Verse > Geoffrey Chaucer > Complete Poetical Works
Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340–1400).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1894.
The Legend of Good Women
III. Dido, Queen of Carthage
Incipit Legenda Didonis martiris, Cartaginis regine.

GLORY and honour, Virgil Mantuan,
Be to thy name! and I shal, as I can,
Folow thy lantern, as thou gost biforn,
How Eneas to Dido was forsworn.
In thyn Eneïd and Naso wol I take        5
The tenour, and the grete effectes make.
  Whan Troye broght was to destruccioun
By Grekes sleighte, and namely by Sinoun,
Feyning the hors y-offred to Minerve,
Through which that many a Troyan moste sterve;        10
And Ector had, after his deeth, appered,
And fyr so wood, it mighte nat be stered,
In al the noble tour of Ilioun,
That of the citee was the cheef dungeoun;
And al the contree was so lowe y-broght,        15
And Priamus the king fordoon and noght;
And Eneas was charged by Venus
To fleen awey, he took Ascanius,
That was his sone, in his right hand, and fledde;
And on his bakke he bar and with him ledde        20
His olde fader, cleped Anchises,
And by the weye his wyf Creusa he lees.
And mochel sorwe hadde he in his minde
Er that he coude his felawshippe finde.
But, at the laste, whan he had hem founde,        25
He made him redy in a certein stounde,
And to the see ful faste he gan him hye,
And saileth forth with al his companye
Toward Itaile, as wolde destinee.
But of his aventures in the see        30
Nis nat to purpos for to speke of here,
For hit acordeth nat to my matere.
But, as I seide, of him and of Dido
Shal be my tale, til that I have do.
  So longe he sailed in the salte see        35
Til in Libye unnethe aryved he,
With shippes seven and with no more navye;
And glad was he to londe for to hye,
So was he with the tempest al to-shake.
And whan that he the haven had y-take,        40
He had a knight, was called Achates;
And him of al his felawshippe he chees
To goon with him, the contre for tespye;
He took with him no more companye.
But forth they goon, and lafte his shippes ryde,        45
His fere and he, with-outen any gyde.
So longe he walketh in this wildernesse
Til, at the laste, he mette an hunteresse.
A bowe in honde and arwes hadde she,
Her clothes cutted were unto the knee;        50
But she was yit the fairest creature
That ever was y-formed by nature;
And Eneas and Achates she grette,
And thus she to hem spak, whan she hem mette.
‘Sawe ye,’ quod she, ‘as ye han walked wyde,        55
Any of my sustren walke yow besyde,
With any wilde boor or other beste
That they han hunted to, in this foreste,
Y-tukked up, with arwes in her cas?’
  ‘Nay, soothly, lady,’ quod this Eneas;        60
‘But, by thy beaute, as hit thinketh me,
Thou mightest never erthely womman be,
But Phebus suster artow, as I gesse.
And, if so be that thou be a goddesse,
Have mercy on our labour and our wo.’        65
  ‘I nam no goddes, soothly,’ quod she tho;
‘For maidens walken in this contree here,
With arwes and with bowe, in this manere.
This is the regne of Libie, ther ye been,
Of which that Dido lady is and queen’—        70
And shortly tolde him al the occasioun
Why Dido com into that regioun,
Of which as now me lusteth nat to ryme;
Hit nedeth nat; hit nere but los of tyme.
For this is al and som, it was Venus,        75
His owne moder, that spak with him thus;
And to Cartage she bad he sholde him dighte,
And vanished anoon out of his sighte.
I coude folwe, word for word, Virgyle,
But it wolde lasten al to longe a whyle.        80
  This noble queen, that cleped was Dido,
That whylom was the wyf of Sitheo,
That fairer was then is the brighte sonne,
This noble toun of Cartage hath begonne;
In which she regneth in so greet honour,        85
That she was holde of alle quenes flour,
Of gentilesse, of freedom, of beautee;
That wel was him that mighte her ones see;
Of kinges and of lordes so desyred,
That al the world her beaute hadde y-fyred;        90
She stood so wel in every wightes grace.
