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The Canterbury Tales and Other Poems by Geoffrey Chaucer

Part 15 out of 19

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which follow Virtue and during qualities, without regard of
worldly respects." Mr Bell, in his edition, has properly noticed
that there is no explanation of the emblematical import of the
medlar-tree, the goldfinch, and the nightingale. "But," he says,
"as the fruit of the medlar, to use Chaucer's own expression (see
Prologue to the Reeve's Tale), is rotten before it is ripe, it may
be the emblem of sensual pleasure, which palls before it confers
real enjoyment. The goldfinch is remarkable for the beauty of its
plumage, the sprightliness of its movements, and its gay,
tinkling song, and may be supposed to represent the showy and
unsubstantial character of frivolous pleasures. The nightingale's
sober outward appearance and impassioned song denote greater
depth of feeling." The poem throughout is marked by the purest
and loftiest moral tone; and it amply deserved Dryden's special
recommendation, "both for the invention and the moral." It is
given without abridgement.]
(Transcriber's note: Modern scholars believe that Chaucer was
not the author of this poem)

WHEN that Phoebus his car of gold so high
Had whirled up the starry sky aloft,
And in the Bull <1> enter'd certainly;
When showers sweet of rain descended soft,
Causing the grounde, fele* times and oft, *many
Up for to give many a wholesome air,
And every plain was y-clothed fair

With newe green, and maketh smalle flow'rs
To springe here and there in field and mead;
So very good and wholesome be the show'rs,
That they renewe what was old and dead
In winter time; and out of ev'ry seed
Springeth the herbe, so that ev'ry wight
Of thilke* season waxeth glad and light. *this

And I, so glad of thilke season sweet,
Was *happed thus* upon a certain night, *thus circumstanced*
As I lay in my bed, sleep full unmeet* *unfit, uncompliant
Was unto me; but why that I not might
Rest, I not wist; for there n'as* earthly wight, *was not
As I suppose, had more hearte's ease
Than I, for I n'had* sickness nor disease.** *had not **distress

Wherefore I marvel greatly of myself,
That I so long withoute sleepe lay;
And up I rose three houres after twelf,
About the springing of the [gladsome] day;
And on I put my gear* and mine array, *garments
And to a pleasant grove I gan to pass,
Long ere the brighte sun uprisen was;

In which were oakes great, straight as a line,
Under the which the grass, so fresh of hue,
Was newly sprung; and an eight foot or nine
Every tree well from his fellow grew,
With branches broad, laden with leaves new,
That sprangen out against the sunne sheen;
Some very red;<2> and some a glad light green;

Which, as me thought, was right a pleasant sight.
And eke the birdes' songes for to hear
Would have rejoiced any earthly wight;
And I, that could not yet, in no mannere,
Heare the nightingale of* all the year,<3> *during
Full busy hearkened with heart and ear,
If I her voice perceive could anywhere.

And at the last a path of little brede* *breadth
I found, that greatly had not used be;
For it forgrowen* was with grass and weed, *overgrown
That well unneth* a wight mighte see: *scarcely
Thought I, "This path some whither goes, pardie!"* *of a surety
And so I follow'd [it], till it me brought
To a right pleasant arbour, well y-wrought,

That benched was, and [all] with turfes new
Freshly y-turf'd, <4> whereof the greene grass,
So small, so thick, so short, so fresh of hue,
That most like to green wool, I wot, it was;
The hedge also, that *yeden in compass,* *went all around <5>*
And closed in all the greene herbere,* *arbour
With sycamore was set and eglatere,* *eglantine, sweet-briar

Wreathed *in fere* so well and cunningly, *together*
That ev'ry branch and leaf grew *by measure,* *regularly*
Plain as a board, of *a height by and by:* *the same height side
I saw never a thing, I you ensure, by side*
So well y-done; for he that took the cure* *pains, care
To maken it, I trow did all his pain
To make it pass all those that men have seen.

And shapen was this arbour, roof and all,
As is a pretty parlour; and also
The hedge as thick was as a castle wall,
That whoso list without to stand or go,
Though he would all day pryen to and fro,
He should not see if there were any wight
Within or no; but one within well might

Perceive all those that wente there without
Into the field, that was on ev'ry side
Cover'd with corn and grass; that out of doubt,
Though one would seeken all the worlde wide,
So rich a fielde could not be espied
Upon no coast, *as of the quantity;* *for its abundance
For of all goode thing there was plenty. or fertility*

And I, that all this pleasant sight [did] see,
Thought suddenly I felt so sweet an air
Of the eglentere, that certainly
There is no heart, I deem, in such despair,
Nor yet with thoughtes froward and contrair
So overlaid, but it should soon have boot,* *remedy, relief*
If it had ones felt this *savour swoot.* *sweet smell*

And as I stood, and cast aside mine eye,
I was ware of the fairest medlar tree
That ever yet in all my life I seye,* *saw
As full of blossoms as it mighte be;
Therein a goldfinch leaping prettily
From bough to bough; and as him list he eat
Here and there of the buds and flowers sweet.

And to the arbour side was adjoining
This fairest tree, of which I have you told;
And at the last the bird began to sing
(When he had eaten what he eate wo'ld)
So passing sweetly, that by many fold
It was more pleasant than I could devise;* *tell, describe
And, when his song was ended in this wise,

The nightingale with so merry a note
Answered him, that all the woode rung,
So suddenly, that, *as it were a sote,* *like a fool <6>*
I stood astound'; so was I with the song
Thorough ravished, that, *till late and long,* *for a long time*
I wist not in what place I was, nor where;
Again, me thought, she sung e'en by mine ear.

Wherefore I waited about busily
On ev'ry side, if that I might her see;
And at the last I gan full well espy
Where she sat in a fresh green laurel tree,
On the further side, even right by me,
That gave so passing a delicious smell,
*According to* the eglantere full well. *blending with*

Whereof I had so inly great pleasure,
That, as me thought, I surely ravish'd was
Into Paradise, where [as] my desire
Was for to be, and no farther to pass,
As for that day; and on the sweete grass
I sat me down; for, *as for mine intent,* *to my mind*
The birde's song was more *convenient,* *appropriate to my humour*

And more pleasant to me, by many fold,
Than meat, or drink, or any other thing;
Thereto the arbour was so fresh and cold,
The wholesome savours eke so comforting,
That, as I deemed, since the beginning
Of the world was [there] never seen *ere than* *before then*
So pleasant a ground of none earthly man.

And as I sat, the birdes heark'ning thus,
Me thought that I heard voices suddenly,
The most sweetest and most delicious
That ever any wight, I *trow truely,* *verily believe*
Heard in their life; for the harmony
And sweet accord was in so good musike,
That the voices to angels' most were like.

At the last, out of a grove even by,
That was right goodly, and pleasant to sight,
I saw where there came, singing lustily,
A world of ladies; but to tell aright
Their greate beauty, lies not in my might,
Nor their array; nevertheless I shall
Tell you a part, though I speak not of all.

In surcoats* white, of velvet well fitting, *upper robes
They were clad, and the seames each one,
As it were a mannere [of] garnishing,
Was set with emeraldes, one and one,
*By and by;* but many a riche stone *in a row*
Was set upon the purfles,* out of doubt, *embroidered edges
Of collars, sleeves, and traines round about;

As greate pearles, round and orient,* *brilliant
And diamondes fine, and rubies red,
And many another stone, of which I went* *cannot recall
The names now; and ev'reach on her head
[Had] a rich fret* of gold, which, without dread,** *band **doubt
Was full of stately* riche stones set; *valuable, noble
And ev'ry lady had a chapelet

Upon her head of branches fresh and green, <7>
So well y-wrought, and so marvellously,
That it was a right noble sight to see'n;
Some of laurel, and some full pleasantly
Had chapelets of woodbine; and sadly,* *sedately
Some of agnus castus <8> wearen also
Chapelets fresh; but there were many of tho'* *those

That danced and eke sung full soberly;
And all they went *in manner of compass;* *in a circle*
But one there went, in mid the company,
Sole by herself; but all follow'd the pace
That she kept, whose heavenly figur'd face
So pleasant was, and her well shap'd person,
That in beauty she pass'd them ev'ry one.

And more richly beseen, by many fold,
She was also in ev'ry manner thing:
Upon her head, full pleasant to behold,
A crown of golde, rich for any king;
A branch of agnus castus eke bearing
In her hand, and to my sight truely
She Lady was of all that company.

And she began a roundell <9> lustily,
That "Suse le foyle, devers moi," men call,
"Siene et mon joly coeur est endormy;" <10>
And then the company answered all,
With voices sweet entuned, and so small,* *fine
That me thought it the sweetest melody
That ever I heard in my life, soothly.* *truly

And thus they came, dancing and singing,
Into the middest of the mead each one,
Before the arbour where I was sitting;
And, God wot, me thought I was well-begone,* *fortunate
For then I might advise* them one by one, *consider
Who fairest was, who best could dance or sing,
Or who most womanly was in all thing.

