Home  »  The Complete Poetical Works  »  III. The Book of the Duchesse

Charles Brockden Brown (1771–1810). Edgar Huntley; or, Memoirs of a Sleep-Walker. 1857.

The Minor Poems

III. The Book of the Duchesse

The Proem.

I HAVE gret wonder, by this lighte,How that I live, for day ne nighteI may nat slepe wel nigh noght;I have so many an ydel thoghtPurely for defaute of slepe,That, by my trouthe, I take kepeOf no-thing, how hit cometh or goth,Ne me nis no-thing leef nor loth.Al is y-liche good to me—Ioye or sorowe, wherso hit be—For I have feling in no-thing,But, as it were, a mased thing,Alway in point to falle a-doun;For [sory] imaginaciounIs alway hoolly in my minde.And wel ye wite, agaynes kindeHit were to liven in this wyse;For nature wolde nat suffyseTo noon erthely creatureNot longe tyme to endureWithoute slepe, and been in sorwe;And I ne may, ne night ne morwe,Slepe; and thus melancolye,And dreed I have for to dye,Defaute of slepe, and hevinesseHath sleyn my spirit of quiknesse,That I have lost al lustihede.Suche fantasyes ben in myn hedeSo I not what is best to do.But men mighte axe me, why soI may not slepe, and what me is?But natheles, who aske thisLeseth his asking trewely.My-selven can not telle whyThe sooth; but trewely, as I gesse,I holdë hit be a siknesseThat I have suffred this eight yere,And yet my bote is never the nere;For ther is phisicien but oon,That may me hele; but that is doon.Passe we over until eft;That wil not be, moot nede be left;Our first matere is good to kepe.So whan I saw I might not slepe,Til now late, this other night,Upon my bedde I sat upright,And bad oon reche me a book,A romaunce, and he hit me tookTo rede aud dryve the night away;For me thoghte it better playThen playen either at chesse or tables.And in this boke were writen fablesThat clerkes hadde, in olde tyme,And other poets, put in rymeTo rede, and for to be in mindeWhyl men loved the lawe of kinde.This book ne spak but of such thinges,Of quenes lyves, and of kinges,And many othere thinges smale.Amonge al this I fond a taleThat me thoughte a wonder thing.This was the tale: Ther was a kingThat highte Seys, and hadde a wyf,The beste that mighte bere lyf;And this quene highte Alcyone.So hit befel, therafter sone,This king wolde wenden over see.To tellen shortly, whan that heWas in the see, thus in this wyse,Soche a tempest gan to ryseThat brak hir mast, and made it falle,And clefte hir ship, and dreinte hem alle,That never was founden, as it telles,Bord ne man, ne nothing elles.Right thus this king Seys loste his lyf.Now for to speken of his wyf:—This lady, that was left at home,Hath wonder, that the king ne comeHoom, for hit was a longe terme.Anon her herte gan to erme;And for that hir thoughte evermoHit was not wel [he dwelte] so,She longed so after the kingThat certes, hit were a pitous thingTo telle hir hertely sorwful lyfThat hadde, alas! this noble wyf;For him she loved alderbest.Anon she sente bothe eest and westTo seke him, but they founde nought.‘Alas!’ quoth she, ‘that I was wrought!And wher my lord, my love, be deed?Certes, I nil never ete breed,I make a-vowe to my god here,But I mowe of my lorde here!’Such sorwe this lady to her tookThat trewely I, which made this book,Had swich pite and swich rowtheTo rede hir sorwe, that, by my trowthe,I ferde the worse al the morweAfter, to thenken on her sorwe.So whan [she] coude here no wordThat no man mighte fynde hir lord,Ful oft she swouned, and seide ‘alas!’For sorwe ful nigh wood she was,Ne she coude no reed but oon;But doun on knees she sat anoon,And weep, that pite was to here.‘A! mercy! swete lady dere!’Quod she to Iuno, hir goddesse;‘Help me out of this distresse,And yeve me grace my lord to seeSone, or wite wher-so he be,Or how he fareth, or in what wyse,And I shal make you sacrifyse,And hoolly youres become I shalWith good wil, body, herte, and al;And but thou wilt this, lady swete,Send me grace to slepe, and meteIn my slepe som certeyn sweven,Wher-through that I may knowen evenWhether my lord be quik or deed.’With that word she heng doun the heed,And fil a-swown as cold as ston;Hir women caughte her up anon,And broghten hir in bed al naked,And she, forweped and forwaked,Was wery, and thus the dede sleepFil on her, or she toke keep,Through Iuno, that had herd hir bone,That made hir [for] to slepe sone;For as she prayde, so was don,In dede; for Iuno, right anon,Called thus her messagereTo do her erande, and he com nere.Whan he was come, she bad him thus:‘Go bet,’ quod Iuno, ‘to Morpheus,Thou knowest him wel, the god of sleep;Now understond wel, and tak keep.Sey thus on my halfe, that heGo faste into the grete see,And bid him that, on alle thing,He take up Seys body