The Legend of Good Women/Balade

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Balade[edit]

  Hyd, Absolon, thy gilte tresses clere;
250 Ester, ley thou thy meknesse al a-doun;
  Hyd, Ionathas, al thy frendly manere;
  Penalopee, and Marcia Catoun,
  Mak of your wyfhod no comparisoun;
  Hyde ye your beautes, Isoude and Eleyne,
  My lady cometh, that al this may disteyne.
 
  Thy faire body, lat hit nat appere,
  Lavyne; and thou, Lucresse of Rome toun,
  And Polixene, that boghten love so dere,
  And Cleopatre, with al thy passioun,
260 Hyde ye your trouthe of love and your renoun;
  And thou, Tisbe, that hast of love swich peyne;
  My lady cometh, that al this may disteyne.
 
  Herro, Dido, Laudomia, alle y-fere,
  And Phyllis, hanging for thy Demophon,
  And Canace, espyed by thy chere,
  Ysiphile, betrayed with Jasoun,
  Maketh of your trouthe neyther boost ne soun;
  Nor Ypermistre or Adriane, ye tweyne;
  My lady cometh, that al this may disteyne.
 
270 This balade may ful wel y-songen be,
  As I have seyd erst, by my lady free;
  For certeynly, alle these now nat suffyse
  To apperen with my lady in no wyse.
  For as the sonne wol the fyr disteyne,
  So passeth al my lady sovereyne,
  That is so good, so fair, so debonaire;
  I prey to god that ever falle hir faire!
  For, nadde comfort been of hir presence,
  I had ben deed, withouten any defence,
280 For drede of Loves wordes and his chere;
  As, when tyme is, her-after ye shal here.
 
  Behind this god of love, upon the grene,
  I saugh cominge of ladyes nyntene
  In real habit, a ful esy paas;
  And after hem com of women swich a traas,
  That, sin that god Adam had mad of erthe,
  The thridde part of mankynd, or the ferthe,
  Ne wende I nat by possibilitee,
  Had ever in this wyde worlde y-be;
290 And trewe of love thise women were echoon.
 
  Now whether was that a wonder thing or noon,
  That, right anoon as that they gonne espye
  This flour, which that I clepe the dayesye,
  Ful sodeinly they stinten alle at ones,
  And kneled doun, as it were for the nones,
  And songen with o vois, "hele and honour
  To trouthe of womanhede, and to this flour
  That berth our alder prys in figuringe!
  Hir whyte coroun berth the witnessinge!"
 
300 And with that word, a compas enviroun,
  They setten hem ful softly adoun.
  First sat the god of love, and sith his quene
  With the whyte coroun, clad in grene;
  And sithen al the remenant by and by,
  As they were of estaat, ful curteisly;
  Ne nat a word was spoken in the place
  The mountance of a furlong-wey of space.
 
  I kneling by this flour, in good entente
  Abood, to knowen what this peple mente,
310 As stille as any stoon; til at the laste,
  This god of love on me his eyen caste,
  And seyde, "who kneleth ther?" and I answerde
  Unto his asking, whan that I hit herde,
  And seyde, "sir, hit am I"; and com him neer,
  And salued him. Quod he, "what dostow heer
  So nigh myn owne flour, so boldely?
  For it were better worthy, trewely,
  A worm to neghen neer my flour than thou."
  "And why, sir," quod I, "and hit lyke yow?"
320 "For thou," quod he, "art ther-to nothing able.
  Hit is my relik, digne and delytable,
  And thou my fo, and al my folk werreyest,
  And of myn olde servaunts thou misseyest,
  And hindrest hem, with thy translacioun,
  And lettest folk from hir devocioun
  To serve me, and holdest hit folye
  To serve Love. Thou mayest hit nat denye;
  For in pleyn text, with-outen nede of glose,
  Thou hast translated the Romaunce of the Rose,
330 That is an heresye ageyns my lawe,
  And makest wyse folk fro me withdrawe.
  And of Criseyde thou hast seyd as thee liste,
  That maketh men to wommen lasse triste,
  That ben as trewe as ever was any steel.
  Of thyn answere avyse thee right weel;
  For, thogh that thou reneyed hast my lay,
  As other wrecches han doon many a day,
  By seynt Venus, that my moder is,
  If that thou live, thou shalt repenten this
340 So cruelly, that hit shal wel be sene!"
 
