[The text is lightly glossed; see the glossary in the Riverside Chaucer for words not explained here.]
In Septembre at the falling of the leef,
The fressh sesoun was al-togider doon,
And of the corn was gadered in the sheef;
In a gardyn, about twayn after noon,
Ther were ladyes walking, as was her wone,
Foure in nombre, as to my mynd doth falle,
And I the fifte, the simplest of hem alle.
Of gentilwomen fayre ther were also,
Disporting hem, everiche after her gyse,
In crosse-aleys walking, by two and two,
And some alone, after her fantasyes.
Thus occupyed we were in dyvers wyse;
And yet, in trouthe, we were not al alone;
Ther were knightës and squyers many one.
`Wherof I served?' oon of hem asked me;
I sayde ayein, as it fel in my thought,
`To walke about the mase, in certaynté,
As a woman that [of] nothing rought.'
He asked me ayein -- `whom that I sought,
And of my colour why I was so pale?'
'Forsothe,' quod I, 'and therby lyth a tale.'
"That must me wite," quod he, "and that anon;
Tel on, let see, and make no tarying.'
`Abyd,' quod I, `ye been a hasty oon,
I let you wite it is no litel thing.
But, for bicause ye have a greet longing
In your desyr, this proces for to here,
I shal you tel the playn of this matere. --
It happed thus, that, in an after-noon,
My felawship and I, by oon assent,
Whan al our other besinesse was doon,
To passe our tyme, into this mase we went,
And toke our wayes, eche after our entent;
Some went inward, and wend they had gon out,
Some stode amid, and loked al about.
And, sooth to say, some were ful fer behind,
And right anon as ferforth as the best;
Other ther were, so mased in her mind,
Al wayes were good for hem, bothe eest and west.
Thus went they forth, and had but litel rest;
And some, her corage did hem sore assayle,
For very wrath, they did step over the rayle!
And as they sought hem-self thus to and fro,
I gat myself a litel avauntage;
Al for-weried, I might no further go,
Though I had won right greet, for my viage.
So com I forth into a strait passage,
Which brought me to an herber fair and grene,
Mad with benches, ful craftily and clene,
That, as me thought, ther might no creature
Devyse a better, by dew proporcioun;
Safe it was closed wel, I you ensure,
With masonry of compas enviroun,
Ful secretly, with stayres going doun
Inmiddes the place, with turning wheel, certayn
And upon that, a pot of marjolain;
With margarettes growing in ordinaunce,
To shewe hemself, as folk went to and fro,
That to beholde it was a greet plesaunce,
And how they were acompanyed with mo
Ne-m'oublie-mies and sovenez also;
The povre pensees were not disloged there;
No, no! god wot, her place was every-where!
The flore beneth was paved faire and smothe
With stones square, of many dyvers hew,
So wel joynëd that, for to say the sothe,
Al semed oon (who that non other knew);
And underneth, the stremës new and new,
As silver bright, springing in suche a wyse
That, whence it cam, ye coude it not devyse.
A litel whyle thus was I al alone,
Beholding wel this delectable place;
My felawship were coming everichone,
So must me nedes abyde, as for a space.
Rememb[e]ring of many dyvers cace
Of tyme passed, musing with sighes depe,
I set me doun, and ther I fel a-slepe.
And, as I slept, me thought ther com to me
A gentilwoman, metely of stature;
Of greet worship she semed for to be,
Atyred wel, not high, but by mesure;
Her countenaunce ful sad and ful demure;
Her colours blewe, al that she had upon;
Ther com no mo [there] but herself aloon.
Her gown was wel embrouded, certainly,
With sovenez, after her own devyse;
On her purfyl her word [was] by and by
Bien et loyalment, as I coud devyse.
Than prayde I her, in every maner wyse
That of her name I might have remembraunce;
She sayd, she called was Perséveraunce.
So furthermore to speke than was I bold,
Where she dwelled, I prayed her for to say;
And she again ful curteysly me told,
"My dwelling is, and hath ben many a day
With a lady." -- " What lady, I you pray?"
"Of greet estate, thus warne I you," quod she;
"What cal ye her?" -- " Her name is Loyaltè."
