Geoffrey Chaucer.

The poems of Geoffrey Chaucer modernized online

. (page 15 of 18)
Online LibraryGeoffrey ChaucerThe poems of Geoffrey Chaucer modernized → online text (page 15 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


11.

The brooch of Thebes was of so rich a kind,
So full of rubies, and of stones of Ind,
That he who once beheld its brilliancy,
Ravished with such strange lustre, lost his mind,
Gazing upon its light till he grew blind
With dazzled sense ; and such his ecstasy,
That he that treasure must possess, or die ;
Yet, when he has it, tenors rack his brain.
Lest, losing it, he should go mad again !



THE COMPLAINT OF MARS. 227



And when it has passed out of his possession,
He's seized anew with double grief and passion,
That he so fair a jewel should forego ;
But yet this brooch, to make a true confession,
Was not the cause of so much consternation,
But he who cunningly enwrought it so,
That every wight who had it should have woe :
And therefore in the worker was the snare ;
The folly his, who sought a thing so rare.



So fareth it by lovers and by me ;
For though my lady of such beauty be
That I was mad till I had won her grace,
She's not the cause of my adversity,
But He who formed her so enchantingly,
Putting such wondrous beauty in her face
That made me yearn for her, and so embrace
My death. Him blame I, then, that I should die,
And my own folly that I climbed so high.
Q 2



228 THE COMPLAINT OF MARS.



14.

But ye, my hardy knights of brave renown,
In whose device I recognize my own,
Although unworthy of so great a name,
Yet as your patron, to all scholars known,
Let some compassion to my state be shown
Take not my real troubles as a game ;
The proudest of ye may be made full tame.
Wherefore I pray you of your gentleness,
That you entreat some help for my distress.



15.

And ye, my ladies, that are true and stable,
By way of kindliness ye should be able
To pity those who 're languishing in pain :
Now have ye cause to clothe yourselves in sable,
Since that your Empress, peerless, honorable,
Is desolate, well ought ye to complain.
Now should your holy tears fall fast as rain :
Alas ! your Empress pines in secret dread,
And, in despair of rescue, is nigh dead.



THE COMPLAINT OF MARS. 229



16.



Mourn too, ye lovers, weeping all in fear,
For her, who, with unfeigned humble cheer,
Was prompt to give ye succour in good sooth ;
Mourn her, to genial lovers ever dear,
The beautiful, the free, the frank, sincere ;
Mourn her, the crown of all the dreams of youth,
The ensample bright of honour and of truth ;
With tender thoughts bewail her deep distress,
Who never yet did ought but gentleness.



COMPLAINT OF VENUS.



1.

There is no comfort to my thoughts so high,
When any heavy griefs my heart distress,
As to have leisure for sweet memory
To think upon the chivalrous address,
The truth, and constancy, and proud impress
Of manhood, that distinguish him I love ;
Such solace sure no creature can reprove,
For every wight praiseth his gentleness.

2.
He is with wise and liberal qualities
More bountifully graced than wit can guess ;
And knighthood to his paramount worth decrees
The noblest place its thronging ranks possess ;
And honour honoureth him for his noblesse ;
And nature hath endowed him with such store
Of perfect gifts, I'm his for evermore ;
For every wight praiseth his gentleness.



THE COMPLAINT OF VENUS. 231

3.

Yet, notwithstanding all his excellence,
His gentle heart such meekness doth express
To me in word, in deed, in countenance,
To serve me his whole business, with excess
Of patient duty, that I ought to bless
The adventure of my love, alike secure
In service and in honour to endure ;
For every wight praiseth his gentleness.

4.
Now certes, love, it is quite pardonable
That men should ill abide thy noble dealing ;
Waking in bed, and feasting at the table ;
To weep in laughter, and to sing in wailing,
Dark shadows on their downcast visage stealing ;
Often to change their flitting countenance ;
Playing in sleep and dreaming in the dance ;
All the reverse of any gladsome feeling.