the king,That lyth ful pale and no-thing rody.Bid him crepe into the body,Aud do it goon to AlcyoneThe quene, ther she lyth alone,And shewe hir shortly, hit is no nay,How hit was dreynt this other day;And do the body speke soRight as hit was wont to do,The whyles that hit was on lyve.Go now faste, and hy thee blyve!’This messager took leve and wenteUpon his wey, and never ne stenteTil he com to the derke valeyeThat stant bytwene roches tweye,Ther never yet grew corn ne gras,Ne tree, ne nothing that ought was,Beste, ne man, ne nothing elles,Save ther were a fewe wellesCame renning fro the cliffes adoun,That made a deedly sleping soun,And ronnen doun right by a caveThat was under a rokke y-graveAmid the valey, wonder depe.Ther thise goddes laye and slepe,Morpheus, and Eclympasteyre,That was the god of slepes heyre,That slepe and did non other werk.This cave was also as derkAs helle pit over-al aboute;They had good leyser for to routeTo envye, who might slepe beste;Some henge hir chin upon hir bresteAnd slepe upright, hir heed y-hed,And some laye naked in hir bed,And slepe whyles the dayes laste.This messager com flying faste,And cryed, ‘O ho! awak anon!’Hit was for noght; ther herde him non.‘Awak!’ quod he, ‘who is, lyth there?’And blew his horn right in hir ere,And cryed ‘awaketh!’ wonder hyë.This god of slepe, with his oon yëCast up, axed, ‘who clepeth there?’‘Hit am I,’ quod this messagere;‘Iuno bad thou shuldest goon’—And tolde him what he shulde doonAs I have told yow here-tofore;Hit is no need reherse hit more;And wente his wey, whan he had sayd.Anon this god of slepe a-braydOut of his slepe, and gan to goon,And did as he had bede him doon;Took up the dreynte body sone,And bar hit forth to Alcyone,His wyf the quene, ther-as she lay,Right even a quarter before day,And stood right at hir beddes fete,And called hir, right as she hete,By name, and seyde, ‘my swete wyf,Awak! let be your sorwful lyf!For in your sorwe ther lyth no reed;For certes, swete, I nam but deed;Ye shul me never on lyve y-see.But good swete herte, [look] that yeBury my body, [at whiche] a tydeYe mowe hit finde the see besyde;And far-wel, swete, my worldes blisse!I praye god your sorwe lisse;To litel whyl our blisse lasteth!’With that hir eyen up she casteth,And saw noght; ‘[A]!’ quod she, ‘for sorwe!’And deyed within the thridde morwe.But what she sayde more in that swowI may not telle yow as now,Hit were to longe for to dwelle;My first matere I wil yow telle,Wherfor I have told this thingOf Alcione and Seys the king.For thus moche dar I saye wel,I had be dolven everydel,And deed, right through defaute of sleep,If I nad red and taken keepOf this tale next before:And I wol telle yow wherfore;For I ne might, for bote ne bale,Slepe, or I had red this taleOf this dreynte Seys the king,And of the goddes of sleping.Whan I had red this tale wel,And over-loked hit everydel,Me thoughte wonder if hit were so;For I had never herd speke, or tho,Of no goddes that coude makeMen [for] to slepe, ne for to wake;For I ne knew never god but oon.And in my game I sayde anoon—And yet me list right evel to pleye—‘Rather then that I shulde deyeThrough defaute of sleping thus,I wolde yive thilke Morpheus,Or his goddesse, dame Iuno,Or som wight elles, I ne roghte who—To make me slepe and have som reste—I wil yive him the alder-besteYift that ever he abood his lyve,And here on warde, right now, as blyve;If he wol make me slepe a lyte,Of downe of pure dowves whyteI wil yive him a fether-bed,Rayed with golde, and right wel cledIn fyn blak satin doutremere,And many a pilow, and every bereOf clothe of Reynes, to slepe softe;Him thar not nede to turnen ofte.And I wol yive him al that fallesTo a chambre; and al his hallesI wol do peynte with pure golde,And tapite hem ful many foldeOf oo sute; this shal he have,If I wiste wher were his cave,If he can make me slepe sone,As did the goddesse Alcione.And thus this ilke god, Morpheus,May winne of me mo feës thusThan ever he wan; and to Iuno,That is his goddesse, I shal so do,I trow that she shal holde her payd.’I hadde unneth that word y-saydRight thus as I have told hit yow,That sodeynly, I niste how,Swich a lust anoon me tookTo slepe, that right upon my bookI fil aslepe, and therwith evenMe mette so inly swete a sweven,So wonderful, that never yitI trowe no man hadde the witTo conne wel my sweven rede;No, not Ioseph, withoute drede,Of Egipte, he that redde soThe kinges meting Pharao,No more than coude the leste of us;Ne nat scarsly Macrobeus,(He that wroot al thavisiounThat he mette, king Scipioun,The noble man, the Affrican—Swiche mervayles fortuned than)I trowe, a-rede my dremes even.Lo, thus hit was, this was my sweven.
The Dream.

