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GEOFFREY CHAUCER


THE LEGEND OF GOOD WOMEN

PROLOGUE




The Seintes Legende of Cupide
 thousand tymes have I herd men telle
That ther ys joy in hevene and peyne in helle,
And I acorde wel that it ys so;
But, natheles, yet wot I wel also
That ther nis noon dwellyng in this contree
That eyther hath in hevene or helle ybe,
Ne may of hit noon other weyes witen
But as he hath herd seyd or founde it writen;
For by assay ther may no man it preve.
But God forbede but men shulde leve
Wel more thing than men han seen with ye!
Men shal not wenen every thing a lye
But yf himself yt seeth or elles dooth.
For, God wot, thing is never the lasse sooth,
Thogh every wight ne may it nat ysee.
Bernard the monk ne saugh nat all, pardee!
Than mote we to bokes that we fynde,
Thurgh whiche that olde thinges ben in mynde,
And to the doctrine of these olde wyse,
Yeve credence, in every skylful wise,
That tellen of these olde appreved stories
Of holynesse, of regnes, of victories,
Of love, of hate, of other sondry thynges,
Of whiche I may not maken rehersynges.
And yf that olde bokes were aweye,
Yloren were of remembraunce the keye.
Wel ought us thanne honouren and beleve
These bokes, there we han noon other preve.
And as for me, though that I konne but lyte,
On bokes for to rede I me delyte,
And to hem yive I feyth and ful credence,
And in myn herte have hem in reverence
So hertely, that ther is game noon
That fro my bokes maketh me to goon,
But yt be seldom on the holyday,
Save, certeynly, whan that the month of May
Is comen, and that I here the foules synge,
And that the floures gynnen for to sprynge,
Farewel my bok and my devocioun!
Now have I thanne eek this condicioun,
That, of al the floures in the mede,
Thanne love I most thise floures white and rede,
Swiche as men callen daysyes in our toun.
To hem have I so gret affeccioun,
As I seyde erst, whanne comen is the May,
That in my bed ther daweth me no day
That I nam up and walkyng in the mede
To seen this flour ayein the sonne sprede,
Whan it upryseth erly by the morwe.
That blisful sighte softneth al my sorwe,
So glad am I, whan that I have presence
Of it, to doon it alle reverence,
As she that is of alle floures flour,
Fulfilled of al vertu and honour,
And evere ilyke faire and fressh of hewe;
And I love it, and ever ylike newe,
And evere shal, til that myn herte dye.
Al swere I nat, of this I wol nat lye;
Ther loved no wight hotter in his lyve.
And whan that hit ys eve, I renne blyve,
As sone as evere the sonne gynneth weste,
To seen this flour, how it wol go to reste,
For fere of nyght, so hateth she derknesse.
Hire chere is pleynly sprad in the brightnesse
Of the sonne, for ther yt wol unclose.
Allas, that I ne had Englyssh, ryme or prose,
Suffisant this flour to preyse aryght!
But helpeth, ye that han konnyng and myght,
Ye lovers that kan make of sentement;
In this cas oghte ye be diligent
To forthren me somwhat in my labour,
Whethir ye ben with the leef or with the flour.
For wel I wot that ye han her-biforn
Of makyng ropen, and lad awey the corn,
And I come after, glenyng here and there,
And am ful glad yf I may fynde an ere
Of any goodly word that ye han left.
And thogh it happen me rehercen eft
That ye han in your fresshe songes sayd,
Forbereth me, and beth nat evele apayd,
Syn that ye see I do yt in the honour
Of love, and eke in service of the flour
Whom that I serve as I have wit or myght.
She is the clernesse and the verray lyght
That in this derke world me wynt and ledeth.
The hert in-with my sorwfull brest yow dredeth
And loveth so sore that ye ben verrayly
The maistresse of my wit, and nothing I.
My word, my werk ys knyt so in youre bond
That, as an harpe obeieth to the hond
And maketh it soune after his fyngerynge,
Ryght so mowe ye oute of myn herte bringe
Swich vois, ryght as yow lyst, to laughe or pleyne.
Be ye my gide and lady sovereyne!
As to myn erthly god to yow I calle,
Bothe in this werk and in my sorwes alle.
But wherfore that I spak, to yive credence
To olde stories and doon hem reverence,
And that men mosten more thyng beleve
Then men may seen at eye, or elles preve --
That shal I seyn, whanne that I see my tyme;
I may not al at-ones speke in ryme.
My besy gost, that thursteth alwey newe
To seen this flour so yong, so fressh of hewe,
Constreyned me with so gledy desir
That in myn herte I feele yet the fir
That made me to ryse er yt were day --
And this was now the firste morwe of May --
With dredful hert and glad devocioun,
For to ben at the resureccioun
Of this flour, whan that yt shulde unclose
Agayn the sonne, that roos as red as rose,
That in the brest was of the beste, that day,
That Agenores doghtre ladde away.
And doun on knes anoon-ryght I me sette,
And, as I koude, this fresshe flour I grette,
Knelyng alwey, til it unclosed was,
Upon the smale, softe, swote gras,
That was with floures swote enbrouded al,
Of swich swetnesse and swich odour overal,
That, for to speke of gomme, or herbe, or tree,
Comparisoun may noon ymaked bee;
For yt surmounteth pleynly alle odoures,
And of riche beaute alle floures.
Forgeten hadde the erthe his pore estat
Of wynter, that hym naked made and mat,
And with his swerd of cold so sore greved;
Now hath th' atempre sonne all that releved,
That naked was, and clad him new agayn.
The smale foules, of the sesoun fayn,
That from the panter and the net ben scaped,
Upon the foweler, that hem made awhaped
In wynter, and distroyed hadde hire brood,
In his dispit hem thoghte yt did hem good
To synge of hym, and in hir song despise
The foule cherl that, for his coveytise,
Had hem betrayed with his sophistrye.
This was hire song: "The foweler we deffye,
And al his craft." And somme songen clere
Layes of love, that joye it was to here,
In worship and in preysinge of hir make;
And for the newe blisful somers sake,
Upon the braunches ful of blosmes softe,
In hire delyt they turned hem ful ofte,
And songen, "Blessed be Seynt Valentyn,
For on his day I chees yow to be myn,
Withouten repentyng, myn herte swete!"
And therwithalle hire bekes gonnen meete,
Yeldyng honour and humble obeysaunces
To love, and diden hire other observaunces
That longeth onto love and to nature;
Construeth that as yow lyst, I do no cure.
And thoo that hadde doon unkyndenesse --
As dooth the tydif, for newfangelnesse --
Besoghte mercy of hir trespassynge,
And humblely songen hire repentynge,
And sworen on the blosmes to be trewe
So that hire makes wolde upon hem rewe,
And at the laste maden hire acord.
Al founde they Daunger for a tyme a lord,
Yet Pitee, thurgh his stronge gentil myght,
Forgaf, and made Mercy passen Ryght,
Thurgh innocence and ruled Curtesye.
But I ne clepe nat innocence folye,
Ne fals pitee, for vertu is the mene,
As Etik seith. in swich maner I mene.
And thus thise foweles, voide of al malice,
Acordeden to love, and laften vice
Of hate, and songen alle of oon acord,
"Welcome, somer, oure governour and lord!"
And Zepherus and Flora gentilly
Yaf to the floures, softe and tenderly,
Hire swoote breth, and made hem for to sprede,
As god and goddesse of the floury mede;
In which me thoghte I myghte, day by day,
Duellen alwey, the joly month of May,
Withouten slep, withouten mete or drynke.
Adoun ful softely I gan to synke,
And, lenynge on myn elbowe and my syde,
The longe day I shoop me for t' abide
For nothing elles, and I shal nat lye,
But for to loke upon the dayesie,
That wel by reson men it calle may
The "dayesye," or elles the "ye of day,"
The emperice and flour of floures alle.
I pray to God that faire mote she falle,
And alle that loven floures, for hire sake!
But natheles, ne wene nat that I make
In preysing of the flour agayn the leef,
No more than of the corn agayn the sheef;
For, as to me, nys lever noon ne lother.
I nam withholden yit with never nother;
Ne I not who serveth leef ne who the flour.
Wel browken they her service or labour;
For this thing is al of another tonne,
Of olde storye, er swich stryf was begonne.
Whan that the sonne out of the south gan weste,
And that this flour gan close and goon to reste
For derknesse of the nyght, the which she dredde,
Hom to myn hous ful swiftly I me spedde
To goon to reste, and erly for to ryse,
To seen this flour to sprede, as I devyse.
And in a litel herber that I have,
That benched was on turves fressh ygrave,
I bad men sholde me my couche make;
For deyntee of the newe someres sake,
I bad hem strawen floures on my bed.
Whan I was leyd and had myn eyen hed,
I fel on slepe within an houre or twoo.
Me mette how I lay in the medewe thoo,
To seen this flour that I so love and drede;
And from afer com walkyng in the mede
The god of Love, and in his hand a quene,
And she was clad in real habit grene.
A fret of gold she hadde next her heer,
And upon that a whit corowne she beer
With flourouns smale, and I shal nat lye;
For al the world, ryght as a dayesye
Ycorouned ys with white leves lyte,
So were the flowrouns of hire coroune white.
For of o perle fyn, oriental,
Hire white coroune was ymaked al;
For which the white coroune above the grene
Made hire lyk a daysie for to sene,
Considered eke hir fret of gold above.
Yclothed was this myghty god of Love
In silk, enbrouded ful of grene greves,
In-with a fret of rede rose-leves,
The fresshest syn the world was first bygonne.
His gilte heer was corowned with a sonne
Instede of gold, for hevynesse and wyghte.
Therwith me thoghte his face shoon so bryghte
That wel unnethes myghte I him beholde;
And in his hand me thoghte I saugh him holde
Twoo firy dartes as the gledes rede,
And aungelyke hys wynges saugh I sprede.
And al be that men seyn that blynd ys he,
Algate me thoghte that he myghte se;
For sternely on me he gan byholde,
So that his loking dooth myn herte colde.
And by the hand he held this noble quene
Corowned with whit and clothed al in grene,
So womanly, so benigne, and so meke,
That in this world, thogh that men wolde seke,
Half hire beaute shulde men nat fynde
In creature that formed ys by kynde.
And therfore may I seyn, as thynketh me,
This song in preysyng of this lady fre:

yd, Absolon, thy gilte tresses clere;
Ester, ley thou thy meknesse al adown;
Hyd, Jonathas, al thy frendly manere;
Penalopee and Marcia Catoun,
Make of youre wifhod no comparysoun;
Hyde ye youre beautes, Ysoude and Eleyne:
My lady cometh, that al this may disteyne.

hy faire body, lat yt nat appere,
Lavyne; and thou, Lucresse of Rome toun,
And Polixene, that boghten love so dere,
And Cleopatre, with al thy passyoun,
Hyde ye your trouthe of love and your renoun;
And thou, Tisbe, that hast for love swich peyne:
My lady cometh, that al this may disteyne.

erro, Dido, Laudomia, alle yfere,
And Phillis, hangyng for thy Demophoun,
And Canace, espied by thy chere,
Ysiphile, betrayed with Jasoun,
Maketh of your trouthe neythir boost ne soun;
Nor Ypermystre or Adriane, ye tweyne:
My lady cometh, that al this may dysteyne.

This balade may ful wel ysongen be,
As I have seyd erst, by my lady free;
For certeynly al thise mowe nat suffise
To apperen wyth my lady in no wyse.
For as the sonne wole the fyr disteyne,
So passeth al my lady sovereyne,
That ys so good, so faire, so debonayre,
I prey to God that ever falle hire faire!
For, nadde comfort ben of hire presence,
I hadde ben ded, withouten any defence,
For drede of Loves wordes and his chere,
As, when tyme ys, herafter ye shal here.