"In what offyce stand ye, or in what degrè?"
Quod I to her, "that wolde I wit right fayn."
"I am," quod she, "unworthy though I be,
Of her chambre her ussher, in certayn;
This rod I bere, as for a token playn,
Lyke as ye know the rule in such servyce
Pertayning is unto the same offyce.
She charged me, by her commaundëment,
To warn you and your felawes everichon,
That ye shuld come there as she is present,
For a counsayl, which shal be now anon,
Or seven dayës be comen and gon.
And furthermore, she bad that I shuld say
Excuse there might be non, nor [no] delay.
Another thing was nigh forget behind
Whiche in no wyse I wolde but ye it knew;
Remembre wel, and bere it in your mind,
Al your felawes and ye must come in blew,
Every liche able your maters for to sew;
With more, which I pray you thinke upon,
Your wordës on your slevës everichon.
And be not ye abasshed in no wyse,
As many been in suche an high presence;
Mak your request as ye can best devyse,
And she gladly wol yeve you audience.
There is no greef, ne no maner offence,
Wherin ye fele that your herte is displesed,
But with her help right sone ye shul be esed."
"I am right glad," quod I, "ye tel me this,
But there is non of us that knoweth the way."
"As of your way," quod she, " ye shul not mis,
Ye shul have oon to gyde you, day by day,
Of my felawes (I can no better say)
Suche oon as shal tel you the way ful right;
And Diligence this gentilwoman hight.
A woman of right famous governaunce,
And wel cherisshed, I tel you in certayn;
Her felawship shal do you greet plesaunce.
Her port is suche, her maners trewe and playn;
She with glad chere wol do her besy payn
To bring you there; now farwel, I have don."
"Abyde," sayd I, "ye may not go so sone."
"Why so?" quod she, "and I have fer to go
To yeve warning in many dyvers place
To your felawes, and so to other mo;
And wel ye wot, I have but litel space."
"Now yet," quod I, "ye must tel me this cace,
If we shal any man unto us cal? "
"Not oon," quod she, "may come among you al."
Not oon," quod I, "ey! benedicite!
What have they don? I pray you tel me that!"
"Now, by my lyf, I trow but wel," quod she;
"But ever I can bileve there is somwhat,
And, for to say you trouth, more can I nat;
In questiouns I may nothing be large,
I medle no further than is my charge."
"Than thus," quod I, "do me to understand,
What place is there this lady is dwelling?"
"Forsothe," quod she, "and oon sought al this land,
Fairer is noon, though it were for a king
Devysed wel, and that in every thing.
The toures hy ful plesaunt shul ye find,
With fanes fressh, turning with every wind.
The chambres and parlours both of oo sort,
With bay-windowes, goodly as may be thought,
As for daunsing and other wyse disport;
The galeryes right wonder wel y-wrought,
That I wel wot, if ye were thider brought.
And took good hede therof in every wyse,
Ye wold it thinke a very paradyse."
"What hight this place?" quod I; "now say me that."
"Plesaunt Regard," quod she, "to tel you playn."
"Of verray trouth," quod I, "and, wot ye what,
It may right wel be called so, certayn;
But furthermore, this wold I wit ful fayn,
What shulde I do as sone as I come there,
And after whom that I may best enquere?"
"A gentilwoman, a porter at the yate
There shal ye find; her name is Countenaunce;
If it so hap ye come erly or late,
Of her were good to have som acquaintaunce.
She can tel how ye shal you best avaunce,
And how to come to her ladyes presence;
To her wordës I rede you yeve credence.
Now it is tyme that I depart you fro
For, in good sooth, I have gret businesse."
"I wot right wel," quod I, "that it is so;
And I thank you of your gret gentilnesse.
Your comfort hath yeven me suche hardinesse
That now I shal be bold, withouten fayl,
To do after your ávyse and counsayl."
Thus parted she, and I lefte al aloon;
With that I saw, as I beheld asyde,
A woman come, a verray goodly oon;
And forth withal, as I had her aspyed,
Me thought anon, [that] it shuld be the gyde;
And of her name anon I did enquere.
