Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. I. Chaucer to Donne
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. I. Early Poetry: Chaucer to Donne
 
Extracts from Prologue to the Legende of Goode Women
By Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340–1400)
 
[The poet loves books, but loves the daisy more.]

  AND as for me, though than I kon but lyte, 1
On bokës for to rede I me delyte,
And to hem yive I feyth and ful credence,
And in myn herte have hem in reverence
So hertëly, that ther is gamë noon        5
That fro my bokës maketh me to goon,
But yt be seldom on the holy day,
Save, certeynly, when that the moneth of May
Is comen, and that I here the foulës synge,
And that the flourës gynnen for to sprynge,        10
Farewel my boke, and my devocioun!
  Now have I than suche a condicioun,
That of allë the flourës in the mede,
Than 2 love I most thise flourës white and rede,
Suche as men callen daysyes in her toun.        15
To hem have I so gret affeccioun,
As I seyde erst, whan comen is the May,
That, in my bed ther daweth 3 me no day,
That I nam up and walkyng in the mede,
To seen this floure ayein the sonnë sprede,        20
Whan it up ryseth erly by the morwe;
That blisful sight softeneth al my sorwe,
So glad am I, whan that I have presence
Of it, to doon it allë reverence,
As she that is of allë flourës flour,        25
Fulfillëd of al vertue and honour,
And ever ilike 4 faire, and fressh of hewe.
And I love it, and ever ylike newe,
And ever shal, til that myn hertë dye;
Al swere I nat 5 of this I wol nat lye,        30
Ther lovedë no wight hotter in his lyve.
And, whan that hit ys eve, I rennë blyve, 6
As sone as ever the sonnë gynneth weste,
To seen this flour, how it wol go to reste,
For fere of nyght, so hateth she derknesse!        35
Hire chere is pleynly sprad in the brightnesse
Of the sonnë, for ther yt wol unclose.
Allas, that I ne had Englyssh, ryme, or prose,
Suffisant this flour to preyse aryght!
But helpeth, ye that han konnyng and myght,        40
Ye lovers, that kan make of sentëment;
In this case oghten ye be diligent,
To forthren me somwhat in my labour,
Whethir ye ben with the leef or with the flour, 7
For wel I wot, that ye han herbiforn        45
Of makynge ropen, 8 and lad awey the corn;
And I come after, glenyng here and there,
And am ful glad yf I may fynde an ere
Of any goodly word that ye han left.
And thogh it happen me rehercen eft        50
That ye han in your fresshë songës sayd,
Forbereth me, and beth not evil apayd, 9
Syn that ye see I do yt in the honour
Of love, and eke in service of the flour,
Whom that I serve as I have wit or myght.        55
She is the clerenesse and the verray lyght,
That in this derkë worlde me wynt 10 and ledyth,
The hert in-with my sorwful brest yow dredith,
And loveth so sore, that ye ben verrayly
The maistresse of my wit, and nothing I.        60
My word, my werkes, ys knyt so in your bond
That, as an harpe obeieth to the hond
That maketh it soune after his fyngerynge,
Ryght so mowe 11 ye oute of myn hertë bringe
Swich vois, ryght as yow lyst, to laughe or pleyne;        65
Be ye myn gide, and lady sovereyne.
As to my erthely God, to yow I calle,
Bothe in this werke, and in my sorwes alle.
*        *        *        *        *
[He falls asleep, and dreams that he sees the God of Love leading in Queen Alcestis, clad like the daisy.]

