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“And for the great delite, and the plesaunce,
They have to the Flour, and so reverently
They unto it doen such obeisaunce,
As ye may se.” “Now, fair Madame!” (quod I.)
“If I durst ask what is the cause, and why,
That knightes have the enseigne of honour
Rather by the Lese than by the Flour?”
“Sothly, doughter,” (quod she) “this is the trouth;
For knightes, ever, should be persevering
To seke honour, without feintise or slouth,
Fro wele to better in all maner thing;
In sign of which, with leves ay lasting
They be rewarded, after hir degre,
Whose lusty grene may not apaired be,
“Butay keeping hir beauty fresh and grene;
For ther n'is no storme that may hem deface,
Ne hail nor snowe, ne wind nor frostes kene;
Wherfore they have this property and grace.
And, for the Flour, within a litel space,
Wollen be lost, so simple of nature
They be that they no grevaunce may endure:
“And every storme woll blawe hem sone away,
Ne they laste not but for a seson,
That is the cause (the very trouth to say)
That they may not, by no way of reson,
Be put to no such occupation.”
“Madame!” (quod I) “with all mine whole servise
I thank you now in my most humble wise;
“For now I am ascertain'd thoroughly
Of every thing I desired to knowe.”
“I am right glad that I have said, sothly,
Ought to your plesure, if ye will me trow.”
(Quod she ayen.) “But to whom do ye owe
Your service, and which wollen ye honour
(Pray tell me) this year, the Lefe or the Flour?”
“Madam!” (quod I) “although Ilest worthy,
Unto the Lefe I ow mine observaunce.”
“That is,” (quod she) “right well done, certainly;
And I pray God to honour you advance,
And kepe you fro the wicked remembraunce
Of Malebouch, and all his crueltie;
And all that gode and well conditioned be.
“For here I may no lenger now abide,
But I must follow the grete company
That ye may se yonder before you ride.”
And forthwith, as I couth, most humily
I take my leve of hire. And she gan hie
After hem as fast as ever she might,
And I drew homeward, for it was migh night,
And put all that I had sene in writing,
Under support of hem that lust it rede.
O little boke! thou art so unconning,
How darst thou put thyself in prees for drede
It is wonder that thou werest not rede,
Sith that thou wost full lite who shall behold
Thy rude langage full boistrously unfold.
PART OF THE KNIGHTES TALE.
I trowe men wolde deme it negligence, If I foryette to tellen the dispence Of Theseus, that got so besily * To maken up the listes really, That swiche a noble theatre as it was, I dare wel sayn, in all this world ther n'as. The circuite a mile was about, Walled of stone, and diched all withoute. Round was the shape, in manere of a compas Ful of degrees, the hight of sixty pas, That whan a man was set on o degree He letted not his felaw for to see. Estward ther stood a gate of marbel white, Westward right swiche another in th’ opposite.
And shortly to concluden, swiche a place
Was never in erthe, in so litel a space,
For in the lond ther m'as no craftes man,
That geometrie, or arsmetrike can,
Ne portreiour, ne kerver of images,
That Theseus ne yaf him mete and wages
The theatre for to maken and devise.
And for to don his rite and sacrifice,
He estward hath upon the gate above,
In worship of Venus goddesse of love,
Don make an auter and an oratorie;
And westward in the minde and in memorie
Of Mars he maked hath right swiche another,
That coste largely of gold a fother.
And northward, in a touret on the wall,
Of alabastre white and red corall
An oratorie riche for to see,
In worship of Diane of chastitee,
Hath Theseus don wrought in noble wise-
But yet had I foryetten to devise
The noble kerving, and the portreitures,
The shape, the countenance of the figures
That weren in these oratories three.
First in the temple of Venus maist thou see
Wrought on the wall, ful pitous to beholde,
The broken slepes, and the sikes colde,
The sacred teres, and the waimentinges,
The firy strokes of the desiringes,
That Loves servants in this lif enduren;
The othes, that hir covenants assuren.
Plesance and hope, desire, foolhardinesse,
Beaute and youthe, baudrie and richesse,
Charmes and force, lesinges and flaterie,
Dispence, besinesse, and jalousie,
That wered of yelwe goldes a gerlond,
And hadde a cuckow sitting on hire hond.
Festes, instruments, and caroles and dances,
Lust and array, and all the circumstances
Of love, which that I reken and reken shall,
By ordre weren peinted on the wall,
And mo than I can make of mention.
For sothly all the mount of Citheron,
Ther Venus hath hire principal dwelling.
Was shewed on the wall in purtreying,
With all the gardin, and the lustinesse.
Nought was foryetten the porter Idelnesse,
Ne Narcissus the fayre of yore agon,
Ne yet the folie of king Salomon,
Ne yet the grete strengthe of Hercules,
Th’ enchantment of Medea and Circes,
Ne of Turnus the hardy fiers corage,
The riche Cresus caitis in servage.
