Geoffrey Chaucer.

The complete poetical works of Geoffrey Chaucer online

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more can I say than that I will serve you as your very slave,
whithersoever you go, forever unto my life's end ?

f But here I beseech you heartily that you never fancy in me
such folly as this, methought I saw in your speech your fear
that I might deem what you are doing for me for friendship's


sake to be the acts of a bawd. I am not mad, though I be un-
lettered ; I know well the difference, perdy. He that goes on
such a message for gold or riches, call him what you will ; but
this which you do, call it a gentle deed, and compassion and
fellowship and trustfulness. All men know that distinctions
must be made betwixt things that look alike. And that you
may know I think not this service of yours to be a shame or
scorn, here is my fair sister Polyxena, or Cassandra or Helen or
any of the company ; be she never so fair and shapely, tell me
whichever of all you will have for yours, and let me alone to
give her you ! But since you have done me this benefit, to save
my life and out of no hope of reward, now for the love of God
perform this great emprise to the end, for now is greatest need,
and I will ever obey all your behests, great and small. So now
good-night, and let us both sleep.'

Thus was each of them well content with the other, so that all
the world could not have made them more so. On the mor-
row, when they were up and arrayed, each went about his own
affairs. But Troilus, though hope and pleasure made him burn
in the sharp flames of desire, forgot not his prudent self-control,
but restrained in manly wise each hasty act and unbridled look, so
that not a living person could have known by word or manner
what was in his mind. His true thoughts were as far as the
clouds from every wight, so well he could dissemble. And all
this time that I am speaking of, this was his life : by day with
all his power he served Mars in knightly arms, and for the most
part he lay the long night and thought how he might best serve
his lady and win her thanks. And though he lay full soft, I
will not say that he was not somewhat discomforted in his
thoughts, and that he turned not often on his pillows, and often
longed not after the thing he lacked. In such cases, for aught
I know, other men find it not all pleasure, any more than he
did. But meanwhile, to come to the main thing, it certainly is
written in the story that he saw his lady sometimes, and also
that she spoke with him when she durst and would, and that
they both considered full warily how they should proceed in
everything in this matter. But they spoke so hurriedly and in
such watchful dread lest any wight should guess or overhear,
that more than aught else they wished that Cupid would let


them have their say out. But in the little that they spoke ot
did together, he was so heedful of all, that he seemed to her to
know what she thought without a word from her, so that she
had no need to ask him to do aught, or to forbid aught ; where-
fore it seemed to her that love, though it had come late, was
opening to her the door to all joys. And, briefly to pass on in
this tale, he so well employed his words and acts that he stood
fully in his lady's grace, and twenty thousand times before she
was done she thanked God that ever she had met with him ;
so well he knew how to bear himself in this lover's-service
that no one in the world could have shown a better way. For
she found him in all things so discreet, so secret and so com-
pliant, that she felt he was to her a wall of steel, a shield against
everything displeasing, so that she was no longer afraid to
be under the governance of so prudent a man, I mean so far
as the case required.

And to keep up this fire Pandarus was ever alike ready and
diligent: all his thoughts were set on easing his friend, and ever
he pushed on. He was sent to and fro, he fetched letters when
Troilus was away. Never a wight bore himself better to help
his friend in time of need.

But now peradventure some man may look for me to rehearse
every word or message, every look or smile of Troilus to his lady
dear in all this time. I trow that were long to listen to, or to
show all the words or every look of a man that stands in such a
plight ! In sooth I have never heard it done in any story, nor
anyone here, I trow. I could not tell it all, though I would,
for, as mine author says, there was one letter passed betwixt them
that may well have contained a hundred verses, which he list not
write of; how then should I endite a line of it ?

But now to the consummation of it all. I say this, that,
whilst these two were in quiet and concord, as I have said, dur-
ing this time that was so sweet, save only that they could not
often come together or have leisure to say all they would, Pan-
darus thought he had found a time for that which he had long
striven for, to bring some time his fair niece and Troilus together
at his house, where all this high matter of their love might be
fully unraveled at leisure. Earnestly deliberating, he had fore-
seen and executed everything which might help his plan, and had


spared no cost or labor. Let them come if they would, nothing
should be lacking to them. And as to being espied there at all,
that he knew to be impossible. Of a surety the wind was clear
of every prating magpie and every spoil-sport ; thus all was well,
for all the world was blind to the thing. The timber is all ready
to set up ; naught is lacking but that we should know the hour
in which she is to come.