  Whan Eneas was come un-to that place,
Unto the maister-temple of al the toun
Ther Dido was in her devocioun,
Ful prively his wey than hath he nome.        95
Whan he was in the large temple come,
I can nat seyn if that hit be possible,
But Venus hadde him maked invisible—
Thus seith the book, with-outen any lees.
And whan this Eneas and Achates        100
Hadden in this temple been over-al,
Than founde they, depeynted on a wal,
How Troye and al the lond destroyed was.
‘Allas! that I was born,’ quod Eneas,
‘Through-out the world our shame is kid so wyde,        105
Now it is peynted upon every syde!
We, that weren in prosperitee,
Be now disslaundred, and in swich degre,
No lenger for to liven I ne kepe!’
And, with that worde, he brast out for to wepe        110
So tendrely, that routhe hit was to sene.
This fresshe lady, of the citee quene,
Stood in the temple, in her estat royal,
So richely, and eek so fair with-al,
So yong, so lusty, with her eyen glade,        115
That, if that god, that heven and erthe made,
Wolde han a love, for beaute and goodnesse,
And womanhod, and trouthe, and seemlinesse,
Whom sholde he loven but this lady swete?
There nis no womman to him half so mete.        120
  Fortune, that hath the world in governaunce,
Hath sodeinly broght in so newe a chaunce,
That never was ther yit so fremd a cas.
For al the companye of Eneas,
Which that he wende han loren in the see,        125
Aryved is, nat fer fro that citee;
For which, the grettest of his lordes some
By aventure ben to the citee come,
Unto that same temple, for to seke
The quene, and of her socour her beseke;        130
Swich renoun was ther spronge of her goodnesse.
And, whan they hadden told al hir distresse,
And al hir tempest and hir harde cas,
Unto the quene appered Eneas,
And openly beknew that hit was he.        135
Who hadde Ioye than but his meynee,
That hadden founde hir lord, hir governour?
  The quene saw they dide him swich honour,
And had herd ofte of Eneas, er tho,
And in her herte she hadde routhe and wo        140
That ever swich a noble man as he
Shal been disherited in swich degree;
And saw the man, that he was lyk a knight,
And suffisaunt of persone and of might,
And lyk to been a veray gentil man;        145
And wel his wordes he besette can,
And had a noble visage for the nones,
And formed wel of braunes and of bones.
For, after Venus, hadde he swich fairnesse,
That no man might be half so fair, I gesse.        150
And wel a lord he semed for to be.
And, for he was a straunger, somwhat she
Lyked him the bet, as, god do bote,
To som folk ofte newe thing is swote.
Anoon her herte hath pitee of his wo,        155
And, with that pitee, love com in also;
And thus, for pitee and for gentilesse,
Refresshed moste he been of his distresse.
She seide, certes, that she sory was
That he hath had swich peril and swich cas;        160
And, in her frendly speche, in this manere
She to him spak, and seide as ye may here.
  ‘Be ye nat Venus sone and Anchises?
In good feith, al the worship and encrees
That I may goodly doon yow, ye shul have.        165
Your shippes and your meynee shal I save;’
And many a gentil word she spak him to;
And comaunded her messageres go
The same day, with-outen any faile,
His shippes for to seke, and hem vitaile.        170
She many a beste to the shippes sente,
And with the wyn she gan hem to presente;
And to her royal paleys she her spedde,
And Eneas alwey with her she ledde.
What nedeth yow the feste to descryve?        175
He never beter at ese was his lyve.
Ful was the feste of deyntees and richesse,
Of instruments, of song, and of gladnesse,
And many an amorous loking and devys.
  This Eneas is come to Paradys        180
Out of the swolow of helle, and thus in Ioye
Remembreth him of his estat in Troye.
