Did Chaucer ‘invent’ Valentines Day ?

Geoffrey ChaucerDid Geoffrey Chaucer invent Valentine’s Day?

– The answer is not really – but he DID do a lot to help turn it it what we associate it with today.

Literary Origins of Valentine’s Day

St Valentine’s Day has been marked in liturgical calendars for centuries. As a Christian feast day, Valentine’s Day actually commemorates two Saint Valentines: Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni.

HOWEVER Valentine’s Day only became associated with romantic love during the late fourteenth century, when Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343-1400), author of The Canterbury Tales, made the association in his poem ‘The Parlement of Foules’, written some time in the 1380s, possibly in 1382. The poem features a parliament, or assembly, of birds, which have gathered together in order to choose their mates. As Chaucer’s narrator remarks,

‘For this was on seynt Volantynys day Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.’

However, several of Chaucer’s contemporaries also wrote poems about Valentine’s Day as a day for lovers. Chaucer was perhaps merely the poet who popularised this new fashionable notion, although there is some evidence to suggest that Chaucer was probably writing slightly earlier than most of the other poets.

But when was Valentine’s Day in Chaucer’s poem? Today we’d assume Chaucer was referring to 14 February, but mid-February is an unlikely time of year for birds to mate, at least in England. Artistic licence is obviously a factor here.

So perhaps Chaucer ‘invented’ – or at any rate helped to popularise – Valentine’s Day as a day of love and romance. It’s just that he possibly had a different date marked on his calendar for Valentine’s Day.

Here begyneth the Parlement of Foules

The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne,
Th’assay so hard, so sharp the conqueringe,
The dredful joye alwey that slit so yerne,
Al this mene I by love, that my felynge
Astonyeth with his wonderful werkynge
So sore y-wis, that whan I on him thinke,
Nat woot I wel wher that I flete or sinke.
The life so short, the craft so long to learn,
The assay so hard, so sharp the conquering,
The fearful joy that slips away in turn,
All this mean I by Love, that my feeling
Astonishes with its wondrous working
So fiercely that when I on love do think
I know not well whether I float or sink.
For al be that I knowe nat love in dede,
Ne wot how that he quyteth folk hir hyre,
Yet happeth me ful ofte in bokes rede
Of his miracles, and his cruel yre;
Ther rede I wel he wol be lord and syre,
I dar not seyn, his strokes been so sore,
But God save swich a lord! I can no more.
For although I know not Love indeed
Nor know how he pays his folk their hire,
Yet full oft it happens in books I read
Of his miracles and his cruel ire.
There I read he will be lord and sire;
I dare only say, his strokes being sore,
‘God save such a lord!’ I’ll say no more.
Of usage, what for luste what for lore,
On bokes rede I ofte, as I yow tolde.
But wherfor that I speke al this? Nat yore
Agon, hit happed me for to beholde
Upon a boke, was write with lettres olde;
And ther-upon, a certeyn thing to lerne,
The longe day ful faste I radde and yerne.
By habit, both for pleasure and for lore,
In books I often read, as I have told.
But why do I speak thus? A time before,
Not long ago, I happened to behold
A certain book written in letters old;
And thereupon, a certain thing to learn,
The long day did its pages swiftly turn.
For out of olde feldes, as men seith,
Cometh al this newe corn fro yeer to yere;
And out of olde bokes, in good feith,
Cometh al this newe science that men lere.
But now to purpos as of this matere —
To rede forth hit gan me so delyte,
That al the day me thoughte but a lyte.
For out of old fields, as men say,
Comes all this new corn from year to year;
And out of old books, in good faith,
Comes all this new science that men hear.
But now to the purpose of this matter –
To read on did grant me such delight,
That the day seemed brief till it was night.
This book of which I make of mencioun,
Entitled was al thus, as I shal telle,
`Tullius of the Dreme of Scipioun.’
Chapitres seven it hadde, of hevene and helle,
And erthe, and soules that therinne dwelle,
Of whiche, as shortly as I can it trete,
Of his sentence I wol you seyn the grete.
This book of which I make mention, lo,
Entitled was, as I shall quickly tell,
‘Cicero, on the dream of Scipio’;
Seven Chapters it had on heaven and hell
And earth and the souls that therein dwell:
As briefly as I can treat of its art,
I’ll tell you, of its meaning, the main part.
First telleth it, whan Scipion was come
In Affrike, how he mette Massinisse,
That him for joye in armes hath inome.
Than telleth it hir speche and al the blisse
That was bitwix hem, til the day gan misse;
And how his auncestre, Affrican so dere,
Gan in his slepe that night to him appere.
First it tells how when Scipio came
To Africa, he met Massinissa,
Who in his arms embraced the same.
Then it tells of their speeches, all the bliss there
That lay between them till the shadows gather,
And how at night his grandfather, so dear,
Scipio the Elder, did appear.
Than telleth it that, fro a sterry place,
How Affrican hath him Cartage shewed,
And warned him before of al his grace,
And seyde him, what man, lered other lewed,
That loveth commune profit, wel y-thewed,
He shal unto a blisful place wende,
Ther as joye is that last withouten ende.
Then it tells how, from a starry place,
His grandfather had him Carthage shown,
And told him in advance of all his grace
And taught him how a man, learned or rude,
Who loves the common good and virtue too
Shall unto a blissful place yet wend,
There where joy is that lasts without an end.
Than asked he, if folk that heer be dede
Have lyf and dwelling in another place;
And African seyde, `Ye, withoute drede,’
And that our present worldes lyves space
Nis but a maner deth, what wey we trace,
And rightful folk shal go, after they dye,
To hevene; and shewed him the galaxye.
Then he asked if folk that have died here
Have life and dwelling in another place;
And his grandfather said, ‘Have no fear,’
And that our present world’s brief space
Is but a kind of death, whose path we trace,
And virtuous folk after they die shall go
To heaven; and the galaxy did him show.
Than shewed he him the litel erthe, that heer is,
At regard of the hevenes quantite;
And after shewed he him the nyne speres,
And after that the melodye herde he
That cometh of thilke speres thryes thre,
That welle is of musyk and melodye
In this world heer, and cause of armonye.
Then showed him how small our Earth appears
Compared to the heavens’ quantity;
And then he showed him the nine spheres,
And after that the melody heard he
That comes from those spheres thrice three,
The source of music and of melody
In this world here, and cause of harmony.
Than bad he him, syn erthe was so lyte,
And ful of torment and of harde grace,
That he ne shulde him in the world delyte.
Than tolde he him, in certeyn yeres space,
That every sterre shulde come into his place
Ther it was first; and al shulde out of minde
That in this worlde is don of al mankinde.
Then he told him, since Earth is so slight,
And full of torment and so little grace,
That he should never in this world delight.
And then he said, that in a certain space
Of time, return the stars would to their place
Where they had been at first, and out of mind
Pass all things in this world done by mankind.
Than prayde him Scipioun to telle him al
The wey to come un-to that hevene blisse;
And he seyde, `Know thy-self first immortal,
And loke ay besily thou werke and wisse
To commune profit, and thou shalt nat misse
To comen swiftly to that place dere,
That ful of blisse is and of soules clere.
