The Legend of Good Women/The Legend of Hypermnestra

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4144The Legend of Good Women — The Legend of HypermnestraGeoffrey Chaucer

The Legend of Hypermnestra

  In Grece whylom weren brethren two,
  Of whiche that oon was called Danao,
  That many a sone hath of his body wonne,
  As swiche false lovers ofte conne.
  Among his sones alle ther was oon
  That aldermost he lovede of everichoon.
  And whan this child was born, this Danao
  Shoop him a name, and called him Lino.
2570 That other brother called was Egiste,
  That was of love as fals as ever him liste,
  And many a doghter gat he in his lyve;
  Of which he gat upon his righte wyve
  A doghter dere, and dide her for to calle
  Ypermistra, yongest of hem alle;
  The whiche child, of her nativitee,
  To alle gode thewes born was she,
  As lyked to the goddes, or she was born,
  That of the shefe she sholde be the corn;
2580 The Wirdes, that we clepen Destinee,
  Hath shapen her that she mot nedes be
  Pitouse, sadde, wyse, and trewe as steel;
  And to this woman hit accordeth weel.
  For, though that Venus yaf her greet beautee,
  With Iupiter compouned so was she
  That conscience, trouthe, and dreed of shame,
  And of her wyfhood for to kepe her name,
  This, thoughte her, was felicitee as here.
  And rede Mars was, that tyme of the yere,
2590 So feble, that his malice is him raft,
  Repressed hath Venus his cruel craft;
  What with Venus and other oppressioun
  Of houses, Mars his venim is adoun,
  That Ypermistra dar nat handle a knyf
  In malice, thogh she sholde lese her lyf.
  But natheles, as heven gan tho turne,
  To badde aspectes hath she of Saturne,
  That made her for to deyen in prisoun,
  As I shal after make mencioun.
2600 To Danao and Egistes also --
  Al-thogh so be that they were brethren two,
  For thilke tyme nas spared no linage --
  Hit lyked hem to maken mariage
  Betwix Ypermistra and him Lino,
  And casten swiche a day hit shal be so;
  And ful acorded was hit witterly;
  The array is wroght, the tyme is faste by.
  And thus Lino hath of his fadres brother
  The doghter wedded, and eche of him hath other.
2610 The torches brennen and the lampes brighte,
  The sacrifices been ful redy dighte;
  Thencena out of the fyre reketh sote,
  The flour, the leef is rent up by the rote
  To marken garlands and corounes hye;
  Ful is the place of soun of minstralcye,
  Of songes amorous of mariage,
  As thilke tyme was the pleyn usage.
  And this ws in the paleys of Egiste,
  That in his hous was lord, right as him liste;
2620 And thus the day they dryven to an ende;
  The frendes taken leve, and hoom they wende.
  The night is come, the bryd shal go to bedde;
  Egiste to his chambre faste him spedde,
  And privily he let his doghter calle.
  Whan that the hous was voided of hem alle,
  He loked on his doghter with glad chere,
  And to her spak, as ye shul after here.
  "My righte doghter, tresor of myn herte!
  Sin first that day that shapen was my sherte,
2630 Or by the fatal sustren had my dom,
  So ny myn herte never thing me com
  As thou, myn Ypermistra, doghter dere!
  Tak heed what I thy fader sey thee here,
  And werk after thy wyser ever-mo.
  For alderfirste, doghter, I love thee so
  That al the world to me nis half so leef;
  Ne I nolde rede thee to thy mischeef
  For al the gode under the colde mone;
  And what I mene, hit shal be seid right sone,
2640 With protesacioun, as in this wyse,
  That, but thou do as I shal thee devyse,
  Thou shalt be deed, by him that al hath wroght!
  At shorte wordes, thou nescapest noght
  Out of my paleys, or that thou be deed,
  But thou consente and werke after my reed;
  Tak this to thee for ful conclusioun."
  This Ypermistra caste her eyen doun,
  And quook as dooth the leef of aspe grene;
  Deed wex her hewe, and lyk as ash to sene,
2650 And seyde, "lord and fader, al your wille,
  After my mighte, god wot, I shal fulfille,
  So hit to me be no confusioun."
  "I nil," quod he, "have noon excepcioun;"
  And out he caughte a knyf, as rasour kene;
  "Hyd this," quod he, "that hit be nat y-sene;
  And, whan thyn husbond is to bedde y-go,
  Whyl that he slepeth, cut his throte a-two.
  For in my dremes hit is warned me
  How that my nevew shal my bane be,
2660 But whiche I noot, wherfor I wol be siker.
  Yif thou sey nay, we two shul have a biker
  As I have seyd, by him that I have sworn."
  This Ypermistra hath ny her wit forlon;
  And, for to passen harmles of that place,
  She graunted him; ther was non other grace.
  And therwith-al a costrel taketh he,
  And seyde, "herof a draught, or two or three,
  Yif him to drinke, whan he goth to reste,
  And he shal slepe as longe as ever thee leste,
2670 The narcotiks and opies been so stronge:
  And go thy wey, lest that him thinke longe."
  Out comth the bryd, and with ful sober chere,
  As is of maidens ofte the manere,
  To chambre is broght with revel and with songe,
  And shortly, lest this tale be to longe,
  This Lino and she ben sone broght to bedde;
  And every wight out at the dore him spedde.
  The night is wasted, and he fel a-slepe;
  Ful tenderly beginneth she to wepe.
2680 She rist her up, and dredfully she quaketh,
  As doth the braunche that Zephirus shaketh,
  And husht were alle in Argon that citee.
  As cold as any frost now wexeth she;
  For pite by the herte her streyneth so,
  And dreed of death doth her so moche wo,
  That thryes doun she fil in swiche a were.
  She rist her up, and shakereth heer and there,
  And on her handes faste loketh she.
  "Allas! and shul my handes blody be?
2690 I am a maid, and, as by my nature,
  And by my semblant and by my vesture,
  Myn handes been nat shapen for a knyf,
  As for to reve no man fro his lyf.
  What devil have I with the knyf to do?
  And shal I have my throte corve a-two?
  Than shal I blede, allas! And me beshende;
  And nedes cost this thing mot have an ende;
  Or he or I mot nedes lese our lyf.
  Now certes," quod she, "sin I am his wyf,
2700 And hath my feith, yit is it bet for me
  For to be deed in wyily honestee
  Than be a traitour living in my shame.
  Be as be may, for ernest or for game,
  He shal awake, and ryse and go his way
  Out at this goter, or that hit be day!" --
  And weep ful tenderly upon his face,
  And in her armes gan him to embrace,
  And him she roggeth and awaketh softe;
  And at the window leep he fro the lofte
2710 Whan she hath warned him, and doon him bote.
  This Lino swifte was, and light of fote,
  And from his wyf he ran a ful good pas.
  This sely woman is so wayk, allas!
  And helples so, that, or that she fer wente,
  Her cruel fader dide her for to hente.
  Allas! Lino! why art thou so unkinde?
  Why ne haddest thou remembred in thy minde
  To taken her, and lad her forth with thee?
  For, what she saw that goon awey was he,
2720 And that she mighte nat so faste go,
  Ne folwen him, she sette her doun right tho,
  Til she was caught and fetered in prisoun.
  This tale is seid for this conclusioun....