Chaucer's Tale Of Meliboeus

'No more of this, for Godde's dignity!'
Quoth oure Hoste; 'for thou makest me
So weary of thy very lewedness,* *stupidity, ignorance <1>
That, all so wisly* God my soule bless, *surely
Mine eares ache for thy drafty* speech. *worthless <2>
Now such a rhyme the devil I beteche:* *commend to
This may well be rhyme doggerel,' quoth he.
'Why so?' quoth I; 'why wilt thou lette* me *prevent
More of my tale than any other man,
Since that it is the best rhyme that I can?'* *know
'By God!' quoth he, 'for, plainly at one word,
Thy drafty rhyming is not worth a tord:
Thou dost naught elles but dispendest* time. *wastest
Sir, at one word, thou shalt no longer rhyme.
Let see whether thou canst tellen aught *in gest,* *by way of
Or tell in prose somewhat, at the least, narrative*
In which there be some mirth or some doctrine.'
'Gladly,' quoth I, 'by Godde's sweete pine,* *suffering
I will you tell a little thing in prose,
That oughte like* you, as I suppose, *please
Or else certes ye be too dangerous.* *fastidious
It is a moral tale virtuous,
*All be it* told sometimes in sundry wise *although it be*
By sundry folk, as I shall you devise.
As thus, ye wot that ev'ry Evangelist,
That telleth us the pain* of Jesus Christ, *passion
He saith not all thing as his fellow doth;
But natheless their sentence is all soth,* *true
And all accorden as in their sentence,* *meaning
All be there in their telling difference;
For some of them say more, and some say less,
When they his piteous passion express;
I mean of Mark and Matthew, Luke and John;
But doubteless their sentence is all one.
Therefore, lordinges all, I you beseech,
If that ye think I vary in my speech,
As thus, though that I telle somedeal more
Of proverbes, than ye have heard before
Comprehended in this little treatise here,
*T'enforce with* the effect of my mattere, *with which to
And though I not the same wordes say enforce*
As ye have heard, yet to you all I pray
Blame me not; for as in my sentence
Shall ye nowhere finde no difference
From the sentence of thilke* treatise lite,** *this **little
After the which this merry tale I write.
And therefore hearken to what I shall say,
And let me tellen all my tale, I pray.'

A young man called Meliboeus, mighty and rich, begat upon his
wife, that called was Prudence, a daughter which that called was
Sophia. Upon a day befell, that he for his disport went into the
fields him to play. His wife and eke his daughter hath he left
within his house, of which the doors were fast shut. Three of his
old foes have it espied, and set ladders to the walls of his house,
and by the windows be entered, and beaten his wife, and
wounded his daughter with five mortal wounds, in five sundry
places; that is to say, in her feet, in her hands, in her ears, in her
nose, and in her mouth; and left her for dead, and went away.
When Meliboeus returned was into his house, and saw all this
mischief, he, like a man mad, rending his clothes, gan weep and
cry. Prudence his wife, as farforth as she durst, besought him of
his weeping for to stint: but not forthy [notwithstanding] he gan
to weep and cry ever longer the more.

This noble wife Prudence remembered her upon the sentence of
Ovid, in his book that called is the 'Remedy of Love,' <2>
where he saith: He is a fool that disturbeth the mother to weep
in the death of her child, till she have wept her fill, as for a
certain time; and then shall a man do his diligence with amiable
words her to recomfort and pray her of her weeping for to stint
[cease]. For which reason this noble wife Prudence suffered her
husband for to weep and cry, as for a certain space; and when
she saw her time, she said to him in this wise: 'Alas! my lord,'
quoth she, 'why make ye yourself for to be like a fool? For
sooth it appertaineth not to a wise man to make such a sorrow.
Your daughter, with the grace of God, shall warish [be cured]
and escape. And all [although] were it so that she right now
were dead, ye ought not for her death yourself to destroy.
Seneca saith, 'The wise man shall not take too great discomfort
for the death of his children, but certes he should suffer it in
patience, as well as he abideth the death of his own proper

Meliboeus answered anon and said: 'What man,' quoth he,
'should of his weeping stint, that hath so great a cause to weep?
Jesus Christ, our Lord, himself wept for the death of Lazarus
his friend.' Prudence answered, 'Certes, well I wot,
attempered [moderate] weeping is nothing defended [forbidden]
to him that sorrowful is, among folk in sorrow but it is rather
granted him to weep. The Apostle Paul unto the Romans
writeth, 'Man shall rejoice with them that make joy, and weep
with such folk as weep.' But though temperate weeping be
granted, outrageous weeping certes is defended. Measure of
weeping should be conserved, after the lore [doctrine] that
teacheth us Seneca. 'When that thy friend is dead,' quoth he, 'let
not thine eyes too moist be of tears, nor too much dry: although
the tears come to thine eyes, let them not fall. And when thou
hast forgone [lost] thy friend, do diligence to get again another
friend: and this is more wisdom than to weep for thy friend
which that thou hast lorn [lost] for therein is no boot
[advantage]. And therefore if ye govern you by sapience, put
away sorrow out of your heart. Remember you that Jesus
Sirach saith, 'A man that is joyous and glad in heart, it him
conserveth flourishing in his age: but soothly a sorrowful heart
maketh his bones dry.' He said eke thus, 'that sorrow in heart
slayth full many a man.' Solomon saith 'that right as moths in
the sheep's fleece annoy [do injury] to the clothes, and the small
worms to the tree, right so annoyeth sorrow to the heart of
man.' Wherefore us ought as well in the death of our children,
as in the loss of our goods temporal, have patience. Remember
you upon the patient Job, when he had lost his children and his
temporal substance, and in his body endured and received full
many a grievous tribulation, yet said he thus: 'Our Lord hath
given it to me, our Lord hath bereft it me; right as our Lord
would, right so be it done; blessed be the name of our Lord.''

To these foresaid things answered Meliboeus unto his wife
Prudence: 'All thy words,' quoth he, 'be true, and thereto
[also] profitable, but truly mine heart is troubled with this
sorrow so grievously, that I know not what to do.' 'Let call,'
quoth Prudence, 'thy true friends all, and thy lineage, which be
wise, and tell to them your case, and hearken what they say in
counselling, and govern you after their sentence [opinion].
Solomon saith, 'Work all things by counsel, and thou shall never
repent.'' Then, by counsel of his wife Prudence, this Meliboeus
let call [sent for] a great congregation of folk, as surgeons,
physicians, old folk and young, and some of his old enemies
reconciled (as by their semblance) to his love and to his grace;
and therewithal there come some of his neighbours, that did him
reverence more for dread than for love, as happeneth oft. There
come also full many subtle flatterers, and wise advocates
learned in the law. And when these folk together assembled
were, this Meliboeus in sorrowful wise showed them his case,
and by the manner of his speech it seemed that in heart he bare
a cruel ire, ready to do vengeance upon his foes, and suddenly
desired that the war should begin, but nevertheless yet asked he
their counsel in this matter. A surgeon, by licence and assent of
such as were wise, up rose, and to Meliboeus said as ye may
hear. 'Sir,' quoth he, 'as to us surgeons appertaineth, that we
do to every wight the best that we can, where as we be
withholden, [employed] and to our patient that we do no
damage; wherefore it happeneth many a time and oft, that when
two men have wounded each other, one same surgeon healeth
them both; wherefore unto our art it is not pertinent to nurse
war, nor parties to support [take sides]. But certes, as to the
warishing [healing] of your daughter, albeit so that perilously
she be wounded, we shall do so attentive business from day to
night, that, with the grace of God, she shall be whole and
sound, as soon as is possible.' Almost right in the same wise the
physicians answered, save that they said a few words more: that
right as maladies be cured by their contraries, right so shall man
warish war (by peace). His neighbours full of envy, his feigned
friends that seemed reconciled, and his flatterers, made
semblance of weeping, and impaired and agregged [aggravated]
much of this matter, in praising greatly Meliboeus of might, of
power, of riches, and of friends, despising the power of his
adversaries: and said utterly, that he anon should wreak him on
his foes, and begin war.

Up rose then an advocate that was wise, by leave and by
counsel of other that were wise, and said, 'Lordings, the need
[business] for which we be assembled in this place, is a full
heavy thing, and an high matter, because of the wrong and of
the wickedness that hath been done, and eke by reason of the
great damages that in time coming be possible to fall for the
same cause, and eke by reason of the great riches and power of
the parties both; for which reasons, it were a full great peril to
err in this matter. Wherefore, Meliboeus, this is our sentence
[opinion]; we counsel you, above all things, that right anon thou
do thy diligence in keeping of thy body, in such a wise that thou
want no espy nor watch thy body to save. And after that, we
counsel that in thine house thou set sufficient garrison, so that
they may as well thy body as thy house defend. But, certes, to
move war or suddenly to do vengeance, we may not deem
[judge] in so little time that it were profitable. Wherefore we
ask leisure and space to have deliberation in this case to deem;
for the common proverb saith thus; 'He that soon deemeth soon
shall repent.' And eke men say, that that judge is wise, that soon
understandeth a matter, and judgeth by leisure. For albeit so
that all tarrying be annoying, algates [nevertheless] it is no
reproof [subject for reproach] in giving of judgement, nor in
vengeance taking, when it is sufficient and, reasonable. And
that shewed our Lord Jesus Christ by example; for when that
the woman that was taken in adultery was brought in his
presence to know what should be done with her person, albeit
that he wist well himself what he would answer, yet would he
not answer suddenly, but he would have deliberation, and in the
ground he wrote twice. And by these causes we ask deliberation
and we shall then by the grace of God counsel the thing that
shall be profitable.'

Up started then the young folk anon at once, and the most part
of that company have scorned these old wise men and begun to
make noise and said, 'Right as while that iron is hot men should
smite, right so men should wreak their wrongs while that they
be fresh and new:' and with loud voice they cried. 'War! War!'
Up rose then one of these old wise, and with his hand made
countenance [a sign, gesture] that men should hold them still,
and give him audience. 'Lordings,' quoth he, 'there is full many
a man that crieth, 'War! war!' that wot full little what war
amounteth. War at his beginning hath so great an entering and
so large, that every wight may enter when him liketh, and lightly
[easily] find war: but certes what end shall fall thereof it is not
light to know. For soothly when war is once begun, there is full
many a child unborn of his mother, that shall sterve [die] young
by cause of that war, or else live in sorrow and die in
wretchedness; and therefore, ere that any war be begun, men
must have great counsel and great deliberation.' And when this
old man weened [thought, intended] to enforce his tale by
reasons, well-nigh all at once began they to rise for to break his
tale, and bid him full oft his words abridge. For soothly he that
preacheth to them that list not hear his words, his sermon them
annoyeth. For Jesus Sirach saith, that music in weeping is a
noyous [troublesome] thing. This is to say, as much availeth to
speak before folk to whom his speech annoyeth, as to sing
before him that weepeth. And when this wise man saw that him
wanted audience, all shamefast he sat him down again. For
Solomon saith, 'Where as thou mayest have no audience,
enforce thee not to speak.' 'I see well,' quoth this wise man,
'that the common proverb is sooth, that good counsel wanteth,
when it is most need.' Yet [besides, further] had this Meliboeus
in his council many folk, that privily in his ear counselled him
certain thing, and counselled him the contrary in general
audience. When Meliboeus had heard that the greatest part of
his council were accorded [in agreement] that he should make
war, anon he consented to their counselling, and fully affirmed
their sentence [opinion, judgement].

(Dame Prudence, seeing her husband's resolution thus taken, in
full humble wise, when she saw her time, begins to counsel him
against war, by a warning against haste in requital of either
good or evil. Meliboeus tells her that he will not work by her
counsel, because he should be held a fool if he rejected for her
advice the opinion of so many wise men; because all women are
bad; because it would seem that he had given her the mastery
over him; and because she could not keep his secret, if he
resolved to follow her advice. To these reasons Prudence
answers that it is no folly to change counsel when things, or
men's judgements of them, change - especially to alter a
resolution taken on the impulse of a great multitude of folk,
where every man crieth and clattereth what him liketh; that if all
women had been wicked, Jesus Christ would never have
descended to be born of a woman, nor have showed himself
first to a woman after his resurrection and that when Solomon
said he had found no good woman, he meant that God alone
was supremely good; <3> that her husband would not seem to
give her the mastery by following her counsel, for he had his
own free choice in following or rejecting it; and that he knew
well and had often tested her great silence, patience, and
secrecy. And whereas he had quoted a saying, that in wicked
counsel women vanquish men, she reminds him that she would
counsel him against doing a wickedness on which he had set his
mind, and cites instances to show that many women have been
and yet are full good, and their counsel wholesome and
profitable. Lastly, she quotes the words of God himself, when
he was about to make woman as an help meet for man; and
promises that, if her husband will trust her counsel, she will
restore to him his daughter whole and sound, and make him
have honour in this case. Meliboeus answers that because of his
wife's sweet words, and also because he has proved and assayed
her great wisdom and her great truth, he will govern him by her
counsel in all things. Thus encouraged, Prudence enters on a
long discourse, full of learned citations, regarding the manner in
which counsellors should be chosen and consulted, and the
times and reasons for changing a counsel. First, God must be
besought for guidance. Then a man must well examine his own
thoughts, of such things as he holds to be best for his own
profit; driving out of his heart anger, covetousness, and
hastiness, which perturb and pervert the judgement. Then he
must keep his counsel secret, unless confiding it to another shall
be more profitable; but, in so confiding it, he shall say nothing
to bias the mind of the counsellor toward flattery or
subserviency. After that he should consider his friends and his
enemies, choosing of the former such as be most faithful and
wise, and eldest and most approved in counselling; and even of
these only a few. Then he must eschew the counselling of fools,
of flatterers, of his old enemies that be reconciled, of servants
who bear him great reverence and fear, of folk that be drunken
and can hide no counsel, of such as counsel one thing privily
and the contrary openly; and of young folk, for their counselling
is not ripe. Then, in examining his counsel, he must truly tell his
tale; he must consider whether the thing he proposes to do be
reasonable, within his power, and acceptable to the more part
and the better part of his counsellors; he must look at the things
that may follow from that counselling, choosing the best and
waiving all besides; he must consider the root whence the
matter of his counsel is engendered, what fruits it may bear,
and from what causes they be sprung. And having thus
examined his counsel and approved it by many wise folk and
old, he shall consider if he may perform it and make of it a good
end; if he be in doubt, he shall choose rather to suffer than to
begin; but otherwise he shall prosecute his resolution steadfastly
till the enterprise be at an end. As to changing his counsel, a
man may do so without reproach, if the cause cease, or when a
new case betides, or if he find that by error or otherwise harm
or damage may result, or if his counsel be dishonest or come of
dishonest cause, or if it be impossible or may not properly be
kept; and he must take it for a general rule, that every counsel
which is affirmed so strongly, that it may not be changed for
any condition that may betide, that counsel is wicked.
Meliboeus, admitting that his wife had spoken well and suitably
as to counsellors and counsel in general, prays her to tell him in
especial what she thinks of the counsellors whom they have
chosen in their present need. Prudence replies that his counsel in
this case could not properly be called a counselling, but a
movement of folly; and points out that he has erred in sundry
wise against the rules which he had just laid down. Granting
that he has erred, Meliboeus says that he is all ready to change
his counsel right as she will devise; for, as the proverb runs, to
do sin is human, but to persevere long in sin is work of the
Devil. Prudence then minutely recites, analyses, and criticises
the counsel given to her husband in the assembly of his friends.
She commends the advice of the physicians and surgeons, and
urges that they should be well rewarded for their noble speech
and their services in healing Sophia; and she asks Meliboeus
how he understands their proposition that one contrary must be
cured by another contrary. Meliboeus answers, that he should
do vengeance on his enemies, who had done him wrong.
Prudence, however, insists that vengeance is not the contrary of
vengeance, nor wrong of wrong, but the like; and that
wickedness should be healed by goodness, discord by accord,
war by peace. She proceeds to deal with the counsel of the
lawyers and wise folk that advised Meliboeus to take prudent
measures for the security of his body and of his house. First, she
would have her husband pray for the protection and aid of
Christ; then commit the keeping of his person to his true
friends; then suspect and avoid all strange folk, and liars, and
such people as she had already warned him against; then beware
of presuming on his strength, or the weakness of his adversary,
and neglecting to guard his person - for every wise man
dreadeth his enemy; then he should evermore be on the watch
against ambush and all espial, even in what seems a place of
safety; though he should not be so cowardly, as to fear where is
no cause for dread; yet he should dread to be poisoned, and
therefore shun scorners, and fly their words as venom. As to
the fortification of his house, she points out that towers and
great edifices are costly and laborious, yet useless unless
defended by true friends that be old and wise; and the greatest
and strongest garrison that a rich man may have, as well to keep
his person as his goods, is, that he be beloved by his subjects
and by his neighbours. Warmly approving the counsel that in all
this business Meliboeus should proceed with great diligence and
deliberation, Prudence goes on to examine the advice given by
his neighbours that do him reverence without love, his old
enemies reconciled, his flatterers that counselled him certain
things privily and openly counselled him the contrary, and the
young folk that counselled him to avenge himself and make war
at once. She reminds him that he stands alone against three
powerful enemies, whose kindred are numerous and close,
while his are fewer and remote in relationship; that only the
judge who has jurisdiction in a case may take sudden vengeance
on any man; that her husband's power does not accord with his
desire; and that, if he did take vengeance, it would only breed
fresh wrongs and contests. As to the causes of the wrong done
to him, she holds that God, the causer of all things, has
permitted him to suffer because he has drunk so much honey
<4> of sweet temporal riches, and delights, and honours of this
world, that he is drunken, and has forgotten Jesus Christ his
Saviour; the three enemies of mankind, the flesh, the fiend, and
the world, have entered his heart by the windows of his body,
and wounded his soul in five places - that is to say, the deadly
sins that have entered into his heart by the five senses; and in
the same manner Christ has suffered his three enemies to enter
his house by the windows, and wound his daughter in the five
places before specified. Meliboeus demurs, that if his wife's
objections prevailed, vengeance would never be taken, and
thence great mischiefs would arise; but Prudence replies that the
taking of vengeance lies with the judges, to whom the private
individual must have recourse. Meliboeus declares that such
vengeance does not please him, and that, as Fortune has
nourished and helped him from his childhood, he will now assay
her, trusting, with God's help, that she will aid him to avenge his
shame. Prudence warns him against trusting to Fortune, all the
less because she has hitherto favoured him, for just on that
account she is the more likely to fail him; and she calls on him
to leave his vengeance with the Sovereign Judge, that avengeth
all villainies and wrongs. Meliboeus argues that if he refrains
from taking vengeance he will invite his enemies to do him
further wrong, and he will be put and held over low; but
Prudence contends that such a result can be brought about only
by the neglect of the judges, not by the patience of the
individual. Supposing that he had leave to avenge himself, she
repeats that he is not strong enough, and quotes the common
saw, that it is madness for a man to strive with a stronger than
himself, peril to strive with one of equal strength, and folly to
strive with a weaker. But, considering his own defaults and
demerits, - remembering the patience of Christ and the
undeserved tribulations of the saints, the brevity of this life with
all its trouble and sorrow, the discredit thrown on the wisdom
and training of a man who cannot bear wrong with patience -
he should refrain wholly from taking vengeance. Meliboeus
submits that he is not at all a perfect man, and his heart will
never be at peace until he is avenged; and that as his enemies
disregarded the peril when they attacked him, so he might,
without reproach, incur some peril in attacking them in return,
even though he did a great excess in avenging one wrong by
another. Prudence strongly deprecates all outrage or excess; but
Meliboeus insists that he cannot see that it might greatly harm
him though he took a vengeance, for he is richer and mightier
than his enemies, and all things obey money. Prudence
thereupon launches into a long dissertation on the advantages of
riches, the evils of poverty, the means by which wealth should
be gathered, and the manner in which it should be used; and
concludes by counselling her husband not to move war and
battle through trust in his riches, for they suffice not to maintain
war, the battle is not always to the strong or the numerous, and
the perils of conflict are many. Meliboeus then curtly asks her
for her counsel how he shall do in this need; and she answers
that certainly she counsels him to agree with his adversaries and
have peace with them. Meliboeus on this cries out that plainly
she loves not his honour or his worship, in counselling him to
go and humble himself before his enemies, crying mercy to them
that, having done him so grievous wrong, ask him not to be
reconciled. Then Prudence, making semblance of wrath, retorts
that she loves his honour and profit as she loves her own, and
ever has done; she cites the Scriptures in support of her counsel
to seek peace; and says she will leave him to his own courses,
for she knows well he is so stubborn, that he will do nothing for
her. Meliboeus then relents; admits that he is angry and cannot
judge aright; and puts himself wholly in her hands, promising to
do just as she desires, and admitting that he is the more held to
love and praise her, if she reproves him of his folly)

