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 of Mars Gladeth, ye foules, of the morowe gray;
Lo, Venus, rysen among yon rowes rede.
And floures fressh, honoureth ye this day,
For when the sunne uprist then wol ye sprede.
But ye lovers, that lye in any drede,
Fleeth, lest wikked tonges yow espye.
Lo, yond the sunne, the candel of jelosye!
Wyth teres blewe and with a wounded herte
Taketh your leve, and with Seint John to borowe
10 Apeseth sumwhat of your sorowes smerte.
Tyme cometh eft that cese shal your sorowe;
The glade nyght ys worth an hevy morowe --
Seynt Valentyne, a foul thus herde I synge
Upon thy day er sonne gan up-sprynge.
Yet sang this foul -- I rede yow al awake,
And ye that han not chosen in humble wyse,
Without repentynge cheseth yow your make,
And ye that han ful chosen as I devise,
Yet at the leste renoveleth your servyse.
20 Confermeth hyt perpetuely to dure,
And paciently taketh your aventure.
And for the worship of this highe feste,
Yet wol I, in my briddes wise, synge
The sentence of the compleynt, at the leste,
That woful Mars made atte departyng
Fro fresshe Venus in a morwenynge,
Whan Phebus with his firy torches rede
Ransaked every lover in hys drede.
Whilom the thridde hevenes lord above,
30 As wel by hevenysh revolucioun
As by desert, hath wonne Venus his love,
And she hath take him in subjeccioun,
And as a maistresse taught him his lessoun,
Commaundynge him that nevere, in her servise,
He nere so bold no lover to dispise.
For she forbad him jelosye at al,
And cruelte, and bost, and tyrannye.
She made him at her lust so humble and tal,
That when her deyned to cast on hym her ye,
40 He tok in pacience to lyve or dye.
And thus she brydeleth him in her manere,
With nothing but with scourging of her chere.
Who regneth now in blysse but Venus,
That hath thys worthy knyght in governaunce?
Who syngeth now but Mars, that serveth thus
The faire Venus, causer of plesaunce?
He bynt him to perpetuall obeisaunce,
And she bynt her to loven him for evere,
But so be that his trespas hyt desevere.
50 Thus be they knyt and regnen as in hevene
Be lokyng moost; til hyt fil on a tyde
That by her bothe assent was set a stevene
That Mars shal entre, as fast as he may glyde,
Into hir nexte paleys, and ther abyde,
Walkynge hys cours, til she had him atake,
And he preide her to haste her for his sake.
Then seyde he thus, "Myn hertes lady swete,
Ye knowe wel my myschef in that place,
For sikerly, til that I with yow mete,
60 My lyf stant ther in aventure and grace;
But when I se the beaute of your face,
Ther ys no drede of deth may do me smerte,
For al your lust is ese to myn herte."
She hath so gret compassioun of her knyght,
That dwelleth in solitude til she come --
For hyt stod so that thilke tyme no wight
Counseyled hym ther, ne seyde to hym welcome --
That nygh her wit for wo was overcome;
Wherfore she sped her as faste in her weye
70 Almost in oo day as he dyde in tweye.
The grete joye that was betwix hem two
When they be mette ther may no tunge telle.
Ther is no more but unto bed thei go,
And thus in joy and blysse I lete hem duelle.
This worthi Mars, that is of knyghthod welle,
The flour of feyrnesse lappeth in his armes,
And Venus kysseth Mars, the god of armes.
Sojourned hath this Mars of which I rede
In chambre amyd the paleys prively
80 A certeyn tyme, til him fel a drede
Throgh Phebus, that was comen hastely
Within the paleys yates sturdely,
With torche in honde, of which the stremes bryghte
On Venus chambre knokkeden ful lyghte.
The chambre ther as ley this fresshe quene
Depeynted was with white boles grete,
And by the lyght she knew, that shon so shene,
That Phebus cam to brenne hem with his hete.
This sely Venus nygh dreynt in teres wete
90 Enbraceth Mars and seyde, "Alas, I dye!
The torche is come that al this world wol wrie."
Up sterte Mars; hym liste not to slepe
When he his lady herde so compleyne,
But, for his nature was not for to wepe,
In stede of teres, from his eyen tweyne
The firi sparkes brosten out for peyne,
And hente his hauberk that ley hym besyde.
