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The Ten Commandments of Love

 

The text is lightly glossed; see the glossary in the Riverside Chaucer for words not defined here.

 




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Certes, ferre extendeth yet my reason
This matter as yet should be to descrive,      describe
But I trust your grace will in this season
Consider how with cunning that I strive
For in this favour coud I never arrive.
Eloquence this Balade hath in greate despite;
The maker lacketh maner to endite      skill to compose

Of Loves commaundements ten is the number,
As afterward shall rudely be rehearsed.
And lovers in no wise depart asunder,
Where as they be observed and redressed;
Daunger and Unkindness ben oppressed;
And that is commanded this to make,
Is your own all other to forsake.


Faith (1st Commaundement)

Faith is the first; and principally to tell,
Very Love requireth such credance
That each believe other as true as the Gospel,
Without adulacion or flattering audience,
In true demeaning, trusty confidence;
Paint not your cunning with colour ne fable,
For then your love must nedes be unstable.


Entencion (2nd Commaundement)

In the second, to treat of entencion,
Your lover to please do your busy cure;
For as myn aucthor Romance maketh mencion,
Without entent your love may not endure,
As women will thereof, I am right sure,
Endeavor with heart, will, and thought,
To please him only that her love hath sought.


Discretion. (3rd Commaundement)

In your dealing ever be discreet;
Set not your love there as it shall be losed;
Advertise in your mind whther he be mete,
That unto him your heart may be disclosed;
And after, as you find him then disposed,
Point by discretion your houre, tume, and place,
Conveniently meeting with armes to embrace.


Pacience. (4th Commaundement)

Of these commaundements the fourthe is Patience.
Though by irous corage they lover be meved,
With soft wordes and humble obedience
His wrath may soon be swaged and relieved,
And thus his love obtained and acchieved
Will in you roote, with greater diligence,
Because of your weak and womanly pacience.


Secretnesse. (5th Commaundement)

Secretly behave you in your werkes,
In shewing countenance or meving of your eye;
Though suche behavor to some folke be darke,
He that hath loved woll it soon aspye.
Thus yourself your counseile may descrye;
Make privy to your dealing as few as ye may,
For three may kepe counseil if twain be away!


Prudence. (6th Commaundement)

Let Prudence be governor of your bridel-reine;
Set not your love in so fervent wise,
But that in goodly haste ye may refreine
If your lover list you to despise.
Romaunce, min authour, would you this advise:
Tie slack your love, for if you do not so,
That wanton list will turn you into wo.


Perseverance. (7th Commaundement)

Stablishe your love in so stedfast wise,
If that ye think your lover will be true,
As entirely as ye can devise,
Love him only and refuse all newe;
Then shall not your worship chaunge his hewe,
For certes, masteres, than is he to blame
But if that he will quit you with the same.


Pitee. (8th Commaundement)

Be piteous to him, as womanhode requireth,
That for your love endureth loves smarte,
Whom so sore your pleasant look enfireth,
That printed is your beauty in his harte,
And wounded lyeth without knife or darte;
Ther let your beauty spread without restrainte,
For lack of pitee let not your servant fainte!


Measure. (9th Commaundement)

Take measure in your talking; be not outrage,
For this rehearseth Romance de la Rose.
A men endowed with plenteous language
Oftime is denied his purpose;
Take wisdome in language, measure in grose,
For measure, as right proved is by reason,
Thinges unseasonable setteth in season.


Mercie. (10th Commaundement)

Suche Daunger exile him utterly
Over-all mercy to occupie his place;
To piteous complaintes your eares apply,
And recieve your servaunte in grace;
To him that bound is in loves lace.
Shew favour, Lady, and be not merciless,
Lest ye be callen a common murderess.


L'envoye

When ye unto this balade have inspection,
In my making hold me excusable;
It is submitted unto your correction;
Consider that my cunning is disable
To write to you the figure amable,
All devoid of cunning and experience,
Maner of enditing, reason, and eloquence.

Trust it well; the maker is your owne,
You to obey while his life may endure,
To do you service as a man unknowne,
No guerdon desiring of earthly treasure,
But if it might accorde with your pleasure
For true service him to avance,
And call him into your remembrance.

Explicit the 10 commaundements of Love













that = he who








adulation
conduct




purposeful action


attention, care
Romance of the Rose









dislodged
suitable


appoint






angry tempe

assuaged







deeds
moving
mysterious
espy
make known












desire




manner



hue
mistress
But if that = Unless





the pain of love
inflames
heart





Moderation

intemperate



in general,





















loveable








advance



 

Slightly regularized for beginning readers of Middle English from the edition of MS Tanner 407 by Stowe (1561), reprinted in Chalmers, English Poets, Vol 1; the poem is edited from MS Fairfax 16 by Rossell H. Robbins as No. 177 in Secular Lyrics of the XIVth and XVth Centuries, Oxford, 1955 (Widener 10495.64.27; Lamont PR1120.R6 1955x.)

 

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Last modified: July 5, 2006
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Gold Texts on this page prepared and maintained by L. D. Benson (ldb@wjh.harvard.edu)