5.
Mean jealousy he hung upon a cable,
For he despised that prying mischief, trailing
Its slime o'er all things fair and reasonable,
The purest lives with poisonous fangs assailing ;



232 THE COMPLAINT OF VENUS.

And thus love's ills over its joys prevailing-
Make it a rash and dear-bought ordinance,
With sorrow enough and little of pleasance,
All the reverse of any gladsome feeling.

6.

Love is agreeable and sweet at first,
But in its use brings heavy care and toiling
For subtle jealousy, by falsehood nursed,
Full often makes its service unavailing :
And thus 'tis ever, new distrusts entailing,
We languish for the want of confidence,
Enforced to suffer many a hard mischance,
All the reverse of any gladsome feeling.

7-
But certes, Love, I speak not in this wise
To escape my bonds by way of argument ;
For I so long have worn them in thine eyes
That to be free I never will consent,
Though racking jealousy my heart torment ;
Sufiiccth me to see him when I may ;
And therefore, certes, to mine ending day,
To love him best I never shall repent.



THE COMPLAINT OF VENUS. 233

8.

And certes, Love, look north, east, south, and west,
Through every state that man may represent ;
Still through thy franchise I have chosen the best
Beneath the circuit of the firmament.
Now love well, heart, and look ye never stint ;
And let the jealous put thee in assay,
No agony can force me to say " Nay,"
To love him best I never shall repent.

9.

O heart, to thee it ought enough suffice
That Love so high a grace hath to thee sent,
Choosing the worthiest in all men's eyes,
And the most pleasing to mine own content ;
Then seek no further — here rest permanent,
Since that thou hast sufficient for thy pay ;
And thus, true heart, I end my tristful lay,
To love him best I never shall repent.



234



L'ENVOYE.

Princes, receive this lyric graciously,

Which to your excellent benignity

I do address in my incompetence ;

For age, that in my spirit dulleth me,

Hath nigh extinguished all the subtlety

Of writing, and its mental elements :

Therefore it is with pain and diffidence

Such rhyme, new to the English tongue, I try,

To follow word for word the melody

Of Granson, flower of those who rhyme in France.

EXPLICIT.



QUEEN ANNELIDA & FALSE AECITE ;



MODERNIZED BY



ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.



QUEEN ANNELIDA & FALSE ARCITE.



1.

O thou fierce God of armies, Mars the red,
Who in thy frosty country called Thrace,
Within thy grisly temples full of dread,
Art honoured as the patron of that place,
With the Bellona Pallas, full of grace !
Be present ; guide, sustain this song of mine,
Beginning which, I cry toward thy shrine.

2.

For deep the hope is sunken in my mind,

In piteous-hearted English to indite

This story old, which I in Latin find,

Of Queen Annelida and false Arcite :

Since Time, whose rust can all things fret and bite,

In fretting many a tale of equal fame,

Hath from our memory nigh devoured this same.



238 QUEEN ANNELIDA AND FALSE ARCITE.

3.

Thy favour, Polyhymnia, also deign,

Who, in thy sisters' green Parnassian glade,

By Helicon, not far from Cirrha's fane,

Singest with voice memorial in the shade,

Under the laurel which can never fade ;

Now grant my ship, that some smooth haven win her !

I follow Statius first, and then Corinna.

4.
When Theseus by a long and deathly war
The hardy Scythian race had overcome,
He, laurel-crowned, in his gold-wrought car,
Returning to his native city home,
The blissful people for his pomp make room,
And throw their shouts up to the stars, and bring
The general heart out for his honouring.

5.
Before the Duke, in sign of victory,
The trumpets sound, and in his banner large
Dilates the figure of Mars — and men may see,
In token of glory, many a treasure charge,
Many a bright helm, and many a spear and targe,
Many a fresh knight, and manv a blissful rout

On horse and foot, in all the field about.

1



QUEEN ANNELIDA AND FALSE ARCITE. 239

6.

Hippolyte, his wife, the heroic queen

Of Scythia, conqueress though conquered,

With Emily, her youthful sister sheen,

Fair in a car of gold he with him led.