Then Dame Prudence discovered all her counsel and her will
unto him, and said: 'I counsel you,' quoth she, 'above all
things, that ye make peace between God and you, and be
reconciled unto Him and to his grace; for, as I have said to you
herebefore, God hath suffered you to have this tribulation and
disease [distress, trouble] for your sins; and if ye do as I say
you, God will send your adversaries unto you, and make them
fall at your feet, ready to do your will and your commandment.
For Solomon saith, 'When the condition of man is pleasant and
liking to God, he changeth the hearts of the man's adversaries,
and constraineth them to beseech him of peace of grace.' And I
pray you let me speak with your adversaries in privy place, for
they shall not know it is by your will or your assent; and then,
when I know their will and their intent, I may counsel you the
more surely.' ''Dame,' quoth Meliboeus, ''do your will and
your liking, for I put me wholly in your disposition and

Then Dame Prudence, when she saw the goodwill of her
husband, deliberated and took advice in herself, thinking how
she might bring this need [affair, emergency] unto a good end.
And when she saw her time, she sent for these adversaries to
come into her into a privy place, and showed wisely into them
the great goods that come of peace, and the great harms and
perils that be in war; and said to them, in goodly manner, how
that they ought have great repentance of the injuries and
wrongs that they had done to Meliboeus her Lord, and unto her
and her daughter. And when they heard the goodly words of
Dame Prudence, then they were surprised and ravished, and had
so great joy of her, that wonder was to tell. 'Ah lady!' quoth
they, 'ye have showed unto us the blessing of sweetness, after
the saying of David the prophet; for the reconciling which we
be not worthy to have in no manner, but we ought require it
with great contrition and humility, ye of your great goodness
have presented unto us. Now see we well, that the science and
conning [knowledge] of Solomon is full true; for he saith, that
sweet words multiply and increase friends, and make shrews
[the ill-natured or angry] to be debonair [gentle, courteous] and
meek. Certes we put our deed, and all our matter and cause, all
wholly in your goodwill, and be ready to obey unto the speech
and commandment of my lord Meliboeus. And therefore, dear
and benign lady, we pray you and beseech you as meekly as we
can and may, that it like unto your great goodness to fulfil in
deed your goodly words. For we consider and acknowledge
that we have offended and grieved my lord Meliboeus out of
measure, so far forth that we be not of power to make him
amends; and therefore we oblige and bind us and our friends to
do all his will and his commandment. But peradventure he hath
such heaviness and such wrath to usward, [towards us] because
of our offence, that he will enjoin us such a pain [penalty] as we
may not bear nor sustain; and therefore, noble lady, we beseech
to your womanly pity to take such advisement [consideration]
in this need, that we, nor our friends, be not disinherited and
destroyed through our folly.'

'Certes,' quoth Prudence, 'it is an hard thing, and right
perilous, that a man put him all utterly in the arbitration and
judgement and in the might and power of his enemy. For
Solomon saith, 'Believe me, and give credence to that that I
shall say: to thy son, to thy wife, to thy friend, nor to thy
brother, give thou never might nor mastery over thy body, while
thou livest.' Now, since he defendeth [forbiddeth] that a man
should not give to his brother, nor to his friend, the might of his
body, by a stronger reason he defendeth and forbiddeth a man
to give himself to his enemy. And nevertheless, I counsel you
that ye mistrust not my lord: for I wot well and know verily,
that he is debonair and meek, large, courteous and nothing
desirous nor envious of good nor riches: for there is nothing in
this world that he desireth save only worship and honour.
Furthermore I know well, and am right sure, that he shall
nothing do in this need without counsel of me; and I shall so
work in this case, that by the grace of our Lord God ye shall be
reconciled unto us.'

Then said they with one voice, ''Worshipful lady, we put us
and our goods all fully in your will and disposition, and be ready
to come, what day that it like unto your nobleness to limit us or
assign us, for to make our obligation and bond, as strong as it
liketh unto your goodness, that we may fulfil the will of you and
of my lord Meliboeus.'

When Dame Prudence had heard the answer of these men, she
bade them go again privily, and she returned to her lord
Meliboeus, and told him how she found his adversaries full
repentant, acknowledging full lowly their sins and trespasses,
and how they were ready to suffer all pain, requiring and
praying him of mercy and pity. Then said Meliboeus, 'He is well
worthy to have pardon and forgiveness of his sin, that excuseth
not his sin, but acknowledgeth, and repenteth him, asking
indulgence. For Seneca saith, 'There is the remission and
forgiveness, where the confession is; for confession is neighbour
to innocence.' And therefore I assent and confirm me to have
peace, but it is good that we do naught without the assent and
will of our friends.' Then was Prudence right glad and joyful,
and said, 'Certes, Sir, ye be well and goodly advised; for right
as by the counsel, assent, and help of your friends ye have been
stirred to avenge you and make war, right so without their
counsel shall ye not accord you, nor have peace with your
adversaries. For the law saith, 'There is nothing so good by way
of kind, [nature] as a thing to be unbound by him that it was

And then Dame Prudence, without delay or tarrying, sent anon
her messengers for their kin and for their old friends, which
were true and wise; and told them by order, in the presence of
Meliboeus, all this matter, as it is above expressed and declared;
and prayed them that they would give their advice and counsel
what were best to do in this need. And when Meliboeus' friends
had taken their advice and deliberation of the foresaid matter,
and had examined it by great business and great diligence, they
gave full counsel for to have peace and rest, and that Meliboeus
should with good heart receive his adversaries to forgiveness
and mercy. And when Dame Prudence had heard the assent of
her lord Meliboeus, and the counsel of his friends, accord with
her will and her intention, she was wondrous glad in her heart,
and said: 'There is an old proverb that saith, 'The goodness that
thou mayest do this day, do it, and abide not nor delay it not till
to-morrow:' and therefore I counsel you that ye send your
messengers, such as be discreet and wise, unto your adversaries,
telling them on your behalf, that if they will treat of peace and
of accord, that they shape [prepare] them, without delay or
tarrying, to come unto us.' Which thing performed was indeed.
And when these trespassers and repenting folk of their follies,
that is to say, the adversaries of Meliboeus, had heard what
these messengers said unto them, they were right glad and
joyful, and answered full meekly and benignly, yielding graces
and thanks to their lord Meliboeus, and to all his company; and
shaped them without delay to go with the messengers, and obey
to the commandment of their lord Meliboeus. And right anon
they took their way to the court of Meliboeus, and took with
them some of their true friends, to make faith for them, and for
to be their borrows [sureties].

And when they were come to the presence of Meliboeus, he
said to them these words; 'It stands thus,' quoth Meliboeus,
'and sooth it is, that ye causeless, and without skill and reason,
have done great injuries and wrongs to me, and to my wife
Prudence, and to my daughter also; for ye have entered into my
house by violence, and have done such outrage, that all men
know well that ye have deserved the death: and therefore will I
know and weet of you, whether ye will put the punishing and
chastising, and the vengeance of this outrage, in the will of me
and of my wife, or ye will not?' Then the wisest of them three
answered for them all, and said; 'Sir,' quoth he, 'we know well,
that we be I unworthy to come to the court of so great a lord
and so worthy as ye be, for we have so greatly mistaken us, and
have offended and aguilt [incurred guilt] in such wise against
your high lordship, that truly we have deserved the death. But
yet for the great goodness and debonairte [courtesy, gentleness]
that all the world witnesseth of your person, we submit us to
the excellence and benignity of your gracious lordship, and be
ready to obey to all your commandments, beseeching you, that
of your merciable [merciful] pity ye will consider our great
repentance and low submission, and grant us forgiveness of our
outrageous trespass and offence; for well we know, that your
liberal grace and mercy stretch them farther into goodness, than
do our outrageous guilt and trespass into wickedness; albeit that
cursedly [wickedly] and damnably we have aguilt [incurred
guilt] against your high lordship.' Then Meliboeus took them
up from the ground full benignly, and received their obligations
and their bonds, by their oaths upon their pledges and borrows,
[sureties] and assigned them a certain day to return unto his
court for to receive and accept sentence and judgement, that
Meliboeus would command to be done on them, by the causes
aforesaid; which things ordained, every man returned home to
his house.

And when that Dame Prudence saw her time she freined
[inquired] and asked her lord Meliboeus, what vengeance he
thought to take of his adversaries. To which Meliboeus
answered, and said; 'Certes,' quoth he, 'I think and purpose me
fully to disinherit them of all that ever they have, and for to put
them in exile for evermore.' 'Certes,' quoth Dame Prudence,
'this were a cruel sentence, and much against reason. For ye be
rich enough, and have no need of other men's goods; and ye
might lightly [easily] in this wise get you a covetous name,
which is a vicious thing, and ought to be eschewed of every
good man: for, after the saying of the Apostle, covetousness is
root of all harms. And therefore it were better for you to lose
much good of your own, than for to take of their good in this
manner. For better it is to lose good with worship [honour],
than to win good with villainy and shame. And every man ought
to do his diligence and his business to get him a good name.
And yet [further] shall he not only busy him in keeping his good
name, but he shall also enforce him alway to do some thing by
which he may renew his good name; for it is written, that the
old good los [reputation <5>] of a man is soon gone and
passed, when it is not renewed. And as touching that ye say,
that ye will exile your adversaries, that thinketh ye much against
reason, and out of measure, [moderation] considered the power
that they have given you upon themselves. And it is written,
that he is worthy to lose his privilege, that misuseth the might
and the power that is given him. And I set case [if I assume] ye
might enjoin them that pain by right and by law (which I trow
ye may not do), I say, ye might not put it to execution
peradventure, and then it were like to return to the war, as it
was before. And therefore if ye will that men do you obeisance,
ye must deem [decide] more courteously, that is to say, ye must
give more easy sentences and judgements. For it is written, 'He
that most courteously commandeth, to him men most obey.'
And therefore I pray you, that in this necessity and in this need
ye cast you [endeavour, devise a way] to overcome your heart.
For Seneca saith, that he that overcometh his heart, overcometh
twice. And Tullius saith, 'There is nothing so commendable in a
great lord, as when he is debonair and meek, and appeaseth him
lightly [easily].' And I pray you, that ye will now forbear to do
vengeance, in such a manner, that your good name may be kept
and conserved, and that men may have cause and matter to
praise you of pity and of mercy; and that ye have no cause to
repent you of thing that ye do. For Seneca saith, 'He
overcometh in an evil manner, that repenteth him of his victory.'
Wherefore I pray you let mercy be in your heart, to the effect
and intent that God Almighty have mercy upon you in his last
judgement; for Saint James saith in his Epistle, 'Judgement
without mercy shall be done to him, that hath no mercy of
another wight.''

When Meliboeus had heard the great skills [arguments, reasons]
and reasons of Dame Prudence, and her wise information and
teaching, his heart gan incline to the will of his wife, considering
her true intent, he conformed him anon and assented fully to
work after her counsel, and thanked God, of whom proceedeth
all goodness and all virtue, that him sent a wife of so great
discretion. And when the day came that his adversaries should
appear in his presence, he spake to them full goodly, and said in
this wise; 'Albeit so, that of your pride and high presumption
and folly, an of your negligence and unconning, [ignorance] ye
have misborne [misbehaved] you, and trespassed [done injury]
unto me, yet forasmuch as I see and behold your great humility,
and that ye be sorry and repentant of your guilts, it constraineth
me to do you grace and mercy. Wherefore I receive you into my
grace, and forgive you utterly all the offences, injuries, and
wrongs, that ye have done against me and mine, to this effect
and to this end, that God of his endless mercy will at the time of
our dying forgive us our guilts, that we have trespassed to him
in this wretched world; for doubtless, if we be sorry and
repentant of the sins and guilts which we have trespassed in the
sight of our Lord God, he is so free and so merciable [merciful],
that he will forgive us our guilts, and bring us to the bliss that
never hath end.' Amen.

