THE LEGEND OF GOOD WOMEN
VII. THE LEGEND OF PHILOMELA.
Incipit Legenda Philomene.
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #25
Deus dator formarum.
Thou yiver of the formes, that hast wroght The faire world, and bare hit in thy thoght 2230 Eternally, or thou thy werk began, Why madest thou, unto the slaundre of man, Or -- al be that hit was not thy doing, As for that fyn to make swiche a thing -- Why suffrest thou that Tereus was bore, That is in love so fals and so forswore, That, fro this world up to the firste hevene, (10) Corrumpeth, whan that folk his name nevene? And, as to me, so grisly was his dede, That, whan that I his foule story rede, 2240 Myn eyen wexen foule and sore also; Yit last the venim of so longe ago, That hit enfecteth him that wol beholde The story of Tereus, of which I tolde.
Of Trace was he lord, and kin to Marte, The cruel god that stant with blody darte; And wedded had he, with a blisful chere, (20) King Pandiones faire doghter dere, That highte Progne, flour of her contree, Thogh Iuno list nat at the feste be, 2250 Ne Ymeneus, that god of wedding is; But at the feste redy been, y-wise, The furies three, with alle hir mortel brond. The owle al night aboute the balkes wond, That prophet is of wo and of mischaunce. This revel, ful of songe and ful of daunce, Lasteth a fourtenight, or litel lasse. (30) But, shortly of this story for to passe, For I am wery of him for to telle, Five yeer his wyf and he togeder dwelle, 2260 Til on a day she gan so sore longe To seen her suster, that she saw nat longe, That for desyr she niste what to seye. But to her husband gan she for to preye, For goddes love, that she moste ones goon Her suster for to seen, and come anoon, Or elles, but she moste to her wende, (40) She preyde him, that he wolde after her sende; And this was, day by day, al her prayere With al humblesse of wyfhood, word, and chere.
2270 This Theseus let make his shippes yare, And into Grece him-self is forth y-fare Unto his fader in lawe, and gan him preye To vouche-sauf that, for a month or tweye, That Philomene, his wyves suster, mighte On Progne his wyf but ones have a sighte -- "And she shal come to yow again anoon. (50) Myself with her wol bothe come and goon, And as myn hertes lyf I wol her kepe."
This olde Pandion, this king, gan wepe 2280 For tendernesse of herte, for to leve His doghter goon, and for to yive her leve; Of al this world he lovede no-thing so; But at the laste leve hath she to go. For Philomene, with salte teres eke, Gan of her fader grace to beseke To seen her suster, that her longeth so; (60) And him embraceth with her armes two. And therwith-al so yon and fair was she That, whan that Tereus saw her beautee, 2290 And of array that ther was noon her liche, And yit of bountee was she two so riche, He caste his fyry herte upon her so That he wol have her, how so that hit go, And with his wyles kneled and so preyde, Til at the laste Pandion thus seyde: --
"Now, sone," quod he, "that art to me so dere, (70) I thee betake my yonge doghter here, That bereth the key of al my hertes lyf. And grete wel my doghter and thy wyf, 2300 And yive her leve somtyme for to pleye, That she may seen me ones er I deye." And soothly, he hath mad him riche feste, And to his folk, the moste and eek the leste, That with him com; and yaf him yiftes grete, And him conveyeth through the maister-strete Of Athenes, and to the see him broghte, (80) And turneth hoom; no malice he ne thoghte.
The ores pulleth forth the vessel faste, And into Thrace arriveth at the laste, 2310 And up into a forest he her ledde, And to a cave privily him spedde; And, in this derke cave yif her leste, Or leste noghte, he bad her for to reste; Of whiche her herte agroos, and seyde thus, "Wher is my suster, brother Tereus?" And therwith-al she wept tenderly, (90) And quook for fere, pale and pitously, Right as the lamb that of the wolf is biten; Or as the colver, that of the egle is smiten, 2320 And is out of his clawes forth escaped, Yet hit is afered and awhaped Lest hit be hent eft-sones, so sat she. But utterly hti may non other be. By force hath he, this traitour, doon that dede, That he hath reft her of her maydenhede, Maugree her heed, by strengthe and by his might. (100) Lo! here a dede of men, and that a right! She cryeth "suster!" with ful londe stevene, And "fader dere!" and "help me, god in hevene!" 2330 Al helpeth nat; and yet this false theef Hath doon this lady yet a more mischeef, For fere lest she sholde his shame crye, And doon him openly a vilanye, And with his swerd her tong of kerveth he, And in a castel made her for to be Ful privily in prison evermore, (110) And kepte her to his usage and his store, So that she mighte him nevermore asterte. O sely Philomene! wo is thyn herte; 2340 God wreke thee, and sende thee thy bone! Now is hit tyme I make an ende sone.
This Tereus is to his wyf y-come, And in his armes hath his wyf y-come, And pitously he weep, and shook his heed, And swor her that he fond her suster deed; For which this sely Progne hath swich wo, (120) That ny her sorweful herte brak a-two; And thus in teres lete I Progne dwelle, And of her suster forth I wol yow telle.
2350 This woful lady lerned had in youthe So that she werken and enbrouden couthe, And weven in her stole the radevore As hit of women hath be woned yore. And, shortly for to seyn, she hath her fille Of mete and drink, and clothing at her wille, And coude eek rede, and wel y-nogh endyte, (130) But with a penne coude she nat wryte; But lettres can she weven to and fro, So that, by that the yeer was al a-go, 2360 She had y-woven in a stamin large How she was broght from Athenes in a barge, And in a cave how that she was broght; And al the thing that Tereus hath wroght, She waf hit wel, and wroot the story above, How she was served for her suster love; And to a knave a ring she yaf anoon, (140) And prayed him, by signes, for to goon Unto the quene, and beren her that clooth, And by signes swor him many an ooth, 2370 She sholde him yeve what she geten mighte.
This knave anoon unto the quene him dighte, And took hit her, and al the maner tolde. And, whan that Progne hath this thing beholde, No work she spak, for sorwe and eek for rage; But feyned her to goon on pilgrimage To Bachus temple; and, in a litel stounde, (150) Her dombe suster sitting hath she founde, Weping in the castel her aloon. Allas! the wo, the compleint, and the moon 2380 That Progne upon her dombe suster maketh! In armes everich of hem other taketh, And thus I lete hem in hir sorwe dwelle.
The remenant is no charge for to telle, For this is al and som, thus was she served, That never harm a-gilte ne deserved Unto this cruel man, that she of wiste. (160) Ye may be war of men, yif that yow liste. For, al be that he wol nat, for his shame, Doon so as Tereus, to lese his name, 2390 Ne serve yow as a mordrour or a knave, Ful litel whyle shul ye trewe him have, That wol I seyn, al were he now my brother, But hit so be that he may have non other.
Explicit Legenda Philomene.