Book of the duchesse, p.1
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       Book Of The Duchesse, p.1

           Geoffrey Chaucer
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Book Of The Duchesse

  [OMACL release #1]

  Book of the Duchesse

  by Geoffrey Chaucer

  The following text is based on that published in THE COMPLETE

  WORKS OF GEOFFREY CHAUCER, ed. W.W. Skeat (Oxford, 1899). This

  work is in the PUBLIC DOMAIN.

  This electronic edition was edited, proofed, and prepared by

  Douglas B. Killings ([email protected]), September 1994, based

  upon a previous e-text of unknown origin. Additional assistance

  provided by Diane M. Brendan.



  1 I have gret wonder, be this lighte,

  2 How that I live, for day ne nighte

  3 I may nat slepe wel nigh noght,

  4 I have so many an ydel thoght

  5 Purely for defaute of slepe

  6 That, by my trouthe, I take no kepe

  7 Of no-thing, how hit cometh or goth,

  8 Ne me nis no-thing leef nor loth.

  9 Al is y-liche good to me --

  10 Ioye or sorowe, wherso hyt be --

  11 For I have feling in no-thinge,

  12 But, as it were, a mased thing,

  13 Alway in point to falle a-doun;

  14 For sorwful imaginacioun

  15 Is alway hoolly in my minde.

  16 And wel ye wite, agaynes kynde

  17 Hit were to liven in this wyse;

  18 For nature wolde nat suffyse

  19 To noon erthely creature

  20 Not longe tyme to endure

  21 Withoute slepe, and been in sorwe;

  22 And I ne may, ne night ne morwe,

  23 Slepe; and thus melancolye

  24 And dreed I have for to dye,

  25 Defaute of slepe and hevinesse

  26 Hath sleyn my spirit of quiknesse,

  27 That I have lost al lustihede.

  28 Suche fantasies ben in myn hede

  29 So I not what is best to do.

  30 But men myght axe me, why soo

  31 I may not slepe, and what me is?

  32 But natheles, who aske this

  33 Leseth his asking trewely.

  34 My-selven can not telle why

  35 The sooth; but trewely, as I gesse,

  36 I holde hit be a siknesse

  37 That I have suffred this eight yere,

  38 And yet my bote is never the nere;

  39 For ther is phisicien but oon,

  40 That may me hele; but that is doon.

  41 Passe we over until eft;

  42 That wil not be, moot nede be left;

  43 Our first matere is good to kepe.

  44 So whan I saw I might not slepe,

  45 Til now late, this other night,

  46 Upon my bedde I sat upright

  47 And bad oon reche me a book,

  48 A romaunce, and he hit me took

  49 To rede and dryve the night away;

  50 For me thoghte it better play

  51 Then playen either at chesse or tables.

  52 And in this boke were writen fables

  53 That clerkes hadde, in olde tyme,

  54 And other poets, put in ryme

  55 To rede, and for to be in minde

  56 Whyl men loved the lawe of kinde.

  57 This book ne spak but of such thinges,

  58 Of quenes lyves, and of kinges,

  59 And many othere thinges smale.

  60 Amonge al this I fond a tale

  61 That me thoughte a wonder thing.

  62 This was the tale: There was a king

  63 That hight Seys, and hadde a wyf,

  64 The beste that mighte bere lyf;

  65 And this quene hight Alcyone.

  66 So hit befel, therafter sone,

  67 This king wolde wenden over see.

  68 To tellen shortly, whan that he

  69 Was in the see, thus in this wyse,

  70 Soche a tempest gan to ryse

  71 That brak hir mast, and made it falle,

  72 And clefte her ship, and dreinte hem alle,

  73 That never was founden, as it telles,

  74 Bord ne man, ne nothing elles.

  75 Right thus this king Seys loste his lyf.

  76 Now for to speken of his wife: --

  77 This lady, that was left at home,

  78 Hath wonder, that the king ne come

  79 Hoom, for hit was a longe terme.

  80 Anon her herte gan to erme;

  81 And for that hir thoughte evermo

  82 Hit was not wel he dwelte so,

  83 She longed so after the king

  84 That certes, hit were a pitous thing

  85 To telle hir hertely sorwful lyf

  86 That hadde, alas! this noble wyfe;

  87 For him she loved alderbest.

  88 Anon she sente bothe eest and west

  89 To seke him, but they founde nought.

  90 `Alas!' quoth she, `that I was wrought!

