Verse > Geoffrey Chaucer > Complete Poetical Works
Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340–1400).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1894.
The Legend of Good Women
IV. Hypsipyle and Medea
Incipit Legenda Ysiphile et Medee, Martirum.


THOU rote of false lovers, duk Iasoun!
Thou sly devourer and confusioun
Of gentil-wommen, tender creatures,
Thou madest thy reclaiming and thy lures
To ladies of thy statly apparaunce,        5
And of thy wordes, farced with plesaunce,
And of thy feyned trouthe and thy manere,
With thyn obeisaunce and thy humble chere,
And with thy counterfeted peyne and wo.
Ther other falsen oon, thou falsest two!        10
O! ofte swore thou that thou woldest dye
For love, whan thou ne feltest maladye
Save foul delyt, which that thou callest love!
If that I live, thy name shal be shove
In English, that thy sleighte shal be knowe!        15
Have at thee, Iasoun! now thyn horn is blowe!
But certes, hit is bothe routhe and wo
That love with false loveres werketh so;
For they shul have wel better love and chere
Than he that hath aboght his love ful dere,        20
Or had in armes many a blody box.
For ever as tendre a capoun et the fox,
Thogh he be fals and hath the foul betrayed,
As shal the good-man that ther-for hath payed.
Al have he to the capoun skille and right,        25
The false fox wol have his part at night.
On Iasoun this ensample is wel y-sene
By Isiphile and Medea the quene.
  In Tessalye, as Guido telleth us,
Ther was a king that highte Pelleus,        30
That had a brother, which that highte Eson;
And, whan for age he mighte unnethes gon,
He yaf to Pelleus the governing
Of al his regne, and made him lord and king.
Of which Eson this Iasoun geten was,        35
That, in his tyme, in al that lond, ther nas
Nat swich a famous knight of gentilesse,
Of freedom, and of strengthe and lustinesse.
After his fader deeth, he bar him so
That ther nas noon that liste been his fo,        40
But dide him al honour and companye;
Of which this Pelleus hath greet envye,
Imagining that Iasoun mighte be
Enhaunsed so, and put in swich degree
With love of lordes of his regioun,        45
That from his regne he may be put adoun.
And in his wit, a-night, compassed he
How Iasoun mighte best destroyed be
Withoute slaunder of his compasment.
And at the laste he took avisement        50
To senden him in-to som fer contree
Ther as this Iasoun may destroyed be.
This was his wit; al made he to Iasoun
Gret chere of love and of affeccioun,
For drede lest his lordes hit espyde.        55
So fil hit so, as fame renneth wyde,
Ther was swich tyding over-al and swich los,
That in an yle that called was Colcos,
Beyonde Troye, estward in the see,
That ther-in was a ram, that men mighte see,        60
That had a flees of gold, that shoon so brighte,
That no-wher was ther swich an-other sighte;
But hit was kept alway with a dragoun,
And many othere merveils, up and doun,
And with two boles, maked al of bras,        65
That spitten fyr, and moche thing ther was.
But this was eek the tale, nathelees,
That who-so wolde winne thilke flees,
He moste bothe, or he hit winne mighte,
With the boles and the dragoun fighte;        70
And king Oëtes lord was of that yle.
  This Pelleus bethoghte upon this wyle;
That he his nevew Iasoun wolde enhorte
To sailen to that lond, him to disporte,
And seide, ‘Nevew, if hit mighte be        75
That swich a worship mighte fallen thee,
That thou this famous tresor mightest winne,
And bringen hit my regioun with-inne,
Hit were to me gret plesaunce and honour;
Than were I holde to quyte thy labour.        80
And al the cost I wol my-selven make;
And chees what folk that thou wilt with thee take;
Lat see now, darstow taken this viage?’
Iasoun was yong, and lusty of corage,
And under-took to doon this ilke empryse.        85
  Anoon Argus his shippes gan devyse;
With Iasoun wente the stronge Ercules,
And many an-other that he with him chees.
But who-so axeth who is with him gon,
Lat him go reden Argonauticon,        90
For he wol telle a tale long y-now.
Philotetes anoon the sail up-drow,
Whan that the wind was good, and gan him hye
Out of his contree called Tessalye.
So long he sailed in the salte see        95
Til in the yle Lemnoun aryved he—
Al be this nat rehersed of Guido,
Yet seith Ovyde in his Epistles so—
And of this yle lady was and quene
The faire yonge Isiphilee, the shene,        100
That whylom Thoas doghter was, the king.
