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Geoffrey Chaucer

(c. 1343 – 25 October 1400 / London, England)

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A Balade of Complaint


Compleyne ne koude, ne might myn herte never,
My peynes halve, ne what torment I have,
Though that I sholde in your presence ben ever,
Myn hertes lady, as wisly he me save
That Bountee made, and Beautee list to grave
In your persone, and bad hem bothe in-fere
Ever t'awayte, and ay be wher ye were.

As wisly he gye alle my joyes here
As I am youres, and to yow sad and trewe,
And ye, my lyf and cause of my gode chere,
And deeth also, whan ye my peynes newe,
My worldes joye, whom I wol serve and sewe,
Myn heven hool, and al my suffisaunce,
Whom for to serve is set al my plesaunce.

Beseching yow in my most humble wyse
T'accepte in worth this litel pore dyte,
And for my trouthe my servyce not despyse,
Myn observaunce eke have not in despyte,
Ne yit to longe to suffren in this plyte;
I yow beseche, myn hertes lady, here,
Sith I yow serve, and so wil yeer by yere.

Submitted: Sunday, May 13, 2001

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  • Michael Harmon (10/31/2009 1:13:00 AM)

    Roughly speaking (and open to any corrections) ...

    A Ballad of Complaint

    Complain not could, not might my heart never,
    My pains half, not what torment I have,
    Though that I should in your presence be ever,
    My heart lady, as certainly he me save
    That bounty made, and beauty desire to grave
    In your person, and bid enclose both together
    Ever to await, and always be where you were.

    As certainly he give all my joys here
    As I am yours, and to you sad and true,
    And you, my life and cause of my good cheer,
    And death also, when you my pains new,
    My worlds joy, whom I would serve and sew,
    My heaven whole, and all my sufficiency (or abundance, contentment) ,
    Whom for to serve is set all my pleasure.

    Beseeching you in my most humbler ways
    To accept in worth this little pore ditty
    And for my troth (betrothal, faith, fidelity) my service not despise,
    My observance also have not in contempt(?) ,
    Not yet to long to suffer in this plight;
    I you beseech, my heart lady, here,
    Since I you serve, and so will year by year. (Report) Reply

  • Ramesh T A (10/30/2009 2:12:00 AM)

    Free flowing verse of Chaucer is enthusiastic to read but very difficult to decipher old English! (Report) Reply

  • Michael Harmon (10/30/2009 12:58:00 AM)

    This poem is in Middle English, which Chaucer virtually invented by blending native (ie. English) Anglo-Saxon with the Latinate influences of the Norman (ie. French) conquerors (ie. William the Conqueror, Battle of Hastings,1066, etc) . Based on this accomplishment, Chaucer is considered the greatest English poet of all time. Shakespeare, being the greatest poet in Modern English, stands on Chaucer's shoulders. In other words, no Chaucer, no Shakespeare.

    Most of the words in this poem are cognates and can be figured out that way. Some, though, do require further research. It's been too long since my Medieval English course for me to do that easily. A little further online research would probably resolve those. (Report) Reply

  • Emancipation Planz (10/30/2008 2:43:00 AM)

    twood be a valadarse complaint if he sit and served myn herpes lady..
    my pe nis halved... yeah that twood be torment I rekcun
    tis all txt speek.. ChawSir wood hav dun well 2day... (Report) Reply

  • quercus : I've never got paid for my hits... (10/30/2006 4:04:00 PM)

    I am confused... I am not familiar with archaic form of English. I can understand many words, but would need help with few that I struggle with. I can only sense that this is a very romantic poem with a dose of sadness.
    I am sure the lady he felt for so much accepted his love and appreciated all what he did for her...Perhaps he didn’t have to worry so much :)

    v (Report) Reply

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