They had not danced but a *little throw,* *short time*
When that I hearde far off, suddenly,
So great a noise of thund'ring trumpets blow,
As though it should departed* have the sky; *rent, divide
And after that, within a while, I sigh,* *saw
From the same grove, where the ladies came out,
Of men of armes coming such a rout,* *company

As* all the men on earth had been assembled *as if
Unto that place, well horsed for the nonce* *occasion
Stirring so fast, that all the earthe trembled
But for to speak of riches, and of stones,
And men and horse, I trow the large ones* *i.e. jewels
Of Prester John, <11> nor all his treasury,
Might not unneth* have bought the tenth party** *hardly **part

Of their array: whoso list heare more,
I shall rehearse so as I can a lite.* *little
Out of the grove, that I spake of before,
I saw come first, all in their cloakes white,
A company, that wore, for their delight,
Chapelets fresh of oake cerrial, <12>
Newly y-sprung; and trumpets* were they all. *trumpeters

On ev'ry trump hanging a broad bannere
Of fine tartarium <13> was, full richly beat;* *embroidered with gold
Every trumpet his lord's armes bare;
About their necks, with greate pearles set,
[Were] collars broad; for cost they would not let,* *be hindered by
As it would seem, for their scutcheons each one
Were set about with many a precious stone.

Their horses' harness was all white also.
And after them next, in one company,
Came kinges at armes and no mo',
In cloakes of white cloth with gold richly;
Chaplets of green upon their heads on high;
The crownes that they on their scutcheons bare
Were set with pearl, and ruby, and sapphire,

And eke great diamondes many one:
But all their horse harness, and other gear,
Was in a suit according, ev'ry one,
As ye have heard the foresaid trumpets were;
And, by seeming, they *were nothing to lear,* *had nothing to learn*
And their guiding they did all mannerly.* *perfectly
And after them came a great company

Of heraldes and pursuivantes eke,
Arrayed in clothes of white velvet;
And, hardily,* they were no thing to seek, assuredly
How they on them shoulde the harness set:
And ev'ry man had on a chapelet;
Scutcheones and eke harness, indeed,
They had *in suit of* them that 'fore them yede.* *corresponding with*
Next after them in came, in armour bright,
All save their heades, seemly knightes nine,
And ev'ry clasp and nail, as to my sight,
Of their harness was of red golde fine;
With cloth of gold, and furred with ermine,
Were the trappures* of their steedes strong, *trappings
Both wide and large, that to the grounde hung.

And ev'ry boss of bridle and paytrel* *horse's breastplate
That they had on, was worth, as I would ween,
A thousand pound; and on their heades, well
Dressed, were crownes of the laurel green,
The beste made that ever I had seen;
And ev'ry knight had after him riding
Three henchemen* upon him awaiting. *pages

Of which ev'ry [first], on a short truncheon,* *staff
His lorde's helmet bare, so richly dight,* *adorned
That the worst of them was worthy the ranson* *ransom
Of any king; the second a shielde bright
Bare at his back; the thirde bare upright
A mighty spear, full sharp y-ground and keen;
And ev'ry childe* ware of leaves green *page

A freshe chaplet on his haires bright;
And cloakes white of fine velvet they ware
Their steedes trapped and arrayed right,
Without difference, as their lordes' were;
And after them, on many a fresh courser,
There came of armed knightes such a rout,* *company, crowd
That they bespread the large field about.

And all they waren, after their degrees,
Chapelets newe made of laurel green,
Some of the oak, and some of other trees;
Some in their handes bare boughes sheen,* *bright
Some of laurel, and some of oakes keen,
Some of hawthorn, and some of the woodbind,
And many more which I had not in mind.

And so they came, their horses fresh stirring
With bloody soundes of their trumpets loud;
There saw I many an *uncouth disguising* *strange manoeuvring*
In the array of these knightes proud;
And at the last, as evenly as they could,
They took their place in middest of the mead,
And ev'ry knight turned his horse's head

To his fellow, and lightly laid a spear
Into the rest; and so the jousts began
On ev'ry part aboute, here and there;
Some brake his spear, some threw down horse and man;
About the field astray the steedes ran;
And, to behold their rule and governance,* *conduct
I you ensure, it was a great pleasuance.

And so the joustes last'* an hour and more; *lasted
But those that crowned were in laurel green
Wonne the prize; their dintes* were so sore, *strokes
That there was none against them might sustene:
And the jousting was alle left off clean,
And from their horse the nine alight' anon,
And so did all the remnant ev'ry one.

And forth they went together, twain and twain,
That to behold it was a worthy sight,
Toward the ladies on the greene plain,
That sang and danced as I said now right;
The ladies, as soon as they goodly might,
They brake off both the song and eke the dance,
And went to meet them with full glad semblance.* *air, aspect

And ev'ry lady took, full womanly,
By th'hand a knight, and so forth right they yede* *went
Unto a fair laurel that stood fast by,
With leaves lade the boughs of greate brede;* *breadth
And, to my doom,* there never was, indeed, *judgment
Man that had seene half so fair a tree;
For underneath it there might well have be* *been

A hundred persons, *at their own pleasance,* *in perfect comfort*
Shadowed from the heat of Phoebus bright,
So that they shoulde have felt no grievance* *annoyance
Of rain nor haile that them hurte might.
The savour eke rejoice would any wight
That had been sick or melancholious,
It was so very good and virtuous.* *full of healing virtues

And with great rev'rence they inclined low
Unto the tree so sweet and fair of hue;* *appearance
And after that, within a *little throw,* *short time*
They all began to sing and dance of new,
Some song of love, some *plaining of untrue,* *complaint of
Environing* the tree that stood upright; unfaithfulness*
And ever went a lady and a knight. *going round

And at the last I cast mine eye aside,
And was ware of a lusty company
That came roaming out of the fielde wide;
[And] hand in hand a knight and a lady;
The ladies all in surcoats, that richly
Purfiled* were with many a riche stone; *trimmed at the borders
And ev'ry knight of green ware mantles on,

Embroider'd well, so as the surcoats were;
And ev'reach had a chaplet on her head
(Which did right well upon the shining hair),
Maked of goodly flowers, white and red.
The knightes eke, that they in hande led,
In suit of them ware chaplets ev'ry one,
And them before went minstrels many one,

As harpes, pipes, lutes, and psaltry,
All [clad] in green; and, on their heades bare,
Of divers flowers, made full craftily
All in a suit, goodly chaplets they ware;
And so dancing into the mead they fare.
In mid the which they found a tuft that was
All overspread with flowers in compass* *around, in a circle

Whereunto they inclined ev'ry one,
With great reverence, and that full humbly
And at the last there then began anon
A lady for to sing right womanly,
A bargaret, <14> in praising the daisy.
For, as me thought, among her notes sweet,
She saide: "Si douce est la margarete."<15>

Then alle they answered her in fere* *together
So passingly well, and so pleasantly,
That it was a [most] blissful noise to hear.
But, I n'ot* how, it happen'd suddenly *know not
As about noon the sun so fervently
Wax'd hote, that the pretty tender flow'rs
Had lost the beauty of their fresh colours,

Forshrunk* with heat; the ladies eke to-brent,** *shrivelled **very burnt
That they knew not where they might them bestow;
The knightes swelt,* for lack of shade nigh shent** *fainted **destroyed
And after that, within a little throw,
The wind began so sturdily to blow,
That down went all the flowers ev'ry one,
So that in all the mead there left not one;

Save such as succour'd were among the leaves
From ev'ry storm that mighte them assail,
Growing under the hedges and thick greves;* *groves, boughs
And after that there came a storm of hail
And rain in fere,* so that withoute fail *together
The ladies nor the knights had not one thread
Dry on them, so dropping was [all] their weed.* *clothing

And when the storm was passed clean away,
Those in the white, that stood under the tree,
They felt no thing of all the great affray
That they in green without *had in y-be:* *had been in*
To them they went for ruth, and for pity,
Them to comfort after their great disease;* *trouble
So fain* they were the helpless for to ease. *glad, eager

Then I was ware how one of them in green
Had on a crowne, rich and well sitting;* *becoming
Wherefore I deemed well she was a queen,
And those in green on her were awaiting.* *in attendance
The ladies then in white that were coming
Toward them, and the knightes eke *in fere,* *together*
Began to comfort them, and make them cheer.

The queen in white, that was of great beauty,
Took by the hand the queen that was in green,
And saide: "Sister, I have great pity
Of your annoy, and of your troublous teen,* *injury, grief
Wherein you and your company have been
So long, alas! and if that it you please
To go with me, I shall you do the ease,

"In all the pleasure that I can or may;"
Whereof the other, humbly as she might,
Thanked her; for in right evil array
She was, with storm and heat, I you behight;* *assure
Arid ev'ry lady then anon aright,
That were in white, one of them took in green
By the hand; which when that the knights had seen,

In like mannere each of them took a knight
Y-clad in green, and forth with them they fare
Unto a hedge, where that they anon right,
To make their joustes,<16> they would not spare
Boughes to hewe down, and eke trees square,
Wherewith they made them stately fires great,
To dry their clothes, that were wringing wet.