Ful womanly she yave me this answere.
"I am," quod she, " a simple crëature
Sent from the court; my name is Diligence.
As sone as I might come, I you ensure,
I taried not, after I had licence;
And now that I am come to your presence,
Look, what servyce that I can do or may,
Commaundë me; I can no further say."
I thanked her, and prayed her to come nere,
Because I wold see how she were arayed;
Her gown was blew, dressed in good manere
With her devyse, her word also, that sayd
Tant que je puis; and I was wel apayd
For than wist I, withouten any more,
It was ful trew, that I had herd before.
"Though we took now before a litel space,
It were ful good," quod she, "as I coud gesse."
"How fer," quod I, "have we unto that place?
"A dayes journey," quod she, "but litel lesse;
Wherfore I redë that we onward dresse;
For, I suppose, our felawship is past,
And for nothing I wold that we were last."
Then parted we, at springing of the day,
And forth we wente a soft and esy pace,
Til, at the last, we were on our journey
So fer onward, that we might see the place.
"Now let us rest," quod I, "a litel space,
And say we, as devoutly as we can,
A pater-noster for saint Julian."
"With al my herte, I assent with good wil;
Much better shul we spede, whan we have don."
Than taried we, and sayd it every del.
And whan the day was fer gon after noon,
We saw a place, and thider cam we sone,
Which rounde about was closed with a wal,
Seming to me ful lyke an hospital.
Ther found I oon, had brought al myn aray,
A gentilwoman of myn aquaintaunce.
"I have mervayl," quod I, "what maner way
Ye had knowlege of al this ordenaunce."
"Yis, yis," quod she, "I herd Perséveraunce,
How she warned your felawes everichon,
And what aray that ye shulde have upon."
"Now, for my love," quod I, " this I you pray,
Sith ye have take upon you al the payn,
That ye wold helpe me on with myn aray;
For wit ye wel, I wold be gon ful fayn."
"Al this prayer nedeth not, certayn;"
Quod she agayn; "com of, and hy you sone,
And ye shal see how wel it shal be doon."
"But this I dout me greetly, wot ye what,
That my felawes ben passed by and gon."
"I warant you," quod she, "that ar they nat;
For here they shul assemble everichon.
Notwithstanding, I counsail you anon;
Mak you redy, and tary ye no more,
It is no harm, though ye be there afore."
So than I dressed me in myn aray,
And asked her, whether it were wel or no?
"It is right wel," quod she, "unto my pay;
Ye nede not care to what place ever ye go."
And whyl that she and I debated so,
Cam Diligence, and saw me al in blew:
"Sister," quod she, "right wel brouk ye your new!"
Than went we forth, and met at aventure
A yong woman, an officer seming:
"What is your name," quod I, "good crëature?"
"Discrecioun," quod she, "without lesing."
"And where," quod I, "is your most abyding?"
"I have," quod she, "this office of purchace,
Cheef purveyour, that longeth to this place."
"Fair love," quod I, "in al your ordenaunce,
What is her name that is the herbegere?"
"For sothe," quod she, "her name is Acquaintaunce,
A woman of right gracious manere."
Than thus quod I, "What straungers have ye here?"
"But few," quod she, "of high degree ne low;
Ye be the first, as ferforth as I know."
Thus with talës we cam streight to the yate;
This yong woman departed was and gon;
Cam Diligence, and knokked fast therat;
"Who is without?" quod Countenaunce anon.
"Trewly," quod I, "fair sister, here is oon!"
"Which oon?" quod she, and therwithal she lough;
"I, Diligence! ye know me wel ynough."
Than opened she the yate, and in we go;
With wordës fair she sayd ful gentilly,
"Ye are welcome, ywis! are ye no mo?"
"Nat oon," quod she, "save this woman and I."
"Now than," quod she, "I pray yew hertely,
Tak my chambre, as for a whyl, to rest
Til your felawës come, I holde it best."
I thanked her, and forth we gon echon
Til her chambre, without[en] wordës mo.
Cam Diligence, and took her leve anon;
"Wher-ever you list," quod I, "now may ye go;
And I thank you right hertely also
Of your labour, for which god do you meed;
I can no more, but Jesu be your speed!"