The ground about her car she overspread

With brightness from the beauty in her face,

Which smiled forth largesses of love and grace.

7-
Thus triumphing, and laurel- crowned thus,
In all the flower of Fortune's high providing,
I leave this noble prince, this Theseus,
Toward the walls of Athens bravely riding, —
And seek to bring in, without more abiding,
Something of that whereof I 'gan to write,
Of fair Annelida and false Arcite.

8.
Fierce Mars, who in his furious course of ire,
The ancient wrath of Juno to fulfil,
Had set the nations' mutual hearts on fire
In Thebes and Argos, (so that each would kill
Either with bloody spears,) grew never still —
But rushed now here, now there, among them both,
Till each was slain by each, they were so wroth.



240 QUEEN ANNELIDA AND FALSE ARCITE.

9.

For when Parthenopseus and Tydeus

Had perished with Hippomedon, — also

Amphiaraus and proud Capaneus, —

And when the w r retched Theban brethren two

Were slain, and King Adrastus home did go —

So desolate stood Thebes, her halls so bare,

That no man's love could remedy his care.

10.
And when the old man, Creon, 'gan espy
How darkly the blood royal was brought down,
He held the city in his tyranny,
And forced the nobles of that region
To be his friends and dwell within the town j
Till half for love of him, and half for fear,
Those princely persons yielded, and drew near, —

11.
Among the rest the young Armenian queen,
Annelida, was in that city living.
She was as beauteous as the sun was sheen,
Her fame to distant lands such glory giving,
That all men in the world had some heart-striving
To look on her. No woman, sooth, can be,
Thouirh earth is rich in fairness, fair as she.



QUEEN ANNELIDA AND FALSE ARCITE. 241

12.

Young was this queen, but twenty summers old,

Of middle stature, and such wondrous beauty,

That Nature, self-delighted, did behold

A rare work in her — while, in stedfast duty,

Lucretia and Penelope would suit ye

With a worse model — all things understood,

She was, in short, most perfect fair and good.

13.

The Theban knight eke, to give all their due,
Was young, and therewithal a lusty knight.
But he was double in love, and nothing true,
Ay, subtler in that craft than any wight,
And with his cunning won this lady bright ;
So working on her simpleness of nature,
That she him trusted above every creature.

14.

What shall I say ? She loved Arcite so,

That if at any hour he parted from her,

Her heart seemed ready anon to burst in two ;

For he with lowliness had overcome her :

She thought she knew the heart which did foredoom her.

But he was false, and all that softness feigning, —

I trow men need not learn such arts of paining.



24:2 QUEEN ANNELIDA AND FALSE ARCITE.

15.

And ne'ertheless full mickle business
Had he, before he might his lady win, —
He swore that he should die of his distress,
His brain would madden with the fire within !
Alas, the while ! for it was ruth and sin,
That she, sweet soul, upon his grief should rue ;
But little reckon false hearts as the true.

1G.

And she to Arcite so subjected her,

That all she did or had seemed his of right :

No creature in her house met smile or cheer,

Further than would be pleasant to Arcite ;

There was no lack whereby she did despite

To his least will — for hers to his was bent,

And all things which pleased him made her content.

17.

No kind of letter to her fair hands came,

Touching on love, from any kind of wight,

But him she showed it ere she burned the same :

So open was she, doing all she might,

That nothing should be hidden from her knight,

Lest he for any untruth should upbraid her, —

The slave of his unspoken will she made her.



QUEEN ANNELIDA AND FALSE ARCITE. 243

18.

He played his jealous fancies over her,

And if he heard that any other man

Spoke to her, would beseech her straight to swear

To each word — or the speaker had his ban ;

And out of her sweet wits she almost ran

For fear ; but all was fraud and flattery,

Since without love he feigned jealousy.

19.

All which with so much sweetness suffered she,

Whate'er he willed she thought the wisest thing ;

And evermore she loved him tenderly,

And did him honour as he were a king.

