Verse > Geoffrey Chaucer > Complete Poetical Works
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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340–1400).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1894.
 
The Minor Poems
IV. The Compleynt of Mars
 
The Proem.

‘GLADETH, ye foules, of the morow gray,
Lo! Venus risen among yon rowes rede!
And floures fresshe, honoureth ye this day;
For when the sonne uprist, then wol ye sprede.
But ye lovers, that lye in any drede,        5
Fleëth, lest wikked tonges yow espye;
Lo! yond the sonne, the candel of Ielosye!
 
With teres blewe, and with a wounded herte
Taketh your leve; and, with seynt Iohn to borow,
Apeseth somwhat of your sorowes smerte,        10
Tyme cometh eft, that cese shal your sorow;
The glade night is worth an hevy morow!’—
(Seynt Valentyne! a foul thus herde I singe
Upon thy day, er sonne gan up-springe).—
 
Yet sang this foul—‘I rede yow al a-wake,        15
And ye, that han not chosen in humble wyse,
Without repenting cheseth yow your make.
And ye, that han ful chosen as I devyse,
Yet at the leste renoveleth your servyse;
Confermeth it perpetuely to dure,        20
And paciently taketh your aventure.
 
And for the worship of this hye feste,
Yet wol I, in my briddes wyse, singe
The sentence of the compleynt, at the leste,
That woful Mars made atte departinge        25
Fro fresshe Venus in a morweninge,
Whan Phebus, with his fyry torches rede,
Ransaked every lover in his drede.
 
The Story.

§ Whylom the thridde hevenes lord above,
As wel by hevenish revolucioun        30
As by desert, hath wonne Venus his love,
And she hath take him in subieccioun,
And as a maistresse taught him his lessoun,
Comaunding him that never, in hir servyse,
He nere so bold no lover to despyse.        35
 
For she forbad him Ielosye at alle,
And cruelte, and bost, and tirannye;
She made him at hir lust so humble and talle,
That when hir deyned caste on him her yë,
He took in pacience to live or dye;        40
And thus she brydeleth him in hir manere,
With no-thing but with scourging of hir chere.
 
Who regneth now in blisse but Venus,
That hath this worthy knight in governaunce?
Who singeth now but Mars, that serveth thus        45
The faire Venus, causer of plesaunce?
He bynt him to perpetual obeisaunce,
And she bynt hir to loven him for ever,
But so be that his trespas hit dissever.
 
Thus be they knit, and regnen as in heven        50
By loking most; til hit fil, on a tyde,
That by hir bothe assent was set a steven,
That Mars shal entre, as faste as he may glyde,
Into hir nexte paleys, to abyde,
Walking his cours til she had him a-take,        55
And he preyde hir to haste hir for his sake.
 
Then seyde he thus—“myn hertes lady swete,
Ye knowe wel my mischef in that place;
For sikerly, til that I with yow mete,
My lyf stant ther in aventure and grace;        60
But when I see the beaute of your face,
Ther is no dreed of deth may do me smerte,
For al your lust is ese to myn herte.”
 
She hath so gret compassion of hir knight,
That dwelleth in solitude til she come;        65
For hit stood so, that ilke tyme, no wight
Counseyled him, ne seyde to him welcome,
That nigh hir wit for wo was overcome;
Wherfore she spedde hir as faste in hir weye,
Almost in oon day, as he dide in tweye.        70
 
The grete Ioye that was betwix hem two,
Whan they be met, ther may no tunge telle,
Ther is no more, but unto bed they go,
And thus in Ioye and blisse I let hem dwelle;
This worthy Mars, that is of knighthod welle,        75
The flour of fairnes lappeth in his armes,
And Venus kisseth Mars, the god of armes.
 
Soiourned hath this Mars, of which I rede,
In chambre amid the paleys prively
A certeyn tyme, til him fel a drede,        80
Through Phebus, that was comen hastely
Within the paleys-yates sturdely,
With torche in honde, of which the stremes brighte
On Venus chambre knokkeden ful lighte.
 
The chambre, ther as lay this fresshe quene,        85
Depeynted was with whyte boles grete,
And by the light she knew, that shoon so shene,
That Phebus cam to brenne hem with his hete;
This sely Venus, dreynt in teres wete,
Enbraceth Mars, and seyde, “alas! I dye!        90
The torch is come, that al this world wol wrye.”
 
Up sterte Mars, him liste not to slepe,
Whan he his lady herde so compleyne;
But, for his nature was not for to wepe,
In stede of teres, fro his eyen tweyne        95
The fyry sparkes brosten out for peyne;
And hente his hauberk, that lay him besyde;
Flee wolde he not, ne mighte him-selven hyde.
 
