Verse > Geoffrey Chaucer > Complete Poetical Works
Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340–1400).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1894.
The Minor Poems
III. The Book of the Duchesse
The Proem.

I HAVE gret wonder, by this lighte,
How that I live, for day ne nighte
I may nat slepe wel nigh noght;
I have so many an ydel thoght
Purely for defaute of slepe,        5
That, by my trouthe, I take kepe
Of no-thing, how hit cometh or goth,
Ne me nis no-thing leef nor loth.
Al is y-liche good to me—
Ioye or sorowe, wherso hit be—        10
For I have feling in no-thing,
But, as it were, a mased thing,
Alway in point to falle a-doun;
For [sory] imaginacioun
Is alway hoolly in my minde.        15
  And wel ye wite, agaynes kinde
Hit were to liven in this wyse;
For nature wolde nat suffyse
To noon erthely creature
Not longe tyme to endure        20
Withoute slepe, and been in sorwe;
And I ne may, ne night ne morwe,
Slepe; and thus melancolye,
And dreed I have for to dye,
Defaute of slepe, and hevinesse        25
Hath sleyn my spirit of quiknesse,
That I have lost al lustihede.
Suche fantasyes ben in myn hede
So I not what is best to do.
  But men mighte axe me, why so        30
I may not slepe, and what me is?
But natheles, who aske this
Leseth his asking trewely.
My-selven can not telle why
The sooth; but trewely, as I gesse,        35
I holdë hit be a siknesse
That I have suffred this eight yere,
And yet my bote is never the nere;
For ther is phisicien but oon,
That may me hele; but that is doon.        40
Passe we over until eft;
That wil not be, moot nede be left;
Our first matere is good to kepe.
  So whan I saw I might not slepe,
Til now late, this other night,        45
Upon my bedde I sat upright,
And bad oon reche me a book,
A romaunce, and he hit me took
To rede aud dryve the night away;
For me thoghte it better play        50
Then playen either at chesse or tables.
  And in this boke were writen fables
That clerkes hadde, in olde tyme,
And other poets, put in ryme
To rede, and for to be in minde        55
Whyl men loved the lawe of kinde.
This book ne spak but of such thinges,
Of quenes lyves, and of kinges,
And many othere thinges smale.
Amonge al this I fond a tale        60
That me thoughte a wonder thing.
  This was the tale: Ther was a king
That highte Seys, and hadde a wyf,
The beste that mighte bere lyf;
And this quene highte Alcyone.        65
So hit befel, therafter sone,
This king wolde wenden over see.
To tellen shortly, whan that he
Was in the see, thus in this wyse,
Soche a tempest gan to ryse        70
That brak hir mast, and made it falle,
And clefte hir ship, and dreinte hem alle,
That never was founden, as it telles,
Bord ne man, ne nothing elles.
Right thus this king Seys loste his lyf.        75
  Now for to speken of his wyf:—
This lady, that was left at home,
Hath wonder, that the king ne come
Hoom, for hit was a longe terme.
Anon her herte gan to erme;        80
And for that hir thoughte evermo
Hit was not wel [he dwelte] so,
She longed so after the king
That certes, hit were a pitous thing
To telle hir hertely sorwful lyf        85
That hadde, alas! this noble wyf;
For him she loved alderbest.
Anon she sente bothe eest and west
To seke him, but they founde nought.
  ‘Alas!’ quoth she, ‘that I was wrought!        90
And wher my lord, my love, be deed?
Certes, I nil never ete breed,
I make a-vowe to my god here,
But I mowe of my lorde here!’
Such sorwe this lady to her took        95
That trewely I, which made this book,
Had swich pite and swich rowthe
To rede hir sorwe, that, by my trowthe,
I ferde the worse al the morwe
After, to thenken on her sorwe.        100
  So whan [she] coude here no word
That no man mighte fynde hir lord,
Ful oft she swouned, and seide ‘alas!’
For sorwe ful nigh wood she was,
Ne she coude no reed but oon;        105
But doun on knees she sat anoon,
And weep, that pite was to here.
  ‘A! mercy! swete lady dere!’
Quod she to Iuno, hir goddesse;
‘Help me out of this distresse,        110
And yeve me grace my lord to see
Sone, or wite wher-so he be,
Or how he fareth, or in what wyse,
And I shal make you sacrifyse,
And hoolly youres become I shal        115
With good wil, body, herte, and al;
And but thou wilt this, lady swete,
Send me grace to slepe, and mete
In my slepe som certeyn sweven,
Wher-through that I may knowen even        120
Whether my lord be quik or deed.’
With that word she heng doun the heed,
And fil a-swown as cold as ston;
Hir women caughte her up anon,
And broghten hir in bed al naked,        125
And she, forweped and forwaked,
Was wery, and thus the dede sleep
Fil on her, or she toke keep,
Through Iuno, that had herd hir bone,
That made hir [for] to slepe sone;        130
For as she prayde, so was don,
In dede; for Iuno, right anon,
Called thus her messagere
To do her erande, and he com nere.
Whan he was come, she bad him thus:        135
‘Go bet,’ quod Iuno, ‘to Morpheus,
Thou knowest him wel, the god of sleep;
Now understond wel, and tak keep.
Sey thus on my halfe, that he
Go faste into the grete see,        140
And bid him that, on alle thing,
He take up Seys body the king,
That lyth ful pale and no-thing rody.
Bid him crepe into the body,
Aud do it goon to Alcyone        145
The quene, ther she lyth alone,
And shewe hir shortly, hit is no nay,
How hit was dreynt this other day;
And do the body speke so
Right as hit was wont to do,        150
The whyles that hit was on lyve.
Go now faste, and hy thee blyve!’
  This messager took leve and wente
Upon his wey, and never ne stente
Til he com to the derke valeye        155
That stant bytwene roches tweye,
Ther never yet grew corn ne gras,
Ne tree, ne nothing that ought was,
Beste, ne man, ne nothing elles,
Save ther were a fewe welles        160
Came renning fro the cliffes adoun,
That made a deedly sleping soun,
And ronnen doun right by a cave
That was under a rokke y-grave
Amid the valey, wonder depe.        165
Ther thise goddes laye and slepe,
Morpheus, and Eclympasteyre,
That was the god of slepes heyre,
That slepe and did non other werk.
