to his wife’s daughter, Salome (Matthew 14:1–11, Mark 6:17–28). The former reference makes more sense in this context, although remarks by the Pardoner (CT VI[C]488–90) and the Prioress (CT VII[B2]574–75) indicate Chaucer’s familiarity with both stories. Nero’s brutal acts were familiar to medieval wordsmiths and audiences alike. Chaucer’s Monk tells the story of Nero’s death in his tale (CT VII[B2]3369–73).

4–5 For Dido’s vain pleas to Aeneas compare Aeneid IV.305–92.

19 la fontaine Helie. For the mountain Helicon, where Pegasus’ hoof created the fountain of the Muses (the Hypocrene), see Ovid, Metamorphoses V.250–63.

25–28 Medea’s story is a favorite of medieval writers. Jason’s infidelity to her is the subject of many medieval retellings, including Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women, where Medea’s revenge is omitted as in Ovid’s Heroides, to make her a martyr to love. Gower’s Confessio Amantis, the longest of the English retellings, presents her as a sympathetic victim of Jason’s perjury (5.3247–4222).

Textual Notes

3 d’Erode. P: de Rode.

18–19 Lines reversed in P.

31 ne fu. P: me fu.

33 fis. P: fus.

[Ch VI; MS #242] Balade

1–2 The daughters of Apollo and Clymene are the Heliades, sisters of Phaeton, but they are five in number. There may be a confusion here with the three Graces, who were the daughters of Jupiter and Eurynome; Eurynome’s daughter Leucothoë was also loved by Phoebus. The character of the Graces, attendants of Venus, might help the sense of the poem, but the uncertainty of the husband’s identity (line 8) leaves the final meaning a puzzle.

4 In Greek mythology Damia is equated with Demeter, the Roman Ceres, goddess of the fields.

11 Palinurus was the helmsman of one of Aeneas’ ships who is sacrificed to Neptune by Aeneas’ mother, Venus (Aeneid V.814–71). In the underworld, Palinurus tells Aeneas how he died (Aeneid VI.337–83). This final meeting is depicted in Chaucer’s House of Fame (line 443).

23 Eolus was the ruler of the winds who is frequently represented as blowing two horns. Compare Chaucer’s House of Fame, lines 1571–83.

Textual Notes

11 Palanurus. P: Palamirus.

13 creée. P: cree.

24 fondera. P: forgera.

28 qui. P: que.

[Ch VII; MS #244] Balade

2 King Acrisius of Argos locked his childless daughter, Danaë, in a bronze tower or cave after hearing he would be killed by her son. Zeus, however, comes to her variously as a sunbeam, rain, or a shower of gold and impregnates her with Perseus.

5–6 Argus. Juno appointed the hundred-eyed Argus to guard Io, Jupiter’s mistress whom he had turned into a cow to protect her from Juno’s anger. References to a guard with a hundred eyes were proverbial. Chaucer’s Wife of Bath prides herself on her ability to fool even the hundred-eyed Argus (CT III[D]358–61). See also Gower’s Confessio Amantis 4.3317–61; and Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale (CT I[A]1390), Merchant’s Tale (CT IV[E]2111), and Troilus and Crisyede 4.1459.

13 Tantalus offered the gods a stew made from the body of his son, Pelops, to test their divinity. His punishment involved standing in shallow water beneath a fruit tree with low branches. Whenever he reached for a piece of fruit, the branches withdrew and whenever he went to drink, the water receded. In Chaucer’s Book of the Duchess, the Man in Black asserts that he has “more sorowe than Tantale” (line 709).

[Ch VIII; MS #245] Balade

1–14 Thisbe, Ariadne, Dido, and Phyllis are all subjects of individual tales in Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women. Many of the other women named here appear as references in other Chaucerian works.

Textual Notes

17 jours. P: tours.

24 Fisses. P: Eusses.

[Ch IX; MS #249] Chanson Royal

31 This line is a syllable short and does not make sense as it stands. The translation represents a guess as to the intended meaning.

Textual Notes

17 flenchist. P: flechist.