Fle wolde he not, ne myghte himselven hide.
He throweth on his helm of huge wyghte,
100 And girt him with his swerd, and in his hond
His myghty spere, as he was wont to fyghte,
He shaketh so that almost hit towond.
Ful hevy was he to walken over lond;
He may not holde with Venus companye
But bad her fleen lest Phebus her espye.
O woful Mars -- alas -- what maist thou seyn,
That in the paleys of thy disturbaunce
Art left byhynde in peril to be sleyn?
And yet therto ys double thy penaunce,
110 For she that hath thyn herte in governaunce
Is passed half the stremes of thin yen;
That thou nere swift, wel maist thou wepe and crien.
Now fleeth Venus unto Cilenios tour
With voide cours for fere of Phebus lyght --
Alas -- and ther ne hath she no socour,
For she ne found ne saugh no maner wyght,
And eke as ther she hath but litil myght,
Wherfor, herselven for to hyde and save,
Within the gate she fledde into a cave.
120 Derk was this cave and smokyng as the helle;
Not but two pas within the yate hit stod.
A naturel day in derk I lete her duelle.
Now wol I speke of Mars, furious and wod.
For sorow he wolde have sen his herte blod;
Sith that he myghte don her no companye,
He ne roghte not a myte for to dye.
So feble he wex for hete and for his wo
That nygh he swelte, he myghte unnethe endure;
He passeth but o steyre in dayes two.
130 But nathelesse, for al his hevy armure,
He foloweth her that is his lyves cure,
For whos departyng he tok gretter ire
Then for al his brennyng in the fire.
After he walketh softely a paas,
Compleynyng, that hyt pite was to here,
He seyde, "O lady bryght, Venus, alas,
That evere so wyd a compas ys my spere!
Alas, when shal I mete yow, herte dere?
This twelfte daye of April I endure
140 Throgh jelous Phebus this mysaventure."
Now God helpe sely Venus allone.
But as God wolde, hyt happed for to be
That, while that Venus weping made her mone,
Cilenius, rydinge in his chevache,
Fro Venus valaunse myghte his paleys se,
And Venus he salueth and doth chere,
And her receyveth as his frend ful dere.
Mars dwelleth forth in his adversyte,
Compleynyng ever on her departynge,
150 And what his compleynt was, remembreth me;
And therfore, in this lusty morwenynge
As I best can, I wol hit seyn and synge;
And after that I wol my leve take,
And God yeve every wyght joy of his make!
The ordre of compleynt requireth skylfully
That yf a wight shal pleyne pitously,
Ther mot be cause wherfore that men pleyne;
Or men may deme he pleyneth folily
And causeles; alas, that am not I.
160 Wherfore the ground and cause of al my peyne,
So as my troubled wit may hit atteyne,
I wol reherse; not for to have redresse,
But to declare my ground of hevynesse.
The firste tyme, alas, that I was wroght
And for certeyn effectes hider broght
Be him that lordeth ech intelligence,
I yaf my trewe servise and my thoght
For evermore -- how dere I have hit boght --
To her that is of so gret excellence
170 That what wight that first sheweth his presence,
When she is wroth and taketh of hym no cure,
He may not longe in joye of love endure.
This is no feyned mater that I telle;
My lady is the verrey sours and welle
Of beaute, lust, fredom, and gentilnesse,
Of riche aray -- how dere men hit selle! --
Of al disport in which men frendly duelle,
Of love and pley, and of benigne humblesse,
Of soun of instrumentes of al swetnesse;
180 And therto so wel fortuned and thewed
That thorogh the world her goodnesse is yshewed.
What wonder ys it then, thogh I besette
My servise on such on that may me knette
To wele or wo sith hit lyth in her myght?
Therfore my herte forever I to her hette,
Ne truly, for my deth, I shal not lette
To ben her truest servaunt and her knyght.
I flater noght, that may wete every wyght;
For this day in her servise shal I dye.
190 But grace be, I se her never wyth ye.
To whom shal I than pleyne of my distresse?
Who may me helpe? Who may my harm redresse?
Shal I compleyne unto my lady fre?
Nay, certes, for she hath such hevynesse,
For fere and eke for wo that, as I gesse,
In lytil tyme hit wol her bane be.
But were she sauf, hit were no fors of me.