To dauncing-chambres ful of parements,
Of riche beddes, and of ornaments,
This Eneas is lad, after the mete.        185
And with the quene whan that he had sete,
And spyces parted, and the wyn agoon,
Unto his chambres was he lad anoon
To take his ese and for to have his reste,
With al his folk, to doon what so hem leste.        190
  Ther nas coursere wel y-brydled noon,
Ne stede, for the Iusting wel to goon,
Ne large palfrey, esy for the nones,
Ne Iuwel, fretted ful of riche stones,
Ne sakkes ful of gold, of large wighte,        195
Ne ruby noon, that shynede by nighte,
Ne gentil hautein faucon heronere,
Ne hound, for hert or wilde boor or dere,
Ne coupe of gold, with florins newe y-bete,
That in the lond of Libie may be gete,        200
That Dido ne hath hit Eneas y-sent;
And al is payed, what that he hath spent.
Thus can this [noble] quene her gestes calle,
As she that can in freedom passen alle.
  Eneas sothly eek, with-outen lees,        205
Hath sent un-to his shippe, by Achates,
After his sone, and after riche thinges,
Both ceptre, clothes, broches, and eek ringes,
Som for to were, and som for to presente
To her, that all thise noble thinges him sente;        210
And bad his sone, how that he sholde make
The presenting, and to the quene hit take.
  Repaired is this Achates again,
And Eneas ful blisful is and fain
To seen his yonge sone Ascanius.        215
But natheles, our autour telleth us,
That Cupido, that is the god of love,
At preyere of his moder, hye above,
Hadde the lyknes of the child y-take,
This noble quene enamoured to make        220
On Eneas; but, as of that scripture,
Be as be may, I make of hit no cure.
But sooth is this, the quene hath mad swich chere
Un-to this child, that wonder is to here;
And of the present that his fader sente        225
She thanked him ful ofte, in good entente.
  Thus is this quene in plesaunce and in Ioye,
With al this newe lusty folk of Troye.
And of the dedes hath she more enquered
Of Eneas, and al the story lered        230
Of Troye; and al the longe day they tweye
Entendeden to speken and to pleye;
Of which ther gan to breden swich a fyr,
That sely Dido hath now swich desyr
With Eneas, her newe gest, to dele,        235
That she hath lost her hewe, and eek her hele.
Now to theffect, now to the fruit of al,
Why I have told this story, and tellen shal.
  Thus I beginne; hit fil, upon a night,
When that the mone up-reysed had her light,        240
This noble quene un-to her reste wente;
She syketh sore, and gan her-self turmente.
She waketh, walweth, maketh many a brayd,
As doon thise loveres, as I have herd sayd.
And at the laste, unto her suster Anne        245
She made her moon, and right thus spak she thanne.
  ‘Now, dere suster myn, what may hit be
That me agasteth in my dreme?’ quod she.
‘This ilke Troyan is so in my thoght,
For that me thinketh he is so wel y-wroght,        250
And eek so lykly for to be a man,
And therwithal so mikel good he can,
That al my love and lyf lyth in his cure.
Have ye not herd him telle his aventure?
Now certes, Anne, if that ye rede hit me,        255
I wolde fain to him y-wedded be;
This is theffect; what sholde I more seye?
In him lyth al, to do me live or deye.’
  Her suster Anne, as she that coude her good,
Seide as her thoughte, and somdel hit with-stood.        260
But her-of was so long a sermoning,
Hit were to long to make rehersing;
But fynally, hit may not been with-stonde;
Love wol love—for no wight wol hit wonde.
  The dawening up-rist out of the see;        265
This amorous quene chargeth her meynee
The nettes dresse, and speres brode and kene;
An hunting wol this lusty fresshe quene;
So priketh her this newe Ioly wo.
To hors is al her lusty folk y-go;        270
Un-to the court the houndes been y-broght,
And up-on coursers, swift as any thoght,
Her yonge knightes hoven al aboute,
And of her wommen eek an huge route.
