Anonymous Olde English
The Court Of Love - Poem by Anonymous Olde English
With timerous hert and trembling hand of drede,
Of cunning naked, bare of eloquence,
Unto the flour of port in womanhede
I write, as he that non intelligence
Of metres hath, ne floures of sentence;
Sauf that me list my writing to convey,
In that I can to please her hygh nobley.
The blosmes fresshe of Tullius garden soote
Present thaim not, my mater for to borne:
Poemes of Virgil taken here no rote,
Ne crafte of Galfrid may not here sojorne:
Why nam I cunning? O well may I morne,
For lak of science that I can-not write
Unto the princes of my life a-right
No termes digne unto her excellence,
So is she sprong of noble stirpe and high:
A world of honour and of reverence
There is in her, this wil I testifie.
Calliope, thou sister wise and sly,
And thou, Minerva, guyde me with thy grace,
That langage rude my mater not deface.
Thy suger-dropes swete of Elicon
Distill in me, thou gentle Muse, I pray;
And thee, Melpomene, I calle anon,
Of ignoraunce the mist to chace away;
And give me grace so for to write and sey,
That she, my lady, of her worthinesse,
Accepte in gree this litel short tretesse,
That is entitled thus, 'The Court of Love.'
And ye that ben metriciens me excuse,
I you besech, for Venus sake above;
For what I mene in this ye need not muse:
And if so be my lady it refuse
For lak of ornat speche, I wold be wo,
That I presume to her to writen so.
But myn entent and all my besy cure
Is for to write this tretesse, as I can,
Unto my lady, stable, true, and sure,
Feithfull and kind, sith first that she began
Me to accept in service as her man:
To her be all the plesure of this boke,
That, whan her like, she may it rede and loke.
When I was yong, at eighteen yere of age,
Lusty and light, desirous of pleasaunce,
Approching on full sadde and ripe corage,
Love arted me to do myn observaunce
To his astate, and doon him obeysaunce,
Commaunding me the Court of Love to see,
A lite beside the mount of Citharee,
There Citherea goddesse was and quene
Honoured highly for her majestee;
And eke her sone, the mighty god, I wene,
Cupid the blind, that for his dignitee
A thousand lovers worship on their knee;
There was I bid, on pain of death, t'apere,
By Mercury, the winged messengere.
So than I went by straunge and fer contrees,
Enquiring ay what costes to it drew,
The Court of Love: and thiderward, as bees,
At last I sey the peple gan pursue:
Anon, me thought, som wight was there that knew
Where that the court was holden, ferre or ny,
And after thaim ful fast I gan me hy.
Anone as I theim overtook, I said,
'Hail, frendes! whider purpose ye to wend?'
'Forsooth,' quod oon that answered lich a maid,
'To Loves Court now go we, gentill frend.'
'Where is that place,' quod I, 'my felowe hend?'
'At Citheron, sir,' seid he, 'without dowte,
The King of Love, and all his noble rowte,
Dwelling within a castell ryally.'
So than apace I jorned forth among,
And as he seid, so fond I there truly.
For I beheld the towres high and strong,
And high pinácles, large of hight and long,
With plate of gold bespred on every side,
And presious stones, the stone-werk for to hide.
No saphir ind, no rubè riche of price,
There lakked than, nor emeraud so grene,
Baleis Turkeis, ne thing to my devise,
That may the castell maken for to shene:
All was as bright as sterres in winter been;
And Phebus shoon, to make his pees agayn,
For trespas doon to high estates tweyn,
Venus and Mars, the god and goddesse clere,
Whan he theim found in armes cheined fast:
Venus was then full sad of herte and chere.
But Phebus bemes, streight as is the mast,
Upon the castell ginneth he to cast,
To plese the lady, princesse of that place,
In signe he loketh aftir Loves grace.
For there nis god in heven or helle, y-wis,
But he hath ben right soget unto Love:
Jove, Pluto, or what-so-ever he is,
Ne creature in erth, or yet above;
Of thise the révers may no wight approve.
But furthermore, the castell to descry,
Yet saw I never non so large and high.
For unto heven it streccheth, I suppose,
Within and out depeynted wonderly,
With many a thousand daisy, rede as rose,
And white also, this saw I verily:
But what tho daises might do signify,
Can I not tell, sauf that the quenes flour
Alceste it was that kept there her sojour;
Which under Venus lady was and quene,
And Admete king and soverain of that place,
To whom obeyed the ladies gode ninetene,
With many a thowsand other, bright of face.
And yong men fele came forth with lusty pace,
And aged eke, their homage to dispose;
But what thay were, I could not well disclose.
Yet ner and ner furth in I gan me dresse
Into an halle of noble apparaile,
With arras spred and cloth of gold, I gesse,
And other silk of esier availe:
Under the cloth of their estate, saunz faile,
The king and quene ther sat, as I beheld:
It passed joye of Helisee the feld.
There saintes have their comming and resort,
To seen the king so ryally beseyn,
In purple clad, and eke the quene in sort:
And on their hedes saw I crownes tweyn,
With stones fret, so that it was no payn,
Withouten mete and drink, to stand and see
The kinges honour and the ryaltee.
And for to trete of states with the king,
That been of councell chief, and with the quene,
The king had Daunger ner to him standing,
The Quene of Love, Disdain, and that was seen:
For by the feith I shall to god, I wene,
Was never straunger [non] in her degree
Than was the quene in casting of her ee.
And as I stood perceiving her apart,
And eke the bemes shyning of her yen,
Me thought thay were shapen lich a dart,
Sherp and persing, smale, and streight as lyne.
And all her here, it shoon as gold so fyne,
Dishevel, crisp, down hinging at her bak
A yarde in length: and soothly than I spak:—
'O bright Regina, who made thee so fair?
Who made thy colour vermelet and white?
Where woneth that god? how fer above the eyr?
Greet was his craft, and greet was his delyt.
Now marvel I nothing that ye do hight
The Quene of Love, and occupy the place
Of Citharee: now, sweet lady, thy grace.'
In mewet spak I, so that nought astert,
By no condicion, word that might be herd;
B[ut] in myn inward thought I gan advert,
And oft I seid, 'My wit is dulle and hard:'
For with her bewtee, thus, god wot, I ferd
As doth the man y-ravisshed with sight,
When I beheld her cristall yen so bright,
No respect having what was best to doon;
Till right anon, beholding here and there,
I spied a frend of myne, and that full soon,
A gentilwoman, was the chamberer
Unto the quene, that hote, as ye shall here,
Philobone, that lovëd all her life:
Whan she me sey, she led me furth as blyfe;
And me demaunded how and in what wise
I thider com, and what myne erand was?
'To seen the court,' quod I, 'and all the guyse;
And eke to sue for pardon and for grace,
And mercy ask for all my greet trespace,
That I non erst com to the Court of Love:
Foryeve me this, ye goddes all above!'
'That is well seid,' quod Philobone, 'in-dede:
But were ye not assomoned to apere
By Mercury? For that is all my drede.'
'Yes, gentil fair,' quod I, 'now am I here;
Ye, yit what tho, though that be true, my dere?'
'Of your free will ye shuld have come unsent:
For ye did not, I deme ye will be shent.
For ye that reign in youth and lustinesse,
Pampired with ese, and jolif in your age,
Your dewtee is, as fer as I can gesse,
To Loves Court to dressen your viage,
As sone as Nature maketh you so sage,
That ye may know a woman from a swan,
Or whan your foot is growen half a span.