And after that, of herbes that there grew,
They made, for blisters of the sun's burning,
Ointmentes very good, wholesome, and new,
Wherewith they went the sick fast anointing;
And after that they went about gath'ring
Pleasant salades, which they made them eat,
For to refresh their great unkindly heat.

The Lady of the Leaf then gan to pray
Her of the Flower (for so, to my seeming,
They should be called, as by their array),
To sup with her; and eke, for anything,
That she should with her all her people bring;
And she again in right goodly mannere
Thanked her fast of her most friendly cheer;

Saying plainely, that she would obey,
With all her heart, all her commandement:
And then anon, without longer delay,
The Lady of the Leaf hath one y-sent
To bring a palfrey, *after her intent,* *according to her wish*
Arrayed well in fair harness of gold;
For nothing lack'd, that *to him longe sho'ld.* *should belong to him*

And, after that, to all her company
She made to purvey* horse and ev'rything *provide
That they needed; and then full lustily,
Ev'n by the arbour where I was sitting,
They passed all, so merrily singing,
That it would have comforted any wight.
But then I saw a passing wondrous sight;

For then the nightingale, that all the day
Had in the laurel sat, and did her might
The whole service to sing longing to May,
All suddenly began to take her flight;
And to the Lady of the Leaf forthright
She flew, and set her on her hand softly;
Which was a thing I marvell'd at greatly.

The goldfinch eke, that from the medlar tree
Was fled for heat into the bushes cold,
Unto the Lady of the Flower gan flee,
And on her hand he set him as he wo'ld,
And pleasantly his winges gan to fold;
And for to sing they *pain'd them* both, as sore *made great exertions*
As they had done *of all* the day before. *during

And so these ladies rode forth *a great pace,* *rapidly*
And all the rout of knightes eke in fere;
And I, that had seen all this *wonder case,* *wondrous incident*
Thought that I would assay in some mannere
To know fully the truth of this mattere,
And what they were that rode so pleasantly;
And when they were the arbour passed by,

I *dress'd me forth,* and happ'd to meet anon *issued forth*
A right fair lady, I do you ensure;* *assure
And she came riding by herself alone,
All in white; [then] with semblance full demure
I her saluted, and bade good adventure* *fortune
Might her befall, as I could most humbly;
And she answer'd: "My daughter, gramercy!"* *great thanks <17>

"Madame," quoth I, "if that I durst enquere
Of you, I would fain, of that company,
Wit what they be that pass'd by this herbere?
And she again answered right friendly:
"My faire daughter, all that pass'd hereby
In white clothing, be servants ev'ry one
Unto the Leaf; and I myself am one.

"See ye not her that crowned is," quoth she
"[Clad] all in white?" -- "Madame," then quoth I, "yes:"
"That is Dian', goddess of chastity;
And for because that she a maiden is,
In her hande the branch she beareth this,
That agnus castus <8> men call properly;
And all the ladies in her company,

"Which ye see of that herbe chaplets wear,
Be such as have kept alway maidenhead:
And all they that of laurel chaplets bear,
Be such as hardy* were in manly deed, -- *courageous
Victorious name which never may be dead!
And all they were so *worthy of their hand* *valiant in fight*
In their time, that no one might them withstand,

"And those that weare chaplets on their head
Of fresh woodbind, be such as never were
To love untrue in word, in thought, nor deed,
But ay steadfast; nor for pleasance, nor fear,
Though that they should their heartes all to-tear,* *rend in pieces*
Would never flit,* but ever were steadfast, *change
*Till that their lives there asunder brast."* *till they died*

"Now fair Madame," quoth I, "yet would I pray
Your ladyship, if that it mighte be,
That I might knowe, by some manner way
(Since that it hath liked your beauty,
The truth of these ladies for to tell me),
What that these knightes be in rich armour,
And what those be in green and wear the flow'r?

"And why that some did rev'rence to that tree,
And some unto the plot of flowers fair?"
"With right good will, my daughter fair," quoth she,
"Since your desire is good and debonair;* *gentle, courteous
The nine crowned be *very exemplair* *the true examples*
Of all honour longing to chivalry;
And those certain be call'd The Nine Worthy, <18>

"Which ye may see now riding all before,
That in their time did many a noble deed,
And for their worthiness full oft have bore
The crown of laurel leaves upon their head,
As ye may in your olde bookes read;
And how that he that was a conquerour
Had by laurel alway his most honour.

"And those that beare boughes in their hand
Of the precious laurel so notable,
Be such as were, I will ye understand,
Most noble Knightes of the Rounde Table,<19>
And eke the Douceperes honourable; <20>
Whiche they bear in sign of victory,
As witness of their deedes mightily.

"Eke there be knightes old <21> of the Garter,
That in their time did right worthily;
And the honour they did to the laurer* *laurel <22>
Is for* by it they have their laud wholly, *because
Their triumph eke, and martial glory;
Which unto them is more perfect richess
Than any wight imagine can, or guess.

"For one leaf given of that noble tree
To any wight that hath done worthily,
An'* it be done so as it ought to be, *if
Is more honour than any thing earthly;
Witness of Rome, that founder was truly
Of alle knighthood and deeds marvellous;
Record I take of Titus Livius." <23>

And as for her that crowned is in green,
It is Flora, of these flowers goddess;
And all that here on her awaiting be'n,
It are such folk that loved idleness,
And not delighted in no business,
But for to hunt and hawk, and play in meads,
And many other such-like idle deeds.

"And for the great delight and the pleasance
They have to the flow'r, and so rev'rently
They unto it do such obeisance
As ye may see." "Now, fair Madame,"quoth I,
"If I durst ask, what is the cause, and why,
That knightes have the ensign* of honour *insignia
Rather by the leaf than by the flow'r?"

"Soothly, daughter," quoth she, "this is the troth:
For knights should ever be persevering,
To seek honour, without feintise* or sloth, *dissimulation
From well to better in all manner thing:
In sign of which, with leaves aye lasting
They be rewarded after their degree,
Whose lusty green may not appaired* be, *impaired, decayed

"But ay keeping their beauty fresh and green;
For there is no storm that may them deface,
Nor hail nor snow, nor wind nor frostes keen;
Wherefore they have this property and grace:
And for the flow'r, within a little space,
Wolle* be lost, so simple of nature *will
They be, that they no grievance* may endure; *injury, hardship

"And ev'ry storm will blow them soon away,
Nor they laste not but for a season;
That is the cause, the very truth to say,
That they may not, by no way of reason,
Be put to no such occupation."
"Madame," quoth I, "with all my whole service
I thank you now, in my most humble wise;

"For now I am ascertain'd thoroughly
Of ev'ry thing that I desir'd to know."
"I am right glad that I have said, soothly,
Aught to your pleasure, if ye will me trow,"* *believe
Quoth she again; "but to whom do ye owe
Your service? and which wolle* ye honour, *will
Tell me, I pray, this year, the Leaf or the Flow'r?"

"Madame," quoth I, "though I be least worthy,
Unto the Leaf I owe mine observance:"
"That is," quoth she, "right well done, certainly;
And I pray God, to honour you advance,
And keep you from the wicked remembrance
Of Malebouche,* and all his cruelty; *Slander <24>
And all that good and well-condition'd be.

"For here may I no longer now abide;
I must follow the greate company,
That ye may see yonder before you ride."
And forthwith, as I coulde, most humbly
I took my leave of her, and she gan hie* *haste
After them as fast as she ever might;
And I drew homeward, for it was nigh night,

And put all that I had seen in writing,
Under support of them that list it read. <25>
O little book! thou art so uncunning,* *unskilful
How dar'st thou put thyself in press, <26> for dread?
It is wonder that thou waxest not red!
Since that thou know'st full lite* who shall behold *little
Thy rude language, full *boistously unfold.* *unfolded in homely and
unpolished fashion*

Explicit.* *The End

Notes to the Flower and the Leaf

1. The Bull: the sign of Taurus, which the sun enters
in May.

2. The young oak leaves are red or ashen coloured.

3. Chaucer here again refers to the superstition,
noticed in "The Cuckoo and the Nightingale," that it
was of good omen to hear the nightingale before the
cuckoo upon the advent of both with spring.

4. The arbour was furnished with seats, which had
been newly covered with turf.

5. "Yede" or "yead," is the old form of go.

6. Sote: fool -- French "sot."

7. See note 59 to The Court of Love

8. Agnus castus: the chaste-tree; a kind of willow.

9. Roundell: French, "rondeau;" a song that comes
round again to the verse with which it opened, or that
is taken up in turn by each of the singers.

