Part 14 out of 19
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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"
THE CUCKOO AND THE NIGHTINGALE.
[THE noble vindication of true love, as an exalting, purifying,
and honour-conferring power, which Chaucer has made in "The
Court of Love," is repeated in "The Cuckoo and the
Nightingale." At the same time, the close of the poem leads up
to "The Assembly of Fowls;" for, on the appeal of the
Nightingale, the dispute between her and the Cuckoo, on the
merits and blessings of love, is referred to a parliament of birds,
to be held on the morrow after Saint Valentine's Day. True, the
assembly of the feathered tribes described by Chaucer, though
held on Saint Valentine's Day, and engaged in the discussion of
a controversy regarding love, is not occupied with the particular
cause which in the present poem the Nightingale appeals to the
parliament. But "The Cuckoo and the Nightingale" none the less
serves as a link between the two poems; indicating as it does the
nature of those controversies, in matters subject to the supreme
control of the King and Queen of Love, which in the subsequent
poem we find the courtiers, under the guise of birds, debating in
full conclave and under legal forms. Exceedingly simple in
conception, and written in a metre full of musical irregularity
and forcible freedom, "The Cuckoo and the Nightingale" yields
in vividness, delicacy, and grace to none of Chaucer's minor
poems. We are told that the poet, on the third night of May, is
sleepless, and rises early in the morning, to try if he may hear
the Nightingale sing. Wandering by a brook-side, he sits down
on the flowery lawn, and ere long, lulled by the sweet melody of
many birds and the well-according music of the stream, he falls
into a kind of doze -- "not all asleep, nor fully waking." Then
(an evil omen) he hears the Cuckoo sing before the Nightingale;
but soon he hears the Nightingale request the Cuckoo to
remove far away, and leave the place to birds that can sing. The
Cuckoo enters into a defence of her song, which becomes a
railing accusation against Love and a recital of the miseries
which Love's servants endure; the Nightingale vindicates Love
in a lofty and tender strain, but is at last overcome with sorrow
by the bitter words of the Cuckoo, and calls on the God of
Love for help. On this the poet starts up, and, snatching a stone
from the brook, throws it at the Cuckoo, who flies away full
fast. The grateful Nightingale promises that, for this service, she
will be her champion's singer all that May; she warns him
against believing the Cuckoo, the foe of Love; and then, having
sung him one of her new songs, she flies away to all the other
birds that are in that dale, assembles them, and demands that
they should do her right upon the Cuckoo. By one assent it is
agreed that a parliament shall be held, "the morrow after Saint
Valentine's Day," under a maple before the window of Queen
Philippa at Woodstock, when judgment shall be passed upon
the Cuckoo; then the Nightingale flies into a hawthorn, and
sings a lay of love so loud that the poet awakes. The five-line
stanza, of which the first, second, and fifth lines agree in one
rhyme, the third and fourth in another, is peculiar to this poem;
and while the prevailing measure is the decasyllabic line used in
the "Canterbury Tales," many of the lines have one or two
syllables less. The poem is given here without abridgement.]
(Transcriber's note: Modern scholars believe that Chaucer was
not the author of this poem)
THE God of Love, ah! benedicite,
How mighty and how great a lord is he! <1>
For he can make of lowe heartes high,
And of high low, and like for to die,
And harde heartes he can make free.
He can make, within a little stound,* *moment
Of sicke folke whole, and fresh, and sound,
And of the whole he can make sick;
He can bind, and unbinden eke,
What he will have bounden or unbound.
To tell his might my wit may not suffice;
For he can make of wise folk full nice,* -- *foolish
For he may do all that he will devise, --
And lither* folke to destroye vice, *idle, vicious
And proude heartes he can make agrise.* *tremble
Shortly, all that ever he will he may;
Against him dare no wight say nay;
For he can glad and grieve *whom him liketh.* *whom he pleases*
And who that he will, he laugheth or siketh,* *sigheth
And most his might he sheddeth ever in May.
For every true gentle hearte free,
That with him is, or thinketh for to be,
Against May now shall have some stirring,* *impulse
Either to joy, or else to some mourning,
In no season so much, as thinketh me.
For when that they may hear the birdes sing,
And see the flowers and the leaves spring,
That bringeth into hearte's remembrance
A manner ease, *medled with grievance,* *mingled with sorrow*
And lusty thoughtes full of great longing.
And of that longing cometh heaviness,
And thereof groweth greate sickeness,
And <2> for the lack of that that they desire:
And thus in May be heartes set on fire,
So that they brennen* forth in great distress. *burn
I speake this of feeling truely;
If I be old and unlusty,
Yet I have felt the sickness thorough May
*Both hot and cold, an access ev'ry day,* *every day a hot and a
How sore, y-wis, there wot no wight but I. cold fit*
I am so shaken with the fevers white,
Of all this May sleep I but lite;* *little
And also it is not like* unto me *pleasing
That any hearte shoulde sleepy be,
In whom that Love his fiery dart will smite,
But as I lay this other night waking,
I thought how lovers had a tokening,* *significance
And among them it was a common tale,
That it were good to hear the nightingale
Rather than the lewd cuckoo sing.
And then I thought, anon* it was day, *whenever
I would go somewhere to assay
If that I might a nightingale hear;
For yet had I none heard of all that year,
And it was then the thirde night of May.
And anon as I the day espied,
No longer would I in my bed abide;
But to a wood that was fast by,
I went forth alone boldely,
And held the way down by a brooke's side,
Till I came to a laund* of white and green, *lawn
So fair a one had I never in been;
The ground was green, *y-powder'd with daisy,* *strewn with daisies*
The flowers and the *greves like high,* *bushes of the same height*
All green and white; was nothing elles seen.
There sat I down among the faire flow'rs,
And saw the birdes trip out of their bow'rs,
There as they rested them alle the night;
They were so joyful of the daye's light,
They began of May for to do honours.
They coud* that service all by rote; *knew
There was many a lovely note!
Some sange loud as they had plain'd,
And some in other manner voice feign'd,
And some all out with the full throat.
They proined* them, and made them right gay, *preened their feathers
And danc'd and leapt upon the spray;
And evermore two and two in fere,* *together
Right so as they had chosen them to-year* *this year
In Feverere* upon Saint Valentine's Day. *February
And the river that I sat upon,* *beside
It made such a noise as it ran,
Accordant* with the birde's harmony, *keeping time with
Me thought it was the beste melody
That might be heard of any man.
And for delight, I wote never how,
I fell in such a slumber and a swow, -- *swoon
Not all asleep, nor fully waking, --
And in that swow me thought I hearde sing
The sorry bird, the lewd cuckow;
And that was on a tree right faste by.
But who was then *evil apaid* but I? *dissatisfied
"Now God," quoth I, "that died on the crois,* *cross
Give sorrow on thee, and on thy lewed voice!
Full little joy have I now of thy cry."
And as I with the cuckoo thus gan chide,
I heard, in the next bush beside,
A nightingale so lustily sing,
That her clear voice she made ring
Through all the greenwood wide.
"Ah, good Nightingale," quoth I then,
"A little hast thou been too long hen;* *hence, absent
For here hath been the lewd cuckow,
And sung songs rather* than hast thou: *sooner
I pray to God that evil fire her bren!"* *burn
But now I will you tell a wondrous thing:
As long as I lay in that swooning,
Me thought I wist what the birds meant,
And what they said, and what was their intent
And of their speech I hadde good knowing.
There heard I the nightingale say:
"Now, good Cuckoo, go somewhere away,
And let us that can singe dwelle here;
For ev'ry wight escheweth* thee to hear, *shuns
Thy songes be so elenge,* in good fay."** *strange **faith
"What," quoth she, "what may thee all now
It thinketh me, I sing as well as thou,
For my song is both true and plain,
Although I cannot crakel* so in vain, *sing tremulously
As thou dost in thy throat, I wot ne'er how.
"And ev'ry wight may understande me,
But, Nightingale, so may they not do thee,
For thou hast many a nice quaint* cry; *foolish
I have thee heard say, 'ocy, ocy;' <3>
How might I know what that should be?"
"Ah fool," quoth she, "wost thou not what it is?
When that I say, 'ocy, ocy,' y-wis,
Then mean I that I woulde wonder fain
That all they were shamefully slain, *die
That meanen aught againe love amiss.