But sith that ye, by wilful necligence,
This eighteen yere have kept yourself at large,
The gretter is your trespace and offence,
And in your nek ye moot bere all the charge:
For better were ye ben withouten barge,
Amiddë see, in tempest and in rain,
Than byden here, receiving woo and pain,
That ordeined is for such as thaim absent
Fro Loves Court by yeres long and fele.
I ley my lyf ye shall full soon repent;
For Love will reyve your colour, lust, and hele:
Eke ye must bait on many an hevy mele:
No force, y-wis, I stired you long agoon
To draw to court,' quod litell Philobon.
'Ye shall well see how rough and angry face
The King of Love will shew, when ye him see;
By myn advyse kneel down and ask him grace,
Eschewing perell and adversitee;
For well I wot it wol non other be,
Comfort is non, ne counsel to your ese;
Why will ye than the King of Love displese?'
'O mercy, god,' quod ich, 'I me repent,
Caitif and wrecche in hert, in wille, and thought!
And aftir this shall be myne hole entent
To serve and plese, how dere that love be bought:
Yit, sith I have myn own penaunce y-sought,
With humble spirit shall I it receive,
Though that the King of Love my life bereyve.
And though that fervent loves qualitè
In me did never worch truly, yit I
With all obeisaunce and humilitè,
And benign hert, shall serve him til I dye:
And he that Lord of might is, grete and highe,
Right as him list me chastice and correct,
And punish me, with trespace thus enfect.'
Thise wordes seid, she caught me by the lap,
And led me furth intill a temple round,
Large and wyde: and, as my blessed hap
And good avénture was, right sone I found
A tabernacle reised from the ground,
Where Venus sat, and Cupid by her syde;
Yet half for drede I gan my visage hyde.
And eft again I loked and beheld,
Seeing full sundry peple in the place,
And mister folk, and som that might not weld
Their limmes well, me thought a wonder cas;
The temple shoon with windows all of glas,
Bright as the day, with many a fair image;
And there I sey the fresh quene of Cartage,
Dido, that brent her bewtee for the love
Of fals Eneas; and the weymenting
Of hir, Anelida, true as turtill-dove,
To Arcite fals: and there was in peinting
Of many a prince, and many a doughty king,
Whose marterdom was shewed about the walles;
And how that fele for love had suffered falles.
But sore I was abasshed and astonied
Of all tho folk that there were in that tyde;
And than I asked where thay had [y-]woned:
'In dyvers courtes,' quod she, 'here besyde.'
In sondry clothing, mantil-wyse full wyde,
They were arrayed, and did their sacrifice
Unto the god and goddesse in their guyse.
'Lo! yonder folk,' quod she, 'that knele in blew,
They were the colour ay, and ever shall,
In sign they were, and ever will be trew
Withouten chaunge: and sothly, yonder all
That ben in blak, with morning cry and call
Unto the goddes, for their loves been
Som fer, som dede, som all to sherpe and kene.'
'Ye, than,' quod I, 'what doon thise prestes here,
Nonnes and hermits, freres, and all thoo
That sit in white, in russet, and in grene?'
'For-soth,' quod she, 'they wailen of their wo.'
'O mercy, lord! may thay so come and go
Freely to court, and have such libertee?'
'Ye, men of ech condicion and degree,
And women eke: for truly, there is non
Excepcion mad, ne never was ne may:
This court is ope and free for everichon,
The King of Love he will nat say thaim nay:
He taketh all, in poore or riche array,
That meekly sewe unto his excellence
With all their herte and all their reverence.'
And, walking thus about with Philobone,
I sey where cam a messenger in hy
Streight from the king, which let commaund anon,
Through-out the court to make an ho and cry:
'A! new-come folk, abyde! and wot ye why?
The kinges lust is for to seen you soon:
Com ner, let see! his will mot need be doon.'
Than gan I me present to-fore the king,
Trembling for fere, with visage pale of hew,
And many a lover with me was kneling,
Abasshed sore, till unto tyme thay knew
The sentence yeve of his entent full trew:
And at the last the king hath me behold
With stern visage, and seid, 'What doth this old,
Thus fer y-stope in yeres, come so late
Unto the court?' 'For-soth, my liege,' quod I,
'An hundred tyme I have ben at the gate
Afore this tyme, yit coud I never espy
Of myn acqueyntaunce any with mine y;
And shamefastnes away me gan to chace;
But now I me submit unto your grace.'
'Well! all is perdoned, with condicion
That thou be trew from hensforth to thy might,
And serven Love in thyn entencion:
Swere this, and than, as fer as it is right,
Thou shalt have grace here in my quenes sight.'
'Yis, by the feith I ow your crown, I swere,
Though Deth therfore me thirlith with his spere!'
And whan the king had seen us everichoon,
He let commaunde an officer in hy
To take our feith, and shew us, oon by oon,
The statuts of the court full besily.
Anon the book was leid before their y,
To rede and see what thing we must observe
In Loves Court, till that we dye and sterve.
And, for that I was lettred, there I red
The statuts hole of Loves Court and hall:
The first statut that on the boke was spred,
Was, To be true in thought and dedes all
Unto the King of Love, the Lord ryall;
And to the Quene, as feithful and as kind,
As I coud think with herte, and will and mind.
The secund statut, Secretly to kepe
Councell of love, nat blowing every-where
All that I know, and let it sink or flete;
It may not sown in every wightes ere:
Exyling slaunder ay for dred and fere,
And to my lady, which I love and serve,
Be true and kind, her grace for to deserve.
The thrid statut was clerely write also,
Withouten chaunge to live and dye the same,
Non other love to take, for wele ne wo,
For brind delyt, for ernest nor for game:
Without repent, for laughing or for grame,
To byden still in full perseveraunce:
Al this was hole the kinges ordinaunce.
The fourth statut, To purchace ever to here,
And stiren folk to love, and beten fyr
On Venus awter, here about and there,
And preche to thaim of love and hot desyr,
And tell how love will quyten well their hire:
This must be kept; and loth me to displese:
If love be wroth, passe forby is an ese.
The fifth statut, Not to be daungerous,
If that a thought wold reyve me of my slepe:
Nor of a sight to be over squeymous;
And so, verily, this statut was to kepe,
To turne and walowe in my bed and wepe,
When that my lady, of her crueltè,
Wold from her herte exylen all pitè.
The sixt statut, it was for me to use,
Alone to wander, voide of company,
And on my ladys bewtee for to muse,
And to think [it] no force to live or dye;
And eft again to think the remedy,
How to her grace I might anon attain,
And tell my wo unto my souverain.
The seventh statut was, To be pacient,
Whether my lady joyfull were or wroth;
For wordes glad or hevy, diligent,
Wheder that she me helden lefe or loth:
And hereupon I put was to myn oth,
Her for to serve, and lowly to obey,
Shewing my chere, ye, twenty sith a-day.
The eighth statut, to my rememb[e]raunce,
Was, To speke, and pray my lady dere,
With hourly labour and gret attendaunce,
Me for to love with all her herte entere,
And me desyre, and make me joyfull chere,
Right as she is, surmounting every faire,
Of bewtie well, and gentill debonaire.
The ninth statut, with lettres writ of gold,
This was the sentence, How that I and all
Shuld ever dred to be to over-bold
Her to displese; and truly, so I shall;
But ben content for thing[es] that may falle,
And meekly take her chastisement and yerd,
And to offende her ever ben aferd.