ME thoughte thus:—that hit was May,And in the dawning ther I lay,Me mette thus, in my bed al naked:—[I] loked forth, for I was wakedWith smale foules a gret hepe,That had affrayed me out of slepeThrough noyse and swetnesse of hir song;And, as me mette, they sate among,Upon my chambre-roof withoute,Upon the tyles, al a-boute,And songen, everich in his wyse,The moste solempne servyseBy note, that ever man, I trowe,Had herd; for som of hem song lowe,Som hye, and al of oon acorde.To telle shortly, at oo worde,Was never y-herd so swete a steven,But hit had be a thing of heven;—So mery a soun, so swete entunes,That certes, for the toune of Tewnes,I nolde but I had herd hem singe,For al my chambre gan to ringeThrough singing of hir armonye.For instrument nor melodyeWas nowher herd yet half so swete,Nor of acorde half so mete;For ther was noon of hem that feynedTo singe, for ech of hem him peynedTo finde out mery crafty notes;They ne spared not hir throtes.And, sooth to seyn, my chambre wasFul wel depeynted, and with glasWere al the windowes wel y-glased,Ful clere, and nat an hole y-crased,That to beholde hit was gret Ioye.For hoolly al the storie of TroyeWas in the glasing y-wroght thus,Of Ector and king Priamus,Of Achilles and Lamedon,Of Medea and of Iason,Of Paris, Eleyne, and Lavyne.And alle the walles with colours fyneWere peynted, bothe text and glose,[Of] al the Romaunce of the Rose.My windowes weren shet echon,And through the glas the sunne shonUpon my bed with brighte bemes,With many glade gilden stremes;And eek the welken was so fair,Blew, bright, clere was the air,And ful atempre, for sothe, hit was;For nother cold nor hoot hit nas,Ne in al the welken was a cloude.And as I lay thus, wonder loudeMe thoughte I herde an hunte bloweTassaye his horn, and for to knoweWhether hit were clere or hors of soune.I herde goinge, up and doune,Men, hors, houndes, and other thing;And al men speken of hunting,How they wolde slee the hert with strengthe,And how the hert had, upon lengthe,So moche embosed, I not now what.Anon-right, whan I herde that,How that they wolde on hunting goon,I was right glad, and up anoon;[I] took my hors, and forth I wenteOut of my chambre; I never stenteTil I com to the feld withoute:Ther overtook I a gret routeOf huntes and eek of foresteres,With many relayes and lymeres,And hyed hem to the forest faste,And I with hem;—so at the lasteI asked oon, ladde a lymere:—‘Say, felow, who shal hunten hereQuod I; and he answerde ageyn,‘Sir, themperour Octovien,’Quod he, ‘and is heer faste by.’‘A goddes halfe, in good tyme,’ quod I,‘Go we faste!’ and gan to ryde.Whan we came to the forest-syde,Every man dide, right anoon,As to hunting fil to doon.The mayster-hunte anoon, fot-hoot,With a gret horne blew three mootAt the uncoupling of his houndes.Within a whyl the hert [y]-founde is,Y-halowed, and rechased fasteLonge tyme; and at the laste,This hert rused and stal awayFro alle the houndes a prevy way.The houndes had overshote hem alle,And were on a defaute y-falle;Therwith the hunte wonder fasteBlew a forloyn at the laste.I was go walked fro my tree,And as I wente, ther cam by meA whelp, that fauned me as I stood,That hadde y-folowed, and coude no good.Hit com and creep to me as lowe,Right as hit hadde me y-knowe,Hild doun his heed and Ioyned his eres,And leyde al smothe doun his heres.I wolde han caught hit, and anoonHit fledde, and was fro me goon;And I him folwed, and hit forth wenteDoun by a floury grene wenteFul thikke of gras, ful softe and swete,With floures fele, faire under fete,And litel used, hit seemed thus;For bothe Flora and Zephirus,They two that make floures growe,Had mad hir dwelling ther, I trowe;For hit was, on to beholde,As thogh the erthe envye woldeTo be gayer than the heven,To have mo floures, swiche sevenAs in the welken sterres be.Hit had forgete the poverteeThat winter, through his colde morwes,Had mad hit suffren, and his sorwes;Al was forgeten, and that was sene.For al the wode was waxen grene,Swetnesse of dewe had mad it waxe.Hit is no need eek for to axeWher ther were many grene greves,Or thikke of trees, so ful of leves;And every tree stood by him-selveFro other wel ten foot or twelve.So grete trees, so huge of strengthe,Of fourty or fifty fadme lengthe,Clene withoute bough or stikke,With croppes brode, and eek as thikke—They were nat an inche a-sonder—That hit was shadwe over-al under;And many an hert and many an hindeWas both before me and bihinde.Of founes, soures, bukkes, doësWas ful the wode, and many roës,And many squirelles, that seteFul hye upon the trees, and ete,And in hir maner made festes.Shortly, hit was so ful of bestes,That thogh Argus, the noble countour,Sete to rekene in his countour,And rekened with his figures ten—For by tho figures mowe al ken,If they be crafty, rekene and noumbre,And telle of every thing the noumbre—Yet shulde he fayle to rekene evenThe wondres, me mette in my sweven.But forth they romed wonder fasteDoun the wode; so at the lasteI was war of a man in blak,That sat and had y-turned his bakTo an oke, an huge tree.‘Lord,’ thoghte I, ‘who may that be?What ayleth him to sitten here?’Anoon-right I wente nere;Than fond I sitte even uprightA wonder wel-faringe knight—By the maner me thoughte so—Of good mochel, and yong therto,Of the age of four and twenty yeer.Upon his berde but litel heer,And he was clothed al in blakke.I stalked even unto his bakke,And ther I stood as stille as ought,That, sooth to saye, he saw me nought,For-why he heng his heed adoune.And with a deedly sorwful souneHe made of ryme ten vers or twelve,Of a compleynt to him-selve,The moste pite, the moste rowthe,That ever I herde; for, by my trowthe,Hit was gret wonder that natureMight suffren any creatureTo have swich sorwe, and be not deed.Ful pitous, pale, and nothing reed,He sayde a lay, a maner song,Withoute note, withoute song,And hit was this; for wel I canReherse hit; right thus hit began.