Than Countenauncë asked me anon,
"Your felawship, where ben they now?" quod she.
"For sothe," quod I, "they be coming echon;
But in certayn, I know nat wher they be,
Without I may hem at this window see.
Here wil I stande, awaytinge ever among,
For, wel I wot, they wil not now be long."
Thus as I stood musing ful busily,
I thought to take good hede of her aray,
Her gown was blew, this wot I verely,
Of good fasoun, and furred wel with gray;
Upon her sleve her word (this is no nay),
Which said thus, as my pennë can endyte,
A moi que je voy, writen with lettres whyte.
Than forth withal she cam streight unto me,
"Your word," quod she, "I fayn wold I that I knew."
"Forsothe, quod I, "Ye shal wel knowe and see,
And for my word, I have non; this is trew.
It is ynough that my clothing be blew,
As here-before I had commaundëment;
And so to do I am right wel content.
But tel me this, I pray you hertëty,
The steward here, say me, what is her name?"
"She hight Largesse, I say you suërly;
A fair lady, and of right noble fame.
Whan ye her see, ye wil report the same.
And under her, to bid you welcome al,
There is Belchere, the marshal of the hall,
Now al this whyle that ye here tary stil,
Your own maters ye may wel have in mind.
But tel me this, have ye brought any bil?"
"Ye, ye," quod I, "or els I were behind.
Where is there oon, tel me, that I may find
To whom that I may shewe my matters playn?"
"Surely, quod she, "unto the chamberlayn."
"The chamberlayn?" quod I, "[now] say ye trew?"
"Ye, verely," sayd she, "by myne advyse;
Be nat aferd; unto her lowly sew."
"It shal be don," quod I, "as ye devyse;
But ye must knowe her name in any wyse?"
"Trewly," quod she, "to tell you in substaunce,
Without fayning, her name is Remembraunce.
The secretary yit may not be forget;
For she may do right moche in every thing.
Wherfore I rede, whan ye have with her met,
Your mater hool tel her, without fayning;
Ye shal her finde ful good and ful loving."
"Tel me her name," quod I, "of gentilnesse."
"By my good sooth," quod she, "Avysënesse."
"That name," quod I, "for her is passing good;
For every bil and cedule she must see;
Now good," quod I, " com, stand there-as I stood;
My felawes be coming; yonder they be."
"Is it [a] jape, or say ye sooth?" quod she.
"In jape? nay, nay; I say you for certain;
See how they come togider, twain and twain!"
"Ye say ful sooth," quod she, "that is no nay;
I see coming a goodly company."
"They been such folk," quod I, "I dar wel say,
That list to love; thinke it ful verily.
And, for my love, I pray you faithfully,
At any tyme, whan they upon you cal,
That ye wol be good frend unto hem al."
"Of my frendship," quod she, "they shal nat mis,
And for their ese, to put therto my payn."
"God yelde it you!" quod I; "but tel me this,
How shal we know who is the chamberlayn?"
"That shal ye wel know by her word, certayn."
"What is her word? Sister, I pray you say."
"Plus ne purroy; thus wryteth she alway."
Thus as we stood togider, she and I,
Even at the yate my felawes were echon.
So met I hem, as me thought was goodly,
And bad hem welcome al, by on and on.
Than forth cam [lady] Countenaunce anon;
"Ful hertely, fair sisters al," quod she,
"Ye be right welcome into this countree.
I counsail you to take a litel rest
In my chambre, if it be your plesaunce.
Whan ye be there, me thinketh for the best
That I go in, and cal Perséveraunce,
Because she is oon of your aquaintaunce;
And she also wil tel you every thing
How ye shal be ruled of your coming."
My felawes al and I, by oon avyse,
Were wel agreed to do lyke as she sayd.
Than we began to dresse us in our gyse,
That folk shuld see we were nat unpurvayd;
And good wageours among us there we layd,
Which of us was atyred goodliest,
And of us al which shuld be praysed best.
The porter cam, and brought Perséveraunce;
She welcomed us in ful curteys manere:
"Think ye nat long," quod she, "your attendaunce;
I wil go speke unto the herbergere,
That she may purvey for your logging here.