"And also I would that all those were dead,
That thinke not in love their life to lead,
For who so will the god of Love not serve,
I dare well say he is worthy to sterve,* *die
And for that skill,* 'ocy, ocy,' I grede."** *reason **cry
"Ey!" quoth the cuckoo, "this is a quaint* law, *strange
That every wight shall love or be to-draw!* *torn to pieces
But I forsake alle such company;
For mine intent is not for to die,
Nor ever, while I live, *on Love's yoke to draw.* *to put on love's
"For lovers be the folk that be alive,
That most disease have, and most unthrive,* *misfortune
And most endure sorrow, woe, and care,
And leaste feelen of welfare:
What needeth it against the truth to strive?"
"What?" quoth she, "thou art all out of thy mind!
How mightest thou in thy churlishness find
To speak of Love's servants in this wise?
For in this world is none so good service
To ev'ry wight that gentle is of kind;
"For thereof truly cometh all gladness,
All honour and all gentleness,
Worship, ease, and all hearte's lust,* *pleasure
Perfect joy, and full assured trust,
Jollity, pleasance, and freshness,
"Lowlihead, largess, and courtesy,
Seemelihead, and true company,
Dread of shame for to do amiss;
For he that truly Love's servant is,
Were lother* to be shamed than to die. *more reluctant
"And that this is sooth that I say,
In that belief I will live and dey;
And, Cuckoo, so I rede* that thou, do y-wis." *counsel
"Then," quoth he, "let me never have bliss,
If ever I to that counsail obey!
"Nightingale, thou speakest wondrous fair,
But, for all that, is the sooth contrair;
For love is in young folk but rage,
And in old folk a great dotage;
Who most it useth, moste shall enpair.* *suffer harm
"For thereof come disease and heaviness,
Sorrow and care, and many a great sickness,
Despite, debate, anger, envy,
Depraving,* shame, untrust, and jealousy, *loss of fame or character
Pride, mischief, povert', and woodness.* *madness
"Loving is an office of despair,
And one thing is therein that is not fair;
For who that gets of love a little bliss,
*But if he be away therewith, y-wis,
He may full soon of age have his hair.* *see note <5>*
"And, Nightingale, therefore hold thee nigh;
For, 'lieve me well, for all thy quainte cry,
If thou be far or longe from thy make,* *mate
Thou shalt be as other that be forsake,
And then thou shalt hoten* as do I." *be called
"Fie," quoth she, "on thy name and on thee!
The god of Love let thee never the!* *thrive
For thou art worse a thousand fold than wood,* *mad
For many one is full worthy and full good,
That had been naught, ne hadde Love y-be.
"For evermore Love his servants amendeth,
And from all evile taches* them defendeth, *blemishes
And maketh them to burn right in a fire,
In truth and in worshipful* desire, *honourable
And, when him liketh, joy enough them sendeth."
"Thou Nightingale," he said, "be still!
For Love hath no reason but his will;
For ofttime untrue folk he easeth,
And true folk so bitterly displeaseth,
That for default of grace* he lets them spill."** *favour **be ruined
Then took I of the nightingale keep,
How she cast a sigh out of her deep,
And said, "Alas, that ever I was bore!
I can for teen* not say one worde more;" *vexation, grief
And right with that word she burst out to weep.
"Alas!" quoth she, "my hearte will to-break
To heare thus this lewd bird speak
Of Love, and of his worshipful service.
Now, God of Love, thou help me in some wise,
That I may on this cuckoo be awreak!"* *revenged
Methought then I start up anon,
And to the brook I ran and got a stone,
And at the cuckoo heartly cast;
And for dread he flew away full fast,
And glad was I when he was gone.
And evermore the cuckoo, as he flay,* *flew
He saide, "Farewell, farewell, popinjay,"
As though he had scorned, thought me;
But ay I hunted him from the tree,
Until he was far out of sight away.
And then came the nightingale to me,
And said, "Friend, forsooth I thank thee
That thou hast lik'd me to rescow;* *rescue
And one avow to Love make I now,
That all this May I will thy singer be."
I thanked her, and was right *well apaid:* *satisfied
"Yea," quoth she, "and be thou not dismay'd,
Though thou have heard the cuckoo *erst than* me; <6> *before
For, if I live, it shall amended be
The next May, if I be not afraid.
"And one thing I will rede* thee also,
Believe thou not the cuckoo, the love's foe,
For all that he hath said is strong leasing."* *falsehood
"Nay," quoth I, "thereto shall nothing me bring
For love, and it hath done me much woe."
"Yea? Use," quoth she, "this medicine,
Every day this May ere thou dine:
Go look upon the fresh daisy,
And, though thou be for woe in point to die,
That shall full greatly less thee of thy pine.* *sorrow
"And look alway that thou be good and true,
And I will sing one of my songes new
For love of thee, as loud as I may cry:"
And then she began this song full high:
"I shrew* all them that be of love untrue." *curse
And when she had sung it to the end,
"Now farewell," quoth she, "for I must wend,* *go
And, God of Love, that can right well and may,
As much joy sende thee this day,
As any lover yet he ever send!"
Thus took the nightingale her leave of me.
I pray to God alway with her be,
And joy of love he send her evermore,
And shield us from the cuckoo and his lore;
For there is not so false a bird as he.
Forth she flew, the gentle nightingale,
To all the birdes that were in that dale,
And got them all into a place in fere,* *together
And besought them that they would hear
Her disease,* and thus began her tale. *distress, grievance
"Ye witte* well, it is not for to hide, *know
How the cuckoo and I fast have chide,* *quarrelled
Ever since that it was daylight;
I pray you all that ye do me right
On that foul false unkind bride."* *bird
Then spake one bird for all, by one assent:
"This matter asketh good advisement;
For we be fewe birdes here in fere,
And sooth it is, the cuckoo is not here,
And therefore we will have a parlement.
"And thereat shall the eagle be our lord,
And other peers that been *of record,* *of established authority*
And the cuckoo shall be *after sent;* *summoned
There shall be given the judgment,
Or else we shall finally *make accord.* *be reconciled*
"And this shall be, withoute nay,* *contradiction
The morrow after Saint Valentine's Day,
Under a maple that is fair and green,
Before the chamber window of the Queen, <7>
At Woodstock upon the green lay."* *lawn
She thanked them, and then her leave took,
And into a hawthorn by that brook,
And there she sat and sang upon that tree,
*"Term of life love hath withhold me;"* *love hath me in her
So loude, that I with that song awoke. service all my life*
Explicit.* *The End
The Author to His Book.
O LEWD book! with thy foul rudeness,
Since thou hast neither beauty nor eloquence,
Who hath thee caus'd or giv'n the hardiness
For to appear in my lady's presence?
I am full sicker* thou know'st her benevolence, *certain
Full agreeable to all her abying,* *merit
For of all good she is the best living.
Alas! that thou ne haddest worthiness,
To show to her some pleasant sentence,
Since that she hath, thorough her gentleness,
Accepted thee servant to her dign reverence!
O! me repenteth that I n'had science,
And leisure als', t'make thee more flourishing,
For of all good she is the best living.
Beseech her meekly with all lowliness,
Though I be ferre* from her in absence, *far
To think on my truth to her and steadfastness,
And to abridge of my sorrows the violence,
Which caused is whereof knoweth your sapience;* *wisdom
She like among to notify me her liking,
For of all good she is the best living.
L'Envoy; To the Author's Lady.
Aurore of gladness, day of lustiness,
Lucern* at night with heav'nly influence *lamp
Illumin'd, root of beauty and goodness,
Suspires* which I effund** in silence! *sighs **pour forth
Of grace I beseech, allege* let your writing *declare
Now of all good, since ye be best living.
Notes to the Cuckoo and the Nightingale
1. These two lines occur also in The Knight's Tale; they
commence the speech of Theseus on the love follies of Palamon
and Arcite, whom the Duke has just found fighting in the forest.
2. A stronger reading is "all."
3. "Ocy, ocy," is supposed to come from the Latin "occidere,"
to kill; or rather the old French, "occire," "occis," denoting the
doom which the nightingale imprecates or supplicates on all
who do offence to Love.
4. Grede: cry; Italian, "grido."
5."But if he be away therewith, y-wis,
He may full soon of age have his hair":
Unless he be always fortunate in love pursuits, he may full soon
have gray hair, through his anxieties.
