The Legend of Good Women/The Legend of Ariadne

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The Legend of Good Women by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Legend of Ariadne

The Legend of Ariadne[edit]

  Iuge Infernal, Minos, of Crete king,
  Now cometh thy lot, now comestow on the ring;
  Nat for thy sake only wryte I this storie,
  But for to clepe agein unto memorie
1890 Of Theseus the grete untrouthe of love;
  For which the goddes of the heven above
  Ben wrothe, and wreche han take for thy sinne.
  Be reed for shame! now I thy lyf beginne.
 
  Minos, that was the mighty king of Crete,
  That hadde an hundred citees stronge and grete,
  To scole hath sent his sone Androgeus,
  To Athenes; of the whiche hit happed thus,
  That he was slayn, lerning philosphye,
  Right in that citee, nat but for envye.
 
1900 The grete Minos, of the whiche I speke,
  His sones deeth is comen for to wreke;
  Alcathoe he bisegeth harde and longe,
  But natheles the walles be so stronge,
  And Nisus, that was king of that citee,
  So chivalrous, that litel dredeth he;
  Of Minos or his ost took he no cure,
  Til on a day befel an aventure,
  That Nisus doghter stood upon the wal,
  And of the sege saw the maner al,
1910 So happed hit, that, at a scarmishing,
  She caste her herte upon Minos the king,
  For his beautee and for his chivalrye,
  So sore, that she wende for to dye.
  And, shortly of this proces for to pace,
  She made Minos winnen thilke place,
  So that the citee was al at his wille,
  To saven whom him list, or elles spille;
  But wikkedly he quitte her kindenesse,
  And let her drenche in sorowe and distresse,
1920 Nere that the goddes hadde of her pite;
  But that tale were to long as now for me.
 
  Athenes wan this king Minos also,
  And Alcathoe and other tounes mo;
  And this theffect, that Minos hath so driven
  Hem of Athenes, that they mote him yiven
  Fro yere to yere her owne children dere
  For to be slayn, as ye shul after here.
 
  This Minos hath a monstre, a wikked beste,
  That was so cruel that, without areste,
1930 Whan that a man was broght in his presence,
  He wolde him ete, ther helpeth no defence.
  And every thridde yeer, with-outen doute,
  They casten lot, and, as hit com aboute
 
  On riche, on pore, he moste his sone take,
  And of his child he moste present make
  Unto Minos, to save him or to spille,
  Or lete his beste devoure him at his wille.
  And this hath Minos don, right in despyt;
  To wreke his sone was set al his delyt,
1940 And maken hem of Athenes his thral
  Fro yere to yere, whyl that he liven shal;
  And hoom he saileth whan this toun is wonne.
  This wikked custom is so longe y-ronne
  Til that of Athenes king Egeus
  Mot sende his owne sone, Theseus,
  Sith that the lot is fallen him upon,
  To be devoured, for grace is ther non.
  And forth is lad this woful yonge knight
  Unto the court of king Minos ful right,
1950 And in a prison, fetered, cast is he
  Til thilke tyme he sholde y-freten be.
 
  Wel maystow wepe, O woful Theseus,
  That art a kinges sone, and dampned thus.
  Me thinketh this, that thou were depe y-holde
  To whom that saved thee fro cares colde!
  And now, if any woman helpe thee,
  Wel oughtestow her servant for to be,
  And been her trewe lover yeer by yere!
  But now to come ageyn to my matere.
 
1960 The tour, ther as this Theseus is throwe
  Doun in the botom derke and wonder lowe,
  Was ioyning in the walle to a foreyne;
  And hit was longing to the doghtren tweyne
  Of king Minos, that in hir chambres grete
  Dwelten above, toward the maister-strete,
  In mochel mirthe, in Ioye and in solas.
  Not I nat how, hit happed ther, per cas,
  As Theseus compleyned him by nighte,
  The kinges doghter, Adrian that highte,
1970 And eek her suster Phedra, herden al
  His compleyning, as they stode on the wal
  And lokeden upon the brighte mone;
  Hem leste nat to go to bedde sone.
  And of his wo they had compassioun;
  A kinges sone to ben in swich prisoun
  And be devoured, thoughte hem gret pitee.
 
  Than Adrian spak to her suster free,
  And seyde, "Phedra, leve suster dere,
  This woful lordes sone may ye nat here,
1980 How pitously compleyneth he his kin,
  And eek his pore estat that he is in,
  And gilteless? now certes, hit is routhe!
  And if ye wol assenten, by my trouthe,
  He shal be holpen, how so that we do!"
 