  91 And wher my lord, my love, be deed?

  92 Certes, I nil never ete breed,

  93 I make a-vowe to my god here,

  94 But I mowe of my lord here!'

  95 Such sorwe this lady to her took

  96 That trewely I, which made this book,

  97 Had swich pite and swich rowthe

  98 To rede hir sorwe, that, by my trowthe,

  99 I ferde the worse al the morwe

  100 After, to thenken on her sorwe.

  101 So whan she coude here no word

  102 That no man mighte fynde hir lord,

  103 Ful ofte she swouned, and saide `Alas!'

  104 For sorwe ful nigh wood she was,

  105 Ne she coude no reed but oon;

  106 But doun on knees she sat anoon,

  107 And weep, that pite was to here.

  108 `A! mercy! swete lady dere!'

  109 Quod she to Iuno, hir goddesse;

  110 `Help me out of this distresse,

  111 And yeve me grace my lord to see

  112 Sone, or wite wher-so he be,

  113 Or how he fareth, or in what wyse,

  114 And I shal make you sacrifyse,

  115 And hoolly youres become I shal

  116 With good wil, body, herte, and al;

  117 And but thou wilt this, lady swete,

  118 Send me grace to slepe, and mete

  119 In my slepe som certeyn sweven,

  120 Wher-through that I may knowen even

  121 Whether my lord be quik or deed.'

  122 With that word she heng doun the heed,

  123 And fil a-swown as cold as ston;

  124 Hir women caught her up anon,

  125 And broghten hir in bed al naked,

  126 And she, forweped and forwaked,

  127 Was wery, and thus the dede sleep

  128 Fil on hir, or she toke keep,

  129 Through Iuno, that had herd hir bone,

  130 That made hir to slepe sone;

  131 For as she prayde, so was don,

  132 In dede; for Iuno, right anon,

  133 Called thus her messagere

  134 To do her erande, and he com nere.

  135 Whan he was come, she bad him thus:

  136 `Go b
et,' quod Iuno, `to Morpheus,

  137 Thou knowest hym wel, the god of sleep;

  138 Now understond wel, and tak keep.

  139 Sey thus on my halfe, that he

  140 Go faste into the grete see,

  141 And bid him that, on alle thing,

  142 He take up Seys body the king,

  143 That lyth ful pale and no-thing rody.

  144 Bid him crepe into the body,

  145 Aud do it goon to Alcyone

  146 The quene, ther she lyth alone,

  147 And shewe hir shortly, hit is no nay,

  148 How hit was dreynt this other day;

  149 And do the body speke so

  150 Right as hit was wont to do,

  151 The whyles that hit was on lyve.

  152 Go now faste, and hy thee blyve!'

  153 This messager took leve and wente

  154 Upon his wey, and never ne stente

  155 Til he com to the derke valeye

  156 That stant bytwene roches tweye,

  157 Ther never yet grew corn ne gras,

  158 Ne tree, ne nothing that ought was,

  159 Beste, ne man, ne nothing elles,

  160 Save ther were a fewe welles

  161 Came renning fro the cliffes adoun,

  162 That made a deedly sleping soun,

  163 And ronnen doun right by a cave

  164 That was under a rokke y-grave

  165 Amid the valey, wonder depe.

  166 Ther thise goddes laye and slepe,

  167 Morpheus, and Eclympasteyre,

  168 That was the god of slepes heyre,

  169 That slepe and did non other werk.

  170 This cave was also as derk

  171 As helle pit over-al aboute;

  172 They had good leyser for to route

  173 To envye, who might slepe beste;

  174 Some henge hir chin upon hir breste

  175 And slepe upright, hir heed y-hed,

  176 And some laye naked in hir bed,

  177 And slepe whyles the dayes laste.

  178 This messager come flying faste,

  179 And cryed, `O ho! awake anon!'

  180 Hit was for noght; ther herde him non.

  181 `Awak!' quod he, `who is, lyth there?'

  182 And blew his horn right in hir ere,

  183 And cryed `awaketh!' wonder hye.

  184 This god of slepe, with his oon ye

  185 Cast up, axed, `who clepeth there?'

  186 `Hit am I,' quod this messagere;