10. In modern French form, "Sous la feuille, devers
moi, son et mon joli coeur est endormi" -- "Under the
foliage, towards me, his and my jolly heart is gone to

11. Prester John: The half-mythical Eastern potentate,
who is now supposed to have been, not a Christian
monarch of Abyssinia, but the head of the Indian
empire before Zenghis Khan's conquest.

12. Oak cerrial: of the species of oak which Pliny, in
his "Natural History," calls "cerrus."

13. Tartarium: Cloth of Tars, or of Tortona.

14. Bargaret: bergerette, or pastoral song.

15. "Si douce est la margarete.": "So sweet is the
daisy" ("la marguerite").

16. To make their joustes: the meaning is not very
obvious; but in The Knight's Tale "jousts and array"
are in some editions made part of the adornment of
the Temple of Venus; and as the word "jousts" would
there carry the general meaning of "preparations" to
entertain or please a lover, in the present case it may
have a similar force.

17. Gramercy: "grand merci," French; great thanks.

18. The Nine Worthies, who at our day survive in the
Seven Champions of Christendom. The Worthies
were favourite subjects for representation at popular
festivals or in masquerades.

19. The famous Knights of King Arthur, who, being
all esteemed equal in valour and noble qualities, sat at
a round table, so that none should seem to have
precedence over the rest.

20. The twelve peers of Charlemagne (les douze
pairs), chief among whom were Roland and Oliver.

21. Chaucer speaks as if, at least for the purposes of
his poetry, he believed that Edward III. did not
establish a new, but only revived an old, chivalric
institution, when be founded the Order of the Garter.

22. Laurer: laurel-tree; French, "laurier."

23. The meaning is: "Witness the practice of Rome,
that was the founder of all knighthood and marvellous
deeds; and I refer for corroboration to Titus Livius" --
who, in several passages, has mentioned the laurel
crown as the highest military honour. For instance, in
1. vii. c. 13, Sextus Tullius, remonstrating for the
army against the inaction in which it is kept, tells the
Dictator Sulpicius, "Duce te vincere cupimus; tibi
lauream insignem deferre; tecum triumphantes urbem
inire." ("Commander, we want you to conquer; to
bring you the laurel insignia; to enter the city with you
in triumph")

24. Malebouche: Slander, personified under the title
of Evil-mouth -- Italian, "Malbocca;" French,

25. Under support of them that list it read: the phrase
means -- trusting to the goodwill of my reader.

26. In press: into a crowd, into the press of
competitors for favour; not, it need hardly be said,
"into the press" in the modern sense -- printing was
not invented for a century after this was written.


[Thanks partly to Pope's brief and elegant paraphrase, in his
"Temple of Fame," and partly to the familiar force of the style
and the satirical significance of the allegory, "The House of
Fame" is among the best known and relished of Chaucer's minor
poems. The octosyllabic measure in which it is written -- the
same which the author of "Hudibras" used with such admirable
effect -- is excellently adapted for the vivid descriptions, the
lively sallies of humour and sarcasm, with which the poem
abounds; and when the poet actually does get to his subject, he
treats it with a zest, and a corresponding interest on the part of
the reader, which are scarcely surpassed by the best of The
Canterbury Tales. The poet, however, tarries long on the way
to the House of Fame; as Pope says in his advertisement, the
reader who would compare his with Chaucer's poem, "may
begin with [Chaucer's] third Book of Fame, there being nothing
in the two first books that answers to their title." The first book
opens with a kind of prologue (actually so marked and called in
earlier editions) in which the author speculates on the causes of
dreams; avers that never any man had such a dream as he had
on the tenth of December; and prays the God of Sleep to help
him to interpret the dream, and the Mover of all things to
reward or afflict those readers who take the dream well or ill.
Then he relates that, having fallen asleep, he fancied himself
within a temple of glass -- the abode of Venus -- the walls of
which were painted with the story of Aeneas. The paintings are
described at length; and then the poet tells us that, coming out
of the temple, he found himself on a vast sandy plain, and saw
high in heaven an eagle, that began to descend towards him.
With the prologue, the first book numbers 508 lines; of which
192 only -- more than are actually concerned with or directly
lead towards the real subject of the poem -- are given here. The
second book, containing 582 lines, of which 176 will be found
in this edition, is wholly devoted to the voyage from the Temple
of Venus to the House of Fame, which the dreamer
accomplishes in the eagle's claws. The bird has been sent by
Jove to do the poet some "solace" in reward of his labours for
the cause of Love; and during the transit through the air the
messenger discourses obligingly and learnedly with his human
burden on the theory of sound, by which all that is spoken must
needs reach the House of Fame; and on other matters suggested
by their errand and their observations by the way. The third
book (of 1080 lines, only a score of which, just at the outset,
have been omitted) brings us to the real pith of the poem. It
finds the poet close to the House of Fame, built on a rock of ice
engraved with names, many of which are half-melted away.
Entering the gorgeous palace, he finds all manner of minstrels
and historians; harpers, pipers, and trumpeters of fame;
magicians, jugglers, sorcerers, and many others. On a throne of
ruby sits the goddess, seeming at one moment of but a cubit's
stature, at the next touching heaven; and at either hand, on
pillars, stand the great authors who "bear up the name" of
ancient nations. Crowds of people enter the hall from all regions
of earth, praying the goddess to give them good or evil fame,
with and without their own deserts; and they receive answers
favourable, negative, or contrary, according to the caprice of
Fame. Pursuing his researches further, out of the region of
reputation or fame proper into that of tidings or rumours, the
poet is led, by a man who has entered into conversation with
him, to a vast whirling house of twigs, ever open to the arrival
of tidings, ever full of murmurings, whisperings, and clatterings,
coming from the vast crowds that fill it -- for every rumour,
every piece of news, every false report, appears there in the
shape of the person who utters it, or passes it on, down in earth.
Out at the windows innumerable, the tidings pass to Fame, who
gives to each report its name and duration; and in the house
travellers, pilgrims, pardoners, couriers, lovers, &c., make a
huge clamour. But here the poet meets with a man "of great
authority," and, half afraid, awakes; skilfully -- whether by
intention, fatigue, or accident -- leaving the reader disappointed
by the nonfulfilment of what seemed to be promises of further
disclosures. The poem, not least in the passages the omission of
which has been dictated by the exigencies of the present
volume, is full of testimony to the vast acquaintance of Chaucer
with learning ancient and modern; Ovid, Virgil, Statius, are
equally at his command to illustrate his narrative or to furnish
the ground-work of his descriptions; while architecture, the
Arabic numeration, the theory of sound, and the effects of
gunpowder, are only a few among the topics of his own time of
which the poet treats with the ease of proficient knowledge.
Not least interesting are the vivid touches in which Chaucer
sketches the routine of his laborious and almost recluse daily
life; while the strength, individuality, and humour that mark the
didactic portion of the poem prove that "The House of Fame"
was one of the poet's riper productions.]

GOD turn us ev'ry dream to good!
For it is wonder thing, by the Rood,* *Cross <1>
To my witte, what causeth swevens,* *dreams
Either on morrows or on evens;
And why th'effect followeth of some,
And of some it shall never come;
Why this is an avision
And this a revelation;
Why this a dream, why that a sweven,
And not to ev'ry man *like even;* *alike*
Why this a phantom, why these oracles,
I n'ot; but whoso of these miracles
The causes knoweth bet than I,
Divine* he; for I certainly *define
*Ne can them not,* nor ever think *do not know them*
To busy my wit for to swink* *labour
To know of their significance
The genders, neither the distance
Of times of them, nor the causes
For why that this more than that cause is;
Or if folke's complexions
Make them dream of reflections;
Or elles thus, as others sayn,
For too great feebleness of the brain
By abstinence, or by sickness,
By prison, strife, or great distress,
Or elles by disordinance* *derangement
Of natural accustomance;* *mode of life
That some men be too curious
In study, or melancholious,
Or thus, so inly full of dread,
That no man may them *boote bede;* *afford them relief*
Or elles that devotion
Of some, and contemplation,
Causeth to them such dreames oft;
Or that the cruel life unsoft
Of them that unkind loves lead,
That often hope much or dread,
That purely their impressions
Cause them to have visions;
Or if that spirits have the might
To make folk to dream a-night;
Or if the soul, of *proper kind,* *its own nature*
Be so perfect as men find,
That it forewot* what is to come, *foreknows
And that it warneth all and some
Of ev'reach of their adventures,
By visions, or by figures,
But that our fleshe hath no might
To understanden it aright,
For it is warned too darkly;
But why the cause is, not wot I.
Well worth of this thing greate clerks, <2>
That treat of this and other works;
For I of none opinion
Will as now make mention;
But only that the holy Rood
Turn us every dream to good.
For never since that I was born,
Nor no man elles me beforn,
Mette,* as I trowe steadfastly, *dreamed
So wonderful a dream as I,
The tenthe day now of December;
The which, as I can it remember,
I will you tellen ev'ry deal.* *whit