ehynde this god of Love, upon the grene,
I saugh comyng of ladyes nyntene,
In real habit, a ful esy paas,
And after hem coome of wymen swich a traas
That, syn that God Adam hadde mad of erthe,
The thridde part, of mankynde, or the ferthe,
Ne wende I not by possibilitee
Had ever in this wide world ybee;
And trewe of love thise women were echon.
Now wheither was that a wonder thing or non,
That ryght anoon as that they gonne espye
Thys flour which that I clepe the dayesie,
Ful sodeynly they stynten al attones,
And kneled doun, as it were for the nones,
And songen with o vois, "Heel and honour
To trouthe of womanhede, and to this flour
That bereth our alder pris in figurynge!
Hire white corowne bereth the witnessynge."
And with that word, a-compas enviroun,
They setten hem ful softely adoun.
First sat the god of Love, and syth his quene
With the white corowne, clad in grene,
And sithen al the remenaunt by and by,
As they were of estaat, ful curteysly;
Ne nat a word was spoken in the place
The mountaunce of a furlong wey of space.
I, knelying by this flour, in good entente,
Abood to knowen what this peple mente,
As stille as any ston; til at the laste
This god of Love on me hys eyen caste,
And seyde, "Who kneleth there?" And I answerde
Unto his askynge, whan that I it herde,
And seyde, "Sir, it am I," and com him ner,
And salwed him. Quod he, "What dostow her
So nygh myn oune floure, so boldely?
Yt were better worthy, trewely,
A worm to neghen ner my flour than thow."
"And why, sire," quod I, "and yt lyke yow?"
"For thow," quod he, "art therto nothing able.
Yt is my relyke, digne and delytable,
And thow my foo, and al my folk werreyest,
And of myn olde servauntes thow mysseyest,
And hynderest hem with thy translacioun,
And lettest folk from hire devocioun
To serve me, and holdest it folye
To serve Love. Thou maist yt nat denye,
For in pleyn text, withouten nede of glose,
Thou hast translated the Romaunce of the Rose,
That is an heresye ayeins my lawe,
And makest wise folk fro me withdrawe;
And of Creseyde thou hast seyd as the lyste,
That maketh men to wommen lasse triste,
That ben as trewe as ever was any steel.
Of thyn answere avise the ryght weel;
For thogh thou reneyed hast my lay,
As other wrecches han doon many a day,
By Seynt Venus that my moder ys,
If that thou lyve, thou shalt repenten this
So cruelly that it shal wel be sene!"
Thoo spak this lady, clothed al in grene,
And seyde, "God, ryght of youre curtesye,
Ye moten herken yf he can replye
Agayns al this that ye have to him meved.
A god ne sholde nat thus be agreved,
But of hys deitee he shal be stable,
And therto gracious and merciable.
And yf ye nere a god, that knowen al,
Thanne myght yt be as I yow tellen shal:
This man to yow may falsly ben accused
That as by right him oughte ben excused.
For in youre court ys many a losengeour,
And many a queynte totelere accusour,
That tabouren in youre eres many a sown,
Ryght after hire ymagynacioun,
To have youre daliance, and for envie.
Thise ben the causes, and I shal not lye.
Envie ys lavendere of the court alway,
For she ne parteth, neither nyght ne day,
Out of the hous of Cesar; thus seith Dante;
Whoso that gooth, algate she wol nat wante.
And eke, peraunter, for this man ys nyce,
He myghte doon yt, gessyng no malice,
But for he useth thynges for to make;
Hym rekketh noght of what matere he take.
Or him was boden maken thilke tweye
Of som persone, and durste yt nat withseye;
Or him repenteth outrely of this.
He ne hath nat doon so grevously amys
To translaten that olde clerkes writen,
As thogh that he of malice wolde enditen
Despit of love, and had himself yt wroght.
This shoolde a ryghtwis lord have in his thoght,
And nat be lyk tirauntz of Lumbardye,
That han no reward but at tyrannye.
For he that kynge or lord ys naturel,
Hym oghte nat be tiraunt ne crewel
As is a fermour, to doon the harm he kan.
He moste thinke yt is his lige man,
And is his tresour and his gold in cofre.
This is the sentence of the Philosophre,
A kyng to kepe his liges in justice;
Withouten doute, that is his office.
Al wol he kepe his lordes hire degree,
As it ys ryght and skilful that they bee
Enhaunced and honoured, and most dere --
For they ben half-goddes in this world here --
Yit mot he doon bothe ryght, to poore and ryche,
Al be that hire estaat be nat yliche,
And han of poore folk compassyoun.
For loo, the gentil kynde of the lyoun:
For whan a flye offendeth him or biteth,
He with his tayl awey the flye smyteth
Al esely; for, of hys genterye,
Hym deyneth not to wreke hym on a flye,
As dooth a curre, or elles another best.
In noble corage ought ben arest,
And weyen every thing by equytee,
And ever have reward to his owen degree.
For, syr, yt is no maistrye for a lord
To dampne a man without answere of word,
And for a lord that is ful foul to use.
And if so be he may hym nat excuse,
But asketh mercy with a dredeful herte,
And profereth him, ryght in his bare sherte,
To ben ryght at your owen jugement,
Than oght a god by short avysement
Consydre his owne honour and hys trespas.
For, syth no cause of deth lyeth in this caas,
Yow oghte to ben the lyghter merciable;
Leteth youre ire, and beth sumwhat tretable.
The man hath served yow of his kunnynge,
And furthred wel youre lawe in his makynge.
Al be hit that he kan nat wel endite,
Yet hath he maked lewed folk delyte
To serve yow, in preysinge of your name.
He made the book that hight the Hous of Fame,
And eke the Deeth of Blaunche the Duchesse,
And the Parlement of Foules, as I gesse,
And al the love of Palamon and Arcite
Of Thebes, thogh the storye ys knowen lyte;
And many an ympne for your halydayes,
That highten balades, roundels, virelayes;
And, for to speke of other holynesse,
He hath in prose translated Boece,
And maad the lyf also of Seynt Cecile.
He made also, goon ys a gret while,
Origenes upon the Maudeleyne.
Hym oughte now to have the lesse peyne;
He hath maad many a lay and many a thing.
Now as ye be a god and eke a kyng,
I, your Alceste, whilom quene of Trace,
Y aske yow this man, ryght of your grace,
That ye him never hurte in al his lyve;
And he shal swere to yow, and that as blyve,
He shal no more agilten in this wyse,
But he shal maken, as ye wol devyse,
Of wommen trewe in lovyng al hire lyve,
Wherso ye wol, of mayden or of wyve,
And forthren yow as muche as he mysseyde
Or in the Rose or elles in Creseyde."
The god of Love answerede hire thus anoon:
"Madame," quod he, "it is so long agoon
That I yow knew so charitable and trewe,
That never yit syn that the world was newe
To me ne fond y better noon than yee.
If that I wol save my degree,
I may, ne wol, nat werne your requeste.
Al lyeth in yow, dooth wyth hym what yow leste.
I al foryeve, withouten lenger space;
For whoso yeveth a yifte or dooth a grace,
Do it by tyme, his thank ys wel the more.
And demeth ye what he shal doo therfore.
Goo thanke now my lady here," quod he.
I roos, and doun I sette me on my knee,
And seyde thus: "Madame, the God above
Foryelde yow that ye the god of Love
Han maked me his wrathe to foryive,
And yeve me grace so longe for to lyve
That I may knowe soothly what ye bee
That han me holpe and put in this degree.
But trewly I wende, as in this cas,
Naught have agilt, ne doon to love trespas.
For-why a trewe man, withouten drede,
Hath nat to parten with a theves dede;
Ne a trewe lover oght me not to blame
Thogh that I speke a fals lovere som shame.
They oghte rather with me for to holde
For that I of Creseyde wroot or tolde,
Or of the Rose; what so myn auctour mente,
Algate, God woot, yt was myn entente
To forthren trouthe in love and yt cheryce,
And to ben war fro falsnesse and fro vice
By swich ensample; this was my menynge."
And she answerde, "Lat be thyn arguynge,
For Love ne wol nat countrepleted be
In ryght ne wrong; and lerne that at me!
Thow hast thy grace, and hold the ryght therto.
Now wol I seyn what penance thou shalt do
For thy trespas. Understonde yt here:
Thow shalt, while that thou lyvest, yer by yere,
The moste partye of thy tyme spende
In makyng of a glorious legende
Of goode wymmen, maydenes and wyves,
That weren trewe in lovyng al hire lyves;
And telle of false men that hem bytraien,
That al hir lyf ne don nat but assayen
How many women they may doon a shame;
For in youre world that is now holde a game.
And thogh the lyke nat a lovere bee,
Speke wel of love; this penance yive I thee.
And to the god of Love I shal so preye
That he shal charge his servantz by any weye
To forthren thee, and wel thy labour quyte.
Goo now thy wey, this penaunce ys but lyte.
And whan this book ys maad, yive it the quene,
On my byhalf, at Eltham or at Sheene."
The god of Love gan smyle, and than he sayde:
"Wostow," quod he, "wher this be wyf or mayde,
Or queene, or countesse, or of what degre,
That hath so lytel penance yiven thee,
That hast deserved sorer for to smerte?
But pite renneth soone in gentil herte;
That maistow seen; she kytheth what she ys."
And I answered, "Nay, sire, so have I blys,
No moore but that I see wel she is good."
"That is a trewe tale, by myn hood!"
Quod Love; "And that thou knowest wel, pardee,
If yt be so that thou avise the.
Hastow nat in a book, lyth in thy cheste,
The grete goodnesse of the quene Alceste,
That turned was into a dayesye;
She that for hire housbonde chees to dye,
And eke to goon to helle, rather than he,
And Ercules rescowed hire, parde,
And broght hir out of helle agayn to blys?"
And I answerd ageyn, and sayde, "Yis,
Now knowe I hire. And is this good Alceste,
The dayesie, and myn owene hertes reste?
Now fele I weel the goodnesse of this wyf,
That both aftir hir deth and in hir lyf
Hir grete bounte doubleth hire renoun.
Wel hath she quyt me myn affeccioun
That I have to hire flour, the dayesye.
No wonder ys thogh Jove hire stellyfye,
As telleth Agaton, for hire goodnesse!
Hire white corowne berith of hyt witnesse;
For also many vertues hadde shee
As smale florouns in hire corowne bee.
In remembraunce of hire and in honour
Cibella maade the daysye and the flour
Ycrowned al with whit, as men may see;
And Mars yaf to hire corowne reed, pardee,
In stede of rubyes, sette among the white."
Therwith this queene wex reed for shame a lyte
Whan she was preysed so in hire presence.
Thanne seyde Love, "A ful gret necligence
Was yt to the, that ylke tyme thou made
`Hyd, Absolon, thy tresses,' in balade,
That thou forgate hire in thi song to sette,
Syn that thou art so gretly in hire dette,
And wost so wel that kalender ys shee
To any woman that wol lover bee.
For she taught al the craft of fyn lovynge,
And namely of wyfhod the lyvynge,
And al the boundes that she oghte kepe.
Thy litel wit was thilke tyme aslepe.
But now I charge the upon thy lyf
That in thy legende thou make of thys wyf
Whan thou hast other smale ymaad before;
And far now wel, I charge the namore.
But er I goo, thus muche I wol the telle:
Ne shal no trewe lover come in helle.
Thise other ladies sittynge here arowe
Ben in thy balade, yf thou kanst hem knowe,
And in thy bookes alle thou shalt hem fynde.
Have hem now in thy legende al in mynde;
I mene of hem that ben in thy knowynge.
For here ben twenty thousand moo sittynge
Than thou knowest, goode wommen alle,
And trewe of love for oght that may byfalle.
Make the metres of hem as the lest --
I mot goon hom (the sonne draweth west)
To paradys, with al this companye --
And serve alwey the fresshe dayesye.
At Cleopatre I wol that thou begynne,
And so forth, and my love so shal thou wynne.
For lat see now what man that lover be,
Wol doon so strong a peyne for love as she.
I wot wel that thou maist nat al yt ryme
That swiche lovers diden in hire tyme;
It were to long to reden and to here.
Suffiseth me thou make in this manere:
That thou reherce of al hir lyf the grete,
After thise olde auctours lysten for to trete.
For whoso shal so many a storye telle,
Sey shortly, or he shal to longe dwelle."
And with that word my bokes gan I take,
And ryght thus on my Legende gan I make.

The Legend of Good Women, said in its text to be written at the
command of Chaucer's Queen Anne, daughter and sister to Emperors
of Bohemia, and bride to his King, Richard II, uses Ovid's Heroides,
letters supposedly written by classical women to their male betrayors.
Only nine of the 'xxv Ladies' as catalogued in Chaucer's Retraction
below, have come down to us.



CHAUCER'S RETRACTION ON
HEARING THE PARSON'S SERMON

Wherfore I biseke yow mekely, for the mercy of God, that ye preye
for me that crist have mercy on me and foryeve me my giltes;/ and
namely of my translacions and enditynges of worldly vanitees, the
whiche I revoke in my retracciouns:/ as is the book of Troilus;
the
book also of Fame ; the book of the
xxv. Ladies; the

book
of the duchesse; the book of seint valentynes day of the parlement
of briddes; the tales of counterbury, thilke that sownen into synne;/
the book of the Leoun; and many another book, if they were in my
remembrance, and many a song and many a lecherous lay, for Crist
for hi grete mercy foryeve me the synne./ But of the translacion of
Boece de Consolacione, and othere bookes of legendes of seitnes,
and omelies, and moralitee and devocion,/ t
hat thanke I oure lord
Jhesu Crist and his blisful mooder, and alle the seintes of hevene,
bisekynge hem that they from hennes forth unto my lyves ende
sende me grace to biwayle my giltes, and to studie to the salvacioun
of my soule, and graunte me grace of verray penitence, confessioun
and satisfaccioun to doon in this present lyf, thurgh the benigne
grace of hym that is kyng of kynges and preest over alle preestes,
that boghte us with the precious blood of his herte; so that is may
been oon of hem at the day of doom that shulle be saved. Qui cum
patre et spiritu sancto vivit et regnat deus per omnia secula. Amen.



Chaucer writes pagan parodies here of Christian saints' legends of
martyred holy women, these classical/pagan women seeking to
preserve their honour and chastity even to the extent of suicide -
which is not Christian teaching. This is a false hagiography. Yet
defends women in the chivalry of 'Me,too', five centuries ago. This
game of inversion is already in Ovid, then in the Court of Marie
de Champagne (Eleanor of Aquitaine's daughter), and The Art of
Courtly Love of Andreas Capellanus (written tongue in cheek),
then in the Dolve Stil Nuovo of Dante's circle and his Via Nuova
and Commedia, and continues into Elizabethan sonnet convention.
It continues Ovid's writing of the Arts and Remedies of Love.