Whan that the sonne out of the south gan weste,
And that this flour gan close, and goon to reste,        70
For derknesse of the nyght, the which she dredde,
Home to myn house ful swiftly I me spedde
To goon to reste, and erly for to ryse,
To seen this flour sprede, as I devyse.
And in a litel herber that I have,        75
That benched was on turvës fresshe ygrave,
I bad men sholdë me my couchë make;
For deyntee of the newë someres sake, 12
I bad hem strawen flourës on my bed.
Whan I was leyd, and had myn eyen hed, 13        80
I fel on slepe, in-with an houre or twoo,
Me mette 14 how I lay in the medewe thoo, 15
To seen this flour that I love so and drede;
And from a-fer come walkyng in the mede
The God of Love, and in his hande a quene,        85
And she was clad in reäl 16 habit grene;
A fret of gold she haddë next her heer,
And upon that a whit coroune she beer,
With flourouns smale, and [that] I shal nat lye,
For al the world ryght as a dayësye        90
Ycorouned ys with whitë levës lyte, 17
So were the flowrouns of hire coroune white;
For of oo 18 perlë, fyne, oriental,
Hire whitë corounë was imaked al,
For which the whitë coroune above the grene        95
Made hirë lyke a dayesie for to sene,
Considered eke hir fret of golde above.
Yclothed was this myghty God of Love
In silke, enbrouded ful of grenë greves, 19
In-with a fret of redë rosë leves,        100
The fresshest syn the world was first begonne.
His giltë here was coroned with a sonne
In stede of gold, for hevynesse and wyghte; 20
Therwith me thoght his facë shoon so brighte
That wel unnethës 21 myghte I him beholde;        105
And in his hand me thoghte I saugh him holde
Twoo firy dartës, as the gledës 22 rede,
And aungelyke hys wyngës saugh I sprede.
And, al be that men seyn that blynd ys he,
Algate me thoghtë that he myghtë se;        110
For sternëly on me he gan byholde,
So that his loking dooth myn hertë colde.
And by the hande he held this noble quene,
Coroned with white, and clothëd al in grene,
So womanly, so bénigne, and so meke,        115
That in this world, thogh that men woldë seke,
Half of hire beauté shuldë men nat fynde
In creäture that formed ys by kynde. 23
And therfore may I seyn, as thynketh me,
This song in preysyng of this lady fre.        120
 
Hyde, Absalon, thy giltë tresses clere;
Ester, ley thou thy mekenesse al adown;
Hyde, Jonathas, al thy frendly manere;
Penelopee, and Marcia Catoun, 24
Make of your wifhode no comparysoun;        125
Hyde ye your beautes, Ysoude 25 and Eleyne,
My lady comith, that al this may disteyne. 26
 
Thy fairë body lat yt nat appere,
Lavyne; and thou Lucresse of Romë toune,
And Polixene, that boghten love so dere,        130
And Cleopatre, with al thy passyoun,
Hyde ye your trouthe of love, and your renoun,
And thou, Tesbé, that hast of love suche peyne,
My lady comith, that al this may disteyne.
 
Hero, Dido, Laudomia, alle yfere, 27        135
And Phillis, hangyng for thy Demophoun,
And Canace, espied by thy chere, 28
Ysiphile betraysed with Jasoun,
Maketh of your trouthë neyther boost ne soun,
Nor Ypermystre, or Adriane, 29 ye tweyne,        140
My lady cometh, that all this may dysteyne.
 
Note 1. little. [back]
Note 2. Then. [back]
Note 3. dawneth. [back]
Note 4. alike. [back]
Note 5. Though I swear not. [back]
Note 6. run quickly. [back]
Note 7. See the introduction to the poem of that name, p. 84. [back]
Note 8. reaped the fruit of poetry. [back]
Note 9. be not ill pleased. [back]
Note 10. winds, turns. [back]
Note 11. can. [back]
Note 12. for the sake of the rarity of the new summer. [back]
Note 13. hid. [back]
Note 14. I dreamed. [back]
Note 15. then. [back]
Note 16. royal. [back]
Note 17. little. [back]
Note 18. one. [back]
Note 19. groves: ‘embroidered with green branches.’ [back]
Note 20. because gold would be heavy. [back]
Note 21. scarcely. [back]
Note 22. sparks. [back]
Note 23. nature. [back]
Note 24. i.e., wife of Cato. [back]
Note 25. Iseult. [back]
Note 26. stain; make foul by comparison. [back]
Note 27. together. [back]
Note 28. discovered by thy look. [back]
Note 29. Ariadne. [back]
 
 
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