Alas, that ever lovers mote endure
For love so many a perilous aventure!
200 For thogh so be that lovers be as trewe
As any metal that is forged newe,
In many a cas hem tydeth ofte sorowe.
Somtyme her lady wil not on hem rewe;
Somtyme yf that jelosie hyt knewe,
They myghten lyghtly leye her hed to borowe;
Somtyme envyous folk with tunges horowe
Depraven hem; alas, whom may they plese?
But he be fals, no lover hath non ese.
But what availeth such a long sermoun
210 Of aventures of love up and doun?
I wol returne and speken of my peyne.
The poynt is this of my distruccioun:
My righte lady, my savacyoun,
Is in affray, and not to whom to pleyne.
O herte swete, O lady sovereyne!
For your disese wel oughte I swowne and swelte,
Though I non other harm ne drede felte.
To what fyn made the God, that sit so hye,
Benethen him love other companye
220 And streyneth folk to love, malgre her hed?
And then her joy, for oght I can espye,
Ne lasteth not the twynkelyng of an ye,
And somme han never joy til they be ded.
What meneth this? What is this mystihed?
Wherto constreyneth he his folk so faste
Thing to desyre, but hit shulde laste?
And thogh he made a lover love a thing
And maketh hit seme stedfast and during,
Yet putteth he in hyt such mysaventure
230 That reste nys ther non in his yeving.
And that is wonder, that so juste a kyng
Doth such hardnesse to his creature.
Thus, whether love breke or elles dure,
Algates he that hath with love to done
Hath ofter wo then changed ys the mone.
Hit semeth he hath to lovers enmyte,
And lyk a fissher, as men alday may se,
Baiteth hys angle-hok with som plesaunce
Til many a fissh ys wod til that he be
240 Sesed therwith; and then at erst hath he
Al his desir, and therwith al myschaunce;
And thogh the lyne breke, he hath penaunce;
For with the hok he wounded is so sore
That he his wages hath for evermore.
The broche of Thebes was of such a kynde,
So ful of rubies and of stones of Ynde
That every wight, that sette on hit an ye,
He wende anon to worthe out of his mynde;
So sore the beaute wolde his herte bynde.
250 Til he hit had, him thoghte he moste dye;
And whan that hit was his, then shulde he drye
Such woo for drede, ay while that he hit hadde,
That wel nygh for the fere he shulde madde.
And whan hit was fro his possessioun,
Then had he double wo and passioun
For he so feir a tresor had forgo;
But yet this broche as in conclusioun
Was not the cause of his confusioun,
But he that wroghte hit enfortuned hit so
260 That every wight that had hit shulde have wo;
And therfore in the worcher was the vice,
And in the covetour that was so nyce.
So fareth hyt by lovers and by me;
For thogh my lady have so gret beaute
That I was mad til I had gete her grace,
She was not cause of myn adversite,
But he that wroghte her, also mot I the,
That putte such a beaute in her face,
That made me coveyten and purchace
270 Myn oune deth -- him wite I that I dye,
And myn unwit that ever I clamb so hye.
But to yow, hardy knyghtes of renoun,
Syn that ye be of my devisioun,
Al be I not worthy to so gret a name,
Yet, seyn these clerkes, I am your patroun;
Therfore ye oghte have som compassioun
Of my disese, and take hit not a-game.
The proudest of yow may be mad ful tame;
Wherfore I prey yow of your gentilesse
280 That ye compleyne for myn hevynesse.
And ye, my ladyes, that ben true and stable,
Be wey of kynde, ye oughten to be able
To have pite of folk that be in peyne.
Now have ye cause to clothe yow in sable,
Sith that youre emperise, the honurable,
Is desolat; wel oghte ye to pleyne.
Now shulde your holy teres falle and reyne.
Alas, your honour and your emperise,
Negh ded for drede ne can her not chevise!
290 Compleyneth eke, ye lovers, al in-fere,
For her that with unfeyned humble chere
Was evere redy to do yow socour;
Compleyneth her that evere hath had yow dere;
Compleyneth Beaute, Fredom, and Manere;
Compleyneth her that endeth your labour;
Compleyneth thilke ensample of al honour,
That never dide but al gentilesse;
Kytheth therfore on her sum kyndenesse.
Next: The Complaint of Venus