Geoffrey Chaucer (ca. 1343-1400)

An ABC (The Prayer to Our Lady)

Incipit carmen secundum ordinem litterarum alphabeti.

Almighty and al merciable queen,
To whom that al this world fleeth for socour,
To have release of sin, of sorwe, and teene,
Glorious virgin, of all floures flour,
To thee I flee, confounded in errour.
Help and relieve, thou mighty debonaire,
Have mercy on my perilous langour.
Vanquished me hath my cruel adversaire.

Bounty so fix hath in thine heart his tent
That well I wot thou wolt my succour be;
Thou canst not warn him that with good intent
Asketh thine help, thine heart is ay so free.
Thou art largesse of pleyn felicity,
Haven of refut, of quiet, and of rest.
Lo, how that thieves seven chasen me.
Help, lady bright, er that my ship tobrest.

Comfort is none but in you, ladiy dear;
For lo, my sin and my confusion,
Which oughten not in thy presence appear,
Han take on me a grievous action
Of very right and desperation;
And as hi right they mighten well susteen
That I were worthy my damnatioun,
Nere merci of you, blissful heavene queen.

Doubt is there none, thou queen of misericord,
That thou art cause of grace and mercy here;
God vouched safe through thee with us to accord.
For certes, Christes blissful mother deer,
Were now the bowe bent in swich maneere
As it was first of justice and of ire,
The rightful God nolde of no mercy here;
But through thee han we grace as we desire.

Ever hath myn hope of refut been in thee,
For here-beforn ful ofte in many a wise
Hast thou to misericorde received me.
But mercy, Lady, at the great assise
When we shall come before the high justise.
So little fruit shall then in me be found
That, but thou ere that day correcte me,
Of very right my work will me confound.

Fleeing, I flee for succour to thy tent
Me for to hide from tempest full of dreede,
Beseeching you that me you not absent
Though I be wikke. O, help yet at this neede!
All have I been a beast in will and deed,
Yet, Lady, thou me clothe with thy grace.
Thine enemy and mine– Lady, take heed–
Unto my death in point is me to chase!

Glorious maid and mother, which that never
Were bitter, neither in earth nor in sea,
But full of sweetness and of mercy ever,
Help that my Father be not wroth with me.
Speak thou, for I ne dare not him ysee,
So have I done in earth, allas the while,
That certes, but if thou my succour be,
To stink etern he will my ghost exile.

He vouched safe, tell him, as was his will,
Become a man, to have our alliance,
And with his precious blood he wrote the bill
Upon the cross as general acquittance
To every penitent in full creance;
And therefore, Lady bright, thou for us pray.
Then shalt thou bothe stint all his grievance,
And make our foe to failen of his prey.

I wot it well, thou wilt be our succour,
Thou art so full of bountu, in certain,
For when a soule falleth in error
Thy pity goth and haleth him again.
Then makest thou his peace with his sovereign
And bringest him out of the crooked streete.
Whoso thee loveth, he shall not love in vain,
That shall he find as he the life shall lete.

Kalenderes enluminéd bee they
That in this world be lighted with thy name,
And whoso goeth to you the right way,
Him there not dread in soule to be lame.
Now, Queen of comfort, sith thou art that same
To whom I seeche for my medicine,
Let not my foe no more my wound entame;
Min hele into thin hand all I resigne.

Lady, thy sorwe can I not portray
Under the cross, ne his grievous penance;
But for your bothes paines I you pray,
Let not our alder foe make his bobance
That he hath in his listes of mischance
Convict that ye both have bought so dear.
As I said erst, thou ground of our substance,
Continue on us thy pitous eyen clear!

Moses, that saw the bush with flames red
Burninge, of which there never a stick brend,
Was sign of thine unwemmed maidenhead.
Thou art the bush on which there gan descend
The Holy Ghost, the which that Moses wend
Had been a-fire, and this was in figure.
Now, Lady, from the fire thou us defend
Which that in hell eternally shall dure.

Noble princesse, that never hadest peer,
Certes if any comfort in us be,
That cometh of thee, thou Christes mother dear.
We have no other melody or glee
Us to rejoice in our adversity,
Ne advocate none that will dare so preye
For us, and that for little hire as ye
That helpen for an Ave-Marie or tweye.

O very light of eyen that bee blind,
O very lust of labour and distresse,
O treasurer of bounty to mankind,
Thee whom God chose to mother for humbless!
From his ancille he made the mistress
Of heaven and earth, our bill up for to beed.
This world awaiteth ever on thy goodness
For thou ne failest never wight at need.

Purpose I have some time for to inquire
Wherefore and why the Holy Ghost thee sought
Whan Gabrielle’s voice came to thine ear.
He not to ware us such a wonder wrought,
But for to save us that he sithen bought.
Then needeth us no weapen for to save,
But only there we did not, as us ought,
Do penitence, and mercy ask and have.

