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Legend of Good Women, Prologues A and B

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Legend of Good Women, prologue: A-Text
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A thousand sythes have I herd men telle,
That ther is Ioye in heven, and peyne in helle;
And I acorde wel that hit is so;
But natheles, this wot I wel also,
That ther nis noon dwelleth in this contree,
That either hath in helle or heven y-be,
Ne may of hit non other weyes witen,
But as he hath herd seyd, or founde hit writen;
For by assay ther may no man hit preve.
10 But goddes forbode, but men shulde leve
Wel more thing then men han seen with ye!
Men shal nat wenen every-thing a lye
For that he seigh it nat of yore ago.
God
wot, a thing is never the lasse so
Thogh every wight ne may hit nat y-see.
Bernard the monk ne saugh nat al, parde!



Than mote we to bokes that we finde,
Through which that olde thinges been in minde,
And to the doctrine of these olde wyse,
20 Yeven credence, in every skilful wyse,
And trowen on these olde aproved stories,
Of holinesse, or regnes, of victories,
Of love, of hate, of other sundry thinges,
Of whiche I may not maken rehersinges.
And if that olde bokes were a-weye,
Y-loren were of remembraunce the keye.
Wel oghte us than on olde bokes leve,
Ther-as ther is non other assay by preve.



And, as for me, though that my wit be lyte,
30 On bokes for to rede I me delyte,
And in myn herte have hem in reverence;
And to hem yeve swich lust and swich credence
,
That ther is wel unethe game noon
That from my bokes make me to goon,
But hit be other up-on the haly-day;
Or elles in the Ioly tyme of May;
Whan
that I here the smale foules singe,
And that the floures ginne for to springe,
Farwel my studie, as lasting that sesoun!



40 Now have I therto this condicioun
That, of alle the floures in the mede,
Than love I most these floures whyte and rede,
Swiche as men callen daysies in our toun.
To hem have I so great affeccioun,
As I seyde erst, whan comen is the May,
That in my bed ther daweth me no day
That I nam up, and walking in the mede
To seen these floures agein the sonne sprede,
Whan hit up-riseth by the morwe shene,
50 The longe day, thus walking in the grene.
And
whan the sonne ginneth for to weste,
Than closeth
hit, and draweth hit to reste.
So sore hit is afered of the night
,
Til on the morwe, that hit is dayes light.
This dayesye,
of alle floures flour,
Fulfild of vertu and of alle honour,



And ever y-lyke fair, and fresh of hewe;
As wel in winter as in somer newe,
Fain wolde I preisen, if I coude aright;
60 But wo is me, hit lyth nat in my might!



For wel I wot, that folk han her-beforn
Of making ropen, and lad a-wey the corn;
And I come after, glening here and there,
And am ful glad if I may finde an ere
Of any goodly word that they han left.
And, if it happe me rehersen eft
That they han in her fresshe songes sayd,
I hope that they wil nat ben evel apayd,
Sin hit is seid in forthering and honour
70 Of hem that either serven leef or flour.
For trusteth wel
, I ne have nat undertake
As of
the leef, ageyn the flour, to make;
Ne of the flour to make
, ageyn the leef,
No more than of the corn ageyn the sheef.
For, as to me, is leefer noon ne lother;
I am with-holde yit with never nother.
I not who serveth leef
, ne who the flour;
That nis nothing the entent of my labour.
For this werk is al of another tunne
,
80 Of olde story, er swich stryf was begunne.
But wherfor that I spak, to yeve credence
To bokes olde and doon hem reverence,
Is for men shulde autoritees beleve,
Ther as ther lyth non other assay by
preve.
For myn entent is
, or I fro yow fare,
The naked text
in English to declare
Of many a story
, or elles of many a geste,
As autours seyn; leveth hem if yow leste!