[Ch X; MS #260] Rondel

There are no notes for this poem.

[Ch XI; MS #263] Chançon Royal

1–9 This list of seven nonpareils includes two from the Old Testament (Esther and Judith) and five from Greek myth.

Textual Notes

40 Mon. P: A mon.

43 avient. P: venant.

59 que. P: qua.

[Ch XII; P #273] Balade

1 si. P: se.

12 Bel . . . bon. P: bonne.

13 que onques. P: conques.

[Ch XIII; P #274] Balade

16 fors que. P: forques.

[Ch XIV; MS #275] Balade

1–24 In each stanza the endings of the first six lines are echoed at the end of the following hemistich (confort/ressort). This is “rime batellée.”

Textual Notes

11 Mais. P: Et.
et fort. P: effort.

12 Et. P: De.

15 je. P: ou.

[Ch XV; P #276] Balade

19 qu’a souhait. P: quassouhait.
[Ch V; MS #241]









5. Balade

Fauls Apyus, pires que Lichaon,
Sans foy, sans droit, compaignon de Judas,     
Cuers d’Erode, voulenté de Noiron,
Je vail Dido parlant a Eneas,
Lasse et deserte; ainsi laissie m’as
Seule, esgaree, ou de tous biens mendie
A cuer dolent et a couleur changie,
Plus que triste, de maulx avironnee.
Ma plaisance est voie desesperee.
En povreté gist la fin de ma vie,
Car cuer de pierre a perverse pensee.
Jone, m’amas, et vieille, m’as guerpie.

Usee suis et en chetivoisin,
Servant de ce dont jadis me gardas.
De moy veoir, abhominacion!
Par tez samblans te moustre plus que las.
Ou sont les chans que ja pieça chantas?
Ou est le temps que la flour fu queillie
Soubz le ruissel de la fontaine Helie?
De la liquer trop m’a descoulouree
Ou par tez dis j’estoie asseüree,
Desquelz je suis appertement trahie,
Car sans raison, de tristresse affublee,
Jone, etc.

Ma simplesce donna audicion
A ton faint cuer et tant que tu trouvas
Medee vraye. Or ay trouvé Jasson
En fausseté que ja ne laisseras.
Venus, Venus, trop est las le solas,
Car tes brandons ont ma coulour noircie.
Pourquoy ne fu l’aventure anoncie
Du bel Helaine et celui de Medee,
Quant tu me fis jadis l’amour celee
Qui a present me tolt plaisance lie?
Di moy pourquoy ou je suis esgaree.
Jone, m’amas, et vielle, m’as guerpie.

5. [The Castoff Lady]

False Apius, worse than Lichaon,
Without faith, without justice, fellow of Judas,
Heart of Herod, will of Nero,
I am like Dido speaking to Aeneas,
Dejected and deserted. Thus have you left me
Alone, lost, where I am deprived of all good,
With sorrowing heart and changed complexion,
More than sad, beset by evils;
My pleasure is a path of despair;
In poverty lies the end of my life,
For a heart of stone has wicked thought;
Young, you loved me, and old, you have cast me off.

I am spent and in misery,
Servant of that from which you formerly protected me.   
To see me, abomination!
By your looks you prove yourself worse than a wretch.
Where are the songs that you used to sing?
Where is the time that the flower was gathered
Beside the stream of the fountain of Helicon?
It stained me deeply with its waters
When by your song I was made confident.
By these I am openly betrayed,
Deprived of justice, shrouded with sadness.
Young, you loved me, and old, you have cast me off.

My innocence gave ear
To your deceitful heart until you found
A true Medea. Now I have found a Jason
In the falsity which you will never abandon.
Venus, Venus, your pleasure is too wretched,
For your torch has blackened my complexion.
Why was I not told the tale
Of the beautiful Helen and that of Medea
When earlier you incited me to the secret love
Which now takes joyful delight from me?
Tell me why I am thrown aside.
Young, you loved me, and old, you have cast me off.

(see note)

(see note); (t-note)
(see note)

(see note)

(see note)



Go To Poem 6, Balade [A New Golden Age]