Then Scipio prayed he would tell him all
The way to come into that heavenly bliss;
And he said: ‘Know yourself first immortal,
Be sure to work busily, wisely in this
World for the common good, you’ll not miss
The path that leads swift to that place dear,
That full of bliss is, and of souls clear.
But brekers of the lawe, soth to seyne,
And lecherous folk, after that they be dede,
Shul alwey whirle aboute th’erthe in peyne,
Til many a world be passed, out of drede,
And than, for-yeven alle hir wikked dede,
Than shul they come unto that blisful place,
To which to comen god thee sende his grace!’ —
But breakers of the law, he did explain,
And lecherous folk, after they are dead,
Shall whirl about the Earth ever in pain
Till many an age be past, and then indeed
Forgiven for their every wicked deed,
Then shall they come unto that blissful place,
To come to which may God send you his grace!’
The day gan failen, and the derke night,
That reveth bestes from her besinesse,
Birafte me my book for lakke of light,
And to my bedde I gan me for to dresse,
Fulfild of thought and besy hevynesse;
For bothe I hadde thing which that I nolde,
And eek I ne hadde that thing that I wolde.
The day began to fail, and the dark night
That relieves all creatures of their business
Bereft me of my book for lack of light,
And to my bed I began me to address
Filled full of thought and anxious heaviness,
For I yet had the thing that I wished not,
And the thing that I wished I had not got.
But fynally my spirit, at the laste,
For-wery of my labour al the day,
Took rest, that made me to slepe faste,
And in my slepe I mette, as I lay,
How Affrican, right in the selfe array
That Scipioun him saw before that tyde,
Was comen and stood right at my bedes syde.
Yet finally my spirit at the last
Full weary of my labour all the day
Took its rest, sent me to sleep so fast
That in my sleep I dreamed there as I lay
How that Elder in selfsame array
Whom Scipio saw, who long ago had died,
Came and stood there right at my bedside.
The wery hunter, slepinge in his bed,
To wode ayein his minde goth anoon;
The juge dremeth how his plees ben sped;
The carter dremeth how his cartes goon;
The riche, of gold; the knight fight with his foon;
The seke met he drinketh of the tonne;
The lover met he hath his lady wonne.
The weary hunter sleeping in his bed
To the woods again his mind will go;
The judge he dreams how his pleas are sped;
The carter dreams of drawing carts below;
The rich, of gold; the knight fights with his foe;
The sick person dreams he drinks a tun;
The lover dreams he has his lady won.
Can I nat seyn if that the cause were
For I had red of Affrican beforn,
That made me to mete that he stood there;
But thus seyde he, `thou hast thee so wel born
In loking of myn olde book to-torn,
Of which Macrobie roghte nat a lyte,
That somdel of thy labour wolde I quyte!’ —
I cannot say if it was reading fair
Of Scipio the Elder just before,
That made me dream that he stood there;
But thus said he: ‘Yourself so well you bore
In looking at that ancient book of lore,
Macrobius himself thought not so slight,
That I would something of your pain requite.’ –
Cytherea! Thou blisful lady swete,
That with thy fyr-brand dauntest whom thee lest,
And madest me this sweven for to mete,
Be thou my help in this, for thou mayst best;
As wisly as I saw thee north-north-west,
When I began my sweven for to wryte,
So yif me might to ryme and endite!
Cytherea, you blissful lady sweet
Whose firebrand at your wish robs us of rest
And made me to dream this dream complete,
Be you my help in this, your aid works best;
As surely as I saw you north-northwest,
When I began my dream for to write,
So give me power to rhyme and indite.
This forseid Affrican me hente anon,
And forth with him unto a gate broghte
Right of a parke, walled of grene stoon;
And over the gate, with lettres large y-wroghte,
Ther weren vers y-writen, as me thoghte,
On eyther halfe, of ful gret difference,
Of which I shal yow sey the pleyn sentence.
Scipio the Elder grasped me anon,
And forth with him unto a gate brought
Encircled with a wall of green stone;
And over the gate, in large letters wrought,
There were verses written, as I thought,
On either side, between them difference,
Of which I shall reveal to you the sense.
`Thorgh me men goon in-to that blisful place
Of hertes hele and dedly woundes cure;
Thorgh me men goon unto the welle of Grace,
Ther grene and lusty May shal ever endure;
This is the wey to al good aventure;
Be glad, thou reder, and thy sorwe of-caste,
Al open am I. Passe in, and sped thee faste!’
‘Through me men go into that blissful place
Of heart’s healing, and deadly wounds’ cure;
Through me men go unto the well of Grace
Where green and lusty May shall ever endure;
This is the way to all fairest adventure;
Be glad, oh Reader, and your sorrow off-cast,
All open am I; pass in, and speed you fast!’
Thorgh me men goon,’ than spak that other syde,
`Unto the mortal strokes of the spere,
Of which Disdayn and Daunger is the gyde,
Ther tre shal never fruyt ne leves bere.
This streem yow ledeth to the sorwful were,
Ther as the fish in prison is al drye;
Th’eschewing is only the remedye.’
‘Through me men go,’ then spoke the other side,
‘Unto the mortal blow of the spear,
Which Disdain and Haughtiness do guide,
Where tree shall never fruit nor leaves bear.
This stream leads you to the grim trap where
The fish in its prison’s lifted out all dry;
Avoidance is the only remedy nigh!’
Thise vers of gold and blak y-writen were,
Of whiche I gan a stounde to beholde,
For with that oon encresed ay my fere,
And with that other gan myn herte bolde;
That oon me hette, that other did me colde,
No wit had I, for errour, for to chese
To entre or flee, or me to save or lese.
In gold and black these verses written were,
Which I in some confusion did behold,
For with the one ever increased my fear,
Yet with the other did my heart grow bold.
The one gave heat to me, the other cold;
Fearing error, no wit had I to choose
To enter or flee, to save myself or lose.
Right as, bitwixen adamauntes two
Of even might, a pece of iren y-set,
That hath no might to meve to ne fro —
For what that on may hale, that other let —
Ferde I; that niste whether me was bet,
To entre or leve, til Affrican my gyde
Me hente, and shoof in at the gates wyde,
As between adamantine magnets two
Of even strength, a piece of iron set
That has no power to move to or fro –
For though one attracts the other will let
It move – so I, that knew not whether yet
To enter or leave, till that Scipio my guide
Grasped me and thrust me in at the gates wide,
And seyde,`hit stondeth writen in thy face,
Thyn errour, though thou telle it not to me;
But dred the nat to come in-to this place,
For this wryting is nothyng ment by thee,
Ne by noon, but he Loves servaunt be;
For thou of love hast lost thy tast, I gesse,
As seeke man hath of swete and bitternesse.
And said, ‘It appears written in your face,
Your error, though you tell it not to me;
But fear you not to come into this place,
Since this writing is never meant for thee,
Nor any unless he Love’s servant be;
For you for love have lost your taste, I guess,
As a sick man has for sweet or bitterness
But natheles, al-though that thou be dulle,
Yit that thou canst not do, yit mayst thou see;
For many a man that may not stonde a pulle,
Yit lyketh him at the wrastling for to be,
And demeth yit wher he do bet or he;
And if thou haddest cunning for t’endite,
I shal thee shewen mater of to wryte.’