Whan passed
was almost the month of May,
90 And I had romed, al the someres day,
The grene medew, of which that I yow tolde,
Upon
the fresshe daysy to beholde,
And that the sonne out of the south gan weste,
And closed was the flour and goon to reste
For derknesse of the night, of which she dredde,
Hoom to myn hous ful swiftly
I me spedde;
And, in a litel erber that I have,
Y-benched newe with turves fresshe y-grave,
I bad men shulde me my couche make;
100 For deyntee of the newe someres sake,
I bad hem strowe floures on my bed.
Whan I
was layd, and had myn eyen hed,
I fel a-slepe with-in an houre or two.
Me mette how I was in
the medew tho,
And that I romed in that same gyse,
To seen that flour, as ye han herd devyse.
Fair
was this medew, as thoughte me overal;
With
floures swote enbrowded was it al;
As
for to speke of gomme, or erbe, or tree,
110 Comparisoun may noon y-maked be.
For hit surmounted pleynly alle odoures,
And eek of riche beaute alle floures.
Forgeten had the erthe his pore estat
Of winter, that him naked made and mat,
And with his swerd of cold so sore had greved.
Now had the atempre sonne al that releved,
And clothed him in grene al newe agayn.
The smale foules, of the seson fayn,
That from the panter and the net ben scaped,
120 Upon the fouler, that hem made a-whaped
In winter, and distroyed had hir brood,
In his despyt, hem thoughte hit did hem good
To singe of him, and in hir song despyse
The foule cherl that, for his covetyse,
Had hem betrayed with his sophistrye.
This was hir song -- "the fouler we defye!"
Some songen [layes] on the braunches clere
Of love and [May], that Ioye hit was to here,
In worship and in preysing of hir make,
130 And of the newe blisful someres sake,
That songen, "blissed be seynt Valentyn!
[For] at his day I chees yow to be myn,
With-oute repenting, myn herte swete!"
And therwith-al hir bekes gonnen mete.
[They did
honour and] humble obeisaunces,
And after diden other observaunces
Right [plesing] un-to love and to nature;
So ech of hem [doth wel] to creature.
This song to herkne I dide al myn entente,
140 For-why I mette I wiste what they mente.
Til at
the last a larke song above:
"I see," quod she, "the mighty god of love!
Lo! yond he cometh
, I see his winges sprede!"
Tho
gan I loken endelong the mede,
And saw him come, and in his hond a quene,
Clothed
in ryal abite al of grene.
A fret of gold she hadde next hir heer,
And up-on that a whyt coroun she beer
With many floures, and I shal nat lye;
150 For al the world, right as the dayesye
I-coroned is with whyte leves lyte,
Swich were the floures of hir coroun whyte.
For of o perle fyn and oriental,
Hir whyte coroun was y-maked al;
For which the whyte coroun, above the grene,
Made hir lyk a daysie for to sene,
Considered eek the fret of gold above.



Y-clothed was this mighty god of love
Of silke, y-brouded ful of grene greves;
160 A garlond on his heed
of rose-leves
Sticked al with lilie floures newe;



But of his face I can nat seyn the hewe.
For sekirly his face
shoon so brighte,
That with the gleem a-stoned was the sighte;
A furlong-wey
I mighte him nat beholde.
But at the laste
in hande I saw him holde
Two fyry dartes, as the gledes rede;
And aungellich his wenges gan he sprede.
And al be that men seyn that blind is he,
170 Al-gate me thoughte he mighte wel y-see;
For sternly on me he gan biholde,
So that his loking doth myn herte colde.
And by the hande he held the noble quene,
Corouned with whyte, and clothed al in grene,
So womanly, so benigne, and so meke,
That in this world, thogh that men wolde seke,
Half hir beautee shulde men nat finde
In creature that formed is by kinde.
Hir name was Alceste the debonayre;
180
I prey to god that ever falle she fayre!
For ne hadde confort been of hir presence
,
I had be deed, withouten any defence,
For drede of Loves wordes and his chere,
As, whan tyme is, her-after ye shal here.
Byhind this god of love, up-n this grene,
I saw cominge of ladyes nyntene
In ryal abite, a ful esy pas,
And after hem com of wemen swich a tras

This, sin that god Adam made of erthe,
190 The thredde part of wemen, ne the ferthe,
Ne wende I nat by possibilitee
Hadden ever
in this world y-be;
And trewe
of love thise wemen were echoon.



Now whether was that a wonder thing or noon,
That, right anoon as that they gonne espye
This flour, which that I clepe the dayesye,
Ful sodeinly they stinten alle at ones,
And kneled adoun, as it were for the nones.
And after that they wenten in compas,
200 Daunsinge aboute
this flour an esy pas,
And songen, as it were in carole-wyse,
This balade, which that I shal yow devyse
.

Legend of Good Women, prologue: B-Text
Change

A thousand tymes have I herd men telle,
That ther is Ioye in heven, and peyne in helle;
And I acorde wel that hit is so;
But natheles, yit wot I wel also,
That ther nis noon dwelling in this contree,
That either hath in heven or helle y-be,
Ne may of hit non other weyes witen,
But as he hath herd seyd, or founde hit writen;
For by assay ther may no man hit preve.
10 But god forbede but men should leve
Wel more thing then men han seen with ye!
Men shal nat wenen every-thing a lye
But-if him-self hit seeth, or elles dooth;
For, god wot, thing is never the lasse sooth,
Thogh every wight ne may hit nat y-see.
Bernard the monk ne saugh nat al, parde!



Than mote we to bokes that we finde,
Through which that olde thinges been in minde.
And to the doctrine of these olde wyse,
20 Yeve credence, in every skilful wyse,
That tellen of these olde appreved stories,
Of holinesse, or regnes, of victories,
Of love, of hate, of other sundry thinges,
Of whiche I may not maken rehersinges.
And if that olde bokes were a-weye,
Y-loren were of remembraunce the keye.
Wel oghte us than honouren and beleve
These
bokes, ther we han non other preve.



