The parliament of birds, p.1
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       The Parliament of Birds, p.1

           Geoffrey Chaucer
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The Parliament of Birds

  [OMACL release #3]

  The Parliament of Fowles

  by Geoffrey Chaucer

  The following text is based on that published in THE COMPLETE

  WORKS OF GEOFFREY CHAUCER, ed. W.W. Skeat (Oxford, 1900). This

  text 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.


  Here begynyth the Parlement of Foulys


  1 The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne,

  2 Thassay so hard, so sharp the conquering,

  3 The dredful Ioy, that alwey slit so yerne,

  4 Al this mene I by love, that my feling

  5 Astonyeth with his wonderful worching

  6 So sore y-wis, that whan I on him thinke,

  7 Nat wot I wel wher that I wake or winke.

  8 For al be that I knowe nat love in dede,

  9 Ne wot how that he quyteth folk hir hyre,

  10 Yet happeth me ful ofte in bokes rede

  11 Of his miracles, and his cruel yre;

  12 Ther rede I wel he wol be lord and syre,

  13 I dar not seyn, his strokes been so sore,

  14 But God save swich a lord! I can no more.

  15 Of usage, what for luste what for lore,

  16 On bokes rede I ofte, as I yow tolde.

  17 But wherfor that I speke al this? not yore

  18 Agon, hit happed me for to beholde

  19 Upon a boke, was write with lettres olde;

  20 And ther-upon, a certeyn thing to lerne,

  21 The longe day ful faste I radde and yerne.

  22 For out of olde feldes, as men seith,

  23 Cometh al this newe corn fro yeer to yere;

  24 And out of olde bokes, in good feith,

  25 Cometh al this newe science that men lere.

  26 But now to purpos as of this matere --

  27 To rede forth hit gan me so delyte,

  28 That al the day me thoughte but a lyte.

  29 This book of which I make of mencioun,

  30 Entitled was al thus, as I shal telle,

  31 `Tullius of the dreme of Scipioun.';