Than wil I go unto the chamberlayn
To speke for you, and come anon agayn."
And whan [that] she departed was and gon,
We saw folkës coming without the wal,
So greet people, that nombre coud we non;
Ladyes they were and gentilwomen al,
Clothed in blew, echon her word withal;
But for to knowe her word or her devyse,
They cam so thikke, that I might in no wyse.
With that anon cam in Perséveraunce,
And where I stood, she cam streight [un]to me.
"Ye been," quod she, "of myne olde acquaintaunce;
You to enquere, the bolder wolde I be;
What word they bere, eche after her degree,
I pray you, tel it me in secret wyse;
And I shal kepe it close, on warantyse."
"We been," quod I, "fyve ladies al in-fere,
And gentilwomen foure in company;
Whan they begin to open hir matere,
Than shal ye knowe hir wordës by and by;
But as for me, I have non verely,
And so I told Countenaunce here-before;
Al myne aray is blew; what nedeth more?"
"Now than," quod she, "I wol go in agayn,
That ye may have knowlege, what ye shuld do."
"In sooth," quod I, "if ye wold take the payn,
Ye did right moch for us, if ye did so.
The rather sped, the soner may we go.
Gret cost alway ther is in tarying;
And long to sewe, it is a wery thing."
Than parted she, and cam again anon;
Ye must," quod she, "come to the chamberlayn."
"We been," quod I, "now redy everichon
To folowe you whan-ever ye list, certayn.
We have non eloquence, to tel you playn;
Beseching you we may be so excused,
Our trew mening, that it be not refused."
Than went we forth, after Perséveraunce,
To see the prees; it was a wonder cace;
There for to passe it was greet comb[e]raunce,
The people stood so thikke in every place.
"Now stand ye stil," quod she, "a litel space;
And for your ese somwhat I shal assay,
If I can make you any better way."
And forth she goth among hem everichon,
Making a way, that we might thorugh pas
More at our ese; and whan she had so don,
She beckned us to come where-as she was;
So after her we folowed, more and las.
She brought us straight unto the chamberlayn;
There left she us, and than she went agayn.
We salued her, as reson wolde it so,
Ful humb[el]ly beseching her goodnesse,
In our maters that we had for to do
That she wold be good lady and maistresse.
"Ye be welcome," quod she, "in sothfastnesse,
And see, what I can do you for to plese,
I am redy, that may be to your ese."
We folowed her unto the chambre-dore,
"Sisters," quod she, "come ye in after me."
But wite ye wel, there was a paved flore,
The goodliest that any wight might see;
And furthermore, about than loked we
On eche corner, and upon every wal,
The which was mad of berel and cristal;
Wherein was graven of stories many oon;
First how Phyllis, of womanly pit&egrace;,
Deyd pitously, for love of Demophoon.
Nexte after was the story of Tisbee,
How she slew her-self under a tree.
Yet saw I more, how in right pitous cas
For Antony was slayn Cleopatras.
That other syde was, how Hawes the shene
Untrewly was disceyved in her bayn.
There was also Annelida the quene,
Upon Arcyte how sore she did complayn.
Al these stories were graved there, certayn
And many mo than I reherce you here;
It were to long to tel you al in-fere.
And, bicause the wallës shone so bright,
With fyne umple they were al over-sprad,
To that intent, folk shuld nat hurte hir sight;
And thorugh it the stories might be rad.
Than furthermore I went, as I was lad;
And there I saw, without[en] any fayl,
A chayrë set, with ful riche aparayl.
And fyve stages it was set fro the ground,
Of cassidony ful curiously wrought;
With four pomelles of golde, and very round,
Set with saphyrs, as good as coud be thought;
That, wot ye what, if it were thorugh sought,
As I suppose, fro this countrey til Inde,
Another suche it were right fer to finde!
For, wite ye wel, I was right nere that,
So as I durst, beholding by and by;
Above ther was a riche cloth of estate,
Wrought with the nedle ful straungëly,
Her word thereon; and thus it said trewly,
A endurer, to tel you in wordës few,
With grete letters, the better I hem knew.