The tenth statut was, Egally discern
By-twene thy lady and thyn abilitee,
And think, thy-self art never like to yern,
By right, her mercy, nor of equitee,
But of her grace and womanly pitee:
For though thy-self be noble in thy strene,
A thowsand-fold more nobill is thy quene,
Thy lyves lady, and thy souverayn,
That hath thyn herte all hole in governaunce.
Thou mayst no wyse hit taken to disdayn,
To put thee humbly at her ordinaunce,
And give her free the rein of her plesaunce;
For libertee is thing that women loke,
And truly, els the mater is a-croke.
The eleventh statut, Thy signes for to con
With y and finger, and with smyles soft,
And low to cough, and alway for to shon,
For dred of spyes, for to winken oft:
But secretly to bring a sigh a-loft,
And eke beware of over-moch resort;
For that, paraventure, spilleth al thy sport.
The twelfth statut remember to observe:
For al the pain thow hast for love and wo,
All is to lite her mercy to deserve,
Thow must then think, where-ever thou ryde or go;
And mortall woundes suffer thow also,
All for her sake, and thinke it well beset
Upon thy love, for it may be no bet.
The thirteenth statut, Whylom is to thinke,
What thing may best thy lady lyke and plese,
And in thyn hertes botom let it sinke:
Som thing devise, and take [it] for thyn ese,
And send it her, that may her herte apese:
Some hert, or ring, or lettre, or device,
Or precious stone; but spare not for no price.
The fourteenth statut eke thou shalt assay
Fermly to kepe the most part of thy lyfe:
Wish that thy lady in thyne armes lay,
And nightly dreme, thow hast thy hertes wyfe
Swetely in armes, straining her as blyfe:
And whan thou seest it is but fantasy,
See that thow sing not over merily,
For to moche joye hath oft a wofull end.
It longith eke, this statut for to hold,
To deme thy lady evermore thy frend,
And think thyself in no wyse a cocold.
In every thing she doth but as she shold:
Construe the best, beleve no tales newe,
For many a lie is told, that semeth full trewe.
But think that she, so bounteous and fair,
Coud not be fals: imagine this algate;
And think that tonges wikke wold her appair,
Slaundering her name and worshipfull estat,
And lovers true to setten at debat:
And though thow seest a faut right at thyne y,
Excuse it blyve, and glose it pretily.
The fifteenth statut, Use to swere and stare,
And counterfet a lesing hardely,
To save thy ladys honour every-where,
And put thyself to fight [for her] boldly:
Sey she is good, virtuous, and gostly,
Clere of entent, and herte, and thought and wille;
And argue not, for reson ne for skille,
Agayn thy ladys plesir ne entent,
For love wil not be countrepleted, indede:
Sey as she seith, than shalt thou not be shent,
The crow is whyte; ye, truly, so I rede:
And ay what thing that she thee will forbede,
Eschew all that, and give her sovereintee,
Her appetyt folow in all degree.
The sixteenth statut, kepe it if thow may:—
Seven sith at night thy lady for to plese,
And seven at midnight, seven at morow-day;
And drink a cawdell erly for thyn ese.
Do this, and kepe thyn hede from all disese,
And win the garland here of lovers all,
That ever come in court, or ever shall.
Ful few, think I, this statut hold and kepe;
But truly, this my reson giveth me fele,
That som lovers shuld rather fall aslepe,
Than take on hand to plese so oft and wele.
There lay non oth to this statut a-dele,
But kepe who might, as gave him his corage:
Now get this garland, lusty folk of age.
Now win who may, ye lusty folk of youth,
This garland fresh, of floures rede and whyte,
Purpill and blewe, and colours ful uncouth,
And I shal croune him king of all delyt!
In al the court there was not, to my sight,
A lover trew, that he ne was adred,
When he expresse hath herd the statut red.
The seventeenth statut, Whan age approchith on,
And lust is leid, and all the fire is queint,
As freshly than thou shalt begin to fon,
And dote in love, and all her image paint
In rémembraunce, til thou begin to faint,
As in the first seson thyn hert began:
And her desire, though thou ne may ne can
Perform thy living actuell, and lust;
Regester this in thy rememb[e]raunce:
Eke when thou mayst not kepe thy thing from rust,
Yit speke and talk of plesaunt daliaunce;
For that shall make thyn hert rejoise and daunce.
And when thou mayst no more the game assay,
The statut bit thee pray for hem that may.
The eighteenth statut, hoolly to commend,
To plese thy lady, is, That thou eschewe
With sluttishness thy-self for to offend;
Be jolif, fresh, and fete, with thinges newe,
Courtly with maner, this is all thy due,
Gentill of port, and loving clenlinesse;
This is the thing that lyketh thy maistresse.
And not to wander lich a dulled ass,
Ragged and torn, disgysed in array,
Ribaud in speche, or out of mesure pass,
Thy bound exceding; think on this alway:
For women been of tender hertes ay,
And lightly set their plesire in a place;
Whan they misthink, they lightly let it passe.
The nineteenth statut, Mete and drink forgete:
Ech other day, see that thou fast for love,
For in the court they live withouten mete,
Sauf such as cometh from Venus all above;
They take non heed, in pain of greet reprove,
Of mete and drink, for that is all in vain;
Only they live by sight of their soverain.
The twentieth statut, last of everichoon,
Enroll it in thyn hertes privitee;
To wring and wail, to turn, and sigh and grone,
When that thy lady absent is from thee;
And eke renew the wordes [all] that she
Bitween you twain hath seid, and all the chere
That thee hath mad thy lyves lady dere.
And see thyn herte in quiet ne in rest
Sojorn, to tyme thou seen thy lady eft;
But wher she won by south, or est, or west,
With all thy force, now see it be not left:
Be diligent, till tyme thy lyfe be reft,
In that thou mayst, thy lady for to see;
This statut was of old antiquitee.
An officer of high auctoritee,
Cleped Rigour, made us swere anon:
He nas corrupt with parcialitee,
Favour, prayer, ne gold that cherely shoon;
'Ye shall,' quod he, 'now sweren here echoon,
Yong and old, to kepe, in that ye may,
The statuts truly, all, aftir this day.'
O god, thought I, hard is to make this oth!
But to my pouer shall I thaim observe;
In all this world nas mater half so loth,
To swere for all; for though my body sterve,
I have no might the hole for to reserve.
But herkin now the cace how it befell:
After my oth was mad, the trouth to tell,
I turned leves, loking on this boke,
Where other statuts were of women shene;
And right furthwith Rigour on me gan loke
Full angrily, and seid unto the quene
I traitour was, and charged me let been:
'There may no man,' quod he, 'the statut[s] know,
That long to woman, hy degree ne low.
In secret wyse thay kepten been full close,
They sowne echon to libertie, my frend;
Plesaunt thay be, and to their own purpose;
There wot no wight of thaim, but god and fend,
Ne naught shall wit, unto the worldes end.
The quene hath yeve me charge, in pain to dye,
Never to rede ne seen thaim with myn ye.
For men shall not so nere of councell ben,
With womanhode, ne knowen of her gyse,
Ne what they think, ne of their wit th'engyn;
I me report to Salamon the wyse,
And mighty Sampson, which begyled thryes
With Dalida was: he wot that, in a throw,
There may no man statut of women knowe.
For it paravénture may right so befall,
That they be bound by nature to disceive,
And spinne, and wepe, and sugre strewe on gall,
The hert of man to ravissh and to reyve,
And whet their tong as sharp as swerd or gleyve:
It may betyde, this is their ordinaunce;
So must they lowly doon the observaunce,
And kepe the statut yeven thaim of kind,
Or such as love hath yeve hem in their lyfe.
