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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Petronella
By John Gower (1325?–1408)
 
From the ‘Confessio Amantis’

A KING whilom was yonge and wise,
The which set of his wit great prise.
Of depe ymaginations
And straunge interpretations,
Problemes and demaundès eke        5
His wisedom was to finde and seke;
Wherof he wolde in sondry wise
Opposen hem that weren wise.
But none of hem it mightè bere
Upon his word to yive answére; 1        10
Out taken one, which was a knight:
To him was every thing so light,
That also sone as he hem herde
The kingès wordès he answerde,
What thing the king him axè wolde,        15
Whereof anone the trouth he tolde.
The king somdele had an envie,
And thought he wolde his wittès plie
  To setè some conclusion,
  Which shuldè be confusion        20
Unto this knight, so that the name
And of wisdom the highè fame
Towárd him selfe he woldè winne.
And thus of all his wit withinne
This king began to studie and muse        25
What straungè matér he might use
The knightès wittès to confounde;
And atè last he hath it founde,
And for the knight anon he sente,
That he shall tellè what he mente.        30
Upon three points stood the matére,
Of questions as thou shaltè here.
  The firstè pointè of all thre
Was this: what thing in his degre
Of all this world hath nedè lest,        35
And yet men helpe it allthermest.
  The second is: what moste is worth
And of costáge is lest put forth.
  The thrid is: which is of most cost,
And lest is worth, and goth to lost.        40
  The king these thre demaundès axeth.
To the knight this law he taxeth:
That he shall gone, and comen ayein
The thriddè weke, and tell him pleine
To every point, what it amounteth.        45
And if so be that he miscounteth
To make in his answére a faile,
There shall none other thinge availe,
The king saith, but he shall be dede
And lese his goodès and his hede.        50
This knight was sory of this thinge,
And wolde excuse him to the kinge;
But he ne wolde him nought forbere,
And thus the knight of his answére
Goth home to take avisement.        55
But after his entendement
The more he cast his wit about,
The more he stant thereof in doubte.
Tho 2 wist he well the kingès herte,
That he the deth ne shulde asterte, 3        60
And suche a sorroe to him hath take
That gladship he hath all forsake.
He thought first upon his life,
And after that upon his wife,
Upon his children eke also,        65
Of whichè he had doughteres two.
The yongest of hem had of age
Fourtene yere, and of visage
She was right faire, and of stature
Lich to an hevenlich figure,        70
And of manér and goodly speche,
Though men wolde all landès seche,
They shulden nought have founde her like.
She sigh 4 her fader sorroe and sike, 5
And wist nought the causè why,        75
So cam she to him prively,
And that was wher he made his mone
Within a gardin all him one. 6
Upon her knees she gan down falle
With humble herte, and to him calle        80
And saidè:—“O good fader dere,
Why makè ye thus hevy chere, 7
And I wot nothinge how it is?
And well ye knowè, fader, this,
What ádventurè that you felle        85
Ye might it saufly to me telle;
For I have oftè herd you saide,
That ye such truste have on me laide,
That to my suster ne to my brother
In all this worlde ne to none other        90
Ye durstè telle a privete
So well, my fader, as to me.
Forthy, 8 my fader, I you praie
Ne casteth nought that hert 9 awaie,
For I am she that woldè kepe        95
Your honour.” And with that to wepe
Her eye may nought be forbore; 10
She wisheth for to ben unbore, 11
Er 12 that her fader so mistriste
To tellen her of that he wiste.        100
And ever among mercy 13 she cride,
That he ne shulde his counseil hide
From her, that so wolde him good
And was so nigh flesshe and blood.
So that with weping, atè laste        105
His chere upon his childe he caste,
And sorroefully to that she praide 14
He tolde his tale, and thus he saide:—
“The sorroe, doughter, which I make
Is nought all only for my sake,        110
But for the bothe and for you alle.
For suche a chaunce is me befalle,
That I shall er this thriddè day
Lese all that ever I lesè may,
My life and all my good therto.        115
Therefore it is I sorroe so.”
  “What is the cause, alas,” quod she,
“My fader, that ye shulden be
Dede and destruied in suche a wise?”
  And he began the points devise,        120
Which as the king tolde him by mouthe,
And said her pleinly, that he couthe
Answeren to no point of this.
