Geoffrey Chaucer.

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Fair-ruthless, Wisdom-knit-to-fortune. Because I love her she
slays me guiltless. Her I love best, and shall whilst I live,
better an hundred thousand times than myself, better than all the
riches and created beings of this world.

Now has not Love bestowed me well, to love where I shall
never have part or lot ! Alas ! so is Fortune's wheel turned for
me, so am I slain with Love's fiery arrow. I can but love her
best, my sweet foe. Love has taught me no more of his art than
ever to serve, and cease for no sorrow.

Within my true, care-worn heart there is so much woe, and
eke so little joy, that woe is me that ever I was born. For all
that I desire I lack, and all that ever I would not have, that, in
sooth, I ever find ready to my hand. And of all this I know
not to whom to complain, for she who might bring me out of
this recks not whether I weep or sing, so little pities she my
pain. Alas ! in sleeping-time I wake; when I should dance I
tremble with fear.

This heavy life I lead for thy sake, though thou pay no heed
thereto, my heart's lady, all my life's queen ! For truly I durst
say it, as I see it : meseems thy sweet heart of steel is now
whetted against me too keenly. My dear heart, foe best-be-
loved, why wilt thou do me all this sorrow ? What have I
done or said to grieve thee, save because I serve and love
thee and none else, and whilst I live will ever? Therefore,
sweet, be not displeased. Thou art so good and fair, it
were a right great wonder unless thou hadst suitors of all
kinds, both good and bad ; and the least worthy of all, I am


Nevertheless, mine own sweet lady, though I be unskilful and
unfit ever to serve thine highness, even as best I knew how, yet
this I swear, there is none fainer than I to do thy pleasure or to
cure whatso I wist to distress thee. And had I as much power
as will, then shouldst thou feel whether it were so or not ; for in
this world is none living who would fainer fulfill thine heart's
desire. For I both love and fear thee so sore, and ever must
and have done right long, that none is better loved, and never
shall be. And yet I would only beg thee to believe me well,
and be not wroth, and let me continue to serve thee. Lo, this
is all ! For I am not so bold or mad as to desire that thou
shouldst love me ; for alas ! well I wot that may not be ; I have
so little worth, and thou so much. For thou art one of the
most excellent of the living, and I the most unlikely to prosper.
Yet, for all this, know thou right well thou shalt not so drive me
from thy service that I shall not ever serve thee faithfully, with
all my five wits, what woe soever I feel. For I am so set upon
thee that though thou never pity me, I must love thee and ever
be as true as any man living can be.

The more I love thee, goodly and noble one, the less I find
thou lovest me. Alas ! when will that obduracy soften? Where
now is all thy womanly pity, thy noble gentleness, thy gra-
ciousness ? Wilt thou spend naught thereof on me ? And so
wholly as I am thine, sweet, and so great will I have to serve
thee, if thus thou let me die, thou hast gained but little there-
from. For I trow I have given no cause. And this I beseech
thee heartily, that if ever thou find, so long as thou livest, a servant
more true to thee than I, then leave me and boldly slay me, and
I will forgive thee all my death. And if thou find no truer man,
why wilt thou suffer me to perish thus, and for no manner of
guilt save my good desire ? As good then be untrue as

But to thy will I submit my life and death, and with a right
obedient heart I pray, do by me as is thy pleasure. Much rather
had I please thee and die than to think or say aught to offend thee
at any time. Therefore pity my bitter pains, sweet, and of thy
grace grant me some drop ; for else neither hope nor happiness
may remain with me. nor abide in my troubled, careworn


The Complaint of Fair Anehda and False Arcite.

Thou fierce god of arms, Mars the red, who in the frosty
country of Thrace art honored as patron of the land within thy
grisly, dreadful temple, be thou present, with Pallas, thy Bellona,
full of grace, and continue and guide my song! Thus I cry to
thee at my beginning. For it is sunk deep in my thought with
pitiful heart to indite in English this old story, which 1 find in
Latin, of Queen Anelida and false Arcite, which Eld, that frets
and gnaws all things, has wellnigh devoured out of our memory
as it has consumed many a noble tale. Eke be thou favorable,
thou Polyhymnia, who with thy blithe sisters on Parnassus, near
Helicon, not far from Cirra, singest with memorial voice in the
shade beneath the unwithering laurel ; and let my ship come safe
to the haven. First I follow Statius, and after him Corinna.