Men may not wete why turneth every wind,
Nor waxen wyse, nor ben inquisityf
To know secret of maid, widow, or wyfe;
For they their statutes have to thaim reserved,
And never man to know thaim hath deserved.
Now dress you furth, the god of Love you gyde!'
Quod Rigour than, 'and seek the temple bright
Of Cither[e]a, goddess here besyde;
Beseche her, by [the] influence and might
Of al her vertue, you to teche a-right,
How for to serve your ladies, and to plese,
Ye that ben sped, and set your hert in ese.
And ye that ben unpurveyed, pray her eke
Comfort you soon with grace and destinee,
That ye may set your hert there ye may lyke,
In suche a place, that it to love may be
Honour and worship, and felicitee
To you for ay. Now goth, by one assent.'
'Graunt mercy, sir!' quod we, and furth we went
Devoutly, soft and esy pace, to see
Venus the goddes image, all of gold:
And there we founde a thousand on their knee,
Sum freshe and feire, som dedely to behold,
In sondry mantils new, and som were old,
Som painted were with flames rede as fire,
Outward to shew their inward hoot desire:
With dolefull chere, full fele in their complaint
Cried 'Lady Venus, rewe upon our sore!
Receive our billes, with teres all bedreint;
We may not wepe, there is no more in store;
But wo and pain us frettith more and more:
Thou blisful planet, lovers sterre so shene,
Have rowth on us, that sigh and carefull been;
And ponish, Lady, grevously, we pray,
The false untrew with counterfet plesaunce,
That made their oth, be trew to live or dey,
With chere assured, and with countenaunce;
And falsly now thay foten loves daunce,
Barein of rewth, untrue of that they seid,
Now that their lust and plesire is alleyd.'
Yet eft again, a thousand milion,
Rejoysing, love, leding their life in blis:
They seid:—'Venus, redresse of all division,
Goddes eterne, thy name y-heried is!
By loves bond is knit all thing, y-wis,
Best unto best, the erth to water wan,
Bird unto bird, and woman unto man;
This is the lyfe of joye that we ben in,
Resembling lyfe of hevenly paradyse;
Love is exyler ay of vice and sin;
Love maketh hertes lusty to devyse;
Honour and grace have thay, in every wyse,
That been to loves law obedient;
Love makith folk benigne and diligent;
Ay stering theim to drede[n] vice and shame:
In their degree it maketh thaim honorable;
And swete it is of love [to] bere the name,
So that his love be feithfull, true, and stable:
Love prunith him, to semen amiable;
Love hath no faut, there it is exercysed,
But sole with theim that have all love dispised.
Honour to thee, celestiall and clere
Goddes of love, and to thy celsitude,
That yevest us light so fer down from thy spere,
Persing our hertes with thy pulcritude!
Comparison non of similitude
May to thy grace be mad in no degree,
That hast us set with love in unitee.
Gret cause have we to praise thy name and thee,
For [that] through thee we live in joye and blisse.
Blessed be thou, most souverain to see!
Thy holy court of gladness may not misse:
A thousand sith we may rejoise in this,
That we ben thyn with harte and all y-fere,
Enflamed with thy grace, and hevinly fere.'
Musing of tho that spakin in this wyse,
I me bethought in my rememb[e]raunce
Myne orison right goodly to devyse,
And plesauntly, with hartes obeisaunce,
Beseech the goddes voiden my grevaunce;
For I loved eke, sauf that I wist nat where;
Yet down I set, and seid as ye shall here.
'Fairest of all that ever were or be!
Lucerne and light to pensif crëature!
Myn hole affiaunce, and my lady free,
My goddes bright, my fortune and my ure,
I yeve and yeld my hart to thee full sure,
Humbly beseching, lady, of thy grace
Me to bestowe into som blessed place.
And here I vow me feithfull, true, and kind,
Without offence of mutabilitee,
Humbly to serve, whyl I have wit and mind,
Myn hole affiaunce, and my lady free!
In thilkë place, there ye me sign to be:
And, sith this thing of newe is yeve me, ay
To love and serve, needly must I obey.
Be merciable with thy fire of grace,
And fix myne hert there bewtie is and routh,
For hote I love, determine in no place,
Sauf only this, by god and by my trouth,
Trowbled I was with slomber, slepe, and slouth
This other night, and in a visioun
I sey a woman romen up and down,
Of mene stature, and seemly to behold,
Lusty and fresh, demure of countynaunce,
Yong and wel shap, with here [that] shoon as gold,
With yen as cristall, farced with plesaunce;
And she gan stir myne harte a lite to daunce;
But sodenly she vanissh gan right there:
Thus I may sey, I love and wot not where.
For what she is, ne her dwelling I not,
And yet I fele that love distraineth me:
Might ich her know, that wold I fain, god wot,
Serve and obey with all benignitee.
And if that other be my destinee,
So that no wyse I shall her never see,
Than graunt me her that best may lyken me,
With glad rejoyse to live in parfit hele,
Devoide of wrath, repent, or variaunce;
And able me to do that may be wele
Unto my lady, with hertes hy plesaunce:
And, mighty goddes! through thy purviaunce
My wit, my thought, my lust and love so gyde,
That to thyne honour I may me provyde
To set myne herte in place there I may lyke,
And gladly serve with all affeccioun.
Gret is the pain which at myn hert doth stik,
Till I be sped by thyn eleccioun:
Help, lady goddes! that possessioun
I might of her have, that in all my lyfe
I clepen shall my quene and hertes wife.
And in the Court of Love to dwell for ay
My wille it is, and don thee sacrifice:
Daily with Diane eke to fight and fray,
And holden werre, as might well me suffice:
That goddes chaste I kepen in no wyse
To serve; a fig for all her chastitee!
Her lawe is for religiositee.'
And thus gan finish preyer, lawde, and preise,
Which that I yove to Venus on my knee,
And in myne hert to ponder and to peise,
I gave anon hir image fressh bewtie;
'Heil to that figure sweet! and heil to thee,
Cupide,' quod I, and rose and yede my way;
And in the temple as I yede I sey
A shryne sormownting all in stones riche,
Of which the force was plesaunce to myn y,
With diamant or saphire; never liche
I have non seyn, ne wrought so wonderly.
So whan I met with Philobone, in hy
I gan demaund, 'Who[s] is this sepulture?'
'Forsoth,' quod she, 'a tender creature
Is shryned there, and Pitè is her name.
She saw an egle wreke him on a fly,
And pluk his wing, and eke him, in his game,
And tender herte of that hath made her dy:
Eke she wold wepe, and morn right pitously
To seen a lover suffre gret destresse.
In all the court nas non that, as I gesse,
That coude a lover half so well availe,
Ne of his wo the torment or the rage
Aslaken, for he was sure, withouten faile,
That of his grief she coud the hete aswage.
In sted of Pitè, spedeth hot corage
The maters all of court, now she is dede;
I me report in this to womanhede.
For weile and wepe, and crye, and speke, and pray,—
Women wold not have pitè on thy plaint;
Ne by that mene to ese thyn hart convey,
But thee receiven for their own talent:
And sey, that Pitè causith thee, in consent
Of rewth, to take thy service and thy pain
In that thow mayst, to plese thy souverain.
But this is councell, keep it secretly;'
Quod she, 'I nold, for all the world abowt,
The Quene of Love it wist; and wit ye why?
For if by me this matter springen out,
In court no lenger shuld I, owt of dowt,
Dwellen, but shame in all my life endry:
Now kepe it close,' quod she, 'this hardely.
