THE LEGEND OF GOOD WOMEN
APPENDIX -- PROLOGUE, VERSION "A"
The prologe of .ix. goode Wimmen.
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #25
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.