The Parson's Tale


By that the Manciple his tale had ended,
The sunne from the south line was descended
So lowe, that it was not to my sight
Degrees nine-and-twenty as in height.
Four of the clock it was then, as I guess,
For eleven foot, a little more or less,
My shadow was at thilke time, as there,
Of such feet as my lengthe parted were
In six feet equal of proportion.
Therewith the moone's exaltation,* *rising
*In meane* Libra, gan alway ascend, *in the middle of*
As we were ent'ring at a thorpe's* end. *village's
For which our Host, as he was wont to gie,* *govern
As in this case, our jolly company,
Said in this wise; 'Lordings every one,
Now lacketh us no more tales than one.
Fulfill'd is my sentence and my decree;
I trow that we have heard of each degree.* from each class or rank
Almost fulfilled is mine ordinance; in the company
I pray to God so give him right good chance
That telleth us this tale lustily.
Sir Priest,' quoth he, 'art thou a vicary?* *vicar
Or art thou a Parson? say sooth by thy fay.* *faith
Be what thou be, breake thou not our play;
For every man, save thou, hath told his tale.
Unbuckle, and shew us what is in thy mail.* *wallet
For truely me thinketh by thy cheer
Thou shouldest knit up well a great mattere.
Tell us a fable anon, for cocke's bones.'

This Parson him answered all at ones;
'Thou gettest fable none y-told for me,
For Paul, that writeth unto Timothy,
Reproveth them that *weive soothfastness,* *forsake truth*
And telle fables, and such wretchedness.
Why should I sowe draff* out of my fist, *chaff, refuse
When I may sowe wheat, if that me list?
For which I say, if that you list to hear
Morality and virtuous mattere,
And then that ye will give me audience,
I would full fain at Christe's reverence
Do you pleasance lawful, as I can.
But, truste well, I am a southern man,
I cannot gest,* rom, ram, ruf, <1> by my letter; *relate stories
And, God wot, rhyme hold I but little better.
And therefore if you list, I will not glose,* *mince matters
I will you tell a little tale in prose,
To knit up all this feast, and make an end.
And Jesus for his grace wit me send
To shewe you the way, in this voyage,
Of thilke perfect glorious pilgrimage, <2>
That hight Jerusalem celestial.
And if ye vouchesafe, anon I shall
Begin upon my tale, for which I pray
Tell your advice,* I can no better say. *opinion
But natheless this meditation
I put it aye under correction
Of clerkes,* for I am not textuel; *scholars
I take but the sentence,* trust me well. *meaning, sense
Therefore I make a protestation,
That I will stande to correction.'
Upon this word we have assented soon;
For, as us seemed, it was *for to do'n,* *a thing worth doing*
To enden in some virtuous sentence,* *discourse
And for to give him space and audience;
And bade our Host he shoulde to him say
That alle we to tell his tale him pray.
Our Hoste had. the wordes for us all:
'Sir Priest,' quoth he, 'now faire you befall;
Say what you list, and we shall gladly hear.'
And with that word he said in this mannere;
'Telle,' quoth he, 'your meditatioun,
But hasten you, the sunne will adown.
Be fructuous,* and that in little space; *fruitful; profitable
And to do well God sende you his grace


[The Parson begins his 'little treatise' -(which, if given at
length, would extend to about thirty of these pages, and which
cannot by any stretch of courtesy or fancy be said to merit the
title of a 'Tale') in these words: -]

Our sweet Lord God of Heaven, that no man will perish, but
will that we come all to the knowledge of him, and to the
blissful life that is perdurable [everlasting], admonishes us by
the prophet Jeremiah, that saith in this wise: 'Stand upon the
ways, and see and ask of old paths, that is to say, of old
sentences, which is the good way, and walk in that way, and ye
shall find refreshing for your souls,' <2> &c. Many be the
spiritual ways that lead folk to our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the
reign of glory; of which ways there is a full noble way, and full
convenable, which may not fail to man nor to woman, that
through sin hath misgone from the right way of Jerusalem
celestial; and this way is called penitence. Of which men should
gladly hearken and inquire with all their hearts, to wit what is
penitence, and whence it is called penitence, and in what
manner, and in how many manners, be the actions or workings
of penitence, and how many species there be of penitences, and
what things appertain and behove to penitence, and what things
disturb penitence.

[Penitence is described, on the authority of Saints Ambrose,
Isidore, and Gregory, as the bewailing of sin that has been
wrought, with the purpose never again to do that thing, or any
other thing which a man should bewail; for weeping and not
ceasing to do the sin will not avail - though it is to be hoped
that after every time that a man falls, be it ever so often, he may
find grace to arise through penitence. And repentant folk that
leave their sin ere sin leave them, are accounted by Holy Church
sure of their salvation, even though the repentance be at the last
hour. There are three actions of penitence; that a man be
baptized after he has sinned; that he do no deadly sin after
receiving baptism; and that he fall into no venial sins from day
to day. 'Thereof saith St Augustine, that penitence of good and
humble folk is the penitence of every day.' The species of
penitence are three: solemn, when a man is openly expelled
from Holy Church in Lent, or is compelled by Holy Church to
do open penance for an open sin openly talked of in the
country; common penance, enjoined by priests in certain cases,
as to go on pilgrimage naked or barefoot; and privy penance,
which men do daily for private sins, of which they confess
privately and receive private penance. To very perfect penitence
are behoveful and necessary three things: contrition of heart,
confession of mouth, and satisfaction; which are fruitful
penitence against delight in thinking, reckless speech, and
wicked sinful works.

Penitence may be likened to a tree, having its root in contrition,
biding itself in the heart as a tree-root does in the earth; out of
this root springs a stalk, that bears branches and leaves of
confession, and fruit of satisfaction. Of this root also springs a
seed of grace, which is mother of all security, and this seed is
eager and hot; and the grace of this seed springs of God,
through remembrance on the day of judgment and on the pains
of hell. The heat of this seed is the love of God, and the desire
of everlasting joy; and this heat draws the heart of man to God,
and makes him hate his sin. Penance is the tree of life to them
that receive it. In penance or contrition man shall understand
four things: what is contrition; what are the causes that move a
man to contrition; how he should be contrite; and what
contrition availeth to the soul. Contrition is the heavy and
grievous sorrow that a man receiveth in his heart for his sins,
with earnest purpose to confess and do penance, and never
more to sin. Six causes ought to move a man to contrition: 1.
He should remember him of his sins; 2. He should reflect that
sin putteth a man in great thraldom, and all the greater the
higher is the estate from which he falls; 3. He should dread the
day of doom and the horrible pains of hell; 4. The sorrowful
remembrance of the good deeds that man hath omitted to do
here on earth, and also the good that he hath lost, ought to
make him have contrition; 5. So also ought the remembrance of
the passion that our Lord Jesus Christ suffered for our sins; 6.
And so ought the hope of three things, that is to say,
forgiveness of sin, the gift of grace to do well, and the glory of
heaven with which God shall reward man for his good deeds. -
All these points the Parson illustrates and enforces at length;
waxing especially eloquent under the third head, and plainly
setting forth the sternly realistic notions regarding future
punishments that were entertained in the time of Chaucer:-] <3>

Certes, all the sorrow that a man might make from the
beginning of the world, is but a little thing, at retard of [in
comparison with] the sorrow of hell. The cause why that Job
calleth hell the land of darkness; <4> understand, that he calleth
it land or earth, for it is stable and never shall fail, and dark, for
he that is in hell hath default [is devoid] of light natural; for
certes the dark light, that shall come out of the fire that ever
shall burn, shall turn them all to pain that be in hell, for it
sheweth them the horrible devils that them torment. Covered
with the darkness of death; that is to say, that he that is in hell
shall have default of the sight of God; for certes the sight of
God is the life perdurable [everlasting]. The darkness of death,
be the sins that the wretched man hath done, which that disturb
[prevent] him to see the face of God, right as a dark cloud doth
between us and the sun. Land of misease, because there be three
manner of defaults against three things that folk of this world
have in this present life; that is to say, honours, delights, and
riches. Against honour have they in hell shame and confusion:
for well ye wot, that men call honour the reverence that man
doth to man; but in hell is no honour nor reverence; for certes
no more reverence shall be done there to a king than to a knave
[servant]. For which God saith by the prophet Jeremiah; 'The
folk that me despise shall be in despite.' Honour is also called
great lordship. There shall no wight serve other, but of harm
and torment. Honour is also called great dignity and highness;
but in hell shall they be all fortrodden [trampled under foot] of
devils. As God saith, 'The horrible devils shall go and come
upon the heads of damned folk;' and this is, forasmuch as the
higher that they were in this present life, the more shall they be
abated [abased] and defouled in hell. Against the riches of this
world shall they have misease [trouble, torment] of poverty, and
this poverty shall be in four things: in default [want] of treasure;
of which David saith, 'The rich folk that embraced and oned
[united] all their heart to treasure of this world, shall sleep in the
sleeping of death, and nothing shall they find in their hands of
all their treasure.' And moreover, the misease of hell shall be in
default of meat and drink. For God saith thus by Moses, 'They
shall be wasted with hunger, and the birds of hell shall devour
them with bitter death, and the gall of the dragon shall be their
drink, and the venom of the dragon their morsels.' And
furthermore, their misease shall be in default of clothing, for
they shall be naked in body, as of clothing, save the fire in
which they burn, and other filths; and naked shall they be in
soul, of all manner virtues, which that is the clothing of the soul.
Where be then the gay robes, and the soft sheets, and the fine
shirts? Lo, what saith of them the prophet Isaiah, that under
them shall be strewed moths, and their covertures shall be of
worms of hell. And furthermore, their misease shall be in default
of friends, for he is not poor that hath good friends: but there is
no friend; for neither God nor any good creature shall be friend
to them, and evereach of them shall hate other with deadly hate.
The Sons and the daughters shall rebel against father and
mother, and kindred against kindred, and chide and despise each
other, both day and night, as God saith by the prophet Micah.
And the loving children, that whom loved so fleshly each other,
would each of them eat the other if they might. For how should
they love together in the pains of hell, when they hated each
other in the prosperity of this life? For trust well, their fleshly
love was deadly hate; as saith the prophet David; 'Whoso
loveth wickedness, he hateth his own soul:' and whoso hateth
his own soul, certes he may love none other wight in no
manner: and therefore in hell is no solace nor no friendship, but
ever the more kindreds that be in hell, the more cursing, the
more chiding, and the more deadly hate there is among them.
And furtherover, they shall have default of all manner delights;
for certes delights be after the appetites of the five wits
[senses]; as sight, hearing, smelling, savouring [tasting], and
touching. But in hell their sight shall be full of darkness and of
smoke, and their eyes full of tears; and their hearing full of
waimenting [lamenting] and grinting [gnashing] of teeth, as
saith Jesus Christ; their nostrils shall be full of stinking; and, as
saith Isaiah the prophet, their savouring [tasting] shall be full of
bitter gall; and touching of all their body shall be covered with
fire that never shall quench, and with worms that never shall
die, as God saith by the mouth of Isaiah. And forasmuch as they
shall not ween that they may die for pain, and by death flee from
pain, that may they understand in the word of Job, that saith,
'There is the shadow of death.' Certes a shadow hath the
likeness of the thing of which it is shadowed, but the shadow is
not the same thing of which it is shadowed: right so fareth the
pain of hell; it is like death, for the horrible anguish; and why?
for it paineth them ever as though they should die anon; but
certes they shall not die. For, as saith Saint Gregory, 'To
wretched caitiffs shall be given death without death, and end
without end, and default without failing; for their death shall
always live, and their end shall evermore begin, and their default
shall never fail.' And therefore saith Saint John the Evangelist,
'They shall follow death, and they shall not find him, and they
shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.' And eke Job
saith, that in hell is no order of rule. And albeit that God hath
created all things in right order, and nothing without order, but
all things be ordered and numbered, yet nevertheless they that
be damned be not in order, nor hold no order. For the earth
shall bear them no fruit (for, as the prophet David saith, 'God
shall destroy the fruit of the earth, as for them'): nor water shall
give them no moisture, nor the air no refreshing, nor the fire no
light. For as saith Saint Basil, 'The burning of the fire of this
world shall God give in hell to them that be damned, but the
light and the clearness shall be given in heaven to his children;
right as the good man giveth flesh to his children, and bones to
his hounds.' And for they shall have no hope to escape, saith
Job at last, that there shall horror and grisly dread dwell without
end. Horror is always dread of harm that is to come, and this
dread shall ever dwell in the hearts of them that be damned.
And therefore have they lost all their hope for seven causes.
First, for God that is their judge shall be without mercy to them;
nor they may not please him; nor none of his hallows [saints];
nor they may give nothing for their ransom; nor they have no
voice to speak to him; nor they may not flee from pain; nor they
have no goodness in them that they may shew to deliver them
from pain.

[Under the fourth head, of good works, the Parson says: -]

The courteous Lord Jesus Christ will that no good work be lost,
for in somewhat it shall avail. But forasmuch as the good works
that men do while they be in good life be all amortised [killed,
deadened] by sin following, and also since all the good works
that men do while they be in deadly sin be utterly dead, as for to
have the life perdurable [everlasting], well may that man that no
good works doth, sing that new French song, J'ai tout perdu -
mon temps et mon labour <5>. For certes, sin bereaveth a man
both the goodness of nature, and eke the goodness of grace.
For soothly the grace of the Holy Ghost fareth like fire, that
may not be idle; for fire faileth anon as it forleteth [leaveth] its
working, and right so grace faileth anon as it forleteth its
working. Then loseth the sinful man the goodness of glory, that
only is to good men that labour and work. Well may he be sorry
then, that oweth all his life to God, as long as he hath lived, and
also as long as he shall live, that no goodness hath to pay with
his debt to God, to whom he oweth all his life: for trust well he
shall give account, as saith Saint Bernard, of all the goods that
have been given him in his present life, and how he hath them
dispended, insomuch that there shall not perish an hair of his
head, nor a moment of an hour shall not perish of his time, that
he shall not give thereof a reckoning.

[Having treated of the causes, the Parson comes to the manner,
of contrition - which should be universal and total, not merely
of outward deeds of sin, but also of wicked delights and
thoughts and words; 'for certes Almighty God is all good, and
therefore either he forgiveth all, or else right naught.' Further,
contrition should be 'wonder sorrowful and anguishous,' and
also continual, with steadfast purpose of confession and
amendment. Lastly, of what contrition availeth, the Parson says,
that sometimes it delivereth man from sin; that without it neither
confession nor satisfaction is of any worth; that it 'destroyeth
the prison of hell, and maketh weak and feeble all the strengths
of the devils, and restoreth the gifts of the Holy Ghost and of all
good virtues, and cleanseth the soul of sin, and delivereth it
from the pain of hell, and from the company of the devil, and
from the servage [slavery] of sin, and restoreth it to all goods
spiritual, and to the company and communion of Holy Church.'
He who should set his intent to these things, would no longer be
inclined to sin, but would give his heart and body to the service
of Jesus Christ, and thereof do him homage. 'For, certes, our
Lord Jesus Christ hath spared us so benignly in our follies, that
if he had not pity on man's soul, a sorry song might we all sing.'