  This cave was also as derk        170
As helle pit over-al aboute;
They had good leyser for to route
To envye, who might slepe beste;
Some henge hir chin upon hir breste
And slepe upright, hir heed y-hed,        175
And some laye naked in hir bed,
And slepe whyles the dayes laste.
  This messager com flying faste,
And cryed, ‘O ho! awak anon!’
Hit was for noght; ther herde him non.        180
‘Awak!’ quod he, ‘who is, lyth there?’
And blew his horn right in hir ere,
And cryed ‘awaketh!’ wonder hyë.
This god of slepe, with his oon yë
Cast up, axed, ‘who clepeth there?’        185
‘Hit am I,’ quod this messagere;
‘Iuno bad thou shuldest goon’—
And tolde him what he shulde doon
As I have told yow here-tofore;
Hit is no need reherse hit more;        190
And wente his wey, whan he had sayd.
  Anon this god of slepe a-brayd
Out of his slepe, and gan to goon,
And did as he had bede him doon;
Took up the dreynte body sone,        195
And bar hit forth to Alcyone,
His wyf the quene, ther-as she lay,
Right even a quarter before day,
And stood right at hir beddes fete,
And called hir, right as she hete,        200
By name, and seyde, ‘my swete wyf,
Awak! let be your sorwful lyf!
For in your sorwe ther lyth no reed;
For certes, swete, I nam but deed;
Ye shul me never on lyve y-see.        205
But good swete herte, [look] that ye
Bury my body, [at whiche] a tyde
Ye mowe hit finde the see besyde;
And far-wel, swete, my worldes blisse!
I praye god your sorwe lisse;        210
To litel whyl our blisse lasteth!’
  With that hir eyen up she casteth,
And saw noght; ‘[A]!’ quod she, ‘for sorwe!’
And deyed within the thridde morwe.
But what she sayde more in that swow        215
I may not telle yow as now,
Hit were to longe for to dwelle;
My first matere I wil yow telle,
Wherfor I have told this thing
Of Alcione and Seys the king.        220
  For thus moche dar I saye wel,
I had be dolven everydel,
And deed, right through defaute of sleep,
If I nad red and taken keep
Of this tale next before:        225
And I wol telle yow wherfore;
For I ne might, for bote ne bale,
Slepe, or I had red this tale
Of this dreynte Seys the king,
And of the goddes of sleping.        230
Whan I had red this tale wel,
And over-loked hit everydel,
Me thoughte wonder if hit were so;
For I had never herd speke, or tho,
Of no goddes that coude make        235
Men [for] to slepe, ne for to wake;
For I ne knew never god but oon.
And in my game I sayde anoon—
And yet me list right evel to pleye—
‘Rather then that I shulde deye        240
Through defaute of sleping thus,
I wolde yive thilke Morpheus,
Or his goddesse, dame Iuno,
Or som wight elles, I ne roghte who—
To make me slepe and have som reste—        245
I wil yive him the alder-beste
Yift that ever he abood his lyve,
And here on warde, right now, as blyve;
If he wol make me slepe a lyte,
Of downe of pure dowves whyte        250
I wil yive him a fether-bed,
Rayed with golde, and right wel cled
In fyn blak satin doutremere,
And many a pilow, and every bere
Of clothe of Reynes, to slepe softe;        255
Him thar not nede to turnen ofte.
And I wol yive him al that falles
To a chambre; and al his halles
I wol do peynte with pure golde,
And tapite hem ful many folde        260
Of oo sute; this shal he have,
If I wiste wher were his cave,
If he can make me slepe sone,
As did the goddesse Alcione.
And thus this ilke god, Morpheus,        265
May winne of me mo feës thus
Than ever he wan; and to Iuno,
That is his goddesse, I shal so do,
I trow that she shal holde her payd.’
  I hadde unneth that word y-sayd        270
Right thus as I have told hit yow,
That sodeynly, I niste how,
Swich a lust anoon me took
To slepe, that right upon my book
I fil aslepe, and therwith even        275
Me mette so inly swete a sweven,
So wonderful, that never yit
I trowe no man hadde the wit
To conne wel my sweven rede;
No, not Ioseph, withoute drede,        280
Of Egipte, he that redde so
The kinges meting Pharao,
No more than coude the leste of us;
Ne nat scarsly Macrobeus,
(He that wroot al thavisioun        285
That he mette, king Scipioun,
The noble man, the Affrican—
Swiche mervayles fortuned than)
I trowe, a-rede my dremes even.
Lo, thus hit was, this was my sweven.        290
The Dream.

ME thoughte thus:—that hit was May,
And in the dawning ther I lay,
Me mette thus, in my bed al naked:—
[I] loked forth, for I was waked
With smale foules a gret hepe,        295
That had affrayed me out of slepe
Through noyse and swetnesse of hir song;
And, as me mette, they sate among,
Upon my chambre-roof withoute,
Upon the tyles, al a-boute,        300
And songen, everich in his wyse,
The moste solempne servyse
By note, that ever man, I trowe,
Had herd; for som of hem song lowe,
Som hye, and al of oon acorde.        305
To telle shortly, at oo worde,
Was never y-herd so swete a steven,
But hit had be a thing of heven;—
So mery a soun, so swete entunes,
That certes, for the toune of Tewnes,        310
I nolde but I had herd hem singe,
For al my chambre gan to ringe
Through singing of hir armonye.
For instrument nor melodye
Was nowher herd yet half so swete,        315
Nor of acorde half so mete;
For ther was noon of hem that feyned
To singe, for ech of hem him peyned
To finde out mery crafty notes;
They ne spared not hir throtes.        320
And, sooth to seyn, my chambre was
Ful wel depeynted, and with glas
Were al the windowes wel y-glased,
Ful clere, and nat an hole y-crased,
That to beholde hit was gret Ioye.        325
For hoolly al the storie of Troye
Was in the glasing y-wroght thus,
Of Ector and king Priamus,
Of Achilles and Lamedon,
Of Medea and of Iason,        330
Of Paris, Eleyne, and Lavyne.
And alle the walles with colours fyne
Were peynted, bothe text and glose,
[Of] al the Romaunce of the Rose.