But nonetheless, although you are but dull,
What you cannot do, you yet may see;
For many a man that can’t resist a pull
Still likes at the wrestling for to be
And deems whether he does best, or he,
And if you have the cunning to indite,
I’ll show you matter of which you may write.
With that my hand in his he took anon,
Of which I comfort caughte, and went in faste;
But, lord, so I was glad and wel begoon!
For overal, wher that I myn eyen caste,
Were trees clad with leves that ay shal laste,
Ech in his kinde, of colour fresh and grene
As emeraude, that joye was to sene.
With that my hand in his he grasped anon,
From which I took comfort, and entered fast;
And, Lord, I was so glad that I had done!
For everywhere that I my eyes did cast
Were trees clad with leaves that always last,
Each of its kind, of colour fresh and green
As emerald, that a joy ‘twas to be seen.
The bilder ook, and eek the hardy asshe;
The piler elm, the cofre unto careyne;
The boxtree piper; holm to whippes lasshe;
The sayling firr; the cipres, deth to pleyne;
The sheter ew, the asp for shaftes pleyne;
The olyve of pees, and eek the drunken vyne,
The victor palm, the laurer to devyne.
The builder’s oak, and then the sturdy ash;
The elm, for pillars and for coffins meant;
The piper’s box-tree; holly for whip’s lash;
Fir for masts; cypress, death to lament;
The ewe for bows; aspen for arrows sent;
Olive for peace, and too the drunken vine;
Victor’s palm; laurel for those who divine.
A gardyn saw I, ful of blosmy bowes,
Upon a river, in a grene mede,
Ther as swetnesse evermore y-now is,
With floures whyte, blewe, yelowe, and rede;
And colde welle-stremes, no-thing dede,
That swommen ful of smale fisshes lighte,
With finnes rede and scales silver-brighte.
A garden saw I full of blossoming boughs
Beside a river, through a green mead led,
Where sweetness evermore bountiful is,
With flowers white, blue, yellow and red,
And with cold well-streams, nothing dead,
Which are full of fish, small and light,
With red fins and scales silver bright.
On every bough the briddes herde I singe,
With voys of aungel in hir armonye,
Som besyed hem hir briddes forth to bringe;
The litel conyes to hir pley gonne hye.
And further al aboute I gan espye
The dredful roo, the buk, the hert and hinde,
Squerels, and bestes smale of gentil kinde.
On every bough I heard the birds sing
Angelic voices in their harmony;
Some their fledglings forth did bring;
And little rabbits to their play went by.
And further all about I did espy
The fearful roe, the buck, the hart, the hind,
Squirrels, and small beasts of noble kind.
Of instruments of strenges in acord
Herde I so pleye a ravisshing swetnesse,
That God, that maker is of al and lord,
Ne herde never better, as I gesse;
Therwith a wind, unnethe it might be lesse,
Made in the leves grene a noise softe
Acordaunt to the foules songe on-lofte.
Instruments, their strings all in accord
I heard played with ravishing sweetness
That God, who maker is of all and lord,
Never heard better, or so I guess;
Therewith a breeze that could scarce be less,
Made in the leaves green a noise soft
In harmony with the fowls’ song aloft.
The air of that place so attempre was
That never was grevaunce of hoote ne cold;
Ther wex eek every holsum spyce and gras,
Ne no man may ther wexe seeke ne old;
Yet was ther joye more a thousand fold
Then man can telle; ne never wolde it nighte,
But ay cleer day to any mannes sighte.
The air of that place so temperate was
There was no awkwardness of hot or cold;
There waxed every wholesome herb or grass,
Nor no man there is ever sick or old;
Yet was there joy more a thousand-fold
Than man might tell; nor was it ever night
But ever clear day to every man’s sight.
Under a tree, besyde a welle, I say
Cupyde our lord his arwes forge and fyle;
And at his fete his bowe al redy lay,
And wel his doghter tempred al this whyle
The hedes in the welle, and with hir wyle
She couched hem after as they shulde serve,
Some for to slee, and some to wounde and kerve.
‘Neath a tree, by a well, saw I displayed
Cupid, our lord, his arrows’ forge and file;
And at his feet his bow all ready lay,
And Will, his daughter, tempered all this while
The arrow-heads in the well, and with hard file
She notched them afterwards so as to serve
Some for to slay; some to wound and swerve.
Tho was I war of Plesaunce anon-right,
And of Aray, and Lust, and Curtesye,
And of the Craft that can and hath the might
To doon by force a wight to do folye —
Disfigurat was she, I nil not lye;
And by him-self, under an oke, I gesse,
Saw I Delyt, that stood with Gentilnesse.
Then was I aware of Pleasure nigh,
And of Adornment, Lust and Courtesy,
And of Cunning, able and with the might
To force a person to perform a folly –
I will not lie, disfigured all was she –
And by himself under an oak I guess
I saw Delight, standing with Nobleness.
I saw Beautee, withouten any atyr,
And Youthe, ful of game and jolyte,
Fool-hardinesse, Flatery, and Desyr,
Messagerye, and Mede, and other three —
Hir names shul noght here be told for me —
And upon pilers grete of jasper longe
I saw a temple of bras y-founded stronge.
I saw Beauty, lacking all attire,
And Youth, full of games and jollity,
Foolhardiness, Flattery, and Desire,
Message-sending, Bribery, and three
Others – whose names shall not be told by me –
And upon pillars tall of jasper long
I saw a temple of brass, sound and strong.
Aboute the temple daunceden alway
Wommen y-nowe, of whiche some ther were
Faire of hem-self, and somme of hem were gay;
In kirtels, al disshevele, wente they there —
That was hir office alway, yeer by yere —
And on the temple, of doves whyte and faire
Saw I sittinge many a hunderede paire.
About the temple dancing every way
Went women enough, of whom some were
Fair in themselves and some dressed full gay;
In gowns, hair dishevelled, danced they there –
That was their duty always, year on year –
And on the temple, of doves white and fair
Saw I sitting many a hundred pair.
Before the temple-dore ful sobrely
Dame Pees sat, with a curteyn in hir hond:
And hir besyde, wonder discretly,
Dame Pacience sitting ther I fond
With face pale, upon an hille of sond;
And aldernext, within and eek with-oute,
Behest and Art, and of hir folke a route.
Before the temple door full soberly
Dame Peace sat with a curtain in her hand:
And beside her wondrous discreetly,
Dame Patience sitting there I found
With pale face upon a hill of sand;
And next to her, within and without,
Promise and Artfulness, and their rout.
Within the temple, of syghes hoote as fyr
I herde a swogh that gan aboute renne;
Which syghes were engendred with desyr,
That maden every auter for to brenne
Of newe flaume; and wel aspyed I thenne
That al the cause of sorwes that they drye
Com of the bitter goddesse Jalosye.
Within the temple, from sighs hot as fire
I heard a rushing sound that there did churn;
Which sighs were engendered by desire,
That made every altar fire to burn
With new flame; and there did I learn
That all the cause of sorrows that they see
Comes from the bitter goddess Jealousy.