Troilus, who knew fully of all this planning and watched it
longingly, had founded his own plans upon it and devised his pre-
text, namely, that, if he were missed night or day whilst he was
about this love-matter, he was gone to do sacrifice, and must watch
alone at such and such a temple to receive an answer of Apollo,
and to see the holy laurel-tree shake before Apollo spoke from
it, to tell him when the Greeks should flee. Therefore let no man
hinder him (God forbid !), but rather pray Apollo to speed him !

Now there was little more to do ; but Pandarus was up and at
it, and (in brief) just after the changing of the moon, when the
world is lightless a night or two, and when the heavens seemed
preparing a rain, he went straightway on a morning to his niece,
with what intent you have all heard. When he was come, he be-
gan to make sport as he was wont; and to make a mock of him-
self, and finally he swore by that and this that she should not
evade him or make him longer gape after her, but she must cer-
tainly vouchsafe to come and sup in his house that evening. At
which she laughed and made excuses, and said, ' It is raining,
why, how can I go ? '

' A truce to this,' he replied ; f stand not thus debating !
This must be done, and you shall soon be there.'

So at the last they agreed upon it ; otherwise, as he softly
swore to her in her ear, he would never come where she was
again. And she began sportively to whisper him, and asked if
Troilus were to be there. Nay, he swore to her, for he was out
of town, and added, 'Supposing he were, niece, you need never
have the more fear, for rather than folk should espy him there,
I would die a thousand times.'

Mine author list not fully declare what she thought when he
told her that Troilus was gone out of town, whether she thought
he spoke truth therein or no; but he says that without more
delay she agreed to go with him, since he begged her, and gave


him due obedience as his niece. But nevertheless she besought
him, though there were no real cause of fear, to beware the talk
of goosish people, who fancy things that never were, and to con-
sider well whom he brought to his house. ' Uncle, since I must
trust you,' she said, 'look that all be well, for I am doing as you
wish.' He swore this to her, by stock and stone and by the
gods that dwell in heaven ; or else, flesh and blood, he would
abide with King Pluto as deep in hell as Tantalus ! Why should
I make a long story ? When all was fixed, he arose and took

That night she came to supper, with a certain attendance of
her own men, and her fair niece Antigone and eight or nine
other of her women. But who was glad now ? Who but
Troilus, think you, that stood and saw them through a little
window in a closet where he was mewed up till midnight, unwitting
to everybody but Pandarus ? But now to our point. When
she was come, with all joy and friendly greeting her uncle took
her anon in his arms, and after, when the time came, one and all
sat them down full quietly to the supper. God wot, there was
no dainty needed to be fetched ! After supper they rose, well
content with the world, and with hearts lusty and glad. Happy
was he who had the best device to please her, or who made her
laugh ! One sang, another played, one told a tale of Wade's
boat. But at the last, as everything comes to an end, she must
be going home, and took leave.

But ah, Fortune, executrix of destiny ! Ah, influences of the
high heavens ! True it is that, under God, ye are our governors,
though the manner be veiled from us beasts ! This I say now,
that Criseyde was about to hasten homeward ; but all without
her leave the gods' will was executed, wherefore she must remain.
The bent moon with her pale horns, and Saturn and Jupiter,
were conjunct in Cancer, so that such a rain came down from
heaven that every woman there was in a very fright for that
pounding rain ; at which Pandarus laughed and said, ' Now
were the time for a lady to get her hence ! But, good niece, if I
ever pleased you in anything, I beg you now to do my heart
such a pleasure as to remain here all night with me ; for niece,
this is your own house, perdy ! Now, by my troth, I say it
not in sport, for you to go now would shame me.'


Criseyde, who had as much prudence as half the world all
together, took heed of his request, and since it rained so and all
was a-flood, she thought, * I may as well remain and agree
gladly, with a friendly cheer, and win his thanks, as grumble and
then remain ; for as to going home, that may not be. I will,'
she said, ' sweet dear uncle ; since you wish me, it is only reason,
and I am right glad to remain here with you, and I was but jest-
ing when I said I would go.'