Queen of comfort, yet when I me bethink
That I agilt have bothe him and thee,
And that my soul is worthy for to sink,
Allas, I caitif, whither may I flee?
Who shall unto thy Son my mene be?
Who, but thyself, that art of pity well?
Thou hast more ruth on our adversity
Than in this world might any toung tell.

Redress me, mother, and me chastise,
For certainly my Father’s chastising,
That there I nought abiden in no wise,
So hidous is his rightful reckoning.
Mother, of whom our mercy gan to spring,
Be ye my judge and eek my soule’s leech;
For ever in you is pity abounding
To each that will of pity you beseech.

So is that God ne granteth no pity
Withoute thee; for God of his goodness
Forgiveth none, but it like unto thee.
He hath thee made vicar and mistress
Of all this world, and eek governoress
Of heaven, and he represseth his justise
After thy will; and therfore in witness
He hath thee corowned in so royal wise.

Temple devout, there God hath his woning,
Fro which these misbelieved deprivéd be,
To you my soule penitent I bring.
Receive me–I can no further flee.
With thornes venomous, O heaven Queen,
For which the earth accurséd was full yore,
I am so wounded, as ye may well see,
That I am lost almost, it smert so sore.

Virgin, that art so noble of apparel,
And leadest us into the highe tower
Of Paradise, thou me wise and counsel
How I may have thy grace and thy succour,
All have I been in filthe and in error.
Lady, unto that court thou me adjourn
That cleped is thy bench, O freshe flour,
There as that mercy ever shall sojourn.

Xristus, thy Son, that in this world alight
Upon the cros to suffer his passion,
And eek that Longius his heart pight
And made his hearte’s blood to run adown,
And all was this for my salvation;
And I to him am false and eek unkind,
And yet he will not my damnacion–
This thank I you, succour of all mankind!

Ysaac was figure of his death, certain,
That so far forth his fader would obey
That him ne rought nothing to be slain;
Right so thy Son list as a lamb to dey.
Now, Lady full of mercy, I you pray,
Sith he his mercy mesuréd so large,
Be ye not scant, for all we sing and say
That ye be from vengance ay our targe.

Zacharie you clepeth the open welle
To washe sinful soul out of his guilt.
Therefore this lesson ought I well to tell,
That, near thy tender heart, we were spilt.
Now, Lady bright, since thou canst and wilt
Be to the seed of Adam merciable,
Bring us to that Palace that is built
To penitentes that be to mercy able.

Youre two eyn will slay me suddenly
I may the beauty of them not sustene,
So wendeth it throughout my hearte kene.

And but your words will healen hastely
My hertis wound, while that it is green,
Youre two eyn will slay me suddenly.

Upon my trouth I say yow faithfully,
That ye been of my life and death the queen;
For with my death the trouth shall be seen.
Youre two eyn will slay me suddenly
I may the beauty of them not sustene,
So wendeth it throughout my hearte kene.

Alone walking
In thought plaining,
And sore sighing;
All desolate,
Me remembring
Of my living;
My death wishing
Bothe early and late.

Is so my fate,
That, wote ye what?
Out of measure
My life I hate;
Thus desperate,
In suche poor estate,
Do I endure.

Of other cure
Am I not sure;
Thus to endure
Is hard, certain;
Such is my ure,
I you ensure;
What creature
May have more pain?

My truth so plain
Is taken in vayn,
And great disdain
In remembrance;
Yet I full fain
Would me complain,
Me to abstain
From this penance.

But, in substance,
None allegueance
Of my grievance
Can I not finde;
Right so my chance,
With displeasance,
Doth me advance;
And thus an end.

Words unto Adam his Scrivener
Adam scriverner, if ever thee befall
Boece or Troilus for to writen new,
Under thy long locks thou mayst have the scall,
But after my making thou write more true,
So oft a day I must thy work renew
It to correct, and eke to rub and scrape,
And all is through thy negligence and rape.

Balade de Bon Conseyl
Flee from the press and dwell with soothfastness;
Suffice unto thy thing, though it be small,
For hoard hath hate, and climbing tickelnesse,
Press hath envy, and well blent overall.
Savour no more than thee behove shall,
Rule well thyself that other folk canst rede,
And truth thee shall delivere, it is no drede.

Tempest thee nought all crooked to redress
In trust of her that turneth as a ball;
Great reste stant in little business.
Beware therefor to spurn against an all,
Strive not, as doth the crocke with the wall.
Daunte thyself, that dauntest others dede,
And truth thee shall deliver, it is no drede.

That thee is sent, receive in buxomness;
The wrestling for this world asketh a fall.
Here is no home, her is but wilderness:
Forth, pilgrim, forth! Forth, beast, out of thy stall!
Know thy country, look up, thank God of all;
Hold the high way and let thy ghost thee lede,
And truth thee shall delivere, it is no drede.

Canterbury Tales

Troilus and Criseyde

The Book of the Duchess