He throweth on his helm of huge wighte,
And girt him with his swerde; and in his honde        100
His mighty spere, as he was wont to fighte,
He shaketh so that almost it to-wonde;
Ful hevy he was to walken over londe;
He may not holde with Venus companye,
But bad hir fleen, lest Phebus hir espye.        105
 
O woful Mars! alas! what mayst thou seyn,
That in the paleys of thy disturbaunce
Art left behinde, in peril to be sleyn?
And yet ther-to is double thy penaunce,
For she, that hath thyn herte in governaunce,        110
Is passed halfe the stremes of thyn yën;
That thou nere swift, wel mayst thou wepe and cryen.
 
Now fleeth Venus un-to Cylenius tour,
With voide cours, for fere of Phebus light.
Alas! and ther ne hath she no socour,        115
For she ne fond ne saw no maner wight;
And eek as ther she had but litil might;
Wher-for, hir-selven for to hyde and save,
Within the gate she fledde into a cave.
 
Derk was this cave, and smoking as the helle,        120
Not but two pas within the gate hit stood;
A naturel day in derk I lete hir dwelle.
Now wol I speke of Mars, furious and wood;
For sorow he wolde have seen his herte blood;
Sith that he mighte hir don no companye,        125
He ne roghte not a myte for to dye.
 
So feble he wex, for hete and for his wo,
That nigh he swelt, he mighte unnethe endure;
He passeth but oo steyre in dayes two,
But ner the les, for al his hevy armure,        130
He foloweth hir that is his lyves cure;
For whos departing he took gretter yre
Thanne for al his brenning in the fyre.
 
After he walketh softely a pas,
Compleyning, that hit pite was to here.        135
He seyde, “O lady bright, Venus! alas!
That ever so wyde a compas is my spere!
Alas! whan shal I mete yow, herte dere,
This twelfte day of April I endure,
Through Ielous Phebus, this misaventure.”        140
 
Now god helpe sely Venus allone!
But, as god wolde, hit happed for to be,
That, whyl that Venus weping made hir mone,
Cylenius, ryding in his chevauchè,
Fro Venus valance mighte his paleys see,        145
And Venus he salueth, and maketh chere,
And hir receyveth as his frend ful dere.
 
Mars dwelleth forth in his adversite,
Compleyning ever on hir departinge;
And what his compleynt was, remembreth me;        150
And therfore, in this lusty morweninge,
As I best can, I wol hit seyn and singe,
And after that I wol my leve take;
And God yeve every wight Ioye of his make!
 
The compleynt of Mars.

The Proem of the Compleynt.

§ The ordre of compleynt requireth skilfully,
        155
That if a wight shal pleyne pitously,
  There mot be cause wherfor that men pleyne;
Or men may deme he pleyneth folily
And causeles; alas! that am not I!
  Wherfor the ground and cause of al my peyne,        160
  So as my troubled wit may hit ateyne,
I wol reherse; not for to have redresse,
But to declare my ground of hevinesse.
 
Devotion.

§ The firste tyme, alas! that I was wroght,
And for certeyn effectes hider broght        165
  By him that lordeth ech intelligence,
I yaf my trewe servise and my thoght,
For evermore—how dere I have hit boght!—
  To hir, that is of so gret excellence,
  That what wight that first sheweth his presence,        170
When she is wroth and taketh of him no cure,
He may not longe in Ioye of love endure.
 
This is no feyned mater that I telle;
My lady is the verrey sours and welle
  Of beaute, lust, fredom, and gentilnesse,        175
Of riche aray—how dere men hit selle!—
Of al disport in which men frendly dwelle,
  Of love and pley, and of benigne humblesse,
  Of soune of instruments of al swetnesse;
And therto so wel fortuned and thewed,        180
That through the world hir goodnesse is y-shewed.
 
What wonder is then, thogh that I besette
My servise on suche oon, that may me knette
  To wele or wo, sith hit lyth in hir might?
Therfor my herte for ever I to hir hette;        185
Ne trewly, for my dethe, I shal not lette
  To ben hir trewest servaunt and hir knight.
  I flater noght, that may wite every wight;
For this day in hir servise shal I dye;
But grace be, I see hir never with yë.        190
 
A Lady in fear and woe.

§ To whom shal I than pleyne of my distresse?
Who may me helpe, who may my harm redresse?
  Shal I compleyne unto my lady free?
Nay, certes! for she hath such hevinesse,
For fere and eek for wo, that, as I gesse,        195
  In litil tyme hit wol hir bane be.
  But were she sauf, hit wer no fors of me.
Alas! that ever lovers mote endure,
For love, so many a perilous aventure!
 