The Second Part of the Parson's Tale or Treatise opens with an
explanation of what is confession - which is termed 'the
second part of penitence, that is, sign of contrition;' whether it
ought needs be done or not; and what things be convenable to
true confession. Confession is true shewing of sins to the priest,
without excusing, hiding, or forwrapping [disguising] of
anything, and without vaunting of good works. 'Also, it is
necessary to understand whence that sins spring, and how they
increase, and which they be.' From Adam we took original sin;
'from him fleshly descended be we all, and engendered of vile
and corrupt matter;' and the penalty of Adam's transgression
dwelleth with us as to temptation, which penalty is called
concupiscence. 'This concupiscence, when it is wrongfully
disposed or ordained in a man, it maketh him covet, by covetise
of flesh, fleshly sin by sight of his eyes, as to earthly things, and
also covetise of highness by pride of heart.' The Parson
proceeds to shew how man is tempted in his flesh to sin; how,
after his natural concupiscence, comes suggestion of the devil,
that is to say the devil's bellows, with which he bloweth in man
the fire of con cupiscence; and how man then bethinketh him
whether he will do or no the thing to which he is tempted. If he
flame up into pleasure at the thought, and give way, then is he
all dead in soul; 'and thus is sin accomplished, by temptation, by
delight, and by consenting; and then is the sin actual.' Sin is
either venial, or deadly; deadly, when a man loves any creature
more than Jesus Christ our Creator, venial, if he love Jesus
Christ less than he ought. Venial sins diminish man's love to
God more and more, and may in this wise skip into deadly sin;
for many small make a great. 'And hearken this example: A
great wave of the sea cometh sometimes with so great a
violence, that it drencheth [causes to sink] the ship: and the
same harm do sometimes the small drops, of water that enter
through a little crevice in the thurrok [hold, bilge], and in the
bottom of the ship, if men be so negligent that they discharge
them not betimes. And therefore, although there be difference
betwixt these two causes of drenching, algates [in any case] the
ship is dreint [sunk]. Right so fareth it sometimes of deadly sin,'
and of venial sins when they multiply in a man so greatly as to
make him love worldly things more than God. The Parson then
enumerates specially a number of sins which many a man
peradventure deems no sins, and confesses them not, and yet
nevertheless they are truly sins: - ]

This is to say, at every time that a man eateth and drinketh more
than sufficeth to the sustenance of his body, in certain he doth
sin; eke when he speaketh more than it needeth, he doth sin; eke
when he heareth not benignly the complaint of the poor; eke
when he is in health of body, and will not fast when other folk
fast, without cause reasonable; eke when he sleepeth more than
needeth, or when he cometh by that occasion too late to church,
or to other works of charity; eke when he useth his wife without
sovereign desire of engendrure, to the honour of God, or for the
intent to yield his wife his debt of his body; eke when he will not
visit the sick, or the prisoner, if he may; eke if he love wife, or
child, or other worldly thing, more than reason requireth; eke if
he flatter or blandish more than he ought for any necessity; eke
if he minish or withdraw the alms of the poor; eke if he apparail
[prepare] his meat more deliciously than need is, or eat it too
hastily by likerousness [gluttony]; eke if he talk vanities in the
church, or at God's service, or that he be a talker of idle words
of folly or villainy, for he shall yield account of them at the day
of doom; eke when he behighteth [promiseth] or assureth to do
things that he may not perform; eke when that by lightness of
folly he missayeth or scorneth his neighbour; eke when he hath
any wicked suspicion of thing, that he wot of it no
soothfastness: these things, and more without number, be sins,
as saith Saint Augustine.

[No earthly man may eschew all venial sins; yet may he refrain
him, by the burning love that he hath to our Lord Jesus Christ,
and by prayer and confession, and other good works, so that it
shall but little grieve. 'Furthermore, men may also refrain and
put away venial sin, by receiving worthily the precious body of
Jesus Christ; by receiving eke of holy water; by alms-deed; by
general confession of Confiteor at mass, and at prime, and at
compline [evening service]; and by blessing of bishops and
priests, and by other good works.' The Parson then proceeds to
weightier matters:- ]

Now it is behovely [profitable, necessary] to tell which be
deadly sins, that is to say, chieftains of sins; forasmuch as all
they run in one leash, but in diverse manners. Now be they
called chieftains, forasmuch as they be chief, and of them spring
all other sins. The root of these sins, then, is pride, the general
root of all harms. For of this root spring certain branches: as ire,
envy, accidie <6> or sloth, avarice or covetousness (to common
understanding), gluttony, and lechery: and each of these sins
hath his branches and his twigs, as shall be declared in their
chapters following. And though so be, that no man can tell
utterly the number of the twigs, and of the harms that come of
pride, yet will I shew a part of them, as ye shall understand.
There is inobedience, vaunting, hypocrisy, despite, arrogance,
impudence, swelling of hearte, insolence, elation, impatience,
strife, contumacy, presumption, irreverence, pertinacity, vain-
glory and many another twig that I cannot tell nor declare. . . .]

And yet [moreover] there is a privy species of pride that waiteth
first to be saluted ere he will salute, all [although] be he less
worthy than that other is; and eke he waiteth [expecteth] or
desireth to sit or to go above him in the way, or kiss the pax,
<7> or be incensed, or go to offering before his neighbour, and
such semblable [like] things, against his duty peradventure, but
that he hath his heart and his intent in such a proud desire to be
magnified and honoured before the people. Now be there two
manner of prides; the one of them is within the heart of a man,
and the other is without. Of which soothly these foresaid things,
and more than I have said, appertain to pride that is within the
heart of a man and there be other species of pride that be
without: but nevertheless, the one of these species of pride is
sign of the other, right as the gay levesell [bush] at the tavern is
sign of the wine that is in the cellar. And this is in many things:
as in speech and countenance, and outrageous array of clothing;
for certes, if there had been no sin in clothing, Christ would not
so soon have noted and spoken of the clothing of that rich man
in the gospel. And Saint Gregory saith, that precious clothing is
culpable for the dearth [dearness] of it, and for its softness, and
for its strangeness and disguising, and for the superfluity or for
the inordinate scantness of it; alas! may not a man see in our
days the sinful costly array of clothing, and namely [specially] in
too much superfluity, or else in too disordinate scantness? As to
the first sin, in superfluity of clothing, which that maketh it so
dear, to the harm of the people, not only the cost of the
embroidering, the disguising, indenting or barring, ounding,
paling, <8> winding, or banding, and semblable [similar] waste
of cloth in vanity; but there is also the costly furring [lining or
edging with fur] in their gowns, so much punching of chisels to
make holes, so much dagging [cutting] of shears, with the
superfluity in length of the foresaid gowns, trailing in the dung
and in the mire, on horse and eke on foot, as well of man as of
woman, that all that trailing is verily (as in effect) wasted,
consumed, threadbare, and rotten with dung, rather than it is
given to the poor, to great damage of the foresaid poor folk,
and that in sundry wise: this is to say, the more that cloth is
wasted, the more must it cost to the poor people for the
scarceness; and furthermore, if so be that they would give such
punched and dagged clothing to the poor people, it is not
convenient to wear for their estate, nor sufficient to boot [help,
remedy] their necessity, to keep them from the distemperance
[inclemency] of the firmament. Upon the other side, to speak of
the horrible disordinate scantness of clothing, as be these cutted
slops or hanselines [breeches] , that through their shortness
cover not the shameful member of man, to wicked intent alas!
some of them shew the boss and the shape of the horrible
swollen members, that seem like to the malady of hernia, in the
wrapping of their hosen, and eke the buttocks of them, that fare
as it were the hinder part of a she-ape in the full of the moon.
And more over the wretched swollen members that they shew
through disguising, in departing [dividing] of their hosen in
white and red, seemeth that half their shameful privy members
were flain [flayed]. And if so be that they depart their hosen in
other colours, as is white and blue, or white and black, or black
and red, and so forth; then seemeth it, by variance of colour,
that the half part of their privy members be corrupt by the fire
of Saint Anthony, or by canker, or other such mischance. And
of the hinder part of their buttocks it is full horrible to see, for
certes, in that part of their body where they purge their stinking
ordure, that foul part shew they to the people proudly in despite
of honesty [decency], which honesty Jesus Christ and his friends
observed to shew in his life. Now as of the outrageous array of
women, God wot, that though the visages of some of them
seem full chaste and debonair [gentle], yet notify they, in their
array of attire, likerousness and pride. I say not that honesty
[reasonable and appropriate style] in clothing of man or woman
unconvenable but, certes, the superfluity or disordinate scarcity
of clothing is reprovable. Also the sin of their ornament, or of
apparel, as in things that appertain to riding, as in too many
delicate horses, that be holden for delight, that be so fair, fat,
and costly; and also in many a vicious knave, [servant] that is
sustained because of them; in curious harness, as in saddles,
cruppers, peytrels, [breast-plates] and bridles, covered with
precious cloth and rich bars and plates of gold and silver. For
which God saith by Zechariah the prophet, 'I will confound the
riders of such horses.' These folk take little regard of the riding
of God's Son of heaven, and of his harness, when he rode upon
an ass, and had no other harness but the poor clothes of his
disciples; nor we read not that ever he rode on any other beast.
I speak this for the sin of superfluity, and not for reasonable
honesty [seemliness], when reason it requireth. And moreover,
certes, pride is greatly notified in holding of great meinie
[retinue of servants], when they be of little profit or of right no
profit, and namely [especially] when that meinie is felonous
[violent ] and damageous [harmful] to the people by hardiness
[arrogance] of high lordship, or by way of office; for certes,
such lords sell then their lordship to the devil of hell, when they
sustain the wickedness of their meinie. Or else, when these folk
of low degree, as they that hold hostelries, sustain theft of their
hostellers, and that is in many manner of deceits: that manner of
folk be the flies that follow the honey, or else the hounds that
follow the carrion. Such foresaid folk strangle spiritually their
lordships; for which thus saith David the prophet, 'Wicked
death may come unto these lordships, and God give that they
may descend into hell adown; for in their houses is iniquity and
shrewedness, [impiety] and not God of heaven.' And certes, but
if [unless] they do amendment, right as God gave his benison
[blessing] to Laban by the service of Jacob, and to Pharaoh by
the service of Joseph; right so God will give his malison
[condemnation] to such lordships as sustain the wickedness of
their servants, but [unless] they come to amendment. Pride of
the table apaireth [worketh harm] eke full oft; for, certes, rich
men be called to feasts, and poor folk be put away and rebuked;
also in excess of divers meats and drinks, and namely [specially]
such manner bake-meats and dish-meats burning of wild fire,
and painted and castled with paper, and semblable [similar]
waste, so that it is abuse to think. And eke in too great
preciousness of vessel, [plate] and curiosity of minstrelsy, by
which a man is stirred more to the delights of luxury, if so be
that he set his heart the less upon our Lord Jesus Christ, certain
it is a sin; and certainly the delights might be so great in this
case, that a man might lightly [easily] fall by them into deadly

[The sins that arise of pride advisedly and habitually are deadly;
those that arise by frailty unadvised suddenly, and suddenly
withdraw again, though grievous, are not deadly. Pride itself
springs sometimes of the goods of nature, sometimes of the
goods of fortune, sometimes of the goods of grace; but the
Parson, enumerating and examining all these in turn, points out
how little security they possess and how little ground for pride
they furnish, and goes on to enforce the remedy against pride -
which is humility or meekness, a virtue through which a man
hath true knowledge of himself, and holdeth no high esteem of
himself in regard of his deserts, considering ever his frailty.]

Now be there three manners [kinds] of humility; as humility in
heart, and another in the mouth, and the third in works. The
humility in the heart is in four manners: the one is, when a man
holdeth himself as nought worth before God of heaven; the
second is, when he despiseth no other man; the third is, when he
recketh not though men hold him nought worth; the fourth is,
when he is not sorry of his humiliation. Also the humility of
mouth is in four things: in temperate speech; in humility of
speech; and when he confesseth with his own mouth that he is
such as he thinketh that he is in his heart; another is, when he
praiseth the bounte [goodness] of another man and nothing
thereof diminisheth. Humility eke in works is in four manners:
the first is, when he putteth other men before him; the second is,
to choose the lowest place of all; the third is, gladly to assent to
good counsel; the fourth is, to stand gladly by the award
[judgment] of his sovereign, or of him that is higher in degree:
certain this is a great work of humility.

[The Parson proceeds to treat of the other cardinal sins, and
their remedies: (2.) Envy, with its remedy, the love of God
principally and of our neighbours as ourselves: (3.) Anger, with
all its fruits in revenge, rancour, hate, discord, manslaughter,
blasphemy, swearing, falsehood, flattery, chiding and reproving,
scorning, treachery, sowing of strife, doubleness of tongue,
betraying of counsel to a man's disgrace, menacing, idle words,
jangling, japery or buffoonery, &c. - and its remedy in the
virtues called mansuetude, debonairte, or gentleness, and
patience or sufferance: (4.) Sloth, or 'Accidie,' which comes
after the sin of Anger, because Envy blinds the eyes of a man,
and Anger troubleth a man, and Sloth maketh him heavy,
thoughtful, and peevish. It is opposed to every estate of man -
as unfallen, and held to work in praising and adoring God; as
sinful, and held to labour in praying for deliverance from sin;
and as in the state of grace, and held to works of penitence. It
resembles the heavy and sluggish condition of those in hell; it
will suffer no hardness and no penance; it prevents any
beginning of good works; it causes despair of God's mercy,
which is the sin against the Holy Ghost; it induces somnolency
and neglect of communion in prayer with God; and it breeds
negligence or recklessness, that cares for nothing, and is the
nurse of all mischiefs, if ignorance is their mother. Against
Sloth, and these and other branches and fruits of it, the remedy
lies in the virtue of fortitude or strength, in its various species of
magnanimity or great courage; faith and hope in God and his
saints; surety or sickerness, when a man fears nothing that can
oppose the good works he has under taken; magnificence, when
he carries out great works of goodness begun; constancy or
stableness of heart; and other incentives to energy and laborious
service: (5.) Avarice, or Covetousness, which is the root of all
harms, since its votaries are idolaters, oppressors and enslavers
of men, deceivers of their equals in business, simoniacs,
gamblers, liars, thieves, false swearers, blasphemers, murderers,
and sacrilegious. Its remedy lies in compassion and pity largely
exercised, and in reasonable liberality - for those who spend on
'fool-largesse,' or ostentation of worldly estate and luxury,
shall receive the malison [condemnation] that Christ shall give
at the day of doom to them that shall be damned: (6.) Gluttony;
- of which the Parson treats so briefly that the chapter may be
given in full: - ]

After Avarice cometh Gluttony, which is express against the
commandment of God. Gluttony is unmeasurable appetite to eat
or to drink; or else to do in aught to the unmeasurable appetite
and disordered covetousness [craving] to eat or drink. This sin
corrupted all this world, as is well shewed in the sin of Adam
and of Eve. Look also what saith Saint Paul of gluttony:
'Many,' saith he, 'go, of which I have oft said to you, and now
I say it weeping, that they be enemies of the cross of Christ, of
which the end is death, and of which their womb [stomach] is
their God and their glory;' in confusion of them that so savour
[take delight in] earthly things. He that is usant [accustomed,
addicted] to this sin of gluttony, he may no sin withstand, he
must be in servage [bondage] of all vices, for it is the devil's
hoard, [lair, lurking-place] where he hideth him in and resteth.
This sin hath many species. The first is drunkenness, that is the
horrible sepulture of man's reason: and therefore when a man is
drunken, he hath lost his reason; and this is deadly sin. But
soothly, when that a man is not wont to strong drink, and
peradventure knoweth not the strength of the drink, or hath
feebleness in his head, or hath travailed [laboured], through
which he drinketh the more, all [although] be he suddenly
caught with drink, it is no deadly sin, but venial. The second
species of gluttony is, that the spirit of a man waxeth all
troubled for drunkenness, and bereaveth a man the discretion of
his wit. The third species of gluttony is, when a man devoureth
his meat, and hath no rightful manner of eating. The fourth is,
when, through the great abundance of his meat, the humours of
his body be distempered. The fifth is, forgetfulness by too much
drinking, for which a man sometimes forgetteth by the morrow
what be did at eve. In other manner be distinct the species of
gluttony, after Saint Gregory. The first is, for to eat or drink
before time. The second is, when a man getteth him too delicate
meat or drink. The third is, when men take too much over
measure [immoderately]. The fourth is curiosity [nicety] with
great intent [application, pains] to make and apparel [prepare]
his meat. The fifth is, for to eat too greedily. These be the five
fingers of the devil's hand, by which he draweth folk to the sin.

Against gluttony the remedy is abstinence, as saith Galen; but
that I hold not meritorious, if he do it only for the health of his
body. Saint Augustine will that abstinence be done for virtue,
and with patience. Abstinence, saith he, is little worth, but if
[unless] a man have good will thereto, and but it be enforced by
patience and by charity, and that men do it for God's sake, and
in hope to have the bliss in heaven. The fellows of abstinence be
temperance, that holdeth the mean in all things; also shame, that
escheweth all dishonesty [indecency, impropriety], sufficiency,
that seeketh no rich meats nor drinks, nor doth no force of [sets
no value on] no outrageous apparelling of meat; measure
[moderation] also, that restraineth by reason the unmeasurable
appetite of eating; soberness also, that restraineth the outrage of
drink; sparing also, that restraineth the delicate ease to sit long
at meat, wherefore some folk stand of their own will to eat,
because they will eat at less leisure.