  32 Chapitres seven hit hadde, of hevene and helle,

  33 And erthe, and soules that therinnr dwelle,

  34 Of whiche, as shortly as I can hit trete,

  35 Of his sentence I wol you seyn the grete.

  36 First telleth hit, whan Scipion was come

  37 In Afrik, how he mette Massinisse,

  38 That him for Ioye in armes hath y nome.

  39 Than telleth hit hir speche and al the blisse

  40 That was betwix hem, til the day gan misse;

  41 And how his auncestre, African so dere,

  42 Gan in his slepe that night to him appere.

  43 Than telleth hit that, fro a sterry place,

  44 How African hath him Cartage shewed,

  45 And warned him before of al his grace,

  46 And seyde him, what man, lered other lewed,

  47 That loveth comun profit, wel y-thewed,

  48 He shal unto a blisful place wende,

  49 Ther as Ioye is that last withouten ende.

  50 Than asked he, if folk that heer be dede

  51 Have lyf and dwelling in another place;

  52 And African seyde, `ye, withoute drede,'

  53 And that our present worldes lyves space

  54 Nis but a maner deth, what wey we trace,

  55 And rightful folk shal go, after they dye,

  56 To heven; and shewed him the galaxye.

  57 Than shewed he him the litel erthe, that heer is,

  58 At regard of the hevenes quantite;

  59 And after shewed he him the nyne speres,

  60 And after that the melodye herde he

  61 That cometh of thilke speres thryes three,

  62 That welle is of musyk and melodye

  63 In this world heer, and cause of armonye.

  64 Than bad he him, sin erthe was so lyte,

  65 And ful of torment and of harde grace,

  66 That he ne shulde him in the world delyte.

  67 Than tolde he him, in certeyn yeres space,

  68 That every sterre shulde come into his place

  69 Ther hit was first; and al shulde out of minde

  70 That in this worlde is don of al mankinde.

  71 Than prayde him Scipioun to telle him al

  72 The wey to come un-to that hevene blisse;

  73 And he seyde, `know thy-self first immortal,

  74 And loke ay besily thou werke and wisse

  75 To comun profit, and thou shalt nat misse

  76 To comen swiftly to that place dere,

  77 That ful of blisse is and of soules clere.

  78 But brekers of the lawe, soth to seyne,

  79 And lecherous folk, after that they be dede,

  80 Shul alwey whirle aboute therthe in peyne,

  81 Til many a world be passed, out of drede,

  82 And than, for-yeven alle hir wikked dede,

  83 Than shul they come unto that blisful place,

  84 To which to comen god thee sende his grace!' --

  85 The day gan failen, and the derke night,

  86 That reveth bestes from her besinesse,

  87 Berafte me my book for lakke of light,

  88 And to my bedde I gan me for to dresse,

  89 Fulfild of thought and besy hevinesse;

  90 For bothe I hadde thing which that I nolde,

  91 And eek I ne hadde that thing that I wolde.

  92 But fynally my spirit, at the laste,

  93 For-wery of my labour al the day,

  94 Took rest, that made me to slepe faste,

  95 And in my slepe I mette, as I lay,

  96 How African, right in the selfe aray

  97 That Scipioun him saw before that tyde,

  98 Was comen and stood right at my bedes syde.

  99 The wery hunter, slepinge in his bed,

  100 To wode ayein his minde goth anoon;

  101 The Iuge dremeth how his plees ben sped;

  102 The carter dremeth how his cartes goon;

  103 The riche, of gold; the knight fight with his foon;

  104 The seke met he drinketh of the tonne;

  105 The lover met he hath his lady wonne.

  106 Can I nat seyn if that the cause were

  107 For I had red of African beforn,

  108 That made me to mete that he stood there;

  109 But thus seyde he, `thou hast thee so wel born

  110 In loking of myn olde book to-torn,

  111 Of which Macrobie roghte nat a lyte,

  112 That somdel of thy labour wolde I quyte!' --

  113 Citherea! thou blisful lady swete,

  114 That with thy fyr-brand dauntest whom thee lest,

  115 And madest me this sweven for to mete,

  116 Be thou my help in this, for thou mayst best;

  117 As wisly as I saw thee north-north-west,

  118 When I began my sweven for to wryte,

  119 So yif me might to ryme and endyte!


  120 This forseid African me hente anoon,

  121 And forth with him unto a gate broghte

/>   122 Right of a parke, walled of grene stoon;