—§ ‘I have of sorwe so gret woon,That Ioye gete I never noon,Now that I see my lady bright,Which I have loved with al my might,Is fro me deed, and is a-goon.§ Allas, [o] deeth! what ayleth thee,That thou noldest have taken me,Whan that thou toke my lady swete?That was so fayr, so fresh, so free,So good, that men may wel [y]-seeOf al goodnesse she had no mete!’—Whan he had mad thus his complaynte,His sorowful herte gan faste faynte,And his spirites wexen dede;The blood was fled, for pure drede,Doun to his herte, to make him warm—For wel hit feled the herte had harm—To wite eek why hit was a-dradBy kinde, and for to make hit glad;For hit is membre principalOf the body; and that made alHis hewe chaunge and wexe greneAnd pale, for no blood [was] seneIn no maner lime of his.Anoon therwith whan I saw this,He ferde thus evel ther he sete,I wente and stood right at his fete,And grette him, but he spak noght,But argued with his owne thoght,And in his witte disputed fasteWhy and how his lyf might laste;Him thoughte his sorwes were so smerteAnd lay so colde upon his herte;So, through his sorwe and hevy thoght,Made him that he ne herde me noght;For he had wel nigh lost his minde,Thogh Pan, that men clepe god of kinde,Were for his sorwes never so wrooth.But at the laste, to sayn right sooth,He was war of me, how I stoodBefore him, and dide of myn hood,And [grette] him, as I best coude.Debonairly, and no-thing loude,He sayde, ‘I prey thee, be not wrooth,I herde thee not, to sayn the sooth,Ne I saw thee not, sir, trewely.’‘A! goode sir, no fors,’ quod I,‘I am right sory if I have oughtDestroubled yow out of your thought;For-yive me if I have mis-take.’‘Yis, thamendes is light to make,’Quod he, ‘for ther lyth noon ther-to;Ther is no-thing missayd nor do.’Lo! how goodly spak this knight,As it had been another wight;He made it nouther tough ne queynte.And I saw that, and gan me aqueynteWith him, and fond him so tretable,Right wonder skilful and resonable,As me thoghte, for al his bale.Anoon-right I gan finde a taleTo him, to loke wher I might oughtHave more knowing of his thought.‘Sir,’ quod I, ‘this game is doon;I holde that this hert be goon;Thise huntes conne him nowher see.’‘I do no fors therof,’ quod he,‘My thought is ther-on never a del.’‘By our lord,’ quod I, ‘I trow yow wel,Right so me thinketh by your chere.But, sir, oo thing wol ye here?Me thinketh, in gret sorwe I yow see;But certes, [good] sir, yif that yeWolde ought discure me your wo,I wolde, as wis god helpe me so,Amende hit, yif I can or may;Ye mowe preve hit by assay.For, by my trouthe, to make yow hool,I wol do al my power hool;And telleth me of your sorwes smerte,Paraventure hit may ese your herte,That semeth ful seke under your syde.’With that he loked on me asyde,As who sayth, ‘nay, that wol not be.’‘Graunt mercy, goode frend,’ quod he,‘I thanke thee that thou woldest so,But hit may never the rather be do.No man may my sorwe glade,That maketh my hewe to falle and fade,And hath myn understonding lorn,That me is wo that I was born!May noght make my sorwes slyde,Nought the remedies of Ovyde;Ne Orpheus, god of melodye,Ne Dedalus, with playes slye;Ne hele me may phisicien,Noght Ypocras, ne Galien;Me is wo that I live houres twelve;But who so wol assaye him-selveWhether his herte can have piteOf any sorwe, lat him see me.I wrecche, that deeth hath mad al nakedOf alle blisse that was ever maked,Y-worthe worste of alle wightes,That hate my dayes and my nightes;My lyf, my lustes be me lothe,For al welfare and I be wrothe.The pure deeth is so my fo,[Thogh] I wolde deye, hit wolde not so;For whan I folwe hit, hit wol flee;I wolde have [hit], hit nil not me.This is my peyne withoute reed,Alway deying, and be not deed,That Sesiphus, that lyth in helle,May not of more sorwe telle.And who so wiste al, by my trouthe,My sorwe, but he hadde routheAnd pite of my sorwes smerte,That man hath a feendly herte.For who so seeth me first on morweMay seyn, he hath [y]-met with sorwe;For I am sorwe and sorwe is I.‘Allas! and I wol telle the why;My [song] is turned to pleyning,And al my laughter to weping,My glade thoghtes to hevinesse,In travaile is myn ydelnesseAnd eek my reste; my wele is wo.My good is harm, and ever-moIn wrathe is turned my pleying,And my delyt in-to sorwing.Myn hele is turned into seeknesse,In drede is al my sikernesse.To derke is turned al my light,My wit is foly, my day is night,My love is hate, my sleep waking,My mirthe and meles is fasting,My countenaunce is nycete,And al abaved wher-so I be,My pees, in pleding and in werre;Allas! how mighte I fare werre?