My windowes weren shet echon,        335
And through the glas the sunne shon
Upon my bed with brighte bemes,
With many glade gilden stremes;
And eek the welken was so fair,
Blew, bright, clere was the air,        340
And ful atempre, for sothe, hit was;
For nother cold nor hoot hit nas,
Ne in al the welken was a cloude.
  And as I lay thus, wonder loude
Me thoughte I herde an hunte blowe        345
Tassaye his horn, and for to knowe
Whether hit were clere or hors of soune.
  I herde goinge, up and doune,
Men, hors, houndes, and other thing;
And al men speken of hunting,        350
How they wolde slee the hert with strengthe,
And how the hert had, upon lengthe,
So moche embosed, I not now what.
Anon-right, whan I herde that,
How that they wolde on hunting goon,        355
I was right glad, and up anoon;
[I] took my hors, and forth I wente
Out of my chambre; I never stente
Til I com to the feld withoute:
Ther overtook I a gret route        360
Of huntes and eek of foresteres,
With many relayes and lymeres,
And hyed hem to the forest faste,
And I with hem;—so at the laste
I asked oon, ladde a lymere:—        365
‘Say, felow, who shal hunten here
Quod I; and he answerde ageyn,
‘Sir, themperour Octovien,’
Quod he, ‘and is heer faste by.’
‘A goddes halfe, in good tyme,’ quod I,        370
‘Go we faste!’ and gan to ryde.
Whan we came to the forest-syde,
Every man dide, right anoon,
As to hunting fil to doon.
The mayster-hunte anoon, fot-hoot,        375
With a gret horne blew three moot
At the uncoupling of his houndes.
Within a whyl the hert [y]-founde is,
Y-halowed, and rechased faste
Longe tyme; and at the laste,        380
This hert rused and stal away
Fro alle the houndes a prevy way.
The houndes had overshote hem alle,
And were on a defaute y-falle;
Therwith the hunte wonder faste        385
Blew a forloyn at the laste.
  I was go walked fro my tree,
And as I wente, ther cam by me
A whelp, that fauned me as I stood,
That hadde y-folowed, and coude no good.        390
Hit com and creep to me as lowe,
Right as hit hadde me y-knowe,
Hild doun his heed and Ioyned his eres,
And leyde al smothe doun his heres.
I wolde han caught hit, and anoon        395
Hit fledde, and was fro me goon;
And I him folwed, and hit forth wente
Doun by a floury grene wente
Ful thikke of gras, ful softe and swete,
With floures fele, faire under fete,        400
And litel used, hit seemed thus;
For bothe Flora and Zephirus,
They two that make floures growe,
Had mad hir dwelling ther, I trowe;
For hit was, on to beholde,        405
As thogh the erthe envye wolde
To be gayer than the heven,
To have mo floures, swiche seven
As in the welken sterres be.
Hit had forgete the povertee        410
That winter, through his colde morwes,
Had mad hit suffren, and his sorwes;
Al was forgeten, and that was sene.
For al the wode was waxen grene,
Swetnesse of dewe had mad it waxe.        415
  Hit is no need eek for to axe
Wher ther were many grene greves,
Or thikke of trees, so ful of leves;
And every tree stood by him-selve
Fro other wel ten foot or twelve.        420
So grete trees, so huge of strengthe,
Of fourty or fifty fadme lengthe,
Clene withoute bough or stikke,
With croppes brode, and eek as thikke—
They were nat an inche a-sonder—        425
That hit was shadwe over-al under;
And many an hert and many an hinde
Was both before me and bihinde.
Of founes, soures, bukkes, doës
Was ful the wode, and many roës,        430
And many squirelles, that sete
Ful hye upon the trees, and ete,
And in hir maner made festes.
Shortly, hit was so ful of bestes,
That thogh Argus, the noble countour,        435
Sete to rekene in his countour,
And rekened with his figures ten—
For by tho figures mowe al ken,
If they be crafty, rekene and noumbre,
And telle of every thing the noumbre—        440
Yet shulde he fayle to rekene even
The wondres, me mette in my sweven.
  But forth they romed wonder faste
Doun the wode; so at the laste
I was war of a man in blak,        445
That sat and had y-turned his bak
To an oke, an huge tree.
‘Lord,’ thoghte I, ‘who may that be?
What ayleth him to sitten here?’
Anoon-right I wente nere;        450
Than fond I sitte even upright
A wonder wel-faringe knight—
By the maner me thoughte so—
Of good mochel, and yong therto,
Of the age of four and twenty yeer.        455
Upon his berde but litel heer,
And he was clothed al in blakke.
I stalked even unto his bakke,
And ther I stood as stille as ought,
That, sooth to saye, he saw me nought,        460
For-why he heng his heed adoune.
And with a deedly sorwful soune
He made of ryme ten vers or twelve,
Of a compleynt to him-selve,
The moste pite, the moste rowthe,        465
That ever I herde; for, by my trowthe,
Hit was gret wonder that nature
Might suffren any creature
To have swich sorwe, and be not deed.
Ful pitous, pale, and nothing reed,        470
He sayde a lay, a maner song,
Withoute note, withoute song,
And hit was this; for wel I can
Reherse hit; right thus hit began.—
§ ‘I have of sorwe so gret woon,        475
That Ioye gete I never noon,
  Now that I see my lady bright,
  Which I have loved with al my might,
Is fro me deed, and is a-goon.
§ Allas, [o] deeth! what ayleth thee,        480
That thou noldest have taken me,
  Whan that thou toke my lady swete?
That was so fayr, so fresh, so free,
So good, that men may wel [y]-see
  Of al goodnesse she had no mete!’—        485
Whan he had mad thus his complaynte,
His sorowful herte gan faste faynte,
And his spirites wexen dede;
The blood was fled, for pure drede,
Doun to his herte, to make him warm—        490
For wel hit feled the herte had harm—
To wite eek why hit was a-drad
By kinde, and for to make hit glad;
For hit is membre principal
Of the body; and that made al        495
His hewe chaunge and wexe grene
And pale, for no blood [was] sene
In no maner lime of his.
  Anoon therwith whan I saw this,
He ferde thus evel ther he sete,        500
I wente and stood right at his fete,
And grette him, but he spak noght,
But argued with his owne thoght,
And in his witte disputed faste
Why and how his lyf might laste;        505
Him thoughte his sorwes were so smerte
And lay so colde upon his herte;
So, through his sorwe and hevy thoght,
Made him that he ne herde me noght;
For he had wel nigh lost his minde,        510
Thogh Pan, that men clepe god of kinde,
Were for his sorwes never so wrooth.