♫ THE LEGEND OF CLEOPATRA

Incipit Legenda Cleopatrie, martiris Egipti regine

fter the deth of Tholome the kyng,
That al Egipt hadde in his governyng,
Regned his queene Cleopataras;
Tyl on a tyme befel there swich a cas
That out of Rome was sent a senatour
For to conqueren regnes and honour
Unto the toun of Rome, as was usaunce,
To han the world at hire obesaunce,
And soth to seyne, Antonius was his name.
So fil it, as Fortune hym oughte a shame,
Whan he was fallen in prosperite
Rebel unto the toun of Rome is he.
And over al this, the suster of Cesar,
He lafte hire falsly, or that she was war,
And wolde algates han another wyf,
For which he tok with Rome and Cesar stryf.
Natheles, for sothe, this ilke senatour
Was a ful worthy gentil werreyour,
And of his deth it was ful gret damage.
But love hadde brought this man in swich a rage
And hym so narwe bounden in his las,
Al for the love of Cleopataras,
That al the world he sette at no value.
Hym thoughte there nas nothyng to hym so due
As Cleopatras for to love and serve;
Hym roughte nat in armes for to sterve
In the defence of hyre and of hire ryght.
This noble queene ek lovede so this knyght,
Thourgh his desert, and for his chyvalrye;
As certeynly, but if that bokes lye,
He was, of persone and of gentillesse,
And of discrecioun and hardynesse,
Worthi to any wyght that liven may;
And she was fayr as is the rose in May.
And, for to make shortly is the beste,
She wax his wif, and hadde hym as hire leste.
The weddynge and the feste to devyse,
To me, that have ytake swich empryse
Of so many a story for to make,
It were to longe, lest that I shulde slake
Of thyng that bereth more effect and charge;
For men may overlade a ship or barge.
And forthy to th' effect thanne wol I skyppe,
And al the remenaunt, I wol lete it slippe.
Octovyan, that wod was of this dede,
Shop hym an ost on Antony to lede
Al uterly for his destruccioun,
With stoute Romeyns, crewel as lyoun;
To ship they wente, and thus I lat hem sayle.
Antonius was war, and wol nat fayle
To meten with these Romeyns, if he may;
Tok ek his red, and bothe, upon a day,
His wif and he, and al his ost, forth wente
To shipe anon, no lengere they ne stente;
And in the se it happede hem to mete.
Up goth the trompe, and for to shoute and shete,
And peynen hem to sette on with the sunne.
With grysely soun out goth the grete gonne,
And heterly they hurtelen al atones,
And from the top doun come the grete stones.
In goth the grapenel, so ful of crokes;
Among the ropes renne the sherynge-hokes.
In with the polax preseth he and he;
Byhynde the mast begynnyth he to fle,
And out ageyn, and dryveth hym overbord;
He styngeth hym upon his speres ord;
He rent the seyl with hokes lyke a sithe;
He bryngeth the cuppe and biddeth hem be blythe;
He poureth pesen upon the haches slidere;
With pottes ful of lyme they gon togidere;
And thus the longe day in fyght they spende,
Tyl at the laste, as every thyng hath ende,
Antony is schent and put hym to the flyghte,
And al his folk to-go that best go myghte.
Fleth ek the queen, with al hire purpre sayl,
For strokes, whiche that wente as thikke as hayl;
No wonder was she myghte it nat endure.
And whan that Antony saw that aventure,
"Allas," quod he, "the day that I was born!
My worshipe in this day thus have I lorn."
And for dispeyr out of his wit he sterte
And rof hymself anon thourghout the herte
Or that he ferther wente out of the place.
His wif, that coude of Cesar have no grace,
To Egipt is fled for drede and for destresse.
But herkeneth, ye that speken of kyndenesse,
Ye men that falsly sweren many an oth
That ye wol deye if that youre love be wroth,
Here may ye sen of wemen which a trouthe!
This woful Cleopatre hath mad swich routhe
That ther is tonge non that may it telle.
But on the morwe she wolde no lengere dwelle,
But made hire subtyl werkmen make a shryne
Of alle the rubyes and the stones fyne
In al Egypte that she coude espie,
And putte ful the shryne of spicerye,
And let the cors enbaume, and forth she fette
This dede cors, and in the shryne it shette.
And next the shryne a pit thanne doth she grave,
And alle the serpentes that she myghte have,
She putte hem in that grave, and thus she seyde:
"Now, love, to whom my sorweful herte obeyde
So ferforthly that from that blisful houre
That I yow swor to ben al frely youre --
I mene yow, Antonius, my knyght --
That nevere wakynge, in the day or nyght,
Ye nere out of myn hertes remembraunce,
For wel or wo, for carole or for daunce;
And in myself this covenaunt made I tho,
That ryght swich as ye felten, wel or wo,
As fer forth as it in my power lay,
Unreprovable unto my wyfhod ay,
The same wolde I fele, lyf or deth --
And thilke covenant whil me lasteth breth
I wol fulfille; and that shal ben wel sene,
Was nevere unto hire love a trewer quene."
And with that word, naked, with ful good herte,
Among the serpents in the pit she sterte,
And there she ches to have hire buryinge.
Anon the nadderes gonne hire for to stynge,
And she hire deth receyveth with good cheere
For love of Antony that was hire so dere.
And this is storyal soth, it is no fable.
Now, or I fynde a man thus trewe and stable,
And wol for love his deth so frely take,
I preye God let oure hedes nevere ake! Amen.

Explicit Legenda Cleopatre, martiris

THE LEGEND OF THISBE

Incipit Legenda Tesbe Babilonie, martiris

t Babiloyne whylom fil it thus,
The whyche toun the queen Semyramus
Let dychen al aboute and walles make
Ful hye, of hard tiles wel ybake:
There were dwellyng in this noble toun
Two lordes, whiche that were of gret renoun,
And woneden so nygh, upon a grene,
That there nas but a ston-wal hem betweene,
As ofte in grete tounes is the wone.
And soth to seyne, that o man hadde a sone,
Of al that lond oon of the lustyeste.
That other hadde a doughter, the fayreste
That estward in the world was tho dwellynge.
The name of everych gan to other sprynge
By women that were neighebores aboute.
For in that contre yit, withouten doute,
Maydenes been ykept, for jelosye,
Ful streyte, lest they diden som folye.
This yonge man was called Piramus,
Tysbe hight the maide, Naso seyth thus;
And thus by report was hire name yshove
That, as they wex in age, wex here love.
And certeyn, as by resoun of hire age,
There myghte have ben bytwixe hem maryage,
But that here fadres nolde it nat assente;
And bothe in love ylyke sore they brente,
That non of alle hyre frendes myght it lette,
But pryvyly som tyme yit they mette
By sleyghte, and spoken som of here desyr;
As wry the glede and hotter is the fyr,
Forbede a love, and it is ten so wod.
This wal, which that bitwixe hem bothe stod,
Was clove a-two, ryght from the cop adoun,
Of olde tyme of his fundacioun;
But yit this clyfte was so narw and lyte
It nas nat sene, deere ynogh a myte.
But what is that that love can nat espye?
Ye loveres two, if that I shal nat lye,
Ye founden first this litel narwe clifte;
And with a soun as softe as any shryfte,
They lete here wordes thourgh the clifte pace,
And tolden, whil that they stode in the place,
Al here compleynt of love and al here wo,
At every tyme whan they durste so.
Upon that o syde of the wal stod he,
And on that other side stod Thesbe,
The swote soun of other to receyve.
And thus here wardeyns wolde they deceyve,
And every day this wal they wolde threte,
And wisshe to God that it were doun ybete.
Thus wolde they seyn: "Alas, thow wikkede wal!
Thorgh thyn envye thow us lettest al.
Why nylt thow cleve or fallen al a-two?
Or at the leste, but thou woldist so,
Yit woldest thow but ones lat us mete,
Or ones that we myghte kyssen swete,
Thanne were we covered of oure cares colde.
But, natheles, yit be we to thee holde,
In as muche as thow sufferest for to gon
Oure wordes thourgh thy lym and ek thy ston.
Yit oughte we with the been wel apayd."
And whan these ydele wordes weren sayd,
The colde wal they wolden kysse of ston,
And take here leve and forth they wolden gon.
And this was gladly in the eve-tyde,
Or wonder erly, lest men it espyde.
And longe tyme they wroughte in this manere,
Tyl on a day, whan Phebus gan to cleere --
Aurora with the stremes of hire hete
Hadde dreyed up the dew of herbes wete --
Unto this clyft, as it was wont to be,
Com Piramus, and after com Thysbe,
And plyghten trouthe fully in here fey
That ilke same nyght to stele awey,
And to begile here wardeyns everichon,
And forth out of the cite for to goon;
And, for the feldes ben so brode and wide,
For to mete in o place at o tyde,
They sette mark here metynge sholde be
There kyng Nynus was grave under a tre --
For olde payens that idoles heryed
Useden tho in feldes to ben beryed --
And faste by this grave was a welle.
And shortly of this tale for to telle,
This covenaunt was affermed wonder faste;
And longe hem thoughte that the sonne laste,
That it nere gon under the se adoun.
This Tisbe hath so gret affeccioun
And so gret lykinge Piramus to se,
That whan she say hire tyme myghte be,
At nyght she stal awey ful pryvyly,
With hire face ywympled subtyly;
For alle hire frendes -- for to save hire trouthe --
She hath forsake; allas, and that is routhe
That evere woman wolde ben so trewe
To truste man, but she the bet hym knewe.
And to the tre she goth a ful good pas,
For love made hire so hardy in this cas,
And by the welle adoun she gan hyre dresse.
Allas! Than cometh a wilde lyonesse
Out of the wode, withoute more arest,
With blody mouth, of strangelynge of a best,
To drynken of the welle there as she sat.
And whan that Tisbe hadde espyed that,
She rist hire up, with a ful drery herte,
And in a cave with dredful fot she sterte,
For by the mone she say it wel withalle.
And as she ran hire wympel let she falle
And tok non hed, so sore she was awhaped,
And ek so glad that that she was escaped;
And thus she sit and darketh wonder stylle.
Whan that this lyonesse hath dronke hire fille,
Aboute the welle gan she for to wynde,
And ryght anon the wympel gan she fynde,
And with hire blody mouth it al torente.
Whan this was don, no lengere she ne stente,
But to the wode hire weye thanne hath she nome.
And at the laste this Piramus is come;
But al to longe, allas, at hom was he!
The mone shon, and he myghte wel yse,
And in his wey, as that he com ful faste.
His eyen to the ground adoun he caste,
And in the sond, as he byheld adoun,
He sey the steppes brode of a lyoun,
And in his herte he sodeynly agros,
And pale he wex; therwith his heer aros,
And ner he com, and fond the wimpel torn.
"Allas," quod he, "the day that I was born!
This o nyght wol us lovers bothe sle!
How shulde I axe mercy of Tisbe,
Whan I am he that have yow slayn, allas!
My biddyng hath yow slayn, as in this cas.
Allas, to bidde a woman gon by nyghte
In place there as peril falle myghte!
And I so slow! Allas, I ne hadde be
Here in this place a furlong wey or ye!
Now what lyoun that be in this forest,
My body mote he renten, or what best
That wilde is, gnawe mote he now myn herte!"
And with that word he to the wympel sterte,
And kiste it ofte, and wep on it ful sore,
And seyde, "Wympel, allas! There is no more
But thow shalt feele as wel the blod of me
As thow hast felt the bledyng of Thisbe!"
And with that word he smot hym to the herte.
The blod out of the wounde as brode sterte
As water whan the condit broken is.
Now Tisbe, which that wiste nat of this,
But sittynge in hire drede, she thoughte thus:
"If it so falle that my Piramus
Be comen hider, and may me not yfynde,
He may me holde fals and ek unkynde."
And out she cometh and after hym gan espien,
Bothe with hire herte and with hire yen,
And thoughte, "I wol hym tellen of my drede,
Bothe of the lyonesse and al my deede."
And at the laste hire love thanne hath she founde,
Betynge with his heles on the grounde,
Al blody, and therwithal a-bak she sterte,
And lik the wawes quappe gan hire herte,
And pale as box she was, and in a throwe
Avisede hire, and gan hym wel to knowe,
That it was Piramus, hire herte deere.
Who coude wryte which a dedly cheere
Hath Thisbe now, and how hire heer she rente,
And how she gan hireselve to turmente,
And how she lyth and swouneth on the grounde,
And how she wep of teres ful his wounde;
How medeleth she his blod with hire compleynte;
How with his blod hireselve gan she peynte;
How clyppeth she the deede cors, allas!
How doth this woful Tisbe in this cas!
How kysseth she his frosty mouth so cold!
"Who hath don this, and who hath been so bold
To sle my leef? O spek, my Piramus!
I am thy Tisbe, that the calleth thus."
And therwithal she lifteth up his hed.
This woful man, that was nat fully ded,
Whan that he herde the name of Tisbe cryen,
On hire he caste his hevy, dedly yen,
And doun agayn, and yeldeth up the gost.
Tysbe ryst up withouten noyse or bost,
And saw hire wympel and his empty shethe,
And ek his swerd that hym hath don to dethe.
Thanne spak she thus: "My woful hand," quod she,
"Is strong ynogh in swich a werk to me;
For love shal yeve me strengthe and hardynesse
To make my wounde large ynogh, I gesse.
I wol thee folwe ded, and I wol be
Felawe and cause ek of thy deth," quod she.
"And thogh that nothing, save the deth only,
Mighte thee fro me departe trewely,
Thow shalt no more departe now fro me
Than fro the deth, for I wol go with thee.
And now, ye wrechede jelos fadres oure,
We that whilom were children youre,
We preyen yow, withouten more envye,
That in o grave yfere we moten lye,
Sith love hath brought us to this pitous ende.
And ryghtwis God to every lovere sende,
That loveth trewely, more prosperite
Than evere yit had Piramus and Tisbe!
And lat no gentil woman hyre assure
To putten hire in swich an aventure.
But God forbede but a woman can
Ben as trewe in lovynge as a man!
And for my part, I shal anon it kythe."
And with that word his swerd she tok as swythe,
That warm was of hire loves blod, and hot,
And to the herte she hireselven smot.
And thus are Tisbe and Piramus ygo.
Of trewe men I fynde but fewe mo
In alle my bokes, save this Piramus,
And therfore have I spoken of hym thus.
For it is deynte to us men to fynde
A man that can in love been trewe and kynde.
Here may ye se, what lovere so he be,
A woman dar and can as wel as he.