When Theseus with long and arduous wars had overcome
the fierce folk of Scythia, he came back to the homes of his
country, crowned with laurel, in his car of beaten gold. At
which the happy people one and all raised such a clamor that it
rose to the stars, and did their utmost to honor him. Before
this duke came trumpeters, in sign of high victory ; and on his
great banner was the image of Mars. In token of glory men
might see many a load of treasure, many a bright helmet, many
a spear and targe, many a lusty knight and many a joyous com-
pany, on horse, afoot, in all the plain about.

Hippolyta, his wife, the hardy queen of Scythia whom he
had conquered, with her fair young sister, Emily, he brought
with him splendidly in a chariot of gold ; and she illumined all
the ground about her car with the beauty of her face, full of all
liberality and favor. With all his triumph and thus laurel-
crowned, in all the flower of Fortune's gift, I leave this noble
prince Theseus riding on his way to Athens, and I will strive to
bring in soon the story of the devious ways of false Arcite with
Queen Anelida, of which I began to tell.

Mars, who through his furious wrathful course, to fulfill the
ancient wrath of Juno, had set afire the hearts of the people of
both Thebes and Greece to kill each other with bloody spears,
rested never quiet, but thrust among them both, now here, now


there, and made them slay each other, so wroth were they. And
when Amphiaraus and Tydeus and eke Hippomedon and
Parthenopaeus were dead, and proud Capaneus was slain and
eke the two wretched Theban brethren, and King Adrastus gone
to his home, Thebes stood so desolate and bare that no wight
thereof knew any cure for his distress. And when the old Creon
espied how the blood royal was brought down, he held the city
by tyranny, and won the gentles of that country to be his friends
and dwell in the town. So what for love of him, what for fear,
the folk of noble blood were drawn to the town.

Amongst all these Anelida, Queen of Armenia, was dwelling
in that town, fairer than the shining sun ; throughout the world
so spread her name that every wight had desire to look upon
her; for in truth of all the women in this world's domain there
was not her like. This queen was young, twenty years of age,
of middle stature, and of such fairness that nature rejoiced to
behold her ; and to speak of her constancy, she surpassed Penel-
ope and Lucrece. And, if she is to be comprehended in few
words, nothing in her could have been bettered.

This Theban knight Arcite, sooth to say, was also young,
and a lusty knight withal, but he was deceitful in love and no-
wise open, and more subtle than any in that art. With his cun-
ning he won this bright lady ; for so he assured her of his faith-
fulness that she trusted him above any creature. What should
I say more ? She so loved Arcite that, when he was absent any
time, anon she felt her heart burst in twain. For in her sight
he bare him humbly, so that she deemed she knew all his heart ; but
he was false. It was but feigned cheer, such artfulness as men have
no need to learn. Nevertheless he had much ado ere he could win
his lady, and swore he should die for distress, and should go out of
his wits. Alack the while ! For it was ruth and sin that she should
pity his sorrows ; but the false and the true think nowise alike.

Arcite found her generosity such that all that she had, much
or little, was his, and to no creature made she cheer further than
was pleasing to Arcite. There was no fault to find in her ; she
was so devoted to pleasing him that all that pleased him con-
tented her. No manner of letter was sent her from any wight
touching love, but she showed it him ere it was burnt. So open
was she, and did all she could to hide nothing from her knight,


lest he upbraid her with any unfaithfulness ; without tarrying
she obeyed his behest. And he made him jealous over her, so
that, when any man spake to her, anon he would pray her to
swear what that word was, else he would be displeased. Then
she thought to have gone out of her wits ; but all this was only
slyness and flattery. Without love, he feigned to be jealous.
And all this she took so meekly that in every wish of his she
found good reason, and ever more and more tenderly loved him,
and honored him as a king. With a ring was her heart wedded
to him. So was her mind fixed to be faithful that wherever he
went her heart went with him. When she should eat, her mind
was so on him that she scarce heeded her meat, and when she
was brought to her rest, she thought ever of him till she slept.
When he was absent, she wept privily. Thus lived fair Queen
Anelida for false Arcite, who did her all this evil.

