Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. I. Chaucer to Donne
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. I. Early Poetry: Chaucer to Donne
The Story of Constance
By John Gower (1325?–1408)
[Confessio Amantis, lib. ii.]

BUT what the highë God woll spare
It may for no perill misfare.
This worthy maiden, which was there,
Stode than, as who saith, dede for fere,
To se the fest, how that it stood,        5
Whiche all was torned into blood.
The dissh forth with the cuppe and all
Bebled 1 they werën over all.
She sigh 2 hem die on every side,
No wonder though she wepte and cride,        10
Makend many a wofull mone.
Whan all was slain but she al-one,
This oldë fend, this Sarazin,
Let take anone this Constantin,
With all the good she thider brought,        15
And hath ordeigned as she thought
A naked ship withoutë stere,
In which the good and her infere 3
Vitailled full for yerës five,
Where that the wind it woldë drive,        20
She put upon the wawës wilde.
  But he, which allë thing may shilde,
Thre yeer til that she cam to londe,
Her ship to stere hath take on honde, 4
And in Northumberlond arriveth,        25
And happeth thannë that she driveth
Under a castell with the flood,
Whiche upon Humber bankë stood:
And was the kingës owne also,
The whiche Allee was cleped tho,        30
A Saxon and a worthy knight,
But he beleveth nought aright
Of this castell was castellaine
Elda, the kingës chamberlaine,
A knightly man after his lawe.        35
And when he sigh upon the wawe,
The ship drivend alonë so,
He badde anon men shulden go
To se, what it betoken may.
This was upon a somer day,        40
The ship was lokëd, and she founde. 5
Elda within a litel stounde
It wist, and with his wife anon
Toward this yongë lady gon,
Where that they foundë gret richesse.        45
But she her woldë nought confesse,
Whan they her axen what she was.
And netheles, upon the cas,
Out of the ship with great worship
They toke her into felaship,        50
As they that weren of her glade
But she no maner joië made,
But sorweth sore of that she fonde
No Cristendome in thilkë londe.
But ellës she hath all her will,        55
And thus with hem she dwelleth still.
  Dame Hermegild, which was the wife
Of Elda, liche her owën life
Constancë loveth; and fell so,
Spekend all day betwene hem two,        60
Through grace of Goddës purveiaunce,
This maiden taughtë the creaunce 6
Unto this wif so parfitly,
Upon a day that, fastë by,
In presence of her husbonde,        65
Wher they go walkend on the stronde,
A blindë man, which cam ther ladde,
Unto this wife criend he badde
With bothe his hondës up, and praide
To her, and in this wise he saide;        70
‘O Hermegilde, which Cristes feith
Enformëd, as Constance saith,
Receivëd hast, yif me my sighte.’
  Upon this worde her herte aflighte, 7
Thenkend what bestë was to done,        75
But netheles she herde his bone, 8
And saide,—‘In trust of Cristës lawe,
Which don was on the crosse and slawe,
Thou blindë man, beholde and se.’
With that to God upon his kne        80
Thonkend, 9 he tok his sight anon,
Wherof they merveile everychon.
But Elda wondreth most of alle;
This open thing whiche is befalle
Concludeth him by such a way,        85
That he the feith no nede obey.
  Now list what fell upon this thinge.
This Elda forth unto the kinge
A morwe tok his way and rood,
And Hermegild at home abood        90
Forth with Constancë well at ese.
Elda, which thought his king to plese
As he, that than unwedded was,
Of Constance all the pleinë cas
As godelich as he couthë, tolde.        95
The king was glad and said he wolde
Comen thider in suche a wise,
That he him might of her avise.
Note 1. besmeared. [back]
Note 2.
  ‘To my bettre did no reverence,
Of my sovereyns gafe no fors at al,
Wex obstinat by inobedience,
Ran into gardyns, applys ther I stal.’
Note 3. together. [back]
Note 4. taken in hand. [back]
Note 5. Constance was found. [back]
Note 6. creed. [back]
Note 7. felt afflicted. [back]
Note 8. petition. [back]
Note 9. Giving thanks. [back]

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.