Her heart was wedded to him with a ring,

So eager to be faithful and intent,

That wheresoe'er he wandered, there it went.

20.

When she would eat he stole away her thought,
Till little thought for food, I ween, was kept ;
And when a time for rest the midnight brought,
She always mused upon him till she slept, —
When he was absent, secretly she wept ;
And thus lived Queen Annelida the fair,
For false Arcite, who worked her this despair.
r 2



244 QUEEN ANNELIDA AND FALSE ARCITE.

21.

This false Arcite in his new-fangleness,
Because so gentle were her ways and true,
Took the less pleasure in her stedfastness,
And saw another lady proud and new,
And right anon he clad him in her hue ;
I know not whether white, or red, or green,
Betraying fair Annelida the Queen.

22.

And yet it was no thing to wonder on,
Though he were false — It is the way of man,
(Since Lamech was, who nourished years agone,)
To be in love as false as any can ;
For he was the first father who began
To love two ; and I trow, indeed, that he
Invented tents as well as bigamy.

23.

And having so betrayed her, false Arcite
Feign'd more, that primal wrong to justify.
A vicious horse will snort besides his bite ;
And so he taunted her with treachery,
Swearing he saw thro' her duplicity,
And how she was not loving, but false-hearted —
The perjured traitor swore thus, and departed.



QUEEN ANNELIDA AND FALSE ARCITE. 245

24.

Alas, alas, what heart could suffer it,

For ruth, the story of her grief to tell ?

What thinker hath the cunning and the wit

To image it ? what hearer, strength to dwell

A room's length off, while I rehearse the hell

Suffered by Queen Annelida the fair

For false Arcite, who worked her this despair ?

25.

She weepeth, waileth, swooneth piteously ;

She falleth on the earth dead as a stone ;

Her graceful limbs are cramped convulsively ;

She speaketh out wild, as her wits were gone.

No colour, but an ashen paleness — none —

Touched cheek or lips ; and no word shook their white,

But ' Mercy cruel heart ! mine own Arcite !'

26.
Thus it continued, till she pined so,
And grew so weak, her feet no more could bear
Her body, languishing in ceaseless woe.
Whereof Arcite had neither ruth nor care —
His heart had put out new-green shoots elsewhere ;
Therefore he deigned not on her grief to think,
And reckoned little, did she float or sink.



246 QUEEN ANNELIDA AND FALSE ARCITE.

27.

His fine new lady kept him in such narrow

Strict limit, by the bridle, at the end

()' the whip, he feared her least word as an arrow, —

Her threatening made him, as a bow, to bend,

And at her pleasure did he turn and wend ;

Seeing she never granted to this lover

A single grace he could sing ' Ios ' over.

28.

She drove him forth — she scarcely deigned to know

That he was servant to her ladyship :

But, lest he should be proud, she kept him low,

Nor paid his service from a smiling lip :

She sent him now to land, and now to ship ;

And giving him all danger to his fill,

She thereby had him at her sovereign will.

29.
Be taught of this, ye prudent women all,
Warn'd by Annelida and false Arcite :
Because she chose, himself, ' dear heart' to call
And be so meek, he loved her not aright.
The nature of man's heart is to delight
In something strange — moreover, (may Heaven save
The wrong'd) the thing they cannot, they would have.



QUEEN ANNELIDA AND FALSE ARCITE. 247

30.

Now turn we to Annelida again,

Who pined day by day in languishment.

But when she saw no comfort met her pain,

Weeping once in a woeful unconstraint,

She set herself to fashion a complaint,

Which with her own pale hand she 'gan to write,

And sent it to her lover, to Arcite.



THE COMPLAINT



ANNELIDA TO FALSE ARCITE.



I.

The sword of sorrow, whetted sharp for me

On false delight, with point of memory

Stabb'd so mine heart, bliss -bare and black of hue,

That all to dread is turn'd my dance's glee,

My face's beauty to despondency —

For nothing it availeth to be true —

And, whosoever is so, she shall rue

Obeying love, and cleaving faithfully

Alway to one, and changing for no new.