And she, that hereth howe it is,
Her counseil yaf 15 and saide tho:— 16        125
  “My fader, sithen it is so,
That ye can se none other weie,
But that ye must nedès deie,
I wolde pray you of o 17 thinge,—
Let me go with you to the kinge,        130
And ye shall make him understonde,
How ye, my wittès for to fonde,
Have laid your answere upon me,
And telleth him in such degre
Upon my worde ye wol abide        135
To life or deth, what so betide.
For yet perchaunce I may purchace
With some good word the kingès grace,
Your life and eke your good to save.
For oftè shall a woman have        140
Thing, whiche a man may nought areche.”
  The fader herd his doughters speche,
And thought there was no reson in,
And sigh his ownè life to winne
He couthè done himself no cure. 18        145
So better him thought in àventure
To put his life and all his good,
Than in the manner as it stood,
His life incertein for to lese.
And thus thenkend he gan to chese        150
To do the counseil of this maid,
And toke the purpose which she said.
  The day was comen, and forth they gone;
Unto the court they come anone,
Where as the kinge in his jugement        155
Was set and hath this knight assent.
Arraièd in her bestè wise,
This maiden with her wordès wise
Her fader leddè by the honde
Into the place, 19 where he fonde        160
The king with other which he wolde;
And to the king knelend he tolde
As he enformèd was to-fore,
And praith the king, that he therfore
His doughters wordès woldè take;        165
And saith, that he woll undertake
Upon her wordès for to stonde.
Tho was ther great merveile on honde,
That he, which was so wise a knight,
His life upon so yonge a wight        170
Besettè wolde in jeopartie,
And many it helden for folie.
But at the lastè, netheles,
The king commaundeth ben in pees,
And to this maide he cast his chere, 20        175
And saide he wolde her talè here,
And bad her speke; and she began:—
  “My legè lord, so as I can,”
Quod she, “the pointès which I herde,
They shull of reson ben answerde.        180
The first I understonde is this:
What thinge of all the worlde it is,
Which men most helpe and hath lest nede.
My legè lord, this wolde I rede:
The erthe it is, which evermo        185
With mannès labour is bego
As well in winter as in maie.
The mannès honde doth what he may
To helpe it forth and make it riche,
And forthy men it delve and diche,        190
And even it with strength of plough,
Wher it hath of him self inough
So that his nede is atè leste.
For every man, birdè, and beste
Of flour and gras and roote and rinde        195
And every thing by way of kinde
Shall sterve, and erthe it shall become
As it was out of erthè nome, 21
It shall be therthe torne ayein. 22
And thus I may by reson sein        200
That erthè is the most nedeles
And most men helpe it netheles;
So that, my lord, touchend of this
I have answerde how that it is.
  That other point I understood,        205
Which most is worth, and most is good,
And costeth lest a man to kepe:
My lorde, if ye woll takè kepe, 23
I say it is humilitè,
Through whichè the high Trinitè        210
As for desertè of pure love
Unto Mariè from above,
Of that he knewe her humble entente,
His ownè Sone adown he sente
Above all other, and her he chese        215
For that vertu, which bodeth pees.
So that I may by reson calle
Humilitè most worthe of alle,
And lest it costeth to mainteine
In all the worlde, as it is seine.        220
For who that hath humblesse on honde,
He bringeth no werres into londe,
For he desireth for the best
To setten every man in reste.
Thus with your highè reverence        225
Me thenketh that this evidence
As to this point is suffisaunt.
  And touchend of the remenaunt,
Which is the thridde of your axinges,
What lest is worth of allè thinges,        230
And costeth most, I telle it pride,
Which may nought in the heven abide.
For Lucifer with hem that felle
Bar pridè with him into helle.
There was pride of to grete cost        235
Whan he for pride hath heven lost;
And after that in Paradise
Adam for pridè lost his prise
In middel-erth. And eke also
Pride is the cause of allè wo,        240
That all the world ne may suffice
To staunche of pridè the reprise.
Pride is the heved 24 of all sinne,
Which wasteth all and may nought winne;
Pride is of every mis 25 the pricke; 26        245
Pride is the worstè of all wicke,
And costeth most and lest is worth
In placè where he hath his forth.