Explicit Legenda Tesbe

THE LEGEND OF DIDO

Incipit Legenda Didonis martiris, Cartaginis Regine

lorye and honour, Virgil Mantoan,
Be to thy name! and I shal, as I can,
Folwe thy lanterne, as thow gost byforn,
How Eneas to Dido was forsworn.
In thyn Eneyde and Naso wol I take
The tenor, and the grete effectes make.
Whan Troye brought was to destruccioun
By Grekes sleyghte, and namely by Synoun,
Feynynge the hors offered unto Mynerve,
Thourgh which that many a Troyan moste sterve;
And Ector hadde, after his deth, apeered;
And fyr so wod it myghte nat been steered
In al the noble tour of Ylioun,
That of the cite was the chef dongeoun;
And al the contre was so lowe ybrought,
And Priamus the kyng fordon and nought;
And Enyas was charged by Venus
To fleen awey, he tok Ascanius,
That was his sone, in his ryght hand and fledde;
And on his bak he bar and with hym ledde
His olde fader cleped Anchises,
And by the weye his wif Creusa he les.
And moche sorwe hadde he in his mynde,
Or that he coude his felaweshipe fynde.
But at the laste, whan he hadde hem founde,
He made hym redy in a certeyn stounde,
And to the se ful faste he gan him hye,
And sayleth forth with al his companye
Toward Ytayle, as wolde his destinee.
But of his aventures in the se
Nis nat to purpos for to speke of here,
For it acordeth nat to my matere.
But, as I seyde, of hym and of Dido
Shal be my tale, til that I have do.
So longe he saylede in the salte se
Tyl in Libie unnethe aryvede he
With shipes sevene and with no more navye;
And glad was he to londe for to hye,
So was he with the tempest al toshake.
And whan that he the haven hadde ytake,
He hadde a knyght, was called Achates,
And hym of al his felawshipe he ches
To gon with hym, the cuntre for t' espie.
He tok with hym no more companye,
But forth they gon, and lafte his shipes ryde,
His fere and he, withouten any gyde.
So longe he walketh in this wildernesse,
Til at the laste he mette an hunteresse.
A bowe in hande and arwes hadde she;
Hire clothes cutted were unto the kne.
But she was yit the fayreste creature
That evere was yformed by Nature;
And Eneas and Achates she grette,
And thus she to hem spak whan she hem mette:
"Saw ye," quod she, "as ye han walked wyde,
Any of my sustren walke yow besyde
With any wilde bor or other best,
That they han hunted to, in this forest,
Ytukked up, with arwes in hire cas?"
"Nay, sothly, lady," quod this Eneas;
"But by thy beaute, as it thynketh me,
Thow myghtest nevere erthly woman be,
But Phebus syster art thow, as I gesse.
And if so be that thow be a goddesse,
Have mercy on oure labour and oure wo."
"I n' am no goddesse, sothly," quod she tho;
"For maydens walken in this contre here,
With arwes and with bowe, in this manere.
This is the reyne of Libie there ye ben,
Of which that Dido lady is and queen" --
And shortly tolde hym al the occasyoun
Why Dido cam into that regioun,
Of which as now me lesteth nat to ryme;
It nedeth nat, it were but los of tyme.
For this is al and som, it was Venus,
His owene moder, that spak with him thus,
And to Cartage she bad he sholde hym dighte,
And vanyshed anon out of his syghte.
I coude folwe, word for word, Virgile,
But it wolde lasten al to longe while.
This noble queen that cleped was Dido,
That whilom was the wif of Sytheo,
That fayrer was than is the bryghte sonne,
This noble toun of Cartage hath bigonne;
In which she regneth in so gret honour
That she was holden of alle queenes flour
Of gentillesse, of fredom, of beaute,
That wel was hym that myghte hire ones se;
Of kynges and of lordes so desyred
That al the world hire beaute hadde yfyred,
She stod so wel in every wightes grace.
Whan Eneas was come unto that place,
Unto the mayster temple of al the toun
Ther Dido was in hire devocyoun,
Ful pryvyly his weye than hath he nome.
Whan he was in the large temple come,
I can nat seyn if that it be possible,
But Venus hadde hym maked invysible --
Thus seyth the bok, withouten any les.
And whan this Eneas and Achates
Hadden in this temple ben overal,
Thanne founde they, depeynted on a wal,
How Troye and al the lond destroyed was.
"Allas, that I was born!" quod Eneas;
"Thourghout the world oure shame is kid so wyde,
Now it is peynted upon every syde.
We, that weren in prosperite,
Been now desclandred, and in swich degre,
No lenger for to lyven I ne kepe."
And with that word he brast out for to wepe
So tenderly that routhe it was to sene.
This fresshe lady, of the cite queene,
Stod in the temple in hire estat real,
So rychely and ek so fayr withal,
So yong, so lusty, with hire eyen glade,
That, if that God, that hevene and erthe made,
Wolde han a love, for beaute and goodnesse,
And womanhod, and trouthe, and semelynesse,
Whom shulde he loven but this lady swete?
Ther nys no woman to hym half so mete.
Fortune, that hath the world in governaunce,
Hath sodeynly brought in so newe a chaunce
That nevere was ther yit so fremde a cas.
For al the companye of Eneas,
Which that he wende han loren in the se,
Aryved is nat fer from that cite;
For which the gretteste of his lordes some
By aventure ben to the cite come,
Unto that same temple, for to seke
The queene, and of hire socour to beseke,
Swich renoun was there sprongen of hire goodnesse.
And whan they hadden told al here distresse,
And al here tempest and here harde cas,
Unto the queen apeered Eneas,
And openly biknew that it was he.
Who hadde joye thanne but his meyne,
That hadde founde here lord, here governour?
The queen saugh that they dide hym swych honour,
And hadde herd ofte of Eneas er tho,
And in hire herte she hadde routhe and wo
That evere swich a noble man as he
Shal ben disherited in swich degre;
And saw the man, that he was lyk a knyght,
And suffisaunt of persone and of myght,
And lyk to been a verray gentil man;
And wel his wordes he besette can,
And hadde a noble visage for the nones,
And formed wel of braunes and of bones.
For after Venus hadde he swich fayrnesse
That no man myghte be half so fayr, I gesse;
And wel a lord he semede for to be.
And, for he was a straunger, somwhat she
Likede hym the bet, as, God do bote,
To som folk ofte newe thyng is sote.
Anon hire herte hath pite of his wo,
And with that pite love com in also;
And thus, for pite and for gentillesse,
Refreshed moste he been of his distresse.
She seyde, certes, that she sory was
That he hath had swych peryl and swich cas;
And, in hire frendly speche, in this manere
She to hym spak, and seyde as ye may here:
"Be ye nat Venus sone and Anchises?
In good feyth, al the worshipe and encres
That I may goodly don yow, ye shal have.
Youre shipes and youre meyne shal I save."
And many a gentil word she spak hym to,
And comaunded hire messageres to go
The same day, withouten any fayle,
His shippes for to seke, and hem vitayle.
Ful many a beste she to the shippes sente,
And with the wyn she gan hem to presente,
And to hire royal paleys she hire spedde,
And Eneas alwey with hire she ledde.
What nedeth yow the feste to descrive?
He nevere beter at ese was in his lyve.
Ful was the feste of deyntees and rychesse,
Of instruments, of song, and of gladnesse,
Of many an amorous lokyng and devys.
This Eneas is come to paradys
Out of the swolow of helle, and thus in joye
Remembreth hym of his estat in Troye.
To daunsynge chaumberes ful of paramentes,
Of riche beddes, and of ornementes,
This Eneas is led after the mete.
And with the quene, whan that he hadde sete,
And spices parted, and the wyn agon,
Unto his chambres was he led anon
To take his ese and for to have his reste,
With al his folk, to don what so hem leste.
There nas courser wel ybrydeled non,
Ne stede, for the justing wel to gon,
Ne large palfrey, esy for the nones,
Ne jewel, fretted ful of ryche stones,
Ne sakkes ful of gold, of large wyghte,
Ne ruby non, that shynede by nyghte,
Ne gentil hawtein faucoun heroner,
Ne hound for hert or wilde bor or der,
Ne coupe of gold, with floreyns newe ybete,
That in the land of Libie may be gete,
That Dido ne hath it Eneas ysent;
And al is payed, what that he hath spent.
Thus can this quene honurable hire gestes calle,
As she that can in fredom passen alle.
Eneas sothly ek, withouten les,
Hadde sent unto his ship by Achates
After his sone, and after riche thynges,
Bothe sceptre, clothes, broches, and ek rynges,
Some for to were, and some for to presente
To hire that alle thise noble thynges hym sente;
And bad his sone how that he shulde make
The presenting, and to the queen it take.
Repeyred is this Achates agayn,
And Eneas ful blysful is and fayn
To sen his yonge sone Ascanyus.
But natheles, oure autour telleth us,
That Cupido, that is the god of love,
At preyere of his moder hye above,
Hadde the liknesse of the child ytake,
This noble queen enamored to make
On Eneas; but, as of that scripture,
Be as be may, I take of it no cure.
But soth is this, the queen hath mad swich chere
Unto this child, that wonder is to here;
And of the present that his fader sente
She thanked hym ful ofte, in good entente.
Thus is this queen in plesaunce and in joye,
With alle these newe lusty folk of Troye.
And of the dedes hath she more enquered
Of Eneas, and al the story lered
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, hire newe gest, to dele,
That she hath lost hire hewe and ek hire hele.
Now to th' effect, now to the fruyt of al,
Whi I have told this story, and telle shal.
Thus I begynne: it fil upon a nyght,
Whan that the mone up reysed hadde his lyght,
This noble queene unto hire reste wente.
She siketh sore, and gan hyreself turmente;
She waketh, walweth, maketh many a breyd,
As don these lovers, as I have herd seyd.
And at the laste, unto hire syster Anne
She made hire mone, and ryght thus spak she thanne:
"Now, dere sister myn, what may it be
That me agasteth in my drem?" quod she.
"This newe Troyan is so in my thought,
For that me thynketh he is so wel ywrought,
And ek so likly for to ben a man,
And therwithal so moche good he can,
That al my love and lyf lyth in his cure.
Have ye nat herd him telle his aventure?
Now certes, Anne, if that ye rede it me,
I wolde fayn to hym ywedded be;
This is th' effect; what sholde I more seye?
In hym lyth al, to do me live or deye."
Hyre syster Anne, as she that coude hire good,
Seyde as hire thoughte, and somdel it withstod.
But herof was so long a sermounynge
It were to long to make rehersynge.
But finaly, it may nat ben withstonde;
Love wol love, for nothing wol it wonde.
The dawenyng up-rist out of the se.
This amorous queene chargeth hire meyne
The nettes dresse, and speres brode and kene;
An huntyng wol this lusty freshe queene,
So priketh hire this newe joly wo.
To hors is al hir lusty folk ygo;
Into the court the houndes been ybrought;
And upon coursers swift as any thought
Hire yonge knyghtes hoven al aboute,
And of hire women ek an huge route.
Upon a thikke palfrey, paper-whit,
With sadel red, enbrouded with delyt,
Of gold the barres up enbosede hye,
Sit Dido, al in gold and perre wrye;
And she as fair as is the bryghte morwe,
That heleth syke folk of nyghtes sorwe.
Upon a courser stertlynge as the fyr --
Men myghte turne hym with a litel wyr --
Sit Eneas, lik Phebus to devyse,
So was he fressh arayed in his wyse.
The fomy brydel with the bit of gold
Governeth he ryght as hymself hath wold.
And forth this noble queen thus lat I ride
On huntynge, with this Troyan by hyre side.
The herde of hertes founden is anon,
With "Hay! Go bet! Pryke thow! Lat gon, lat gon!
Why nyl the leoun comen, or the bere,
That I myghte ones mete hym with this spere?"
Thus seyn these yonge folk, and up they kylle
These bestes wilde, and han hem at here wille.
Among al this to rumbelen gan the hevene;
The thunder rored with a grisely stevene;
Doun cam the reyn with hayl and slet so faste,
With hevenes fyr, that it so sore agaste
This noble queen, and also hire meyne,
That ech of hem was glad awey to fle.
And shortly, from the tempest hire to save,
She fledde hireself into a litel cave,
And with hire wente this Eneas also.
I not, with hem if there wente any mo;
The autour maketh of it no mencioun.
And here began the depe affeccioun
Betwixe hem two; this was the firste morwe
Of hire gladnesse, and gynning of hire sorwe.
For there hath Eneas ykneled so,
And told hire al his herte and al his wo,
And swore so depe to hire to be trewe
For wel or wo and chaunge hire for no newe;
And as a fals lovere so wel can pleyne,
That sely Dido rewede on his peyne,
And tok hym for husbonde and becom his wyf
For everemo, whil that hem laste lyf.
And after this, whan that the tempest stente,
With myrthe out as they comen, hom they wente.
The wikke fame upros, and that anon,
How Eneas hath with the queen ygon
Into the cave; and demede as hem liste.
And whan the kyng that Yarbas highte it wiste,
As he that hadde hir loved evere his lyf,
And wowede hyre, to han hire to his wyf,
Swich sorwe as he hath maked, and swich cheere,
It is a routhe and pite for to here.
But as in love, alday it happeth so
That oon shal laughen at anothers wo.
Now laugheth Eneas and is in joye
And more richesse than evere he was in Troye.
O sely wemen, ful of innocence,
Ful of pite, of trouthe and conscience,
What maketh yow to men to truste so?
Have ye swych routhe upon hyre feyned wo,
And han swich olde ensaumples yow beforn?
Se ye nat alle how they ben forsworn?
Where sen ye oon that he ne hath laft his leef,
Or ben unkynde, or don hire som myscheef,
Or piled hire, or bosted of his dede?
Ye may as wel it sen as ye may rede.
Tak hede now of this grete gentil-man,
This Troyan, that so wel hire plesen can,
That feyneth hym so trewe and obeysynge,
So gentil, and so privy of his doinge,
And can so wel don alle his obeysaunces,
And wayten hire at festes and at daunces,
And whan she goth to temple and hom ageyn,
And fasten til he hath his lady seyn,
And beren in his devyses, for hire sake,
Not I not what; and songes wolde he make,
Justen, and don of armes many thynges,
Sende hire lettres, tokens, broches, rynges --
Now herkneth how he shal his lady serve!
There as he was in peril for to sterve
For hunger, and for myschef in the se,
And desolat, and fled from his cuntre,
And al his folk with tempest al todryven,
She hath hire body and ek hire reame yiven
Into his hand, there as she myghte have been
Of othere land than of Cartage a queen,
And lyved in joye ynogh; what wole ye more?
This Eneas, that hath so depe yswore,
Is wery of his craft withinne a throwe;
The hote ernest is al overblowe.
And pryvyly he doth his shipes dyghte,
And shapeth hym to stele awey by nyghte.
This Dido hath suspecioun of this,
And thoughte wel that it was al amys.
For in hir bed he lyth a-nyght and syketh.
She axeth hym anon what hym myslyketh --
"My dere herte, which that I love most?"
"Certes," quod he, "this nyght my faderes gost
Hath in my slep so sore me tormented,
And ek Mercurye his message hath presented,
That nedes to the conquest of Ytayle
My destine is sone for to sayle;
For which, me thynketh, brosten is myn herte!"
Therwith his false teres out they sterte,
And taketh hire withinne his armes two.
"Is that in ernest?" quod she; "Wole ye so?
Have ye nat sworn to wyve me to take?
Allas, what woman wole ye of me make?
I am a gentil woman and a queen.
Ye wole nat from youre wif thus foule fleen?
That I was born, allas! What shal I do?"
To telle in short, this noble quen Dydo,
She seketh halwes and doth sacryfise;
She kneleth, cryeth, that routhe is to devyse;
Conjureth hym, and profereth hym to be
His thral, his servant in the leste degre;
She falleth hym to fote and swouneth ther,
Dischevele, with hire bryghte gilte her,
And seyth, "Have mercy; let me with yow ryde!
These lordes, which that wonen me besyde,
Wole me distroyen only for youre sake.
And, so ye wole me now to wive take,
As ye han sworn, thanne wol I yeve yow leve
To slen me with youre swerd now sone at eve!
For thanne yit shal I deyen as youre wif.
I am with childe, and yeve my child his lyf!
Mercy, lord! Have pite in youre thought!"
But al this thing avayleth hire ryght nought,
For on a nyght, slepynge he let hire lye,
And stal awey unto his companye,
And as a traytour forth he gan to sayle
Toward the large contre of Ytayle.
Thus he hath laft Dido in wo and pyne,
And wedded ther a lady hyghte Lavyne.
A cloth he lafte, and ek his swerd stondynge,
Whan he from Dido stal in hire slepynge,
Ryght at hire beddes hed, so gan he hie,
Whan that he stal awey to his navye;
Which cloth, whan sely Dido gan awake,
She hath it kyst ful ofte for his sake,
And seyde, "O swete cloth, whil Juppiter it leste,
Tak now my soule, unbynd me of this unreste!
I have fulfild of fortune al the cours."
And thus, allas, withouten his socours,
Twenty tyme yswouned hath she thanne.
And whanne that she unto hire syster Anne
Compleyned hadde -- of which I may nat wryte,
So gret a routhe I have it for t' endite --
And bad hire norice and hire sister gon
To fechen fyr and other thyng anon,
And seyde that she wolde sacryfye --
And whan she myghte hire tyme wel espie,
Upon the fir of sacryfice she sterte,
And with his swerd she rof hyre to the herte.
But, as myn auctour seith, yit thus she seyde;
Or she was hurt, byforen or she deyde,
She wrot a lettre anon that thus began:
"Ryght so," quod she, "as that the white swan
Ayens his deth begynnyth for to synge,
Right so to yow make I my compleynynge.
Not that I trowe to geten yow ageyn,
For wel I wot that it is al in veyn,
Syn that the goddes been contraire to me.
But syn my name is lost thourgh yow," quod she,
"I may wel lese on yow a word or letter,
Al be it that I shal ben nevere the better;
For thilke wynd that blew youre ship awey,
The same wynd hath blowe awey youre fey."
But who wol al this letter have in mynde,
Rede Ovyde, and in hym he shal it fynde.

