Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Temples of Venus, Mars, and Diana
By Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340–1400)

FIRST in the temple of Venus mayst thou see
Wrought on the wall, full piteous to behold,
The broken sleepès, and the sighès cold,
The sacred tearès, and the waimentíng, 1
The fiery strokès of the désiríng        5
That lovès servants in this life enduren;
The oathès, that hir covenánts assuren.
Pleasance and hope, desire, foolhardiness,
Beauty and youthè, bawdry and richesse,
Charmès and force, leasíngs 2 and flattery,        10
Dispencè, 3 business, 4 and jealousy
That weared of yellow goldès 5 a garlánd,
And a cuckoo sitting on her hand;
Feastès, instruments, carólès, dances,
Lust and array, and all the circumstances        15
Of love, which that I reckoned have and reckon shall,
By order weren painted on the wall,
And mo than I can make of mentìón.
For soothly all the mount of Citheron,
There Venus hath her principal dwellíng,        20
Was showèd on the wall in portrayíng,
With all the garden and the lustiness.
Nought was forgot the porter Idleness,
Ne Narcissus the fair of yore agone,
Ne yet the folly of King Solomon,        25
Ne yet the greatè strength of Hercules,
The enchantèments of Medea and Circes,
N’of Turnús with the hardy fierce couráge,
The richè Crœsus caitiff 6 in serváge. 7
Thus may ye see, that wisdom ne richesse,        30
Beauty ne sleightè, strengthè, hardiness,
Ne may with Venus holden champarty, 8
For as her list the world then may she gye. 9
Lo, all these folk so caught were in her las 10
Till they for woe full often said, “Alas!”        35
Sufficeth here ensamples one or two,
And though I couldè reckon a thousand mo.
  The statue of Venus, glorious for to see,
Was naked fleting 11 in the largè sea,
And from the navel down all covered was        40
With wavès green, and bright as any glass,
A citole 12 in her right hand haddé she,
And on her head, full seemly for to see,
A rosé garland fresh and well smellíng,
Above her head her dovès flickeríng. 13        45
Before her stood her sonè Cupido,
Upon his shoulders wingès had he two;
And blind he was, as it is often seen;
A bow he bare and arrows bright and keen.
  Why should I not as well eke tell you all        50
The portraitúre, that was upon the wall
Within the temple of mighty Mars the red?
All painted was the wall in length and brede 14
Like to the estres 15 of the grisly place,
That hight the greatè temple of Mars in Thrace,        55
In thilkè coldè frosty regìón,
There-as Mars hath his sovereign mansìón.
  First on the wall was painted a forést,
In which there dwelleth neither man ne beast,
With knotty gnarry barren treès old        60
Of stubbès 16 sharp and hideous to behold,
In which there ran a rumble and a sough,
As though a storm should bresten 17 every bough:
And downward from an hill, under a bent, 18
There stood the temple of Mars armipotent,        65
Wrought all of burnèd 19 steel, of which th’ entry
Was long and strait 20 and ghastly for to see.
And thereout came a rage and such a vese, 21
That it made all the gatès for to rese. 22
The northern light in at the doorès shone,        70
For window on the wall ne was there none
Through which men mighten any light discern;
The doors were all of adamant eterne,
Yclenchèd overthwart and endèlong 23
With iron tough, and for to make it strong,        75
Every pillár the temple to sustene
Was tunnè-great, 24 of iron bright and sheen.
There saw I first the dark imagining
Of felony, and all the compassing;
The cruel irè, red as any gleed, 25        80
The pickèpurse, and eke the palè drede; 26
The smiler with the knife under the cloak;
The shepen 27 brenning 28 with the blackè smoke;
The treason of the murdering in the bed,
The open war, with woundès all bebled;        85
Contek 29 with bloody knife and sharp menáce.
All full of chirking 30 was that sorry place.
The slayer of himself yet saw I there,
His heartè-blood hath bathèd all his hair:
The nail ydriven in the shode 31 anight;        90
The coldè death, with mouth gapíng upright. 32
Amiddès of the temple sat mischance,
With díscomfórt and sorry countenance,
Yet saw I woodness 33 laughing in his rage,
Armèd complaint, outhees, 34 and fierce outrage;        95
The carrion 35 in the bush, with throat ycorven, 36
A thousand slain, and not of qualm 37 ystorven; 38
The tyrant with the prey by force yreft;
The town destroyed, there was nothing left.
Yet saw I brent 39 the shippès hoppèsteres, 40        100
The huntè 41 strangled with the wildè bears:
The sowè freten 42 the child right in the cradle;
The cook yscalded, for all his longè ladle.
Nought was forgotten by th’ infortúne of Marte;
The carter overridden with his cart;        105
Under the wheel full low he lay adown.
There were also of Mars’ divisìón,
The barber, and the butcher, and the smith
That forgeth sharpè swordès on his stith. 43
And all above depainted in a tower        110
Saw I Conquést, sitting in great honóur,
With the sharpè sword over his head
Hanging by a subtle 44 twinès thread.