‘My boldnesse is turned to shame,For fals Fortune hath pleyd a gameAtte ches with me, allas! the whyle!The trayteresse fals and ful of gyle,That al behoteth and no-thing halt,She goth upryght and yet she halt,That baggeth foule and loketh faire,The dispitousë debonaire,That scorneth many a creature!An ydole of fals portraitureIs she, for she wil sone wryen;She is the monstres heed y-wryen,As filth over y-strawed with floures;Hir moste worship and hir [flour is]To lyen, for that is hir nature;Withoute feyth, lawe, or mesureShe is fals; and ever laughingeWith oon eye, and that other wepinge.That is broght up, she set al doun.I lykne hir to the scorpioun,That is a fals flatering beste;For with his hede he maketh feste,But al amid his flateringeWith his tayle he wol stinge,And envenyme; and so wol she.She is thenvyous chariteThat is ay fals, and semeth wele,So turneth she hir false wheleAboute, for it is no-thing stable,Now by the fyre, now at table;Ful many oon hath she thus y-blent.She is pley of enchauntement,That semeth oon and is nat so,The false theef! what hath she do,Trowest thou? by our lord, I wol thee seye.Atte ches with me she gan to pleye;With hir false draughtes diversShe stal on me, and took my fers.And whan I saw my fers aweye,Alas! I couthe no lenger pleye,But seyde, “farwel, swete, y-wis,And farwel al that ever ther is!”Therwith Fortune seyde “chek here!”And “mate!” in mid pointe of the chekkereWith a poune erraunt, allas!Ful craftier to pley she wasThan Athalus, that made the gameFirst of the ches: so was his name.But god wolde I had ones or twyesY-koud and knowe the IeupardyesThat coude the Grek Pithagores!I shulde have pleyd the bet at ches,And kept my fers the bet therby;And thogh wherto? for trewelyI hold that wish nat worth a stree!Hit had be never the bet for me.For Fortune can so many a wyle,Ther be but fewe can hir begyle,And eek she is the las to blame;My-self I wolde have do the same,Before god, hadde I been as she;She oghte the more excused be.For this I say yet more therto,Hadde I be god and mighte have doMy wille, whan my fers she caughte,I wolde have drawe the same draughte.For, also wis god yive me reste,I dar wel swere she took the beste!‘But through that draughte I have lornMy blisse; allas! that I was born!For evermore, I trowe trewly,For al my wil, my lust hoollyIs turned; but yet, what to done?By our lord, hit is to deye sone;For no-thing I [ne] leve it noght,But live and deye right in this thoght.Ther nis planete in firmament,Ne in air, ne in erthe, noon element,That they ne yive me a yift echoonOf weping, whan I am aloon.For whan that I avyse me wel,And bethenke me every-del,How that ther lyth in rekening,In my sorwe, for no-thing;And how ther leveth no gladnesseMay gladde me of my distresse,And how I have lost suffisance,And therto I have no plesance,Than may I say, I have right noght.And whan al this falleth in my thoght,Allas! than am I overcome!For that is doon is not to come!I have more sorowe than Tantale.’And whan I herde him telle this taleThus pitously, as I yow telle,Unnethe mighte I lenger dwelle,Hit dide myn herte so moche wo.‘A! good sir!’ quod I, ‘say not so!Have som pite on your natureThat formed yow to creature,Remembre yow of Socrates;For he ne counted nat three streesOf noght that Fortune coude do.’‘No,’ quod he, ‘I can not so.’‘Why so? good sir! parde!’ quod I;‘Ne say noght so, for trewely,Thogh ye had lost the ferses twelve,And ye for sorwe mordred your-selve,Ye sholde be dampned in this casBy as good right as Medea was,That slow hir children for Iason;And Phyllis als for DemophonHeng hir-self, so weylaway!For he had broke his terme-dayTo come to hir. Another rageHad Dydo, quene eek of Cartage,That slow hir-self, for EneasWas fals; [a!] whiche a fool she was!And Ecquo dyed for NarcisusNolde nat love hir; and right thusHath many another foly don.And for Dalida dyed Sampson,That slow him-self with a pilere.But ther is [noon] a-lyve hereWolde for a fers make this wo!’‘Why so?’ quod he; ‘hit is nat so;Thou wost ful litel what thou menest;I have lost more than thou wenest.’‘Lo, [sir,] how may that be?’ quod I;‘Good sir, tel me al hoollyIn what wyse, how, why, and wherforeThat ye have thus your blisse lore.’‘Blythly,’ quod he, ‘com sit adoun;I telle thee up condiciounThat thou hoolly, with al thy wit,Do thyn entent to herkene hit.’‘Yis, sir.’ ‘Swere thy trouthe ther-to.’‘Gladly.’ ‘Do than holde her-to!’‘I shal right blythly, so god me save,Hoolly, with al the witte I have,Here yow, as wel as I can.’‘A goddes half!’ quod he, and began:—‘Sir,’ quod he, ‘sith first I coutheHave any maner wit fro youthe,Or kyndely understondingTo comprehende, in any thing,What love was, in myn owne wit,Dredeles, I have ever yitBe tributary, and yiven renteTo love hoolly with goode entente,And through plesaunce become his thral,With good wil, body, herte, and al.Al this I putte in his servage,As to my lorde, and dide homage;And ful devoutly prayde him to,He shulde besette myn herte so,That it plesaunce to him were,And worship to my lady dere.‘And this was longe, and many a yeerOr that myn herte was set o-wher,That I did thus, and niste why;I trowe hit cam me kindely.Paraunter I was therto most ableAs a whyt wal or a table;For hit is redy to cacche and takeAl that men wil therin make,Wher-so men wol portreye or peynte,Be the werkes never so queynte.‘And thilke tyme I ferde soI was able to have lerned tho,And to have coud as wel or better,Paraunter, other art or letter.But for love cam first in my thought,Therfore I forgat it nought.I chees love to my firste craft,Therfor hit is with me [y]-laft.Forwhy I took hit of so yong age,That malice hadde my corageNat that tyme turned to no-thingThrough to mochel knowleching.For that tyme youthe, my maistresse,Governed me in ydelnesse;For hit was in my firste youthe,And tho ful litel good I couthe;For al my werkes were flittinge,And al my thoghtes varyinge;Al were to me y-liche good,That I knew tho; but thus hit stood.