  123 And over the gate, with lettres large y-wroghte,

  124 Ther weren vers y-writen, as me thoghte,

  125 On eyther halfe, of ful gret difference,

  126 Of which I shal yow sey the pleyn sentence.

  127 `Thorgh me men goon in-to that blisful place

  128 Of hertes hele and dedly woundes cure;

  129 Thorgh me men goon unto the welle of Grace,

  130 Ther grene and lusty May shal ever endure;

  131 This is the wey to al good aventure;

  132 Be glad, thou reder, and thy sorwe of-caste,

  133 Al open am I; passe in, and hy the faste!'

  134 `Thorgh me men goon,' than spak that other syde,

  135 `Unto the mortal strokes of the spere,

  136 Of which Disdayn and Daunger is the gyde,

  137 Ther tre shal never fruyt ne leves bere.

  138 This streem yow ledeth to the sorwful were,

  139 Ther as the fish in prison is al drye;

  140 Theschewing is only the remedye.'

  141 Thise vers of gold and blak y-writen were,

  142 Of whiche I gan a stounde to beholde,

  143 For with that oon encresed ay my fere,

  144 And with that other gan myn herte bolde;

  145 That oon me hette, that other did me colde,

  146 No wit had I, for errour, for to chese

  147 To entre or flee, or me to save or lese.

  148 Right as, betwixen adamauntes two

  149 Of even might, a pece of iren y-set,

  150 That hath no might to meve to ne fro --

  151 For what that on may hale, that other let --

  152 Ferde I; that niste whether me was bet,

  153 To entre or leve, til African my gyde

  154 Me hente, and shoof in at the gates wyde,

  155 And seyde,`hit stondeth writen in thy face,

  156 Thyn errour, though thou telle it not to me;

  157 But dred the nat to come in-to this place,

  158 For this wryting is no-thing ment by thee,

  159 Ne by noon, but he Loves servant be;

  160 For thou of love hast lost thy tast, I gesse,

  161 As seek man hath of swete and bitternesse.

  162 But natheles, al-though that thou be dulle,

  163 Yit that thou canst not do, yit mayst thou see;

  164 For many a man that may not stonde a pulle,

  165 Yit lyketh him at the wrastling for to be,

  166 And demeth yit wher he do bet or he;

  167 And if thou haddest cunning for tendyte,

  168 I shal thee shewen mater of to wryte.'

  169 With that my hond in his he took anoon,

  170 Of which I comfort caughte, and went in faste;

  171 But, lord! so I was glad and wel begoon!

  172 For over-al, wher that I myn eyen caste,

  173 Were trees clad with leves that ay shal laste,

  174 Eche in his kinde, of colour fresh and grene

  175 As emeraude, that Ioye was to sene.

  176 The bilder ook, and eek the hardy asshe;

  177 The piler elm, the cofre unto careyne;

  178 The boxtree piper; holm to whippes lasshe;

  179 The sayling firr; the cipres, deth to pleyne;

  180 The sheter ew, the asp for shaftes pleyne;

  181 The olyve of pees, and eek the drunken vyne,

  182 The victor palm, the laurer to devyne.

  183 A gardyn saw I, ful of blosmy bowes,

  184 Upon a river, in a grene mede,

  185 Ther as swetnesse evermore y-now is,

  186 With floures whyte, blewe, yelowe, and rede;

  187 And colde welle-stremes, no-thing dede,

  188 That swommen ful of smale fisshes lighte,

  189 With finnes rede and scales silver-brighte.

  190 On every bough the briddes herde I singe,

  191 With voys of aungel in hir armonye,

  192 Som besyed hem hir briddes forth to bringe;

  193 The litel conyes to hir pley gunne hye.

  194 And further al aboute I gan espye

  195 The dredful roo, the buk, the hert and hinde,

  196 Squerels, and bestes smale of gentil kinde.

  197 Of instruments of strenges in acord

  198 Herde I so pleye a ravisshing swetnesse,

  199 That god, that maker is of al and lord,

  200 Ne herde never better, as I gesse;

  201 Therwith a wind, unnethe hit might be lesse,

  202 Made in the leves grene a noise softe

  203 Acordaunt to the foules songe on-lofte.

  204 The air of that place so attempre was

  205 That never was grevaunce of hoot ne cold;

  206 Ther wex eek every holsum spyce and gras,

  207 Ne no man may ther wexe seek ne old;

  208 Yet was ther Ioye more a thousand fold

  209 Then man can telle; ne never wolde it nighte,

  210 But ay cleer day to any mannes sighte.

  211 Under a tree, besyde a welle, I say

  212 Cupyde our lord his arwes forge and fyle;

  213 And at his fete his bowe al redy lay,

  214 And wel his doghter tempred al this whyle

  215 The hedes in the welle, and with hir wyle

  216 She couched hem after as they shulde serve,

  217 Some for to slee, and some to wounde and kerve.

  218 Tho was I war of Plesaunce anon-right,

  219 And of Aray, and Lust, and Curtesye,

  220 And of the Craft that can and hath the might

  221 To doon by force a wight to do folye --

  222 Disfigurat was she, I nil not lye;

  223 And by him-self, under an oke, I gesse,

  224 Saw I Delyt, that stood with Gentilnesse.

  225 I saw Beautee, withouten any atyr,

  226 And Youthe, ful of game and Iolyte,

  227 Fool-hardinesse, Flatery, and Desyr,

  228 Messagerye, and Mede, and other three --

  229 Hir names shul noght here be told for me --

  230 And upon pilers grete of Iasper longe

  231 I saw a temple of bras y-founded stronge.

  232 Aboute the temple daunceden alway

  233 Wommen y-nowe, of whiche some ther were

  234 Faire of hem-self, and somme of hem were gay;

  235 In kirtels, al disshevele, wente they there --

  236 That was hir office alway, yeer by yere --