' Gramercy, niece, verily,' he said. 'Whether you were
jesting or no, I am right glad now that you will remain.'

Thus far all was well. And then again began new joy and
festivity. But Pandarus would fain, if he could in manners, have
hastened her to bed ; and said, c Lord, this is a huge rain, this is
a storm to sleep through, and my counsel is that we soon begin
to try ! And, niece, know you where I shall lodge you ?
Right yonder in my little inner chamber, that you may hear no
noise of thunder or of rain, and I alone in the outer house will
be guardian of all your women. They shall all sleep soft and
well in this middle chamber that you see here, and you shall be
there within ; and if you rest well to-night, come often, whatever
weather is above you, The wine anon! Whenever you are
ready, it is time to go to rest.'

There is nothing more to say but that straightway they
drank their final draught, and drew curtains, and every wight
that had no more business there went out of the chamber. And
evermore it rained and blew so marvellous loud that scarce could
one hear another. Then her uncle Pandarus, as was fitting, with
such of her women as were most privy with her, brought her full
cheerily to her bed's side, and took his leave, bowing full low
and saying, ' Without this chamber door and just across, lie all
your women, so that you may call hither whom you will of
them.' So when she was laid down in the inner chamber, and
all her women in order a-bed as I have told, there was no more
skipping or tramping about ; but if any man were anywhere stir-
ring he was bidden get to bed, Devil take him ! and let those
who were a-bed get to sleep.

But Pandarus, who knew well the old game and every point
of it, when he saw that all was well so far, thought he would
begin his work. He softly undid Troilus' closet door, sat down


by him as still as a stone, and (to come briefly to the point) told
him every word of all this thing, and said, c Make you ready
anon, for you shall go into the bliss of heaven ! '

c Now Saint Venus,' quoth Troilus, f send me grace, for never
yet such need had I before, nor half the fear ! '

' Fear never a bit,' said Pandarus, f for it shall be even as
you would have it. By my thrift, this night shall I make all
well, or else cast all the gruel in the fire ! '

* Yet do thou inspire me, blessed Venus,' quoth Troilus, * as
surely as I serve thee now and ever shall better and better till I
die ! And, O mirthful goddess, if I had evil aspects of Mars or
Saturn when I was born, or thou wert combust or feeble, pray
thy father of his grace to turn away all that harm, that I may go
my way rejoicing, for the love of him whom thou didst love in
the wood-shaw, I mean Adonis, that was slain by the boar.
And help, Jove, for the love of fair Europa, whom thou in
the form of a bull didst fetch away ! Mars, with thy bloody
mantle, hinder me not, for the love of the Cyprian dame!
Phoebus, think how Daphne shut herself under the bark and far
fear became a laurel-tree ; yet for her love, help me now at this
need ! Mercury too, for the love of Herse, for which Pallas
was wroth with Aglaurus, now help ! And Diana, I beseech thee
that this emprise be not hateful to thee ! O three fatal sisters,
who spun me my destiny ere any garment was shapen for me,
now help this work that is beginning ! '

1 You wretched mouse's heart ! ' quoth Pandarus. c Are you
aghast that she will bite you ? Why, don this furred cloak over
your shirt and follow me. I will take the blame ! But abide,
and let me go before a little.' With that word he began to undo
a trap, and led Troilus in by the skirt of his garment.

The stern wind snorted so loud that no wight could hear any
other noise, and they who lay without the door were all safely
asleep. Pandarus with a full sober cheer went anon to the door
where they lay and softly shut it. As he was coming back
privily, his niece awoke and asked, c Who is walking there ? '

c My dear niece,' quoth he, * it is I. Wonder not at it, and
fear not.' And he came close and said in her ear, { Not a word,
for the love of God, I beseech you ! Let no wight arise and
hear us talking.'


f Why, benedicite^ what way came you in,' she asked, ' thus
without their knowing?'

' Here at this little trap-door,' said he.

* Let me call someone,' she said then.

c Eh, God forbid that you should do such a folly ! ' quoth
Pandarus. f They might imagine what they have never once
thought of. It is not good to wake a sleeping hound, nor to
give any wight cause for conjecturing. I will be bound yo^r
women are all asleep, and will be till sun-up, so that, for all them,
men could mine the house. And when I have said all my say,
I will go away unnoticed even as I came.