But at my beginning, truste weel,* *well
I will make invocation,
With special devotion,
Unto the god of Sleep anon,
That dwelleth in a cave of stone, <3>
Upon a stream that comes from Lete,
That is a flood of hell unsweet,
Beside a folk men call Cimmerie;
There sleepeth ay this god unmerry,
With his sleepy thousand sones,
That alway for to sleep their won* is; *wont, custom
And to this god, that I *of read,* *tell of*
Pray I, that he will me speed
My sweven for to tell aright,
If ev'ry dream stands in his might.
And he that Mover is of all
That is, and was, and ever shall,
So give them joye that it hear,
Of alle that they dream to-year;* *this year
And for to standen all in grace* *favour
Of their loves, or in what place
That them were liefest* for to stand, *most desired
And shield them from povert' and shand,* *shame
And from ev'ry unhap and disease,
And send them all that may them please,
That take it well, and scorn it not,
Nor it misdeemen* in their thought, *misjudge
Through malicious intention;
And whoso, through presumption.
Or hate, or scorn, or through envy,
Despite, or jape,* or villainy, *jesting
Misdeem it, pray I Jesus God,
That dream he barefoot, dream he shod,
That ev'ry harm that any man
Hath had since that the world began,
Befall him thereof, ere he sterve,* *die
And grant that he may it deserve,* *earn, obtain
Lo! with such a conclusion
As had of his avision
Croesus, that was the king of Lyde,<4>
That high upon a gibbet died;
This prayer shall he have of me;
I am *no bet in charity.* *no more charitable*

Now hearken, as I have you said,
What that I mette ere I abraid,* *awoke
Of December the tenthe day;
When it was night to sleep I lay,
Right as I was wont for to do'n,
And fell asleepe wonder soon,
As he that *weary was for go*<5> *was weary from going*
On pilgrimage miles two
To the corsaint* Leonard, *relics of <6>
To make lithe that erst was hard.
But, as I slept, me mette I was
Within a temple made of glass;
In which there were more images
Of gold, standing in sundry stages,
And more riche tabernacles,
And with pierrie* more pinnacles, *gems
And more curious portraitures,
And *quainte manner* of figures *strange kinds*
Of golde work, than I saw ever.
But, certainly, I wiste* never *knew
Where that it was, but well wist I
It was of Venus readily,
This temple; for in portraiture
I saw anon right her figure
Naked floating in a sea, <7>
And also on her head, pardie,
Her rose garland white and red,
And her comb to comb her head,
Her doves, and Dan Cupido,
Her blinde son, and Vulcano, <8>
That in his face was full brown.

As he "roamed up and down," the dreamer saw on the wall a
tablet of brass inscribed with the opening lines of the Aeneid;
while the whole story of Aeneas was told in the "portraitures"
and gold work. About three hundred and fifty lines are devoted
to the description; but they merely embody Virgil's account of
Aeneas' adventures from the destruction of Troy to his arrival in
Italy; and the only characteristic passage is the following
reflection, suggested by the death of Dido for her perfidious but
fate-compelled guest:

Lo! how a woman doth amiss,
To love him that unknowen is!
For, by Christ, lo! thus it fareth,
It is not all gold that glareth.* *glitters
For, all so brook I well my head,
There may be under goodlihead* *fair appearance
Cover'd many a shrewed* vice; *cursed
Therefore let no wight be so nice* *foolish
To take a love only for cheer,* *looks
Or speech, or for friendly mannere;
For this shall ev'ry woman find,
That some man, *of his pure kind,* *by force of his nature
Will showen outward the fairest,
Till he have caught that which him lest;* *pleases
And then anon will causes find,
And sweare how she is unkind,
Or false, or privy* double was. *secretly
All this say I by* Aeneas *with reference to
And Dido, and her *nice lest,* *foolish pleasure*
That loved all too soon a guest;
Therefore I will say a proverb,
That he that fully knows the herb
May safely lay it to his eye;
Withoute dread,* this is no lie. *doubt

When the dreamer had seen all the sights in the temple, he
became desirous to know who had worked all those wonders,
and in what country he was; so he resolved to go out at the
wicket, in search of somebody who might tell him.

When I out at the doores came,
I fast aboute me beheld;
Then saw I but a large feld,* *open country
As far as that I mighte see,
WIthoute town, or house, or tree,
Or bush, or grass, or ered* land, *ploughed <9>
For all the field was but of sand,
As small* as men may see it lie *fine
In the desert of Libye;
Nor no manner creature
That is formed by Nature,
There saw I, me to *rede or wiss.* *advise or direct*
"O Christ!" thought I, "that art in bliss,
From *phantom and illusion* *vain fancy and deception*
Me save!" and with devotion
Mine eyen to the heav'n I cast.
Then was I ware at the last
That, faste by the sun on high,
*As kennen might I* with mine eye, *as well as I might discern*
Me thought I saw an eagle soar,
But that it seemed muche more* *larger
Than I had any eagle seen;
This is as sooth as death, certain,
It was of gold, and shone so bright,
That never saw men such a sight,
But if* the heaven had y-won, *unless
All new from God, another sun;
So shone the eagle's feathers bright:
And somewhat downward gan it light.* *descend, alight

The Second Book opens with a brief invocation of Venus and
of Thought; then it proceeds:

This eagle, of which I have you told,
That shone with feathers as of gold,
Which that so high began to soar,
I gan beholde more and more,
To see her beauty and the wonder;
But never was there dint of thunder,
Nor that thing that men calle foudre,* *thunderbolt
That smote sometimes a town to powder,
And in his swifte coming brenn'd,* *burned
That so swithe* gan descend, *rapidly
As this fowl, when that it beheld
That I a-roam was in the feld;
And with his grim pawes strong,
Within his sharpe nailes long,
Me, flying, at a swap* he hent,** *swoop *seized
And with his sours <10> again up went,
Me carrying in his clawes stark* *strong
As light as I had been a lark,
How high, I cannot telle you,
For I came up, I wist not how.

The poet faints through bewilderment and fear; but the eagle,
speaking with the voice of a man, recalls him to himself, and
comforts him by the assurance that what now befalls him is for
his instruction and profit. Answering the poet's unspoken
inquiry whether he is not to die otherwise, or whether Jove will
him stellify, the eagle says that he has been sent by Jupiter out
of his "great ruth,"

"For that thou hast so truely
So long served ententively* *with attentive zeal
His blinde nephew* Cupido, *grandson
And faire Venus also,
Withoute guuerdon ever yet,
And natheless hast set thy wit
(Although that in thy head full lite* is) *little
To make bookes, songs, and ditties,
In rhyme or elles in cadence,
As thou best canst, in reverence
Of Love, and of his servants eke,
That have his service sought, and seek,
And pained thee to praise his art,
Although thou haddest never part; <11>
Wherefore, all so God me bless,
Jovis holds it great humbless,
And virtue eke, that thou wilt make
A-night full oft thy head to ache,
In thy study so thou writest,
And evermore of love enditest,
In honour of him and praisings,
And in his folke's furtherings,
And in their matter all devisest,* *relates
And not him nor his folk despisest,
Although thou may'st go in the dance
Of them that him list not advance.
Wherefore, as I said now, y-wis,
Jupiter well considers this;
And also, beausire,* other things; *good sir
That is, that thou hast no tidings
Of Love's folk, if they be glad,
Nor of naught elles that God made;
And not only from far country
That no tidings come to thee,
But of thy very neighebours,
That dwellen almost at thy doors,
Thou hearest neither that nor this.
For when thy labour all done is,
And hast y-made thy reckonings, <12>
Instead of rest and newe things,
Thou go'st home to thy house anon,
And, all so dumb as any stone,
Thou sittest at another book,
Till fully dazed* is thy look; *blinded
And livest thus as a hermite
Although thine abstinence is lite."* <13> *little

Therefore has Jove appointed the eagle to take the poet to the
House of Fame, to do him some pleasure in recompense for his
devotion to Cupid; and he will hear, says the bird,

"When we be come there as I say,
More wondrous thinges, dare I lay,* *bet
Of Love's folke more tidings,
Both *soothe sawes and leasings;* *true sayings and lies*
And more loves new begun,
And long y-served loves won,
And more loves casually
That be betid,* no man knows why, *happened by chance
But as a blind man starts a hare;
And more jollity and welfare,
While that they finde *love of steel,* *love true as steel*
As thinketh them, and over all weel;
More discords, and more jealousies,
More murmurs, and more novelties,
And more dissimulations,
And feigned reparations;
And more beardes, in two hours,
Withoute razor or scissours
Y-made, <14> than graines be of sands;
And eke more holding in hands,* *embracings
And also more renovelances* *renewings
Of old *forleten acquaintances;* *broken-off acquaintanceships*
More love-days,<15> and more accords,* *agreements
Than on instruments be chords;
And eke of love more exchanges
Than ever cornes were in granges."* *barns

The poet can scarcely believe that, though Fame had all the pies
[magpies] and all the spies in a kingdom, she should hear so
much; but the eagle proceeds to prove that she can.