The god Priapus saw I, as I wente,
Within the temple, in sovereyn place stonde,
In swich array as whan the asse him shente
With crye by night, and with his sceptre in honde;
Ful besily men gonne assaye and fonde
Upon his hede to sette, of sondry hewe,
Garlondes ful of fresshe floures newe.
The god Priapus saw I, as I went,
Within the shrine, pre-eminent did stand,
Placed as when the ass foiled his intent
By braying at night, his staff in his hand;
Full busily men tried as they had planned
To set upon his head, of sundry hew,
Garlands full of fresh flowers new.
And in a privee corner, in disporte,
Fond I Venus and hir porter Richesse,
That was ful noble and hauteyn of hir porte;
Derk was that place, but afterward lightnesse
I saw a lyte, unnethe it might be lesse,
And on a bed of golde she lay to reste,
Til that the hoote sonne gan to weste.
And in a quiet corner did disport
Venus and her doorkeeper Richness,
She was full noble, haughty in her sport;
Dark was the place, but afterwards lightness
I saw, a light that could scarce be less,
And on a bed of gold she lay to rest
Till the hot sun sank into the west.
Hir gilte heres with a golden threde
Y-bounden were, untressed as she lay,
And naked fro the breste unto the hede
Men might hir see; and, soothly for to say,
The remenant wel kevered to my pay
Right with a subtil coverchief of Valence,
Ther was no thikker cloth of no defence.
Her golden hair with a golden thread
Was lightly tied, loose-haired as she lay,
And naked from her breast to her head
Men could view her; and truly I must say
The rest was well covered in its way
Just with a subtle veil from Valence;
No thicker cloth served for her defence.
The place yaf a thousand savours swote,
And Bachus, god of wyn, sat hir besyde,
And Ceres next, that doth of hunger bote;
And, as I seide, amiddes lay Cipryde,
To whom on knees two yonge folkes cryde
To ben hir help; but thus I leet hir lye,
And ferther in the temple I gan espye
The place gave out a thousand savours sweet,
And Bacchus, god of wine, sat there beside,
And Ceres next who does our hunger sate;
And as I said, the Cyprian there did lie,
To whom, on their knees, two young folk cried,
For her help; but there I passed her by,
And further into the temple I did spy
That, in dispyte of Diane the chaste,
Ful many a bowe y-broke heng on the wal
Of maydens, suche as gonne hir tymes waste
In hir servyse; and peynted over al
Of many a story, of which I touche shal
A fewe, as of Calixte and Athalaunte,
And many a mayde, of which the name I wante;
That, all in spite of Diana the chaste,
Full many a broken bow hung on the wall
Of maidens such as their time did waste
In her service; and pictured over all
Full many a story, of which I shall recall
A few, as of Callisto and Atalanta
And many a maiden whose names I lack here;
Semyramus, Candace, and Ercules,
Biblis, Dido, Thisbe, and Piramus,
Tristram, Isoude, Paris, and Achilles,
Eleyne, Cleopatre, and Troilus,
Silla, and eek the moder of Romulus —
Alle these were peynted on that other syde,
And al hir love, and in what plyte they dyde.
Semiramis, Candace and Hercules,
Biblis, Dido, Thisbe and Pyramus,
Tristram, Iseult, Paris and Achilles,
Helen, Cleopatra and Troilus,
Scylla, and then the mother of Romulus:
All these were painted on the other side,
And all their love, and in what way they died.
Whan I was come ayen unto the place
That I of spak, that was so swote and grene,
Forth welk I tho, my-selven to solace.
Tho was I war wher that ther sat a quene
That, as of light the somer-sonne shene
Passeth the sterre, right so over mesure
She fairer was than any creature.
When I had come again unto the place
Of which I spoke, that was so sweet and green,
Forth I walked to bring myself solace.
Then was I aware, there sat a queen:
As in brightness the summer sun’s sheen
Outshines the star, right so beyond measure
Was she fairer too than any creature.
And in a launde, upon an hille of floures,
Was set this noble goddesse Nature;
Of braunches were hir halles and hir boures,
Y-wrought after hir craft and hir mesure;
Ne ther nas foul that cometh of engendrure,
That they ne were prest in hir presence,
To take hir doom and yeve hir audience.
And in a clearing on a hill of flowers
Was set this noble goddess, Nature;
Of branches were her halls and her bowers
Wrought according to her art and measure;
Nor was there any fowl she does engender
That was not seen there in her presence,
To hear her judgement, and give audience.
For this was on Seynt Valentynes day,
Whan every foul cometh ther to chese his make,
Of every kinde, that men thynke may;
And that so huge a noyse gan they make,
That erthe and see, and tree, and every lake
So ful was, that unnethe was ther space
For me to stonde, so ful was al the place.
For this was on Saint Valentine’s day,
When every fowl comes there his mate to take,
Of every species that men know, I say,
And then so huge a crowd did they make,
That earth and sea, and tree, and every lake
Was so full, that there was scarcely space
For me to stand, so full was all the place.
And right as Aleyn, in the Pleynt of Kynde,
Devyseth Nature of aray and face,
In swich array men mighten hir ther finde.
This noble emperesse, ful of grace,
Bad every foul to take his owne place,
As they were wont alwey fro yeer to yere,
Seynt Valentynes day, to stonden there.
And as Alain, in his Complaint of Nature,
Describes her array and paints her face,
In such array might men there find her.
So this noble Empress, full of grace,
Bade every fowl to take its proper place
As they were wont to do from year to year,
On Saint Valentine’s day, standing there.
That is to sey, the foules of ravyne
Were hyest set; and than the foules smale,
That eten as hem nature wolde enclyne,
As worm or thing of whiche I telle no tale;
And water-foul sat loweste in the dale;
But foul that liveth by seed sat on the grene,
And that so fele, that wonder was to sene.
That is to say, the birds of prey on high
Were perched, then small fowls without fail,
That eat, as Nature does them so incline,
Worms, or things of which I’ll tell no tale.
And waterfowl sat lowest in the dale;
But fowl that live on seeds sat on the green
So many there it was a wondrous scene.
There mighte men the royal egle finde,
That with his sharpe look perceth the sonne;
And other egles of a lower kinde,
Of which that clerkes wel devysen conne.
Ther was the tyraunt with his fethres donne
And greye, I mene the goshauk, that doth pyne
To briddes for his outrageous ravyne.
There might men the royal eagle find
Who with his keen glance pierces the sun,
And other eagles of a lesser kind
On which scholars love to run.
There was the tyrant with his feathers dun
And grey – I mean the goshawk, who’ll distress
Others with his outrageous greediness.