Thus as we stode, a dore opened anon;
A gentilwoman, semely of stature,
Beringe a mace, cam out, her-selfe aloon;
Sothly, me thought, a goodly crëature!
She spak nothing to lowde, I you ensure,
Nor hastily, but with goodly warning:
"Mak room," quod she, "my lady is coming!"
With that anon I saw Perséveraunce,
How she held up the tapet in her hand.
I saw also, in right good ordinaunce,
This greet lady within the tapet stand,
Coming outward, I wol ye understand;
And after her a noble company,
I coud nat tel the nombre sikerly.
Of their namës I wold nothing enquere
Further than suche as we wold sewe unto,
Sauf oo lady, which was the chauncellere,
Attemperaunce; sothly her name was so.
For us nedeth with her have moch to do
In our maters, and alway more and more.
And, so forth, to tel you furthermore,
Of this lady her beautè to discryve,
My conning is to simple, verely;
For never yet, the dayë of my lyve,
So inly fair I have non seen, trewly.
In her estate, assured utterly,
There wanted naught, I dare you wel assure,
That longed to a goodly crëature.
And furthermore, to speke of her aray,
I shal you tel the maner of her gown
Of clothe of gold ful riche, it is no nay;
The colour blew, of a right good fasoun;
In tabard-wyse the slevës hanging doun;
And what purfyl there was, and in what wyse,
So as I can, I shal it you devyse.
After a sort the coller and the vent,
Lyk as ermyne is mad in purfeling;
With grete perlës, ful fyne and orient,
They were couchèd, al after oon worching,
With dyamonds in stede of powdering;
The slevës and purfilles of assyse;
They were [y-]mad [ful] lyke, in every wyse.
Aboute her nekke a sort of fair rubyes,
In whyte floures of right fyne enamayl;
Upon her heed, set in the freshest wyse,
A cercle with gret balays of entayl;
That, in ernest to speke, withouten fayl,
For yonge and olde, and every maner age,
It was a world to loke on her visage.
Thus coming forth, to sit in her estat,
In her presence we kneled down echon,
Presentinge up our billes, and, wot ye what,
Ful humb[el]ly she took hem, by on and on;
When we had don, than cam they al anon,
And did the same, eche after her manere,
Knelinge at ones, and rysinge al in-fere.
Whan this was don, and she set in her place,
The chamberlayn she did unto her cal;
And she, goodly coming til her a-pace,
Of her entent knowing nothing at al,
"Voyd bak the prees," quod she, up to the wal;
Mak larger roum, but look ye do not tary,
And tak these billës to the secretary."
The chamberlayn did her commaundëment,
And cam agayn, as she was bid to do
The secretary there being present,
The billës were delivered her also,
Not only ours, but many other mo.
Than the lady, with good advyce, agayn
Anon withal called her chamberlayn.
"We wol" "quod she, "the first thing that ye do,
The secretary, make her come anon
With her billës; and thus we wil also,
In our presence she rede hem everichon,
That we may takë good advyce theron
Of the ladyes, that been of our counsayl;
Look this be don, withouten any fayl."
The chamberlayn, whan she wiste her entent,
Anon she did the secretary cal:
Let your billës," quod she, "be here present,
My lady it wil." "Madame," quod she, "I shal."
"And in presence she wil ye rede hem al."
"'With good wil; I am redy," quod she,
"At her plesure, whan she commaundeth me."
And upon that was mad an ordinaunce,
They that cam first, hir billës shuld be red.
Ful gentelly than sayd Perséveraunce,
"Resoun it wold that they were sonest sped."
Anon withal, upon a tapet spred,
The secretary layde hem doun echon;
Our billës first she redde hem on by on.
The first lady, bering in her devyse
Sans que jamais, thus wroot she in her bil;
Complayning sore and in ful pitous wyse
Of promesse mad with faithful hert and wil
And so broken, ayenst al maner skil,
Without desert alwayes on her party;
In this mater desyring remedy.