Explicit Legenda Didonis martiris, Cartaginis Regine

THE LEGEND OF HYPSIPYLE AND MEDEA

Incipit Legenda Ysiphile et Medee, martirum

how rote of false lovers, Duc Jasoun,
Thow sly devourere and confusioun
Of gentil wemen, tendre creatures,
Thow madest thy recleymyng and thy lures
To ladyes of thy statly aparaunce,
And of thy wordes farced with plesaunce,
And of thy feyned trouthe and thy manere,
With thyn obesaunce and humble cheere,
And with thy contrefeted peyne and wo.
There othere falsen oon, thow falsest two!
O, often swore thow that thow woldest dye
For love, whan thow ne feltest maladye
Save foul delyt, which that thow callest love!
Yif that I live, thy name shal be shove
In English that thy sekte shal be knowe!
Have at thee, Jason! Now thyn horn is blowe!
But certes, it is bothe routhe and wo
That love with false loveres werketh so;
For they shal have wel betere love and chere
Than he that hath abought his love ful dere,
Or hadde in armes many a blody box.
For evere as tendre a capoun et the fox,
Thow he be fals and hath the foul betrayed,
As shal the good-man that therfore hath payed.
Al have he to the capoun skille and ryght,
The false fox wol have his part at nyght.
On Jason this ensaumple is wel ysene
By Isiphile and Medea the queene.
In Tessalie, as Guido tellith us,
There was a kyng that highte Pelleus,
That hadde a brother which that highte Eson;
And whan for age he myghte unnethes gon,
He yaf to Pelleus the governyng
Of al his regne and made hym lord and kyng.
Of which Eson this Jason geten was,
That in his tyme in al that land there nas
Nat swich a famous knyght of gentilesse,
Of fredom, and of strengthe and lustynesse.
After his fadres deth he bar hym so
That there nas non that liste ben his fo,
But dide hym al honour and companye.
Of which this Pelleus hadde gret envye,
Imagynynge that Jason myghte be
Enhaunsed so and put in swich degre
With love of lordes of his regioun,
That from his regne he may ben put adoun.
And in his wit a-nyght compassed he
How Jason myghte best distroyed be
Withoute sclaunder of his compassement,
And at the last he tok avysement
To senden hym into som fer contre,
There as this Jason may destroyed be.
This was his wit, al made he to Jasoun
Gret chere of love and of affeccioun,
For drede lest his lordes it espide.
So fyl it, so as fame renneth wide,
There was swich tydyng overal and swich loos,
That in an yle that called was Colcos,
Beyonde Troye, estward in the se,
That therin was a ram that men mighte se
That hadde a fles of gold that shon so bryghte
That nowher was ther swich anothir syghte;
But it was kept alwey with a dragoun,
And many other merveyles, up and doun,
And with two boles maked al of bras,
That spitten fyr, and moche thyng there was.
But this was ek the tale, natheles,
That whoso wolde wynne thylke fles,
He moste bothe, or he it wynne myghte,
With the boles and the dragoun fyghte.
And kyng Oetes lord was of that yle.
This Pelleus bethoughte upon this wile,
That he his neveu Jason wolde enhorte
To saylen to that lond, hym to disporte,
And seyde, "Nevew, if it myghte be
That swich a worshipe myghte fallen the,
That thow this famous tresor myghtest wynne,
And bryngen it my regioun withinne,
It were to me gret plesaunce and honour.
Thanne were I holde to quyte thy labour;
And al the cost I wol myselven make.
And chees what folk that thow wilt with the take;
Lat sen now, darst thow take this viage?"
Jason was yong, and lusty of corage,
And undertok to don this ilke empryse.
Anon Argus his shipes gan devyse;
With Jason wente the stronge Ercules,
And many another that he with hym ches.
But whoso axeth who is with hym gon,
Lat hym go rede Argonautycon,
For he wole telle a tale long ynogh.
Philotetes anon the sayl up drogh,
Whan that the wynd was good, and gan hym hye
Out of his contre called Thessalye.
So longe he seyled in the salte se,
Til in the yle of Lemnon aryvede he --
Al be this nat rehersed of Guido,
Yit seyth Ovyde in his Epistels so --
And of this ile lady was and quene
The fayre yonge Ysiphele, the shene,
That whylom Thoas doughter was, the kyng.
Isiphile was gon in hire pleying,
And, romynge on the clyves by the se,
Under a banke anon aspied she
Where that the ship of Jason gan aryve.
Of hire goodnesse adoun she sendeth blyve
To witen if that any straunge wight
With tempest thider were yblowe a-nyght,
To don him socour, as was hire usaunce
To fortheren every wight, and don plesaunce
Of verrey bounte and of curteysye.
This messangeer adoun hym gan to hye,
And fond Jason and Ercules also,
That in a cog to londe were ygo,
Hem to refreshen and to take the eyr.
The morwenynge attempre was and fayr,
And in his weye this messanger hem mette.
Ful cunnyngly these lordes two he grette,
And dide his message, axinge hem anon
If they were broken, or ought wo begon,
Or hadden nede of lodman or vitayle;
For of socour they sholde nothyng fayle,
For it was outrely the quenes wille.
Jason answerde mekely and stylle:
"My lady," quod he, "thanke I hertely
Of hire goodnesse; us nedeth, trewely,
Nothyng as now, but that we wery be,
And come for to pleye out of the se
Tyl that the wynd be better in oure weye."
This lady rometh by the clyf to pleye,
With hire meyne, endelong the stronde,
And fynt this Jason and this other stonde
In spekynge of this thyng, as I yow tolde.
This Ercules and Jason gan beholde
How that the queen it was, and fayre hire grette
Anon-ryght as they with this lady mette;
And she tok hed, and knew by hyre manere,
By hire aray, by wordes, and by chere,
That it were gentil-men of gret degre,
And to the castel with hire ledeth she
These straunge folk and doth hem gret honour,
And axeth hem of travayle and labour
That they han suffered in the salte se;
So that, withinne a day, or two, or thre,
She knew, by folk that in his shipes be,
That it was Jason, ful of renone,
And Ercules, that hadde the grete los,
That soughten the aventures of Colcos;
And dide hem honour more than before,
And with hem deled evere lenger the more,
For they ben worthy folk, withouten les.
And namely, most she spak with Ercules;
To hym hire herte bar, he shulde be
Sad, wys, and trewe, of wordes avyse,
Withouten any other affeccioun
Of love, or evyl ymagynacyoun.
This Ercules hath so this Jason preysed
That to the sonne he hath hym up areysed,
That half so trewe a man there nas of love
Under the cope of heven that is above;
And he was wis, hardy, secre, and ryche.
Of these thre poyntes there nas non hym liche:
Of fredom passede he, and lustyhede,
Alle tho that lyven or been dede;
Therto so gret a gentilman was he,
And of Thessalye likly kyng to be.
There nas no lak, but that he was agast
To love, and for to speke shamefast.
He hadde lever hymself to morder, and dye,
Than that men shulde a lovere hym espye.
"As wolde God that I hadde yive
My blod and flesh, so that I myghte live,
With the nones that he hadde owher a wif
For hys estat; for swich a lusty lyf
She shulde lede with this lusty knyght!"
And al this was compassed on the nyght
Bytwixe hym Jason and this Ercules.
Of these two here was a shrewed lees,
To come to hous upon an innocent!
For to bedote this queen was here assent.
And Jason is as coy as is a mayde;
He loketh pitously, but nought he sayde,
But frely yaf he to hire conseyleres
Yiftes grete, and to hire officeres.
As wolde God I leyser hadde and tyme
By proces al his wowyng for to ryme!
But in this hous if any fals lovere be,
Ryght as hymself now doth, ryght so dide he,
With feynynge, and with every subtil dede.
Ye gete namore of me, but ye wole rede
Th' origynal, that telleth al the cas.
The somme is this: that Jason wedded was
Unto this queen and tok of hir substaunce
What so hym leste unto his purveyaunce;
And upon hire begat he children two,
And drogh his sayl and saw hir nevere mo.
A letter sente she to hym, certeyn,
Which were to longe to wryten and to sen,
And hym reprevith of his grete untrouthe,
And preyeth him on hire to have som routhe.
And of his children two she seyde hym this:
That they ben lyk of alle thyng, ywis,
To Jason, save they coude nat begile;
And preyede God, or it were longe while,
That she that hadde his herte yraft hire fro
Moste fynden hym untrewe to hir also,
And that she moste bothe hire chyldren spylle,
And alle tho that sufferede hym his wille.
And trewe to Jason was she al hire lyf,
And evere kepte hire chast, as for his wif;
Ne nevere hadde she joye at hire herte,
But deyede for his love, of sorwes smerte.
To Colcos comen is this duc Jasoun,
That is of love devourer and dragoun.
As mater apetiteth forme alwey
And from forme into forme it passen may,
Or as a welle that were botomles,
Ryght so can false Jason have no pes.
For to desyren thourgh his apetit
To don with gentil women his delyt,
This is his lust and his felicite.
Jason is romed forth to the cyte
That whilom cleped was Jaconitos,
That was the mayster-toun of al Colcos,
And hath ytold the cause of his comyng
Unto Oetes, of that contre kyng,
Preyinge hym that he moste don his assay
To gete the fles of gold if that he may;
Of which the kyng assenteth to his bone,
And doth hym honour, as it was to done,
So fer forth that his doughter and his eyr,
Medea, which that was so wis and fayr
That fayrer say there nevere man with ye,
He made hire don to Jason companye
At mete, and sitte by hym in the halle.
Now was Jason a semely man withalle,
And lyk a lord, and hadde a gret renoun,
And of his lok as real as a leoun,
And goodly of his speche, and familer,
And coude of love al craft and art pleyner
Withoute bok, with everych observaunce.
And, as Fortune hire oughte a foul myschaunce,
She wex enamoured upon this man.
"Jason," quod she, "for ought I se or can,
As of this thyng the whiche ye ben aboute,
Ye han youreself yput in moche doute.
For whoso wol this aventure acheve,
He may nat wel asterten, as I leve,
Withouten deth, but I his helpe be.
But natheles, it is my wylle," quod she,
"To fortheren yow so that ye shal nat die,
But turnen sound hom to youre Tessalye."
"My ryghte lady," quod this Jason tho,
"That ye han of my deth or of my wo
Any reward, and don me this honour,
I wot wel that my myght ne my labour
May nat disserve it in my lyves day.
God thanke yow there I ne can ne may!
Youre man I am, and lowely yow beseche
To ben my helpe, withoute more speche;
But, certes, for my deth shal I nat spare."
Tho gan this Medea to hym declare
The peril of this cas from poynt to poynt,
And of his batayle, and in what disjoynt
He mote stonde, of which no creature
Save only she ne myghte his lyf assure.
And shortly to the poynt ryght for to go,
They been acorded ful bytwixe hem two
That Jason shal hire wedde, as trewe knyght;
And terme set to come sone at nyght
Unto hire chamber and make there his oth
Upon the goddes, that he for lef or loth
Ne sholde nevere hire false, nyght ne day,
To ben hire husbonde whil he lyve may,
As she that from his deth hym saved here.
And hereupon at nyght they mette in-feere,
And doth his oth, and goth with hire to bedde;
And on the morwe upward he hym spedde,
For she hath taught hym how he shal nat fayle
The fles to wynne and stynten his batayle;
And saved hym his lyf and his honour;
And gat hym a name ryght as a conquerour,
Ryght thourgh the sleyghte of hire enchauntement.
Now hath Jason the fles, and hom is went
With Medea, and tresor ful gret won;
But unwist of hire fader is she gon
To Tessaly with Duk Jason hire lef,
That afterward hath brought hire to myschef.
For as a traytour he is from hire go,
And with hire lafte his yonge children two,
And falsly hath betraysed hire, allas,
As evere in love a chef traytour he was;
And wedded yit the thridde wif anon,
That was the doughter of the kyng Creon.
This is the mede of lovynge and guerdoun
That Medea receyved of Jasoun
Ryght for hire trouthe and for hire kyndenesse,
That lovede hym beter than hireself, I gesse,
And lafte hire fader and hire herytage.
And of Jason this is the vassellage,
That in his dayes nas ther non yfounde
So fals a lovere goinge on the grounde.
And therfore in hire letter thus she seyde
Fyrst, whan she of his falsnesse hym upbreyde:
"Whi lykede me thy yelwe her to se
More than the boundes of myn honeste?
Why lykede me thy youthe and thy fayrnesse,
And of thy tonge, the infynyt graciousnesse?
O, haddest thow in thy conquest ded ybe,
Ful mikel untrouthe hadde ther deyd with the!"
Wel can Ovyde hire letter in vers endyte,
Which were as now to long for me to wryte.