  Tho spak this lady, clothed al in grene,
  And seyde, "god, right of your curtesye,
  Ye moten herknen if he can replye
  Agayns al this that ye han to him meved;
  A god ne sholde nat be thus agreved,
  But of his deitee he shal be stable,
  And therto gracious and merciable.
  And if ye nere a god, that knowen al,
  Than mighte hit be, as I yow tellen shal;
350 This man to you may falsly been accused,
  Ther as by right him oghte been excused.
  For in your court is many a losengeour,
  And many a queynte totelere accusour,
  That tabouren in your eres many a soun,
  Right after hir imaginacioun,
  To have your daliance, and for envye;
  These been the causes, and I shall nat lye.
  Envye is lavender of the court alway;
  For she ne parteth, neither night ne day,
360 Out of the hous of Cesar; thus seith Dante;
  Who-so that goth, algate she wol nat wante.
  And eek, paraunter, for this man is nyce,
  He mighte doon hit, gessing no malyce,
  But for he useth thinges for to make;
  Him rekketh noght of what matere he take;
 
  Or him was boden maken thilke tweye
  Of som persone, and durste hit nat with-seye;
  Or him repenteth utterly of this.
  He ne hath nat doon so grevously amis
370 To translaten that olde clerkes wryten,
  As thogh that he of malice wolde endyten
  Despyt of love, and had him-self hit wroght.
  This shulde a rightwys lord have in his thoght,
  And nat be lyk tiraunts of Lumbardye,
  That han no reward but at tirannye.
  For he that king or lord is naturel,
  Him oghte nat be tiraunt ne cruel,
  As is a fermour, to doon the harm he can.
  He moste thinke hit is his lige man,
380 And is his tresour, and his gold in cofre.
  This is the sentence of the philosophre:
  A king to kepe his liges in Iustyce;
  With-outen doute, that is his offyce.
  Al wole he kepe his lordes hir degree,
  As hit is right and skilful that they be
  Enhaunced and honoured, and most dere --
  For they ben half-goddes in this world here --
  Yit mot he doon bothe right, to pore and riche,
  Al be that hir estat be nay y-liche,
390 And han of pore folk compassioun,
  For lo, the gentil kynd of the leoun!
  For whan a flye offendeth him or byteth,
  He with his tayl awey the flye smyteth
  Al esily; for, of his genterye,
  Him deyneth nat to wreke him on a flye,
  As doth a curre or elles another beste.
  In noble corage oghte been areste,
  And weyen every thing by equitee,
  And ever han reward to his owen degree.
400 For, sir, hit is no maystrie for a lord
  To dampne a man with-oute answere of word;
  And, for a lord, that is ful foul to use.
  And if so be he may him nat excuse,
  But asketh mercy with a dredful herte,
  And profreth him, right in his bare sherte,
  To been right at your owne Iugement,
  Than oghte a god, by short avysement,
  Considre his owne honour and his trespas.
  For sith no cause of deeth lyth in his cas,
410 Yow oghte been the lighter merciable;
  Leteth your yre, and beth somwhat tretable!
  The man hath served yow of his conning,
  And forthred wel your lawe in his making.
 
  "Al be hit that he can nat wel endyte,
  Yet hath he maked lewed folk delyte
  To serve you, in preysing of your name.
  He made of the book that hight the Hous of Fame,
  And eek the Deeth of Blaunche the Duchesse,
  And the Parlement of Foules, and I gesse,
420 And al the love of Palamon and Arcyte
  Of Thebes, thogh the story is knowen lyte;
  And many an ympne for your halydayes,
  That highten Balades, Roundels, Virelayes;
  And, for to speke of other holynesse,
  He hath in prose translated Boece,
  And mad the Lyf also of seynt Cecyle;
  He made also, goon sithen a greet whyl,
  Origenes upon the Maudeleyne;
  Him oghte now to have the lesse peyne;
430 He hath mad many a lay and many a thing.
 
  "Now as ye been a god, and eek a king,
  I, your Alceste, whylom quene of Trace,
  I aske yow this man, right of your grace,
  That ye him never hurte in al his lyve;
  And he shal sweren yow, and that as blyve,
  He shal no more agilten in this wyse;
  But he shal maken, as ye wil devyse,
  Of wommen trewe in lovinge al hir lyve,
  Wher-so ye wil, of maiden or of wyve,
440 And forthren yow, as muche as he misseyde
  Or in the Rose or elles in Creseyde."
 
  The god of love answerde hir thus anoon,
  "Madame," quod he, "hit is so long agoon
  That I yow knew so charitable and trewe,
  That never yit, sith that the world was newe,
  To me ne fond I better noon than ye.
  If that I wolde save my degree,
  I may ne wol nat werne your requeste;
  Al lyth in yow, doth with him as yow leste.
450 I al foryeve, with-outen lenger space;
  For who-so yeveth a yift, or doth a grace,
  Do hit by tyme, his thank is wel the more;
  And demeth ye what he shal do therfore.
  Go thanke now my lady heer," quod he.
 
  I roos, and doun I sette me on my knee,
  And seyde thus: "madame, the god above
  Foryelde yow, that ye the god of love
  Han maked me his wrathe to foryive;
  And yeve me grace so long for to live,
460 That I may knowe soothly what ye be
  That han me holpe and put in this degree.
  But truly I wende, as in this cas,
  Naught have agilt, ne doon to love trespas.
  Forwhy a trewe man, with-outen drede,
  Hath not to parten with a theves dede;
  Ne a trewe lover oghte me nat blame,
  Thogh that I speke a fals lover som shame.
  They oghte rather with me for to holde,
  For that I of Creseyde wroot or tolde,
470 Or of the Rose; what-so myn auctour mente,
  Algate, god wot, hit was myn entente
  To forthren trouthe in love and hit cheryce;
  And to be war fro falsnesse and fro vyce
  By swich ensample; this was my meninge."
 