‘Hit happed that I cam on a dayInto a place, ther I say,Trewly, the fayrest companyëOf ladies, that ever man with yëHad seen togedres in oo place.Shal I clepe hit hap other graceThat broghte me ther? nay, but Fortune,That is to lyen ful comune,The false trayteresse, pervers,God wolde I coude clepe hir wers!For now she worcheth me ful wo,And I wol telle sone why so.‘Among thise ladies thus echoon,Soth to seyn, I saw [ther] oonThat was lyk noon of [al] the route;For I dar swere, withoute doute,That as the someres sonne brightIs fairer, clerer, and hath more lightThan any planete, [is] in heven,The mone, or the sterres seven,For al the worlde, so had sheSurmounted hem alle of beaute,Of maner and of comlinesse,Of stature and wel set gladnesse,Of goodlihede so wel beseye—Shortly, what shal I more seye?By god, and by his halwes twelve,It was my swete, right as hir-selve!She had so stedfast countenaunce,So noble port and meyntenaunce.And Love, that had herd my bone,Had espyed me thus sone,That she ful sone, in my thoght,As helpe me god, so was y-caughtSo sodenly, that I ne tookNo maner [reed] but at hir lookAnd at myn herte; for-why hir eyenSo gladly, I trow, myn herte seyen,That purely tho myn owne thoghtSeyde hit were [bet] serve hir for noghtThan with another to be wel.And hit was sooth, for, everydel,I wil anoon-right telle thee why.‘I saw hir daunce so comlily,Carole and singe so swetely,Laughe and pleye so womanly,And loke so debonairly,So goodly speke and so frendly,That certes, I trow, that evermoreNas seyn so blisful a tresore.For every heer [up]on hir hede,Soth to seyn, hit was not rede,Ne nouther yelw, ne broun hit nas;Me thoghte, most lyk gold hit was.And whiche eyen my lady hadde!Debonair, goode, glade, and sadde,Simple, of good mochel, noght to wyde;Therto hir look nas not a-syde,Ne overthwert, but beset so wel,Hit drew and took up, everydel,Alle that on hir gan beholde.Hir eyen semed anoon she woldeHave mercy; fooles wenden so;But hit was never the rather do.Hit nas no countrefeted thing,It was hir owne pure loking,That the goddesse, dame Nature,Had made hem opene by mesure,And close; for, were she never so glad,Hir loking was not foly sprad,Ne wildely, thogh that she pleyde;But ever, me thoghte, hir eyen seyde,“By god, my wrathe is al for-yive!”‘Therwith hir liste so wel to live,That dulnesse was of hir a-drad.She nas to sobre ne to glad;In alle thinges more mesureHad never, I trowe, creature.But many oon with hir loke she herte,And that sat hir ful lyte at herte,For she knew no-thing of hir thoght;But whether she knew, or knew hit noght,Algate she ne roghte of hem a stree!To gete hir love no ner nas heThat woned at home, than he in Inde;The formest was alway behinde.But goode folk, over al other,She loved as man may do his brother;Of whiche love she was wonder large,In skilful places that bere charge.‘Which a visage had she ther-to!Allas! myn herte is wonder woThat I ne can discryven hit!Me lakketh bothe English and witFor to undo hit at the fulle;And eek my spirits be so dulleSo greet a thing for to devyse.I have no wit that can suffyseTo comprehenden hir beaute;But thus moche dar I seyn, that sheWas rody, fresh, and lyvely hewed;And every day hir beaute newed.And negh hir face was alder-best;For certes, Nature had swich lestTo make that fair, that trewly sheWas hir cheef patron of beautee,And cheef ensample of al hir werke,And moustre; for, be hit never so derke,Me thinketh I see hir ever-mo.And yet more-over, thogh alle thoThat ever lived were now a-lyve,[They] ne sholde have founde to discryveIn al hir face a wikked signe;For hit was sad, simple, and benigne.‘And which a goodly softe specheHad that swete, my lyves leche!So frendly, and so wel y-grounded,Up al resoun so wel y-founded,And so tretable to alle gode,That I dar swere by the rode,Of eloquence was never foundeSo swete a sowninge facounde,Ne trewer tonged, ne scorned lasse,Ne bet coude hele; that, by the masseI durste swere, thogh the pope hit songe,That ther was never through hir tongeMan ne woman gretly harmed;As for hir, [ther] was al harm hid;Ne lasse flatering in hir worde,That purely, hir simple recordeWas founde as trewe as any bonde,Or trouthe of any mannes honde.Ne chyde she coude never a del,That knoweth al the world ful wel.‘But swich a fairnesse of a nekkeHad that swete, that boon nor brekkeNas ther non sene, that mis-sat.Hit was whyt, smothe, streght, and flat,Withouten hole; [and] canel-boon,As by seming, had she noon.Hir throte, as I have now memoire,Semed a round tour of yvoire,Of good gretnesse, and noght to grete.‘And gode faire Whyte she hete,That was my lady name right.She was bothe fair and bright,She hadde not hir name wrong.Right faire shuldres, and body longShe hadde, and armes, every lithFattish, flesshy, not greet therwith;Right whyte handes, and nayles rede,Rounde brestes; and of good bredeHir hippes were, a streight flat bak.I knew on hir non other lakThat al hir limmes nere sewing,In as fer as I had knowing.‘Therto she coude so wel pleye,Whan that hir liste, that I dar seye,That she was lyk to torche bright,That every man may take of lightYnogh, and hit hath never the lesse.‘Of maner and of comlinesseRight so ferde my lady dere;For every wight of hir manereMight cacche ynogh, if that he wolde,If he had eyen hir to beholde.For I dar sweren, if that sheHad among ten thousand be,She wolde have be, at the leste,A cheef mirour of al the feste,Thogh they had stonden in a rowe,To mennes eyen that coude have knowe.For wher-so men had pleyd or waked,Me thoghte the felawship as nakedWithouten hir, that saw I ones,As a coroune withoute stones.Trewely she was, to myn yë,The soleyn fenix of Arabye,For ther liveth never but oon;Ne swich as she ne knew I noon.