  187 `Iuno bad thou shuldest goon' --

  188 And tolde him what he shulde doon

  189 As I have told yow here-tofore;

  190 Hit is no need reherse hit more;

  191 And wente his wey, whan he had sayd.

  192 Anon this god of slepe a-brayd

  193 Out of his slepe, and gan to goon,

  194 And did as he had bede him doon;

  195 Took up the dreynte body sone,

  196 And bar hit forth to Alcyone,

  197 His wif the quene, ther-as she lay,

  198 Right even a quarter before day,

  199 And stood right at hir beddes fete,

  200 And called hir, right as she hete,

  201 By name, and sayde, `my swete wyf,

  202 Awak! let be your sorwful lyf!

  203 For in your sorwe there lyth no reed;

  204 For certes, swete, I nam but deed;

  205 Ye shul me never on lyve y-see.

  206 But good swete herte, look that ye

  207 Bury my body, at whiche a tyde

  208 Ye mowe hit finde the see besyde;

  209 And far-wel, swete, my worldes blisse!

  210 I praye god your sorwe lisse;

  211 To litel whyl our blisse lasteth!'

  212 With that hir eyen up she casteth,

  213 And saw noght; `A!' quod she, `for sorwe!'

  214 And deyed within the thridde morwe.

  215 But what she sayde more in that swow

  216 I may not telle yow as now,

  217 Hit were to longe for to dwelle;

  218 My first matere I wil yow telle,

  219 Wherfor I have told this thing

  220 Of Alcione and Seys the king.

  221 For thus moche dar I saye wel,

  222 I had be dolven everydel,

  223 And deed, right through defaute of sleep,

  224 If I nad red and taken keep

  225 Of this tale next before:

  226 And I wol telle yow wherfore:

  227 For I ne might, for bote ne bale,

  228 Slepe, or I had red this tale

  229 Of this dreynte Seys the king,

  230 And of the goddes of sleping.

  231 Whan I had red this tale wel

  232 And over-loked hit everydel,

  233 Me thoughte wonder if hit were so;

  234 For I had never herd speke, or tho,

  235 Of no goddes that coude make

  236 Men for to slepe, ne for to wake;

  237 For I ne knew never god but oon.

  238 And in my game I sayde anoon --

  239 And yet me list right evel to pleye --

  240 `Rather then that I shulde deye

  241 Through defaute of sleping thus,

  242 I wolde yive thilke Morpheus,

  243 Or his goddesse, dame Iuno,

  244 Or som wight elles, I ne roghte who --

  245 To make me slepe and have som reste --

  246 I wil yive him the alder-beste

  247 Yift that ever he aboode his lyve,

  248 And here on warde, right now, as blyve;

  249 If he wol make me slepe a lyte,

  250 Of downe of pure dowves whyte

  251 I wil yive him a fether-bed,

  252 Rayed with golde, and right wel cled

  253 In fyn blak satin doutremere,

  254 And many a pilow, and every bere

  255 Of clothe of Reynes, to slepe softe;

  256 Him thar not nede to turnen ofte.

  257 And I wol yive him al that falles

  258 To a chambre; and al his halles

  259 I wol do peynte with pure golde,

  260 And tapite hem ful many folde

  261 Of oo sute; this shal he have,

  262 Yf I wiste wher were his cave,

  263 If he can make me slepe sone,

  264 As did the goddesse Alcione.

  265 And thus this ilke god, Morpheus,

  266 May winne of me mo fees thus

  267 Than ever he wan; and to Iuno,

  268 That is his goddesse, I shal so do,

  269 I trow that she shal holde her payd.'

  270 I hadde unneth that word y-sayd

  271 Right thus as I have told hit yow,

  272 That sodeynly, I niste how,

  273 Swich a lust anoon me took

  274 To slepe, that right upon my book

  275 I fil aslepe, and therwith even

  276 Me mette so inly swete a sweven,

  277 So wonderful, that never yit

  278 I trowe no man hadde the wit

  279 To conne wel my sweven rede;

  280 No, not Ioseph, withoute drede,

  281 Of Egipte, he that redde so

  282 The kinges meting Pharao,

  283 No more than coude the leste of us;

  284 Ne nat scarsly Macrobeus,

  285 (He that wroot al thavisioun

  286 That he mette, Kyng Scipioun,

  287 The noble man, the Affrican --

  288 Swiche marvayles fortuned than)

  289 I trowe, a
-rede my dremes even.

  290 Lo, thus hit was, this was my sweven.


  291 Me thoughte thus: -- that hit was May,

  292 And in the dawning ther I lay,

  293 Me mette thus, in my bed al naked: --

  294 I loked forth, for I was waked

  295 With smale foules a gret hepe,

  296 That had affrayed me out of slepe

  297 Through noyse and swetnesse of hir song;