And as for me, thogh that I can but lyte,
30 On bokes for to rede I me delyte,
And to hem yeve I feyth and ful credence,
And
in myn herte have hem in reverence
So hertely, that ther is game noon
That fro my bokes maketh me to goon,
But hit be seldom, on the holyday;
Save, certeynly, whan that the month of May
Is comen, and that I here the foules singe,
And that the floures ginnen for to springe,
Farwel my book and my devocioun!



40 Now have I than swich a condicioun,
That, of alle the floures in the mede,
Than love I most these floures whyte and rede,
Swiche as men callen daysies in our toun.
To hem have I so great affeccioun,
As I seyde erst, whan comen is the May,
That in my bed ther daweth me no day
That I nam up, and walking in the mede
To seen this flour agein the sonne sprede,
Whan hit upryseth erly by the morwe;
50 That blisful sighte softneth al my sorwe,
So glad am I whan that I have presence
Of
hit, to doon al maner reverence,
As she, that is of alle floures flour,
Fulfilled of al vertu and honour,
And ever y-lyke fair, and fresh of hewe;
And I love hit, and ever y-lyke newe,
And ever shal, til that myn herte dye;
Al swete I nat, of this I wol nat lye,
Ther loved no wight hotter in his lyve.



60 And whan that hit is eve, I renne blyve,

As sone as ever the sonne ginneth weste,
To seen this flour, how it wol go to reste,
For fere of night, so hateth she derknesse!
Hir chere is pleynly sprad
in the brightnesse
Of the sonne
, for ther hit wol unclose.
Allas! that
I ne had English, ryme or prose,
Suffisant this flour to preyse
aright!
But helpeth, ye that han conning and might,
Ye lovers, that can make of sentement
;
70 In this cas oghte ye be diligent
To forthren
me somwhat in my labour,
Whether ye ben with the leef or with the flour.

For wel I wot, that ye han her-biforn
Of making ropen, and lad awey the corn;
And I come after, glening here and there,
And am ful glad if I may finde an ere
Of any goodly word that ye han left.
And thogh it happen me rehercen eft
That ye han in your fresshe songes sayd,
80 For-bereth me, and beth nat evel apayd,
Sin that ye see I do hit in the honour
Of love, and eek in service of the flour,
Whom that I serve as I have wit or might.
She is
the clerness and the verray light,
That in this derke worlde me wynt and ledeth,
The herte in-with my sorowful brest yow dredeth,
And loveth so sore, that ye ben verrayly
The maistresse
of my wit, and nothing I.
My word, my werk, is knit so in your bonde,
90 That, as an harpe obeyeth to the honde
And maketh hit soune after his fingeringe,
Right so mowe ye out
of myn herte bringe
Swich vois, right as yow list, to laughte or pleyne.
Be ye
my gyde and lady sovereyne;
As to myn erthly god
, to yow I calle,
Bothe in this werke and in my sorwes alle.



But wherfor that I spak, to give credence
To olde stories, and doon hem reverence,
And that men mosten more thing beleve
100 Then men may seen at eye or elles preve?
That shal I seyn
, whan that I see my tyme;
I may not al at ones speke
in ryme.
My besy gost
, that thrusteth alwey newe
To seen this flour so yong, so fresh
of hewe,
Constreyned me with so gledy desyr,
That in my herte I fele yit the fyr,
That made me to ryse er hit wer day --
And this
was now the firste morwe of May --
With dredful herte and glad devocioun
,
110 For to ben at the resureccioun
Of this flour
, whan that it shuld unclose
Agayn
the sonne, that roos as rede as rose,
That in
the brest was of the beste that day,
That Agenores doghter ladde away.
And doun on knees anon-right I me sette,
And, as I coude, this fresshe flour I grette;
Kneling alwey, til hit unclosed was,
Upon the smale softe swote gras,
That was with floures swote enbrouded al,
120 Of swich swetnesse and swich odour over-al,
That,
for to speke of gomme, or herbe, or tree,
Comparisoun may noon y-maked be;
For hit surmounteth pleynly alle odoures,
And eek of riche beautee alle floures.
Forgeten had the erthe his pore estat
Of winter, that him naked made and mat,
And with his swerd of cold so sore greved;
Now hath the atempre sonne al that releved
That naked was, and clad hit new agayn.
130 The smale foules, of the seson fayn,
That from the panter and the net ben scaped,
Upon the fouler, that hem made a-whaped
In winter, and distroyed had hir brood,
In his despyt, hem thoughte hit did hem good
To singe of him, and in hir song despyse
The foule cherl that, for his covetyse,
Had hem betrayed with his sophistrye.
This was hir song -- "the fouler we defye,
And al his craft
!" And somme songen clere
140 Layes of love, and Ioye hit was to here,
In worshipinge and preisinge of hir make.
And
, for the newe blisful somers sake,
Upon the braunches ful of blosmes softe,
In hir delyt, they turned hem ful ofte,
And
songen, "blessed be seynt Valentyn!
For on his day I chees yow to be myn,
Withouten repenting, myn herte swete!"
And therwith-al hir bekes gonnen mete,
Yelding
honour and humble obeisaunces
150 love, and diden hir other observaunces
That longeth unto love and to nature;
Construeth that as yow list, I do no cure.