In his lust for novelty, because she was so lowly and true to
him, he took the less delight in her constancy, and saw another
lady, a stranger and proud, and anon clad him in her color I
wot not whether white, red or green , and broke faith with the
fair Anelida. Nevertheless it was no great marvel though he
were false, for since the time of Lamech so long ago it has been
the nature of man to be as false in love as ever he can be. Lamech
was the first patriarch who loved two women, and lived in bigamy;
and, unless men lie, he first invented tents. This false Arcite,
when he became false, had to feign somewhat to cover his perfidy,
like a horse that can both bite and whine. So he accused her of
treachery, and swore he espied her double-dealing, and that all she
declared to him was false. Thus swore this thief and went his way.

Alas ! for pity and woe what heart could endure to tell her
sorrow ? Or what man has the cunning or wit ? Or what man
could abide in the chamber if I rehearsed to him the hell which
the fair queen Anelida suffered for the false Arcite, who
brought her all this pain ? She wept and wailed and piteously
swooned, and fell to the ground death-like as a stone, she
writhed her limbs in knots, she spoke as if her wit were gone,
and was all of ashen color. She spoke no other word,
great or small, than, ( Mercy, my cruel heart, Arcite ! ' And
this lasted till she was so spent that she could not sustain her on
her feet, but ever languished in this state.


Arcite at this had neither pity nor sorrow. His heart was
elsewhere in new, blooming love, and deigned not to think on
her woe ; he recked not whether she swam or sank. His new
mistress held him in so tightly by the bridle and under her lash
that he feared every word as an arrow. Her coldness made him bow
and bend, and turn or go as she list ; for never in her life granted
she him any grace of which he list to sing, but ever drove him on ;
scarce cared she to know that he was servant to her ladyship, and
lest he be proud she kept him abased. Thus he served without
fee or hire, and she sent him now on land and now by sea ; and be-
cause she gave him his fill of coldness, she had him at her command.

All ye prudent women, take ensample here from Anelida and
false Arcite ; because she list to call him c dear heart,' and was
so meek, therefore he loved her little. The nature of man's
heart is to delight in what is held back, so may God save me !
For what he cannot have, that would he.

Now return we to Anelida, who day by day pined and lan-
guished. But when she saw that she gained naught, upon a day,
full sorrowfully weeping, she thought to compose a complaint,
and with her own hand she wrote it, and sent it to Arcite, her
Theban knight.

The Complaint of Anelida the Queen upon false Arcite.

The sword of sorrow, whetted with false pleasure, so pierces
with the point of memory my heart, bare of bliss and black in
hue, that all my dancing is turned into quaking, and my confi-
dence into amazement, since it avails not to be loyal ; for she who
is truest shall rue it most, she that serves love and ever devotes
her to one, and changes to no fresh love.

I know it myself as well as any ; for with all my heart and
might I love one an hundred thousand times more than myself,
and called him my heart's life, my knight, and was all his, so far
as was just. And when he was glad, I was blithe ; and his
misease was anon my death. And he in turn plighted me his
troth, evermore to declare me his lady.

Now, alas ! he is false, and without cause ; and so pitiless of my
woe that he deigns not once by a word to bring peace to my sorrow-
ful heart, for he is caught in another leash. He laughs at my pain
as he list, and yet I cannot withhold my heart to love him alway.


And for all this I know not to whom to lament. Alack, hard
hour ! Shall I complain to my foe, who wounded my heart and yet
desires my harm be greater? Nay,certes! Further, I will neverseek
other help to probe my wounds. My destiny decreed all this full
long ago ; I will have none other medicine nor lore. I will ever be
where I was once bound ; what I have once said, be it said forever.

Alas, where is your noble gentleness, your words full of pleas-
ance and humility, your devotion so lowly, your watchfulness
and your attentiveness to me, whom you called your mistress,
your sovereign lady here in this world? Alas, and vouchsafe
you neither words nor kindly look for me in my heaviness ?
Alas, I buy your love all too dearly !

Now certes, sweet, though thus without cause you be the
cause of my mortal adversity, your manly reason ought to refrain
ere you slay your friend, and especially me, who never yet have
in any wise wronged you, so surely as I hope He Who knows
all things may save my soul from woe ! But because I showed
you, Arcite, all that men would write me, and, saving my honor,
had such zeal to please you, was so meek, kind, and generous,
therefore you put blame on me, and reck not a mite of me, though
through your cruelty the sword of sorrow bite my woful heart.

My sweet foe, why do you thus? For shame ! And think
you your repute will be bettered to take a new love and be faithless ?
Nay ! and to put you now into scandal and blame, and bring adver-
sity and grief on me, who (God well knows), ever love you best ?
Yet return some day and be honest again, and then shall this that
is now all wrong turn to mirth and be all forgiven so long as I live.