  298 And, as me mette, they sate among,

  299 Upon my chambre-roof withoute,

  300 Upon the tyles, al a-boute,

  301 And songen, everich in his wise,

  302 The moste solempne servyse

  303 By note, that ever man, I trowe,

  304 Had herd; for som of hem song lowe,

  305 Som hye, and al of oon acorde.

  306 To telle shortly, at oo worde,

  307 Was never y-herd so swete a steven,

  308 But hit had be a thing of heven; --

  309 So mery a soun, so swete entunes,

  310 That certes, for the toune of Tewnes,

  311 I nolde but I had herd hem singe,

  312 For al my chambre gan to ringe

  313 Through singing of hir armonye.

  314 For instrument nor melodye

  315 Was nowher herd yet half so swete,

  316 Nor of acorde half so mete;

  317 For ther was noon of hem that feyned

  318 To singe, for ech of hem him peyned

  319 To finde out mery crafty notes;

  320 They ne spared not hir throtes.

  321 And, sooth to seyn, my chambre was

  322 Ful wel depeynted, and with glas

  323 Were al the windowes wel y-glased,

  324 Ful clere, and nat an hole y-crased,

  325 That to beholde hit was gret Ioye.

  326 For hoolly al the storie of Troye

  327 Was in the glasing y-wroght thus,

  328 Of Ector and of king Priamus,

  329 Of Achilles and king Lamedon,

  330 Of Medea and of Iason,

  331 Of Paris, Eleyne, and Lavyne.

  332 And alle the walles with colours fyne

  333 Were peynted, bothe text and glose,

  334 Of al the Romaunce of the Rose.

  335 My windowes weren shet echon,

  336 And through the glas the sunne shon

  337 Upon my bed with brighte bemes,

  338 With many glade gilden stremes;

  339 And eek the welken was so fair,

  340 Blew, bright, clere was the air,

  341 And ful atempre, for sothe, hit was;

  342 For nother cold nor hoot hit nas,

  343 Ne in al the welken was a cloude.

  344 And as I lay thus, wonder loude

  345 Me thoughte I herde an hunte blowe

  346 Tassaye his horn, and for to knowe

  347 Whether hit were clere or hors of soune.

  348 I herde goinge, up and doune,

  349 Men, hors, houndes, and other thing;

  350 And al men speken of hunting,

  351 How they wolde slee the hert with strengthe,

  352 And how the hert had, upon lengthe,

  353 So moche embosed,I not now what.

  354 Anon-right, whan I herde that,

  355 How that they wolde on hunting goon,

  356 I was right glad, and up anoon;

  357 I took my hors, and forth I wente

  358 Out of my chambre; I never stente

  359 Til I com to the feld withoute.

  360 Ther overtook I a gret route

  361 Of huntes and eek of foresteres,

  362 With many relayes and lymeres,

  363 And hyed hem to the forest faste,

  364 And I with hem; -- so at the laste

  365 I asked oon, ladde a lymere: --

  366 `Say, felow, who shal hunten here'

  367 Quod I, and he answerde ageyn,

  368 `Sir, themperour Octovien,'

  369 Quod he, `and is heer faste by.'

  370 `A goddes halfe, in good tyme,' quod I,

  371 `Go we faste!' and gan to ryde.

  372 Whan we came to the forest-syde,

  373 Every man dide, right anoon,

  374 As to hunting fil to doon.

  375 The mayster-hunte anoon, fot-hoot,

  376 With a gret horne blew three moot

  377 At the uncoupling of his houndes.

  378 Within a whyl the hert y-founde is,

  379 Y-halowed, and rechased faste

  380 Longe tyme; and so at the laste,

  381 This hert rused and stal away

  382 Fro alle the houndes a prevy way.

  383 The houndes had overshote hem alle,

  384 And were on a defaute y-falle;

  385 Therwith the hunte wonder faste

  386 Blew a forloyn at the laste.

  387 I was go walked fro my tree,

  388 And as I wente, ther cam by me

  389 A whelp, that fauned me as I stood,

  390 That hadde y-folowed, and coude no good.

  391 Hit com and creep to me as lowe,

  392 Right as hit hadde me y-knowe,

  393 Hild doun his heed and Ioyned his eres,

  394 And leyde al smothe doun his heres.

  395 I wolde han caught hit, and anoon

  396 Hit fledde, and was fro me goon;

  397 And I him folwed, and hit forth wente

  398 Doun by a floury grene wente

  399 Ful thikke of gras, ful softe and swete,

  400 With floures fele, faire under fete,

  401 And litel used, hit seemed thus;

  402 For bothe Flora and Zephirus,

  403 They two that make floures growe,

  404 Had mad hir dwelling ther, I trowe;

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