  Thus have I said that I woll say
Of min answére, and to you pray,        250
My legè lorde, of your office,
That ye such grace and suche justice
Ordeignè for my fader here,
That after this, whan men it here,
The world therof may spekè good.”        255
  The king, which reson understood,
And hath all herde how she hath said,
Was inly glad, and so well paid,
That all his wrath is over go.
And he began to lokè tho        260
Upon this maiden in the face,
In which he found so mochel grace,
That all his prise on her he laide
In audience, and thus he saide:—
  “My fairè maidè, well the 27 be        265
Of thin answére, and eke of the
Me liketh well, and as thou wilte,
Foryivè be thy faders gilte.
And if thou were of such lignage,
That thou to me were of parage,        270
And that thy fader were a pere,
As he is now a bachelere,
So siker as I have a life,
Thou sholdest thannè be my wife.
But this I saiè netheles,        275
That I woll shapè thin encrese;
What worldès good that thou wolt crave
Are of my yift, and thou shalt have.”
  And she the king with wordès wise,
Knelende, thanketh in this wise:—        280
  “My legè lord, god mot you quite. 28
My fader here hath but a lite
Of warison, 29 and that he wende
Had all be 30 lost, but now amende
He may well through you noble grace.”        285
  With that the king right in his place
Anon forth in that freshè hete
An erldome, which than of eschete
Was latè falle into his honde,
Unto this knight with rent and londe        290
Hath yove, and with his chartre sesed,
And thus was all the noise appesed.
This maiden, which sate on her knees
To-fore the kingès charitees,
Commendeth and saith evermore:—        295
  “My legè lord, right now to-fore
Ye saide, and it is of recorde,
That if my fader were a lorde
And pere unto these other grete,
Ye wolden for nought ellès lette,        300
That I ne sholdè be your wife.
And thus wote every worthy life
A kingès worde mot nede be holde.
Forthy my lord, if that ye wolde
So great a charitè fulfille,        305
God wotè it were well my wille.
For he which was a bachelere,
My fader, is now made a pere;
So whan as ever that I cam,
An erlès doughter nowe I am.”        310
  This yongè king, which peisèd 31 all
Her beautè and her wit withall,
As he, which was with lovè hente, 32
Anone therto gaf his assente.
He might nought the place asterte,        315
That she nis lady of his herte.
So that he toke her to his wife
To holdè, while that he hath life.
And thus the king towárd his knight
Accordeth him, as it is right.        320
And over this good is to wite 33
In the cronique as it is write,
This noble kinge, of whom I tolde,
Of Spainè by tho daiès olde
The kingdom had in governaunce,        325
And as the boke maketh remembraunce,
Alphonsè was his propre name.
The knight also, if I shall name,
Danz Petro hight, and as men telle,
His doughter wisè Petronelle        330
Was clepèd, which was full of grace.
And that was sene in thilkè place,
Where she her fader out of tene 34
Hath brought and made her selfe a quene,
Of that she hath so well desclosed        335
The points whereof she was opposed.
 
Note 1. No one could solve his puzzles. [back]
Note 2. For. [back]
Note 3. Escape. [back]
Note 4. Saw. [back]
Note 5. Sigh. [back]
Note 6. Own. [back]
Note 7. Care. [back]
Note 8. Therefore. [back]
Note 9. Heart. [back]
Note 10. Cannot endure it. [back]
Note 11. Unborn. [back]
Note 12. Ere. [back]
Note 13. In the midst of pity (for him). [back]
Note 14. In answer to her prayer. [back]
Note 15. Gave. [back]
Note 16. Thus. [back]
Note 17. One. [back]
Note 18. Saw that he could do nothing to save his own life. [back]
Note 19. Palace. [back]
Note 20. Turned his attention. [back]
Note 21. Taken. [back]
Note 22. Shall turn thereto again. [back]
Note 23. Heed. [back]
Note 24. Head. [back]
Note 25. Mischief. [back]
Note 26. Core. [back]
Note 27. Thee. [back]
Note 28. May God requite you. [back]
Note 29. Has had but little reward. [back]
Note 30. Been. [back]
Note 31. Poised—weighed. [back]
Note 32. Seized. [back]
Note 33. Know. [back]
Note 34. Destruction. [back]
 
 
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