For thogh so be that lovers be as trewe        200
As any metal that is forged newe,
  In many a cas hem tydeth ofte sorowe.
Somtyme hir ladies will not on hem rewe,
Somtyme, yif that Ielosye hit knewe,
  They mighten lightly leye hir heed to borowe;        205
  Somtyme envyous folke with tunges horowe
Depraven hem; alas! whom may they plese?
But he be fals, no lover hath his ese.
 
But what availeth suche a long sermoun
Of aventures of love, up and doun?        210
  I wol returne and speken of my peyne;
The point is this of my destruccioun,
My righte lady, my salvacioun,
  Is in affray, and not to whom to pleyne.
  O herte swete, O lady sovereyne!        215
For your disese, wel oghte I swoune and swelte,
Thogh I non other harm ne drede felte.
 
Instability of Happiness.

§ To what fyn made the god that sit so hye,
Benethen him, love other companye,
  And streyneth folk to love, malgre hir hede?        220
And then hir Ioye, for oght I can espye,
Ne lasteth not the twinkeling of an yë,
  And somme han never Ioye til they be dede.
  What meneth this? what is this mistihede?
Wherto constreyneth he his folk so faste        225
Thing to desyre, but hit shulde laste?
 
And thogh he made a lover love a thing,
And maketh hit seme stedfast and during,
  Yet putteth he in hit such misaventure,
That reste nis ther noon in his yeving.        230
And that is wonder, that so Iust a king
  Doth such hardnesse to his creature.
  Thus, whether love breke or elles dure,
Algates he that hath with love to done
Hath ofter wo then changed is the mone.        235
 
Hit semeth he hath to lovers enmite,
And lyk a fissher, as men alday may see,
  Baiteth his angle-hook with som plesaunce,
Til mony a fish is wood til that he be
Sesed ther-with; and then at erst hath he        240
  Al his desyr, and ther-with al mischaunce;
  And thogh the lyne breke, he hath penaunce;
For with the hoke he wounded is so sore,
That he his wages hath for ever-more.
 
The Brooch of Thebes.

§ The broche of Thebes was of suche a kinde,
        245
So ful of rubies and of stones Inde,
  That every wight, that sette on hit an yë,
He wende anon to worthe out of his minde;
So sore the beaute wolde his herte binde,
  Til he hit hadde, him thoghte he moste dye;        250
  And whan that hit was his, than shulde he drye
Such wo for drede, ay whyl that he hit hadde,
That welnigh for the fere he shulde madde.
 
And whan hit was fro his possessioun,
Than had he double wo and passioun        255
  For he so fair a tresor had forgo;
But yet this broche, as in conclusioun,
Was not the cause of this confusioun;
  But he that wroghte hit enfortuned hit so,
  That every wight that had hit shuld have wo;        260
And therfor in the worcher was the vyce,
And in the covetour that was so nyce.
 
So fareth hit by lovers and by me;
For thogh my lady have so gret beaute,
  That I was mad til I had gete hir grace,        265
She was not cause of myn adversite,
But he that wroghte hir, also mot I thee,
  That putte suche a beaute in hir face,
  That made me to covete and purchace
Myn owne deth; him wyte I that I dye,        270
And myn unwit, that ever I clomb so hye.
 
An Appeal for Sympathy.

§ But to yow, hardy knightes of renoun,
Sin that ye be of my divisioun,
  Al be I not worthy to so grete a name,
Yet, seyn these clerkes, I am your patroun;        275
Ther-for ye oghte have som compassioun
  Of my disese, and take it noght a-game.
  The proudest of yow may be mad ful tame;
Wherfor I prey yow, of your gentilesse,
That ye compleyne for myn hevinesse.        280
 
And ye, my ladies, that ben trewe and stable,
By way of kinde, ye oghten to be able
  To have pite of folk that be in peyne:
Now have ye cause to clothe yow in sable;
Sith that your emperice, the honorable,        285
  Is desolat, wel oghte ye to pleyne;
  Now shuld your holy teres falle and reyne.
Alas! your honour and your emperice,
Nigh deed for drede, ne can hir not chevise.
 
Compleyneth eek, ye lovers, al in-fere,        290
For hir that, with unfeyned humble chere,
  Was ever redy to do yow socour;
Compleyneth hir that ever hath had yow dere;
Compleyneth beaute, fredom, and manere;
  Compleyneth hir that endeth your labour;        295
  Compleyneth thilke ensample of al honour,
That never dide but al gentilesse;
Kytheth therfor on hir som kindenesse.’
 
 
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