  But at the laste, to sayn right sooth,
He was war of me, how I stood
Before him, and dide of myn hood,        515
And [grette] him, as I best coude.
Debonairly, and no-thing loude,
He sayde, ‘I prey thee, be not wrooth,
I herde thee not, to sayn the sooth,
Ne I saw thee not, sir, trewely.’        520
  ‘A! goode sir, no fors,’ quod I,
‘I am right sory if I have ought
Destroubled yow out of your thought;
For-yive me if I have mis-take.’
  ‘Yis, thamendes is light to make,’        525
Quod he, ‘for ther lyth noon ther-to;
Ther is no-thing missayd nor do.’
  Lo! how goodly spak this knight,
As it had been another wight;
He made it nouther tough ne queynte.        530
And I saw that, and gan me aqueynte
With him, and fond him so tretable,
Right wonder skilful and resonable,
As me thoghte, for al his bale.
Anoon-right I gan finde a tale        535
To him, to loke wher I might ought
Have more knowing of his thought.
  ‘Sir,’ quod I, ‘this game is doon;
I holde that this hert be goon;
Thise huntes conne him nowher see.’        540
  ‘I do no fors therof,’ quod he,
‘My thought is ther-on never a del.’
  ‘By our lord,’ quod I, ‘I trow yow wel,
Right so me thinketh by your chere.
But, sir, oo thing wol ye here?        545
Me thinketh, in gret sorwe I yow see;
But certes, [good] sir, yif that ye
Wolde ought discure me your wo,
I wolde, as wis god helpe me so,
Amende hit, yif I can or may;        550
Ye mowe preve hit by assay.
For, by my trouthe, to make yow hool,
I wol do al my power hool;
And telleth me of your sorwes smerte,
Paraventure hit may ese your herte,        555
That semeth ful seke under your syde.’
  With that he loked on me asyde,
As who sayth, ‘nay, that wol not be.’
‘Graunt mercy, goode frend,’ quod he,
‘I thanke thee that thou woldest so,        560
But hit may never the rather be do.
No man may my sorwe glade,
That maketh my hewe to falle and fade,
And hath myn understonding lorn,
That me is wo that I was born!        565
May noght make my sorwes slyde,
Nought the remedies of Ovyde;
Ne Orpheus, god of melodye,
Ne Dedalus, with playes slye;
Ne hele me may phisicien,        570
Noght Ypocras, ne Galien;
Me is wo that I live houres twelve;
But who so wol assaye him-selve
Whether his herte can have pite
Of any sorwe, lat him see me.        575
I wrecche, that deeth hath mad al naked
Of alle blisse that was ever maked,
Y-worthe worste of alle wightes,
That hate my dayes and my nightes;
My lyf, my lustes be me lothe,        580
For al welfare and I be wrothe.
The pure deeth is so my fo,
[Thogh] I wolde deye, hit wolde not so;
For whan I folwe hit, hit wol flee;
I wolde have [hit], hit nil not me.        585
This is my peyne withoute reed,
Alway deying, and be not deed,
That Sesiphus, that lyth in helle,
May not of more sorwe telle.
And who so wiste al, by my trouthe,        590
My sorwe, but he hadde routhe
And pite of my sorwes smerte,
That man hath a feendly herte.
For who so seeth me first on morwe
May seyn, he hath [y]-met with sorwe;        595
For I am sorwe and sorwe is I.
  ‘Allas! and I wol telle the why;
My [song] is turned to pleyning,
And al my laughter to weping,
My glade thoghtes to hevinesse,        600
In travaile is myn ydelnesse
And eek my reste; my wele is wo.
My good is harm, and ever-mo
In wrathe is turned my pleying,
And my delyt in-to sorwing.        605
Myn hele is turned into seeknesse,
In drede is al my sikernesse.
To derke is turned al my light,
My wit is foly, my day is night,
My love is hate, my sleep waking,        610
My mirthe and meles is fasting,
My countenaunce is nycete,
And al abaved wher-so I be,
My pees, in pleding and in werre;
Allas! how mighte I fare werre?        615
  ‘My boldnesse is turned to shame,
For fals Fortune hath pleyd a game
Atte ches with me, allas! the whyle!
The trayteresse fals and ful of gyle,
That al behoteth and no-thing halt,        620
She goth upryght and yet she halt,
That baggeth foule and loketh faire,
The dispitousë debonaire,
That scorneth many a creature!
An ydole of fals portraiture        625
Is she, for she wil sone wryen;
She is the monstres heed y-wryen,
As filth over y-strawed with floures;
Hir moste worship and hir [flour is]
To lyen, for that is hir nature;        630
Withoute feyth, lawe, or mesure
She is fals; and ever laughinge
With oon eye, and that other wepinge.
That is broght up, she set al doun.
I lykne hir to the scorpioun,        635
That is a fals flatering beste;
For with his hede he maketh feste,
But al amid his flateringe
With his tayle he wol stinge,
And envenyme; and so wol she.        640
She is thenvyous charite
That is ay fals, and semeth wele,
So turneth she hir false whele
Aboute, for it is no-thing stable,
Now by the fyre, now at table;        645
Ful many oon hath she thus y-blent.
She is pley of enchauntement,
That semeth oon and is nat so,
The false theef! what hath she do,
Trowest thou? by our lord, I wol thee seye.        650
Atte ches with me she gan to pleye;
With hir false draughtes divers
She stal on me, and took my fers.
And whan I saw my fers aweye,
Alas! I couthe no lenger pleye,        655
But seyde, “farwel, swete, y-wis,
And farwel al that ever ther is!”
Therwith Fortune seyde “chek here!”
And “mate!” in mid pointe of the chekkere
With a poune erraunt, allas!        660
Ful craftier to pley she was
Than Athalus, that made the game
First of the ches: so was his name.
But god wolde I had ones or twyes
Y-koud and knowe the Ieupardyes        665
That coude the Grek Pithagores!
I shulde have pleyd the bet at ches,
And kept my fers the bet therby;
And thogh wherto? for trewely
I hold that wish nat worth a stree!        670
Hit had be never the bet for me.