6. It was of evil omen to hear the cuckoo before the nightingale
or any other bird.
7. The Queen: Philippa of Hainault, wife of Edward III.
THE ASSEMBLY OF FOWLS.
[In "The Assembly of Fowls" -- which Chaucer's "Retractation"
describes as "The Book of Saint Valentine's Day, or of the
Parliament of Birds" -- we are presented with a picture of the
mediaeval "Court of Love" far closer to the reality than we find
in Chaucer's poem which bears that express title. We have a
regularly constituted conclave or tribunal, under a president
whose decisions are final. A difficult question is proposed for
the consideration and judgment of the Court -- the disputants
advancing and vindicating their claims in person. The attendants
upon the Court, through specially chosen mouthpieces, deliver
their opinions on the cause; and finally a decision is
authoritatively pronounced by the president -- which, as in
many of the cases actually judged before the Courts of Love in
France, places the reasonable and modest wish of a sensitive
and chaste lady above all the eagerness of her lovers, all the
incongruous counsels of representative courtiers. So far,
therefore, as the poem reproduces the characteristic features of
procedure in those romantic Middle Age halls of amatory
justice, Chaucer's "Assembly of Fowls" is his real "Court of
Love;" for although, in the castle and among the courtiers of
Admetus and Alcestis, we have all the personages and
machinery necessary for one of those erotic contentions, in the
present poem we see the personages and the machinery actually
at work, upon another scene and under other guises. The
allegory which makes the contention arise out of the loves, and
proceed in the assembly, of the feathered race, is quite in
keeping with the fanciful yet nature-loving spirit of the poetry
of Chaucer's time, in which the influence of the Troubadours
was still largely present. It is quite in keeping, also, with the
principles that regulated the Courts, the purpose of which was
more to discuss and determine the proper conduct of love
affairs, than to secure conviction or acquittal, sanction or
reprobation, in particular cases -- though the jurisdiction and
the judgments of such assemblies often closely concerned
individuals. Chaucer introduces us to his main theme through
the vestibule of a fancied dream -- a method which be
repeatedly employs with great relish, as for instance in "The
House of Fame." He has spent the whole day over Cicero's
account of the Dream of Scipio (Africanus the Younger); and,
having gone to bed, he dreams that Africanus the Elder appears
to him -- just as in the book he appeared to his namesake -- and
carries him into a beautiful park, in which is a fair garden by a
river-side. Here the poet is led into a splendid temple, through a
crowd of courtiers allegorically representing the various
instruments, pleasures, emotions, and encouragements of Love;
and in the temple Venus herself is found, sporting with her
porter Richess. Returning into the garden, he sees the Goddess
of Nature seated on a hill of flowers; and before her are
assembled all the birds -- for it is Saint Valentine's Day, when
every fowl chooses her mate. Having with a graphic touch
enumerated and described the principal birds, the poet sees that
on her hand Nature bears a female eagle of surpassing loveliness
and virtue, for which three male eagles advance contending
claims. The disputation lasts all day; and at evening the
assembled birds, eager to be gone with their mates, clamour for
a decision. The tercelet, the goose, the cuckoo, and the turtle --
for birds of prey, water-fowl, worm-fowl, and seed-fowl
respectively -- pronounce their verdicts on the dispute, in
speeches full of character and humour; but Nature refers the
decision between the three claimants to the female eagle herself,
who prays that she may have a year's respite. Nature grants the
prayer, pronounces judgment accordingly, and dismisses the
assembly; and after a chosen choir has sung a roundel in honour
of the Goddess, all the birds fly away, and the poet awakes. It is
probable that Chaucer derived the idea of the poem from a
French source; Mr Bell gives the outline of a fabliau, of which
three versions existed, and in which a contention between two
ladies regarding the merits of their respective lovers, a knight
and a clerk, is decided by Cupid in a Court composed of birds,
which assume their sides according to their different natures.
Whatever the source of the idea, its management, and the whole
workmanship of the poem, especially in the more humorous
passages, are essentially Chaucer's own.]
THE life so short, the craft so long to learn,
Th'assay so hard, so sharp the conquering,
The dreadful joy, alway that *flits so yern;* *fleets so fast*
All this mean I by* Love, that my feeling *with reference to
Astoneth* with his wonderful working, *amazes
So sore, y-wis, that, when I on him think,
Naught wit I well whether I fleet* or sink, *float
For *all be* that I know not Love indeed, *albeit, although*
Nor wot how that he *quiteth folk their hire,* *rewards folk for
Yet happeth me full oft in books to read their service*
Of his miracles, and of his cruel ire;
There read I well, he will be lord and sire;
I dare not saye, that his strokes be sore;
But God save such a lord! I can no more.
Of usage, what for lust and what for lore,
On bookes read I oft, as I you told.
But wherefore speak I alle this? Not yore
Agone, it happed me for to behold
Upon a book written with letters old;
And thereupon, a certain thing to learn,
The longe day full fast I read and yern.* *eagerly
For out of the old fieldes, as men saith,
Cometh all this new corn, from year to year;
And out of olde bookes, in good faith,
Cometh all this new science that men lear.* *learn
But now to purpose as of this mattere:
To reade forth it gan me so delight,
That all the day me thought it but a lite.* *little while
This book, of which I make mention,
Entitled was right thus, as I shall tell;
"Tullius, of the Dream of Scipion:" <1>
Chapters seven it had, of heav'n, and hell,
And earth, and soules that therein do dwell;
Of which, as shortly as I can it treat,
Of his sentence I will you say the great.* *important part
First telleth it, when Scipio was come
To Africa, how he met Massinisse,
That him for joy in armes hath y-nome.* *taken <2>
Then telleth he their speech, and all the bliss
That was between them till the day gan miss.* *fail
And how his ancestor Africane so dear
Gan in his sleep that night to him appear.
Then telleth it, that from a starry place
How Africane hath him Carthage y-shew'd,
And warned him before of all his grace, <3>
And said him, what man, learned either lewd,* *ignorant
That loveth *common profit,* well y-thew'd, *the public advantage*
He should unto a blissful place wend,* *go
Where as the joy is without any end.
Then asked he,* if folk that here be dead *i.e. the younger Scipio
Have life, and dwelling, in another place?
And Africane said, "Yea, withoute dread;"* *doubt
And how our present worldly lives' space
Meant but a manner death, <4> what way we trace;
And rightful folk should go, after they die,
To Heav'n; and showed him the galaxy.
Then show'd he him the little earth that here is,
*To regard* the heaven's quantity; *by comparison with
And after show'd he him the nine spheres; <5>
And after that the melody heard he,
That cometh of those spheres thrice three,
That wells of music be and melody
In this world here, and cause of harmony.
Then said he him, since earthe was so lite,* *small
And full of torment and of *harde grace,* *evil fortune
That he should not him in this world delight.
Then told he him, in certain yeares' space,
That ev'ry star should come into his place,
Where it was first; and all should *out of mind,* *perish from memory*
That in this world is done of all mankind.
Then pray'd him Scipio, to tell him all
The way to come into that Heaven's bliss;
And he said: "First know thyself immortal,
And look aye busily that thou work and wiss* *guide affairs
To common profit, and thou shalt not miss
To come swiftly unto that place dear,
That full of bliss is, and of soules clear.* *noble <6>
"And breakers of the law, the sooth to sayn,
And likerous* folk, after that they be dead, *lecherous
Shall whirl about the world always in pain,
Till many a world be passed, *out of dread;* *without doubt*
And then, forgiven all their wicked deed,
They shalle come unto that blissful place,
To which to come God thee sende grace!"
The day gan failen, and the darke night,
That reaveth* beastes from their business, *taketh away
Berefte me my book for lack of light,
And to my bed I gan me for to dress,* *prepare
Full fill'd of thought and busy heaviness;
For both I hadde thing which that I n'old,* *would not
And eke I had not that thing that I wo'ld.
But, finally, my spirit at the last,
Forweary* of my labour all that day, *utterly wearied
Took rest, that made me to sleepe fast;
And in my sleep I mette,* as that I say, *dreamed
How Africane, right in the *self array* *same garb*
That Scipio him saw before that tide,* *time
Was come, and stood right at my bedde's side.
The weary hunter, sleeping in his bed,
To wood again his mind goeth anon;
The judge dreameth how his pleas be sped;
The carter dreameth how his cartes go'n;
The rich of gold, the knight fights with his fone;* *foes
The sicke mette he drinketh of the tun; <7>
The lover mette he hath his lady won.