1 Now, my niece, you must understand, as all you women will
grant, that for a woman to hold a man long time in hand and let
him call her "sweeting" and "dear heart," and then clap a cox-
comb above his hood, I mean love another all this time, she
beguiles him and shames herself. Now why tell I you all this ?
You wot yourself as well as any that your love is fully granted to
Troilus, the worthiest knight of this world, and you have thereto
plighted your troth ; so that, unless it were his fault, you should
never be false to him whilst you live. Now it stands thus :
since I left you, Troilus, to speak out flatly, has come in all this
rain over a gutter by a secret route into my chamber, quite
unknown to everyone save to myself, I swear by the faith I owe
King Priam. And in such pain and distress he has come that,
unless by now he is quite mad, he must speedily fall into mad-
ness, without God's help. And the cause why is this, he says
he has been told by a friend that you are said to love another,
named Horastes, for sorrow at which this night is to be the end
of all for him ! '

Criseyde, when she heard all this strange talk, began to grow
cold about her heart, and answered straightway with a sigh,
1 Alas, I believed that, whoso told tales, my dear heart would not
so lightly hold me false ! Alas for mistaken fancies, what harm
they do ! Now I have lived too long! Horastes! And
beguile Troilus ! I know him not, so God help me ! Alas,
what wicked spirit told such a thing ? Now certes, uncle, if I see
him to-morrow, I will as fully acquit myself of that as ever
woman did, if he will have me. Oh God ! ' she sighed, ' how
worldly happiness, that clerks call false felicity, is mingled with


many a bitterness ! God wot, the condition of vain prosperity is
full of anguish, for either joys come not together or else they will
not last. Oh fickle weal, and unstable earthly joy ! With
whatsoever wight thou showest thee merry, either he knows thou
art changeful or knows it not ; it must be one of the twain.
Now if he knows it not, how can he say that he has true joy and
bliss, who is ever in the darkness of ignorance? And if he
knows that joy is fleeting, as every worldly joy must needs be,
then every time he remembers this, the dread of losing joy
keeps him from perfect happiness : and if he cares a farthing to
lose his joy, it must seem that joy is worth full little. Where-
fore I must conclude thus, that verily, for aught I can see, there
is no true weal here in this world. But ah jealousy, thou wicked
serpent, thou misbelieving envious folly, why hast thou made
Troilus distrust me, who never yet wittingly offended him ? '

c This matter has befallen thus, ' Pandarus began.

c Why, uncle mine,' she cried, 'who told him such a thing?
Alas ! why does my dear heart thus ? '

t You know, my niece, what it is,' said he. * I hope all that
is amiss shall yet be well ; you can quench all this if you will.
And I believe it is best that you do right so.'

( So I will to-morrow, in truth, before God,' she said, c so
that it shall suffice.'

* To-morrow ? Alas, that were a fair deed ! ' he replied.
' Nay, nay, it may not stand so, for clerks write that peril goes
with delay ; nay, such dallying is not worth a bean. There is a
time for everything, I dare avow. When a chamber or a hall is
afire there is more need to save it promptly than to dispute and
ask about, " How did that candle fall into the straw ? ' Ah,
benedicite I in all this pother the harm is done, and farewell,
fieldfare ! And now, my niece, take this not ill, but if you suf-
fer him to be all night in this #oe, so God help me, you never
loved him ; here betwixt you and me alone I am bold to say
that. But I know well you will not do so, you are too wise to
do so great folly as to jeopardize his life all night.'

* I never loved him ? By heaven, I trow you never loved
aught so well,' said she.

' By my thrift now,' quoth he, ( we shall see that. For
since you make this comparison with me, if I would see him all


night in sorrow for all the treasure in Troy-town I pray God I
may never see happiness again ! Look now, if you that are his
Jove put his life in jeopardy all night for a thing of naught, by
the God above us this delay comes not only from folly but
from malice, and that I swear to. What ! I tell you flatly,
if you leave him in his pain it is neither a wise nor a gentle
deed ! '

'You may do one thing,' answered Criseyde, ' and therewith
cure his distress. Take this blue ring and bear it to him, for
there is nothing might better please him, save I myself, or
more rest his heart. And tell my dear heart that his grief is
causeless, and that he shall see to-morrow.'