Up-on a thikke palfrey, paper-whyt,        275
With sadel rede, enbrouded with delyt,
Of gold the barres up-enbossed hye,
Sit Dido, al in gold and perre wrye;
And she is fair, as is the brighte morwe,
That heleth seke folk of nightes sorwe.        280
  Up-on a courser, startling as the fyr,
Men mighte turne him with a litel wyr,
Sit Eneas, lyk Phebus to devyse;
So was he fresshe arayed in his wyse.
The fomy brydel with the bit of gold        285
Governeth he, right as him-self hath wold.
And forth this noble quene thus lat I ryde
An hunting, with this Troyan by her syde.
  The herd of hertes founden is anoon,
With ‘hey! go bet! prik thou! lat goon, lat goon!        290
Why nil the leoun comen or the bere,
That I mighte ones mete him with this spere?’
Thus seyn thise yonge folk, and up they kille
These hertes wilde, and han hem at hir wille.
  Among al this to-romblen gan the heven,        295
The thunder rored with a grisly steven;
Doun com the rain, with hail and sleet so faste,
With hevenes fyr, that hit so sore agaste
This noble quene, and also her meynee,
That ech of hem was glad a-wey to flee.        300
And shortly, fro the tempest her to save,
She fledde her-self into a litel cave,
And with her wente this Eneas al-so;
I noot, with hem if ther wente any mo;
The autour maketh of hit no mencioun.        305
And heer began the depe affeccioun
Betwix hem two; this was the firste morwe
Of her gladnesse, and ginning of her sorwe.
For ther hath Eneas y-kneled so,
And told her al his herte, and al his wo,        310
And sworn so depe, to her to be trewe,
For wele or wo, and chaunge for no newe,
And as a fals lover so wel can pleyne,
That sely Dido rewed on his peyne,
And took him for husband, [to been] his wyf        315
For ever-mo, whyl that hem laste lyf.
And after this, whan that the tempest stente,
With mirth out as they comen, hoom they wente.
  The wikked fame up roos, and that anon,
How Eneas hath with the quene y-gon        320
In-to the cave; and demed as hem liste;
And whan the king, that Yarbas hight, hit wiste,
As he that had her loved ever his lyf,
And wowed her, to have her to his wyf,
Swich sorwe as he hath maked, and swich chere,        325
Hit is a routhe and pitee for to here.
But, as in love, al-day hit happeth so,
That oon shal laughen at anothers wo;
Now laugheth Eneas, and is in Ioye
And more richesse than ever he was in Troye.        330
  O sely womman, ful of innocence,
Ful of pitee, of trouthe, and conscience,
What maked yow to men to trusten so?
Have ye swich routhe upon hir feined wo,
And han swich olde ensamples yow beforn?        335
See ye nat alle, how they been for-sworn?
Wher see ye oon, that he ne hath laft his leef,
Or been unkinde, or doon her som mischeef,
Or pilled her, or bosted of his dede?
Ye may as wel hit seen, as ye may rede;        340
Tak heed now of this grete gentil-man,
This Troyan, that so wel her plesen can,
That feineth him so trewe and obeising,
So gentil and so privy of his doing,
And can so wel doon alle his obeisaunces,        345
And waiten her at festes and at daunces,
And when she goth to temple and hoom ageyn,
And fasten til he hath his lady seyn,
And bere in his devyses, for her sake,
Noot I nat what; and songes wolde he make,        350
Iusten, and doon of armes many thinges,
Sende her lettres, tokens, broches, ringes—
Now herkneth, how he shal his lady serve!
Ther-as he was in peril for to sterve
For hunger, and for mischeef in the see,        355
And desolat, and fled from his contree,
And al his folk with tempest al to-driven,
She hath her body and eek her reame yiven
In-to his hond, ther-as she mighte have been
Of other lond than of Cartage a queen,        360
And lived in Ioye y-nogh; what wolde ye more?