And tho that hadde doon unkindenesse --
As dooth the tydif, for new-fangelnesse --
Besoghte mercy of hir trespassinge,
And humblely songen hir repentinge,
And sworen on the blosmes to be trewe,

So that hir makes wolde upon hem rewe,
And at the laste maden hir acord.
160 Al founde they Daunger for a tyme a lord,
Yet Pitee, through his stronge gentil might,
Forgaf, and made Mercy passen Right,
Through innocence and ruled curtesye.
But I ne clepe nat innocence folye,
Ne fals pitee, for "vertu is the mene,"
As Etik saith, in swich maner I mene.
And thus thise foules, voide
of al malyce,
Acordeden to love, and laften vyce
Of hate, and songen alle of oon acord,
170 "Welcome, somer, our governour and lord!"



And Zephirus and Flora gentilly
Yaf to the floures, softe and tenderly,
Hir swote breth, and made
hem for to sprede,
As god and goddesse of the floury mede;
In which me thoghte I mighte, day by day,
Dwellen alwey, the Ioly month of May,
Withouten sleep, withouten mete or drinke
.
A-doun ful softely I gan to sinke;
And, leninge on
myn elbowe and my syde,
180 The longe day I shoop me for to abyde
For nothing elles, and
I shal nat lye,
But for to loke upon
the dayesye,
That wel by reson men hit calle may
The
"dayesye" or elles the "ye of day",
The emperice and flour of floures alle.

I pray to god that faire mot she falle,
And alle that loven floures, for hir sake!
But natheles, ne wene nat that I make
In preysing of
the flour agayn the leef,
190 No more than
of the corn agayn the sheef:
For
, as to me, nis lever noon ne lother;
I nam with-holden yit with never nother.
Ne I not who serveth leef, ne who the flour;
Wel brouken they hir service or labour;
For this thing is al of anther tonne,
Of olde story, er swich thing was be-gonne.



Whan that the sonne out of the south
gan weste,
And that this flour gan close and goon to reste
For derknesse of the night, the which she dredde,
200 Hoom to myn hous ful swiftly
I me spedde
To goon to reste, and erly for to ryse,
To seen this flour to sprede, as I devyse.
And, in a litel herber that I have,
That benched was on turves fresshe y-grave,
I bad men sholde me my couche make;
For deyntee of
the newe someres sake,
I bad hem strawen floures on my bed.
Whan I was leyd, and had myn eyen hed,
I fel on slepe in-with an houre or two;
210 Me mette how I lay in the medew tho,
To seen this flour that I love so drede.

And from a-fer com walking in the mede
The god of love
, and in his hande a quene;
And she was clad
in real habit grene.
A fret of gold she hadde next hir heer,
And upon that a whyt coroun she beer
With florouns smale, and I shal nat lye;
For al the world, ryght as a dayesye
Y-corouned is with whyte leves lyte,
220 So were the florouns of hir coroun whyte;
For of a perle fyne, oriental,
Hir whyte coroun was y-maked al;
For which the whyte coroun, above the grene,
Made hir lyk a daysie for to sene,
Considered eek hir feet of gold above.



Y-clothed was this mighty god of love
In silke, enbrouded ful of grene greves,
In-with a fret
of rede rose-leves,
The fresshest sin the world was first bigonne.
230 His gilte heer was corouned
with a sonne,
In-stede of gold, for hevinesse and wighte
;
Therwith me thoughte his face shoon so brighte
That wel unnethes mighte I him beholde;
And
in his hande me thoughte I saugh him holde
Two fyry dartes, as the gledes rede;
And aungellyke his winges suagh I sprede.
And al be that men seyn that blind is he,
Al-gate me thoughte that he mighte see;
For sternly on me he gan biholde,
240 So that his loking doth myn herte colde.
And by the hande he held this noble quene,
Corouned with whyte, and clothed al in grene,
So womanly, so benigne, and so meke,
That in this world, thogh that men wolde seke,
Half hir beautee shulde men nat finde
In creature that formed is by kinde.
And therfor may I seyn, as thinketh me,
This song, in preysing of this lady fre.

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Legend of Good Women, prologue: B-Text

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