THE COMPLAINT OP ANNELIDA. 249



II.



I ought to know it well as any wight,
For / loved one with all my heart and might,
More than myself a hundred-thousand fold,
And called him my heart's dear life, my knight,
And was all his, as far as it was right ;
His gladness did my blitheness make of old,
And in his least disease my death was told ;
Who, on his side, had plighted lovers' plight,
Me, evermore, his lady and love to hold.

III.

Now is he false — alas, alas ! — although
Unwronged ! and acting such a ruthless part,
That with a little word he will not deign
To bring the peace back to my mournful heart.
Drawn in, and caught up by another's art,
Right as he will, he laugheth at my pain ;
While / — I cannot my weak heart restrain
From loving him — still, aye ; yet none I know
To whom of all this grief I can complain.



250 THE COMPLAINT OF

IV.

Shall I complain (ah, piteous and harsh sound !)
Unto my foe, who gave mine heart a wound,
And still desireth that the harm be more ?
Now certes, if I sought the whole earth round,
No other help, no better leach were found !
My destiny hath shaped it so of yore —
I would not other medicine, nor yet lore.
I would be ever where I once was bound ;
And what I said, would say for evermore.

V.

Alas ! and where is gone your gentillesse ?

Where gone your pleasant words, your humbleness ?

Where your devotion full of reverent fear,

Your patient loyalty, your busy address

To me, whom once you called nothing less

Than mistress, sovereign lady, i' the sphere

O' the world ? Ah me ! no word, no look of cheer,

Will you vouchsafe upon my heaviness !

Alas your love ! I bought it all too dear.



ANNELIDA TO FALSE ARCITE. 251

VI.

Now certes, sweet, howe'er you be

The cause so, and so causelessly,

Of this my mortal agony,
Your reason should amend the failing !

Your friend, your true love, do you flee,

Who never in time nor yet degree

Grieved you : so may the all-knowing He
Save my lorn soul from future wailing.



VII.

Because I was so plain, Arcite,
In all my doings, your delight,
Seeking in all things, where I might

In honour, — meek and kind and free ;
Therefore you do me such despite.

Alas ! howe'er through cruelty

My heart with sorrow's sword you smite,

You cannot kill its love. — Ah me !



252 THE COMPLAINT OF



VIII.



Ah, my sweet foe, why do you so

For shame ?
Think you that praise, in sooth, will raise

Your name,
Loving anew, and being untrue

For aye ?
Thus casting down your manhood's crown

In blame,
And working me adversity,

The same
Who loves you most — (O God, thou know'st !)

Alway ?
Yet turn again — be fair and plain

Some day ;
And then shall this, that seem's amiss,

Be game,
All being forgiv'n, while yet from heav'n

I stav.



ANNELIDA TO FALSE ARCITE. 253



IX.



Behold, dear heart, I write this to obtain
Some knowledge, whether I should pray or 'plaine
Which way is best to force you to be true ?
For either I must have you in my chain,
Or you, sweet, with the death must part us twain ;
There is no mean, no other way more new :
And, that Heaven's mercy on my soul may rue
And let you slay me outright with this pain,
The whiteness in my cheeks may prove to you.

X.

For hitherto mine own death have I sought ;

Myself I murder with my secret thought,

In sorrow and ruth of your unkindnesses !

I weep, I wail, I fast — all helpeth nought,

I flee all joy (I mean the name of aught),

I flee all company, all mirthfulness —

Why, who can make her boast of more distress

Than I ? — To such a plight you have me brought,

Guiltless (I need no witness) ne'ertheless.



254 THE COMPLAINT OF



XL



Shall I go pray and wail my womanhood ?

Compared to such a deed, death's self were good.

What ! ask for mercy, and guiltless — where's the need ?

And if I wailed my life so, — that you would

Care nothing, is less feared than understood :

And if mine oath of love I dared to plead

In mine excuse, — your scorn would be its meed.

Ah, love ! it giveth flowers instead of seed —

Full long ago I might have taken heed.