Well, all is well! Now shall ye seen,' she seid,
'The feirest lady under son that is:
Come on with me, demene you liche a maid,
With shamefast dred, for ye shall spede, y-wis,
With her that is the mir[th] and joy and blis:
But sumwhat straunge and sad of her demene
She is, be ware your countenaunce be sene,
Nor over light, ne recheless, ne to bold,
Ne malapert, ne rinning with your tong;
For she will you abeisen and behold,
And you demaund, why ye were hens so long
Out of this court, without resort among:
And Rosiall her name is hote aright,
Whose harte as yet [is] yeven to no wight.
And ye also ben, as I understond,
With love but light avaunced, by your word;
Might ye, by hap, your fredom maken bond,
And fall in grace with her, and wele accord,
Well might ye thank the god of Love and lord;
For she that ye sawe in your dreme appere,
To love suche one, what are ye than the nere?
Yit wot ye what? as my rememb[e]raunce
Me yevith now, ye fayn, where that ye sey
That ye with love had never acqueintaunce,
Sauf in your dreme right late this other day:
Why, yis, parde! my life, that durst I lay,
That ye were caught upon an heth, when I
Saw you complain, and sigh full pitously;
Within an erber, and a garden fair
With floures growe, and herbes vertuous,
Of which the savour swete was and the eyr,
There were your-self full hoot and amorous:
Y-wis, ye ben to nice and daungerous;
A! wold ye now repent, and love som new?'—
'Nay, by my trouth,' I seid, 'I never knew
The goodly wight, whos I shall be for ay:
Guyde me the lord that love hath made and me.'
But furth we went in-till a chambre gay,
There was Rosiall, womanly to see,
Whose stremes sotell-persing of her ee
Myn hart gan thrill for bewtie in the stound:
'Alas,' quod I, 'who hath me yeve this wound?'
And than I dred to speke, till at the last
I gret the lady reverently and wele,
Whan that my sigh was gon and over-past;
And down on knees full humbly gan I knele,
Beseching her my fervent wo to kele,
For there I took full purpose in my mind,
Unto her grace my painfull hart to bind.
For if I shall all fully her discryve,
Her hede was round, by compace of nature,
Her here as gold,—she passed all on-lyve,—
And lily forhede had this crëature,
With lovelich browes, flawe, of colour pure,
Bytwene the which was mene disseveraunce
From every brow, to shewe[n] a distaunce.
Her nose directed streight, and even as lyne,
With fourm and shap therto convenient,
In which the goddes milk-whyt path doth shine;
And eke her yen ben bright and orient
As is the smaragde, unto my juggement,
Or yet thise sterres hevenly, smale and bright;
Her visage is of lovely rede and whyte.
Her mouth is short, and shit in litell space,
Flaming somdele, not over-rede, I mene,
With pregnant lippes, and thik to kiss, percas;
(For lippes thin, not fat, but ever lene,
They serve of naught, they be not worth a bene;
For if the basse ben full, there is delyt,
Maximian truly thus doth he wryte.)
But to my purpose:—I sey, whyte as snow
Ben all her teeth, and in order thay stond
Of oon stature; and eke hir breth, I trow,
Surmounteth alle odours that ever I fond
In sweetnes; and her body, face, and hond
Ben sharply slender, so that from the hede
Unto the fote, all is but womanhede.
I hold my pees of other thinges hid:—
Here shall my soul, and not my tong, bewray:—
But how she was arrayed, if ye me bid,
That shall I well discover you and say:
A bend of gold and silk, full fressh and gay;
With here in tresse[s], browdered full well,
Right smothly kept, and shyning every-del.
About her nek a flour of fressh devyse
With rubies set, that lusty were to sene;
And she in gown was, light and somer-wyse,
Shapen full wele, the colour was of grene,
With aureat seint about her sydes clene,
With dyvers stones, precious and riche:—
Thus was she rayed, yet saugh I never her liche.
For if that Jove had [but] this lady seyn,
Tho Calixto ne [yet] Alcmenia,
Thay never hadden in his armes leyn;
Ne he had loved the faire Europa;
Ye, ne yet Dane ne Antiopa!
For al their bewtie stood in Rosiall;
She semed lich a thing celestiall
In bowntè, favor, port, and semliness,
Plesaunt of figure, mirrour of delyt,
Gracious to sene, and rote of gentilness,
With angel visage, lusty rede and white:
There was not lak, sauf daunger had a lite
This goodly fressh in rule and governaunce;
And somdel straunge she was, for her plesaunce.
And truly sone I took my leve and went,
Whan she had me enquyred what I was;
For more and more impressen gan the dent
Of Loves dart, whyl I beheld her face;
And eft again I com to seken grace,
And up I put my bill, with sentence clere
That folwith aftir; rede and ye shall here.
'O ye [the] fressh, of [all] bewtie the rote,
That nature hath fourmed so wele and made
Princesse and Quene! and ye that may do bote
Of all my langour with your wordes glad!
Ye wounded me, ye made me wo-bestad;
Of grace redress my mortall grief, as ye
Of all myne harm the verrey causer be.
Now am I caught, and unwar sodenly,
With persant stremes of your yën clere,
Subject to ben, and serven you meekly,
And all your man, y-wis, my lady dere,
Abiding grace, of which I you requere,
That merciles ye cause me not to sterve;
But guerdon me, liche as I may deserve.
For, by my troth, the dayes of my breth
I am and will be youre in wille and hert,
Pacient and meek, for you to suffre deth
If it require; now rewe upon my smert;
And this I swere, I never shall out-stert
From Loves Court for none adversitee,
So ye wold rewe on my distresse and me.
My destinee, my fate, and ure I bliss,
That have me set to ben obedient
Only to you, the flour of all, y-wis:
I trust to Venus never to repent;
For ever redy, glad, and diligent
Ye shall me finde in service to your grace,
Till deth my lyfe out of my body race.
Humble unto your excellence so digne,
Enforcing ay my wittes and delyt
To serve and plese with glad herte and benigne,
And ben as Troilus, [old] Troyes knight,
Or Antony for Cleopatre bright,
And never you me thinkes to reney:
This shall I kepe unto myne ending-day.
Enprent my speche in your memorial
Sadly, my princess, salve of all my sore!
And think that, for I wold becomen thrall,
And ben your own, as I have seyd before,
Ye must of pity cherissh more and more
Your man, and tender aftir his desert,
And yive him corage for to ben expert.
For where that oon hath set his herte on fire,
And findeth nether refut ne plesaunce,
Ne word of comfort, deth will quyte his hire.
Allas! that there is none allegeaunce
Of all their wo! allas, the gret grevaunce
To love unloved! But ye, my Lady dere,
In other wyse may govern this matere.'
'Truly, gramercy, frend, of your good will,
And of your profer in your humble wyse!
But for your service, take and kepe it still.
And where ye say, I ought you well cheryse,
And of your gref the remedy devyse,
I know not why: I nam acqueinted well
With you, ne wot not sothly where ye dwell.'
'In art of love I wryte, and songes make,
That may be song in honour of the King
And Quene of Love; and than I undertake,
He that is sad shall than full mery sing.
And daunger[o]us not ben in every thing
Beseche I you, but seen my will and rede,
And let your aunswer put me out of drede.'
'What is your name? reherse it here, I pray,
Of whens and where, of what condicion
That ye ben of? Let see, com of and say!
Fain wold I know your disposicion:—
Ye have put on your old entencion;
But what ye mene to servë me I noot,
Sauf that ye say ye love me wonder hoot.'