The gentil faucoun, that with his feet distreyneth
The kinges hond; the hardy sperhauk eke,
The quayles foo; the merlion that payneth
Him-self ful ofte, the larke for to seke;
Ther was the douve, with hir eyen meke;
The jalous swan, ayens his deeth that singeth;
The oule eek, that of deeth the bode bringeth;
The noble falcon, who with his feet will strain
At the king’s glove; sparrow-hawk sharp-beaked,
The quail’s foe; the merlin that will pain
Himself full oft the lark for to seek;
There was the dove with her eyes meek;
The jealous swan, that at his death does sing;
The owl too, that portent of death does bring;
The crane the geaunt, with his trompes soune;
The theef, the chogh; and eek the jangling pye;
The scorning jay; the eles foo, heroune;
The false lapwing, ful of trecherye;
The stare, that the counseyl can biwrey;
The tame ruddok; and the coward kyte;
The cok, that orloge is of thorpes lyte;
The crane, the giant with his trumpet-sound;
The thief, the chough; the chattering magpie;
The mocking jay; the heron there is found;
The lapwing false, to foil the searching eye;
The starling that betrays secrets on high;
The tame robin; and the cowardly kite;
The rooster, clock to hamlets at first light;
The sparow, Venus sone; the nightingale,
That clepeth forth the fresshe leves newe;
The swalow, mordrer of the flyes smale
That maken hony of floures fresshe of hewe;
The wedded turtel, with hir herte trewe;
The pecok, with his aungels fethres brighte;
The fesaunt, scorner of the cok by nighte;
The sparrow, Venus’ son; the nightingale,
That calls forth all the fresh leaves new;
The swallow, murderer of the bees hale
Who make honey from flowers fresh of hue;
The wedded turtledove with her heart true;
The peacock with angelic feathers bright;
The pheasant, scorner of the cock by night;
The waker goos; the cukkow ever unkinde;
The popiniay, ful of delicasye;
The drake, stroyer of his owne kinde;
The stork, the wreker of avoutrye;
The hote cormeraunt of glotonye;
The raven wys, the crow with vois of care;
The throstel olde; the frosty feldefare.
The wakeful goose; the cuckoo all unkind;
The parrot cram full of lechery;
The drake, destroyer of his own kind;
The stork, avenger of adultery;
The cormorant hot for gluttony;
The raven wise; the crow, the voice of care;
The thrush old; the wintry fieldfare.
What shulde I seyn? Of foules every kinde
That in this world han fethres and stature,
Men mighten in that place assembled finde
Before the noble goddesse Nature,
And ech of hem did his besy cure
Benignely to chese or for to take,
By hir acord, his formel or his make.
What can I say? Fowl of every kind
That in this world have feathers and stature,
Men might in that place assembled find
Before the noble goddess Nature,
And each of them took care, every creature,
With a good will, its own choice to make,
And, in accord, its bride or mate to take.
But to the poynt — Nature held on hir honde
A formel egle, of shap the gentileste
That ever she among hir werkes fonde,
The moste benigne and the goodlieste;
In hir was every vertu at his reste,
So ferforth, that Nature hir-self had blisse
To loke on hir, and ofte hir bek to kisse.
But to the point: Nature had on her hand
A female eagle, of shape the very noblest
That ever she among her works had found,
The most gracious and the very kindest;
In her was every virtue there expressed
So perfectly Nature herself felt bliss
In gazing at her and her beak would kiss.
Nature, the vicaire of the almighty Lord,
That hoot, cold, hevy, light, and moist and dreye
Hath knit by even noumbre of acord,
In esy vois began to speke and seye,
`Foules, tak hede of my sentence, I preye,
And, for your ese, in furthering of your nede,
As faste as I may speke, I wol me spede.
Nature, deputy of the almighty Lord,
Who hot, cold, heavy, light, moist and dry
Has knit in balanced measure in accord,
In gentle voice began to speak and sigh,
‘Fowl, heed my judgement now, pray I,
And for your ease, in furthering of your need,
As fast as I can speak, I will you speed.
Ye knowe wel how, Seynt Valentynes day,
By my statut and through my governaunce,
Ye come for to chese — and flee your way —
Your makes, as I prik yow with plesaunce.
But natheles, my rightful ordenaunce
May I not lete, for al this world to winne,
That he that most is worthy shal beginne.
You know that on Saint Valentine’s day,
By my statute and through my governance,
You come to choose – and then fly your way –
Your mates, as I your desires enhance.
But nonetheless my rightful ordinance
I may not alter, for all the world to win,
That he that is most worthy must begin.
The tercel egle, as that ye knowen wel,
The foul royal above yow in degree,
The wyse and worthy, secree, trewe as stel,
The which I formed have, as ye may see,
In every part as it best lyketh me,
It nedeth noght his shap yow to devyse,
He shal first chese and speken in his gyse.
The male eagle, as you all must feel,
The royal fowl, above you in degree,
The wise and worthy, secret, true as steel,
Whom I have formed, as you can see,
In every part as it best pleases me,
It needs not that his form I must portray,
He shall choose first, and speak in his own way
And after him, by order shul ye chese,
After your kinde, everich as yow lyketh,
And, as your hap is, shul ye winne or lese;
But which of yow that love most entryketh,
God sende him hir that sorest for him syketh.’
And therwith-al the tercel gan she calle,
And seyde, `my sone, the choys is to thee falle.
And after him in order shall you choose
According to your kind, as you devise,
And, as your luck is, shall you win or lose;
But that one of you on whom love most lies,
God send him she that sorest for him sighs.’
And therewithal the eagle she did call,
And said: ‘My son, the choice on you does fall.
But natheles, in this condicioun
Mot be the choys of everich that is here,
That she agree to his eleccioun,
What-so he be that shulde be hir fere;
This is our usage alwey, fro yeer to yere;
And who so may at this time have his grace,
In blisful tyme he com in-to this place.’
But nonetheless, bound by this condition
Must be the choice of everyone that’s here,
That she shall yet agree to his decision,
Whoever it is that shall her mate appear;
This is our custom ever, from year to year;
And he who at this time would find grace,
At blessed time has come unto this place.
With hed enclyned and with ful humble chere
This royal tercel spak and taried nought:
`Unto my sovereyn lady, and noght my fere,
I chese, and chese with wille and herte and thought,
The formel on your hond so wel y-wrought,
Whos I am al and ever wol hir serve,
Do what hir list, to do me live or sterve.
With head inclined, humble, without fear,
This royal eagle spoke and tarried not:
‘My sovereign lady, with no equal here,
I choose, and choose with will and heart and thought,
The female on your hand so finely wrought,
Whose I am all, and ever will serve her I,
Do what she please: to have me live or die.
Beseching hir of mercy and of grace,
As she that is my lady sovereyne;
Or let me dye present in this place.
For certes, long may I not live in peyne;
For in myn herte is corven every veyne;
Having reward only to my trouthe,
My dere herte, have on my wo som routhe.
Beseeching her of mercy and of grace,
As she that is my lady sovereign,
To let me die right now, here in this place.
For certain, I’ll not live long in such pain,
Since in my heart is bleeding every vein;
Having regard only for my truth,
My dear heart, for my sorrow show some ruth.
And if that I to hir be founde untrewe,
Disobeysaunt, or wilful negligent,
Avauntour, or in proces love a newe,
I pray to you this be my jugement,
That with these foules I be al to-rent,
That ilke day that ever she me finde
To hir untrewe, or in my gilte unkinde.
And if that I be found to her untrue,
I disobey, or am blindly negligent,
Boastful, or in time chase after new,
I pray to you, on me be this judgement,
That by these fowls I be all torn then,
The very day that she should ever find
I am false to her or wilfully unkind.
And sin that noon loveth hir so wel as I,
Al be she never of love me behette,
Than oghte she be myn thourgh hir mercy,
For other bond can I noon on hir knette.