[At great length the Parson then points out the many varieties of
the sin of (7.) Lechery, and its remedy in chastity and
continence, alike in marriage and in widowhood; also in the
abstaining from all such indulgences of eating, drinking, and
sleeping as inflame the passions, and from the company of all
who may tempt to the sin. Minute guidance is given as to the
duty of confessing fully and faithfully the circumstances that
attend and may aggravate this sin; and the Treatise then passes
to the consideration of the conditions that are essential to a true
and profitable confession of sin in general. First, it must be in
sorrowful bitterness of spirit; a condition that has five signs -
shamefastness, humility in heart and outward sign, weeping with
the bodily eyes or in the heart, disregard of the shame that
might curtail or garble confession, and obedience to the penance
enjoined. Secondly, true confession must be promptly made, for
dread of death, of increase of sinfulness, of forgetfulness of
what should be confessed, of Christ's refusal to hear if it be put
off to the last day of life; and this condition has four terms; that
confession be well pondered beforehand, that the man
confessing have comprehended in his mind the number and
greatness of his sins and how long he has lain in sin, that he be
contrite for and eschew his sins, and that he fear and flee the
occasions for that sin to which he is inclined. - What follows
under this head is of some interest for the light which it throws
on the rigorous government wielded by the Romish Church in
those days -]

Also thou shalt shrive thee of all thy sins to one man, and not a
parcel [portion] to one man, and a parcel to another; that is to
understand, in intent to depart [divide] thy confession for shame
or dread; for it is but strangling of thy soul. For certes Jesus
Christ is entirely all good, in him is none imperfection, and
therefore either he forgiveth all perfectly, or else never a deal
[not at all]. I say not that if thou be assigned to thy penitencer
<9> for a certain sin, that thou art bound to shew him all the
remnant of thy sins, of which thou hast been shriven of thy
curate, but if it like thee [unless thou be pleased] of thy
humility; this is no departing [division] of shrift. And I say not,
where I speak of division of confession, that if thou have license
to shrive thee to a discreet and an honest priest, and where thee
liketh, and by the license of thy curate, that thou mayest not
well shrive thee to him of all thy sins: but let no blot be behind,
let no sin be untold as far as thou hast remembrance. And when
thou shalt be shriven of thy curate, tell him eke all the sins that
thou hast done since thou wert last shriven. This is no wicked
intent of division of shrift. Also, very shrift [true confession]
asketh certain conditions. First, that thou shrive thee by thy
free will, not constrained, nor for shame of folk, nor for malady
[sickness], or such things: for it is reason, that he that
trespasseth by his free will, that by his free will he confess his
trespass; and that no other man tell his sin but himself; nor he
shall not nay nor deny his sin, nor wrath him against the priest
for admonishing him to leave his sin. The second condition is,
that thy shrift be lawful, that is to say, that thou that shrivest
thee, and eke the priest that heareth thy confession, be verily in
the faith of Holy Church, and that a man be not despaired of the
mercy of Jesus Christ, as Cain and Judas were. And eke a man
must accuse himself of his own trespass, and not another: but he
shall blame and wite [accuse] himself of his own malice and of
his sin, and none other: but nevertheless, if that another man be
occasion or else enticer of his sin, or the estate of the person be
such by which his sin is aggravated, or else that be may not
plainly shrive him but [unless] he tell the person with which he
hath sinned, then may he tell, so that his intent be not to
backbite the person, but only to declare his confession. Thou
shalt not eke make no leasings [falsehoods] in thy confession
for humility, peradventure, to say that thou hast committed and
done such sins of which that thou wert never guilty. For Saint
Augustine saith, 'If that thou, because of humility, makest a
leasing on thyself, though thou were not in sin before, yet art
thou then in sin through thy leasing.' Thou must also shew thy
sin by thine own proper mouth, but [unless] thou be dumb, and
not by letter; for thou that hast done the sin, thou shalt have the
shame of the confession. Thou shalt not paint thy confession
with fair and subtle words, to cover the more thy sin; for then
beguilest thou thyself, and not the priest; thou must tell it
plainly, be it never so foul nor so horrible. Thou shalt eke shrive
thee to a priest that is discreet to counsel thee; and eke thou
shalt not shrive thee for vain-glory, nor for hypocrisy, nor for
no cause but only for the doubt [fear] of Jesus' Christ and the
health of thy soul. Thou shalt not run to the priest all suddenly,
to tell him lightly thy sin, as who telleth a jape [jest] or a tale,
but advisedly and with good devotion; and generally shrive thee
oft; if thou oft fall, oft arise by confession. And though thou
shrive thee oftener than once of sin of which thou hast been
shriven, it is more merit; and, as saith Saint Augustine, thou
shalt have the more lightly [easily] release and grace of God,
both of sin and of pain. And certes, once a year at the least way,
it is lawful to be houseled, <10> for soothly once a year all
things in the earth renovelen [renew themselves].

[Here ends the Second Part of the Treatise; the Third Part,
which contains the practical application of the whole, follows
entire, along with the remarkable 'Prayer of Chaucer,' as it
stands in the Harleian Manuscript:-]

De Tertia Parte Poenitentiae. [Of the third part of penitence]

Now have I told you of very [true] confession, that is the
second part of penitence: The third part of penitence is
satisfaction, and that standeth generally in almsdeed and bodily
pain. Now be there three manner of almsdeed: contrition of
heart, where a man offereth himself to God; the second is, to
have pity of the default of his neighbour; the third is, in giving
of good counsel and comfort, ghostly and bodily, where men
have need, and namely [specially] sustenance of man's food.
And take keep [heed] that a man hath need of these things
generally; he hath need of food, of clothing, and of herberow
[lodging], he hath need of charitable counsel and visiting in
prison and malady, and sepulture of his dead body. And if thou
mayest not visit the needful with thy person, visit them by thy
message and by thy gifts. These be generally alms or works of
charity of them that have temporal riches or discretion in
counselling. Of these works shalt thou hear at the day of doom.
This alms shouldest thou do of thine own proper things, and
hastily [promptly], and privily [secretly] if thou mayest; but
nevertheless, if thou mayest not do it privily, thou shalt not
forbear to do alms, though men see it, so that it be not done for
thank of the world, but only for thank of Jesus Christ. For, as
witnesseth Saint Matthew, chap. v., 'A city may not be hid that
is set on a mountain, nor men light not a lantern and put it
under a bushel, but men set it on a candlestick, to light the men
in the house; right so shall your light lighten before men, that
they may see your good works, and glorify your Father that is
in heaven.'

Now as to speak of bodily pain, it is in prayer, in wakings,
[watchings] in fastings, and in virtuous teachings. Of orisons ye
shall understand, that orisons or prayers is to say a piteous will
of heart, that redresseth it in God, and expresseth it by word
outward, to remove harms, and to have things spiritual and
durable, and sometimes temporal things. Of which orisons,
certes in the orison of the Pater noster hath our Lord Jesus
Christ enclosed most things. Certes, it is privileged of three
things in its dignity, for which it is more digne [worthy] than
any other prayer: for Jesus Christ himself made it: and it is
short, for [in order] it should be coude the more lightly, [be
more easily conned or learned] and to withhold [retain] it the
more easy in heart, and help himself the oftener with this orison;
and for a man should be the less weary to say it; and for a man
may not excuse him to learn it, it is so short and so easy: and
for it comprehendeth in itself all good prayers. The exposition
of this holy prayer, that is so excellent and so digne, I betake
[commit] to these masters of theology; save thus much will I
say, when thou prayest that God should forgive thee thy guilts,
as thou forgivest them that they guilt to thee, be full well ware
that thou be not out of charity. This holy orison aminisheth
[lesseneth] eke venial sin, and therefore it appertaineth specially
to penitence. This prayer must be truly said, and in very faith,
and that men pray to God ordinately, discreetly, and devoutly;
and always a man shall put his will to be subject to the will of
God. This orison must eke be said with great humbleness and
full pure, and honestly, and not to the annoyance of any man or
woman. It must eke be continued with the works of charity. It
availeth against the vices of the soul; for, assaith Saint Jerome,
by fasting be saved the vices of the flesh, and by prayer the
vices of the soul

After this thou shalt understand, that bodily pain stands in
waking [watching]. For Jesus Christ saith 'Wake and pray, that
ye enter not into temptation.' Ye shall understand also, that
fasting stands in three things: in forbearing of bodily meat and
drink, and in forbearing of worldly jollity, and in forbearing of
deadly sin; this is to say, that a man shall keep him from deadly
sin in all that he may. And thou shalt understand eke, that God
ordained fasting; and to fasting appertain four things: largeness
[generosity] to poor folk; gladness of heart spiritual; not to be
angry nor annoyed nor grudge [murmur] for he fasteth; and also
reasonable hour for to eat by measure; that is to say, a man
should not eat in untime [out of time], nor sit the longer at his
meal for [because] he fasteth. Then shalt thou understand, that
bodily pain standeth in discipline, or teaching, by word, or by
writing, or by ensample. Also in wearing of hairs [haircloth] or
of stamin [coarse hempen cloth], or of habergeons [mail-shirts]
<11> on their naked flesh for Christ's sake; but ware thee well
that such manner penance of thy flesh make not thine heart
bitter or angry, nor annoyed of thyself; for better is to cast away
thine hair than to cast away the sweetness of our Lord Jesus
Christ. And therefore saith Saint Paul, 'Clothe you, as they that
be chosen of God in heart, of misericorde [with compassion],
debonairte [gentleness], sufferance [patience], and such manner
of clothing,' of which Jesus Christ is more apaid [better
pleased] than of hairs or of hauberks. Then is discipline eke in
knocking of thy breast, in scourging with yards [rods], in
kneelings, in tribulations, in suffering patiently wrongs that be
done to him, and eke in patient sufferance of maladies, or losing
of worldly catel [chattels], or of wife, or of child, or of other

Then shalt thou understand which things disturb penance, and
this is in four things; that is dread, shame, hope, and wanhope,
that is, desperation. And for to speak first of dread, for which
he weeneth that he may suffer no penance, thereagainst is
remedy for to think that bodily penance is but short and little at
the regard of [in comparison with] the pain of hell, that is so
cruel and so long, that it lasteth without end. Now against the
shame that a man hath to shrive him, and namely [specially]
these hypocrites, that would be holden so perfect, that they
have no need to shrive them; against that shame should a man
think, that by way of reason he that hath not been ashamed to
do foul things, certes he ought not to be ashamed to do fair
things, and that is confession. A man should eke think, that God
seeth and knoweth all thy thoughts, and all thy works; to him
may nothing be hid nor covered. Men should eke remember
them of the shame that is to come at the day of doom, to them
that be not penitent and shriven in this present life; for all the
creatures in heaven, and in earth, and in hell, shall see apertly
[openly] all that he hideth in this world.

Now for to speak of them that be so negligent and slow to
shrive them; that stands in two manners. The one is, that he
hopeth to live long, and to purchase [acquire] much riches for
his delight, and then he will shrive him: and, as he sayeth, he
may, as him seemeth, timely enough come to shrift: another is,
the surquedrie [presumption <12>] that he hath in Christ's
mercy. Against the first vice, he shall think that our life is in no
sickerness, [security] and eke that all the riches in this world be
in adventure, and pass as a shadow on the wall; and, as saith St
Gregory, that it appertaineth to the great righteousness of God,
that never shall the pain stint [cease] of them, that never would
withdraw them from sin, their thanks [with their goodwill], but
aye continue in sin; for that perpetual will to do sin shall they
have perpetual pain. Wanhope [despair] is in two manners [of
two kinds]. The first wanhope is, in the mercy of God: the other
is, that they think they might not long persevere in goodness.
The first wanhope cometh of that he deemeth that he sinned so
highly and so oft, and so long hath lain in sin, that he shall not
be saved. Certes against that cursed wanhope should he think,
that the passion of Jesus Christ is more strong for to unbind,
than sin is strong for to bind. Against the second wanhope he
shall think, that as oft as he falleth, he may arise again by
penitence; and though he never so long hath lain in sin, the
mercy of Christ is always ready to receive him to mercy.
Against the wanhope that he thinketh he should not long
persevere in goodness, he shall think that the feebleness of the
devil may nothing do, but [unless] men will suffer him; and eke
he shall have strength of the help of God, and of all Holy
Church, and of the protection of angels, if him list.

Then shall men understand, what is the fruit of penance; and
after the word of Jesus Christ, it is the endless bliss of heaven,
where joy hath no contrariety of woe nor of penance nor
grievance; there all harms be passed of this present life; there as
is the sickerness [security] from the pain of hell; there as is the
blissful company, that rejoice them evermore each of the other's
joy; there as the body of man, that whilom was foul and dark, is
more clear than the sun; there as the body of man that whilom
was sick and frail, feeble and mortal, is immortal, and so strong
and so whole, that there may nothing apair [impair, injure] it;
there is neither hunger, nor thirst, nor cold, but every soul
replenished with the sight of the perfect knowing of God. This
blissful regne [kingdom] may men purchase by poverty spiritual,
and the glory by lowliness, the plenty of joy by hunger and
thirst, the rest by travail, and the life by death and mortification
of sin; to which life He us bring, that bought us with his
precious blood! Amen.

The Court Of Love

With timorous heart, and trembling hand of dread,
Of cunning* naked, bare of eloquence, *skill
Unto the *flow'r of port in womanhead* *one who is the perfection
I write, as he that none intelligence of womanly behaviour*
Of metres hath, <1> nor flowers of sentence,
Save that me list my writing to convey,
In that I can, to please her high nobley.* *nobleness

The blossoms fresh of Tullius'* garden swoot** *Cicero **sweet
Present they not, my matter for to born:* <2> *burnish, polish
Poems of Virgil take here no root,
Nor craft of Galfrid <3> may not here sojourn;
Why *n'am I* cunning? O well may I mourn, *am I not*
For lack of science, that I cannot write
Unto the princess of my life aright!

No terms are dign* unto her excellence, *worthy
So is she sprung of noble stirp* and high; *stock <4>
A world of honour and of reverence
There is in her, this will I testify.
Calliope, <5> thou sister wise and sly,* *skilful
And thou, Minerva, guide me with thy grace,
That language rude my matter not deface!

Thy sugar droppes sweet of Helicon
Distil in me, thou gentle Muse, I pray;
And thee, Melpomene, <6> I call anon
Of ignorance the mist to chase away;
And give me grace so for to write and say,
That she, my lady, of her worthiness,
Accept *in gree* this little short treatess,* *with favour* *treatise

That is entitled thus, The Court of Love.
And ye that be metricians,* me excuse, *skilled versifiers
I you beseech, for Venus' sake above;
For what I mean in this ye need not muse:
And if so be my lady it refuse
For lack of ornate speech, I would be woe
That I presume to her to write so.

But my intent, and all my busy cure,* *care
Is for to write this treatise, as I can,
Unto my lady, stable, true, and sure,
Faithful and kind, since first that she began
Me to accept in service as her man;
To her be all the pleasure of this book,
That, when *her like,* she may it read and look. *it pleases her*

When [he] was young, at eighteen year of age,
Lusty and light, desirous of pleasance,
Approaching* full sad and ripe corage,<7> *gradually attaining

Then -- says the poet -- did Love urge him to do
him obeisance, and to go "the Court of Love to
see, a lite [little] beside the Mount of Citharee."
<8> Mercury bade him, on pain of death, to
appear; and he went by strange and far countries
in search of the Court. Seeing at last a crowd of
people, "as bees," making their way thither, the
poet asked whither they went; and "one that
answer'd like a maid" said that they were bound to
the Court of Love, at Citheron, where "the King
of Love, and all his noble rout [company],

"Dwelleth within a castle royally."
So them apace I journey'd forth among,
And as he said, so found I there truly;
For I beheld the town -- so high and strong,
And high pinnacles, large of height and long,
With plate of gold bespread on ev'ry side,
And precious stones, the stone work for to hide.

No sapphire of Ind, no ruby rich of price,
There lacked then, nor emerald so green,
Balais, Turkeis, <9> nor thing, *to my devise,* *in my judgement*
That may the castle make for to sheen;* *be beautiful
All was as bright as stars in winter be'n;
And Phoebus shone, to make his peace again,
For trespass* done to high estates twain, -- *offence

When he had found Venus in the arms of Mars, and hastened to
tell Vulcan of his wife's infidelity <10>. Now he was shining
brightly on the castle, "in sign he looked after Love's grace;" for
there is no god in Heaven or in Hell "but he hath been right
subject unto Love." Continuing his description of the castle,
Philogenet says that he saw never any so large and high; within
and without, it was painted "with many a thousand daisies, red
as rose," and white also, in signification of whom, he knew not;
unless it was the flower of Alcestis <11>, who, under Venus,
was queen of the place, as Admetus was king;

To whom obey'd the ladies good nineteen <12>,
With many a thousand other, bright of face.
And young men fele* came forth with lusty pace, *many <13>
And aged eke, their homage to dispose;
But what they were, I could not well disclose.