'My name? alas, my hert, why [make it straunge?]
Philogenet I cald am fer and nere,
Of Cambrige clerk, that never think to chaunge
Fro you that with your hevenly stremes clere
Ravissh myne herte and gost and all in-fere:
This is the first, I write my bill for grace,
Me think, I see som mercy in your face.
And what I mene, by god that al hath wrought,
My bill, that maketh finall mencion,
That ye ben, lady, in myne inward thought
Of all myne hert without offencion,
That I best love, and have, sith I begon
To draw to court. Lo, than! what might I say?
I yeld me here, [lo!] unto your nobley.
And if that I offend, or wilfully
By pompe of hart your precept disobey,
Or doon again your will unskillfully,
Or greven you, for ernest or for play,
Correct ye me right sharply than, I pray,
As it is sene unto your womanhede,
And rewe on me, or ellis I nam but dede.'
'Nay, god forbede to feffe you so with grace,
And for a worde of sugred eloquence,
To have compassion in so litell space!
Than were it tyme that som of us were hens!
Ye shall not find in me suche insolence.
Ay? what is this? may ye not suffer sight?
How may ye loke upon the candill-light,
That clere[r] is and hotter than myn y?
And yet ye seid, the bemes perse and frete:—
How shall ye than the candel-[l]ight endry?
For wel wot ye, that hath the sharper hete.
And there ye bid me you correct and bete,
If ye offend,—nay, that may not be doon:
There come but few that speden here so soon.
Withdraw your y, withdraw from presens eke:
Hurt not yourself, through foly, with a loke;
I wold be sory so to make you seke:
A woman shuld be ware eke whom she toke:
Ye beth a clark:—go serchen [in] my boke,
If any women ben so light to win:
Nay, byde a whyl, though ye were all my kin.
So soon ye may not win myne harte, in trouth
The gyse of court will seen your stedfastness,
And as ye don, to have upon you rewth.
Your own desert, and lowly gentilness,
That will reward you joy for heviness;
And though ye waxen pale, and grene and dede,
Ye must it use a while, withouten drede,
And it accept, and grucchen in no wyse;
But where as ye me hastily desyre
To been to love, me think, ye be not wyse.
Cese of your language! cese, I you requyre!
For he that hath this twenty yere ben here
May not obtayn; than marveile I that ye
Be now so bold, of love to trete with me.'
'Ah! mercy, hart, my lady and my love,
My rightwyse princesse and my lyves guyde!
Now may I playn to Venus all above,
That rewthles ye me give these woundes wyde!
What have I don? why may it not betyde,
That for my trouth I may received be?
Alas! your daunger and your crueltè!
In wofull hour I got was, welaway!
In wofull hour [y-]fostred and y-fed,
In wofull hour y-born, that I ne may
My supplicacion swetely have y-sped!
The frosty grave and cold must be my bedde,
Without ye list your grace and mercy shewe,
Deth with his axe so faste on me doth hewe.
So greet disese and in so litell whyle,
So litell joy, that felte I never yet;
And at my wo Fortune ginneth to smyle,
That never erst I felt so harde a fit:
Confounded ben my spirits and my wit,
Till that my lady take me to her cure,
Which I love best of erthely crëature.
But that I lyke, that may I not com by;
Of that I playn, that have I habondaunce;
Sorrow and thought, thay sit me wounder ny;
Me is withhold that might be my plesaunce:
Yet turne again, my worldly suffisaunce!
O lady bright! and save your feithfull true,
And, er I die, yet on[e]s upon me rewe.'
With that I fell in sounde, and dede as stone,
With colour slain, and wan as assh[es] pale;
And by the hand she caught me up anon,
'Aryse,' quod she, 'what? have ye dronken dwale?
Why slepen ye? it is no nightertale.'
'Now mercy, swete,' quod I, y-wis affrayed:
'What thing,' quod she, 'hath mad you so dismayed?
Now wot I well that ye a lover be,
Your hewe is witnesse in this thing,' she seid:
'If ye were secret, [ye] might know,' quod she,
'Curteise and kind, all this shuld be allayed:
And now, myn herte! all that I have misseid,
I shall amend, and set your harte in ese.'
'That word it is,' quod I, 'that doth me plese.'
'But this I charge, that ye the statuts kepe,
And breke thaim not for sloth nor ignoraunce.'
With that she gan to smyle and laughen depe.
'Y-wis,' quod I, 'I will do your plesaunce;
The sixteenth statut doth me grete grevaunce,
But ye must that relesse or modifie.'
'I graunt,' quod she, 'and so I will truly.'
And softly than her colour gan appeare,
As rose so rede, through-out her visage all,
Wherefore me think it is according here,
That she of right be cleped Rosiall.
Thus have I won, with wordes grete and small,
Some goodly word of hir that I love best,
And trust she shall yit set myne harte in rest.
'Goth on,' she seid to Philobone, 'and take
This man with you, and lede him all abowt
Within the court, and shew him, for my sake,
What lovers dwell withinne, and all the rowte
Of officers; for he is, out of dowte,
A straunger yit:'—'Come on,' quod Philobone,
'Philogenet, with me now must ye gon.'
And stalking soft with esy pace, I saw
About the king [ther] stonden environ,
Attendaunce, Diligence, and their felaw
Fortherer, Esperaunce, and many oon;
Dred-to-offend there stood, and not aloon;
For there was eke the cruell adversair,
The lovers fo, that cleped is Dispair,
Which unto me spak angrely and fell,
And said, my lady me deceiven shall:
'Trowest thow,' quod she, 'that all that she did tell,
Is true? Nay, nay, but under hony gall!
Thy birth and hers, [they] be nothing egall:
Cast of thyn hart, for all her wordes whyte,
For in good faith she lovith thee but a lyte.
And eek remember, thyn habilite
May not compare with hir, this well thow wot.'
Ye, than cam Hope and said, 'My frend, let be!
Beleve him not: Dispair, he ginneth dote.'
'Alas,' quod I, 'here is both cold and hot:
The tone me biddeth love, the toder nay;
Thus wot I not what me is best to say.
But well wot I, my lady graunted me,
Truly to be my woundes remedy;
Her gentilness may not infected be
With dobleness, thus trust I till I dy.'
So cast I void Dispaires company,
And taken Hope to councell and to frend.
'Ye, kepe that wele,' quod Philobone, 'in mind.'
And there besyde, within a bay-window,
Stood oon in grene, full large of brede and length,
His berd as blak as fethers of the crow;
His name was Lust, of wounder might and strength;
And with Delyt to argue there he thenkth,
For this was all his [hool] opinion,
That love was sin! and so he hath begon
To reson fast, and legge auctoritè:
'Nay,' quod Delyt, 'love is a vertue clere,
And from the soule his progress holdeth he:
Blind appetyt of lust doth often stere,
And that is sin: for reson lakketh there,
For thow [dost] think thy neigbours wyfe to win:
Yit think it well that love may not be sin;
For god and seint, they love right verely,
Void of all sin and vice: this knowe I wele,
Affeccion of flessh is sin, truly;
But verray love is vertue, as I fele,
For love may not thy freil desire akele:
For [verray] love is love withouten sin.'
'Now stint,' quoth Lust, 'thow spekest not worth a pin.'
And there I left thaim in their arguing,
Roming ferther in the castell wyde,
And in a corner Lier stood talking
Of lesings fast, with Flatery there besyde;
He seid that women were attire of pryde,
And men were founde of nature variaunt,
And coud be false, and shewen beau semblaunt.