  This Eneas, that hath so depe y-swore,
Is wery of his craft with-in a throwe;
The hote ernest is al over-blowe.
And prively he doth his shippes dighte,        365
And shapeth him to stele a-wey by nighte.
  This Dido hath suspecioun of this,
And thoughte wel, that hit was al a-mis;
For in his bedde he lyth a-night and syketh;
She asketh him anoon, what him mislyketh—        370
‘My dere herte, which that I love most?’
  ‘Certes,’ quod he, ‘this night my fadres gost
Hath in my sleep so sore me tormented,
And eek Mercurie his message hath presented,
That nedes to the conquest of Itaile        375
My destinee is sone for to saile;
For which, me thinketh, brosten is myn herte!’
Ther-with his false teres out they sterte;
And taketh her with-in his armes two.
  ‘Is that in ernest,’ quod she; ‘wil ye so?        380
Have ye nat sworn to wyve me to take,
Alas! what womman wil ye of me make?
I am a gentil-woman and a queen,
Ye wil nat fro your wyf thus foule fleen?
That I was born! allas! what shal I do?’        385
  To telle in short, this noble queen Dido,
She seketh halwes, and doth sacrifyse;
She kneleth, cryeth, that routhe is to devyse;
Coniureth him, and profreth him to be
His thral, his servant in the leste gree;        390
She falleth him to fote, and swowneth there
Dischevele, with her brighte gilte here,
And seith, ‘have mercy! let me with yow ryde!
Thise lordes, which that wonen me besyde
Wil me destroyen only for your sake.        395
And, so ye wil me now to wyve take,
As ye han sworn, than wol I yive yow leve
To sleen me with your swerd now sone at eve!
For than yit shal I dyen as your wyf.
I am with childe, and yive my child his lyf.        400
Mercy, lord! have pite in your thoght!’
But al this thing availeth her right noght;
For on a night, slepinge, he let her lye,
And stal a-wey un-to his companye,
And, as a traitour, forth he gan to saile        405
Toward the large contree of Itaile.
Thus hath he laft Dido in wo and pyne;
And wedded ther a lady hight Lavyne.
  A cloth he lafte, and eek his swerd stonding,
Whan he fro Dido stal in her sleping,        410
Right at her beddes heed, so gan he hye
Whan that he stal a-wey to his navye;
Which cloth, whan sely Dido gan awake,
She hath hit kist ful ofte for his sake;
And seide, ‘O cloth, whyl Iupiter hit leste,        415
Tak now my soule, unbind me of this unreste!
I have fulfild of fortune al the cours.’
And thus, allas! with-outen his socours,
Twenty tyme y-swowned hath she thanne.
And, whan that she un-to her suster Anne        420
Compleyned had, of which I may nat wryte—
So greet a routhe I have hit for tendyte—
And bad her norice and her suster goon
To fecchen fyr and other thing anoon,
And seide, that she wolde sacrifye.        425
And, whan she mighte her tyme wel espye,
Up-on the fyr of sacrifys she sterte,
And with his swerd she roof her to the herte.
  But, as myn autour seith, right thus she seyde;
Or she was hurt, before that she deyde,        430
She wroot a lettre anoon, that thus began:—
  ‘Right so,’ quod she, ‘as that the whyte swan
Ayeins his deeth beginneth for to singe,
Right so to yow make I my compleyninge.
Nat that I trowe to geten yow again,        435
For wel I woot that it is al in vain,
Sin that the goddes been contraire to me.
But sin my name is lost through yow,’ quod she,
‘I may wel lese a word on yow, or letter,
Al-be-it that I shal be never the better;        440
For thilke wind that blew your ship a-wey,
The same wind hath blowe a-wey your fey.’—
  But who wol al this letter have in minde,
Rede Ovide, and in him he shal hit finde.

Explicit Legenda Didonis martiris, Cartaginis regine.

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