I cannot say, if that the cause were,
For* I had read of Africane beforn, *because
That made me to mette that he stood there;
But thus said he; "Thou hast thee so well borne
In looking of mine old book all to-torn,
Of which Macrobius *raught not a lite,* *recked not a little*
That *somedeal of thy labour would I quite."* *I would reward you for
some of your labour*
Cytherea, thou blissful Lady sweet!
That with thy firebrand dauntest *when thee lest,* *when you please*
That madest me this sweven* for to mette, *dream
Be thou my help in this, for thou may'st best!
As wisly* as I saw the north-north-west, <8> *surely
When I began my sweven for to write,
So give me might to rhyme it and endite.* *write down
This foresaid Africane me hent* anon, *took
And forth with him unto a gate brought
Right of a park, walled with greene stone;
And o'er the gate, with letters large y-wrought,
There were verses written, as me thought,
On either half, of full great difference,
Of which I shall you say the plain sentence.* *meaning
"Through me men go into the blissful place <9>
Of hearte's heal and deadly woundes' cure;
Through me men go unto the well of grace;
Where green and lusty May shall ever dure;
This is the way to all good adventure;
Be glad, thou reader, and thy sorrow off cast;
All open am I; pass in and speed thee fast."
"Through me men go," thus spake the other side,
"Unto the mortal strokes of the spear,
Of which disdain and danger is the guide;
There never tree shall fruit nor leaves bear;
This stream you leadeth to the sorrowful weir,
Where as the fish in prison is all dry; <10>
Th'eschewing is the only remedy."
These verses of gold and azure written were,
On which I gan astonish'd to behold;
For with that one increased all my fear,
And with that other gan my heart to bold;* *take courage
That one me het,* that other did me cold; *heated
No wit had I, for error,* for to choose *perplexity, confusion
To enter or fly, or me to save or lose.
Right as betwixten adamantes* two *magnets
Of even weight, a piece of iron set,
Ne hath no might to move to nor fro;
For what the one may hale,* the other let;** *attract **restrain
So far'd I, that *n'ist whether me was bet* *knew not whether it was
T' enter or leave, till Africane, my guide, better for me*
Me hent* and shov'd in at the gates wide. *caught
And said, "It standeth written in thy face,
Thine error,* though thou tell it not to me; *perplexity, confusion
But dread thou not to come into this place;
For this writing *is nothing meant by* thee, *does not refer to*
Nor by none, but* he Love's servant be; *unless
For thou of Love hast lost thy taste, I guess,
As sick man hath of sweet and bitterness.
"But natheless, although that thou be dull,
That thou canst not do, yet thou mayest see;
For many a man that may not stand a pull,
Yet likes it him at wrestling for to be,
And deeme* whether he doth bet,** or he; *judge **better
And, if thou haddest cunning* to endite, *skill
I shall thee showe matter *of to write."* *to write about*
With that my hand in his he took anon,
Of which I comfort caught,* and went in fast. *took
But, Lord! so I was glad and well-begone!* *fortunate
For *over all,* where I my eyen cast, *everywhere*
Were trees y-clad with leaves that ay shall last,
Each in his kind, with colour fresh and green
As emerald, that joy it was to see'n.
The builder oak; and eke the hardy ash;
The pillar elm, the coffer unto carrain;
The box, pipe tree; the holm, to whippe's lash
The sailing fir; the cypress death to plain;
The shooter yew; the aspe for shaftes plain;
Th'olive of peace, and eke the drunken vine;
The victor palm; the laurel, too, divine. <11>
A garden saw I, full of blossom'd boughes,
Upon a river, in a greene mead,
Where as sweetness evermore enow is,
With flowers white, blue, yellow, and red,
And colde welle* streames, nothing dead, *fountain
That swamme full of smalle fishes light,
With finnes red, and scales silver bright.
On ev'ry bough the birdes heard I sing,
With voice of angels in their harmony,
That busied them their birdes forth to bring;
The pretty conies* to their play gan hie; *rabbits **haste
And further all about I gan espy
The dreadful* roe, the buck, the hart, and hind, *timid
Squirrels, and beastes small, of gentle kind.* *nature
Of instruments of stringes in accord
Heard I so play a ravishing sweetness,
That God, that Maker is of all and Lord,
Ne hearde never better, as I guess:
Therewith a wind, unneth* it might be less, *scarcely
Made in the leaves green a noise soft,
Accordant* the fowles' song on loft.** *in keeping with **above
Th'air of the place so attemper* was, *mild
That ne'er was there grievance* of hot nor cold; *annoyance
There was eke ev'ry wholesome spice and grass,
Nor no man may there waxe sick nor old:
Yet* was there more joy a thousand fold *moreover
Than I can tell, or ever could or might;
There ever is clear day, and never night.
Under a tree, beside a well, I sey* *saw
Cupid our lord his arrows forge and file;* *polish
And at his feet his bow all ready lay;
And well his daughter temper'd, all the while,
The heades in the well; and with her wile* *cleverness
She couch'd* them after, as they shoulde serve *arranged in order
Some for to slay, and some to wound and kerve.* *carve, cut
Then was I ware of Pleasance anon right,
And of Array, and Lust, and Courtesy,
And of the Craft, that can and hath the might
To do* by force a wight to do folly; *make
Disfigured* was she, I will not lie; *disguised
And by himself, under an oak, I guess,
Saw I Delight, that stood with Gentleness.
Then saw I Beauty, with a nice attire,
And Youthe, full of game and jollity,
Foolhardiness, Flattery, and Desire,
Messagerie, and Meed, and other three; <12>
Their names shall not here be told for me:
And upon pillars great of jasper long
I saw a temple of brass y-founded strong.
And [all] about the temple danc'd alway
Women enough, of whiche some there were
Fair of themselves, and some of them were gay
In kirtles* all dishevell'd went they there; *tunics
That was their office* ever, from year to year; *duty, occupation
And on the temple saw I, white and fair,
Of doves sitting many a thousand pair. <13>
Before the temple door, full soberly,
Dame Peace sat, a curtain in her hand;
And her beside, wonder discreetely,
Dame Patience sitting there I fand,* *found
With face pale, upon a hill of sand;
And althernext, within and eke without,
Behest,* and Art, and of their folk a rout.** *Promise **crowd
Within the temple, of sighes hot as fire
I heard a swough,* that gan aboute ren,** *murmur **run
Which sighes were engender'd with desire,
That made every hearte for to bren* *burn
Of newe flame; and well espied I then,
That all the cause of sorrows that they dree* *endure
Came of the bitter goddess Jealousy.
The God Priapus <14> saw I, as I went
Within the temple, in sov'reign place stand,
In such array, as when the ass him shent* <15> *ruined
With cry by night, and with sceptre in hand:
Full busily men gan assay and fand* *endeavour
Upon his head to set, of sundry hue,
Garlandes full of freshe flowers new.
And in a privy corner, in disport,
Found I Venus and her porter Richess,
That was full noble and hautain* of her port; *haughty <16>
Dark was that place, but afterward lightness
I saw a little, unneth* it might be less; *scarcely
And on a bed of gold she lay to rest,
Till that the hote sun began to west.* *decline towards the wesr
Her gilded haires with a golden thread
Y-bounden were, untressed,* as she lay; *loose
And naked from the breast unto the head
Men might her see; and, soothly for to say,
The remnant cover'd, welle to my pay,* *satisfaction <17>
Right with a little kerchief of Valence;<18>
There was no thicker clothe of defence.
The place gave a thousand savours swoot;* *sweet
And Bacchus, god of wine, sat her beside;
And Ceres next, that *doth of hunger boot;*<19> *relieves hunger*
And, as I said, amiddes* lay Cypride, <20> *in the midst
To whom on knees the younge folke cried
To be their help: but thus I let her lie,
And farther in the temple gan espy,
That, in despite of Diana the chaste,
Full many a bowe broke hung on the wall,
Of maidens, such as go their time to waste
In her service: and painted over all
Of many a story, of which I touche shall
A few, as of Calist', and Atalant',
And many a maid, of which the name I want.* *do not have
Semiramis, Canace, and Hercules,
Biblis, Dido, Thisbe and Pyramus,
Tristram, Isoude, Paris, and Achilles,
Helena, Cleopatra, Troilus,
Scylla, and eke the mother of Romulus;
All these were painted on the other side,
And all their love, and in what plight they died.
