Legends and Sagas
The Canterbury Tales and Other Works of Chaucer (Middle English), by Geoffery Chaucer, [14th cent.], at sacred-texts.com
The Shorter Poems
The Complaint Unto Pity Pite, that I have sought so yore agoo
With herte soore and ful of besy peyne,
That in this world was never wight so woo
Withoute deth -- and yf I shal not feyne,
My purpos was to Pite to compleyne
Upon the crueltee and tirannye
Of Love, that for my trouthe doth me dye.
And when that I, be lengthe of certeyne yeres,
Had evere in oon a tyme sought to speke,
10 To Pitee ran I al bespreynt with teres
To prayen hir on Cruelte me awreke.
But er I myghte with any word outbreke
Or tellen any of my peynes smerte,
I fond hir ded, and buried in an herte.
Adoun I fel when that I saugh the herse,
Ded as a ston while that the swogh me laste;
But up I roos with colour ful dyverse
And pitously on hir myn eyen I caste,
And ner the corps I gan to presen faste,
20 And for the soule I shop me for to preye.
I was but lorn, ther was no more to seye.
Thus am I slayn sith that Pite is ded.
Allas, that day, that ever hyt shulde falle.
What maner man dar now hold up his hed?
To whom shal any sorwful herte calle?
Now Cruelte hath cast to slee us alle,
In ydel hope, folk redeless of peyne,
Syth she is ded, to whom shul we compleyne?
But yet encreseth me this wonder newe,
30 That no wight woot that she is ded, but I --
So many men as in her tyme hir knewe --
And yet she dyed not so sodeynly,
For I have sought hir ever ful besely
Sith first I hadde wit or mannes mynde,
But she was ded er that I koude hir fynde.
Aboute hir herse there stoden lustely,
Withouten any woo as thoughte me,
Bounte parfyt, wel armed and richely,
And fresshe Beaute, Lust, and Jolyte,
40 Assured Maner, Youthe, and Honeste,
Wisdom, Estaat, Drede, and Governaunce,
Confedred both by bonde and alliaunce.
A compleynt had I, writen in myn hond,
For to have put to Pite as a bille;
But when I al this companye ther fond,
That rather wolden al my cause spille
Then do me help, I held my pleynte stille,
For to that folk, withouten any fayle,
Withoute Pitee ther may no bille availe.
50 Then leve I al these vertues, sauf Pite,
Kepynge the corps as ye have herd me seyn,
Confedered alle by bond of Cruelte
And ben assented when I shal be sleyn.
And I have put my complaynt up ageyn,
For to my foes my bille I dar not shewe,
Th' effect of which seith thus, in wordes fewe:
Humblest of herte, highest of reverence,
Benygne flour, coroune of vertues alle,
Sheweth unto youre rial excellence
60 Youre servaunt, yf I durste me so calle,
Hys mortal harm in which he is yfalle,
And noght al oonly for his evel fare,
But for your renoun, as he shal declare.
Hit stondeth thus: your contraire, Crueltee,
Allyed is ayenst your regalye
Under colour of womanly Beaute --
For men shulde not, lo, knowe hir tirannye --
With Bounte, Gentilesse, and Curtesye,
And hath depryved yow now of your place
70 That hyghte "Beaute apertenant to Grace."
For kyndely by youre herytage ryght
Ye ben annexed ever unto Bounte;
And verrayly ye oughte do youre myght
To helpe Trouthe in his adversyte.
Ye be also the corowne of Beaute,
And certes yf ye wanten in these tweyne,
The world is lore; ther is no more to seyne.
Eke what availeth Maner and Gentilesse
Withoute yow, benygne creature?
80 Shal Cruelte be your governeresse?
Allas, what herte may hyt longe endure?
Wherfore, but ye the rather take cure
To breke that perilouse alliaunce,
Ye sleen hem that ben in your obeisaunce.
And further over yf ye suffre this,
Youre renoun ys fordoo than in a throwe;
Ther shal no man wite well what Pite is.
Allas, that your renoun is falle so lowe!
Ye be than fro youre heritage ythrowe
90 By Cruelte that occupieth youre place,
And we despeyred that seken to your grace.
Have mercy on me, thow Herenus quene,
That yow have sought so tendirly and yore;
Let som strem of youre lyght on me be sene
That love and drede yow ever lenger the more;
For sothly for to seyne I bere the soore,
And though I be not konnynge for to pleyne,
For Goddis love have mercy on my peyne.
My peyne is this, that what so I desire
100 That have I not, ne nothing lyk therto;
And ever setteth Desir myn hert on fire.
Eke on that other syde where so I goo,
What maner thing that may encrese my woo,
That have I redy, unsoght, everywhere;
Me lakketh but my deth and than my bere.
What nedeth to shewe parcel of my peyne?
Syth every woo that herte may bethynke
I suffre and yet I dar not to yow pleyne;
For wel I wot although I wake or wynke,
110 Ye rekke not whether I flete or synke.
But natheles yet my trouthe I shal sustene
Unto my deth, and that shal wel be sene.
This is to seyne I wol be youres evere,
Though ye me slee by Crueltee your foo,
Algate my spirit shal never dissevere
Fro youre servise for any peyne or woo.
Sith ye be ded -- allas that hyt is soo --
Thus for your deth I may wel wepe and pleyne
With herte sore and ful of besy peyne.
Next: A Complaint to His Lady