Lo, dear heart, all this means, shall I make petition, or
lament ? Which is the way to make you true ? For either I
must have you in my chain, or you must part us two by death ;
there are no other new courses betwixt these. For so may God
have pity on my soul, as you verily are slaying me with pains ;
that may you perceive from my hue without deceit. For so far
have I gone toward my death, I murder myself with my privy
brooding. I weep, wake, fast, for piteous sorrow over your
cruelty. Naught avails ; I forsake all joys that I care for, I
avoid company, I flee from gladness ; who may vaunt her better
of heaviness than I ? And into this plight you have brought
me guiltless, for that I need no witness.


And should I petition you, and cast aside womanhood ? Nay,
rather death than do so foul a deed and, innocent, ask mercy !
What need of that? And if I lament my wretched life, you reck
not ; that I know, without doubt. And if I proffer you mine
oaths to excuse me, a mock shall be my reward. Your manner
flowers, but seeds not ; full long ago I should have seen that.

For though I had you back to-morrow, I might as well with-
hold April from rain as hold you to make you steadfast. Almighty
God, Sovereign of truth, where is the truth of men ? Who has
slain it ? Who loves them shall find them as secure as a rotten
mast in a tempest. Is that a tame beast that is fain ever to run
away when he is least affrighted ?

Now have mercy, sweet, if I speak amiss ; have I spoken ill,
I pray ? I wot not; my wit is gone. I fare as the song Chaunte-
pleure ; for now I lament, and now I am mirthful. I am so
astonied that I die. Arcite has carried away the key to all my
world and my good chance. For in this world is no waking
being in more discomfiture than I, none endures more sorrow.
And if I sleep a little time, then methinks your figure stands
before me, clad in the azure of constancy, to proffer again a new
assurance of faithfulness and to pray me for mercy.

This wondrous vision I have through the long night, and in
the day I die of fear. And of all this you reck not a whit, in sooth.
Nevermore are my two eyes dry, and I call upon your pity and
your faith. But alackaday ! they be too far to fetch ! Thus my
destiny keeps me a caitiff. And my wit is so weak, it cannot
stretch to direct or guide me out of this fear.

Then, since I can do no more, I end thus, and give it up now
and forever. For I shall never more put my security in the scales,
or learn the lore of love. But as the swan, I have long heard tell,
sings in his pains before his death, so sing I here my destiny or lot,
how Arcite has pierced Anelida so sore with the point of memory.

When Anelida, this woful queen, had written in this wise with
her own hand, she fell into a swoon, her face as if dead, betwixt pale
and green. And then she arose and with a sorrowful visage vowed
a sacrifice unto Mars within his temple, which was fashioned as
ye shall now hear.

n finished]



Adam my scribe, if thee it ever befall

Boece or Troilus to write anew,

Under thy locks mayst thou have scab and scall,

Unless after my lines thou copy true.

So oft a day thy work I must renew,

And criticise and rub and scrape and waste ;

And all is through thy negligence and haste.


A blissful life, peaceful and sweet, the peoples led in the
former age. They held them content with the fruits they ate,
which the fields were wont to give them. They were not pam-
pered with excess. Unknown were the quern and the mill ;
they fed on nuts, haws and such mast, and drank water from the
cold spring. As yet the ground was not wounded by the plough,
but corn sprang up not sown by man's hand ; this they rubbed
to meal, and ate not half they desired. No man had yet seen
the soil turned in furrows, nor found the fire in the flint; the
vine lay unpruned and uncultivated, no man as yet ground
spices in a mortar to put in wine or sharp sauces. No dyer knew
madder, weld or woad, the fleece remained in its first hue ; no
flesh knew the attack of knife or spear ; man knew no coin, good
or bad ; no ship yet cut the green and azure waves ; no mer-
chant yet fetched foreign wares.

Folk knew no trumpets for the wars, no high towers and
walls square or round. Of what avail to make war ? There lay
no profit, there was no booty. But cursed was the time, I dare
well say, when men first did their sweaty diligence to grub up
metal which lurks in the dark, and first sought gems in the
rivers. Alas! then sprung up all the accursed covetousness
which first brought in our sorrow. These tyrants are not fain
to put them in the press of battle, as Diogenes says, to win a


wilderness or a few bushes where dwells poverty, where victual
is so scarce and poor that naught is there but mast or apples.
But where are money-bags and fat victual, there they will go and
spare for no sin to assail the city with all their host.