Yet nere* and nere* forth in I gan me dress, *nearer
Into a hall of noble apparail,* *furnishings
With arras <14> spread, and cloth of gold, I guess,
And other silk *of easier avail;* *less difficult, costly, to attain*
Under the *cloth of their estate,* sans fail, *state canopy*
The King and Queen there sat, as I beheld;
It passed joy of *Elysee the feld.* *The Elysian Fields*

There saintes* have their coming and resort, *martyrs for love
To see the King so royally beseen,* *adorned
In purple clad, and eke the Queen *in sort;* *suitably*
And on their heades saw I crownes twain,
With stones frett,* so that it was no pain, *adorned
Withoute meat or drink, to stand and see
The Kinge's honour and the royalty.

To treat of state affairs, Danger <15> stood by the
King, and Disdain by the Queen; who cast her eyes
haughtily about, sending forth beams that seemed
"shapen like a dart, sharp and piercing, and small and
straight of line;" while her hair shone as gold so fine,
"dishevel, crisp, down hanging at her back a yard in
length." <16> Amazed and dazzled by her beauty,
Philogenet stood perplexed, till he spied a Maid,
Philobone -- a chamberwoman of the Queen's -- who
asked how and on what errand he came thither.
Learning that he had been summoned by Mercury, she
told him that he ought to have come of his free will,
and that he "will be shent [rebuked, disgraced]"
because he did not.

"For ye that reign in youth and lustiness,
Pamper'd with ease, and jealous in your age,
Your duty is, as far as I can guess,
To Love's Court to dresse* your voyage, *direct, address
As soon as Nature maketh you so sage
That ye may know a woman from a swan, <17>
Or when your foot is growen half a span.

"But since that ye, by wilful negligence,
This eighteen year have kept yourself at large,
The greater is your trespass and offence,
And in your neck you must bear all the charge:
For better were ye be withoute barge* *boat
Amid the sea in tempest and in rain,
Than bide here, receiving woe and pain

"That ordained is for such as them absent
From Love's Court by yeares long and fele.* many
I lay* my life ye shall full soon repent; *wager
For Love will rive your colour, lust, and heal:* *health
Eke ye must bait* on many a heavy meal: *feed
*No force,* y-wis; I stirr'd you long agone *no matter*
To draw to Court," quoth little Philobone.

"Ye shall well see how rough and angry face
The King of Love will show, when ye him see;
By mine advice kneel down and ask him grace,
Eschewing* peril and adversity; *avoiding
For well I wot it will none other be;
Comfort is none, nor counsel to your ease;
Why will ye then the King of Love displease?"

Thereupon Philogenet professed humble repentance,
and willingness to bear all hardship and chastisement
for his past offence.

These wordes said, she caught me by the lap,* *edge of the garment
And led me forth into a temple round,
Both large and wide; and, as my blessed hap
And good. adventure was, right soon I found
A tabernacle <18> raised from the ground,
Where Venus sat, and Cupid by her side;
Yet half for dread I gan my visage hide.

And eft* again I looked and beheld, *afterwards
Seeing *full sundry people* in the place, *people of many sorts*
And *mister folk,* and some that might not weld *craftsmen <19>*
Their limbes well, -- me thought a wonder case. *use
The temple shone with windows all of glass,
Bright as the day, with many a fair image;
And there I saw the fresh queen of Carthage,

Dido, that brent* her beauty for the love *burnt
Of false Aeneas; and the waimenting* *lamenting
Of her, Annelide, true as turtle dove
To Arcite false; <20> and there was in painting
Of many a Prince, and many a doughty King,
Whose martyrdom was show'd about the walls;
And how that fele* for love had suffer'd falls.** *many **calamities

Philogenet was astonished at the crowd of people that
he saw, doing sacrifice to the god and goddess.
Philobone informed him that they came from other
courts; those who knelt in blue wore the colour in
sign of their changeless truth <21>; those in black,
who uttered cries of grief, were the sick and dying of
love. The priests, nuns, hermits, and friars, and all that
sat in white, in russet and in green, "wailed of their
woe;" and for all people, of every degree, the Court
was open and free. While he walked about with
Philobone, a messenger from the King entered, and
summoned all the new-come folk to the royal
presence. Trembling and pale, Philogenet approached
the throne of Admetus, and was sternly asked why he
came so late to Court. He pleaded that a hundred
times he had been at the gate, but had been prevented
from entering by failure to see any of his
acquaintances, and by shamefacedness. The King
pardoned him, on condition that thenceforth he should
serve Love; and the poet took oath to do so, "though
Death therefor me thirle [pierce] with his spear."
When the King had seen all the new-comers, he
commanded an officer to take their oaths of
allegiance, and show them the Statutes of the Court,
which must be observed till death.

And, for that I was letter'd, there I read
The statutes whole of Love's Court and hail:
The first statute that on the book was spread,
Was, To be true in thought and deedes all
Unto the King of Love, the lord royal;
And, to the Queen, as faithful and as kind
As I could think with hearte, will, and mind.

The second statute, Secretly to keep
Counsel* of love, not blowing** ev'rywhere *secrets **talking
All that I know, and let it sink and fleet;* *float
It may not sound in ev'ry wighte's ear:
Exiling slander ay for dread and fear,
And to my lady, which I love and serve,
Be true and kind, her grace for to deserve.

The third statute was clearly writ also,
Withoute change to live and die the same,
None other love to take, for weal nor woe,
For blind delight, for earnest nor for game:
Without repent, for laughing or for grame,* *vexation, sorrow
To bide still in full perseverance:
All this was whole the Kinge's ordinance.

The fourth statute, To *purchase ever to her,* *promote her cause*
And stirre folk to love, and bete* fire *kindle
On Venus' altar, here about and there,
And preach to them of love and hot desire,
And tell how love will quite* well their hire: *reward
This must be kept; and loth me to displease:
If love be wroth, pass; for thereby is ease.

The fifth statute, Not to be dangerous,* *fastidious, angry
If that a thought would reave* me of my sleep: *deprive
Nor of a sight to be over squaimous;* *desirous
And so verily this statute was to keep,
To turn and wallow in my bed and weep,
When that my lady, of her cruelty,
Would from her heart exilen all pity.

The sixth statute, It was for me to use
Alone to wander, void of company,
And on my lady's beauty for to muse,
And thinken it *no force* to live or die; *matter of indifference*
And eft again to think* the remedy, *think upon
How to her grace I might anon attain,
And tell my woe unto my sovereign.

The sev'nth statute was, To be patient,
Whether my lady joyful were or wroth;
For wordes glad or heavy, diligent,
Whether that she me helde *lefe or loth:* *in love or loathing*
And hereupon I put was to mine oath,
Her for to serve, and lowly to obey,
And show my cheer,* yea, twenty times a day. *countenance

The eighth statute, to my rememberance,
Was, For to speak and pray my lady dear,
With hourly labour and great entendance,* *attention
Me for to love with all her heart entere,* *entire
And me desire and make me joyful cheer,
Right as she is, surmounting every fair;
Of beauty well,* and gentle debonair. *the fountain

The ninth statute, with letters writ of gold,
This was the sentence, How that I and all
Should ever dread to be too overbold
Her to displease; and truly so I shall;
But be content for all thing that may fall,
And meekly take her chastisement and yerd,* *rod, rule
And to offend her ever be afear'd.

The tenth statute was, Equally* to discern *justly
Between the lady and thine ability,
And think thyself art never like to earn,
By right, her mercy nor her equity,
But of her grace and womanly pity:
For, though thyself be noble in thy strene,* *strain, descent
A thousand fold more noble is thy Queen.

Thy life's lady and thy sovereign,
That hath thine heart all whole in governance,
Thou may'st no wise it take to disdain,
To put thee humbly at her ordinance,
And give her free the rein of her pleasance;
For liberty is thing that women look,* *look for, desire
And truly else *the matter is a crook.* *things go wrong*

Th' eleventh statute, Thy signes for to know
With eye and finger, and with smiles soft,
And low to couch, and alway for to show,
For dread of spies, for to winken oft:
And secretly to bring a sigh aloft,
But still beware of over much resort;
For that peradventure spoileth all thy sport.

The twelfth statute remember to observe:
For all the pain thou hast for love and woe,
All is too lite* her mercy to deserve, *little
Thou muste think, where'er thou ride or go;
And mortal woundes suffer thou also,
All for her sake, and think it well beset* *spent
Upon thy love, for it may not be bet.* *better (spent)

The thirteenth statute, Whilom is to think
What thing may best thy lady like and please,
And in thine hearte's bottom let it sink:
Some thing devise, and take for it thine ease,
And send it her, that may her heart appease:
Some heart, or ring, or letter, or device,
Or precious stone; but spare not for no price.

The fourteenth statute eke thou shalt assay
Firmly to keep, the most part of thy life:
Wish that thy lady in thine armes lay,
And nightly dream, thou hast thy nighte's wife
Sweetly in armes, straining her as blife:* *eagerly <22>
And, when thou seest it is but fantasy,
See that thou sing not over merrily;

For too much joy hath oft a woeful end.
It *longeth eke this statute for to hold,* *it belongs to the proper
To deem thy lady evermore thy friend, observance of this statute*
And think thyself in no wise a cuckold.
In ev'ry thing she doth but as she sho'ld:
Construe the best, believe no tales new,
For many a lie is told, that seems full true.

But think that she, so bounteous and fair,
Could not be false: imagine this algate;* *at all events
And think that wicked tongues would her apair,* *defame
Sland'ring her name and *worshipful estate,* *honourable fame*
And lovers true to setten at debate:
And though thou seest a fault right at thine eye,
Excuse it blife, and glose* it prettily. *gloss it over

The fifteenth statute, Use to swear and stare,
And counterfeit a leasing* hardily,** *falsehood **boldly
To save thy lady's honour ev'rywhere,
And put thyself for her to fight boldly;
Say she is good, virtuous, and ghostly,* *spiritual, pure
Clear of intent, and heart, and thought, and will;
And argue not for reason nor for skill

Against thy lady's pleasure nor intent,
For love will not be counterpled* indeed: *met with counterpleas
Say as she saith, then shalt thou not be shent;* *disgraced
"The crow is white;" "Yea truly, so I rede:"* *judge
And aye what thing that she will thee forbid,
Eschew all that, and give her sov'reignty,
Her appetite to follow in all degree.

The sixteenth statute, keep it if thou may: <23>
Sev'n times at night thy lady for to please,
And sev'n at midnight, sev'n at morrow day,
And drink a caudle early for thine ease.
Do this, and keep thine head from all disease,
And win the garland here of lovers all,
That ever came in Court, or ever shall.

Full few, think I, this statute hold and keep;
But truly this my reason *gives me feel,* *enables me to perceive*
That some lovers should rather fall asleep,
Than take on hand to please so oft and weel.* *well
There lay none oath to this statute adele,* *annexed
But keep who might *as gave him his corage:* *as his heart
Now get this garland, folk of lusty age! inspired him*

Now win who may, ye lusty folk of youth,
This garland fresh, of flowers red and white,
Purple and blue, and colours full uncouth,* *strange
And I shall crown him king of all delight!
In all the Court there was not, to my sight,
A lover true, that he was not adread,
When he express* had heard the statute read. *plainly

The sev'nteenth statute, When age approacheth on,
And lust is laid, and all the fire is queint,* *quenched
As freshly then thou shalt begin to fon,* *behave fondly
And doat in love, and all her image paint
In thy remembrance, till thou gin to faint,
As in the first season thine heart began:
And her desire, though thou nor may nor can

Perform thy living actual and lust;
Register this in thine rememberance:
Eke when thou may'st not keep thy thing from rust,
Yet speak and talk of pleasant dalliance;
For that shall make thine heart rejoice and dance;
And when thou may'st no more the game assay,
The statute bids thee pray for them that may.

The eighteenth statute, wholly to commend,
To please thy lady, is, That thou eschew
With sluttishness thyself for to offend;
Be jolly, fresh, and feat,* with thinges new, *dainty <24>
Courtly with manner, this is all thy due,
Gentle of port, and loving cleanliness;
This is the thing that liketh thy mistress.

And not to wander like a dulled ass,
Ragged and torn, disguised in array,
Ribald in speech, or out of measure pass,
Thy bound exceeding; think on this alway:
For women be of tender heartes ay,
And lightly set their pleasure in a place;
When they misthink,* they lightly let it pace. *think wrongly

The nineteenth statute, Meat and drink forget:
Each other day see that thou fast for love,
For in the Court they live withoute meat,
Save such as comes from Venus all above;
They take no heed, *in pain of great reprove,* *on pain of great
Of meat and drink, for that is all in vain, reproach*
Only they live by sight of their sov'reign.

The twentieth statute, last of ev'ry one,
Enrol it in thy hearte's privity;
To wring and wail, to turn, and sigh, and groan,
When that thy lady absent is from thee;
And eke renew the wordes all that she
Between you twain hath said, and all the cheer
That thee hath made thy life's lady dear.

And see thy heart in quiet nor in rest
Sojourn, till time thou see thy lady eft,* *again
But whe'er* she won** by south, or east, or west, *whether **dwell
With all thy force now see it be not left
Be diligent, *till time* thy life be reft, *until the time that*
In that thou may'st, thy lady for to see;
This statute was of old antiquity.

The officer, called Rigour -- who is incorruptible by
partiality, favour, prayer, or gold -- made them swear
to keep the statutes; and, after taking the oath,
Philogenet turned over other leaves of the book,
containing the statutes of women. But Rigour sternly
bade him forbear; for no man might know the statutes
that belong to women.

"In secret wise they kepte be full close;
They sound* each one to liberty, my friend; *tend, accord
Pleasant they be, and to their own purpose;
There wot* no wight of them, but God and fiend, *knows
Nor aught shall wit, unto the worlde's end.
The queen hath giv'n me charge, in pain to die,
Never to read nor see them with mine eye.

"For men shall not so near of counsel be'n
With womanhead, nor knowen of their guise,
Nor what they think, nor of their wit th'engine;* *craft
*I me report to* Solomon the wise, <25> *I refer for proof to*
And mighty Samson, which beguiled thrice
With Delilah was; he wot that, in a throw,
There may no man statute of women know.

"For it peradventure may right so befall,
That they be bound by nature to deceive,
And spin, and weep, and sugar strew on gall, <26>
The heart of man to ravish and to reave,
And whet their tongue as sharp as sword or gleve:* *glaive, sword
It may betide this is their ordinance,
So must they lowly do their observance,

"And keep the statute given them *of kind,* *by nature*
Of such as Love hath giv'n them in their life.
Men may not wit why turneth every wind,
Nor waxe wise, nor be inquisitife
To know secret of maid, widow, or wife;
For they their statutes have to them reserved,
And never man to know them hath deserved."

