Verse > Geoffrey Chaucer > Complete Poetical Works
Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340–1400).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1894.
The Legend of Good Women
VII. Philomela
Incipit Legenda Philomene.

Deus dator formarum.

THOU yiver of the formes, that hast wroght
The faire world, and bare hit in thy thoght
Eternally, or thou thy werk began,
Why madest thou, unto the slaundre of man,
Or—al be that hit was not thy doing,        5
As for that fyn to make swiche a thing—
Why suffrest thou that Tereus was bore,
That is in love so fals and so forswore,
That, fro this world up to the firste hevene,
Corrumpeth, whan that folk his name nevene?        10
And, as to me, so grisly was his dede,
That, whan that I his foule story rede,
Myn eyen wexen foule and sore also;
Yit last the venim of so longe ago,
That hit enfecteth him that wol beholde        15
The story of Tereus, of which I tolde.
  Of Trace was he lord, and kin to Marte,
The cruel god that stant with blody darte;
And wedded had he, with a blisful chere,
King Pandiones faire doghter dere,        20
That highte Progne, flour of her contree,
Thogh Iuno list nat at the feste be,
Ne Ymeneus, that god of wedding is;
But at the feste redy been, y-wis,
The furies three, with alle hir mortel brond.        25
The owle al night aboute the balkes wond,
That prophet is of wo and of mischaunce.
This revel, ful of songe and ful of daunce,
Lasteth a fourtenight, or litel lasse.
But, shortly of this story for to passe,        30
For I am wery of him for to telle,
Five yeer his wyf and he togeder dwelle,
Til on a day she gan so sore longe
To seen her suster, that she saw nat longe,
That for desyr she niste what to seye.        35
But to her husband gan she for to preye,
For goddes love, that she moste ones goon
Her suster for to seen, and come anoon,
Or elles, but she moste to her wende,
She preyde him, that he wolde after her sende;        40
And this was, day by day, al her prayere
With al humblesse of wyfhood, word, and chere.
  This Tereus let make his shippes yare,
And into Grece him-self is forth y-fare
Unto his fader in lawe, and gan him preye        45
To vouche-sauf that, for a month or tweye,
That Philomene, his wyves suster, mighte
On Progne his wyf but ones have a sighte—
‘And she shal come to yow again anoon.
Myself with her wol bothe come and goon,        50
And as myn hertes lyf I wol her kepe.’
  This olde Pandion, this king, gan wepe
For tendernesse of herte, for to leve
His doghter goon, and for to yive her leve;
Of al this world he lovede no-thing so;        55
But at the laste leve hath she to go.
For Philomene, with salte teres eke,
Gan of her fader grace to beseke
To seen her suster, that her longeth so;
And him embraceth with her armes two.        60
And therwith-al so yong and fair was she
That, whan that Terëus saw her beautee,
And of array that ther was noon her liche,
And yit of bountee was she two so riche,
He caste his fyry herte upon her so        65
That he wol have her, how so that hit go,
And with his wyles kneled and so preyde,
Til at the laste Pandion thus seyde:—
  ‘Now, sone,’ quod he, ‘that art to me so dere,
I thee betake my yonge doghter here,        70
That bereth the key of al my hertes lyf.
And grete wel my doghter and thy wyf,
And yive her leve somtyme for to pleye,
That she may seen me ones er I deye.’
And soothly, he hath mad him riche feste,        75
And to his folk, the moste and eek the leste,
That with him com; and yaf him yiftes grete,
And him conveyeth through the maister-strete
Of Athenes, and to the see him broghte,
And turneth hoom; no malice he ne thoghte.        80
  The ores pulleth forth the vessel faste,
And into Trace arriveth at the laste,
And up into a forest he her ledde,
And to a cave privily him spedde;
And, in this derke cave, yif her leste,        85
Or leste noght, he bad her for to reste;
Of whiche her herte agroos, and seyde thus,
‘Wher is my suster, brother Tereus?’
And therwith-al she wepte tenderly,
And quook for fere, pale and pitously,        90
Right as the lamb that of the wolf is biten;
Or as the colver, that of the egle is smiten,
And is out of his clawes forth escaped,
Yet hit is afered and awhaped
Lest hit be hent eft-sones, so sat she.        95
But utterly hit may non other be.
By force hath he, this traitour, doon that dede,
That he hath reft her of her maydenhede,
Maugree her heed, by strengthe and by his might.
Lo! here a dede of men, and that a right!        100
She cryeth ‘suster!’ with ful loude stevene,
And ‘fader dere!’ and ‘help me, god in hevene!’
Al helpeth nat; and yet this false theef
Hath doon this lady yet a more mischeef,
For fere lest she sholde his shame crye,        105
And doon him openly a vilanye,
And with his swerd her tong of kerveth he,
And in a castel made her for to be
Ful privily in prison evermore,
And kepte her to his usage and his store,        110
So that she mighte him nevermore asterte.
O sely Philomene! wo is thyn herte;
God wreke thee, and sende thee thy bone!
Now is hit tyme I make an ende sone.
  This Tereus is to his wyf y-come,        115
And in his armes hath his wyf y-nome,
And pitously he weep, and shook his heed,
And swor her that he fond her suster deed;
For which this sely Progne hath swich wo,
That ny her sorweful herte brak a-two;        120
And thus in teres lete I Progne dwelle,
And of her suster forth I wol yow telle.
  This woful lady lerned had in youthe
So that she werken and enbrouden couthe,
And weven in her stole the radevore        125
As hit of women hath be woned yore.
And, shortly for to seyn, she hath her fille
Of mete and drink, and clothing at her wille,
And coude eek rede, and wel y-nogh endyte,
But with a penne coude she nat wryte;        130
But lettres can she weven to and fro,
So that, by that the yeer was al a-go,
She had y-woven in a stamin large
How she was broght from Athenes in a barge,
And in a cave how that she was broght;        135
And al the thing that Tereus hath wroght,
She waf hit wel, and wroot the story above,
How she was served for her suster love;
And to a knave a ring she yaf anoon,
And prayed him, by signes, for to goon        140
Unto the quene, and beren her that clooth,
And by signes swor him many an ooth,
She sholde him yeve what she geten mighte.
  This knave anoon unto the quene him dighte,
And took hit her, and al the maner tolde.        145
And, whan that Progne hath this thing beholde,
No word she spak, for sorwe and eek for rage;
But feyned her to goon on pilgrimage
To Bachus temple; and, in a litel stounde,
Her dombe suster sitting hath she founde,        150
Weping in the castel her aloon.
Allas! the wo, the compleint, and the moon
That Progne upon her dombe suster maketh!
In armes everich of hem other taketh,
And thus I lete hem in hir sorwe dwelle.        155
  The remenant is no charge for to telle,
For this is al and som, thus was she served,
That never harm a-gilte ne deserved
Unto this cruel man, that she of wiste.
Ye may be war of men, yif that yow liste.        160
For, al be that he wol nat, for his shame,
Doon so as Tereus, to lese his name,
Ne serve yow as a mordrour or a knave,
Ful litel whyle shul ye trewe him have,
That wol I seyn, al were he now my brother,        165
But hit so be that he may have non other.

Explicit Legenda Philomene.

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