First shalt thou heare where she dwelleth;
And, so as thine own booke telleth, <16>
Her palace stands, as I shall say,
Right ev'n in middes of the way
Betweene heav'n, and earth, and sea,
That whatsoe'er in all these three
Is spoken, *privy or apert,* *secretly or openly*
The air thereto is so overt,* *clear
And stands eke in so just* a place, *suitable
That ev'ry sound must to it pace,
Or whatso comes from any tongue,
Be it rowned,* read, or sung, *whispered
Or spoken in surety or dread,* *doubt
Certain *it must thither need."* *it must needs go thither*

The eagle, in a long discourse, demonstrates that, as all natural
things have a natural place towards which they move by natural
inclination, and as sound is only broken air, so every sound
must come to Fame's House, "though it were piped of a mouse"
-- on the same principle by which every part of a mass of water
is affected by the casting in of a stone. The poet is all the while
borne upward, entertained with various information by the bird;
which at last cries out --

"Hold up thy head, for all is well!
Saint Julian, lo! bon hostel! <17>
See here the House of Fame, lo
May'st thou not heare that I do?"
"What?" quoth I. "The greate soun',"
Quoth he, "that rumbleth up and down
In Fame's House, full of tidings,
Both of fair speech and of chidings,
And of false and sooth compouned;* *compounded, mingled
Hearken well; it is not rowned.* *whispered
Hearest thou not the greate swough?"* *confused sound
"Yes, pardie!" quoth I, "well enough."
And what sound is it like?" quoth he
"Peter! the beating of the sea,"
Quoth I, "against the rockes hollow,
When tempests do the shippes swallow.
And let a man stand, out of doubt,
A mile thence, and hear it rout.* *roar
Or elles like the last humbling* *dull low distant noise
After the clap of a thund'ring,
When Jovis hath the air y-beat;
But it doth me for feare sweat."
"Nay, dread thee not thereof," quoth he;
"It is nothing will bite thee,
Thou shalt no harme have, truly."

And with that word both he and I
As nigh the place arrived were,
As men might caste with a spear.
I wist not how, but in a street
He set me fair upon my feet,
And saide: "Walke forth apace,
And take *thine adventure or case,* *thy chance of what
That thou shalt find in Fame's place." may befall*
"Now," quoth I, "while we have space
To speak, ere that I go from thee,
For the love of God, as telle me,
In sooth, that I will of thee lear,* *learn
If this noise that I hear
Be, as I have heard thee tell,
Of folk that down in earthe dwell,
And cometh here in the same wise
As I thee heard, ere this, devise?
And that there living body n'is* *is not
In all that house that yonder is,
That maketh all this loude fare?"* *hubbub, ado
"No," answered he, "by Saint Clare,
And all *so wisly God rede me;* *so surely god
But one thing I will warne thee, guide me*
Of the which thou wilt have wonder.
Lo! to the House of Fame yonder,
Thou know'st how cometh ev'ry speech;
It needeth not thee eft* to teach. *again
But understand now right well this;
When any speech y-comen is
Up to the palace, anon right
It waxeth* like the same wight** *becomes **person
Which that the word in earthe spake,
Be he cloth'd in red or black;
And so weareth his likeness,
And speaks the word, that thou wilt guess* *fancy
That it the same body be,
Whether man or woman, he or she.
And is not this a wondrous thing?"
"Yes," quoth I then, "by Heaven's king!"
And with this word, "Farewell," quoth he,
And here I will abide* thee, *wait for
And God of Heaven send thee grace
Some good to learen* in this place." *learn
And I of him took leave anon,
And gan forth to the palace go'n.

At the opening of the Third Book, Chaucer briefly invokes
Apollo's guidance, and entreats him, because "the rhyme is light
and lewd," to "make it somewhat agreeable, though some verse
fail in a syllable." If the god answers the prayer, the poet
promises to kiss the next laurel-tree <18> he sees; and he

When I was from this eagle gone,
I gan behold upon this place;
And certain, ere I farther pace,
I will you all the shape devise* *describe
Of house and city; and all the wise
How I gan to this place approach,
That stood upon so high a roche,* *rock <19>
Higher standeth none in Spain;
But up I climb'd with muche pain,
And though to climbe *grieved me,* *cost me painful effort*
Yet I ententive* was to see, *attentive
And for to pore* wondrous low, *gaze closely
If I could any wise know
What manner stone this rocke was,
For it was like a thing of glass,
But that it shone full more clear
But of what congealed mattere
It was, I wist not readily,
But at the last espied I,
And found that it was *ev'ry deal* *entirely*
A rock of ice, and not of steel.
Thought I, "By Saint Thomas of Kent, <20>
This were a feeble fundament* *foundation
*To builden* a place so high; *on which to build
He ought him lite* to glorify *little
That hereon built, God so me save!"

Then saw I all the half y-grave <21>
With famous folke's names fele,* *many
That hadde been in muche weal,* *good fortune
And their fames wide y-blow.
But well unnethes* might I know *scarcely
Any letters for to read
Their names by; for out of dread* *doubt
They were almost off thawed so,
That of the letters one or two
Were molt* away of ev'ry name, *melted
So unfamous was wox* their fame; *become
But men say, "What may ever last?"
Then gan I in my heart to cast* *conjecture
That they were molt away for heat,
And not away with stormes beat;
For on the other side I sey* *saw
Of this hill, that northward lay,
How it was written full of names
Of folke that had greate fames
Of olde times, and yet they were
As fresh as men had writ them there
The selfe day, right ere that hour
That I upon them gan to pore.
But well I wiste what it made;* *meant
It was conserved with the shade,
All the writing which I sigh,* *saw
Of a castle that stood on high;
And stood eke on so cold a place,
That heat might it not deface.* *injure, destroy

Then gan I on this hill to go'n,
And found upon the cop* a won,** *summit <22> **house
That all the men that be alive
Have not the *cunning to descrive* *skill to describe*
The beauty of that like place,
Nor coulde *caste no compass* *find no contrivance*
Such another for to make,
That might of beauty be its make,* *match, equal
Nor one so wondrously y-wrought,
That it astonieth yet my thought,
And maketh all my wit to swink,* *labour
Upon this castle for to think;
So that the greate beauty,
Cast,* craft, and curiosity, *ingenuity
Ne can I not to you devise;* *describe
My witte may me not suffice.
But natheless all the substance
I have yet in my remembrance;
For why, me thoughte, by Saint Gile,
Alle was of stone of beryle,
Bothe the castle and the tow'r,
And eke the hall, and ev'ry bow'r,* *chamber
Withoute pieces or joinings,
But many subtile compassings,* *contrivances
As barbicans* and pinnacles, *watch-towers
Imageries and tabernacles,
I saw; and eke full of windows,
As flakes fall in greate snows.
And eke in each of the pinnacles
Were sundry habitacles,* *apartments or niches
In which stooden, all without,
Full the castle all about,
Of all manner of minstrales
And gestiours,<23> that telle tales
Both of weeping and of game,* *mirth
Of all that longeth unto Fame.

There heard I play upon a harp,
That sounded bothe well and sharp,
Him, Orpheus, full craftily;
And on this side faste by
Satte the harper Arion,<24>
And eke Aeacides Chiron <25>
And other harpers many a one,
And the great Glasgerion; <26>
And smalle harpers, with their glees,* *instruments
Satten under them in sees,* *seats
And gan on them upward to gape,
And counterfeit them as an ape,
Or as *craft counterfeiteth kind.* *art counterfeits nature*
Then saw I standing them behind,
Afar from them, all by themselve,
Many thousand times twelve,
That made loude minstrelsies
In cornmuse and eke in shawmies, <27>
And in many another pipe,
That craftily began to pipe,
Both in dulcet <28> and in reed,
That be at feastes with the bride.
And many a flute and lilting horn,
And pipes made of greene corn,
As have these little herde-grooms,* *shepherd-boys
That keepe beastes in the brooms.
There saw I then Dan Citherus,
And of Athens Dan Pronomus, <29>
And Marsyas <30> that lost his skin,
Both in the face, body, and chin,
For that he would envyen, lo!
To pipe better than Apollo.
There saw I famous, old and young,
Pipers of alle Dutche tongue, <31>
To learne love-dances and springs,
Reyes, <32> and these strange things.
Then saw I in another place,
Standing in a large space,
Of them that make bloody* soun', *martial
In trumpet, beam,* and clarioun; *horn <33>
For in fight and blood-sheddings
Is used gladly clarionings.
There heard I trumpe Messenus. <34>
Of whom speaketh Virgilius.
There heard I Joab trump also, <35>
Theodamas, <36> and other mo',
And all that used clarion
In Catalogne and Aragon,
That in their times famous were
To learne, saw I trumpe there.
There saw I sit in other sees,
Playing upon sundry glees,
Whiche that I cannot neven,* *name
More than starres be in heaven;
Of which I will not now rhyme,
For ease of you, and loss of time:
For time lost, this knowe ye,
By no way may recover'd be.