When I was come again into the place
That I of spake, that was so sweet and green,
Forth walk'd I then, myselfe to solace:
Then was I ware where there sat a queen,
That, as of light the summer Sunne sheen
Passeth the star, right so *over measure* *out of all proportion*
She fairer was than any creature.
And in a lawn, upon a hill of flowers,
Was set this noble goddess of Nature;
Of branches were her halles and her bowers
Y-wrought, after her craft and her measure;
Nor was there fowl that comes of engendrure
That there ne were prest,* in her presence, *ready <22>
To *take her doom,* and give her audience. *receive her decision*
For this was on Saint Valentine's Day,
When ev'ry fowl cometh to choose her make,* *mate
Of every kind that men thinken may;
And then so huge a noise gan they make,
That earth, and sea, and tree, and ev'ry lake,
So full was, that unnethes* there was space *scarcely
For me to stand, so full was all the place.
And right as Alain, in his Plaint of Kind, <23>
Deviseth* Nature of such array and face; *describeth
In such array men mighte her there find.
This noble Emperess, full of all grace,
Bade ev'ry fowle take her owen place,
As they were wont alway, from year to year,
On Saint Valentine's Day to stande there.
That is to say, the *fowles of ravine* *birds of prey*
Were highest set, and then the fowles smale,
That eaten as them Nature would incline;
As worme-fowl, of which I tell no tale;
But waterfowl sat lowest in the dale,
And fowls that live by seed sat on the green,
And that so many, that wonder was to see'n.
There mighte men the royal eagle find,
That with his sharpe look pierceth the Sun;
And other eagles of a lower kind,
Of which that *clerkes well devise con;* *which scholars well
There was the tyrant with his feathers dun can describe*
And green, I mean the goshawk, that doth pine* *cause pain
To birds, for his outrageous ravine.* *slaying, hunting
The gentle falcon, that with his feet distraineth* *grasps
The kinge's hand; <24> the hardy* sperhawk eke, *pert
The quaile's foe; the merlion <25> that paineth
Himself full oft the larke for to seek;
There was the dove, with her eyen meek;
The jealous swan, against* his death that singeth; *in anticipation of
The owl eke, that of death the bode* bringeth. *omen
The crane, the giant, with his trumpet soun';
The thief the chough; and eke the chatt'ring pie;
The scorning jay; <26> the eel's foe the heroun;
The false lapwing, full of treachery; <27>
The starling, that the counsel can betray;
The tame ruddock,* and the coward kite; *robin-redbreast
The cock, that horologe* is of *thorpes lite.* *clock *little villages*
The sparrow, Venus' son; <28> the nightingale,
That calleth forth the freshe leaves new; <29>
The swallow, murd'rer of the bees smale,
That honey make of flowers fresh of hue;
The wedded turtle, with his hearte true;
The peacock, with his angel feathers bright; <30>
The pheasant, scorner of the cock by night; <31>
The waker goose; <32> the cuckoo ever unkind; <33>
The popinjay,* full of delicacy; *parrot
The drake, destroyer of his owen kind; <34>
The stork, the wreaker* of adultery; <35> *avenger
The hot cormorant, full of gluttony; <36>
The raven and the crow, with voice of care; <37>
The throstle old;* and the frosty fieldfare.<38> *long-lived
What should I say? Of fowls of ev'ry kind
That in this world have feathers and stature,
Men mighten in that place assembled find,
Before that noble goddess of Nature;
And each of them did all his busy cure* *care, pains
Benignely to choose, or for to take,
By her accord,* his formel <39> or his make.** *consent **mate
But to the point. Nature held on her hand
A formel eagle, of shape the gentilest
That ever she among her workes fand,
The most benign, and eke the goodliest;
In her was ev'ry virtue at its rest,* *highest point
So farforth that Nature herself had bliss
To look on her, and oft her beak to kiss.
Nature, the vicar of th'Almighty Lord, --
That hot, cold, heavy, light, and moist, and dry,
Hath knit, by even number of accord, --
In easy voice began to speak, and say:
"Fowles, take heed of my sentence,"* I pray; *opinion, discourse
And for your ease, in furth'ring of your need,
As far as I may speak, I will me speed.
"Ye know well how, on Saint Valentine's Day,
By my statute, and through my governance,
Ye choose your mates, and after fly away
With them, as I you *pricke with pleasance;* *inspire with pleasure*
But natheless, as by rightful ordinance,
May I not let,* for all this world to win, *hinder
But he that most is worthy shall begin.
"The tercel eagle, as ye know full weel,* *well
The fowl royal, above you all in degree,
The wise and worthy, secret, true as steel,
The which I formed have, as ye may see,
In ev'ry part, as it best liketh me, --
It needeth not his shape you to devise,* -- *describe
He shall first choose, and speaken *in his guise.* *in his own way*
"And, after him, by order shall ye choose,
After your kind, evereach as you liketh;
And as your hap* is, shall ye win or lose; *fortune
But which of you that love most entriketh,* *entangles <40>
God send him her that sorest for him siketh."* *sigheth
And therewithal the tercel gan she call,
And said, "My son, the choice is to thee fall.
"But natheless, in this condition
Must be the choice of ev'reach that is here,
That she agree to his election,
Whoso he be, that shoulde be her fere;* *companion
This is our usage ay, from year to year;
And whoso may at this time have this grace,
*In blissful time* he came into this place." *in a happy hour*
With head inclin'd, and with full humble cheer,* *demeanour
This royal tercel spake, and tarried not:
"Unto my sov'reign lady, and not my fere,* *companion
I chose and choose, with will, and heart, and thought,
The formel on your hand, so well y-wrought,
Whose I am all, and ever will her serve,
Do what her list, to do me live or sterve.* *die
"Beseeching her of mercy and of grace,
As she that is my lady sovereign,
Or let me die here present in this place,
For certes long may I not live in pain;
*For in my heart is carven ev'ry vein:* *every vein in my heart is
Having regard only unto my truth, wounded with love*
My deare heart, have on my woe some ruth.* *pity
"And if that I be found to her untrue,
Disobeisant,* or wilful negligent, *disobedient
Avaunter,* or *in process* love a new, *braggart *in the course
I pray to you, this be my judgement, of time*
That with these fowles I be all to-rent,* *torn to pieces
That ilke* day that she me ever find *same
To her untrue, or in my guilt unkind.
"And since none loveth her so well as I,
Although she never of love me behet,* *promised
Then ought she to be mine, through her mercy;
For *other bond can I none on her knit;* *I can bind her no other way*
For weal or for woe, never shall I let* *cease, fail
To serve her, how far so that she wend;* *go
Say what you list, my tale is at an end."
Right as the freshe redde rose new
Against the summer Sunne colour'd is,
Right so, for shame, all waxen gan the hue
Of this formel, when she had heard all this;
*Neither she answer'd well, nor said amiss,* *she answered nothing,
So sore abashed was she, till Nature either well or ill*
Said, "Daughter, dread you not, I you assure."* *confirm, support
Another tercel eagle spake anon,
Of lower kind, and said that should not be;
"I love her better than ye do, by Saint John!
Or at the least I love her as well as ye,
And longer have her serv'd in my degree;
And if she should have lov'd for long loving,
To me alone had been the guerdoning.* *reward
"I dare eke say, if she me finde false,
Unkind, janglere,* rebel in any wise, *boastful
Or jealous, *do me hange by the halse;* *hang me by the neck*
And but* I beare me in her service *unless
As well ay as my wit can me suffice,
From point to point, her honour for to save,
Take she my life and all the good I have."
A thirde tercel eagle answer'd tho:* *then
"Now, Sirs, ye see the little leisure here;
For ev'ry fowl cries out to be ago
Forth with his mate, or with his lady dear;
And eke Nature herselfe will not hear,
For tarrying her, not half that I would say;
And but* I speak, I must for sorrow dey.** *unless **die
Of long service avaunt* I me no thing, *boast
But as possible is me to die to-day,
For woe, as he that hath been languishing
This twenty winter; and well happen may
A man may serve better, and *more to pay,* *with more satisfaction*
In half a year, although it were no more.
