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The Canterbury Tales and Other Works of Chaucer (Middle English), by Geoffery Chaucer, [14th cent.], at

The Shorter Poems

A Complaint to His Lady

 The longe nightes, whan every creature
 Shulde have hir rest in somwhat as by kynde,
 Or elles ne may hir lif nat longe endure,
 Hit falleth most into my woful mynde
 How I so fer have broght myself behynde
 That, sauf the deeth, ther may nothyng me lisse,
 So desespaired I am from alle blisse.
 This same thoght me lasteth til the morwe
 And from the morwe forth til hit be eve;
10 Ther nedeth me no care for to borwe,
 For bothe I have good leyser and good leve;
 Ther is no wyght that wol me wo bereve
 To wepe ynogh and wailen al my fille;
 The sore spark of peyne now doth me spille.
 This Love, that hath me set in such a place
 That my desir [he] nevere wol fulfille,
 For neither pitee, mercy, neither grace
 Can I nat fynde, and yit my sorwful herte
 For to be deed I can hit nought arace.
20 The more I love, the more she doth me smerte,
 Thourgh which I see withoute remedye
 That from the deeth I may no wyse asterte.
 Now sothly what she hight I wol reherse:
 Hir name is Bountee set in womanhede,
 Sadnesse in youthe and Beautee prydelees
 And Plesaunce under governaunce and drede;
 Hir surname is eek Faire Rewthelees
 The Wyse, yknit unto Good Aventure,
 That, for I love hir, she sleeth me giltelees.
30 Hir love I best, and shal, whyl I may dure,
 Bet than myself an hundred thousand deel,
 Than al this worldes richesse or creature.
 Now hath not Love me bestowed weel
 To love ther I never shal have part?
 Allas, right thus is turned me the wheel,
 Thus am I slayn with Loves fyry dart!
 I can but love hir best, my swete fo;
 Love hath me taught no more of his art
 But serve alwey and stinte for no wo.
40 In my trewe [and] careful herte ther is
 So moche wo and [eek] so litel blis
 That wo is me that ever I was bore;
 For al that thyng which I desyre I mis
 And al that ever I wolde not ywis,
 That finde I redy to me evermore;
 And of al this I not to whom me pleyne.
 For she that mighte me out of this brynge
 Ne reccheth nought whether I wepe or synge,
 So litel rewthe hath she upon my peyne.
50 Allas! Whan slepyng-tyme is than I wake,
 Whan I shulde daunce, for fere, lo, than I quake.
 This hevy lif I lede, lo, for your sake
 Thogh ye therof in no wyse hede take,
 Myn hertes lady and hool my lyves quene.
 For trewly durste I seye as that I fele,
 Me semeth that your swete herte of stele
 Is whetted now ageynes me to kene.
 My dere herte and best beloved fo,
 Why lyketh yow to do me al this wo?
60 What have I doon that greveth yow or sayd,
 But for I serve and love yow and no mo?
 And while I lyve I wol ever do so,
 And therfor, swete, ne beth nat yvel apayd.
 For so good and so fair as ye be
 Hit were right gret wonder but ye hadde
 Of alle servantes, bothe of goode and badde;
 And leest worthy of alle hem, I am he.
 But nevertheles, my righte lady swete,
 Thogh that I be unconnyng and unmete
70 To serve, as I coude best, ay your hynesse,
 Yit is ther noon fayner, that wolde I hete,
 Than I, to do yow ese, or elles bete
 What so I wiste that were to youre hevynesse;
 And hadde I myght as good as I have wille,
 Than shulde ye fele wher it were so or noon;
 For in this world livyng than is ther noon
 That fayner wolde your hertes wil fulfille.
 For bothe I love and eek drede yow so sore,
 And algates moot, and have doon yow, ful yore,
80 That bettre loved is noon ne never shal;
 And yit I wolde beseche yow of no more,
 But leveth wel and be not wrooth therfore,
 And lat me serve yow forth; lo, this is al.
 For I am not so hardy ne so wood,
 For to desire that ye shulde love me,
 For wel I wot -- allas -- that wil nat be;
 I am so litel worthy and ye so good.
 For ye be oon the worthiest on-lyve
 And I the most unlykly for to thryve,
90 Yit for al this, witeth ye right wele
 That ye ne shul me from your servyce dryve
 That I ne wil ay, with alle my wittes fyve,
 Serve yow trewly, what wo so that I fele.
 For I am set on yow in such manere
 That, thogh ye never wil upon me rewe,
 I moste yow love and been ever as trewe
 As any man can, or may, on-lyve [here].
 But the more that I love yow, goodly free,
 The lasse fynde I that ye loven me;
100 Allas, whan shal that harde wit amende?
 Wher is now al your wommanly pitee,
 Your gentilesse and your debonairtee?
 Wil ye nothyng therof upon me spende?
 And so hool, swete, as I am youres al,
 And so gret wil as I have yow to serve,
 Now certes, and ye lete me thus sterve,
 Yit have ye wonne theron but a smal.
 For at my knowyng I do nought why,
 And this I wol beseche yow hertely,
110 That ther ever ye fynde, whyles ye lyve,
 A trewer servant to yow than am I,
 Leveth thanne and sleeth me hardely,
 And I my deeth to yow wol al foryive.
 And if ye fynde no trewer verrayly,
 Wil ye suffre than that I thus spille
 And for no maner gilt but my good wille?
 As good were thanne untrewe as trewe to be.
 But I, my lyf and deeth, to yow obeye
 And with right buxom herte hooly I preye
120 As is your moste plesure, so doth by me;
 Wel lever is me liken yow and deye
 Than for to anythyng or thynke or seye
 That yow myghte offende in any tyme.
 And therfor, swete, rewe on my peynes smerte,
 And of your grace graunteth me som drope,
 For elles may me laste no blis ne hope,
 Ne dwelle within my trouble careful herte.

Next: The Complaint of Mars