For Fortune can so many a wyle,
Ther be but fewe can hir begyle,
And eek she is the las to blame;
My-self I wolde have do the same,        675
Before god, hadde I been as she;
She oghte the more excused be.
For this I say yet more therto,
Hadde I be god and mighte have do
My wille, whan my fers she caughte,        680
I wolde have drawe the same draughte.
For, also wis god yive me reste,
I dar wel swere she took the beste!
  ‘But through that draughte I have lorn
My blisse; allas! that I was born!        685
For evermore, I trowe trewly,
For al my wil, my lust hoolly
Is turned; but yet, what to done?
By our lord, hit is to deye sone;
For no-thing I [ne] leve it noght,        690
But live and deye right in this thoght.
Ther nis planete in firmament,
Ne in air, ne in erthe, noon element,
That they ne yive me a yift echoon
Of weping, whan I am aloon.        695
For whan that I avyse me wel,
And bethenke me every-del,
How that ther lyth in rekening,
In my sorwe, for no-thing;
And how ther leveth no gladnesse        700
May gladde me of my distresse,
And how I have lost suffisance,
And therto I have no plesance,
Than may I say, I have right noght.
And whan al this falleth in my thoght,        705
Allas! than am I overcome!
For that is doon is not to come!
I have more sorowe than Tantale.’
  And whan I herde him telle this tale
Thus pitously, as I yow telle,        710
Unnethe mighte I lenger dwelle,
Hit dide myn herte so moche wo.
  ‘A! good sir!’ quod I, ‘say not so!
Have som pite on your nature
That formed yow to creature,        715
Remembre yow of Socrates;
For he ne counted nat three strees
Of noght that Fortune coude do.’
  ‘No,’ quod he, ‘I can not so.’
  ‘Why so? good sir! parde!’ quod I;        720
‘Ne say noght so, for trewely,
Thogh ye had lost the ferses twelve,
And ye for sorwe mordred your-selve,
Ye sholde be dampned in this cas
By as good right as Medea was,        725
That slow hir children for Iason;
And Phyllis als for Demophon
Heng hir-self, so weylaway!
For he had broke his terme-day
To come to hir. Another rage        730
Had Dydo, quene eek of Cartage,
That slow hir-self, for Eneas
Was fals; [a!] whiche a fool she was!
And Ecquo dyed for Narcisus
Nolde nat love hir; and right thus        735
Hath many another foly don.
And for Dalida dyed Sampson,
That slow him-self with a pilere.
But ther is [noon] a-lyve here
Wolde for a fers make this wo!’        740
  ‘Why so?’ quod he; ‘hit is nat so;
Thou wost ful litel what thou menest;
I have lost more than thou wenest.’
‘Lo, [sir,] how may that be?’ quod I;
‘Good sir, tel me al hoolly        745
In what wyse, how, why, and wherfore
That ye have thus your blisse lore.’
  ‘Blythly,’ quod he, ‘com sit adoun;
I telle thee up condicioun
That thou hoolly, with al thy wit,        750
Do thyn entent to herkene hit.’
‘Yis, sir.’ ‘Swere thy trouthe ther-to.’
‘Gladly.’ ‘Do than holde her-to!’
‘I shal right blythly, so god me save,
Hoolly, with al the witte I have,        755
Here yow, as wel as I can.’
  ‘A goddes half!’ quod he, and began:—
‘Sir,’ quod he, ‘sith first I couthe
Have any maner wit fro youthe,
Or kyndely understonding        760
To comprehende, in any thing,
What love was, in myn owne wit,
Dredeles, I have ever yit
Be tributary, and yiven rente
To love hoolly with goode entente,        765
And through plesaunce become his thral,
With good wil, body, herte, and al.
Al this I putte in his servage,
As to my lorde, and dide homage;
And ful devoutly prayde him to,        770
He shulde besette myn herte so,
That it plesaunce to him were,
And worship to my lady dere.
  ‘And this was longe, and many a yeer
Or that myn herte was set o-wher,        775
That I did thus, and niste why;
I trowe hit cam me kindely.
Paraunter I was therto most able
As a whyt wal or a table;
For hit is redy to cacche and take        780
Al that men wil therin make,
Wher-so men wol portreye or peynte,
Be the werkes never so queynte.
  ‘And thilke tyme I ferde so
I was able to have lerned tho,        785
And to have coud as wel or better,
Paraunter, other art or letter.
But for love cam first in my thought,
Therfore I forgat it nought.
I chees love to my firste craft,        790
Therfor hit is with me [y]-laft.
Forwhy I took hit of so yong age,
That malice hadde my corage
Nat that tyme turned to no-thing
Through to mochel knowleching.        795
For that tyme youthe, my maistresse,
Governed me in ydelnesse;
For hit was in my firste youthe,
And tho ful litel good I couthe;
For al my werkes were flittinge,        800
And al my thoghtes varyinge;
Al were to me y-liche good,
That I knew tho; but thus hit stood.
  ‘Hit happed that I cam on a day
Into a place, ther I say,        805
Trewly, the fayrest companyë
Of ladies, that ever man with yë
Had seen togedres in oo place.
Shal I clepe hit hap other grace
That broghte me ther? nay, but Fortune,        810
That is to lyen ful comune,
The false trayteresse, pervers,
God wolde I coude clepe hir wers!
For now she worcheth me ful wo,
And I wol telle sone why so.        815
  ‘Among thise ladies thus echoon,
Soth to seyn, I saw [ther] oon
That was lyk noon of [al] the route;
For I dar swere, withoute doute,
That as the someres sonne bright        820
Is fairer, clerer, and hath more light
Than any planete, [is] in heven,
The mone, or the sterres seven,
For al the worlde, so had she
Surmounted hem alle of beaute,        825
Of maner and of comlinesse,
Of stature and wel set gladnesse,
Of goodlihede so wel beseye—
Shortly, what shal I more seye?
By god, and by his halwes twelve,        830
It was my swete, right as hir-selve!
She had so stedfast countenaunce,
So noble port and meyntenaunce.