XII.

And though I had you back to-morrow again,

I might as well hold April from the rain

As hold you to the vows you vowed me last.

Maker of all things, and truth's sovereign,

Where is the truth of man, who hath it slain,

That she who loveth him should find him fast

As in a tempest is a rotten mast ?

Is that a tame beast which is ever fain

To flee us when restraint and fear are past ?



ANNELIDA TO FALSE ARCITE. 255



XIII.

Now mercy, sweet, if I mis-say ; —
Have I said aught is wrong to-day ?
I do not know — my wits' astray —

I fare as doth the song of one who weepeth ;
For now I 'plaine, and now I play —
I am so mazed, I die away —
Arcite you have the key for aye

Of all my world, and all the good it keepeth.



XIV.

And in this world there is not one
Who walketh with a sadder moan,
And bears more grief than I have done

And if light slumbers overcome me,
Methinks your image, in the glory
Of skiey azure, stands before me,
Re-vowing the old love you bore me,

And praying for new mercy from me.



2.56 THE COMPLAINT OF



XV.



Through the long night, this wondrous sight,

Bear I,
Which haunteth still, the daylight, till

I die:
But nought of this, your heart, I wis,

Can reach.
Mine eyes down-pour, they nevermore

Are dry,
While to your ruth, and eke your truth,

I cry —
But, weladay, too far be they

To fetch.
Thus destiny is holding me —

Ah, wretch !
And when I fain would break the chain,

And try —
Faileth my wit (so weak is it)

With speech.






ANNELIDA TO FALSE ARCITE. 257



XVI.



Therefore I end thus, since my hope is o'er-
I give all up both now and evermore ;
And in the balance ne'er again will lay
My safety, nor be studious in love-lore.
But like the swan who, as I heard of yore,
Singeth life's penance on his deathly day,
So I sing here my life and woes away, —
Ay, how you, cruel Arcite, wounded sore,
With memory's point, your poor Annelida.



XVII.

After Annelida, the woeful queen,

Had written in her own hand in this wise,

With ghastly face, less pale than white, I ween,

She fell a-swooning ; then she 'gan arise,

And unto Mars voweth a sacrifice

Within the temple, with a sorrowful bearing,

And in such phrase as meets your present hearing,

EXPLICIT.



THE SQUIRE'S TALE;



MODERNIZED



By LEIGH HUNT.



s 2



NOTE.

" The king of Araba sendith to Cambuscan, king of Sarra, a
horse and a sword of rare qualitie, and to his daughter Canace a
glass and a ring, by the vertue whereof she understandeth the
language of all fowles. Much of this tale is either lost, or else
never finished by Chaucer." — Urry.

This is the story that Milton so admired.

" Or call up him that left half told
The story of Camhuscan hold,
Of Camhall and of Algarsife,
And who had Canace to wife,
That own'd the virtuous ring and glass ;
And of the wonderous horse of brass,
On which the Tartar king did ride."

It is strange that Milton should have pronounced the word
Camhuscan ; nor is it pleasant, when his robust line must be
resounding in the ear of every one to whom the story is called to
mind, to be forced to obey even the greater dictation of the
original, and throw the accent, as it undoubtedly ought to be
thrown, on the last syllable. On no theory as respects Chaucer's
versification, does it appear intelligible how Milton could have
thrown the accent on the second syllable, when the other reading
stares us in the face throughout the poem. Thus much for the
necessity of departing from the great poet's innovation. How far
the attempt to re-versify the poem itself can be considered ex-
cusable, must be left to the brotherly kindness of those fellow-
worshippers of Chaucer, who may think that love will warrant
liherties, which could not be allowed on any other pretension.
But the Introductory Preface to the volume will have anticipated
the writer on this head.






THE SQUIRE'S TALE;



OR,



THE ADVENTURES OF THE TARTAR KING,


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 17 18

Online LibraryGeoffrey ChaucerThe poems of Geoffrey Chaucer modernized → online text (page 15 of 18)