  Phedra answerde, "y-wis, me is as wo
  For him as ever I was for any man;
  And, to his help, the beste reed I can
  Is that we doon the gayler prively
  To come, and speke with us hastily,
1990 And doon this woful man with him to come.
  For if he may this monstre overcome,
  Than were he quit; ther is noon other bote.
  Lat us wel taste him at his herte-rote,
  That, if so be that he a wepen have,
  Wher that he dar, his lyf to kepe and save,
  Fighten with this fend, and him defende.
  For, in the prison, ther he shal descende,
  Ye wite wel, that the beste is in a place
  That nis nat derk, and hath roum eek and space
2000 To welde an ax or swerd or staf or knyf,
  So that, me thinketh, he sholde save his lyf;
  If that he be a man, he shal do so.
  And we shul make him balles eek also
  Of wexe and towe, that, whan he gapeth faste,
  Into the bestes throte he shal hem caste
  To slake his hunger and encombre his teeth;
  And right anon, whan that Theseus seeth
  The beste achoked, he shal on him lepe
  To sleen him, or they comen more to-hepe.
2010 This wepen shal the gayler, or that tyde,
  Ful privily within the prison hyde;
  And, for the hous is crinkled to and fro,
  And hath so queinte weyes for to go --
  For hit is shapen as the mase is wroght --
  Therto have I a remedie in my thoght,
  That, by a clewe of twyne, as he hath goon,
  The same wey he may returne anoon,
  Folwing alwey the threed, as he hath come.
  And, what that he this beste hath overcome,
2020 Then may he fleen awey out of this drede,
  And eek the gayler may he with him lede,
  And him avaunce at hoom in his contree,
  Sin that so greet a lordes sone is he.
  This is my reed, if that he dar hit take."
 
  What sholde I lenger sermoun of hit make?
  The gayler cometh, and with him Theseus.
  And whan thise thinges been acorded thus,
  Adoun sit Theseus upon his knee: --
  "The righte lady of my lyf," quod he,
2030 "I, sorweful man, y-dampned to the deeth,
  Fro yow, whyl that me lasteth lyf or breeth,
  I wol nat twinne, after this aventure,
  But in your servise thus I wol endure,
  That, as a wrecche unknowe, I wol yow serve
  For ever-mo, til that myn herte sterve.
  Forsake I wol at hoom myn heritage,
  And, as I seide, ben of your court a page,
  If that ye vouche-sauf that, in this place,
  Ye graunte me to han so gret a grace
2040 That I may han nat but my mete and drinke;
  And for my sustenance yit wol I swinke,
  Right as yow list, that Minos ne no wight --
  Sin that he saw me never with eyen sight --
  Ne no man elles, shal me conne espye;
  So slyly and so wel I shal me gye,
  And me so wel disfigure and so lowe,
  That in this world ther shal no man me knowe,
  To han my lyf, and for to han presence
  Of yow, that doon to me this excellence.
2050 And to my fader shal I senden here
  This worthy man, that is now your gaylere,
  And, him to guerdon, that he shal wel be
  Oon of the grettest men of my contree.
  And yif I dorste seyn, my lady bright,
  I am a kinges sone, and eek a knight;
  As wolde god, yif that hit mighte be
  Ye weren in my contree, alle three,
  And I with yow, to bere yow companyee,
  Than shulde ye seen yif that I ther-of lye!
2060 And, if I profre yow in low manere
  To ben your page and serven yow right here,
  But I yow serve as lowly in that place,
  I prey to Mara to yive me swiche a grace
  That shames deeth on me ther mote falle,
  And deeth and povert to my frendes alle;
  And that my spirit by nighte mote go
  After my deeth, and walke to and fro;
  That I mote of a traitour have a name,
  For which my spirit go, to do me shame!
2070 And yif I ever claime other degree,
  But-if ye vouche-sauf to yive hit me,
  As I have seid, of shames deeth I deye!
  And mercy, lady! I can nat elles seye!"
 
  A seemly knight was Theseus to see,
  And yong, but of a twenty yeer and three;
  But who-so hadde y-seyn his countenaunce,
  He wolde have wept, for routhe of his penaunce;
  For which this Adriane in this manere
  Answerde to his profre and to his chere.
 
2080 "A kinges sone, and eek a knight," quod she,
  "To been my servant in so low degree,
  God shilde hit, for the shame of women alle!
  And leve me never swich a cas befalle!
  But sende yow grace and sleighte of herte also,
  Yow to defende and knightly sleen your fo,
  And leve herafter that I may yow finde
  To me and to my suster here so kinde,
  That I repente nat to give yow lyf!
  Yit were hit better that I were your wyf,
2090 Sin that ye been as gentil born as I,
  And have a reaume, nat but faste by,
  Then that I suffred giltles yow to sterve,
  Or that I let yow as a page serve;
  Hit is not profit, as unto your kinrede;
  But what is that that man nil do for drede?
  And to my suster, sin that hit is so
  That she mot goon with me, if that I go,
  Or elles suffre deeth as wel as I,
  That ye unto your sone as trewely
2100 Doon her be wedded at your hoom-coming.
  This is the fynal ende of al this thing;
  Ye swere hit heer, on al that may be sworn."
 
  "Ye, lady myn," quod he, "or elles torn
  Mote I be with the Minotaur to-morwe!
  And haveth her-of my herte-blood to borwe,
  Yif that ye wile; if I had knyf or spere,
  I wolde hit leten out, and ther-on swere,
  For than at erst I wot ye wil me leve.
  By Mars, that is the cheef of my bileve,
2110 So that I mighte liven and nat faile
  To-morwe for tacheve my bataile,
  I nolde never fro this place flee,
  Til that ye shuld the verray preve see.
  For now, if that the sooth I shal yow say,
  I have y-loved yow ful many a day,
  Thogh ye ne wiste hit nat, in my contree.
  And aldermost desyred yow to see
  Of any erthly living creature;
  Upon my trouthe I swere, and yow assure,
2120 Thise seven yeer I have your servant be;
  Now have I yow, and also have ye me,
  My dere herte, of Athenes duchesse!"
 