‘To speke of goodnesse; trewly sheHad as moche debonairteAs ever had Hester in the bible,And more, if more were possible.And, soth to seyne, therwith-alShe had a wit so general,So hool enclyned to alle gode,That al hir wit was set, by the rode,Withoute malice, upon gladnesse;Therto I saw never yet a lesseHarmful, than she was in doing.I sey nat that she ne had knowingWhat was harm; or elles sheHad coud no good, so thinketh me.‘And trewly, for to speke of trouthe,But she had had, hit had be routhe.Therof she had so moche hir del—And I dar seyn and swere hit wel—That Trouthe him-self, over al and al,Had chose his maner principalIn hir, that was his resting-place.Ther-to she hadde the moste grace,To have stedfast perseveraunce,And esy, atempre governaunce,That ever I knew or wiste yit;So pure suffraunt was hir wit.And reson gladly she understood,Hit folowed wel she coude good.She used gladly to do wel;These were hir maners every-del.‘Therwith she loved so wel right,She wrong do wolde to no wight;No wight might do hir no shame,She loved so wel hir owne name.Hir luste to holde no wight in honde;Ne, be thou siker, she nolde fondeTo holde no wight in balaunce,By half word ne by countenaunce,But-if men wolde upon hir lye;Ne sende men in-to Walakye,To Pruyse and in-to Tartarye,To Alisaundre, ne in-to Turkye,And bidde him faste, anoon that heGo hoodles to the drye see,And come hoom by the Carrenare;And seye, “Sir, be now right wareThat I may of yow here seynWorship, or that ye come ageyn!”She ne used no suche knakkes smale.‘But wherfor that I telle my tale?Right on this same, as I have seyd,Was hoolly al my love leyd;For certes, she was, that swete wyf,My suffisaunce, my lust, my lyf,Myn hap, myn hele, and al my blisse,My worldes welfare and my [lisse],And I hirs hoolly, everydel.’‘By our lord,’ quod I, ‘I trowe yow wel!Hardely, your love was wel beset,I not how ye mighte have do bet.’‘Bet? ne no wight so wel!’ quod he.‘I trowe hit, sir,’ quod I, ‘parde!’‘Nay, leve hit wel!’ ‘Sir, so do I;I leve yow wel, that trewelyYow thoghte, that she was the beste,And to beholde the alderfaireste,Who so had loked with your eyen.’‘With myn? nay, alle that hir seyenSeyde, and sworen hit was so.And thogh they ne hadde, I wolde thoHave loved best my lady fre,Thogh I had had al the beauteeThat ever had Alcipyades,And al the strengthe of Ercules,And therto had the worthinesseOf Alisaundre, and al the richesseThat ever was in Babiloyne,In Cartage, or in Macedoyne,Or in Rome, or in Ninive;And therto al-so hardy beAs was Ector, so have I Ioye,That Achilles slow at Troye—And therfor was he slayn alsoIn a temple, for bothe twoWere slayn, he and Antilegius,And so seyth Dares Frigius,For love of [hir] Polixena—Or ben as wys as Minerva,I wolde ever, withoute drede,Have loved hir, for I moste nede!“Nede!” nay, I gabbe now,Noght “nede,” and I wol telle how,For of good wille myn herte hit wolde,And eek to love hir I was holdeAs for the fairest and the beste.‘She was as good, so have I reste,As ever was Penelope of Grece,Or as the noble wyf Lucrece,That was the beste—he telleth thus,The Romain Tytus Livius—She was as good, and no-thing lyke,Thogh hir stories be autentyke;Algate she was as trewe as she.‘But wherfor that I telle theeWhan I first my lady sey?I was right yong, [the] sooth to sey,And ful gret need I hadde to lerne;Whan my herte wolde yerneTo love, it was a greet empryse.But as my wit coude best suffyse,After my yonge childly wit,Withoute drede, I besette hitTo love hir in my beste wyse,To do hir worship and servyseThat I tho coude, by my trouthe,Withoute feyning outher slouthe;For wonder fayn I wolde hir see.So mochel hit amended me,That, whan I saw hir first a-morwe,I was warished of al my sorweOf al day after, til hit were eve;Me thoghte no-thing mighte me greve,Were my sorwes never so smerte.And yit she sit so in myn herte,That, by my trouthe, I nolde noght,For al this worlde, out of my thoghtLeve my lady; no, trewly!’‘Now, by my trouthe, sir,’ quod I,‘Me thinketh ye have such a chaunceAs shrift withoute repentaunce.’‘Repentaunce! nay fy,’ quod he;‘Shulde I now repente meTo love? nay, certes, than were I welWers than was Achitofel,Or Anthenor, so have I Ioye,The traytour that betraysed Troye,Or the false Genelon,He that purchased the tresonOf Rowland and of Olivere.Nay, whyl I am a-lyve hereI nil foryete hir never-mo.’‘Now, goode sir,’ quod I [right] tho,‘Ye han wel told me her-before.It is no need reherse hit moreHow ye sawe hir first, and where;But wolde ye telle me the manere,To hir which was your firste speche—Therof I wolde yow be-seche—And how she knewe first your thoght,Whether ye loved hir or noght,And telleth me eek what ye have lore;I herde yow telle her-before.’‘Ye,’ seyde he, ‘thou nost what thou menest;I have lost more than thou wenest.’‘What los is that, [sir]?’ quod I tho;‘Nil she not love yow? is hit so?Or have ye oght [y-]doon amis,That she hath left yow? is hit this?For goddes love, tel me al.’‘Before god,’ quod he, ‘and I shal.I saye right as I have seyd,On hir was al my love leyd;And yet she niste hit never a delNoght longe tyme, leve hit wel.For be right siker, I durste noghtFor al this worlde telle hir my thoght,Ne I wolde have wratthed hir, trewly.For wostow why? she was ladyOf the body; she had the herte,And who hath that, may not asterte.