Than Flatery bespake and seid, y-wis:
'See, so she goth on patens faire and fete,
Hit doth right wele: what prety man is this
That rometh here? Now truly, drink ne mete
Nede I not have; myne hart for joye doth bete
Him to behold, so is he goodly fressh:
It semeth for love his harte is tender nessh.'
This is the court of lusty folk and glad,
And wel becometh their habit and array:
O why be som so sorry and so sad,
Complaining thus in blak and whyte and gray?
Freres they ben, and monkes, in good fay:
Alas, for rewth! greet dole it is to seen,
To see thaim thus bewaile and sory been.
See how they cry and wring their handes whyte,
For they so sone went to religion!
And eke the nonnes, with vaile and wimple plight,
There thought that they ben in confusion:
'Alas,' thay sayn, 'we fayn perfeccion,
In clothes wide, and lak our libertè;
But all the sin mote on our frendes be.
For, Venus wot, we wold as fayn as ye,
That ben attired here and wel besene,
Desiren man, and love in our degree,
Ferme and feithfull, right as wold the quene:
Our frendes wikke, in tender youth and grene,
Ayenst our will made us religious;
That is the cause we morne and wailen thus.'
Than seid the monks and freres in the tyde,
'Wel may we curse our abbeys and our place,
Our statuts sharp, to sing in copes wyde,
Chastly to kepe us out of loves grace,
And never to fele comfort ne solace;
Yet suffre we the hete of loves fire,
And after than other haply we desire.
O Fortune cursed, why now and wherefore
Hast thow,' they seid, 'beraft us libertè,
Sith nature yave us instrument in store,
And appetyt to love and lovers be?
Why mot we suffer suche adversitè,
Diane to serve, and Venus to refuse?
Ful often sith this matier doth us muse.
We serve and honour, sore ayenst our will,
Of chastitè the goddes and the quene;
Us leffer were with Venus byden still,
And have reward for love, and soget been
Unto thise women courtly, fressh, and shene.
Fortune, we curse thy whele of variaunce!
There we were wele, thou revest our plesaunce.'
Thus leve I thaim, with voice of pleint and care,
In raging wo crying ful pitously;
And as I yede, full naked and full bare
Some I behold, looking dispitously,
On povertè that dedely cast their y;
And 'Welaway!' they cried, and were not fain,
For they ne might their glad desire attain.
For lak of richesse worldely and of gode,
They banne and curse, and wepe, and sein, 'Alas,
That poverte hath us hent that whylom stode
At hartis ese, and free and in good case!
But now we dar not shew our-self in place,
Ne us embolde to duelle in company,
There-as our hart wold love right faithfully.'
And yet againward shryked every nonne,
The prang of love so straineth thaim to cry:
'Now wo the tyme,' quod thay, 'that we be boun!
This hateful ordre nyse will don us dy!
We sigh and sobbe, and bleden inwardly,
Freting our-self with thought and hard complaint,
That ney for love we waxen wode and faint.'
And as I stood beholding here and there,
I was war of a sort full languisshing,
Savage and wild of loking and of chere,
Their mantels and their clothës ay tering;
And oft thay were of nature complaining,
For they their members lakked, fote and hand,
With visage wry and blind, I understand.
They lakked shap, and beautie to preferre
Theim-self in love: and seid, that god and kind
Hath forged thaim to worshippen the sterre,
Venus the bright, and leften all behind
His other werkes clene and out of mind:
'For other have their full shape and bewtee,
And we,' quod they, 'ben in deformitè.'
And nye to thaim there was a company,
That have the susters waried and misseid;
I mene, the three of fatall destinè,
That be our werdes; and sone, in a brayd,
Out gan they cry as they had been affrayd,
'We curse,' quod thay, 'that ever hath nature
Y-formed us, this wofull lyfe t'endure!'
And there he was contrite, and gan repent,
Confessing hole the wound that Citherè
Hath with the dart of hot desire him sent,
And how that he to love must subjet be:
Than held he all his skornes vanitè,
And seid, that lovers lede a blisful lyfe,
Yong men and old, and widow, maid and wyfe.
'Bereve me, goddesse,' quod he, '[of] thy might,
My skornes all and skoffes, that I have
No power forth, to mokken any wight,
That in thy service dwell: for I did rave:
This know I well right now, so god me save,
And I shal be the chief post of thy feith,
And love uphold, the révers who-so seith.'
Dissemble stood not fer from him in trouth,
With party mantill, party hood and hose;
And said, he had upon his lady rowth,
And thus he wound him in, and gan to glose
Of his entent full doble, I suppose:
And al the world, he seid, he loved it wele;
But ay, me thoughte, he loved her nere a dele.
Eek Shamefastness was there, as I took hede,
That blusshed rede, and durst nat ben a-knowe
She lover was, for thereof had she drede;
She stood and hing her visage down alowe;
But suche a sight it was to sene, I trow,
As of these roses rody on their stalk:
There cowd no wight her spy to speke or talk
In loves art, so gan she to abasshe,
Ne durst not utter all her privitè:
Many a stripe and many a grevous lasshe
She gave to thaim that wolden loveres be,
And hindered sore the simpill comonaltè,
That in no wyse durst grace and mercy crave;
For were not she, they need but ask and have;
Where if they now approchin for to speke,
Than Shamefastness returnith thaim again:
Thay think, if we our secret councell breke,
Our ladies will have scorn on us, certain,
And [per]aventure thinken greet disdain:
Thus Shamefastness may bringin in Dispeir,
Whan she is dede, the toder will be heir.
Com forth, Avaunter! now I ring thy bell!
I spyed him sone; to god I make a-vowe,
He loked blak as fendes doth in hell:—
'The first,' quod he, 'that ever [I] did wowe,
Within a word she com, I wot not how,
So that in armes was my lady free;
And so hath ben a thousand mo than she.
In Englond, Bretain, Spain, and Pycardie,
Arteys, and Fraunce, and up in hy Holand,
In Burgoyne, Naples, and [in] Italy,
Naverne, and Grece, and up in hethen land,
Was never woman yit that wold withstand
To ben at myn commaundement, whan I wold:
I lakked neither silver, coin, ne gold.
And there I met with this estate and that;
And here I broched her, and here, I trow:
Lo! there goth oon of myne; and wot ye what?
Yon fressh attired have I leyd full low;
And such oon yonder eke right well I know:
I kept the statut whan we lay y-fere;
And yet yon same hath made me right good chere.'
Thus hath Avaunter blowen every-where
Al that he knowith, and more, a thousand-fold;
His auncetrye of kin was to Lière,
For firste he makith promise for to hold
His ladies councell, and it not unfold;
Wherfore, the secret when he doth unshit,
Than lyeth he, that all the world may wit.
For falsing so his promise and behest,
I wounder sore he hath such fantasie;
He lakketh wit, I trowe, or is a best,
That can no bet him-self with reson gy.
By myn advice, Love shal be contrarie
To his availe, and him eke dishonoure,
So that in court he shall no more sojoure.
'Take hede,' quod she, this litell Philobone,
'Where Envy rokketh in the corner yond,
And sitteth dirk; and ye shall see anone
His lenë bodie, fading face and hond;
Him-self he fretteth, as I understond;
Witnesse of Ovid Methamorphosose;
The lovers fo he is, I wil not glose.
For where a lover thinketh him promote,
Envy will grucch, repyning at his wele;
Hit swelleth sore about his hartes rote,
That in no wyse he can not live in hele;
And if the feithfull to his lady stele,
Envy will noise and ring it round aboute,
And sey moche worse than don is, out of dowte.'