There saw I play jongelours,* *jugglers <37>
Magicians, and tregetours,<38>
And Pythonesses, <39> charmeresses,
And old witches, and sorceresses,
That use exorcisations,
And eke subfumigations; <40>
And clerkes* eke, which knowe well *scholars
All this magic naturel,
That craftily do their intents,
To make, in certain ascendents, <41>
Images, lo! through which magic
To make a man be whole or sick.
There saw I the queen Medea, <42>
And Circes <43> eke, and Calypsa.<44>
There saw I Hermes Ballenus, <45>
Limote, <46> and eke Simon Magus. <47>
There saw I, and knew by name,
That by such art do men have fame.
There saw I Colle Tregetour <46>
Upon a table of sycamore
Play an uncouth* thing to tell; *strange, rare
I saw him carry a windmell
Under a walnut shell.
Why should I make longer tale
Of all the people I there say,* *saw
From hence even to doomesday?

When I had all this folk behold,
And found me *loose, and not y-hold,* *at liberty and unrestrained*
And I had mused longe while
Upon these walles of beryle,
That shone lighter than any glass,
And made *well more* than it was *much greater
To seemen ev'rything, y-wis,
As kindly* thing of Fame it is; <48> *natural
I gan forth roam until I fand* *found
The castle-gate on my right hand,
Which all so well y-carven was,
That never such another n'as;* *was not
And yet it was by Adventure* *chance
Y-wrought, and not by *subtile cure.* *careful art*
It needeth not you more to tell,
To make you too longe dwell,
Of these gates' flourishings,
Nor of compasses,* nor carvings, *devices
Nor how they had in masonries,
As corbets, <49> full of imageries.
But, Lord! so fair it was to shew,
For it was all with gold behew.* *coloured
But in I went, and that anon;
There met I crying many a one
"A largess! largess! <50> hold up well!
God save the Lady of this pell,* *palace
Our owen gentle Lady Fame,
And them that will to have name
Of us!" Thus heard I cryen all,
And fast they came out of the hall,
And shooke *nobles and sterlings,* *coins <51>
And some y-crowned were as kings,
With crownes wrought fall of lozenges;
And many ribands, and many fringes,
Were on their clothes truely
Then at the last espied I
That pursuivantes and herauds,* *heralds
That cry riche folke's lauds,* *praises
They weren all; and ev'ry man
Of them, as I you telle can,
Had on him throwen a vesture
Which that men call a coat-armure, <52>
Embroidered wondrously rich,
As though there were *naught y-lich;* *nothing like it*
But naught will I, so may I thrive,
*Be aboute to descrive* *concern myself with describing*
All these armes that there were,
That they thus on their coates bare,
For it to me were impossible;
Men might make of them a bible
Twenty foote thick, I trow.
For, certain, whoso coulde know
Might there all the armes see'n
Of famous folk that have been
In Afric', Europe, and Asie,
Since first began the chivalry.

Lo! how should I now tell all this?
Nor of the hall eke what need is
To telle you that ev'ry wall
Of it, and floor, and roof, and all,
Was plated half a foote thick
Of gold, and that was nothing wick',* *counterfeit
But for to prove in alle wise
As fine as ducat of Venise, <53>
Of which too little in my pouch is?
And they were set as thick of nouches* *ornaments
Fine, of the finest stones fair,
That men read in the Lapidaire, <54>
As grasses growen in a mead.
But it were all too long to read* *declare
The names; and therefore I pass.
But in this rich and lusty place,
That Fame's Hall y-called was,
Full muche press of folk there n'as,* *was not
Nor crowding for too muche press.
But all on high, above a dais,
Set on a see* imperial, <55> *seat
That made was of ruby all,
Which that carbuncle is y-call'd,
I saw perpetually install'd
A feminine creature;
That never formed by Nature
Was such another thing y-sey.* *seen
For altherfirst,* sooth to say, *first of all
Me thoughte that she was so lite,* *little
That the length of a cubite
Was longer than she seem'd to be;
But thus soon in a while she
Herself then wonderfully stretch'd,
That with her feet the earth she reach'd,
And with her head she touched heaven,
Where as shine the starres seven. <56>
And thereto* eke, as to my wit, *moreover
I saw a greater wonder yet,
Upon her eyen to behold;
But certes I them never told.
For *as fele eyen* hadde she, *as many eyes*
As feathers upon fowles be,
Or were on the beastes four
That Godde's throne gan honour,
As John writ in th'Apocalypse. <57>
Her hair, that *oundy was and crips,* *wavy <58> and crisp*
As burnish'd gold it shone to see;
And, sooth to tellen, also she
Had all so fele* upstanding ears, *many
And tongues, as on beasts be hairs;
And on her feet waxen saw I
Partridges' winges readily.<59>
But, Lord! the pierrie* and richess *gems, jewellery
I saw sitting on this goddess,
And the heavenly melody
Of songes full of harmony,
I heard about her throne y-sung,
That all the palace walles rung!
(So sung the mighty Muse, she
That called is Calliope,
And her eight sisteren* eke, *sisters
That in their faces seeme meek);
And evermore eternally
They sang of Fame as then heard I:
"Heried* be thou and thy name, *praised
Goddess of Renown and Fame!"
Then was I ware, lo! at the last,
As I mine eyen gan upcast,
That this ilke noble queen
On her shoulders gan sustene* *sustain
Both the armes, and the name
Of those that hadde large fame;
Alexander, and Hercules,
That with a shirt his life lese.* <60> *lost
Thus found I sitting this goddess,
In noble honour and richess;
Of which I stint* a while now, *refrain (from speaking)
Of other things to telle you.

Then saw I stand on either side,
Straight down unto the doores wide,
From the dais, many a pillere
Of metal, that shone not full clear;
But though they were of no richess,
Yet were they made for great nobless,
And in them greate sentence.* *significance
And folk of digne* reverence, *worthy, lofty
Of which *I will you telle fand,* *I will try to tell you*
Upon the pillars saw I stand.
Altherfirst, lo! there I sigh* *saw
Upon a pillar stand on high,
That was of lead and iron fine,
Him of the secte Saturnine, <61>
The Hebrew Josephus the old,
That of Jewes' gestes* told; *deeds of braver
And he bare on his shoulders high
All the fame up of Jewry.
And by him stooden other seven,
Full wise and worthy for to neven,* *name
To help him bearen up the charge,* *burden
It was so heavy and so large.
And, for they writen of battailes,
As well as other old marvailes,
Therefore was, lo! this pillere,
Of which that I you telle here,
Of lead and iron both, y-wis;
For iron Marte's metal is, <62>
Which that god is of battaile;
And eke the lead, withoute fail,
Is, lo! the metal of Saturn,
That hath full large wheel* to turn. *orbit
Then stoode forth, on either row,
Of them which I coulde know,
Though I them not by order tell,
To make you too longe dwell.
These, of the which I gin you read,
There saw I standen, out of dread,
Upon an iron pillar strong,
That painted was all endelong* *from top to bottom*
With tiger's blood in ev'ry place,
The Tholosan that highte Stace, <63>
That bare of Thebes up the name
Upon his shoulders, and the fame
Also of cruel Achilles.
And by him stood, withoute lease,* *falsehood
Full wondrous high on a pillere
Of iron, he, the great Homere;
And with him Dares and Dytus, <64>
Before, and eke he, Lollius, <65>
And Guido eke de Colempnis, <66>
And English Gaufrid <67> eke, y-wis.
And each of these, as I have joy,
Was busy for to bear up Troy;
So heavy thereof was the fame,
That for to bear it was no game.
But yet I gan full well espy,
Betwixt them was a little envy.
One said that Homer made lies,
Feigning in his poetries,
And was to the Greeks favourable;
Therefore held he it but a fable.
Then saw I stand on a pillere
That was of tinned iron clear,
Him, the Latin poet Virgile,
That borne hath up a longe while
The fame of pious Aeneas.
And next him on a pillar was
Of copper, Venus' clerk Ovide,
That hath y-sowen wondrous wide
The greate god of Love's fame.
And there he bare up well his name
Upon this pillar all so high,
As I might see it with mine eye;
For why? this hall whereof I read
Was waxen in height, and length, and bread,* *breadth
Well more by a thousand deal* *times
Than it was erst, that saw I weel.
Then saw I on a pillar by,
Of iron wrought full sternely,
The greate poet, Dan Lucan,
That on his shoulders bare up than,
As high as that I might it see,
The fame of Julius and Pompey; <68>
And by him stood all those clerks
That write of Rome's mighty works,
That if I would their names tell,
All too longe must I dwell.
And next him on a pillar stood
Of sulphur, like as he were wood,* *mad
Dan Claudian, <69> the sooth to tell,
That bare up all the fame of hell,
Of Pluto, and of Proserpine,
That queen is of *the darke pine* *the dark realm of pain*
Why should I telle more of this?
The hall was alle fulle, y-wis,
Of them that writen olde gests,* *histories of great deeds
As be on trees rookes' nests;
But it a full confus'd mattere
Were all these gestes for to hear,
That they of write, and how they hight.* *are called