  This lady smyleth at his stedfastnesse,
  And at his hertly wordes, and his chere,
  And to her suster seide in this manere,
  Al softely, "now, suster myn," quod she,
  "Now be we duchesses, bothe I and ye,
  And sikered to the regals of Athenes,
  And bothe her-after lykly to be quenes,
2130 And saved fro his deeth a kinges sone,
  As ever of gentil women is the wone
  To save a gentil man, emforth hir might,
  In honest cause, and namely in his right.
  Me thinketh no wight oghte her-of us blame,
  Ne beren us ther-for an evel name."
 
  And shortly of this matere for to make,
  This Theseus of her hath leve y-take,
  And every point performed was in dede
  As ye have in this covenant herd me rede.
2140 His wepen, his clew, his thing that I have said,
  Was by the gayler in the hous y-laid
  Ther as this Minotaur hath his dwelling,
  Right faste by the dore, at his entring.
  And Theseus is lad unto his deeth,
  And forth un-to this Minotaur he geeth,
  And by the teching of this Adriane
  He overcom this beste, and was his bane;
  And out he cometh by the clewe again
  Ful prevely, whan he this beste hath slain;
2150 And by the gayler geten hath a barge,
  And of his wyves tresor gan hit charge,
  And took his wyf, and eek her suster free,
  And eek the gayler, and with hem alle three
  Is stole awey out of the lond by nighte,
  And to the contre of Ennopye him dighte
  Ther as he had a frend of his knowinge.
  Ther fasten they, ther dauneen they and singe;
  And in his armes hath this Adriane,
  That of the beste hath kept him from his bane;
2160 And gat him ther a newe barge anoon,
  And of his contree-folk a ful gret woon,
  And taketh his leve, and hoomward saileth he.
  And in an yle, amid the wilde see,
  Ther as ther dwelte creature noon
  Save wilde bestes, and that ful many oon,
  He made his ship a-londe for to sette;
  And in that yle half a day he lette,
  And seide, that on the lond he moste him reste.
  His mariners han doon right as him leste;
2170 And, for to tellen shortly in this cas,
  Whan Adriane his wyf a-slepe was,
  For that her suster fairer was than she,
  He taketh her in his hond, and forth goth he
  To shippe, and as a traitour stal his way
  Whyl that this Adriane a-slepe lay,
  And to his contree-ward he saileth blyve --
  A twenty devil way the wind him dryve! --
  And fond his fader drenched in the see.
 
  Me list no more to speke of him, parde;
2180 Thise false lovers, poison be hir bane!
  But I wol turne again to Adriane
  That is with slepe for werinesse atake.
  Ful sorwefully her herte may awake.
  Allas! for thee my herte hath now pite!
  Right in the dawning awaketh she,
  And gropeth in the bedde, and fond right noght.
  "Allas!" quode she, "that ever I was wroght!
  I am betrayed!" and her heer to-rente,
  And to the stronde bar-fot faste she wente,
2190 And cryed, "Theseus! myn herte swete!
  Wher be ye, that I may nat with yow mete,
  And mighte thus with bestes been y-slain?"
 
  The holwe rokkes answerde her again;
  No man she saw, and yit shyned the mone,
  And hye upon a rokke she wente sone,
  And saw his barge sailing in the see.
  Cold wex her herte, and right thus seide she.
  "Meker than ye finde I the bestes wilde!"
  Hadde he nat sinne, that her thus begylde?
2200 She cryed, "O turne again, for routhe and sinne!
  Thy barge hath nat al his meiny inne!"
  Her kerchef on a pole up stikked she,
  Ascaunce that he sholde hit wel y-see,
  And him remembre that she was behinde,
  And turne again, and on the stronde her finde;
  But al for noght; his wey he is y-goon.
  And doun she fil a-swown upon a stoon;
  And up she rist, and kiste, in al her care,
  The steppes of his feet, ther he hath fare,
2210 And to her bedde right thus she speketh tho: --
  "Thou bed," quod she, "that hast receyved two,
  Thou shalt answere of two, and nat of oon!
  Wher is thy gretter part away y-goon?
  Allas! wher shal I, wrecched wight, become!
  For, thogh so be that ship or boot heer come,
  Hoom to my contree dar I nat for drede;
  I can my-selven in this cas nat rede!"
 
  What shal I telle more her compleining?
  Hit is so long, hit were an hevy thing.
2220 In her epistle Naso telleth al;
  But shortly to the ende I telle shal.
  The goddes have her holpen, for pitee;
  And, in the signe of Taurus, men may see
  The stones of her coroun shyne clere. --
 
  I wol no more speke of this matere;
  But thus this false lover can begyle
  His trewe love. The devil quyte him his wyle!
 
  Explicit Legenda Adriane de Athenes.