And Prevy Thought, rejoysing of him-self,
Stood not fer thens in habit mervelous;
'Yon is,' thought [I], 'som spirit or some elf,
His sotill image is so curious:
How is,' quod I, 'that he is shaded thus
With yonder cloth, I not of what colour?'
And nere I went, and gan to lere and pore,
And frayned him [a] question full hard.
'What is,' quod I, 'the thing thou lovest best?
Or what is boot unto thy paines hard?
Me think, thow livest here in grete unrest;
Thow wandrest ay from south to est and west,
And est to north; as fer as I can see,
There is no place in court may holden thee.
Whom folowest thow? where is thy harte y-set?
But my demaunde asoile, I thee require.'
'Me thought,' quod he, 'no crëature may let
Me to ben here, and where-as I desire:
For where-as absence hath don out the fire,
My mery thought it kindleth yet again,
That bodily, me think, with my souverain
I stand and speke, and laugh, and kisse, and halse,
So that my thought comforteth me full oft:
I think, god wot, though all the world be false,
I will be trewe; I think also how soft
My lady is in speche, and this on-loft
Bringeth myn hart to joye and [greet] gladnesse;
This prevey thought alayeth myne hevinesse.
And what I thinke, or where to be, no man
In all this erth can tell, y-wis, but I:
And eke there nis no swallow swift, ne swan
So wight of wing, ne half [so] yern can fly;
For I can been, and that right sodenly,
In heven, in helle, in paradise, and here,
And with my lady, whan I will desire.
I am of councell ferre and wyde, I wot,
With lord and lady, and their previtè
I wot it all; but be it cold or hot,
They shall not speke without licence of me,
I mene, in suche as sesonable be;
For first the thing is thought within the hert,
Ere any word out from the mouth astert.'
And with that word Thought bad farewell and yede:
Eke furth went I to seen the courtes gyse:
And at the dore cam in, so god me spede,
Twey courteours of age and of assyse
Liche high, and brode, and, as I me advyse,
The Golden Love, and Leden Love thay hight:
The ton was sad, the toder glad and light.
. . .
'Yis! draw your hart, with all your force and might,
To lustiness, and been as ye have seid;
And think that I no drop of favour hight,
Ne never had to your desire obeyd,
Till sodenly, me thought, me was affrayed,
To seen you wax so dede of countenaunce;
And Pitè bad me don you some plasaunce.
Out of her shryne she roos from deth to lyve,
And in myne ere full prevely she spak,
'Doth not your servaunt hens away to dryve,
Rosiall,' quod she; and than myn harte [it] brak,
For tender reuth: and where I found moch lak
In your persoune, than I my-self bethought;
And seid, 'This is the man myne harte hath sought.''
'Gramercy, Pitè! might I but suffice
To yeve the lawde unto thy shryne of gold,
God wot, I wold; for sith that thou did rise
From deth to lyve for me, I am behold
To thanken you a thousand tymes told,
And eke my lady Rosiall the shene,
Which hath in comfort set myn harte, I wene.
And here I make myn protestacion,
And depely swere, as [to] myn power, to been
Feithfull, devoid of variacion,
And her forbere in anger or in tene,
And serviceable to my worldes quene,
With al my reson and intelligence,
To don her honour high and reverence.'
I had not spoke so sone the word, but she,
My souverain, did thank me hartily,
And seid, 'Abyde, ye shall dwell still with me
Till seson come of May; for than, truly,
The King of Love and all his company
Shall hold his fest full ryally and well:'
And there I bode till that the seson fell.
On May-day, whan the lark began to ryse,
To matens went the lusty nightingale
Within a temple shapen hawthorn-wise;
He might not slepe in all the nightertale,
But 'Domine labia,' gan he crye and gale,
'My lippes open, Lord of Love, I crye,
And let my mouth thy preising now bewrye.'
The eagle sang 'Venite, bodies all,
And let us joye to love that is our helth.'
And to the deske anon they gan to fall,
And who come late, he pressed in by stelth:
Than seid the fawcon, our own hartis welth,
'Domine, Dominus noster, I wot,
Ye be the god that don us bren thus hot.'
'Celi enarrant,' said the popingay,
'Your might is told in heven and firmament.'
And than came in the goldfinch fresh and gay,
And said this psalm with hertly glad intent,
'Domini est terra; this Laten intent,
The god of Love hath erth in governaunce:'
And than the wren gan skippen and to daunce.
'Jube, Domine, Lord of Love, I pray
Commaund me well this lesson for to rede;
This legend is of all that wolden dey
Marters for love; god yive the sowles spede!
And to thee, Venus, sing we, out of drede,
By influence of all thy vertue grete,
Beseching thee to kepe us in our hete.'
The second lesson robin redebrest sang,
'Hail to the god and goddess of our lay!'
And to the lectorn amorously he sprang:—
'Hail,' quod [he] eke, 'O fresh seson of May,
Our moneth glad that singen on the spray!
Hail to the floures, rede, and whyte, and blewe,
Which by their vertue make our lustes newe!'
The thrid lesson the turtill-dove took up,
And therat lough the mavis [as] in scorn:
He said, 'O god, as mot I dyne or sup,
This folissh dove will give us all an horn!
There been right here a thousand better born,
To rede this lesson, which, as well as he,
And eke as hot, can love in all degree.'
The turtill-dove said, 'Welcom, welcom, May,
Gladsom and light to loveres that ben trewe!
I thank thee, Lord of Love, that doth purvey
For me to rede this lesson all of dewe;
For, in gode sooth, of corage I pursue
To serve my make till deth us must depart:'
And than 'Tu autem' sang he all apart.
'Te deum amoris,' sang the thrustell-cok:
Tuball him-self, the first musician,
With key of armony coude not unlok
So swete [a] tewne as that the thrustill can:
'The Lord of Love we praisen,' quod he than,
'And so don all the fowles, grete and lyte;
Honour we May, in fals lovers dispyte.'
'Dominus regnavit,' seid the pecok there,
'The Lord of Love, that mighty prince, y-wis,
He hath received her[e] and every-where:
Now Jubilate sing:'—'What meneth this?'
Seid than the linet; 'welcom, Lord of blisse!'
Out-stert the owl with 'Benedicite,'
What meneth al this mery fare?' quod he.
'Laudate,' sang the lark with voice full shrill;
And eke the kite, 'O admirabile;
This quere will throgh myne eris pers and thrill;
But what? welcom this May seson,' quod he;
'And honour to the Lord of Love mot be,
That hath this feest so solemn and so high:'
'Amen,' seid all; and so seid eke the pye.
And furth the cokkow gan procede anon,
With 'Benedictus' thanking god in hast,
That in this May wold visite thaim echon,
And gladden thaim all whyl the fest shall last:
And therewithall a-loughter out he brast,
'I thank it god that I shuld end the song,
And all the service which hath been so long.'
Thus sang thay all the service of the fest,
And that was don right erly, to my dome;
And furth goth all the Court, both most and lest,
To feche the floures fressh, and braunche and blome;
And namly, hawthorn brought both page and grome.
With fressh garlandës, partie blewe and whyte,
And thaim rejoysen in their greet delyt.
Eke eche at other threw the floures bright,
The prymerose, the violet, the gold;
So than, as I beheld the ryall sight,
My lady gan me sodenly behold,
And with a trew-love, plited many-fold,
She smoot me through the [very] hert as blyve;
And Venus yet I thanke I am alyve.
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