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Robert Henryson

(1425 - 1505 / Scotland)

The Testament of Cressida (excerpt)


...
Thus chydand with her drerie destenye,
Weiping, scho woik the nicht fra end to end;
Bot all in vane; hir dule, hir cairfull cry,
Micht not remeid, nor yit hir murning mend.
Ane lipper lady rais, and till hir wend,
And said, "Quhy spurnis thow aganis the wall,
To sla thyself, and mend nathing at all?

"Sen thy weiping dowbillis bot thy wo,
I counsall the mak vertew of ane neid;
To leir to clap thy clapper to and fro,
And leir efter the law of lipper leid."
Thair was na buit, bot furth with thame scho yeid,
Fra place to place, quhill cauld and hounger sair
Compellit hir to be ane rank beggair.

That samin tyme of Troy the garnisoun,
Quhilk had to chiftane worthie Troylus,
Throw jeopardie of weir had strikken down
Knichtis of Grece in number marvellous:
With greit tryumphe and laude victorious
Agane to Troy richt royallie they raid,
The way quhair Cresseid with the lipper baid.

Seing that companie, thai come all with ane stevin;
Thay gaif ane cry, and schuik coppis gude speid;
Said, "Worthie lordis, for Goddis lufe of hevin,
To us lipper part of your almous deid."
Than to thair cry nobill Troylus tuik heid,
Having pietie, neir by the place can pas
Quhair Cresseid sat, not witting quhat scho was.

Than upon him scho kest up baith her ene,
And with ane blenk it come into his thocht
That he sumtime hir face befoir had sene;
But scho was in sic plye he knew hir nocht;
Yit than hir luik into his mynd it brocht
The sweit visage and amorous blenking
Of fair Cresseid, sumtyme his awin darling.

Na wonder was, suppois in mynd that he
Tuik hir figure sa sone, and lo! now quhy!
The idole of ane thing in cace may be
Sa deip imprentit in the fantasy,
That it deludis the wittis outwardly,
And sa appeiris in forme and lyke estait
Within the mynd, as it was figurait.

Ane spark of lufe than till his hart culd spring,
And kendlit all his bodie in ane fyre,
With hait fevir ane sweit and trimbling
Him tuik, quhill he was reddie to expyre;
To beir his scheild his breist began to tyre;
Within ane quhyle he changit mony hew,
And, nevertheles, not ane ane uther knew.

For knichtlie pietie and memoriall
Of fair Cresseid, ane gyrdill can he tak,
Ane purs of gold, and mony gay jowall,
And in the skirt of Cresseid doun can swak:
Than raid away, and not ane word he spak,
Pensive in hart, quhill he come to the toun,
And for greit cair oft syis almaist fell doun.

The lipper folk to Cresseid than can draw,
To se the equall distributioun
Of the almous; but quhan the gold they saw,
Ilk ane to uther prevelie can roun,
And said, "Yone lord hes mair affectioun,
How ever it be, unto yone lazarous,
Than to us all; we knaw be his almous."

"Quhat lord is yone," (quod scho), "have ye na feill,
Hes done to us so greit humanitie?"
"Yes," (quod a lipper man), "I knaw him weill;
Schir Troylus it is, gentill and fre."
Quhen Cresseid understude that it was he,
Stiffer than steill thair stert ane bitter stound
Throwout hir hart, and fell doun to the ground.

Quhen scho, ouircome with siching sair and sad,
With many cairfull cry and cald "Ochane!
Now is my breist with stormie stoundis stad,
Wrappit in wo, ane wretch full will of wane:"
Than swounit scho oft or scho culd refrane,
And ever in hir swouning cryit scho thus:
"O, fals Cresseid, and trew knicht Troylus!

"Thy lufe, thy lawtie, and thy gentilnes
I countit small in my prosperitie;
Sa elevait I was in wantones,
And clam upon the fickill quheill sa hie;
All faith and lufe I promissit to the
Was in the self fickill and frivolous:
O, fals Cresseid, and trew knicht Troilus!

"For lufe of me thow keipt gude continence,
Honest and chaist in conversatioun;
Of all wemen protectour and defence
Thou was, and helpit thair opinioun:
My mynd in fleschelie foull affectioun
Was inclynit to lustis lecherous:
Fy, fals Cresseid! O, trew knicht Troylus!

"Lovers, be war, and tak gude heid about
Quhome that ye lufe, for quhome ye suffer paine;
I lat yow wit, thair is richt few thairout
Quhome ye may traist to have trew lufe agane:
Preif quhen ye will, your labour is in vaine;
Thairfoir, I reid ye tak thame as ye find,
For thay ar sad as widdercock in wind,

"Becaus I knaw the greit unstabilnes,
Brukkil as glas, into my self, I say,
Traisting in uther als greit unfaithfulnes,
Als unconstant, and als untrew of fay;
Thocht sum be trew, I wait richt few are thay;
Quha findis treuth, lat him his lady ruse:
Nane but my self, as now, I will accuse."

Quhen this was said, with paper scho sat doun,
And on this maneir maid hir testament:
"Heir I beteiche my corps and carioun
With wormis and with taidis to be rent;
My cop and clapper, and myne ornament,
And all my gold, the lipper folk sall have,
Quhen I am deid, to burie me in grave.

"This royall ring, set with this rubie reid,
Quhilk Troylus in drowrie to me send,
To him agane I leif it quhan I am deid,
To mak my cairfull deid unto him kend:
Thus I conclude schortlie, and mak ane end;
My spreit I leif to Diane, quhair scho dwellis,
To walk with hir in waist woddis and wellis.

"O, Diomeid! thow hes baith broche and belt
Quhilk Troylus gave me in takning
Of his trew lufe,"--and with that word scho swelt;
And sone ane lipper man tuik of the ring,
Syne buryit hir withouttin tarying:
To Troylus furthwith the ring he bair,
And of Cresseid the deith he can declair.

Quhen he had hard hir greit infirmitie,
Hir legacie and lamentatioun,
And how scho endit in sic povertie,
He swelt for wo, and fell doun in ane swoun;
For greit sorrow his hart to birst was boun:
Siching full sadlie, said, "I can no moir;
Scho was untrew, and wo is me thairfoir!"

Sum said he maid ane tomb of merbell gray,
And wrait hir name and superscriptioun,
And laid it on hir grave, quhair that scho lay,
In goldin letteris, conteining this ressoun:
"Lo, fair ladyis, Cresseid of Troyis toun,
Sumtyme countit the flour of womanheid,
Under this stane, late lipper, lyis deid!"

Now, worthie wemen, in this ballet schort,
Made for your worschip and instructioun,
Of cheritie I monische and exhort,
Ming not your lufe with fals deceptioun;
Beir in your mynd this schort conclusioun
Of fair Cresseid, as I have said befoir:
Sen scho is deid, I speik of hir no moir.

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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