And Love, that had herd my bone,
Had espyed me thus sone,        835
That she ful sone, in my thoght,
As helpe me god, so was y-caught
So sodenly, that I ne took
No maner [reed] but at hir look
And at myn herte; for-why hir eyen        840
So gladly, I trow, myn herte seyen,
That purely tho myn owne thoght
Seyde hit were [bet] serve hir for noght
Than with another to be wel.
And hit was sooth, for, everydel,        845
I wil anoon-right telle thee why.
  ‘I saw hir daunce so comlily,
Carole and singe so swetely,
Laughe and pleye so womanly,
And loke so debonairly,        850
So goodly speke and so frendly,
That certes, I trow, that evermore
Nas seyn so blisful a tresore.
For every heer [up]on hir hede,
Soth to seyn, hit was not rede,        855
Ne nouther yelw, ne broun hit nas;
Me thoghte, most lyk gold hit was.
And whiche eyen my lady hadde!
Debonair, goode, glade, and sadde,
Simple, of good mochel, noght to wyde;        860
Therto hir look nas not a-syde,
Ne overthwert, but beset so wel,
Hit drew and took up, everydel,
Alle that on hir gan beholde.
Hir eyen semed anoon she wolde        865
Have mercy; fooles wenden so;
But hit was never the rather do.
Hit nas no countrefeted thing,
It was hir owne pure loking,
That the goddesse, dame Nature,        870
Had made hem opene by mesure,
And close; for, were she never so glad,
Hir loking was not foly sprad,
Ne wildely, thogh that she pleyde;
But ever, me thoghte, hir eyen seyde,        875
“By god, my wrathe is al for-yive!”
  ‘Therwith hir liste so wel to live,
That dulnesse was of hir a-drad.
She nas to sobre ne to glad;
In alle thinges more mesure        880
Had never, I trowe, creature.
But many oon with hir loke she herte,
And that sat hir ful lyte at herte,
For she knew no-thing of hir thoght;
But whether she knew, or knew hit noght,        885
Algate she ne roghte of hem a stree!
To gete hir love no ner nas he
That woned at home, than he in Inde;
The formest was alway behinde.
But goode folk, over al other,        890
She loved as man may do his brother;
Of whiche love she was wonder large,
In skilful places that bere charge.
  ‘Which a visage had she ther-to!
Allas! myn herte is wonder wo        895
That I ne can discryven hit!
Me lakketh bothe English and wit
For to undo hit at the fulle;
And eek my spirits be so dulle
So greet a thing for to devyse.        900
I have no wit that can suffyse
To comprehenden hir beaute;
But thus moche dar I seyn, that she
Was rody, fresh, and lyvely hewed;
And every day hir beaute newed.        905
And negh hir face was alder-best;
For certes, Nature had swich lest
To make that fair, that trewly she
Was hir cheef patron of beautee,
And cheef ensample of al hir werke,        910
And moustre; for, be hit never so derke,
Me thinketh I see hir ever-mo.
And yet more-over, thogh alle tho
That ever lived were now a-lyve,
[They] ne sholde have founde to discryve        915
In al hir face a wikked signe;
For hit was sad, simple, and benigne.
  ‘And which a goodly softe speche
Had that swete, my lyves leche!
So frendly, and so wel y-grounded,        920
Up al resoun so wel y-founded,
And so tretable to alle gode,
That I dar swere by the rode,
Of eloquence was never founde
So swete a sowninge facounde,        925
Ne trewer tonged, ne scorned lasse,
Ne bet coude hele; that, by the masse
I durste swere, thogh the pope hit songe,
That ther was never through hir tonge
Man ne woman gretly harmed;        930
As for hir, [ther] was al harm hid;
Ne lasse flatering in hir worde,
That purely, hir simple recorde
Was founde as trewe as any bonde,
Or trouthe of any mannes honde.        935
Ne chyde she coude never a del,
That knoweth al the world ful wel.
  ‘But swich a fairnesse of a nekke
Had that swete, that boon nor brekke
Nas ther non sene, that mis-sat.        940
Hit was whyt, smothe, streght, and flat,
Withouten hole; [and] canel-boon,
As by seming, had she noon.
Hir throte, as I have now memoire,
Semed a round tour of yvoire,        945
Of good gretnesse, and noght to grete.
  ‘And gode faire Whyte she hete,
That was my lady name right.
She was bothe fair and bright,
She hadde not hir name wrong.        950
Right faire shuldres, and body long
She hadde, and armes, every lith
Fattish, flesshy, not greet therwith;
Right whyte handes, and nayles rede,
Rounde brestes; and of good brede        955
Hir hippes were, a streight flat bak.
I knew on hir non other lak
That al hir limmes nere sewing,
In as fer as I had knowing.
  ‘Therto she coude so wel pleye,        960
Whan that hir liste, that I dar seye,
That she was lyk to torche bright,
That every man may take of light
Ynogh, and hit hath never the lesse.
  ‘Of maner and of comlinesse        965
Right so ferde my lady dere;
For every wight of hir manere
Might cacche ynogh, if that he wolde,
If he had eyen hir to beholde.
For I dar sweren, if that she        970
Had among ten thousand be,
She wolde have be, at the leste,
A cheef mirour of al the feste,
Thogh they had stonden in a rowe,
To mennes eyen that coude have knowe.        975
For wher-so men had pleyd or waked,
Me thoghte the felawship as naked
Withouten hir, that saw I ones,
As a coroune withoute stones.
Trewely she was, to myn yë,        980
The soleyn fenix of Arabye,
For ther liveth never but oon;
Ne swich as she ne knew I noon.
  ‘To speke of goodnesse; trewly she
Had as moche debonairte        985
As ever had Hester in the bible,
And more, if more were possible.
And, soth to seyne, therwith-al
She had a wit so general,
So hool enclyned to alle gode,        990
That al hir wit was set, by the rode,
Withoute malice, upon gladnesse;
Therto I saw never yet a lesse
Harmful, than she was in doing.
I sey nat that she ne had knowing        995
What was harm; or elles she
Had coud no good, so thinketh me.
  ‘And trewly, for to speke of trouthe,
But she had had, hit had be routhe.
Therof she had so moche hir del—        1000
And I dar seyn and swere hit wel—
That Trouthe him-self, over al and al,
Had chose his maner principal
In hir, that was his resting-place.
Ther-to she hadde the moste grace,        1005
To have stedfast perseveraunce,
And esy, atempre governaunce,
That ever I knew or wiste yit;
So pure suffraunt was hir wit.