For never, for no wo, ne shal I lette
To serven hir, how fer so that she wende;
Sey what yow list, my tale is at an ende.’
And since none loves her as well as me,
Though she never promised me her love,
Then she should be mine, in her mercy,
For I’ve no other claim on her to move.
For never, for any woe, shall I prove
Faithless to her, however far she wend;
Say what you wish, my tale is at an end.’
Right as the fresshe, rede rose newe
Ayen the somer-sonne coloured is,
Right so for shame al wexen gan the hewe
Of this formel, whan she herde al this;
She neyther answerde `Wel’, ne seyde amis,
So sore abasshed was she, til that Nature
Seyde, `doghter, drede yow noght, I yow assure.’
Just as the fresh, the red rose new
In the summer sunlight coloured is,
So from modesty all waxed the hue
Of the female when she heard all this;
She neither answered, nor said aught amiss,
So sore abashed was she, till Nature
Said: ‘Daughter, fear you not, I you assure.’
Another tercel egle spak anoon
Of lower kinde, and seyde, `that shal nat be;
I love hir bet than ye do, by Seynt John,
Or atte leste I love hir as wel as ye;
And lenger have served hir, in my degree,
And if she shulde have loved for long loving,
To me allone had been the guerdoninge.
Another male eagle spoke anon,
Of lesser rank, and said: ‘This shall not be.
I love her more than you do, by Saint John,
Or at the least I love her as well as ye,
Serving her longer in my degree,
And if she should have love for long-loving,
To me alone they should the garland bring.
I dar eek seye, if she me finde fals,
Unkinde, Iangler, or rebel in any wyse,
Or Ialous, do me hongen by the hals!
And but I bere me in hir servyse
As wel as that my wit can me suffyse,
From poynt to poynt, hir honour for to save,
Take she my lyf, and al the good I have.’
I dare state too, that if she finds me yet,
False, indiscreet, unkind, rebellious,
Or jealous, you may hang me by the neck!
And if I do not fulfil in service
As well as my wits can, this promise,
In all respects her honour for to save,
Take she my life, and all my goods I pray.’
The thridde tercel egle answerde tho,
`Now, sirs, ye seen the litel leyser here;
For every foul cryeth out to been a-go
Forth with his make, or with his lady dere;
And eek Nature hir-self ne wol nought here,
For tarying here, noght half that I wolde seye;
And but I speke, I mot for sorwe deye.
A third male eagle answered so:
‘Now, sirs, you know we’ve little leisure here;
For every fowl cries out to fly, and go
Forth with her mate, or with his lady dear;
And Nature herself would rather not hear,
By tarrying here, half that I would sigh;
Yet unless I speak, I must for sorrow die.
Of long servyse avaunte I me nothing,
But as possible is me to dye to-day
For wo, as he that hath ben languisshing
Thise twenty winter, and wel happen may
A man may serven bet and more to pay
In half a yere, al-though it were no more,
Than som man doth that hath served ful yore.
Of long service I may offer nothing,
Yet it’s as possible for me to die today
For woe, as he that has been languishing
These twenty winters, and happen it may
That a man may serve better and more repay
In half a year, although it were no more,
Than some man does who has served a score.
I ne sey not this by me, for I ne can
Do no servyse that may my lady plese;
But I dar seyn, I am hir trewest man
As to my dome, and feynest wolde hir ese;
At shorte wordes, til that deeth me sese,
I wol ben hires, whether I wake or winke,
And trewe in al that herte may bethinke.’
I say this not for myself, since I can
Do no service that may my lady please;
But, I dare state, I am her truest man
And, in my opinion, best seek her ease;
Briefly to speak, till death does me seize
I will be hers, whether I wake or wink,
And true in all that heart may bethink.’
Of al my lyf, syn that day I was born,
So gentil plee in love or other thing
Ne herde never no man me beforn,
Who-so that hadde leyser and cunning
For to reherse hir chere and hir speking;
And from the morwe gan this speche laste
Til dounward drow the sonne wonder faste.
In all my life since the day I was born,
So noble a plea in love or anything
Never heard any man but me before,
As would be clear if any had the cunning
And leisure to echo their way of speaking;
And from the morning did their speech last
Till downward went the sun wondrous fast.
The noyse of foules for to ben delivered
So loude rong, `have doon and let us wende!’
That wel wende I the wode had al to-shivered.
`Come of!’ they cryde, `allas! ye wil us shende!
Whan shal your cursed pleding have an ende?
How shulde a juge eyther party leve,
For yee or nay, with-outen any preve?’
The cries of fowls, now, to be delivered
Rang out so loud: ‘Have done, and let us wend!’
That I thought all the woods to pieces shivered.
‘Come on!’ they cried, ‘Alas, you us offend!
When will your cursed pleading have an end?
How should a judge for either party move
A yea or nay, without a shred of proof?’
The goos, the cokkow, and the doke also
So cryden, `kek, kek!’ `kukkow!’ `quek, quek!’ hye,
That thorgh myn eres the noyse wente tho.
The goos seyde, `al this nis not worth a flye!
But I can shape hereof a remedye,
And I wol sey my verdit faire and swythe
For water-foul, who-so be wrooth or blythe.’
The goose, the duck, and the cuckoo also
‘Kek, kek!’ ‘Cuckoo!’ ‘Quack, quack!’ cried so high
That through both ears the noise did flow.
The goose said: ‘All this is not worth a fly!
But find a remedy thereof can I,
And I will give my verdict fair and swiftly
For water fowl, whoever’s pleased or angry.’
‘And I for worm-foul,’ seyde the fool cukkow,
‘For I wol, of myn owne auctorite,
For comune spede, take the charge now,
For to delivere us is gret charite.’
‘Ye may abyde a whyle yet, parde!’
Seide the turtel, `if hit be your wille
A wight may speke, him were as good be stille.
‘And I for worm-eaters,’ said fool cuckoo,
For I will on my own authority,
For the public good, take up the charge now,
Since to free us quickly is great charity.’
‘You must abide a while yet, indeed!’
Said the turtle-dove,’ If it’s your will
That one may speak, who’d better shut his bill.’
I am a seed-foul, oon the unworthieste,
That wot I wel, and litel of kunninge;
But bet is that a wightes tonge reste
Than entermeten him of such doinge
Of which he neyther rede can nor singe.
And who-so doth, ful foule himself acloyeth,
For office uncommitted ofte anoyeth.’
I’m a seed-eater, one of the un-worthiest,
As I well know, and little own to learning;
But better it is a creature’s tongue rest
Than that he meddle in those doings
Of which he can neither speak nor sing.
And he who does so, his cause destroys,
For a service not requested oft annoys.’
Nature, which that alway had an ere
To murmour of the lewednes behinde,
With facound voys seide, `hold your tonges there!
And I shal sone, I hope, a counseyl finde
You to delivere, and fro this noyse unbinde;
I juge, of every folk men shal oon calle
To seyn the verdit for you foules alle.’
Nature, who had always kept an ear
On the foolish murmuring behind,
With eloquent voice said: ‘Hold your tongues there!