Than some man doth that served hath *full yore.* *for a long time*
"I say not this by me for that I can
Do no service that may my lady please;
But I dare say, I am her truest man,* *liegeman, servant
*As to my doom,* and fainest would her please; *in my judgement
*At shorte words,* until that death me seize, *in one word*
I will be hers, whether I wake or wink.
And true in all that hearte may bethink."
Of all my life, since that day I was born,
*So gentle plea,* in love or other thing, *such noble pleading*
Ye hearde never no man me beforn;
Whoso that hadde leisure and cunning* *skill
For to rehearse their cheer and their speaking:
And from the morrow gan these speeches last,
Till downward went the Sunne wonder fast.
The noise of fowles for to be deliver'd* *set free to depart
So loude rang, "Have done and let us wend,"* *go
That well ween'd I the wood had all to-shiver'd:* *been shaken to
"Come off!" they cried; "alas! ye will us shend!* pieces* *ruin
When will your cursed pleading have an end?
How should a judge either party believe,
For yea or nay, withouten any preve?"* *proof
The goose, the duck, and the cuckoo also,
So cried "keke, keke," "cuckoo," "queke queke," high,
That through mine ears the noise wente tho.* *then
The goose said then, "All this n'is worth a fly!
But I can shape hereof a remedy;
And I will say my verdict, fair and swith,* *speedily
For water-fowl, whoso be wroth or blith."* *glad
"And I for worm-fowl," said the fool cuckow;
For I will, of mine own authority,
For common speed,* take on me the charge now; *advantage
For to deliver us is great charity."
"Ye may abide a while yet, pardie,"* *by God
Quoth then the turtle; "if it be your will
A wight may speak, it were as good be still.
"I am a seed-fowl, one th'unworthiest,
That know I well, and the least of cunning;
But better is, that a wight's tongue rest,
Than *entremette him of* such doing *meddle with* <41>
Of which he neither rede* can nor sing; *counsel
And who it doth, full foul himself accloyeth,* *embarrasseth
For office uncommanded oft annoyeth."
Nature, which that alway had an ear
To murmur of the lewedness behind,
With facond* voice said, "Hold your tongues there, *eloquent, fluent
And I shall soon, I hope, a counsel find,
You to deliver, and from this noise unbind;
I charge of ev'ry flock* ye shall one call, *class of fowl
To say the verdict of you fowles all."
The tercelet* said then in this mannere; *male hawk
"Full hard it were to prove it by reason,
Who loveth best this gentle formel here;
For ev'reach hath such replication,* *reply
That by skilles* may none be brought adown; *arguments
I cannot see that arguments avail;
Then seemeth it that there must be battaile."
"All ready!" quoth those eagle tercels tho;* *then
"Nay, Sirs!" quoth he; "if that I durst it say,
Ye do me wrong, my tale is not y-do,* *done
For, Sirs, -- and *take it not agrief,* I pray, -- *be not offended*
It may not be as ye would, in this way:
Ours is the voice that have the charge in hand,
And *to the judges' doom ye muste stand.* *ye must abide by the
"And therefore 'Peace!' I say; as to my wit,
Me woulde think, how that the worthiest
Of knighthood, and had longest used it,
Most of estate, of blood the gentilest,
Were fitting most for her, *if that her lest;* *if she pleased*
And, of these three she knows herself, I trow,* *am sure
Which that he be; for it is light* to know." *easy
The water-fowles have their heades laid
Together, and *of short advisement,* *after brief deliberation*
When evereach his verdict had y-said
They saide soothly all by one assent,
How that "The goose with the *facond gent,* *refined eloquence*
That so desired to pronounce our need,* business
Shall tell our tale;" and prayed God her speed.
And for those water-fowles then began
The goose to speak. and in her cackeling
She saide, "Peace, now! take keep* ev'ry man, *heed
And hearken what reason I shall forth bring;
My wit is sharp, I love no tarrying;
I say I rede him, though he were my brother,
But* she will love him, let him love another!" *unless
"Lo! here a perfect reason of a goose!"
Quoth the sperhawke. "Never may she the!* *thrive
Lo such a thing 'tis t'have a tongue loose!
Now, pardie: fool, yet were it bet* for thee *better
Have held thy peace, than show'd thy nicety;* *foolishness
It lies not in his wit, nor in his will,
But sooth is said, a fool cannot be still."
The laughter rose of gentle fowles all;
And right anon the seed-fowls chosen had
The turtle true, and gan her to them call,
And prayed her to say the *soothe sad* *serious truth*
Of this mattere, and asked what she rad;* *counselled
And she answer'd, that plainly her intent
She woulde show, and soothly what she meant.
"Nay! God forbid a lover shoulde change!"
The turtle said, and wax'd for shame all red:
"Though that his lady evermore be strange,* *disdainful
Yet let him serve her ay, till he be dead;
For, sooth, I praise not the goose's rede* *counsel
For, though she died, I would none other make;* *mate
I will be hers till that the death me take."
*"Well bourded!"* quoth the ducke, "by my hat! *a pretty joke!*
That men should loven alway causeless,
Who can a reason find, or wit, in that?
Danceth he merry, that is mirtheless?
Who shoulde *reck of that is reckeless?* *care for one who has
Yea! queke yet," quoth the duck, "full well and fair! no care for him*
There be more starres, God wot, than a pair!" <42>
"Now fy, churl!" quoth the gentle tercelet,
"Out of the dunghill came that word aright;
Thou canst not see which thing is well beset;
Thou far'st by love, as owles do by light,--
The day them blinds, full well they see by night;
Thy kind is of so low a wretchedness,
That what love is, thou caust not see nor guess."
Then gan the cuckoo put him forth in press,* *in the crowd
For fowl that eateth worm, and said belive:* *quickly
"So I," quoth he, "may have my mate in peace,
I recke not how longe that they strive.
Let each of them be solain* all their life; *single <43>
This is my rede,* since they may not accord; *counsel
This shorte lesson needeth not record."
"Yea, have the glutton fill'd enough his paunch,
Then are we well!" saide the emerlon;* *merlin
"Thou murd'rer of the heggsugg,* on the branch *hedge-sparrow
That brought thee forth, thou most rueful glutton, <44>
Live thou solain, worme's corruption!
*For no force is to lack of thy nature;* *the loss of a bird of your
Go! lewed be thou, while the world may dare!" depraved nature is no
matter of regret.*
"Now peace," quoth Nature, "I commande here;
For I have heard all your opinion,
And in effect yet be we ne'er the nere.* *nearer
But, finally, this is my conclusion, --
That she herself shall have her election
Of whom her list, whoso be *wroth or blith;* *angry or glad*
Him that she chooseth, he shall her have as swith.* *quickly
"For since it may not here discussed be
Who loves her best, as said the tercelet,
Then will I do this favour t' her, that she
Shall have right him on whom her heart is set,
And he her, that his heart hath on her knit:
This judge I, Nature, for* I may not lie *because
To none estate; I *have none other eye.* *can see the matter in
no other light*
"But as for counsel for to choose a make,
If I were Reason, [certes] then would I
Counsaile you the royal tercel take,
As saith the tercelet full skilfully,* *reasonably
As for the gentilest, and most worthy,
Which I have wrought so well to my pleasance,
That to you it ought be *a suffisance."* *to your satisfaction*
With dreadful* voice the formel her answer'd: *frightened
"My rightful lady, goddess of Nature,
Sooth is, that I am ever under your yerd,* *rod, or government
As is every other creature,
And must be yours, while that my life may dure;
And therefore grante me my firste boon,* *favour
And mine intent you will I say right soon."
"I grant it you," said she; and right anon
This formel eagle spake in this degree:* *manner
"Almighty queen, until this year be done
I aske respite to advise me;
And after that to have my choice all free;
This is all and some that I would speak and say;
Ye get no more, although ye *do me dey.* *slay me*
"I will not serve Venus, nor Cupide,
For sooth as yet, by no manner [of] way."
"Now since it may none other ways betide,"* *happen
Quoth Dame Nature, "there is no more to say;
Then would I that these fowles were away,
Each with his mate, for longer tarrying here."
And said them thus, as ye shall after hear.
"To you speak I, ye tercels," quoth Nature;
"Be of good heart, and serve her alle three;
A year is not so longe to endure;
And each of you *pain him* in his degree *strive*
For to do well, for, God wot, quit is she
From you this year, what after so befall;
This *entremess is dressed* for you all." *dish is prepared*
And when this work y-brought was to an end,
To ev'ry fowle Nature gave his make,
By *even accord,* and on their way they wend: *fair agreement*
And, Lord! the bliss and joye that they make!