Her next felawës word was in this wyse,
Une sanz chaungier; and thus she did complayn,
Though she had been guerdoned for her servyce,
Yet nothing lyke as she that took the payn;
Wherfore she coude in no wyse her restrayn,
But in this cas sewe until her presence,
As reson woldë, to have recompence.
So furthermore, to speke of other twayn,
Oon of hem wroot, after her fantasy,
Oncques puis lever; and, for to tel you plain,
Her complaynt was ful pitous, verely,
For, as she sayd, ther was gret reson why;
And, as I can remembre this matere,
I shal you tel the proces, al in-fere.
Her bil was mad, complayninge in her gyse,
That of her joy, her comfort and gladnesse
Was no suretee; for in no maner wyse
She fond therin no point of stablenesse,
Now il, now wel, out of al sikernesse;
Ful humbelly desyringe, of her grace,
Som remedy to shewe her in this cace.
Her felawe made her bil, and thus she sayd,
In playning wyse; there-as she loved best,
Whether she were wroth or wel apayd
She might nat see, whan [that] she wold faynest;
And wroth she was, in very ernest;
To tel her word, as ferforth as I wot,
Entierment vostre, right thus she wroot.
And upon that she made a greet request
With herte and wil, and al that might be don
As until her that might redresse it best;
For in her mind thus might she finde it sone,
The remedy of that, which was her boon;
Rehersing [that] that she had sayd before,
Beseching her it might be so no more.
And in lyk wyse as they had don before,
The gentilwomen of our company
Put up hir billës; and, for to tel you more,
Oon of hem wroot cest sanz dire, verily;
And her matere hool to specify,
With-in her bil she put it in wryting;
And what it sayd, ye shal have knowleching.
It sayd, god wot, and that ful pitously,
Lyke as she was disposed in her hert,
No misfortune that she took grevously;
Al oon to her it was, the joy and smert,
Somtyme no thank for al her good desert.
Other comfort she wanted non coming,
And so used, it greved her nothing.
Desyringe her, and lowly béseching,
That she for her wold seke a better way,
As she that had ben, al her dayes living,
Stedfast and trew, and so wil be alway.
Of her felawe somwhat I shal you say,
Whos bil was red next after forth, withal;
And what it ment rehersen you I shal.
En dieu est, she wroot in her devyse;
And thus she sayd, withouten any fayl,
Her trouthë might be taken in no wyse
Lyke as she thought, wherfore she had mervayl;
For trouth somtyme was wont to take avayl
In every matere; but al that is ago;
The more pitè, that it is suffred so.
Moch more there was, wherof she shuld complayn,
But she thought it to greet encomb[e]raunce
So moch to wryte; and therfore, in certayn,
In god and her she put her affiaunce
As in her worde is mad a remembraunce;
Beseching her that she wolde, in this cace,
Shewe unto her the favour of her grace.
The third, she wroot, rehersing her grevaunce,
Ye! wot ye what, a pitous thing to here;
For, as me thought, she felt gret displesaunce,
Oon might right wel perceyve it by her chere,
And no wonder; it sat her passing nere.
Yet loth she was to put it in wryting,
But nede wol have his cours in every thing.
Soyes en sure, this was her word, certayn,
And thus she wroot, but in a litel space;
There she lovëd, her labour was in vayn,
For he was set al in another place;
Ful humblely desyring, in that cace,
Som good comfort, her sorow to appese,
That she might livë more at hertes ese.
The fourth surely, me thought, she liked wele,
As in her porte and in her behaving;
And Bien moneste, as fer as I coud fele,
That was her word, til her wel belonging.
Wherfore to her she prayed, above al thing,
Ful hertely (to say you in substaunce)
That she wold sende her good continuaunce.
"Ye have rehersed me these billës al,
But now, let see somwhat of your entent."
"It may so hap, paraventure, ye shal.
Now I pray you, whyle I am here present,
Ye shal, pardè, have knowlege, what I ment.
But thus I say in trouthe, and make no fable,
The case itself is inly lamentable.
And wel I wot, that ye wol think the same,
Lyke as I say, whan ye have herd my bil."
"Now good, tel on, I hate you, by saynt Jame!"
"Abyde a whyle; it is nat yet my wil.