  Isiphilee was goon in her playing;
And, roming on the clyves by the see,
Under a banke anoon espyed she
Wher that the ship of Iasoun gan aryve.        105
Of her goodnesse adoun she sendeth blyve
To witen yif that any straunge wight
With tempest thider were y-blowe a-night,
To doon him socour; as was her usaunce
To forthren every wight, and doon plesaunce        110
Of veray bountee and of curtesye.
  This messagere adoun him gan to hye,
And fond Iasoun, and Ercules also,
That in a cogge to londe were y-go
Hem to refresshen and to take the eyr.        115
The morwening atempre was and fair;
And in his wey the messagere hem mette.
Ful cunningly thise lordes two he grette,
And dide his message, axing hem anoon
Yif they were broken, or oght wo begoon,        120
Or hadde nede of lodesmen or vitaile;
For of socour they shulde no-thing faile,
For hit was utterly the quenes wille.
  Iasoun answerde, mekely and stille,
‘My lady,’ quod he, ‘thanke I hertely        125
Of hir goodnesse; us nedeth, trewely,
No-thing as now, but that we wery be,
And come for to pleye, out of the see,
Til that the wind be better in our weye.’
  This lady rometh by the clif to pleye,        130
With her meynee, endelong the stronde,
And fynt this Iasoun and this other stonde,
In spekinge of this thing, as I yow tolde.
  This Ercules and Iasoun gan beholde
How that the quene hit was, and faire her grette        135
Anon-right as they with this lady mette;
And she took heed, and knew, by hir manere,
By hir aray, by wordes and by chere,
That hit were gentil-men, of greet degree.
And to the castel with her ledeth she        140
Thise straunge folk, and doth hem greet honour,
And axeth hem of travail and labour
That they han suffred in the salte see;
So that, within a day, or two, or three,
She knew, by folk that in his shippes be,        145
That hit was Iasoun, ful of renomee,
And Ercules, that had the grete los,
That soghten the aventures of Colcos;
And dide hem honour more then before,
And with hem deled ever lenger the more,        150
For they ben worthy folk, with-outen lees.
And namely, most she spak with Ercules;
To him her herte bar, he sholde be
Sad, wys, and trewe, of wordes avisee,
With-outen any other affeccioun        155
Of love, or evil imaginacioun.
  This Ercules hath so this Iasoun preysed,
That to the sonne he hath him up areysed,
That half so trewe a man ther nas of love
Under the cope of heven that is above;        160
And he was wys, hardy, secree, and riche.—
Of thise three pointes ther nas noon him liche;
Of freedom passed he, and lustihede,
Alle tho that liven or ben dede;
Ther-to so greet a gentil-man was he,        165
And of Tessalie lykly king to be.
Ther nas no lak, but that he was agast
To love, and for to speke shamefast.
He hadde lever him-self to mordre, and dye
Than that men shulde a lover him espye:—        170
‘As wolde almighty god that I had yive
My blood and flesh, so that I mighte live,
With the nones that he hadde o-wher a wyf
For his estat; for swich a lusty lyf
She sholde lede with this lusty knight!’        175
  And al this was compassed on the night
Betwixe him Iasoun and this Ercules.
Of thise two heer was mad a shrewed lees
To come to hous upon an innocent;
For to be-dote this queen was hir assent.        180
And Iasoun is as coy as is a maide,
He loketh pitously, but noght he saide,
But frely yaf he to her conseileres
Yiftes grete, and to her officeres.
As wolde god I leiser hadde, and tyme,        185
By proces al his wowing for to ryme.
But in this hous if any fals lover be,
Right as him-self now doth, right so dide he,
With feyning and with every sotil dede.
Ye gete no more of me, but ye wil rede        190
Thoriginal, that telleth al the cas.
  The somme is this, that Iasoun wedded was
Unto this quene, and took of her substaunce
What-so him liste, unto his purveyaunce;
And upon her begat he children two,        195
And drow his sail, and saw her never-mo.
  A lettre sente she to him certein,
Which were to long to wryten and to sein,
And him repreveth of his grete untrouthe,
And preyeth him on her to have som routhe.        200
And of his children two, she seide him this,
That they be lyke, of alle thing, y-wis,
To Iasoun, save they coude nat begyle;
And preyed god, or hit were longe whyle,
That she, that had his herte y-raft her fro,        205
Moste finden him to her untrewe al-so,
And that she moste bothe her children spille,
And alle tho that suffreth him his wille.