As yet were no palace halls or chambers. In caves and
woods sweet and soft slept these blessed folk in perfect peace, on
grass or leaves, protected by no walls. Down of feathers, and
bleached sheets, were not known to them, but in security they
slept. Their hearts were as one, with no spot of soreness, and
each kept his faith to other. The hauberk and the plate-mail
were yet unforged. The lamb-like people, void of all sin, had
no fantasy to contend against each other, but each cherished an-
other tenderly. No pride was there, or envy, avarice, lordship,
tyrannical taxation, but humility, peace, and good faith, the em-
press of all virtues. Jupiter the wanton, first father of delicate
living, was not yet come into the world ; nor had Nimrod, with
lust of rule, built his lofty towers. Alas ! alas ! Well may
men now weep and lament. For in our days is naught but
covetousness and doubleness, treason and envy, poisoning, man-
slaughter and many a sundry murder.

Finit Etas prima. Chaucer s.

Ealades de visage sanz feinture.


Le Pleintif countre Fortune.

This wretched world's mutability, as weal or woe, from
poverty to honor, is governed by wayward Fortune, without
order or wise discernment. Nevertheless, though I die, the lack
of her favor shall not make me sing,

' Pay tout perdu mon temps et mon labour.'

For, once for all, Fortune, I defy thee !

Yet there is left me the light of reason, whereby I may know


friend from foe in thy mirror ; so much thy whirling around,
down and up, have taught me to know in little time. But, in
sooth, no matter for thy rigor to him who has the mastery over
himself. My self-sufficiency shall be mine aid : for, once for
all, Fortune, I defy thee !

Socrates, steadfast champion, she could never break thee !

Thou never dreadedst her tyranny, nor foundest pleasure in her

fair cheer. Thou knewest well the deceit of her fine hues, and

that she prides her most in lying. I too know her to be a false

dissembler : for, once for all, Fortune, I defy thee !


La Respounse de Fortune au Pleintif.

No man is wretched, unless he deem himself so ; and he who
has himself has sufficiency. Why then sayst thou I am so harsh
to thee, who hast thyself free from my control ? Say thus,
* Gramercy for the abundance which thou hast lent ere this.'
Why wilt thou strive ? What knowest thou, how I may yet
advance thee ? And eke thou hast thy best friend yet living !

1 have taught thee to know a friend in deed from a friend in
appearance. Thou needst no gall of the hyena, which cures dim
eyes of their pains ; already thou seest clearly, who wert in dark-
ness. Still thine anchor holds, and still thou mayst come to
that port where bounty carries the key to my riches : and eke
thou hast thy best friend yet living !

How many have I refused sustenance whilst I have cherished
thee in thy pleasant life ! Wilt thou, then, enact a statute
against me thy queen, that I shall ever be at thy command?
Thou art born under my realm of variability, and thou with
others must whirl around the wheel. In my teaching is more
good, than evil in thine affliction. And eke thou hast thy best
friend yet living !


La Respounse du Pleintif countre Fortune.

I condemn thy teaching ; it is but bitterness. Thou canst
not rob me of my best friend, blind goddess ; but that I know


my fair-weather friends, for that I thank thee. Take them back,
let them be put away ; their niggard wealth is augury that thou
wilt assail their fortress. A corrupt appetite ever goes before
sickness. Everywhere this rule shall hold.

La Respounse de Fortune countre le Pleintif.

Thou chidest my mutability, because I lent thee a drop of
my riches and now am pleased to withdraw me. Why shouldst
thou reproach my lordship ? The sea may ebb and flow, more
and less ; the welkin has the right to shine, rain or hail ; even
so may I show mine instability. Everywhere this rule shall

Lo, the execution of that majestic Providence which oversees
all things in righteousness, that same thing ye call Fortune^ ye
blind ignorant beasts ! Heaven by nature is stable, this world is
ever in restless travail ; thy last day is the end of my part in
thee. Everywhere this rule shall hold.

U Envoy de Fortune.

Princes, I pray you of your noble courtesy, let not this man
thus chide and cry out upon me, and I will reward you for your
trouble at my request, be there three of you or two. And, un-

Online LibraryGeoffrey ChaucerThe complete poetical works of Geoffrey Chaucer → online text (page 34 of 57)