And reson gladly she understood,        1010
Hit folowed wel she coude good.
She used gladly to do wel;
These were hir maners every-del.
  ‘Therwith she loved so wel right,
She wrong do wolde to no wight;        1015
No wight might do hir no shame,
She loved so wel hir owne name.
Hir luste to holde no wight in honde;
Ne, be thou siker, she nolde fonde
To holde no wight in balaunce,        1020
By half word ne by countenaunce,
But-if men wolde upon hir lye;
Ne sende men in-to Walakye,
To Pruyse and in-to Tartarye,
To Alisaundre, ne in-to Turkye,        1025
And bidde him faste, anoon that he
Go hoodles to the drye see,
And come hoom by the Carrenare;
And seye, “Sir, be now right ware
That I may of yow here seyn        1030
Worship, or that ye come ageyn!”
She ne used no suche knakkes smale.
  ‘But wherfor that I telle my tale?
Right on this same, as I have seyd,
Was hoolly al my love leyd;        1035
For certes, she was, that swete wyf,
My suffisaunce, my lust, my lyf,
Myn hap, myn hele, and al my blisse,
My worldes welfare and my [lisse],
And I hirs hoolly, everydel.’        1040
  ‘By our lord,’ quod I, ‘I trowe yow wel!
Hardely, your love was wel beset,
I not how ye mighte have do bet.’
‘Bet? ne no wight so wel!’ quod he.
‘I trowe hit, sir,’ quod I, ‘parde!’        1045
‘Nay, leve hit wel!’ ‘Sir, so do I;
I leve yow wel, that trewely
Yow thoghte, that she was the beste,
And to beholde the alderfaireste,
Who so had loked with your eyen.’        1050
  ‘With myn? nay, alle that hir seyen
Seyde, and sworen hit was so.
And thogh they ne hadde, I wolde tho
Have loved best my lady fre,
Thogh I had had al the beautee        1055
That ever had Alcipyades,
And al the strengthe of Ercules,
And therto had the worthinesse
Of Alisaundre, and al the richesse
That ever was in Babiloyne,        1060
In Cartage, or in Macedoyne,
Or in Rome, or in Ninive;
And therto al-so hardy be
As was Ector, so have I Ioye,
That Achilles slow at Troye—        1065
And therfor was he slayn also
In a temple, for bothe two
Were slayn, he and Antilegius,
And so seyth Dares Frigius,
For love of [hir] Polixena—        1070
Or ben as wys as Minerva,
I wolde ever, withoute drede,
Have loved hir, for I moste nede!
“Nede!” nay, I gabbe now,
Noght “nede,” and I wol telle how,        1075
For of good wille myn herte hit wolde,
And eek to love hir I was holde
As for the fairest and the beste.
  ‘She was as good, so have I reste,
As ever was Penelope of Grece,        1080
Or as the noble wyf Lucrece,
That was the beste—he telleth thus,
The Romain Tytus Livius—
She was as good, and no-thing lyke,
Thogh hir stories be autentyke;        1085
Algate she was as trewe as she.
  ‘But wherfor that I telle thee
Whan I first my lady sey?
I was right yong, [the] sooth to sey,
And ful gret need I hadde to lerne;        1090
Whan my herte wolde yerne
To love, it was a greet empryse.
But as my wit coude best suffyse,
After my yonge childly wit,
Withoute drede, I besette hit        1095
To love hir in my beste wyse,
To do hir worship and servyse
That I tho coude, by my trouthe,
Withoute feyning outher slouthe;
For wonder fayn I wolde hir see.        1100
So mochel hit amended me,
That, whan I saw hir first a-morwe,
I was warished of al my sorwe
Of al day after, til hit were eve;
Me thoghte no-thing mighte me greve,        1105
Were my sorwes never so smerte.
And yit she sit so in myn herte,
That, by my trouthe, I nolde noght,
For al this worlde, out of my thoght
Leve my lady; no, trewly!’        1110
  ‘Now, by my trouthe, sir,’ quod I,
‘Me thinketh ye have such a chaunce
As shrift withoute repentaunce.’
  ‘Repentaunce! nay fy,’ quod he;
‘Shulde I now repente me        1115
To love? nay, certes, than were I wel
Wers than was Achitofel,
Or Anthenor, so have I Ioye,
The traytour that betraysed Troye,
Or the false Genelon,        1120
He that purchased the treson
Of Rowland and of Olivere.
Nay, whyl I am a-lyve here
I nil foryete hir never-mo.’
  ‘Now, goode sir,’ quod I [right] tho,        1125
‘Ye han wel told me her-before.
It is no need reherse hit more
How ye sawe hir first, and where;
But wolde ye telle me the manere,
To hir which was your firste speche—        1130
Therof I wolde yow be-seche—
And how she knewe first your thoght,
Whether ye loved hir or noght,
And telleth me eek what ye have lore;
I herde yow telle her-before.’        1135
  ‘Ye,’ seyde he, ‘thou nost what thou menest;
I have lost more than thou wenest.’
  ‘What los is that, [sir]?’ quod I tho;
‘Nil she not love yow? is hit so?
Or have ye oght [y-]doon amis,        1140
That she hath left yow? is hit this?
For goddes love, tel me al.’
  ‘Before god,’ quod he, ‘and I shal.
I saye right as I have seyd,
On hir was al my love leyd;        1145
And yet she niste hit never a del
Noght longe tyme, leve hit wel.
For be right siker, I durste noght
For al this worlde telle hir my thoght,
Ne I wolde have wratthed hir, trewly.        1150
For wostow why? she was lady
Of the body; she had the herte,
And who hath that, may not asterte.
  ‘But, for to kepe me fro ydelnesse,
Trewly I did my besinesse        1155
To make songes, as I best coude,
And ofte tyme I song hem loude;
And made songes a gret del,
Al-thogh I coude not make so wel
Songes, ne knowe the art al,        1160
As coude Lamekes sone Tubal,
That fond out first the art of songe;
For, as his brothers hamers ronge
Upon his anvelt up and doun,
Therof he took the firste soun;        1165
But Grekes seyn, Pictagoras,
That he the firste finder was
Of the art; Aurora telleth so,
But therof no fors, of hem two.