But while that I beheld this sight,
I heard a noise approache blive,* *quickly
That far'd* as bees do in a hive, *went
Against their time of outflying;
Right such a manner murmuring,
For all the world, it seem'd to me.
Then gan I look about, and see
That there came entering the hall
A right great company withal,
And that of sundry regions,
Of all kinds and conditions
That dwell in earth under the moon,
Both poor and rich; and all so soon
As they were come into the hall,
They gan adown on knees to fall,
Before this ilke* noble queen, *same
And saide, "Grant us, Lady sheen,* *bright, lovely
Each of us of thy grace a boon."* *favour
And some of them she granted soon,
And some she warned* well and fair, *refused
And some she granted the contrair* *contrary
Of their asking utterly;
But this I say you truely,
What that her cause was, I n'ist;* *wist not, know not
For of these folk full well I wist,
They hadde good fame each deserved,
Although they were diversely served.
Right as her sister, Dame Fortune,
Is wont to serven *in commune.* *commonly, usually*

Now hearken how she gan to pay
Them that gan of her grace to pray;
And right, lo! all this company
Saide sooth,* and not a lie. *truth
"Madame," thus quoth they, "we be
Folk that here beseeche thee
That thou grant us now good fame,
And let our workes have good name
In full recompensatioun
Of good work, give us good renown
"I warn* it you," quoth she anon; *refuse
"Ye get of me good fame none,
By God! and therefore go your way."
"Alas," quoth they, "and well-away!
Tell us what may your cause be."
"For that it list* me not," quoth she, *pleases
No wight shall speak of you, y-wis,
Good nor harm, nor that nor this."

And with that word she gan to call
Her messenger, that was in hall,
And bade that he should faste go'n,
Upon pain to be blind anon,
For Aeolus, the god of wind;
"In Thrace there ye shall him find,
And bid him bring his clarioun,
That is full diverse of his soun',
And it is called Cleare Laud,
With which he wont is to heraud* *proclaim
Them that me list y-praised be,
And also bid him how that he
Bring eke his other clarioun,
That hight* Slander in ev'ry town, *is called
With which he wont is to diffame* *defame, disparage
Them that me list, and do them shame."
This messenger gan faste go'n,
And found where, in a cave of stone,
In a country that highte Thrace,
This Aeolus, *with harde grace,* *Evil favour attend him!*
Helde the windes in distress,* *constraint
And gan them under him to press,
That they began as bears to roar,
He bound and pressed them so sore.
This messenger gan fast to cry,
"Rise up," quoth he, "and fast thee hie,
Until thou at my Lady be,
And take thy clarions eke with thee,
And speed thee forth." And he anon
Took to him one that hight Triton, <70>
His clarions to beare tho,* *then
And let a certain winde go,
That blew so hideously and high,
That it lefte not a sky* *cloud <71>
In all the welkin* long and broad. *sky
This Aeolus nowhere abode* *delayed
Till he was come to Fame's feet,
And eke the man that Triton hete,* *is called
And there he stood as still as stone.

And therewithal there came anon
Another huge company
Of goode folk, and gan to cry,
"Lady, grant us goode fame,
And let our workes have that name,
Now in honour of gentleness;
And all so God your soule bless;
For we have well deserved it,
Therefore is right we be well quit."* *requited
"As thrive I," quoth she, "ye shall fail;
Good workes shall you not avail
To have of me good fame as now;
But, wot ye what, I grante you.
That ye shall have a shrewde* fame, *evil, cursed
And wicked los,* and worse name, *reputation <72>
Though ye good los have well deserv'd;
Now go your way, for ye be serv'd.
And now, Dan Aeolus," quoth she,
"Take forth thy trump anon, let see,
That is y-called Slander light,
And blow their los, that ev'ry wight
Speak of them harm and shrewedness,* *wickedness, malice
Instead of good and worthiness;
For thou shalt trump all the contrair
Of that they have done, well and fair."
Alas! thought I, what adventures* *(evil) fortunes
Have these sorry creatures,
That they, amonges all the press,
Should thus be shamed guilteless?
But what! it muste needes be.
What did this Aeolus, but he
Took out his blacke trump of brass,
That fouler than the Devil was,
And gan this trumpet for to blow,
As all the world 't would overthrow.
Throughout every regioun
Went this foule trumpet's soun',
As swift as pellet out of gun
When fire is in the powder run.
And such a smoke gan out wend,* *go
Out of this foule trumpet's end,
Black, blue, greenish, swart,* and red, *black <73>
As doth when that men melt lead,
Lo! all on high from the tewell;* *chimney <74>
And thereto* one thing saw I well, *also
That the farther that it ran,
The greater waxen it began,
As doth the river from a well,* *fountain
And it stank as the pit of hell.
Alas! thus was their shame y-rung,
And guilteless, on ev'ry tongue.

Then came the thirde company,
And gan up to the dais to hie,* *hasten
And down on knees they fell anon,
And saide, "We be ev'ry one
Folk that have full truely
Deserved fame right fully,
And pray you that it may be know
Right as it is, and forth y-blow."
"I grante," quoth she, "for me list
That now your goode works be wist;* *known
And yet ye shall have better los,
In despite of all your foes,
Than worthy* is, and that anon. *merited
Let now," quoth she, "thy trumpet go'n,
Thou Aeolus, that is so black,
And out thine other trumpet take,
That highte Laud, and blow it so
That through the world their fame may go,
Easily and not too fast,
That it be knowen at the last."
"Full gladly, Lady mine," he said;
And out his trump of gold he braid* *pulled forth
Anon, and set it to his mouth,
And blew it east, and west, and south,
And north, as loud as any thunder,
That ev'ry wight had of it wonder,
So broad it ran ere that it stent.* *ceased
And certes all the breath that went
Out of his trumpet's mouthe smell'd
As* men a pot of balme held *as if
Among a basket full of roses;
This favour did he to their loses.* *reputations

And right with this I gan espy
Where came the fourthe company.
But certain they were wondrous few;
And gan to standen in a rew,* *row
And saide, "Certes, Lady bright,
We have done well with all our might,
But we *not keep* to have fame; *care not
Hide our workes and our name,
For Godde's love! for certes we
Have surely done it for bounty,* *goodness, virtue
And for no manner other thing."
"I grante you all your asking,"
Quoth she; "let your workes be dead."

With that I turn'd about my head,
And saw anon the fifthe rout,* *company
That to this Lady gan to lout,* *bow down
And down on knees anon to fall;
And to her then besoughten all
To hide their good workes eke,
And said, they gave* not a leek *cared
For no fame, nor such renown;
For they for contemplatioun
And Godde's love had y-wrought,
Nor of fame would they have aught.
"What!" quoth she, "and be ye wood?
And *weene ye* for to do good, *do ye imagine*
And for to have of that no fame?
*Have ye despite* to have my name? *do ye despise*
Nay, ye shall lie every one!
Blow thy trump, and that anon,"
Quoth she, "thou Aeolus, I hote,* *command
And ring these folkes works by note,
That all the world may of it hear."
And he gan blow their los* so clear *reputation
Within his golden clarioun,
That through the worlde went the soun',
All so kindly, and so soft,
That their fame was blown aloft.

And then came the sixth company,
And gunnen* fast on Fame to cry; *began
Right verily in this mannere
They saide; "Mercy, Lady dear!
To telle certain as it is,
We have done neither that nor this,
But idle all our life hath be;* *been
But natheless yet praye we
That we may have as good a fame,
And great renown, and knowen* name, *well-known
As they that have done noble gests,* *feats.
And have achieved all their quests,* *enterprises; desires
As well of Love, as other thing;
All* was us never brooch, nor ring, *although
Nor elles aught from women sent,
Nor ones in their hearte meant
To make us only friendly cheer,
But mighte *teem us upon bier;* *might lay us on our bier
Yet let us to the people seem (by their adverse demeanour)*
Such as the world may of us deem,* *judge
That women loven us for wood.* *madly
It shall us do as muche good,
And to our heart as much avail,
The counterpoise,* ease, and travail, *compensation
As we had won it with labour;
For that is deare bought honour,
*At the regard of* our great ease. *in comparison with*
*And yet* ye must us more please; *in addition*
Let us be holden eke thereto
Worthy, and wise, and good also,
And rich, and happy unto love,
For Godde's love, that sits above;
Though we may not the body have
Of women, yet, so God you save,
Let men glue* on us the name; *fasten
Sufficeth that we have the fame."
"I grante," quoth she, "by my troth;
Now Aeolus, withoute sloth,
Take out thy trump of gold," quoth she,
"And blow as they have asked me,
That ev'ry man ween* them at ease, *believe

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