  And she answerde, "lat be thyn arguinge;
  For Love ne wol nat countrepleted be
  In right ne wrong; and lerne that of me!
  Thou hast thy grace, and hold thee right ther-to.
  Now wol I seyn what penance thou shald do
480 For thy trespas, and understond hit here:
  Thou shalt, whyl that thou livest, yeer by yere,
  The moste party of thy tyme spende
  In making of a glorious Legende
  Of Gode Wommen, maidenes and wyves,
  That weren trewe in lovinge al hir lyves;
  And telle of false men that hem bitrayen,
  That al hir lyf ne doon nat but assayen
  How many wommen they may doon a shame;
  For in your world that is now holde a game.
490 And thogh thee lyke nat a lover be,
  Spek wel of love; this penance yive I thee.
  And to the god of love I shal so preye,
  That he shal charge his servants, by any weye,
  To forthren thee, and wel thy labour quyte;
  Go now thy wey, this penance is but lyte.
  And whan this book is maad, yive hit the quene
  On my behalfe, at Eltham, or at Shene."
 
  The god of love gan smyle, and than he seyde,
  "Wostow," quod he, "wher this be wyf or mayde,
500 Or quene, or countesse, or of what degree,
  That hath so litel penance yiven thee,
  That hast deserved sorer for to smerte?
  But pitee renneth sone in gentil herte;
  That maystow seen, she kytheth what she is."
  And I answerde, "nay, sir, so have I blis,
  No more but that I see wel she is good."
 
  "That is a trewe tale, by myn hood,"
  Quod Love, "and that thou knowest wel, pardee,
  If hit be so that thou avyse thee.
510 Hastow nat in a book, lyth in thy cheste,
  The grete goodnesse of the quene Alceste,
  That turned was into a dayesye:
  She that for hir husbande chees to dye,
  And eek to goon to helle, rather than he,
  And Ercules rescowed hir, pardee,
  And broghte hir out of helle agayn to blis?"
 
  "And I answerde ageyn, and seyde, "yis,
  Now knowe I hir! And is this good Alceste,
  The dayesye, and myn owne hertes reste?
520 Now fele I wel the goodnesse of this wyf,
  That bothe after hir deeth, and in hir lyf,
  Hir grete bountee doubleth hir renoun!
  Wel hath she quit me myn affeccioun
  That I have to hir flour, the dayesye!
  No wonder is thogh Iove hir stellifye,
  As telleth Agaton, for hir goodnesse!
  Hir whyte coroun berth of hit witnesse;
  For also many vertues hadde she,
  As smale floures in hir coroun be.
530 In remembraunce of hir and in honour,
  Cibella made the dayesy and the flour
  Y-coroned al with whyt, as men may see;
  And Mars yaf to hir coroun reed, pardee,
  In stede of rubies, set among the whyte."
 
  Therwith this quene wex reed for shame a lyte,
  Whan she was preysed so in hir presence.
  Than seyde Love, "a ful gret negligence
  Was hit to thee, that ilke tyme thou made
  `Hyd, Absolon, thy tresses,' in balade,
540 That thou forgete hir in thy song to sette,
  Sin that thou art so gretly in hir dette,
  And wost so wel, that kalender is she
  To any woman that wol lover be.
  For she taughte al the craft of fyn lovinge,
  And namely of wyfhood the livinge,
  And alle the boundes that she oghte kepe;
  Thy litel wit was thilke tyme a-slepe.
  But now I charge thee, upon thy lyf,
  That in thy Legend thou make of this wyf,
550 Whan thou hast other smale y-maad before;
  And fare now wel, I charge thee no more.
 
  "But er I go, thus muche I wol thee telle,
  Ne shal no trewe lover come in helle.
  Thise other ladies sittinge here arowe
  Ben in thy balade, if thou canst hem knowe,
  And in thy bokes alle thou shalt hem finde;
  Have hem now in thy Legend alle in minde,
  I mene of hem that been in thy knowinge.
  For heer ben twenty thousand mo sittinge
560 That thou knowest, that been good wommen alle
  And trewe of love, for aught that may befalle;
  Make the metres of hem as thee leste.
  I mot gon hoom, the sonne draweth weste,
  To Paradys, with al this companye;
  And serve alwey the fresshe dayesye.
 
  "At Cleopatre I wol that thou beginne;
  And so forth; and my love so shalt thou winne.
  For lat see now what man that lover be,
  Wol doon so strong a peyne for love as she.
570 I wot wel that thou mayest nat al hit ryme,
  That swiche lovers diden in hir tyme;
  It were so long to reden and to here;
  Suffyceth me, thou make in this manere,
  That thou reherce of al hir lyf the grete,
  After thise olde auctours listen to trete.
  For who-so shal so many a storie telle,
  Sey shortly, or he shal to longe dwelle."
  And with that word my bokes gan I take,
  And right thus on my Legend gan I make.