Thus may ye seen, that wisdom ne richesse,
Beaute ne sleighte, strengthene hardinesse,
Ne may with Venus holden champartie,
For as hire liste the world may she gie.
Lo, all these folk so caught were in hire las
Til they for wo ful often said Alas.
Sufficeth here ensamples on or two,
And yet I coude reken a thousand mo.
The statue of Venus glorious for to see,
Was naked fleeting in the large see.
And fro the navel doun all covered was
With waves grene, and bright as any glas.
A citole in hire right hond hadde she,
And on hire hed, ful semely for to see,
A rose gerlond fresh, and wel smelling,
Above hire hed hire doves fleckering.
Before hire stood hire-sone Cupido,
Upon his shoulders winges had he two;
And blind he was, as it is often sene;
A bow he bare and arwes bright and kene.
Why shulde I not as wel eke tell you all
The purtreiture, that was upon the wall
Within the temple of mighty Mars the rede?
All peinted was the wall in length and brede.
Like to the estres of the grisly place,
That highte the gret temple of Mars in Trace,
In thiike colde and frosty region,
Ther as Mars hath his sovereine mansion.
First on the wall was peinted a forest,
In which ther wonneth neyther man ne best,
With knotty knarry barrein trees old
Of stubbes sharp and hidous to behold;
In which ther ran a romble and a swough,
As though a storme shuld bresten every bough:
And dounward from an hill under a bent,
Ther stood the temple of Mars armipotent,
Wrought all of burned stele, of which th' entree
Was longe and streite, and gastly for to see.
And therout came a rage and swiche a vise,
That it made all the gates for to rise.
The northern light in at the dore shone,
For window on the wall ne was ther none,
Thurgh which men mighten any light discerne.
The dore was all of athamant eterne,
Yelenched overthwart and endelong
With yren tough, and for to make it strong,
Every piler the temple to sustene
was tonne-gret, of yren bright and shene.
Ther saw I first the derke imagining
Of felonie, aud alle the compassing:
The cruel ire, red as any glede,
The pikepurse, and eke the pale drede;
The smiler with the knifunder the cloke,
The shepenbrenning with the blake smoke;
The treson of the mordring in the bedde,
The open werre, with woundes all bebledde;
Conteke with blody knif, and sharp manace: All full of chirking was that sory place.
The sleer of himself yet saw I there,
His herte-blood hath bathed all his here:
The naile ydriven in the shode on hight,
The colde deth, with mouth gaping upright,
Amiddes of the temple sate mischance,
With discomfort and sory countenance.
Yet saw I woodnesse laughing in his rage.
Armed complaint, outhees, and fiers outrage;
The carraine in the bush, with throte yoorven,
A thousand slain, and not of qualme ystorven;
The tirant, with the prey by force yraft:
The toun destroied, ther was nothing last.
Yet saw I brent the shippes hoppesteres,
The hunte ystrangled with the wilde beres:
The sow freting the child right in the cradel;
The coke yscalled, for all his long ladel.
Nought was foryete by th’ infortune of Marte
The carter overridden with his carte;
Under the wheel ful low he lay adoun.
Ther were also of Martes division,
Th’ armerer, and the bowyer, and the smith,
That forgeth sharpe swerdes on his stith.
And all above depeinted in a tour
Saw I conquest, sitting in gret honour.
With thilke sharp swerd over his hed
Yhanging by a subtil twined thred.
Depeinted was the slaughter of Julius,
Of gret Nero, and of Antonius:
All be that thilke time they were unborne,
Yet was hir deth depeinted therbesorne,
By manacing of Mars, right by figure,
So was it shewed in that purtreiture
As is depeinted in the cercles above,
Who shal be slaine or elles ded for love.
Sufficeth on ensample in stories olde,
I may not reken hem alle, though I wolde.
The statue of Mars upon a carte stood
Armed, and koked grim as he were wood,
And over his hed ther shinen two figures
Ofsterres, that ben eleped in scriptures,
That on Puella, that other Rubeus.
This god of armes was arraied thus:
A wolf ther stood beforne him at his fete
with eyen red, and of a man he ete:
with subtil pensil peinted was this storie,
In redouting of Mars and of his glorie.
Now to the temple of Diane the chaste
As shortly as I can I wolme haste,
To tellen you of the descriptioun,
Depeinted by the walles up and doun,
Of hunting and of shamefast chastitee.
Ther saw I how woful Calistope,
Whan that Diane agreved was with here,
Was turned from a woman til a bere,
And after was she made the lodesterre:
Thus was it peinted, I can say no ferre;
Hire some is eke a sterre as men may see-
Ther saw I Dane yturned til a tree,
I mene not hire the goddesse Diane,
But Peneus daughter, which that highte Dane