Depainted was the slaughter of Juliús,
Of great Neró, and of Antoniús:        115
Albe that thilkè time they were unborn,
Yet was hir death depainted therebeforn,
By ménacíng of Mars, right by figúre,
So was it showèd in that portraitúre,
As is depainted in the stars above,        120
Who shall be slain or ellès dead for love.
Sufficeth one ensample in stories old,
I may not reckon them allè though I wold.
  The statue of Mars upon a cartè stood
Armèd, and lookèd grim as he were wood, 45        125
And over his head there shinen two figúres
Of starrès, that be clepèd in scriptúres, 46
That one Puella, that other Rubeus. 47
This god of armès was arrayèd thus:
A wolf there stood before him at his feet        130
With eyen red, and of a man he eat:
With subtle pencil depainted was this story,
In redoubting 48 of Mars and of his glory.
  Now to the temple of Dián the chaste
As shortly as I can I will me haste,        135
To tellen you all the descriptìón:
Depainted be the wallès up and down
Of hunting and of shamefast chastity.
There saw I how wofúl Calistope, 49
When that Dian aggrievèd was with her,        140
Was turnèd from a woman to a bear,
And after was she made the lodèstar: 50
Thus was it painted, I can say no farre; 51
Her son is eke a star as men may see.
There saw I Danè yturnèd till 52 a tree,        145
I meanè not the goddesse Diánè,
But Peneus’ daughter, which that hightè Danè.
There saw I Acteon an hart ymakèd, 53
For vengeance that he saw Dian all naked:
I saw how that his houndès have him caught,        150
And freten 54 him for that they knew him naught.
Yet painted was a little furthermore,
How Atalanta hunted the wild boar,
And Meleager, and many another mo,
For which Diana wrought him care and woe.        155
There saw I many another wonder story,
The which me list not drawen to memóry.
  This goddess on an hart full highè seet, 55
With smallè houndès all about her feet,
And underneath her feet she had a moon,        160
Waxing it was, and shouldè wanen soon.
In gaudy-green 56 her statue clothèd was,
With bow in hand and arrows in a case.
Her eyen castè she full low adown
There Pluto hath his darkè regìón.        165
A woman travailing was her beforn,
But for her child so longè was unborn
Full piteously Lucina 57 gan she call,
And saidè, “Help, for thou mayst best of all.”
Well could he painten lifely 58 that it 59 wrought,        170
With many a florin he the huès bought.
Note 1. Lamentation. [back]
Note 2. Lies. [back]
Note 3. Expense. [back]
Note 4. Anxiety. [back]
Note 5. The flower turnsol. [back]
Note 6. Wretched. [back]
Note 7. Slavery. [back]
Note 8. Partnership in power. [back]
Note 9. Guide. [back]
Note 10. Snare. [back]
Note 11. Floating. [back]
Note 12. Musical instrument. [back]
Note 13. Fluttering. [back]
Note 14. Breadth. [back]
Note 15. Interiors. [back]
Note 16. Projecting old roots. [back]
Note 17. Burst. [back]
Note 18. Slope. [back]
Note 19. Burnished. [back]
Note 20. Narrow. [back]
Note 21. Furious rush of wind. [back]
Note 22. Shake. [back]
Note 23. Across and lengthways. [back]
Note 24. Of the circumference of a tun. [back]
Note 25. Burning coal. [back]
Note 26. Coward. [back]
Note 27. Stables. [back]
Note 28. Burning. [back]
Note 29. Contention. [back]
Note 30. Shrieking. [back]
Note 31. Forehead. [back]
Note 32. Prone on the back. [back]
Note 33. Madness. [back]
Note 34. Outcry. [back]
Note 35. Corpse. [back]
Note 36. Cut. [back]
Note 37. Disease. [back]
Note 38. Having died. [back]
Note 39. Burnt. [back]
Note 40. The dancing ships. [back]
Note 41. Hunter. [back]
Note 42. Devour. [back]
Note 43. Anvil. [back]
Note 44. Fine. [back]
Note 45. Mad. [back]
Note 46. Called in writings. [back]
Note 47. ‘Puella’ and ‘Rubeus’: two figures in Geomancy, representing two constellations,—the one signifying Mars retrograde, the other Mars direct. [back]
Note 48. Reverence. [back]
Note 49. ‘Calistope,’ or Callisto: daughter of Lycaon—seduced by Jupiter—turned into a bear by Juno (or Diana)—and placed afterwards, with her son, as the Great Bear among the stars. [back]
Note 50. Pole-star. [back]
Note 51. Farther. [back]
Note 52. To. [back]
Note 53. Made. [back]
Note 54. Devour. [back]
Note 55. Sat. [back]
Note 56. Light-green. [back]
Note 57. ‘Lucina’: another name for Diana—as the goddess of child-bearing. [back]
Note 58. Lifelike. [back]
Note 59. What. [back]

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