Yet must ye wite, by reson and by skil,
Sith ye know al that hath be don before: --"
And thus it sayd, without[en] wordes more.
"Nothing so leef as deth to come to me
For fynal ende of my sorowes and payn;
What shulde I more desyre, as semë ye?
And ye knewe al aforn it for certayn,
I wot ye wolde; and, for to tel you playn,
Without her help that hath al thing in cure
I can nat think that I may longe endure.
As for my trouthe, it hath be proved wele,
To say the sothe, I can [you] say no more,
Of ful long tyme, and suffred every dele
In pacience, and kepe it al in store;
Of her goodnesse besechinge her therfore
That I might have my thank in suche [a] wyse
As my desert deserveth of justyse."
Whan these billës were rad everichon,
This lady took a good advysement;
And hem to answere, ech by on and on,
She thought it was to moche in her entent;
Wherfore she yaf hem in commaundëment,
In her presence to come, bothe oon and al,
To yeve hem there her answer general.
What did she than, suppose ye verely?
She spak herself, and sayd in this manere,
"We have wel seen your billës by and by,
And some of hem ful pitous for to here.
We wol therfore ye knowe al this in-fere,
Within short tyme our court of parliment
Here shal be holde, in our palays present;
And in al this wherin ye find you greved,
Ther shal ye finde an open remedy
In suche [a] wyse, as ye shul be releved
Of al that ye reherce here, thoroughly.
As for the date, ye shul know verily,
That ye may have a space in your coming;
For Diligence shal it tel you by wryting."
We thanked her in our most humble wyse,
Our felauship, echon by oon assent,
Submitting us lowly til her servyse.
For, as we thought, we had our travayl spent
In suche [a] wyse as we helde us content.
Than eche of us took other by the sleve,
And forth withal, as we shuld take our leve.
Al sodainly the water sprang anon
In my visage, and therwithal I wook: --
"Where am I now?" thought I; "al this is gon;"
And al amased, up I gan to look.
With that, anon I went and made this book,
Thus simplely rehersing the substaunce,
Bicause it shuld not out of remembraunce.' --
`Now verily, your dreem is passing good,
And worthy to be had in rémembraunce;
For, though I stande here as longe as I stood,
It shuld to me be non encomb[elraunce;
I took therin so inly greet plesaunce.
But tel me now, what ye the book do cal?
For I must wite.' `With right good wil ye shal:
As for this book, to say you very right,
And of the name to tel the certeyntè,
L'ASSEMBLÈ DE DAMES, thus it hight;
How think ye?' `That the name is good, pardè!'
`Now go, farwel! for they cal after me,
My felawes al, and I must after sone;
Rede wel my dreem; for now my tale is doon.'
Here endeth the Book of Assemble de Damys.
i.e., were frustrated by the maze
rail (marking the paths)
got far ahead in solving the maze
high in style, ornate
edge of her sleeve; motto
Loyally and Well
generous (with words)
and = if
As Much As I Can
lodging place for travellers (and the ill)
responsibility for supplies
officer in charge of lodging
What I See Is Mine
Beautiful-face; mistress of ceremonies
two by two
I Could Do No More
on my surety
petition, wait in court
berel = a type of crystal
Cf. Legend of Good Women, vv. 2394-2561
Cf. LGW, vv. 706-922
Cf. LGW, vv. 580-705
Cf. Anelida and Arcite
cloth of state (canopy)
(Always) To Endure
tapestry (serving as a curtain)
edge of the sleeve
slit at the neck
edging of a sleeve
Without Ever (deserving her misery)
One Without Change
I Can Never Rise (succeed)
(That goes) Without Saying
In God is (my trust)
it touched her deeply
Be Sure (of my love)
time, adequate notice
- The text has been lightly regularized and adapted for beginning readers of Middle English from the edition by W.W. Skeat in his Oxford Chaucer, Oxford, 1897, Vol. VII. For a more recent edition, with excellent introduction and notes see The Floure and the Leafe and The Assembly of Ladies, ed. D. A. Pearsall. London, 1962 [Wid 12426.105; later editions PR 1898.F4X, PR 1203.F56]
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