Explicit Legenda Ysiphile et Medee, martirum

THE LEGEND OF LUCRECE

Incipit Legenda Lucrecie Rome, martyres

ow mot I seyn the exilynge of kynges
Of Rome, for here horible doinges,
And of the laste kyng Tarquinius,
As seyth Ovyde and Titus Lyvius.
But for that cause telle I nat this storye,
But for to preyse and drawe to memorye
The verray wif, the verray trewe Lucresse,
That for hyre wifhod and hire stedefastnesse
Nat only that these payens hire comende,
But he that cleped is in oure legende
The grete Austyn hath gret compassioun
Of this Lucresse, that starf at Rome toun;
And in what wise, I wol but shortly trete,
And of this thyng I touche but the grete.
Whan Ardea beseged was aboute
With Romeyns, that ful sterne were and stoute,
Ful longe lay the sege and lytel wroughten,
So that they were half idel, as hem thoughten;
And in his pley Tarquinius the yonge
Gan for to jape, for he was lyght of tonge,
And seyde that it was an ydel lyf;
No man dide there no more than his wif.
"And lat us speke of wyves, that is best;
Preyse every man his owene as hym lest,
And with oure speche lat us ese oure herte."
A knyght that highte Colatyn up sterte,
And seyde thus: "Nay, sire, it is no nede
To trowen on the word, but on the dede.
I have a wif," quod he, "that, as I trowe,
Is holden good of alle that evere hire knowe.
Go we to-nyght to Rome, and we shal se."
Tarquinius answerde, "That liketh me."
To Rome be they come, and faste hem dyghte
To Colatynes hous and doun they lyghte,
Tarquinius and ek this Colatyn.
The husbonde knew the estris wel and fyn,
And prively into the hous they gon,
Nor at the yate porter nas there non,
And at the chambre-dore they abyde.
This noble wif sat by hire beddes side
Dischevele, for no malyce she ne thoughte;
And softe wolle oure bok seyth that she wroughte
To kepen hire from slouthe and idelnesse;
And bad hire servaunts don hire besynesse,
And axeth hem, "What tydyngs heren ye?
How seyth men of the sege, how shal it be?
God wolde the walles were falle adoun!
Myn husbonde is to longe out of this toun,
For which the drede doth me so to smerte
That with a swerd it stingeth to myn herte
Whan I thynke on the sege or on that place.
God save my lord, I preye hym for his grace!"
And therwithal ful tenderly she wep,
And of hire werk she tok no more kep,
And mekely she let hyre eyen falle;
And thilke semblaunt sat hire wel withalle.
And eek hire teres, ful of honeste,
Embelished hire wifly chastite;
Hyre contenaunce is to hire herte dygne,
For they acorde bothe in dede and sygne.
And with that word hire husbonde Colatyn,
Or she of him was war, com stertynge in
And seyde, "Drede the nat, for I am here!"
And she anon up ros with blysful chere
And kiste hym, as of wives is the wone.
Tarquinius, this proude kynges sone,
Conceyved hath hire beaute and hyre cheere,
Hire yelwe her, hire shap, and hire manere,
Hire hew, hire wordes, that she hath compleyned
(And by no craft hire beaute nas nat feyned),
And caughte to this lady swich desyr
That in his herte brende as any fyr,
So wodly that his wit was al forgeten.
For wel thoghte he she wolde nat ben geten;
And ay the more that he was in dispayr,
The more he coveyteth and thoughte hire fayr.
His blynde lust was al his coveytynge.
A-morwe, whan the brid began to synge,
Unto the sege he cometh ful privily,
And by hymself he walketh soberly,
Th' ymage of hire recordynge alwey newe:
"Thus lay hire her, and thus fresh was hyre hewe;
Thus sat, thus spak, thus span; this was hire chere;
Thus fayr she was, and this was hire manere."
Al this conseit hys herte hath newe ytake.
And as the se, with tempest al toshake,
That after, whan the storm is al ago,
Yit wol the water quappe a day or two,
Ryght so, thogh that hire forme were absent,
The plesaunce of hire forme was present;
But natheles, nat plesaunce but delit,
Or an unrightful talent, with dispit --
"For, maugre hyre, she shal my leman be!
Hap helpeth hardy man alday," quod he;
"What ende that I make, it shal be so."
And girte hym with his swerd and gan to go,
And forth he rit til he to Rome is come,
And al alone his wey than hath he nome
Unto the hous of Colatyn ful ryght.
Doun was the sonne and day hath lost his lyght;
And in he cometh into a prive halke,
And in the nyght ful thefly gan he stalke,
Whan every wight was to his reste brought,
Ne no wight hadde of tresoun swich a thought.
Were it by wyndow or by other gyn,
With swerd ydrawe shortly he com in
There as she lay, this noble wif Lucresse.
And as she wok, hire bed she felte presse.
"What beste is that," quod she, "that weyeth thus?"
"I am the kynges sone, Tarquinius,"
Quod he, "but, and thow crye or noyse make,
Or if there any creature awake,
By thilke God that formed man alyve,
This swerd thourghout thyn herte shal I ryve."
And therwithal unto hire throte he sterte,
And sette the poynt al sharp upon hire herte.
No word she spak, she hath no myght therto.
What shal she seyn? Hire wit is al ago.
Ryght as a wolf that fynt a lomb alone,
To whom shal she compleyne or make mone?
What, shal she fyghte with an hardy knyght?
Wel wot men that a woman hath no myght.
What, shal she crye, or how shal she asterte
That hath hire by the throte with swerd at herte?
She axeth grace, and seyth al that she can.
"Ne wilt thow nat," quod he, this crewel man,
"As wisly Jupiter my soule save,
As I shal in the stable slen thy knave,
And ley hym in thy bed, and loude crye
That I the fynde in swich avouterye.
And thus thow shalt be ded and also lese
Thy name, for thow shalt non other chese."
These Romeyns wyves lovede so here name
At thilke tyme, and dredde so the shame,
That, what for fer of sclaunder and drede of deth,
She loste bothe at ones wit and breth,
And in a swogh she lay, and wex so ded
Men myghte smyten of hire arm or hed;
She feleth no thyng, neyther foul ne fayr.
Tarquinius, that art a kynges eyr,
And sholdest, as by lynage and by ryght,
Don as a lord and as a verray knyght,
Whi hastow don dispit to chivalrye?
Whi hastow don this lady vilanye?
Allas, of the this was a vileyns dede!
But now to purpos; in the story I rede,
Whan he was gon and this myschaunce is falle,
This lady sente after hire frendes alle,
Fader, moder, husbonde, alle yfeere;
And al dischevele, with hire heres cleere,
In habit swich as women used tho
Unto the buryinge of hire frendes go,
She sit in halle with a sorweful sighte.
Hyre frendes axen what hire eylen myghte,
And who was ded; and she sit ay wepynge;
A word, for shame, forth ne myght she brynge,
Ne upon hem she durste nat beholde.
But atte last of Tarquyny she hem tolde
This rewful cas and al thys thing horryble.
The woo to tellen were an impossible,
That she and al hir frendes made attones.
Al hadde folkes hertes ben of stones,
Hyt myght have maked hem upon hir rewe,
Hir herte was so wyfly and so trewe.
She sayde that, for hir gylt ne for hir blame,
Hir husbonde shulde nat have the foule name,
That wolde she nat suffre by no wey.
And they answerden alle, upon hir fey,
That they forgave yt hyr, for yt was ryght;
It was no gilt, it lay not in hir myght;
And seyden hir ensamples many oon.
But al for noght; for thus she seyde anoon:
"Be as be may," quod she, "of forgyvyng,
I wol not have noo forgyft for nothing."
But pryvely she kaughte forth a knyf,
And therwithal she rafte hirself hir lyf;
And as she fel adoun, she kaste hir lok,
And of hir clothes yet she hede tok.
For in hir fallynge yet she had a care,
Lest that hir fet or suche thyng lay bare;
So wel she loved clennesse and eke trouthe.
Of hir had al the toun of Rome routhe,
And Brutus by hir chaste blood hath swore
That Tarquyn shulde ybanysshed be therfore,
And al hys kyn; and let the peple calle,
And openly the tale he tolde hem alle,
And openly let cary her on a bere
Thurgh al the toun, that men may see and here
The horryble dede of hir oppressyoun,
Ne never was ther kyng in Rome toun
Syn thilke day; and she was holden there
A seynt, and ever hir day yhalwed dere
As in hir lawe; and thus endeth Lucresse,
The noble wyf, as Tytus bereth witnesse.
I telle hyt for she was of love so trewe,
Ne in hir wille she chaunged for no newe;
And for the stable herte, sadde and kynde,
That in these wymmen men may alday fynde.
Ther as they kaste hir herte, there it dwelleth.
For wel I wot that Crist himselve telleth
That in Israel, as wyd as is the lond,
That so gret feyth in al that he ne fond
As in a woman; and this is no lye.
And as of men, loke ye which tirannye
They doon alday; assay hem whoso lyste,
The trewest ys ful brotel for to triste.