And I shall soon, I hope, a method find
To release you, and from this noise unbind;
I decree that every group on one shall call
To announce the verdict for you all.’
Assented were to this conclusioun
The briddes alle; and foules of ravyne
Han chosen first, by pleyn eleccioun,
The tercelet of the faucon, to diffyne
Al hir sentence, and as him list, termyne;
And to Nature him gonnen to presente,
And she accepteth him with glad entente.
Agreeable to this same conclusion
Were all the fowls: and the birds of prey
Chose the first by open election,
The male falcon to speak out and say
All their judgements, and adjudicate;
And, to Nature, himself he did present,
And she accepted him with glad intent.
The tercelet seide than in this manere:
`Ful hard were it to preve hit by resoun
Who loveth best this gentil formel here;
For everich hath swich replicacioun,
That noon by skilles may be broght a-doun;
I can not seen that argumentes avayle;
Than semeth hit ther moste be batayle.’
The eagle spoke then in this manner:
‘It were full difficult to prove by reason
Who loves best this noble female here;
Each so puts forward his justification
That none by argument may be beaten.
I cannot see that arguments avail;
Then by battle it seems one must prevail.’
‘Al redy!’ quod these egles tercels tho.
‘Nay, sirs!’ quod he, `if that I dorste it seye,
Ye doon me wrong, my tale is not y-do!
For sirs, ne taketh noght a-gref, I preye,
It may noght gon, as ye wolde, in this weye;
Oure is the voys that han the charge in honde,
And to the juges dome ye moten stonde;
‘We’re ready!’ the male eagles quoth anon.
‘Nay, sirs! quoth he, ‘If I may dare to say,
You do me wrong, my tale is not yet done!
For sirs, take no offence of me I pray,
It may not, though you wish, happen this way;
Ours is the voice whose decision is at hand,
And the judge’s judgement you must stand;
‘And therfor, pees! I seye, as to my wit,
Me wolde thinke how that the worthieste
Of knighthode, and lengest hath used it,
Moste of estat, of blode the gentileste,
Were sittingest for hir, if that hir leste;
And of these three she wot hir-self, I trowe,
Which that he be, for it is light to knowe.’
And therefore, peace! I say, so works my wit,
That to me it seems that the worthiest
In knighthood, who’s longest practiced it,
Highest in rank, and of blood the noblest,
Were most fitting for her, if she so wished;
And of these three she herself knows, also
Which that one is, since easy ‘tis to know.’
The water-foules han her hedes leyd
Togeder, and of short avysement,
Whan everich had his large golee seyd,
They seyden soothly, al by oon assent,
How that the goos, with hir facounde gent,
That so desyreth to pronounce our nede,
Shal telle our tale,’ and preyde `God hir spede.’
The waterfowl had all their heads laid
Together and, after short argument,
When each of them had his large mouthful said,
Agreed truly, by mutual assent,
That the goose, who was so eloquent,
‘Who so yearns to pronounce what we agreed,
Shall tell our tale,’ and prayed her God speed.
And for these water-foules tho began
The goos to speke, and in hir cakelinge
She seyde, `Pees! now tak kepe every man,
And herkeneth which a reson I shal bringe;
My wit is sharp, I love no taryinge;
I seye, I rede him, though he were my brother,
But she wol love him, lat him love another!’
And, for these water fowl, then began
The goose to speak, and in her cackling
She said: ‘Peace! Now take heed every man
And hear the judgement I shall forth bring;
My wit is sharp, I hate all tarrying;
I advise him, though he were my brother,
Unless she loves him, let him love another!’
‘Lo here a parfit reson of a goos!’
Quod the sperhauk; `never mot she thee!
Lo, swich it is to have a tonge loos!
Now parde, fool, yet were hit bet for thee
Han holde thy pees, than shewed thy nycete!
It lyth not in his wit nor in his wille,
But sooth is seyd, “a fool can noght be stille.”‘
‘Lo, here’s a reason fitting for a goose!’
Quoth the sparrow-hawk, ‘Never prosper she!
Lo such it is to have a tongue that’s loose!
Now, by God, fool, it were better for thee
To have held your peace, than show stupidity!
It lies not in his wit, nor in his will,
But true it is, “a fool’s tongue’s never still.”’
The laughter aroos of gentil foules alle,
And right anoon the seed-foul chosen hadde
The turtel trewe, and gonne hir to hem calle,
And preyden hir to seye the sothe sadde
Of this matere, and asked what she radde;
And she answerde, that pleynly hir entente
She wolde shewe, and soothly what she mente.
Laughter arose from the noble fowls all,
And anon the seed-eaters chosen had
The turtle true, and to them her did call,
And prayed her to tell the plain truth
Of the matter, and say what she would do;
And she answered that plainly her intent
She would speak and truly what she meant.
‘Nay, God forbede a lover shulde chaunge!’
The turtle seyde, and wex for shame al reed;
‘Thogh that his lady ever-more be straunge,
Yet let him serve hir ever, til he be deed;
For sothe, I preyse noght the gooses reed;
For thogh she deyed, I wolde non other make,
I wol ben hires, til that the deeth me take.’
‘Nay, God forbid that a lover should change,’
The dove said, and blushed for shame all red,
‘Though his lady evermore seem estranged,
Yet let him serve her ever till he be dead.
For truly, I praise not what the goose has said,
For though she died, no other mate I’d take,
I would be hers till death my end should make.’
‘Wel bourded!’ quod the doke, `by my hat!
That men shulde alwey loven, causeles,
Who can a resoun finde or wit in that?
Daunceth he mury that is mirthelees?
Who shulde recche of that is recchelees?
Ye, quek!’ quod the doke, ful wel and faire,
`There been mo sterres, God woot, than a paire!’
‘A fine jest,’ quoth the duck, ‘by my hat!
That men should love forever causeless,
Who can find reason or wit in that?
Dances he merrily who is mirthless?
Who cares for him who couldn’t care less?’
‘Quack ye,’ quoth yet the duck, ‘full well and fair!
There are more stars above than just one pair!’
‘Now fy, cherl!’ quod the gentil tercelet,
‘Out of the dunghil com that word ful right,
Thou canst noght see which thing is wel be-set:
Thou farest by love as oules doon by light,
The day hem blent, ful wel they see by night;
Thy kind is of so lowe a wrechednesse,
That what love is, thou canst nat see ne gesse.’
‘Shame on you, churl!’ quoth the noble eagle,
‘Out of the dunghill come the words you cite.
You cannot see whatever is done well.
You fare in love as owls do in the light;
The day blinds them though they see by night.
Your kind is of so low a wretchedness
That what love is, you cannot see or guess.’
Tho gan the cukkow putte him forth in prees
For foul that eteth worm, and seide blyve,
‘So I,’ quod he, `may have my make in pees,
I recche not how longe that ye stryve;
Lat ech of hem be soleyn al hir lyve,
This is my reed, syn they may not acorde;
This shorte lesson nedeth noght recorde.’
Then the cuckoo did the moment seize
For the worm-eating fowls, and did cry:
‘So long as I may have my mate in peace,
I care not how long you all may strive.
Let both of them stay single all their lives!
This I advise, since there’s no agreeing;
This short lesson does not bear repeating.’