' A ring ? ' quoth he. ' Yea, the hazel-woods shake ! Ah,
niece, that ring should have a stone that could make dead men
live, and such a ring I trow you have not ! Discretion is gone
clean out of your head, that I can see, and more is the pity !
Ah time lost, well thou mayst curse sloth ! Know you not
that a noble and high heart neither sorrows nor is calmed for a
little thing? Were a fool in a jealous rage, I should not care a
farthing for his sorrow, but should present him with a few soft
words some day when I should chance to see him. But this
thing stands in quite another fashion. This man is so noble
and so tender of heart that he will wreak his sorrow on himself
by his own death, for trust well, however he may suffer, he will
speak no jealous word to you. And therefore before you break
his heart, niece, speak yourself to him of this matter, for with a
single word you can control his heart. Now I have told you
his peril, and his coming is unknown to everybody, and there
can be no harm or sin in it, perdy. I will be with you myself all
the time. You know how he is your own knight and that by
rights you ought to trust him ; so I am all ready to fetch him
when you say the word.'

All this tale was so piteous to hear, and sounded at first
thought so like a truth, and Troilus her knight was so dear to
her, that, what with his privy coming and the security of the
place, it is no wonder she granted him such a favor, since she
did all in innocence. c So God rest my soul,' she answered, f as
I am truly sorry for him ! And if heaven grant me grace, I
fain would do the best I can. But in faith, unless God send me


better guidance, I am right at my wit's end on the pons asinorum,
whether you stay or go for him ! '

4 Ah, niece, but listen,' quoth Pandarus ; 'pons asinorum is
the bridge of asses ; it seems hard that asses will never learn for
very sloth and wilfulness. But this is only for those who are
not worth two peas in any case ; you are wise, and know that this
cause of mine is neither hard, nor reasonable to withstand.'

1 Well, uncle,' she replied, * do herein as you will. But be-
fore he comes I will first arise ; and for the love of God, since
all my trust is on you two prudent men, now manage so dis-
creetly that I may keep my fair name as well as he his happiness,
for I am here in your power.'

1 That is well said, dear niece,' he replied ; ' blessings on
that wise, gentle heart ! But lie still, you need not spring up
for him ; receive him even here, and each of you for God's
love relieve the other's pain ! And ah ! Venus, I praise thee,
for I hope soon we shall be all merry.'

Full soon Troilus was on his knees even at her bedside,
and full soberly in his best wise greeted his lady. But Lord !
how red she waxed all suddenly ! Nor, though men would
have cut her neck asunder, could she have brought out a word,
for his sudden coming. But Pandarus, whose feeling was so
quick in every case, began anon to make sport, and said,
( Niece, see how this lord can kneel now to beg for your troth !
Only see this nobleman now ! ' And with that word he ran
for a cushion and said, f Kneel now as long as you will ! And
may God soon bring your hearts to rest ! '

If she let him kneel for a time, I cannot say whether sorrow
made her forget, or whether she took it as only due from her
suitor ; but well I wot that she did him thus much pleasure,
that she kissed him, though she was sighing sore, and then
bade him sit down.

' Now you shall make a fair beginning,' quoth Pandarus.
' Now, good dear niece, make him sit within there upon your
bedside, that each may hear the other better.' And at that
he drew toward the fire, and took a light and showed himself
busy at looking over an old romance.

Criseyde, who felt herself truly Troilus' lady and upon a
clear ground of sureness, thought her servant and knight should


not have fancied any falsity in her ; yet nevertheless, considering
his distress and that greatness of love is one cause of such folly,
she spoke thus gently to him of his jealousy. ( Lo, my dear
heart, it is the excellent glory of love, against which no man
can or ought to make resistance, that drives me thus to take
pity on your pain, and also because I know your heart to be
all mine, and I have felt well and always seen your great fidelity
and daily service and your constant goodness ; for which, my
dear heart and own knight, I thank you as far as my wit
extends, though I cannot as much as were right. And to the
extent of my knowledge and power I ever have been, and shall
be whatever it may cost me, true to you and wholly yours with
all my heart, and doubt you not that the test shall find it so.

Online LibraryGeoffrey ChaucerThe complete poetical works of Geoffrey Chaucer → online text (page 41 of 57)