Rigour then sent them forth to pay court to Venus,
and pray her to teach them how they might serve and
please their dames, or to provide with ladies those
whose hearts were yet vacant. Before Venus knelt a
thousand sad petitioners, entreating her to punish "the
false untrue," that had broken their vows, "barren of
ruth, untrue of what they said, now that their lust and
pleasure is allay'd." But the mourners were in a

Yet eft again, a thousand million,
Rejoicing, love, leading their life in bliss:
They said: "Venus, redress* of all division, *healer
Goddess eternal, thy name heried* is! *glorified
By love's bond is knit all thing, y-wis,* *assuredly
Beast unto beast, the earth to water wan,* *pale
Bird unto bird, and woman unto man; <27>

"This is the life of joy that we be in,
Resembling life of heav'nly paradise;
Love is exiler ay of vice and sin;
Love maketh heartes lusty to devise;
Honour and grace have they in ev'ry wise,
That be to love's law obedient;
Love maketh folk benign and diligent;

"Aye stirring them to dreade vice and shame:
In their degree it makes them honourable;
And sweet it is of love to bear the name,
So that his love be faithful, true, and stable:
Love pruneth him to seemen amiable;
Love hath no fault where it is exercis'd,
But sole* with them that have all love despis'd:" *only

And they conclude with grateful honours to the goddess
-- rejoicing hat they are hers in heart, and all inflamed
with her grace and heavenly fear. Philogenet now
entreats the goddess to remove his grief; for he also
loves, and hotly, only he does not know where --

"Save only this, by God and by my troth;
Troubled I was with slumber, sleep, and sloth
This other night, and in a vision
I saw a woman roamen up and down,

"Of *mean stature,* and seemly to behold, *middling height*
Lusty and fresh, demure of countenance,
Young and well shap'd, with haire sheen* as gold, *shining
With eyne as crystal, farced* with pleasance; *crammed
And she gan stir mine heart a lite* to dance; *little
But suddenly she vanish gan right there:
Thus I may say, I love, and wot* not where." *know

If he could only know this lady, he would serve and obey her
with all benignity; but if his destiny were otherwise, he would
gladly love and serve his lady, whosoever she might be. He
called on Venus for help to possess his queen and heart's life,
and vowed daily war with Diana: "that goddess chaste I keepen
[care] in no wise to serve; a fig for all her chastity!" Then he
rose and went his way, passing by a rich and beautiful shrine,
which, Philobone informed him, was the sepulchre of Pity. "A
tender creature," she said,

"Is shrined there, and Pity is her name.
She saw an eagle wreak* him on a fly, *avenge
And pluck his wing, and eke him, *in his game;* *for sport*
And tender heart of that hath made her die:
Eke she would weep, and mourn right piteously,
To see a lover suffer great distress.
In all the Court was none, as I do guess,

"That could a lover half so well avail,* *help
Nor of his woe the torment or the rage
Aslake;* for he was sure, withoute fail, *assuage
That of his grief she could the heat assuage.
Instead of Pity, speedeth hot Courage
The matters all of Court, now she is dead;
*I me report in this to womanhead.* *for evidence I refer to the
behaviour of women themselves.*

"For wail, and weep, and cry, and speak, and pray, --
Women would not have pity on thy plaint;
Nor by that means to ease thine heart convey,
But thee receive for their own talent:* *inclination
And say that Pity caus'd thee, in consent
Of ruth,* to take thy service and thy pain, *compassion
In that thou may'st, to please thy sovereign."

Philobone now promised to lead Philogenet to "the fairest lady
under sun that is," the "mirror of joy and bliss," whose name is
Rosial, and "whose heart as yet is given to no wight;"
suggesting that, as he also was "with love but light advanc'd,"
he might set this lady in the place of her of whom he had
dreamed. Entering a chamber gay, "there was Rosial, womanly
to see;" and the subtle-piercing beams of her eyes wounded
Philogenet to the heart. When he could speak, he threw himself
on his knees, beseeching her to cool his fervent woe:

For there I took full purpose in my mind,
Unto her grace my painful heart to bind.

For, if I shall all fully her descrive,* *describe
Her head was round, by compass of nature;
Her hair as gold, she passed all alive,
And lily forehead had this creature,
With lively *browes flaw,* of colour pure, *yellow eyebrows <28>
Between the which was mean disseverance
From ev'ry brow, to show a due distance.

Her nose directed straight, even as line,
With form and shape thereto convenient,
In which the *goddes' milk-white path* doth shine; *the galaxy*
And eke her eyne be bright and orient
As is the smaragd,* unto my judgment, *emerald
Or yet these starres heav'nly, small, and bright;
Her visage is of lovely red and white.

Her mouth is short, and shut in little space,
Flaming somedeal,* not over red I mean, *somewhat
With pregnant lips, and thick to kiss, percase* *as it chanced
(For lippes thin, not fat, but ever lean,
They serve of naught, they be not worth a bean;
For if the bass* be full, there is delight; *kiss <29>
Maximian <30> truly thus doth he write).

But to my purpose: I say, white as snow
Be all her teeth, and in order they stand
Of one stature; and eke her breath, I trow,
Surmounteth all odours that e'er I fand* *found
In sweetness; and her body, face, and hand
Be sharply slender, so that, from the head
Unto the foot, all is but womanhead.* *womanly perfection

I hold my peace of other thinges hid:
Here shall my soul, and not my tongue, bewray;
But how she was array'd, if ye me bid,
That shall I well discover you and say:
A bend* of gold and silk, full fresh and gay, *band
With hair *in tress, y-broidered* full well, *plaited in tresses*
Right smoothly kempt,* and shining every deal. *combed

About her neck a flow'r of fresh device
With rubies set, that lusty were to see'n;
And she in gown was, light and summer-wise,
Shapen full well, the colour was of green,
With *aureate seint* about her sides clean, *golden cincture*
With divers stones, precious and rich:
Thus was she ray'd,* yet saw I ne'er her lich,** *arrayed **like

If Jove had but seen this lady, Calisto and Alcmena had never
lain in his arms, nor had he loved the fair Europa, nor Danae,
nor Antiope; "for all their beauty stood in Rosial; she seemed
like a thing celestial." By and by, Philogenet presented to her his
petition for love, which she heard with some haughtiness; she
was not, she said, well acquainted with him, she did not know
where he dwelt, nor his name and condition. He informed her
that "in art of love he writes," and makes songs that may be
sung in honour of the King and Queen of Love. As for his name

"My name? alas, my heart, why mak'st thou strange?* *why so cold
Philogenet I call'd am far and near, or distant?*
Of Cambridge clerk, that never think to change
From you, that with your heav'nly streames* clear *beams, glances
Ravish my heart; and ghost, and all in fere:* *all together
Since at the first I writ my bill* for grace, *petition
Me thinks I see some mercy in your face;"

And again he humbly pressed his suit. But the lady disdained the
idea that, "for a word of sugar'd eloquence," she should have
compassion in so little space; "there come but few who speede
here so soon." If, as he says, the beams of her eyes pierce and
fret him, then let him withdraw from her presence:

"Hurt not yourself, through folly, with a look;
I would be sorry so to make you sick!
A woman should beware eke whom she took:
Ye be a clerk: go searche well my book,
If any women be so light* to win: *easy
Nay, bide a while, though ye were *all my kin."* *my only kindred*

He might sue and serve, and wax pale, and green, and dead,
without murmuring in any wise; but whereas he desired her
hastily to lean to love, he was unwise, and must cease that
language. For some had been at Court for twenty years, and
might not obtain their mistresses' favour; therefore she
marvelled that he was so bold as to treat of love with her.
Philogenet, on this, broke into pitiful lamentation; bewailing the
hour in which he was born, and assuring the unyielding lady that
the frosty grave and cold must be his bed, unless she relented.

With that I fell in swoon, and dead as stone,
With colour slain,* and wan as ashes pale; *deathlike
And by the hand she caught me up anon:
"Arise," quoth she; "what? have ye drunken dwale?* *sleeping potion <31>
Why sleepe ye? It is no nightertale."* *night-time
"Now mercy! sweet," quoth I, y-wis afraid;
"What thing," quoth she, "hath made you so dismay'd?"

She said that by his hue she knew well that he was a lover; and
if he were secret, courteous, and kind, he might know how all
this could be allayed. She would amend all that she had missaid,
and set his heart at ease; but he must faithfully keep the statutes,
"and break them not for sloth nor ignorance." The lover
requests, however, that the sixteenth may be released or
modified, for it "doth him great grievance;" and she complies.

And softly then her colour gan appear,
As rose so red, throughout her visage all;
Wherefore methinks it is according* her *appropriate to
That she of right be called Rosial.
Thus have I won, with wordes great and small,
Some goodly word of her that I love best,
And trust she shall yet set mine heart in rest.

Rosial now told Philobone to conduct Philogenet all over the
Court, and show him what lovers and what officers dwelt there;
for he was yet a stranger.

And, stalking soft with easy pace, I saw
About the king standen all environ,* *around <32>
Attendance, Diligence, and their fellaw
Furtherer, Esperance,* and many one; *Hope
Dread-to-offend there stood, and not alone;
For there was eke the cruel adversair,
The lover's foe, that called is Despair;

Which unto me spake angrily and fell,* *cruelly
And said, my lady me deceive shall:
"Trow'st thou," quoth she, "that all that she did tell
Is true? Nay, nay, but under honey gall.
Thy birth and hers they be no thing egal:* *equal
Cast off thine heart, <33> for all her wordes white,
For in good faith she loves thee but a lite.* *little

"And eke remember, thine ability
May not compare with her, this well thou wot."
Yea, then came Hope and said, "My friend, let be!
Believe him not: Despair he gins to doat."
"Alas," quoth I, "here is both cold and hot:
The one me biddeth love, the other nay;
Thus wot I not what me is best to say.

"But well wot I, my lady granted me
Truly to be my wounde's remedy;
Her gentleness* may not infected be *noble nature
With doubleness,* this trust I till I die." *duplicity
So cast I t' avoid Despair's company,
And take Hope to counsel and to friend.
"Yea, keep that well," quoth Philobone, "in mind."

And there beside, within a bay window,
Stood one in green, full large of breadth and length,
His beard as black as feathers of the crow;
His name was Lust, of wondrous might and strength;
And with Delight to argue there he think'th,
For this was alway his opinion,
That love was sin: and so he hath begun

To reason fast, and *ledge authority:* *allege authorities
"Nay," quoth Delight, "love is a virtue clear,
And from the soul his progress holdeth he:
Blind appetite of lust doth often steer,* *stir (the heart)
And that is sin; for reason lacketh there:
For thou dost think thy neighbour's wife to win;
Yet think it well that love may not be sin;

"For God, and saint, they love right verily,
Void of all sin and vice: this know I weel,* *well
Affection of flesh is sin truly;
But very* love is virtue, as I feel; *true
For very love may frail desire akele:* *cool
For very love is love withoute sin."
"Now stint,"* quoth Lust, "thou speak'st not worth a pin." *cease

And there I left them in their arguing,
Roaming farther into the castle wide,
And in a corner Liar stood talking
Of leasings* fast, with Flattery there beside; *falsehoods
He said that women *ware attire of pride, *wore
And men were found of nature variant,
And could be false and *showe beau semblant.* *put on plausible
appearances to deceive*
Then Flattery bespake and said, y-wis:
"See, so she goes on pattens fair and feat;* *pretty, neat
It doth right well: what pretty man is this
That roameth here? now truly drink nor meat
Need I not have, my heart for joy doth beat
Him to behold, so is he goodly fresh:
It seems for love his heart is tender and nesh."* *soft <34>

This is the Court of lusty folk and glad,
And well becomes their habit and array:
O why be some so sorry and so sad,
Complaining thus in black and white and gray?
Friars they be, and monkes, in good fay:
Alas, for ruth! great dole* it is to see, *sorrow
To see them thus bewail and sorry be.

See how they cry and ring their handes white,
For they so soon* went to religion!, *young
And eke the nuns with veil and wimple plight,* *plaited
Their thought is, they be in confusion:
"Alas," they say, "we feign perfection, <35>
In clothes wide, and lack our liberty;
But all the sin must on our friendes be. <36>

"For, Venus wot, we would as fain* as ye, *gladly
That be attired here and *well beseen,* *gaily clothed*
Desire man, and love in our degree,'
Firm and faithful, right as would the Queen:
Our friendes wick', in tender youth and green,
Against our will made us religious;
That is the cause we mourn and waile thus."

Then said the monks and friars *in the tide,* *at the same time*
"Well may we curse our abbeys and our place,
Our statutes sharp to sing in copes wide, <37>
Chastely to keep us out of love's grace,
And never to feel comfort nor solace;* *delight
Yet suffer we the heat of love's fire,
And after some other haply we desire.

"O Fortune cursed, why now and wherefore
Hast thou," they said, "bereft us liberty,
Since Nature gave us instrument in store,
And appetite to love and lovers be?
Why must we suffer such adversity,
Dian' to serve, and Venus to refuse?
Full *often sithe* these matters do us muse. *many a time*

"We serve and honour, sore against our will,
Of chastity the goddess and the queen;
*Us liefer were* with Venus bide still, *we would rather*
And have regard for love, and subject be'n
Unto these women courtly, fresh, and sheen.* *bright, beautiful
Fortune, we curse thy wheel of variance!
Where we were well, thou reavest* our pleasance." *takest away

Thus leave I them, with voice of plaint and care,
In raging woe crying full piteously;
And as I went, full naked and full bare
Some I beheld, looking dispiteously,
On Poverty that deadly cast their eye;
And "Well-away!" they cried, and were not fain,
For they might not their glad desire attain.

For lack of riches worldly and of good,
They ban and curse, and weep, and say, "Alas!
That povert' hath us hent,* that whilom stood *seized
At hearte's ease, and free and in good case!
But now we dare not show ourselves in place,
Nor us embold* to dwell in company, *make bold, venture
Where as our heart would love right faithfully."

And yet againward shrieked ev'ry nun,
The pang of love so strained them to cry:
"Now woe the time," quoth they, "that we be boun'!* *bound
This hateful order nice* will do us die! *into which we foolishly
We sigh and sob, and bleeden inwardly, entered
Fretting ourselves with thought and hard complaint,
That nigh for love we waxe wood* and faint." *mad

And as I stood beholding here and there,
I was ware of a sort* full languishing, *a class of people
Savage and wild of looking and of cheer,
Their mantles and their clothes aye tearing;
And oft they were of Nature complaining,
For they their members lacked, foot and hand,
With visage wry, and blind, I understand.

They lacked shape and beauty to prefer
Themselves in love: and said that God and Kind* *Nature
Had forged* them to worshippe the sterre,** *fashioned **star
Venus the bright, and leften all behind
His other workes clean and out of mind:
"For other have their full shape and beauty,
And we," quoth they, "be in deformity."

And nigh to them there was a company,
That have the Sisters warray'd and missaid,
I mean the three of fatal destiny, <38>
That be our workers: suddenly abraid,* *aroused
Out gan they cry as they had been afraid;
"We curse," quoth they, "that ever hath Nature
Y-formed us this woeful life t'endure."

And there eke was Contrite, and gan repent,
Confessing whole the wound that Cythere <39>
Had with the dart of hot desire him sent,
And how that he to love must subject be:
Then held he all his scornes vanity,
And said that lovers held a blissful life,
Young men and old, and widow, maid, and wife.

"Bereave me, Goddess!" quoth he, "of thy might,
My scornes all and scoffes, that I have
No power for to mocken any wight
That in thy service dwell: for I did rave;
This know I well right now, so God me save,
And I shall be the chief post* of thy faith, *prop, pillar
And love uphold, the reverse whoso saith."

Dissemble stood not far from him in truth,
With party* mantle, party hood and hose; *parti-coloured
And said he had upon his lady ruth,* *pity
And thus he wound him in, and gan to glose,
Of his intent full double, I suppose:
In all the world he said he lov'd her weel;
But ay me thought he lov'd her *ne'er a deal.* *never a jot*

Eke Shamefastness was there, as I took heed,
That blushed red, and durst not be y-know
She lover was, for thereof had she dread;
She stood and hung her visage down alow;
But such a sight it was to see, I trow,
As of these roses ruddy on their stalk:
There could no wight her spy to speak or talk

In love's art, so gan she to abash,
Nor durst not utter all her privity:
Many a stripe and many a grievous lash
She gave to them that woulde lovers be,
And hinder'd sore the simple commonalty,
That in no wise durst grace and mercy crave,
For *were not she,* they need but ask and have; *but for her*

Where if they now approache for to speak,
Then Shamefastness *returneth them* again: *turns them back*
They think, "If we our secret counsel break,
Our ladies will have scorn us certain,
And peradventure thinke great disdain:"
Thus Shamefastness may bringen in Despair;
When she is dead the other will be heir.

"Come forth Avaunter! now I ring thy bell!" <40>
I spied him soon; to God I make avow,* *confession
He looked black as fiendes do in Hell:
"The first," quoth he, "that ever I did wow,* *woo
*Within a word she came,* I wot not how, *she was won with
So that in armes was my lady free, a single word*
And so have been a thousand more than she.

"In England, Britain,* Spain, and Picardy, *Brittany
Artois, and France, and up in high Holland,
In Burgoyne,* Naples, and in Italy, *Burgundy
Navarre, and Greece, and up in heathen land,
Was never woman yet that would withstand
To be at my commandment when I wo'ld:
I lacked neither silver coin nor gold.