‘Ye! have the glotoun fild ynogh his paunche,
Than are we wel!’ seyde the merlioun;
`Thou mordrer of the heysugge on the braunche
That broghte thee forth, thou rewthelees glotoun!
Live thou soleyn, wormes corrupcioun!
For no fors is of lakke of thy nature;
Go, lewed be thou, whyl the world may dure!’
‘Yea, so the glutton gets to fill his paunch,
Then all is well!’ said the merlin for one;
‘You murderer of the sparrow on the branch,
Who brought you forth, you wretched glutton!
Live you single then, worms’ destruction!
Useless even the defects of your natures;
Go you ignorant while the world endures!’
‘Now pees,’ quod Nature, `I comaunde here;
For I have herd al your opinioun,
And in effect yet be we never the nere;
But fynally, this is my conclusioun,
That she hir-self shal han the eleccioun
Of whom hir list, who-so be wrooth or blythe,
Him that she cheest, he shal hir have as swythe.
‘Now peace,’ quoth Nature, ‘I command here!
Since I have heard all your opinions,
And in effect our end is yet no nearer;
Finally now this is my own conclusion:
That she herself shall make her own decision
Choose whom she wish, whoe’er be glad or angry,
Him that she chooses, he shall have her as quickly.
For sith it may not here discussed be
Who loveth hir best, as seide the tercelet,
Than wol I doon hir this favour, that she
Shal have right him on whom hir herte is set,
And he hir that his herte hath on hir knet.
Thus juge I, Nature, for I may not lye;
To noon estat I have non other ye.
For since it may not here resolved be
Who loves her best, as said the eagle yet,
Then will I grant her this favour, that she
Shall have him straight on whom her heart is set,
And he’ll have her whom his heart can’t forget.
This I decide, Nature, for I may not lie;
To naught but love do I my thought apply.
But as for counseyl for to chese a make,
If it were reson, certes, than wolde I
Counseyle yow the royal tercel take,
As seide the tercelet ful skilfully,
As for the gentilest and most worthy,
Which I have wroght so wel to my plesaunce;
That to yow oghte been a suffisaunce.’
But as for advice in what choice to make,
If I were Reason, then would I
Advise that you the royal eagle take,
As said the eagle there most skilfully,
As being the noblest and most worthy,
Whom I wrought so well for my pleasure;
And that to you should be the true measure.’
With dredful vois the formel hir answerde,
‘My rightful lady, goddesse of Nature,
Soth is that I am ever under your yerde,
Lyk as is everich other creature,
And moot be youres whyl that my lyf may dure;
And therfor graunteth me my firste bone,
And myn entente I wol yow sey right sone.’
With fearful voice the female gave answer,
‘My rightful lady, goddess of Nature,
Truth it is, your authority I am under
As is each and every other creature,
And must be yours while my life endure,
And therefore grant me my first boon,
And my intent I will reveal right soon.’
‘I graunte it you,’ quod she; and right anoon
This formel egle spak in this degree,
‘Almighty quene, unto this yeer be doon
I aske respit for to avysen me.
And after that to have my choys al free;
This al and sum, that I wolde speke and seye;
Ye gete no more, al-though ye do me deye.
‘I grant it you,’ quoth she, and right anon
The female eagle spoke in this degree,
‘Almighty queen, until this year be done
I ask a respite to think carefully,
And after that to make my choice all free.
This is the sum of what I’d speak and say;
You’ll get no more although you do me slay.
I wol noght serven Venus ne Cupyde
For sothe as yet, by no manere wey.’
`Now sin it may non other wyse betyde,’
Quod Nature, `here is no more to sey;
Than wolde I that these foules were a-wey
Ech with his make, for tarying lenger here’ —
And seyde hem thus, as ye shul after here.
I will not serve fair Venus nor Cupid
In truth, as yet, in no manner of way.’
‘Now since there is no alternative,’
Quoth Nature, ‘there is no more to say;
Then wish I that these folks were away
Each with its mate, not tarrying longer here’ –
And spoke to them as you shall after hear.
‘To you speke I, ye tercelets,’ quod Nature,
‘Beth of good herte and serveth, alle three;
A yeer is not so longe to endure,
And ech of yow peyne him, in his degree,
For to do wel; for, God woot, quit is she
Fro yow this yeer; what after so befalle,
This entremes is dressed for you alle.’
‘To you I speak, you eagles,’ quoth Nature,
‘Be of good heart and serve you, all three;
A year is not too long to endure,
So each of you take pains in his degree
To do well; for, God knows, free is she
Of you this year; whatever may then befall,
This same delay is served upon you all.’
And whan this werk al broght was to an ende,
To every foule Nature yaf his make
By even acorde, and on hir wey they wende.
And, Lord, the blisse and joye that they make!
For ech of hem gan other in winges take,
And with hir nekkes ech gan other winde,
Thanking alwey the noble goddesse of kinde.
And when this task was all brought to an end,
Each fowl from Nature his mate did take
In full accord, and on their way they went.
And, Lord, the blissful scene they did make!
For each of them the other in wings did take,
And their necks round each other’s did wind,
Thanking the noble goddess, kind by kind.
But first were chosen foules for to singe,
As yeer by yere was alwey hir usaunce
To singe a roundel at hir departinge,
To do to Nature honour and plesaunce.
The note, I trowe, maked was in Fraunce;
The wordes wer swich as ye may heer finde,
The nexte vers, as I now have in minde.
But first were fowl chosen for to sing,
As was ever their custom year on year
To sing out a roundel at their parting
To do Nature honour and bring cheer.
The tune was made in France, as you may hear;
The words were such as here you’ll find
In the next verse, I have now in mind.
Now welcom somer, with thy sonne softe,
That hast this wintres weders over-shake,
And driven awey the longe nightes blake!
‘Now welcome summer, with your sun soft,
That this winter’s weather does off-shake,
And the long nights’ black away does take!
Saynt Valentyn, that art ful hy on-lofte; —
Thus singen smale foules for thy sake —
Now welcom somer, with thy sonne sonne,
That hast this wintres weders over-shake.
Saint Valentine, who art full high aloft –
Thus sing the small fowls for your sake –
Now welcome summer, with your sun soft,
That this winter’s weather does off-shake.
‘Wel han they cause for to gladen ofte,
Sith ech of hem recovered hath his make;
Ful blisful may they singen whan they wake;
Now welcom somer, with thy sonne softe,
That hast this wintres weders over-shake,
And driven away the longe nightes blake.’
Well have they cause to rejoice full oft,
Since each a marriage with its mate does make;
Full joyous may they sing when they wake;
Now welcome summer, with your sun soft,
That this wintry weather does off-shake,
And the long nights’ black away does take.’
And with the showting, whan hir song was do,
That foules maden at hir flight a-way,
I wook, and other bokes took me to
To rede upon, and yet I rede alway;
In hope, y-wis, to rede so som day
That I shal mete som thing for to fare
The bet; and thus to rede I nil not spare.
And with the cries, when their song was done,
That the fowls made as they flew away,
I woke, and other books to read upon
I then took up, and still I read always;
I hope in truth to read something someday
Such that I dream what brings me better fare,
And thus my time from reading I’ll not spare.

Author: Robert

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