  237 And on the temple, of doves whyte and faire

  238 Saw I sittinge many a hunderede paire.

  239 Before the temple-dore ful soberly

  240 Dame Pees sat, with a curteyn in hir hond:

  241 And hir besyde, wonder discretly,

  242 Dame Pacience sitting ther I fond

  243 With face pale, upon an hille of sond;

  244 And alder-next, within and eek with-oute,

  245 Behest and Art, and of hir folke a route.

  246 Within the temple, of syghes hote as fyr

  247 I herde a swogh that gan aboute renne;

  248 Which syghes were engendred with desyr,

  249 That maden every auter for to brenne

  250 Of newe flaume; and wel aspyed I thenne

  251 That al the cause of sorwes that they drye

  252 Com of the bitter goddesse Ialousye.

  253 The god Priapus saw I, as I wente,

  254 Within the temple, in soverayn place stonde,

  255 In swich aray as whan the asse him shente

  256 With crye by night, and with ceptre in honde;

  257 Ful besily men gunne assaye and fonde

  258 Upon his hede to sette, of sondry hewe,

  259 Garlondes ful of fresshe floures newe.

  260 And in a privee corner, in disporte

  261 Fond I Venus and hir porter Richesse,

  262 That was ful noble and hauteyn of hir porte;

  263 Derk was that place, but afterward lightnesse

  264 I saw a lyte, unnethe hit might be lesse,

  265 And on a bed of golde she lay to reste,

  266 Til that the hote sonne gan to weste.

  267 Hir gilte heres with a golden threde

  268 Y-bounden were, untressed as she lay,

  269 And naked fro the breste unto the hede

  270 Men might hir see; and, sothly for to say,

  271 The remenant wel kevered to my pay

  272 Right with a subtil kerchef of Valence,

  273 Ther was no thikker cloth of no defence.

  274 The place yaf a thousand savours swote,

  275 And Bachus, god of wyn, sat hir besyde,

  276 And Ceres next, that doth of hunger bote;

  277 And, as I seide, amiddes lay Cipryde,

  278 To whom on knees two yonge folkes cryde

  279 To ben hir help; but thus I leet hir lye,

  280 And ferther in the temple I gan espye

  281 That, in dispyte of Diane the chaste,

  282 Ful many a bowe y-broke heng on the wal

  283 Of maydens, suche as gunne hir tymes waste

  284 In hir servyse; and peynted over al

  285 Of many a story, of which I touche shal

  286 A fewe, as of Calixte and Athalaunte,

  287 And many a mayde, of which the name I wante;

  288 Semyramus, Candace, and Ercules,

  289 Biblis, Dido, Thisbe, and Piramus,

  290 Tristram, Isoude, Paris, and Achilles,

  291 Eleyne, Cleopatre, and Troilus,

  292 Silla, and eek the moder of Romulus --

  293 Alle these were peynted on that other syde,

  294 And al hir love, and in what plyte they dyde.

  295 Whan I was come ayen unto the place

  296 That I of spak, that was so swote and grene,

  297 Forth welk I tho, my-selven to solace.

  298 Tho was I war wher that ther sat a quene

  299 That, as of light the somer-sonne shene

  300 Passeth the sterre, right so over mesure

  301 She fairer was than any creature.

  302 And in a launde, upon an hille of floures,

  303 Was set this noble goddesse Nature;

  304 Of braunches were hir halles and hir boures,

  305 Y-wrought after hir craft and hir mesure;

  306 Ne ther nas foul that cometh of engendrure,

  307 That they ne were prest in hir presence,

  308 To take hir doom and yeve hir audience.

  309 For this was on seynt Valentynes day,

  310 Whan every foul cometh ther to chese his make,

  311 Of every kinde, that men thenke may;

  312 And that so huge a noyse gan they make,

  313 That erthe and see, and tree, and every lake

  314 So ful was, that unnethe was ther space

  315 For me to stonde, so ful was al the place.

  316 And right as Aleyn, in the Pleynt of Kinde,

  317 Devyseth Nature of aray and face,

  318 In swich aray men mighten hir ther finde.

  319 This noble emperesse, ful of grace,

  320 Bad every foul to take his owne place,

  321 As they were wont alwey fro yeer to yere,

  322 Seynt Valentynes day, to stonden there.

  323 That is to sey, the foules of ravyne

  324 Were hyest set; and than the foules smale,

  325 That eten as hem nature wolde enclyne,

  326 As worm or thing of whiche I telle no tale;

  327 And water-foul sat loweste in the dale;

  328 But foul that liveth by seed sat on the grene,

  329 And that so fele, that wonder was to sene.

  330 There mighte men the royal egle finde,

  331 That with his sharpe look perceth the sonne;

  332 And other egles of a lower kinde,

  333 Of which that clerkes wel devysen conne.

  334 Ther was the tyraunt with his fethres donne

  335 And greye, I mene the goshauk, that doth pyne

  336 To briddes for his outrageous ravyne.

  337 The gentil faucoun, that with his feet distreyneth

  338 The kinges hond; the hardy sperhauk eke,

  339 The quayles foo; the merlion that payneth

  340 Him-self ful ofte, the larke for to seke;

  341 Ther was the douve, with hir eyen meke;

  342 The Ialous swan, ayens his deth that singeth;

  343 The oule eek, that of dethe the bode bringeth;

  344 The crane the geaunt, with his trompes soune;

  345 The theef, the chogh; and eek the Iangling pye;

  346 The scorning Iay; the eles foo, heroune;

  347 The false lapwing, ful of trecherye;

  348 The stare, that the counseyl can bewrye;

  349 The tame ruddok; and the coward kyte;

  350 The cok, that orloge is of thorpes lyte;

  351 The sparow, Venus sone; the nightingale,

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