For each of them gan other in his wings take,
And with their neckes each gan other wind,* *enfold, caress
Thanking alway the noble goddess of Kind.
But first were chosen fowles for to sing,--
As year by year was alway their usance,* -- *custom
To sing a roundel at their departing,
To do to Nature honour and pleasance;
The note, I trowe, maked was in France;
The wordes were such as ye may here find
The nexte verse, as I have now in mind:
Qui bien aime, tard oublie. <45>
"Now welcome summer, with thy sunnes soft,
That hast these winter weathers overshake * *dispersed, overcome
Saint Valentine, thou art full high on loft,
Which driv'st away the longe nightes blake;* *black
Thus singe smalle fowles for thy sake:
Well have they cause for to gladden* oft, *be glad, make mirth
Since each of them recover'd hath his make;* *mate
Full blissful may they sing when they awake."
And with the shouting, when their song was do,* *done
That the fowls maden at their flight away,
I woke, and other bookes took me to,
To read upon; and yet I read alway.
I hope, y-wis, to reade so some day,
That I shall meete something for to fare
The bet;* and thus to read I will not spare. *better
Explicit.* *the end
Notes to The Assembly of Fowls
1. "The Dream of Scipio" -- "Somnium Scipionis" -- occupies
most of the sixth book of Cicero's "Republic;" which, indeed, as
it has come down to us, is otherwise imperfect. Scipio
Africanus Minor is represented as relating a dream which he had
when, in B.C. 149, he went to Africa as military tribune to the
fourth legion. He had talked long and earnestly of his adoptive
grandfather with Massinissa, King of Numidia, the intimate
friend of the great Scipio; and at night his illustrious ancestor
appeared to him in a vision, foretold the overthrow of Carthage
and all his other triumphs, exhorted him to virtue and patriotism
by the assurance of rewards in the next world, and discoursed
to him concerning the future state and the immortality of the
soul. Macrobius, about AD. 500, wrote a Commentary upon the
"Somnium Scipionis," which was a favourite book in the Middle
Ages. See note 17 to The Nun's Priest's Tale.
2. Y-nome: taken; past participle of "nime," from Anglo-Saxon,
"niman," to take.
3. His grace: the favour which the gods would show him, in
delivering Carthage into his hands.
4. "Vestra vero, quae dicitur, vita mors est." ("Truly, as is said,
your life is a death")
5. The nine spheres are God, or the highest heaven, constraining
and containing all the others; the Earth, around which the
planets and the highest heaven revolve; and the seven planets:
the revolution of all producing the "music of the spheres."
6. Clear: illustrious, noble; Latin, "clarus."
7. The sicke mette he drinketh of the tun: The sick man dreams
that he drinks wine, as one in health.
8. The significance of the poet's looking to the NNW is not
plain; his window may have faced that way.
9. The idea of the twin gates, leading to the Paradise and the
Hell of lovers, may have been taken from the description of the
gates of dreams in the Odyssey and the Aeneid; but the iteration
of "Through me men go" far more directly suggests the legend
on Dante's gate of Hell:--
Per me si va nella citta dolente,
Per me si va nell' eterno dolore;
Per me si va tra la perduta gente.
("Through me is the way to the city of sorrow,
Through me is the way to eternal suffering;
Through me is the way of the lost people")
The famous line, "Lasciate ogni speranza, voi che entrate" --
"All hope abandon, ye who enter here" -- is evidently
paraphrased in Chaucer's words "Th'eschewing is the only
remedy;" that is, the sole hope consists in the avoidance of that
10. A powerful though homely description of torment; the
sufferers being represented as fish enclosed in a weir from
which all the water has been withdrawn.
11. Compare with this catalogue raisonne of trees the ampler
list given by Spenser in "The Faerie Queen," book i. canto i. In
several instances, as in "the builder oak" and "the sailing pine,"
the later poet has exactly copied the words of the earlier.
The builder oak: In the Middle Ages the oak was as
distinctively the building timber on land, as it subsequently
became for the sea.
The pillar elm: Spenser explains this in paraphrasing it into "the
vineprop elm" -- because it was planted as a pillar or prop to
the vine; it is called "the coffer unto carrain," or "carrion,"
because coffins for the dead were made from it.
The box, pipe tree: the box tree was used for making pipes or horns.
Holm: the holly, used for whip-handles.
The sailing fir: Because ships' masts and spars were made of its
The cypress death to plain: in Spenser's imitation, "the cypress
The shooter yew: yew wood was used for bows.
The aspe for shaftes plain: of the aspen, or black poplar, arrows
The laurel divine: So called, either because it was Apollo's
tree -- Horace says that Pindar is "laurea donandus Apollinari" ("to
be given Apollo's laurel") -- or because the honour which it
signified, when placed on the head of a poet or conqueror, lifted
a man as it were into the rank of the gods.
12. If Chaucer had any special trio of courtiers in his mind when
he excluded so many names, we may suppose them to be
Charms, Sorcery, and Leasings who, in The Knight's Tale, come
after Bawdry and Riches -- to whom Messagerie (the carrying
of messages) and Meed (reward, bribe) may correspond.
13. The dove was the bird sacred to Venus; hence Ovid
enumerates the peacock of Juno, Jove's armour bearing bird,
"Cythereiadasque columbas" ("And the Cythereian doves") --
"Metamorphoses. xv. 386
14. Priapus: fitly endowed with a place in the Temple of Love,
as being the embodiment of the principle of fertility in flocks
and the fruits of the earth. See note 23 to the Merchant's Tale.
15. Ovid, in the "Fasti" (i. 433), describes the confusion of
Priapus when, in the night following a feast of sylvan and
Bacchic deities, the braying of the ass of Silenus wakened the
company to detect the god in a furtive amatory expedition.
16. Hautain: haughty, lofty; French, "hautain."
17. Well to my pay: Well to my satisfaction; from French,
"payer," to pay, satisfy; the same word often occurs, in the
phrases "well apaid," and "evil apaid."
18. Valentia, in Spain, was famed for the fabrication of fine and
19. The obvious reference is to the proverbial "Sine Cerere et
Libero friget Venus," ("Love is frozen without freedom and
food") quoted in Terence, "Eunuchus," act iv. scene v.
20. Cypride: Venus; called "Cypria," or "Cypris," from the
island of Cyprus, in which her worship was especially
21. Callisto, daughter of Lycaon, was seduced by Jupiter,
turned into a bear by Diana, and placed afterwards, with her
son, as the Great Bear among the stars.
Atalanta challenged Hippomenes, a Boetian youth, to a race in
which the prize was her hand in marriage -- the penalty of
failure, death by her hand. Venus gave Hippomenes three
golden apples, and he won by dropping them one at a time
because Atalanta stopped to pick them up.
Semiramis was Queen of Ninus, the mythical founder of
Babylon; Ovid mentions her, along with Lais, as a type of
voluptuousness, in his "Amores," 1.5, 11.
Canace, daughter of Aeolus, is named in the prologue to The
Man of Law's Tale as one of the ladies whose "cursed stories"
Chaucer refrained from writing. She loved her brother
Macareus, and was slain by her father.
Hercules was conquered by his love for Omphale, and spun
wool for her in a woman's dress, while she wore his lion's skin.
Biblis vainly pursued her brother Caunus with her love, till she
was changed to a fountain; Ovid, "Metamorphoses." lib. ix.
Thisbe and Pyramus: the Babylonian lovers, whose death,
through the error of Pyramus in fancying that a lion had slain his
mistress, forms the theme of the interlude in the "Midsummer
Sir Tristram was one of the most famous among the knights of
King Arthur, and La Belle Isoude was his mistress. Their story
is mixed up with the Arthurian romance; but it was also the
subject of separate treatment, being among the most popular of
the Middle Age legends.
Achilles is reckoned among Love's conquests, because,
according to some traditions, he loved Polyxena, the daughter
of Priam, who was promised to him if he consented to join the
Trojans; and, going without arms into Apollo's temple at
Thymbra, he was there slain by Paris.