"And there I met with this estate and that;
And her I broach'd, and her, and her, I trow:
Lo! there goes one of mine; and, wot ye what?
Yon fresh attired have I laid full low;
And such one yonder eke right well I know;
I kept the statute <41> when we lay y-fere:* *together
And yet* yon same hath made me right good cheer." *also

Thus hath Avaunter blowen ev'rywhere
All that he knows, and more a thousand fold;
His ancestry of kin was to Lier,* *Liar
For first he maketh promise for to hold
His lady's counsel, and it not unfold; --
Wherefore, the secret when he doth unshit,* *disclose
Then lieth he, that all the world may wit.* *know

For falsing so his promise and behest,* *trust
I wonder sore he hath such fantasy;
He lacketh wit, I trow, or is a beast,
That can no bet* himself with reason guy** *better **guide
By mine advice, Love shall be contrary
To his avail,* and him eke dishonour, *advantage
So that in Court he shall no more sojour.* *sojourn, remain

"Take heed," quoth she, this little Philobone,
"Where Envy rocketh in the corner yond,* *yonder
And sitteth dark; and ye shall see anon
His lean body, fading both face and hand;
Himself he fretteth,* as I understand devoureth
(Witness of Ovid Metamorphoseos); <42>
The lover's foe he is, I will not glose.* *gloss over

"For where a lover thinketh *him promote,* *to promote himself*
Envy will grudge, repining at his weal;
It swelleth sore about his hearte's root,
That in no wise he cannot live in heal;* *health
And if the faithful to his lady steal,
Envy will noise and ring it round about,
And say much worse than done is, out of doubt."

And Privy Thought, rejoicing of himself, --
Stood not far thence in habit marvellous;
"Yon is," thought I, "some spirit or some elf,
His subtile image is so curious:
How is," quoth I, "that he is shaded thus
With yonder cloth, I n'ot* of what color?" *know not
And near I went and gan *to lear and pore,* *to ascertain and
gaze curiously*
And frained* him a question full hard. *asked
"What is," quoth I, "the thing thou lovest best?
Or what is boot* unto thy paines hard? *remedy
Me thinks thou livest here in great unrest,
Thou wand'rest aye from south to east and west,
And east to north; as far as I can see,
There is no place in Court may holde thee.

"Whom followest thou? where is thy heart y-set?
But *my demand assoil,* I thee require." *answer my question*
"Me thought," quoth he, "no creature may let* *hinder
Me to be here, and where as I desire;
For where as absence hath out the fire,
My merry thought it kindleth yet again,
That bodily, me thinks, with *my sov'reign* *my lady*

"I stand, and speak, and laugh, and kiss, and halse;* *embrace
So that my thought comforteth me full oft:
I think, God wot, though all the world be false,
I will be true; I think also how soft
My lady is in speech, and this on loft
Bringeth my heart with joy and great gladness;
This privy thought allays my heaviness.

"And what I think, or where, to be, no man
In all this Earth can tell, y-wis, but I:
And eke there is no swallow swift, nor swan
So wight* of wing, nor half so yern** can fly; *nimble **eagerly
For I can be, and that right suddenly,
In Heav'n, in Hell, in Paradise, and here,
And with my lady, when I will desire.

"I am of counsel far and wide, I wot,
With lord and lady, and their privity
I wot it all; but, be it cold or hot,
They shall not speak without licence of me.
I mean, in such as seasonable* be, *prudent
Tho* first the thing is thought within the heart, *when
Ere any word out from the mouth astart."* *escape

And with the word Thought bade farewell and yede:* *went away
Eke forth went I to see the Courte's guise,
And at the door came in, so God me speed,
Two courtiers of age and of assise* *size
Like high, and broad, and, as I me advise,
The Golden Love and Leaden Love <43> they hight:* *were called
The one was sad, the other glad and light.

At this point there is a hiatus in the poem, which abruptly ceases
to narrate the tour of Philogenet and Philobone round the
Court, and introduces us again to Rosial, who is speaking thus
to her lover, apparently in continuation of a confession of love:

"Yes! draw your heart, with all your force and might,
To lustiness, and be as ye have said."

She admits that she would have given him no drop of favour,
but that she saw him "wax so dead of countenance;" then Pity
"out of her shrine arose from death to life," whisperingly
entreating that she would do him some pleasance. Philogenet
protests his gratitude to Pity, his faithfulness to Rosial; and the
lady, thanking him heartily, bids him abide with her till the
season of May, when the King of Love and all his company will
hold his feast fully royally and well. "And there I bode till that
the season fell."

On May Day, when the lark began to rise,
To matins went the lusty nightingale,
Within a temple shapen hawthorn-wise;
He might not sleep in all the nightertale,* *night-time
But "Domine" <44> gan he cry and gale,* *call out
"My lippes open, Lord of Love, I cry,
And let my mouth thy praising now bewry."* *show forth

The eagle sang "Venite," <45> bodies all,
And let us joy to love that is our health."
And to the desk anon they gan to fall,
And who came late he pressed in by stealth
Then said the falcon, "Our own heartes' wealth,
'Domine Dominus noster,' <46> I wot,
Ye be the God that do* us burn thus hot." *make

"Coeli enarrant," <47> said the popinjay,* *parrot
"Your might is told in Heav'n and firmament."
And then came in the goldfinch fresh and gay,
And said this psalm with heartly glad intent,
"Domini est terra;" <48> this Latin intent,* *means
The God of Love hath earth in governance:
And then the wren began to skip and dance.

"Jube Domine; <49> O Lord of Love, I pray
Command me well this lesson for to read;
This legend is of all that woulde dey* *die
Martyrs for love; God yet their soules speed!
And to thee, Venus, sing we, *out of dread,* *without doubt*
By influence of all thy virtue great,
Beseeching thee to keep us in our heat."

The second lesson robin redbreast sang,
"Hail to the God and Goddess of our lay!"* *law, religion
And to the lectern amorously he sprang:
"Hail now," quoth be, "O fresh season of May,
*Our moneth glad that singen on the spray!* *glad month for us that
Hail to the flowers, red, and white, and blue, sing upon the bough*
Which by their virtue maken our lust new!"

The third lesson the turtle-dove took up,
And thereat laugh'd the mavis* in a scorn: *blackbird
He said, "O God, as might I dine or sup,
This foolish dove will give us all a horn!
There be right here a thousand better born,
To read this lesson, which as well as he,
And eke as hot, can love in all degree."

The turtle-dove said, "Welcome, welcome May,
Gladsome and light to lovers that be true!
I thank thee, Lord of Love, that doth purvey
For me to read this lesson all *of due;* *in due form*
For, in good sooth, *of corage* I pursue *with all my heart*
To serve my make* till death us must depart:" *mate
And then "Tu autem" <50> sang he all apart.

"Te Deum amoris" <51> sang the throstel* cock: *thrush
Tubal <52> himself, the first musician,
With key of harmony could not unlock
So sweet a tune as that the throstel can:
"The Lord of Love we praise," quoth he than,* *then
And so do all the fowles great and lite;* *little
"Honour we May, in false lovers' despite."

"Dominus regnavit," <53> said the peacock there,
"The Lord of Love, that mighty prince, y-wis,
He is received here and ev'rywhere:
Now Jubilate <54> sing:" "What meaneth this?"
Said then the linnet; "welcome, Lord of bliss!"
Out start the owl with "Benedicite," <55>
"What meaneth all this merry fare?"* quoth he. *doing, fuss

"Laudate," <56> sang the lark with voice full shrill;
And eke the kite "O admirabile;" <57>
This quire* will through mine eares pierce and thrill; *choir
But what? welcome this May season," quoth he;
"And honour to the Lord of Love must be,
That hath this feast so solemn and so high:"
"Amen," said all; and so said eke the pie.* *magpie

And forth the cuckoo gan proceed anon,
With "Benedictus" <58> thanking God in haste,
That in this May would visit them each one,
And gladden them all while the feast shall last:
And therewithal a-laughter* out he brast;"** *in laughter **burst
"I thanke God that I should end the song,
And all the service which hath been so long."

Thus sang they all the service of the feast,
And that was done right early, to my doom;* *judgment
And forth went all the Court, both *most and least,* *great and small
To fetch the flowers fresh, and branch and bloom;
And namely* hawthorn brought both page and groom, *especially
With freshe garlands party* blue and white, <59> *parti-coloured
And then rejoiced in their great delight.

Eke each at other threw the flowers bright,
The primerose, the violet, and the gold;
So then, as I beheld the royal sight,
My lady gan me suddenly behold,
And with a true love, plighted many a fold,
She smote me through the very heart *as blive;* *straightway*
And Venus yet I thank I am alive.

Explicit* *The End

Notes to The Court of Love

1. So the Man of Law, in the prologue to his Tale, is made to
say that Chaucer "can but lewedly (ignorantly or imperfectly) on
metres and on rhyming craftily." But the humility of those
apologies is not justified by the care and finish of his earlier

2. Born: burnish, polish: the poet means, that his verses do not
display the eloquence or brilliancy of Cicero in setting forth his

3. Galfrid: Geoffrey de Vinsauf to whose treatise on poetical
composition a less flattering allusion is made in The Nun's
Priest's Tale. See note 33 to that Tale.

4. Stirp: race, stock; Latin, "stirps."

5. Calliope is the epic muse -- "sister" to the other eight.

6. Melpomene was the tragic muse.

7. The same is said of Griselda, in The Clerk's Tale; though she
was of tender years, "yet in the breast of her virginity there was
inclos'd a sad and ripe corage"

8. The confusion which Chaucer makes between Cithaeron and
Cythera, has already been remarked. See note 41 to the
Knight's Tale.

9. Balais: Bastard rubies; said to be so called from Balassa, the
Asian country where they were found. Turkeis: turquoise

10. Spenser, in his description of the House of Busirane, speaks
of the sad distress into which Phoebus was plunged by Cupid, in
revenge for the betrayal of "his mother's wantonness, when she
with Mars was meint [mingled] in joyfulness"

11. Alcestis, daughter of Pelias, was won to wife by Admetus,
King of Pherae, who complied with her father's demand that he
should come to claim her in a chariot drawn by lions and boars.
By the aid of Apollo -- who tended the flocks of Admetus
during his banishment from heaven -- the suitor fulfilled the
condition; and Apollo further induced the Moirae or Fates to
grant that Admetus should never die, if his father, mother, or
wife would die for him. Alcestis devoted herself in his stead;
and, since each had made great efforts or sacrifices for love, the
pair are fitly placed as king and queen in the Court of Love.

12. In the prologue to the "Legend of Good Women," Chaucer
says that behind the God of Love, upon the green, he "saw
coming in ladies nineteen;" but the stories of only nine good
women are there told. In the prologue to The Man of Law's
Tale, sixteen ladies are named as having their stories written in
the "Saints' Legend of Cupid" -- now known as the "Legend of
Good Women" -- (see note 5 to the Prologue to the Man of
Law's Tale); and in the "Retractation," at the end of the Parson's
Tale, the "Book of the Twenty-five Ladies" is enumerated
among the works of which the poet repents -- but there "xxv" is
supposed to have been by some copyist written for "xix."

13. fele: many; German, "viele."

14. Arras: tapestry of silk, made at Arras, in France.

15. Danger, in the Provencal Courts of Love, was the
allegorical personification of the husband; and Disdain suitably
represents the lover's corresponding difficulty from the side of
the lady.

16. In The Knight's Tale, Emily's yellow hair is braided in a
tress, or plait, that hung a yard long behind her back; so that,
both as regards colour and fashion, a singular resemblance
seems to have existed between the female taste of 1369 and that
of 1869.

17. In an old monkish story -- reproduced by Boccaccio, and
from him by La Fontaine in the Tale called "Les Oies de Frere
Philippe" -- a young man is brought up without sight or
knowledge of women, and, when he sees them on a visit to the
city, he is told that they are geese.

18. Tabernacle: A shrine or canopy of stone, supported by

19. Mister folk: handicraftsmen, or tradesmen, who have
learned "mysteries."

20. The loves "Of Queen Annelida and False Arcite" formed the
subject of a short unfinished poem by Chaucer, which was
afterwards worked up into The Knight's Tale.

21. Blue was the colour of truth. See note 36 to the Squire's

22. Blife: quickly, eagerly; for "blive" or "belive."

23. It will be seen afterwards that Philogenet does not relish it,
and pleads for its relaxation.

24. Feat: dainty, neat, handsome; the same as "fetis," oftener
used in Chaucer; the adverb "featly" is still used, as applied to
dancing, &c.

25. Solomon was beguiled by his heathenish wives to forsake
the worship of the true God; Samson fell a victim to the wiles of

26. Compare the speech of Proserpine to Pluto, in The
Merchant's Tale.

27. See note 91 to the Knight's Tale for a parallel.

28. Flaw: yellow; Latin, "flavus," French, "fauve."

29. Bass: kiss; French, "baiser;" and hence the more vulgar

30. Maximian: Cornelius Maximianus Gallus flourished in the
time of the Emperor Anastasius; in one of his elegies, he
professed a preference for flaming and somewhat swelling lips,
which, when he tasted them, would give him full kisses.

31. Dwale: sleeping potion, narcotic. See note 19 to the Reeve's

32. Environ: around; French, "a l'environ."

33. Cast off thine heart: i.e. from confidence in her.

34. Nesh: soft, delicate; Anglo-Saxon, "nese."

35. Perfection: Perfectly holy life, in the performance of vows
of poverty, chastity, obedience, and other modes of mortifying
the flesh.

36. All the sin must on our friendes be: who made us take the
vows before they knew our own dispositions, or ability, to keep

37. Cope: The large vestment worn in singing the service in the
choir. In Chaucer's time it seems to have been a distinctively
clerical piece of dress; so, in the prologue to The Monk's Tale,
the Host, lamenting that so stalwart a man as the Monk should
have gone into religion, exclaims, "Alas! why wearest thou so
wide a cope?"

38. The three of fatal destiny: The three Fates.

39. Cythere: Cytherea -- Venus, so called from the name of
the island, Cythera, into which her worship was first introduced
from Phoenicia.

40. Avaunter: Boaster; Philobone calls him out.

41. The statute: i.e. the 16th.

42. "Metamorphoses" Lib. ii. 768 et seqq., where a general
description of Envy is given.

43. Golden Love and Leaden Love represent successful and
unsuccessful love; the first kindled by Cupid's golden darts, the
second by his leaden arrows.

44. "Domine, labia mea aperies -- et os meam annunciabit
laudem tuam" ("Lord, open my lips -- and my mouth will
announce your praise") Psalms li. 15, was the verse with which
Matins began. The stanzas which follow contain a paraphrase of
the matins for Trinity Sunday, allegorically setting forth the
doctrine that love is the all-controlling influence in the
government of the

45. "Venite, exultemus," ("Come, let us rejoice") are the first
words of Psalm xcv. called the "Invitatory."

46. "Domine Dominus noster:" The opening words of Psalm
viii.; "O Lord our Lord."

47. "Coeli enarrant:" Psalm xix. 1; "The heavens declare (thy

48. "Domini est terra": Psalm xxiv. I; "The earth is the Lord's
and the fulness thereof." The first "nocturn" is now over, and
the lessons from Scripture follow.

49. "Jube, Domine:" "Command, O Lord;" from Matthew xiv.
28, where Peter, seeing Christ walking on the water, says
"Lord, if it be thou, bid me come to thee on the water."

50: "Tu autem:" the formula recited by the reader at the end of
each lesson; "Tu autem, Domine, miserere nobis." ("But do
thou, O Lord, have pity on us!")

51. "Te Deum Amoris:" "Thee, God of Love (we praise)."

52. Not Tubal, who was the worker in metals; but Jubal, his
brother, "who was the father of all such as handle the harp and
organ" (Genesis iv. 21).

53. "Dominus regnavit:" Psalm xciii. 1, "The Lord reigneth."
With this began the "Laudes," or morning service of praise.

54. "Jubilate:" Psalm c. 1, "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord."

55. "Benedicite:" "Bless ye the Lord;" the opening of the Song
of the Three Children

56. "Laudate:" Psalm cxlvii.; "Praise ye the Lord."

57. "O admirabile:" Psalm viii 1; "O Lord our God, how
excellent is thy name."

58. "Benedictus": The first word of the Song of Zacharias
(Luke i. 68); "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel"

59. In The Knight's Tale we have exemplifications of the
custom of gathering and wearing flowers and branches on May
Day; where Emily, "doing observance to May," goes into the
garden at sunrise and gathers flowers, "party white and red, to
make a sotel garland for her head"; and again, where Arcite
rides to the fields "to make him a garland of the greves; were it
of woodbine, or of hawthorn leaves"

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