‘But, for to kepe me fro ydelnesse,Trewly I did my besinesseTo make songes, as I best coude,And ofte tyme I song hem loude;And made songes a gret del,Al-thogh I coude not make so welSonges, ne knowe the art al,As coude Lamekes sone Tubal,That fond out first the art of songe;For, as his brothers hamers rongeUpon his anvelt up and doun,Therof he took the firste soun;But Grekes seyn, Pictagoras,That he the firste finder wasOf the art; Aurora telleth so,But therof no fors, of hem two.Algates songes thus I madeOf my feling, myn herte to glade;And lo! this was [the] alther-firste,I not wher [that] hit were the werste.—§ “Lord, hit maketh myn herte light,Whan I thenke on that swete wightThat is so semely on to see;And wisshe to god hit might so be,That she wolde holde me for hir knight,My lady, that is so fair and bright!”—‘Now have I told thee, sooth to saye,My firste song. Upon a dayeI bethoghte me what woAnd sorwe that I suffred thoFor hir, and yet she wiste hit noght,Ne telle hir durste I nat my thoght.“Allas!” thoghte I, “I can no reed;And, but I telle hir, I nam but deed;And if I telle hir, to seye sooth,I am a-dred she wol be wrooth;Allas! what shal I thanne do?”‘In this debat I was so wo,Me thoghte myn herte braste a-tweyn!So atte laste, soth to seyn,I me bethoghte that natureNe formed never in creatureSo moche beaute, trewely,And bounte, withouten mercy.‘In hope of that, my tale I toldeWith sorwe, as that I never sholde,For nedes; and, maugree my heed,I moste have told hir or be deed.I not wel how that I began,Ful evel rehersen hit I can;And eek, as helpe me god with-al,I trowe hit was in the dismal,That was the ten woundes of Egipte;For many a word I over-skipteIn my tale, for pure fereLest my wordes mis-set were.With sorweful herte, and woundes dede,Softe and quaking for pure dredeAnd shame, and stinting in my taleFor ferde, and myn hewe al pale,Ful ofte I wex bothe pale and reed;Bowing to hir, I heng the heed;I durste nat ones loke hir on,For wit, manere, and al was gon.I seyde “mercy!” and no more;Hit nas no game, hit sat me sore.‘So atte laste, sooth to seyn,Whan that myn herte was come ageyn,To telle shortly al my speche,With hool herte I gan hir besecheThat she wolde be my lady swete;And swor, and gan hir hertely heteEver to be stedfast and trewe,And love hir alwey freshly newe,And never other lady have,And al hir worship for to saveAs I best coude; I swor hir this—“For youres is al that ever ther isFor evermore, myn herte swete!And never false yow, but I mete,I nil, as wis god helpe me so!”‘And whan I had my tale y-do,God wot, she acounted nat a streeOf al my tale, so thoghte me.To telle shortly as hit is,Trewly hir answere, hit was this;I can not now wel counterfeteHir wordes, but this was the greteOf hir answere; she sayde, “nay”Al-outerly. Allas! that dayThe sorwe I suffred, and the wo!That trewly Cassandra, that soBewayled the destrucciounOf Troye and of Ilioun,Had never swich sorwe as I tho.I durste no more say thertoFor pure fere, but stal away;And thus I lived ful many a day:That trewely, I hadde no needFerther than my beddes heedNever a day to seche sorwe;I fond hit redy every morwe,For-why I loved hir in no gere.‘So hit befel, another yere,I thoughte ones I wolde fondeTo do hir knowe and understondeMy wo; and she wel understoodThat I ne wilned thing but good,And worship, and to kepe hir nameOver al thing, and drede hir shame,And was so besy hir to serve;—And pite were I shulde sterve,Sith that I wilned noon harm, y-wis.So whan my lady knew al this,My lady yaf me al hoollyThe noble yift of hir mercy,Saving hir worship, by al weyes;Dredles, I mene noon other weyes.And therwith she yaf me a ring;I trowe hit was the firste thing;But if myn herte was y-waxeGlad, that is no need to axe!As helpe me god, I was as blyve,Reysed, as fro dethe to lyve,Of alle happes the alder-beste,The gladdest and the moste at reste.For trewely, that swete wight,Whan I had wrong and she the right,She wolde alwey so goodelyFor-yeve me so debonairly.In alle my youthe, in alle chaunce,She took me in hir governaunce.‘Therwith she was alway so trewe,Our Ioye was ever y-liche newe;Our hertes wern so even a payre,That never nas that oon contrayreTo that other, for no wo.For sothe, y-liche they suffred thoOo blisse and eek oo sorwe bothe;Y-liche they were bothe gladde and wrothe;Al was us oon, withoute were.And thus we lived ful many a yereSo wel, I can nat telle how.’‘Sir,’ quod I, ‘wher is she now?’‘Now!’ quod he, and stinte anoon.Therwith he wex as deed as stoon,And seyde, ‘allas! that I was bore!That was the los, that her-beforeI tolde thee, that I had lorn.Bethenk how I seyde her-beforn,“Thou wost ful litel what thou menest;I have lost more than thou wenest”—God wot, allas! right that was she!’‘Allas! sir, how? what may that be?’‘She is deed!’ ‘Nay!’ ‘Yis, by my trouthe!’‘Is that your los? by god, hit is routhe!’And with that worde, right anoon,They gan to strake forth; al was doon,For that tyme, the hert-hunting.With that, me thoghte, that this kingGan [quikly] hoomward for to rydeUnto a place ther besyde,Which was from us but a lyte,A long castel with walles whyte,By seynt Iohan! on a riche hil,As me mette; but thus it fil.Right thus me mette, as I yow telle,That in the castel was a belle,As hit had smiten houres twelve.—Therwith I awook my-selve,And fond me lying in my bed;And the book that I had red,Of Alcyone and Seys the king,And of the goddes of sleping,I fond it in myn honde ful even.Thoghte I, ‘this is so queynt a sweven,That I wol, by processe of tyme,Fonde to putte this sweven in rymeAs I can best’; and that anoon.—This was my sweven; now hit is doon.

Explicit the Boke of the Duchesse.