Scylla: Love-stories are told of two maidens of this name; one
the daughter of Nisus, King of Megara, who, falling in love with
Minos when he besieged the city, slew her father by pulling
out the golden hair which grew on the top of his head, and on
which which his life and kingdom depended. Minos won the
city, but rejected her love in horror. The other Scylla, from
whom the rock opposite Charybdis was named, was a beautiful
maiden, beloved by the sea-god Glaucus, but changed into a
monster through the jealousy and enchantments of Circe.
The mother of Romulus: Silvia, daughter and only living child
of Numitor, whom her uncle Amulius made a vestal virgin, to
preclude the possibility that his brother's descendants could
wrest from him the kingdom of Alba Longa. But the maiden
was violated by Mars as she went to bring water from a
fountain; she bore Romulus and Remus; and she was drowned
in the Anio, while the cradle with the children was carried down
the stream in safety to the Palatine Hill, where the she-wolf
22. Prest: ready; French, "pret."
23. Alanus de Insulis, a Sicilian poet and orator of the twelfth
century, who wrote a book "De Planctu Naturae" -- "The
Complaint of Nature."
24. The falcon was borne on the hand by the highest
personages, not merely in actual sport, but to be caressed and
petted, even on occasions of ceremony, Hence also it is called
the "gentle" falcon -- as if its high birth and breeding gave it a
right to august society.
25. The merlion: elsewhere in the same poem called "emerlon;"
French, "emerillon;" the merlin, a small hawk carried by ladies.
26. The scorning jay: scorning humbler birds, out of pride of his
27. The false lapwing: full of stratagems and pretences to divert
approaching danger from the nest where her young ones are.
28. The sparrow, Venus' son: Because sacred to Venus.
29. Coming with the spring, the nightingale is charmingly said
to call forth the new leaves.
30. Many-coloured wings, like those of peacocks, were often
given to angels in paintings of the Middle Ages; and in
accordance with this fashion Spenser represents the Angel that
guarded Sir Guyon ("Faerie Queen," book ii. canto vii.) as
having wings "decked with diverse plumes, like painted jay's."
31. The pheasant, scorner of the cock by night: The meaning of
this passage is not very plain; it has been supposed, however, to
refer to the frequent breeding of pheasants at night with
domestic poultry in the farmyard -- thus scorning the sway of
the cock, its rightful monarch.
32. The waker goose: Chaucer evidently alludes to the passage
in Ovid describing the crow of Apollo, which rivalled the
spotless doves, "Nec servataris vigili Capitolia voce cederet
anseribus" -- "nor would it yield (in whiteness) to the geese
destined with wakeful or vigilant voice to save the Capitol"
("Metam.," ii. 538) when about to be surprised by the Gauls in
a night attack.
33. The cuckoo ever unkind: the significance of this epithet is
amply explained by the poem of "The Cuckoo and the
34. The drake, destroyer: of the ducklings -- which, if not
prevented, he will kill wholesale.
35. The stork is conspicuous for faithfulness to all family
obligations, devotion to its young, and care of its parent birds in
their old age. Mr Bell quotes from Bishop Stanley's "History of
Birds" a little story which peculiarly justifies the special
character Chaucer has given: -- "A French surgeon, at Smyrna,
wishing to procure a stork, and finding great difficulty, on
account of the extreme veneration in which they are held by the
Turks, stole all the eggs out of a nest, and replaced them with
those of a hen: in process of time the young chickens came
forth, much to the astonishment of Mr and Mrs Stork. In a
short time Mr S. went off, and was not seen for two or three
days, when he returned with an immense crowd of his
companions, who all assembled in the place, and formed a
circle, taking no notice of the numerous spectators whom so
unusual an occurrence had collected. Mrs Stork was brought
forward into the midst of the circle, and, after some
consultation, the whole flock fell upon her and tore her to
pieces; after which they immediately dispersed, and the nest was
36. The cormorant feeds upon fish, so voraciously, that when
the stomach is crammed it will often have the gullet and bill
likewise full, awaiting the digestion of the rest.
37. So called from the evil omens supposed to be afforded by
their harsh cries.
38. The fieldfare visits this country only in hard wintry weather.
39. "Formel," strictly or originally applied to the female of the
eagle and hawk, is here used generally of the female of all birds;
"tercel" is the corresponding word applied to the male.
40. Entriketh: entangles, ensnares; french, "intriguer," to
perplex; hence "intricate."
41. Entremette him of: meddle with; French, ' entremettre," to
42. The duck exhorts the contending lovers to be of light heart
and sing, for abundance of other ladies were at their command.
43. Solain: single, alone; the same word originally as "sullen."
44. The cuckoo is distinguished by its habit of laying its eggs in
the nests of other and smaller birds, such as the hedge-sparrow
("heggsugg"); and its young, when hatched, throw the eggs or
nestlings of the true parent bird out of the nest, thus engrossing
the mother's entire care. The crime on which the emerlon
comments so sharply, is explained by the migratory habits of the
cuckoo, which prevent its bringing up its own young; and
nature has provided facilities for the crime, by furnishing the
young bird with a peculiarly strong and broad back, indented by
a hollow in which the sparrow's egg is lifted till it is thrown out
of the nest.
45. "Who well loves, late forgets;" the refrain of the roundel
inculcates the duty of constancy, which has been imposed on
the three tercels by the decision of the Court.
THE FLOWER AND THE LEAF
["The Flower and the Leaf" is pre-eminently one of those
poems by which Chaucer may be triumphantly defended against
the charge of licentious coarseness, that, founded upon his
faithful representation of the manners, customs, and daily life
and speech of his own time, in "The Canterbury Tales," are
sweepingly advanced against his works at large. In an allegory --
rendered perhaps somewhat cumbrous by the detail of chivalric
ceremonial, and the heraldic minuteness, which entered so liberally
into poetry, as into the daily life of the classes for whom poetry
was then written -- Chaucer beautifully enforces the lasting
advantages of purity, valour, and faithful love, and the fleeting
and disappointing character of mere idle pleasure, of sloth
and listless retirement from the battle of life. In the
"season sweet" of spring, which the great singer of Middle Age
England loved so well, a gentle woman is supposed to seek
sleep in vain, to rise "about the springing of the gladsome day,"
and, by an unfrequented path in a pleasant grove, to arrive at an
arbour. Beside the arbour stands a medlar-tree, in which a
Goldfinch sings passing sweetly; and the Nightingale answers
from a green laurel tree, with so merry and ravishing a note,
that the lady resolves to proceed no farther, but sit down on the
grass to listen. Suddenly the sound of many voices singing
surprises her; and she sees "a world of ladies" emerge from a
grove, clad in white, and wearing garlands of laurel, of agnus
castus, and woodbind. One, who wears a crown and bears a
branch of agnus castus in her hand, begins a roundel, in honour
of the Leaf, which all the others take up, dancing and singing in
the meadow before the arbour. Soon, to the sound of
thundering trumps, and attended by a splendid and warlike
retinue, enter nine knights, in white, crowned like the ladies;
and after they have jousted an hour and more, they alight and
advance to the ladies. Each dame takes a knight by the hand;
and all incline reverently to the laurel tree, which they
encompass, singing of love, and dancing. Soon, preceded by a
band of minstrels, out of the open field comes a lusty company
of knights and ladies in green, crowned with chaplets of
flowers; and they do reverence to a tuft of flowers in the middle
of the meadow, while one of their number sings a bergerette in
praise of the daisy. But now it is high noon; the sun waxes
fervently hot; the flowers lose their beauty, and wither with the
heat; the ladies in green are scorched, the knights faint for lack
of shade. Then a strong wind beats down all the flowers, save
such as are protected by the leaves of hedges and groves; and a
mighty storm of rain and hail drenches the ladies and knights,
shelterless in the now flowerless meadow. The storm overpast,
the company in white, whom the laurel-tree has safely shielded
from heat and storm, advance to the relief of the others; and
when their clothes have been dried, and their wounds from sun
and storm healed, all go together to sup with the Queen in
white -- on whose hand, as they pass by the arbour, the
Nightingale perches, while the Goldfinch flies to the Lady of the
Flower. The pageant gone, the gentlewoman quits the arbour,
and meets a lady in white, who, at her request, unfolds the
hidden meaning of all that she has seen; "which," says Speght
quaintly, "is this: They which honour the Flower, a thing fading
with every blast, are such as look after beauty and worldly
pleasure. But they that honour the Leaf, which abideth with the
root, notwithstanding the frosts and winter storms, are they