Explicit Legenda Lucrecie Rome, martyres

THE LEGEND OF ARIADNE

Incipit Legenda Adrianr de Athenes

uge infernal, Mynos, of Crete kyng,
Now cometh thy lot, now comestow on the ryng.
Nat for thy sake oonly write I this storye,
But for to clepe ageyn unto memorye
Of Theseus the grete untrouthe of love;
For which the goddes of the heven above
Ben wrothe, and wreche han take for thy synne.
Be red for shame! Now I thy lyf begynne.
Mynos, that was the myghty kyng of Crete,
That hadde an hundred citees stronge and grete,
To scole hath sent hys sone Androgeus,
To Athenes; of the which hyt happed thus,
That he was slayn, lernynge philosophie,
Ryght in that citee, nat but for envye.
The grete Mynos, of the which I speke,
Hys sones deth ys come for to wreke.
Alcathoe he besegeth harde and longe;
But natheles, the walles be so stronge,
And Nysus, that was kyng of that citee,
So chevalrous, that lytel dredeth he;
Of Mynos or hys ost tok he no cure,
Til on a day befel an aventure,
That Nysus doughter stod upon the wal,
And of the sege saw the maner al.
So happed it that at a scarmishyng
She caste hire herte upon Mynos the kyng,
For his beaute and for his chyvalrye,
So sore that she wende for to dye.
And, shortly of this proces for to pace,
She made Mynos wynnen thilke place,
So that the cite was al at his wille,
To saven whom hym leste or elles spille.
But wikkedly he quitte hire kyndenesse,
And let hire drenche in sorwe and distresse,
Nere that the goddes hadde of hire pite;
But that tale were to long as now for me.
Athenes wan thys kyng Mynos also,
As Alcathoe, and other tounes mo.
And this th' effect, that Mynos hath so driven
Hem of Athenes that they mote hym yiven
From yer to yer hire owene children dere
For to be slayne right as ye shal here.
This Mynos hadde a monstre, a wiked best,
That was so crewel that, withoute arest,
Whan that a man was brought in his presence,
He wolde hym ete; ther helpeth no defence.
And every thridde yeer, withouten doute,
They caste lot, and as it com aboute
On riche, on pore, he moste his sone take,
And of his child he moste present make
Unto Minos, to save hym or to spylle,
Or lete his best devoure hym at his wille.
And this hath Mynos don, ryght in dispit;
To wreke his sone was set al his delyt,
And maken hem of Athenes his thral
From yer to yer, whil that he liven shal;
And hom he sayleth whan this toun is wonne.
This wiked custom is so longe yronne,
Til that of Athenes kyng Egeus
Mot senden his owene sone, Theseus,
Sith that the lot is fallen hym upon,
To ben devoured, for grace is there non.
And forth is lad this woful yonge knyght
Unto the court of kyng Mynos ful ryght,
And into a prysoun, fetered, cast is he
Tyl thilke tyme he sholde freten be.
Wel maystow wepe, O woful Theseus,
That art a kynges sone, and dampned thus.
Me thynketh this, that thow were depe yholde
To whom that savede thee from cares colde!
And if now any woman helpe the,
Wel oughtestow hire servaunt for to be,
And ben hire trewe lovere yer be yere!
But now to come ageyn to my matere.
The tour there as this Theseus is throwe
Doun in the botom derk and wonder lowe,
Was joynynge in the wal to a foreyne;
And it was longynge to the doughtren tweyne
Of Mynos, that in hire chaumbers grete
Dwellten above, toward the mayster-strete
Of Athenes, in joye and in solas.
Noot I not how, it happede par cas,
As Theseus compleynede hym by nyghte,
The kynges doughter, Adryane that highte,
And ek hire syster Phedra, herden al
His compleynynge as they stode on the wal
And lokeden upon the bryghte mone.
Hem leste nat to go to bedde so sone;
And of his wo they hadde compassioun.
A kynges sone to ben in swich prysoun,
And ben devoured, thoughte hem gret pite.
This Adryane spak to hire syster fre,
And seyde, "Phedra, leve syster dere,
This woful lordes sone may ye nat here,
How pitously compleyneth he his kyn,
And ek his povre estat that he is in,
And gilteles? Now, certes, it is routhe!
And if ye wol assenten, by my trouthe,
He shal ben holpen, how so that we do."
Phedra answerde, "Ywis, me is as wo
For hym as evere I was for any man;
And, to his help, the beste red I can
Is that we do the gayler prively
To come and speke with us hastily,
And don this woful man with hym to come.
For if he may this monstre overcome,
Thanne were he quyt; ther is non other bote.
Lat us wel taste hym at his herte-rote,
That if so be that he a wepen have,
Wher that he dar, his lyf to kepe and save,
Fyghten with the fend, and hym defende.
For in the prysoun ther he shal descende,
Ye wote wel that the beste is in a place
That nys nat derk, and hath roum eek and space
To welde an ax, or swerd, or staf, or knyf;
So that, me thynketh, he shulde save his lyf.
If that he be a man, he shal do so.
And we shul make hym balles ek also
Of wex and tow, that whan he gapeth faste,
Into the bestes throte he shal hem caste
To slake his hunger and encombre his teth;
And right anon, whan that Theseus seth
The beste achoked, he shal on hym lepe
To slen hym or they comen more to-hepe.
This wepen shal the gayler, or that tyde,
Ful prively withinne the prysoun hyde;
And for the hous is krynkeled to and fro,
And hath so queynte weyes for to go --
For it is shapen as the mase is wrought --
Therto have I a remedye in my thought,
That, by a clewe of twyn, as he hath gon,
The same weye he may returne anon,
Folwynge alwey the thred as he hath come.
And whan that he this beste hath overcome,
Thanne may he flen awey out of this drede,
And ek the gayler may he with hym lede,
And hym avaunce at hom in his cuntre,
Syn that so gret a lordes sone is he.
This is my red, if that he dar it take."
What sholde I lenger sarmoun of it make?
This gayler cometh, and with hym Theseus.
Whan these thynges ben acorded thus,
Adoun sit Theseus upon his kne --
"The ryghte lady of my lyf," quod he,
"I, sorweful man, ydampned to the deth,
Fro yow, whil that me lasteth lyf or breth,
I wol nat twynne, after this aventure,
But in youre servise thus I wol endure,
That, as a wreche unknowe, I wol yow serve
For everemo, til that myn herte sterve.
Forsake I wol at hom myn herytage,
And, as I seyde, ben of youre court a page,
If that ye vouche-sauf that in this place
Ye graunte me to han so gret a grace
That I may han nat but my mete and drynke.
And for my sustenaunce yit wol I swynke,
Ryght as yow leste, that Mynos ne no wight --
Syn that he saw me nevere with eyen syght --
Ne no man elles, shal me conne espye;
So slyly and so wel I shal me gye,
And me so wel disfigure and so lowe,
That in this world ther shal no man me knowe,
To han my lyf, and for to han presence
Of yow, that don to me this excellence.
And to my fader shal I sende here
This worthy man that is now youre gaylere,
And hym so gwerdone that he shal wel be
Oon of the gretteste men of my cuntre.
And if I durste seyn, my lady bryght,
I am a kynges sone and ek a knyght.
As wolde God, if that it myghte be
Ye weren in my cuntre, alle thre,
And I with yow to bere yow compaignye,
Thanne shulde ye se if that I therof lye.
And if I profre yow in low manere
To ben youre page and serven yow ryght here,
But I yow serve as lowly in that place,
I preye to Mars to yeve me swich a grace
That shames deth on me ther mote falle,
And deth and poverte to my frendes alle;
And that my spirit by nyghte mote go,
After my deth, and walke to and fro,
That I mote of traytour have a name,
For which my spirit go, to do me shame!
And if I evere cleyme other degre,
But if ye vouche-sauf to yeve it me,
As I have seyd, of shames deth I deye!
And mercy, lady! I can nat elles seye."
A semely knyght was Theseus to se,
And yong, but of a twenty yer and thre.
But whoso hadde seyn his contenaunce,
He wolde have wept for routhe of his penaunce;
For which this Adryane in this manere
Answerde hym to his profre and to his chere:
"A kynges sone, and ek a knyght," quod she,
"To ben my servaunt in so low degre,
God shilde it, for the shame of wemen alle,
And lene me nevere swich a cas befalle!
But sende yow grace of herte and sleyghte also,
Yow to defende and knyghtly slen youre fo,
And leve hereafter that I may yow fynde
To me and to my syster here so kynde,
That I repente nat to yeve yow lyf!
Yit were it betere that I were youre wyf,
Syn that ye ben as gentil born as I,
And have a reaume, nat but faste by,
Than that I suffered, gilteles, yow sterve,
Or that I let yow as a page serve.
It nys no profre as unto youre kynrede;
But what is that that man nyl don for drede?
And to my syster, syn that it is so
That she mot gon with me, if that I go,
Or elles suffre deth as wel as I,
That ye unto youre sone as trewely
Don hire ben wedded at youre hom-comyng.
This is the final ende of al this thyng;
Ye swere it here, upon al that may be sworn."
"Ye, lady myn," quod he, "or ellis torn
Mote I be with the Mynotaur to-morwe!
And haveth hereof myn herte blod to borwe,
If that ye wole; if I hadde knyf or spere,
I wolde it laten out, and theron swere,
For thanne at erst I wot ye wole me leve.
By Mars, that is the chef of my beleve,
So that I myghte liven and nat fayle
To-morwe for t' acheve my batayle,
I wolde nevere from this place fle,
Til that ye shulde the verray preve se.
For now, if that the sothe I shal yow say,
I have yloved yow ful many a day,
Thogh ye ne wiste it nat, in my cuntre,
And aldermost desired yow to se
Of any erthly livynge creature.
Upon my trouthe I swere and yow assure,
This sevene yer I have youre servaunt be.
Now have I yow, and also have ye me,
My dere herte, of Athenes duchesse!"
This lady smyleth at his stedefastnesse,
And at his hertely wordes and his chere,
And to hyre sister seyde in this manere,
Al softely: "Now, syster myn," quod she,
"Now be we duchesses, bothe I and ye,
And sekered to the regals of Athenes,
And bothe hereafter likly to ben quenes;
And saved from his deth a kynges sone,
As evere of gentil women is the wone
To save a gentyl man, emforth hire myght,
In honest cause, and namely in his ryght.
Me thynketh no wight oughte us herof blame,
Ne beren us therfore an evil name."
And shortly of this mater for to make,
This Theseus of hire hath leve take,
And every poynt was performed in dede
As ye han in this covenaunt herd me rede.
His wepne, his clewe, his thyng, that I have sayd,
Was by the gayler in the hous yleyd,
Ther as the Mynotaur hath his dwellynge,
Ryght faste by the dore, at his entrynge.
And Theseus is lad unto his deth,
And forth unto this Mynotaur he geth,
And by the techynge of this Adryane
He overcom this beste and was his bane;
And out he cometh by the clewe agayn
Ful prively, whan he this beste hath slayn;
And by the gayler geten hath a barge,
And of his wyves tresor gan it charge,
And tok his wif, and ek hire sister fre,
And ek the gayler, and with hem alle thre
Is stole awey out of the lond by nyghte,
And to the contre of Ennopye hym dyghte
There as he hadde a frend of his knowynge.
There feste they, there daunce they and synge;
And in his armes hath this Adryane,
That of the beste hath kept hym from his bane;
And gat hym there a newe barge anon,
And of his contre-folk a ful gret won,
And taketh his leve, and homward sayleth he.
And in an yle amyd the wilde se,
Ther as there dwelled creature non
Save wilde bestes, and that ful many oon,
He made his ship a-londe for to sette;
And in that yle half a day he lette,
And seyde that on the lond he moste hym reste.
His maryners han don ryght as hym leste;
And, for to tellen shortly in this cas,
Whan Adryane his wif aslepe was,
For that hire syster fayrer was than she,
He taketh hire in his hond and forth goth he
To shipe, and as a traytour stal his wey,
Whil that this Adryane aslepe lay,
And to his contre-ward he sayleth blyve --
A twenty devel-wey the wynd hym dryve! --
And fond his fader drenched in the se.
Me lest no more to speke of hym, parde.
These false lovers, poysoun be here bane!
But I wol turne ageyn to Adryane,
That is with slep for werynesse atake.
Ful sorwefully hire herte may awake.
Allas, for thee myn herte hath now pite!
Ryght in the dawenyng awaketh she,
And gropeth in the bed, and fond ryght nought.
"Allas," quod she, "that evere I was wrought!
I am betrayed!" and hire her torente,
And to the stronde barefot faste she wente,
And cryed, "Theseus, myn herte swete!
Where be ye, that I may nat with yow mete,
And myghte thus with bestes ben yslayn?"
The holwe rokkes answerde hire agayn.
No man she saw, and yit shyned the mone,
And hye upon a rokke she wente sone,
And saw his barge saylynge in the se.
Cold wex hire herte, and ryght thus seyde she:
"Meker than ye fynde I the bestes wilde!"
Hadde he nat synne that hire thus begylde?
She cryed, "O turn ageyn, for routhe and synne!
Thy barge hath nat al his meyne inne!"
Hire coverchef on a pole up steked she,
Ascaunce that he shulde it wel yse,
And hym remembre that she was behynde,
And turne ageyn, and on the stronde hire fynde.
But al for nought; his wey he is ygon.
Adoun she fyl aswoune upon a ston;
And up she rist, and kyssed, in al hire care,
The steppes of his fet ther he hath fare,
And to hire bed ryght thus she speketh tho:
"Thow bed," quod she, "that hast receyved two,
Thow shalt answere of two, and nat of oon!
Where is thy gretter part awey ygon?
Allas! Where shal I, wreche wight, become?
For thogh so be that ship or boot here come,
Hom to my contre dar I nat for drede.
I can myselven in this cas nat rede."
What shulde I more telle hire compleynyng?
It is so long, it were an hevy thyng.
In hire Epistel Naso telleth al;
But shortly to the ende I telle shal.
The goddes han hire holpen for pite,
And in the signe of Taurus men may se
The stones of hire corone shyne clere.
I wol no more speke of this mateere;
But thus this false lovere can begyle
His trewe love, the devel quyte hym his while!

Explicit Legenda Adriane de Athenes

THE LEGEND OF PHILOMELA

Incipit Legenda Philomene
Deus dator formarum

how yevere of the formes, that hast wrought
This fayre world and bar it in thy thought
Eternaly er thow thy werk began,
Why madest thow, unto the slaunder of man,
Or, al be that it was nat thy doing,
As for that fyn, to make swich a thyng,
Whi sufferest thow 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?
And, as to me, so grisely was his dede
That, whan that I his foule storye rede,
Myne eyen wexe foule and sore also.
Yit last the venym of so longe ago,
That it enfecteth hym that wol beholde
The storye of Tereus, of which I tolde.
Of Trace was he lord, and kyn to Marte,
The crewel god that stant with blody darte;
And wedded hadde he, with a blysful cheere,
Kyng Pandiones fayre doughter dere,
That highte Progne, flour of hire cuntre,
Thogh Juno lyst nat at the feste to be,
Ne Imeneus that god of wedyng is.
But at the feste redy ben, ywis,
The Furies thre with al here mortal brond.
The oule al nyght aboute the balkes wond,
That prophete is of wo and of myschaunce.
This revel, ful of song and ek of daunce,
Laste a fortenyght, or lytel lasse.
But shortly of this story for to passe,
For I am wery of hym for to telle,
Fyve yer his wif and he togeder dwelle,
Til on a day she gan so sore longe
To sen hire sister that she say nat longe,
That for desyr she nyste what to seye.
But to hire husbonde gan she for to preye,
For Godes love, that she moste ones gon
Hyre syster for to sen, and come anon,
Or elles, but she moste to hire wende,
She preyde hym that he wolde after hire sende;
And this was day by day al hire preyere,
With al humblesse of wifhod, word and chere.
This Tereus let make his shipes yare,
And into Grece hymself is forth yfare.
Unto his fadyr-in-lawe gan he preye
To vouche-sauf that for a month or tweye
That Philomene, his wyves syster, myghte
On Progne his wyf but ones han a syghte --
"And she shal come to yow ageyn anon.
Myself with hyre wol bothe come and gon,
And as myn hertes lyf I wol hire kepe."
This olde Pandion, this kyng, gan wepe
For tendernesse of herte for to leve
His doughter gon, and for to yeve hire leve;
Of al this world he loveth nothyng so;
But at the laste leve hath she to go.
For Philomene with salte teres eke
Gan of hire fader grace to beseke
To sen hire syster that she loveth so,
And hym embraseth with hire armes two.
And therwithal so yong and fayr was she
That, whan that Tereus saw hire beaute,
And of aray that there was non hire lyche,
And yit of beaute was she two so ryche,
He caste his fyry herte upon hyre so
That he wol have hir, how so that it go;
And with his wiles kneled and so preyde,
Tyl at the laste Pandyon thus seyde:
"Now, sone," quod he, "that art to me so dere,
I the betake my yonge doughter here
That bereth the keye of al myn hertes lyf.
And gret me wel my doughter and thy wif,
And yif hire leve somtyme for to pleye,
That she may sen me ones er I deye."
And sothly, he hath mad hym riche feste,
And to his folk, the moste and ek the leste,
That with hym com; and yaf hym yiftes grete,
And hym conveyeth thourgh the mayster-strete
Of Athenes, and to the se hym broughte,
And turneth hom; no malyce he ne thoughte.
The ores pullen forth the vessel faste,
And into Trace aryveth at the laste,
And up into a forest he hire ledde,
And to a cave pryvely hym spedde;
And in this derke cave, yif hir leste,
Or leste nat, he bad hire for to reste;
Of which hire herte agros, and seyde thus:
"Where is my sister, brother Tereus?"
And therwithal she wepte tenderly
And quok for fere, pale and pitously,
Ryght as the lamb that of the wolf is biten;
Or as the culver that of the egle is smiten,
And is out of his clawes forth escaped,
Yit it is afered and awhaped,
Lest it be hent eft-sones; so sat she.
But utterly it may non other be.
By force hath this traytour don a dede,
That he hath reft hire of hire maydenhede,
Maugre hire hed, by strengthe and by his myght.
Lo! here a dede of men, and that a ryght!
She cryeth "Syster!" with ful loud a stevene,
And "Fader dere!" and "Help me, God in hevene!"
Al helpeth nat; and yit this false thef
Hath don this lady yit a more myschef,
For fere lest she shulde his shame crye
And don hym openly a vilenye,
And with his swerd hire tonge of kerveth he,
And in a castel made hire for to be
Ful pryvely in prisoun everemore,
And kepte hire to his usage and his store,
So that she myghte hym neveremore asterte.
O sely Philomene, wo is thyn herte!
God wreke thee, and sende the thy bone!
Now is it tyme I make an ende sone.
This Tereus is to his wif ycome,
And in his armes hath his wif ynome,
And pitously he wep and shok his hed,
And swor hir that he fond hir sister ded;
For which this sely Progne hath swich wo
That nygh hire sorweful herte brak a-two.
And thus in terys lete I Progne dwelle,
And of hire sister forth I wol yow telle.
This woful lady lerned hadde in youthe
So that she werken and enbroude couthe,
And weven in hire stol the radevore
As it of wemen hath be woned yore.
And, sothly for to seyne, she hadde hire fille
Of mete and drynk, and clothyng at hire wille.
She coude eek rede and wel ynow endyte,
But with a penne coude she nat wryte.
But letters can she weve to and fro,
So that, by that the yer was al ago,
She hadde ywoven in a stamyn large
How she was brought from Athenes in a barge,
And in a cave how that she was brought;
And al the thyng that Tereus hath wrought,
She waf it wel, and wrot the storye above,
How she was served for hire systers love.
And to a knave a ryng she yaf anon,
And preyed hym by signes for to gon
Unto the queen, and beren hir that cloth,
And by signes swor hym many an oth
She wolde hym yeven what she geten myghte.
This knave anon unto the quene hym dyghte,
And tok it hire, and al the maner tolde.
And whan that Progne hath this thing beholde,
No word she spak, for sorwe and ek for rage,
But feynede hire to gon on pilgrymage
To Bacus temple; and in a litel stounde
Hire dombe sister sittynge hath she founde,
Wepynge in the castel, here alone.
Allas! The wo, the compleynt, and the mone
That Progne upon hire doumbe syster maketh.
In armes everych of hem other taketh,
And thus I late hem in here sorwe dwelle.
The remenaunt is no charge for to telle,
For this is al and som: thus was she served,
That nevere harm agilte ne deserved
Unto this crewel man, that she of wiste.
Ye may be war of men, if that yow liste.
For al be it that he wol nat, for shame,
Don as Tereus, to lese his name,
Ne serve yow as a morderour or a knave,
Ful lytel while shal ye trewe hym have --
That wol I seyn, al were he now my brother --
But it so be that he may have non other.