Algates songes thus I made        1170
Of my feling, myn herte to glade;
And lo! this was [the] alther-firste,
I not wher [that] hit were the werste.—
§ “Lord, hit maketh myn herte light,
Whan I thenke on that swete wight        1175
  That is so semely on to see;
  And wisshe to god hit might so be,
That she wolde holde me for hir knight,
My lady, that is so fair and bright!”—
  ‘Now have I told thee, sooth to saye,        1180
My firste song. Upon a daye
I bethoghte me what wo
And sorwe that I suffred tho
For hir, and yet she wiste hit noght,
Ne telle hir durste I nat my thoght.        1185
“Allas!” thoghte I, “I can no reed;
And, but I telle hir, I nam but deed;
And if I telle hir, to seye sooth,
I am a-dred she wol be wrooth;
Allas! what shal I thanne do?”        1190
  ‘In this debat I was so wo,
Me thoghte myn herte braste a-tweyn!
So atte laste, soth to seyn,
I me bethoghte that nature
Ne formed never in creature        1195
So moche beaute, trewely,
And bounte, withouten mercy.
  ‘In hope of that, my tale I tolde
With sorwe, as that I never sholde,
For nedes; and, maugree my heed,        1200
I moste have told hir or be deed.
I not wel how that I began,
Ful evel rehersen hit I can;
And eek, as helpe me god with-al,
I trowe hit was in the dismal,        1205
That was the ten woundes of Egipte;
For many a word I over-skipte
In my tale, for pure fere
Lest my wordes mis-set were.
With sorweful herte, and woundes dede,        1210
Softe and quaking for pure drede
And shame, and stinting in my tale
For ferde, and myn hewe al pale,
Ful ofte I wex bothe pale and reed;
Bowing to hir, I heng the heed;        1215
I durste nat ones loke hir on,
For wit, manere, and al was gon.
I seyde “mercy!” and no more;
Hit nas no game, hit sat me sore.
  ‘So atte laste, sooth to seyn,        1220
Whan that myn herte was come ageyn,
To telle shortly al my speche,
With hool herte I gan hir beseche
That she wolde be my lady swete;
And swor, and gan hir hertely hete        1225
Ever to be stedfast and trewe,
And love hir alwey freshly newe,
And never other lady have,
And al hir worship for to save
As I best coude; I swor hir this—        1230
“For youres is al that ever ther is
For evermore, myn herte swete!
And never false yow, but I mete,
I nil, as wis god helpe me so!”
  ‘And whan I had my tale y-do,        1235
God wot, she acounted nat a stree
Of al my tale, so thoghte me.
To telle shortly as hit is,
Trewly hir answere, hit was this;
I can not now wel counterfete        1240
Hir wordes, but this was the grete
Of hir answere; she sayde, “nay”
Al-outerly. Allas! that day
The sorwe I suffred, and the wo!
That trewly Cassandra, that so        1245
Bewayled the destruccioun
Of Troye and of Ilioun,
Had never swich sorwe as I tho.
I durste no more say therto
For pure fere, but stal away;        1250
And thus I lived ful many a day:
That trewely, I hadde no need
Ferther than my beddes heed
Never a day to seche sorwe;
I fond hit redy every morwe,        1255
For-why I loved hir in no gere.
  ‘So hit befel, another yere,
I thoughte ones I wolde fonde
To do hir knowe and understonde
My wo; and she wel understood        1260
That I ne wilned thing but good,
And worship, and to kepe hir name
Over al thing, and drede hir shame,
And was so besy hir to serve;—
And pite were I shulde sterve,        1265
Sith that I wilned noon harm, y-wis.
So whan my lady knew al this,
My lady yaf me al hoolly
The noble yift of hir mercy,
Saving hir worship, by al weyes;        1270
Dredles, I mene noon other weyes.
And therwith she yaf me a ring;
I trowe hit was the firste thing;
But if myn herte was y-waxe
Glad, that is no need to axe!        1275
As helpe me god, I was as blyve,
Reysed, as fro dethe to lyve,
Of alle happes the alder-beste,
The gladdest and the moste at reste.
For trewely, that swete wight,        1280
Whan I had wrong and she the right,
She wolde alwey so goodely
For-yeve me so debonairly.
In alle my youthe, in alle chaunce,
She took me in hir governaunce.        1285
  ‘Therwith she was alway so trewe,
Our Ioye was ever y-liche newe;
Our hertes wern so even a payre,
That never nas that oon contrayre
To that other, for no wo.        1290
For sothe, y-liche they suffred tho
Oo blisse and eek oo sorwe bothe;
Y-liche they were bothe gladde and wrothe;
Al was us oon, withoute were.
And thus we lived ful many a yere        1295
So wel, I can nat telle how.’
  ‘Sir,’ quod I, ‘wher is she now?’
‘Now!’ quod he, and stinte anoon.
  Therwith he wex as deed as stoon,
And seyde, ‘allas! that I was bore!        1300
That was the los, that her-before
I tolde thee, that I had lorn.
Bethenk how I seyde her-beforn,
“Thou wost ful litel what thou menest;
I have lost more than thou wenest”—        1305
God wot, allas! right that was she!’
  ‘Allas! sir, how? what may that be?’
‘She is deed!’ ‘Nay!’ ‘Yis, by my trouthe!’
‘Is that your los? by god, hit is routhe!’
  And with that worde, right anoon,        1310
They gan to strake forth; al was doon,
For that tyme, the hert-hunting.
  With that, me thoghte, that this king
Gan [quikly] hoomward for to ryde
Unto a place ther besyde,        1315
Which was from us but a lyte,
A long castel with walles whyte,
By seynt Iohan! on a riche hil,
As me mette; but thus it fil.
  Right thus me mette, as I yow telle,        1320
That in the castel was a belle,
As hit had smiten houres twelve.—
Therwith I awook my-selve,
And fond me lying in my bed;
And the book that I had red,        1325
Of Alcyone and Seys the king,
And of the goddes of sleping,
I fond it in myn honde ful even.
  Thoghte I, ‘this is so queynt a sweven,
That I wol, by processe of tyme,        1330
Fonde to putte this sweven in ryme
As I can best’; and that anoon.—
This was my sweven; now hit is doon.

Explicit the Boke of the Duchesse.

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