And trew to Iasoun was she al her lyf,
And ever kepte her chast, as for his wyf;        210
Ne never had she Ioye at her herte,
But dyed, for his love, of sorwes smerte.

  TO Colcos comen is this duk Iasoun,
That is of love devourer and dragoun.
As matere appetyteth forme al-wey,        215
And from forme in-to forme hit passen may,
Or as a welle that were botomlees,
Right so can fals Iasoun have no pees.
For, to desyren, through his appetyt,
To doon with gentil wommen his delyt,        220
This is his lust and his felicitee.
  Iasoun is romed forth to the citee,
That whylom cleped was Iaconitos,
That was the maister-toun of al Colcos,
And hath y-told the cause of his coming        225
Un-to Oëtes, of that contre king,
Preying him that he moste doon his assay
To gete the flees of gold, if that he may;
Of which the king assenteth to his bone,
And doth him honour, as hit is to done,        230
So ferforth, that his doghter and his eyr,
Medea, which that was so wys and fair
That fairer saw ther never man with yë,
He made her doon to Iasoun companye
At mete, and sitte by him in the halle.        235
  Now was Iasoun a semely man with-alle,
And lyk a lord, and had a greet renoun,
And of his loke as real as leoun,
And goodly of his speche, and famulere,
And coude of love al craft and art plenere        240
With-oute boke, with everich observaunce.
And, as fortune her oghte a foul meschaunce,
She wex enamoured upon this man.
  ‘Iasoun,’ quod she, ‘for ought I see or can,
As of this thing the which ye been aboute,        245
Ye han your-self y-put in moche doute.
For, who-so wol this aventure acheve,
He may nat wel asterten, as I leve,
With-outen deeth, but I his helpe be.
But natheles, hit is my wille,’ quod she,        250
‘To forthren yow, so that ye shal nat dye,
But turnen, sound, hoom to your Tessalye.’
  ‘My righte lady,’ quod this Iasoun tho,
‘That ye han of my dethe or of my wo
Any reward, and doon me this honour,        255
I wot wel that my might ne my labour
May nat deserve hit in my lyves day;
God thanke yow, ther I ne can ne may.
Your man am I, and lowly you beseche,
To been my help, with-oute more speche;        260
But certes, for my deeth shal I nat spare.’
  Tho gan this Medea to him declare
The peril of this cas, fro point to point,
And of his batail, and in what disioint
He mote stande, of which no creature,        265
Save only she, ne mighte his lyf assure.
And shortly, to the point right for to go,
They been accorded ful, betwix hem two,
That Iasoun shal her wedde, as trewe knight;
And term y-set, to come sone at night        270
Unto her chambre, and make ther his ooth,
Upon the goddes, that he, for leef ne looth,
Ne sholde her never falsen, night ne day,
To been her husbond, whyl he liven may,
As she that from his deeth him saved here.        275
And her-upon, at night they mette y-fere,
And doth his ooth, and goth with her to bedde.
And on the morwe, upward he him spedde;
For she hath taught him how he shal nat faile
The flees to winne, and stinten his bataile;        280
And saved him his lyf and his honour;
And gat him greet name as a conquerour
Right through the sleight of her enchantement.
  Now hath Iasoun the flees, and hoom is went
With Medea, and tresor ful gret woon.        285
But unwist of her fader is she goon
To Tessaly, with duk Iasoun her leef,
That afterward hath broght her to mescheef.
For as a traitour he is from her go,
And with her lafte his yonge children two,        290
And falsly hath betrayed her, allas!
And ever in love a cheef traitour he was;
And wedded yit the thridde wyf anon,
That was the doghter of the king Creon.
  This is the meed of loving and guerdon        295
That Medea received of Iasoun
Right for her trouthe and for her kindenesse,
That loved him better than her-self, I gesse,
And lafte her fader and her heritage.
And of Iasoun this is the vassalage,        300
That, in his dayes, nas ther noon y-founde
So fals a lover going on the grounde.
And therfor in her lettre thus she seyde
First, whan she of his falsnesse him umbreyde,
‘Why lyked me thy yelow heer to see        305
More then the boundes of myn honestee,
Why lyked me thy youthe and thy fairnesse,
And of thy tonge the infinit graciousnesse?
O, haddest thou in thy conquest deed y-be,
Ful mikel untrouthe had ther dyed with thee!’        310
  Wel can Ovyde her lettre in vers endyte,
Which were as now to long for me to wryte.

Explicit Legenda Ysiphile et Medee, Martirum.

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