Explicit Legenda Philomene

THE LEGEND OF PHYLLIS

Incipit Legenda Phillis

y preve as wel as by autorite,
That wiked fruit cometh of a wiked tre,
That may ye fynde, if that it like yow.
But for this ende I speke this as now,
To tellen yow of false Demophon.
In love a falser herde I nevere non,
But if it were his fader Theseus.
"God, for his grace, fro swich oon kepe us!"
Thus may these women preyen that it here.
Now to the effect turne I of my matere.
Destroyed is of Troye the cite;
This Demophon com seylynge in the se
Toward Athenes, to his paleys large.
With hym com many a ship and many a barge
Ful of his folk, of whiche ful many oon
Is wounded sore, and sek, and wo begon,
As they han at th' asege longe yleyn.
Byhynde hym com a wynd and ek a reyn
That shof so sore his sayl ne myghte stonde;
Hym were levere than al the world a-londe,
So hunteth hym the tempest to and fro.
So derk it was, he coude nowher go;
And with a wawe brosten was his stere.
His ship was rent so lowe, in swich manere,
That carpenter ne coude it nat amende.
The se, by nyghte, as any torche it brende
For wod, and possith hym now up, now doun,
Til Neptune hath of hym compassioun,
And Thetis, Thorus, Triton, and they alle,
And maden hym upon a lond to falle,
Wherof that Phillis lady was and queene,
Ligurges doughter, fayrer on to sene
Than is the flour ageyn the bryghte sonne.
Unnethe is Demophon to londe ywonne,
Wayk, and ek wery, and his folk forpyned
Of werynesse, and also enfamyned,
That to the deth he almost was ydriven.
His wise folk to conseyl han hym yiven
To seken help and socour of the queen,
And loke what his grace myghte been,
And maken in that lond som chevysaunce,
To kepen hym fro wo and fro myschaunce.
For syk he was, and almost at the deth;
Unnethe myghte he speke or drawe his breth,
And lyth in Rodopeya hym for to reste.
Whan he may walke, hym thoughte it was the beste
Unto the court to seken for socour.
Men knewen hym wel and diden hym honour;
For of Athenes duk and lord was he,
As Theseus his fader hadde be,
That in his tyme was of gret renoun,
No man so gret in al the regyoun,
And lyk his fader of face and of stature,
And fals of love; it com hym of nature.
As doth the fox Renard, the foxes sone,
Of kynde he coude his olde faders wone
Withoute lore, as can a drake swimme
Whan it is caught and caryed to the brymme.
This honurable Phillis doth hym chere;
Hire liketh wel his port and his manere.
But, for I am agroted herebyforn
To wryte of hem that ben in love forsworn,
And ek to haste me in my legende,
(Which to performe God me grace sende)
Therfore I passe shortly in this wyse.
Ye han wel herd of Theseus devyse
In the betraysynge of fayre Adryane
That of hire pite kepte him from his bane.
At shorte wordes, ryght so Demophon
The same wey, the same path hath gon,
That dide his false fader Theseus.
For unto Phillis hath he sworen thus,
To wedden hire, and hire his trouthe plyghte,
And piked of hire al the good he myghte,
Whan he was hol and sound, and hadde his reste;
And doth with Phillis what so that hym leste,
As wel coude I, if that me leste so,
Tellen al his doynge to and fro.
He seyde unto his contre moste he sayle,
For there he wolde hire weddynge aparayle,
As fel to hire honour and his also.
And openly he tok his leve tho,
And hath hire sworn he wolde nat sojorne,
But in a month he wolde ageyn retorne;
And in that lond let make his ordenaunce
As verray lord, and tok the obeysaunce
Wel and homly, and let his shipes dighte,
And hom he goth the nexte wey he myghte.
For unto Phillis yit ne com he nought,
And that hath she so harde and sore abought --
Allas! -- that, as the storyes us recorde,
She was hire owene deth ryght with a corde,
Whan that she saw that Demophon hire trayed.
But to hym first she wrot, and faste him prayed
He wolde come and hire delyvere of peyne,
As I reherce shal a word or tweyne.
Me lyste nat vouche-sauf on hym to swynke,
Ne spende on hym a penne ful of ynke,
For fals in love was he, ryght as his syre.
The devil sette here soules bothe afyre!
But of the letter of Phillis wol I wryte
A word or two, althogh it be but lyte.
"Thyn hostesse," quod she, "O Demophon,
Thy Phillis, which that is so wo begon,
Of Rodopeye, upon yow mot compleyne
Over the terme set bytwixe us tweyne,
That ye ne holde forward, as ye seyde.
Youre anker, which ye in oure haven leyde,
Hyghte us that ye wolde comen, out of doute,
Or that the mone wente ones aboute.
But tymes foure the mone hath hid hire face,
Syn thilke day ye wente from this place,
And foure tymes lyghte the world ageyn.
But for al that, yif I shal soothly seyn,
Yit hath the strem of Sytho nat ybrought
From Athenes the ship; yit cometh it noght.
And if that ye the terme rekene wolde
As I or as a trewe lovere shulde,
I pleyne nat, God wot, byforn my day."
But al hire letter wryten I ne may
By order, for it were to me a charge;
Hire letter was ryght long and therto large.
But here and ther in rym I have it layd,
There as me thoughte that she wel hath sayd.
She seyde, "Thy sayles come nat agen,
Ne to thy word there is no fey certeyn;
But I wot why ye come nat," quod she,
"For I was of my love to yow to fre.
And of the goddes that ye han forswore,
Yif hire vengeaunce falle on yow therfore,
Ye be nat suffisaunt to bere the peyne.
To moche trusted I, wel may I pleyne,
Upon youre lynage and youre fayre tonge,
And on youre teres falsly out yronge.
How coude ye wepe so by craft?" quod she.
"May there swiche teres feyned be?
Now certes, yif ye wol have in memorye,
It oughte be to yow but lyte glorye
To han a sely mayde thus betrayed!
To God," quod she, "preye I, and ofte have prayed,
That it mot be the grettest prys of alle
And most honour that evere the shal befalle!
And whan thyne olde auncestres peynted be,
In which men may here worthynesse se,
Thanne preye I God thow peynted be also
That folk may rede forby as they go,
`Lo! this is he that with his flaterye
Bytraised hath and don hire vilenye
That was his trewe love in thought and dede!'
But sothly, of oo poynt yit may they rede,
That ye ben lyk youre fader as in this,
For he begiled Adriane, ywis,
With swich an art and with swich subtilte
As thow thyselven hast begyled me.
As in that poynt, althogh it be nat fayr,
Thow folwest hym, certayn, and art his ayr.
But syn thus synfully ye me begile,
My body mote ye se withinne a while,
Ryght in the haven of Athenes fletynge,
Withoute sepulture and buryinge,
Thogh ye ben harder than is any ston."
And whan this letter was forth sent anon,
And knew how brotel and how fals he was,
She for dispeyr fordide hyreself, allas.
Swych sorwe hath she, for she besette hire so.
Be war, ye wemen, of youre subtyl fo,
Syn yit this day men may ensaumple se;
And trusteth, as in love, no man but me.

Explicit Legenda Phillis

THE LEGEND OF HYPERMNESTRA

Incipit Legenda Ypermystre

n Grece whilom weren brethren two,
Of whiche that oon was called Danao,
That many a sone hath of his body wonne,
As swiche false lovers ofte conne.
Among his sones alle there was oon
That aldermost he lovede of everychoon.
And whan this child was born, this Danao
Shop hym a name and callede hym Lyno.
That other brother called was Egiste,
That was of love as fals as evere hym liste,
And many a doughter gat he in his lyf;
Of whiche he gat upon his ryghte wyf
A doughter dere, and dide hire for to calle
Ypermystra, yongeste of hem alle.
The whiche child of hire natyvyte
To alle thewes goode yborn was she,
As likede to the goddes er she was born,
That of the shef she sholde be the corn.
The Wirdes, that we clepen Destine,
Hath shapen hire that she mot nedes be
Pyetous, sad, wis, and trewe as stel,
As to these wemen it acordeth wel.
For thogh that Venus yaf hire gret beaute,
With Jupiter compouned so was she
That conscience, trouthe, and drede of shame,
And of hyre wifhod for to kepe hire name,
This, thoughte hire, was felycite as here.
The rede Mars was that tyme of the yeere
So feble that his malyce is hym raft;
Repressed hath Venus his crewel craft,
That, what with Venus and other oppressioun
Of houses, Mars his venim is adoun,
That Ypermystra dar nat handle a knyf
In malyce, thogh she shulde lese hire lyf.
But natheles, as hevene gan tho turne,
To badde aspectes hath she of Saturne,
That made hire for to deyen in prisoun,
As I shal after make mencioun.
To Danao and Egistes also,
Althogh so be that they were brethren two --
For thilke tyme was spared no lynage --
It lykede hem to make a maryage
Bytwixen Ypermystre and hym Lyno,
And casten swich a day it shal be so,
And ful acorded was it utterly;
The aray is wrought, the tyme is faste by.
And thus Lyno hath of his faders brother
The doughter wedded, and ech of hem hath other.
The torches brennen, and the laumpes bryghte;
The sacryfices ben ful redy dighte;
Th' encens out of the fyre reketh sote;
The flour, the lef is rent up by the rote
To maken garlondes and crounes hye.
Ful is the place of soun of minstralsye,
Of songes amorous of maryage,
As thylke tyme was the pleyne usage.
And this was in the paleys of Egiste,
That in his hous was lord, ryght as hym lyste.
And thus the day they dryve to an ende;
The frendes taken leve, and hom they wende;
The nyght is come, the bryd shal go to bedde.
Egistus to his chamber faste hym spedde,
And prively he let his doughter calle.
Whan that the hous was voyded of hem alle,
He loketh on his doughter with glad chere
And to hire spak, as ye shal after here:
"My ryghte doughter, tresor of myn herte,
Syn fyrst that day that shapen was my sherte,
Or by the fatal systren had my dom,
So nygh myn herte nevere thyng ne com
As thow, myn Ypermystre, doughter dere.
Tak hed what I, thy fader, seye the here,
And werk after thy wiser evere mo.
For alderfirst, doughter, I love the so
That al the world to me nis half so lef;
Ne I nolde rede the to thy myschef
For al the good under the colde mone.
And what I mene, it shal be seyd right sone,
With protestacioun, as in this wyse,
That, but thow do as I shal the devyse,
Thow shalt be ded, by hym that al hath wrought!
At shorte wordes, thow ne scapest nought
Out of my paleys or that thow be ded,
But thow consente and werke after my red;
Tak this to thee for ful conclusioun."
This Ypermystre caste hire eyen doun,
And quok as doth the lef of aspe grene.
Ded wex hire hew, and lyk an ash to sene,
And seyde, "Lord and fader, al youre wille,
After my myght, God wot, I shal fulfille,
So it to me be no confusioun."
"I nele," quod he, "have non excepcioun";
And out he caught a knyf, as rasour kene.
"Hyd this," quod he, "that it be nat ysene;
And whan thyn husbonde is to bedde go,
Whil that he slepeth, kit his throte atwo.
For in my dremes it is warned me
How that my nevew shal my bane be,
But which I noot, wherfore I wol be siker.
If thow sey nay, we two shul have a biker,
As I have seyd, by hym that I have sworn!"
This Ipermystre hath nygh hire wit forlorn;
And, for to passen harmles of that place,
She graunteth hym; ther is non other grace.
And therwithal a costret taketh he,
And seyde, "Herof a draught, or two, or thre,
Yif hym to drynke, whan he goth to reste,
And he shal slepe as longe as evere thee leste,
The narcotyks and opies ben so stronge.
And go thy wey, lest that him thynke longe."
Out cometh the bryd, and with ful sobre cheere,
As is of maydens ofte the manere,
To chaumbre is brought with revel and with song.
And shortly, lest this tale be to long,
This Lyno and she ben brought to bedde,
And every wight out at the dore hym spedde.
The nyght is wasted, and he fyl aslepe.
Ful tenderly begynneth she to wepe;
She rist hire up, and dredfully she quaketh,
As doth the braunche that Zepherus shaketh,
And hust were alle in Argon that cite.
As cold as any frost now waxeth she;
For pite by the herte hire streyneth so,
And drede of deth doth hire so moche wo,
That thryes doun she fyl in swich a were.
She rist yit up, and stakereth her and there,
And on hire hondes faste loketh she.
"Allas! and shal myne hondes blody be?
I am a mayde, and, as by my nature,
And bi my semblaunt and by my vesture,
Myne handes ben nat shapen for a knyf,
As for to reve no man fro his lyf.
What devel have I with the knyf to do?
And shal I have my throte korve a-two?
Thanne shal I blede, allas, and me beshende!
And nedes-cost this thyng moste have an ende;
Or he or I mot nedes lese oure lyf.
Now certes," quod she, "syn I am his wif,
And hath my feyth, yit is it bet for me
For to be ded in wifly honeste
Than ben a traytour lyvynge in my shame.
Be as be may, for ernest or for game,
He shal awake, and ryse, and gon his way,
Out at this goter, or that it be day" --
And wep ful tenderly upon his face,
And in hyre armes gan hym to enbrace,
And hym she roggeth and awaketh softe.
And at a wyndow lep he fro the lofte,
Whan she hath warned hym, and don hym bote.
This Lyno swift was, and lyght of fote,
And from his wif he ran a ful good pas.
This sely woman is so weik -- Allas! --
And helples, so that or that she fer wente,
Hire crewel fader dide hire for to hente.
Allas, Lyno, whi art thow so unkynde?
Why ne haddest thow remembred in thy mynde
To taken hire, and lad hire forth with the?
For whan she saw that gon awey was he,
And that she myghte nat so faste go,
Ne folwen hym, she sat hire doun ryght tho,
Til she was caught and fetered in prysoun.
This tale is seyd for this conclusioun --


Much of this research is based on The Pilgrim and the Book: A Study of Dante, Langland and Chaucer, which went into three editions, its Dante sections also published in an Italian edition. See https://books.google.it/books/about/The_Pilgrim_and_the_Book.html?id=x0wYJrkBc08C&redir_esc=y
 


My thanks to grandson Akita Noek in New Mexico for his never-failing help with making sound tracks and texts be present together performatively on the screen.

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