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Compleyneth her that endeth your labour,
Compleyneth thilke ensample of al honour,
That never did but alwey gentilesse;
Kytheth therfor in her summe kyndenesse.


There nys so high comfort to my plesance,
Whan that I am in any hevynesse,
As for to have leyser of remembraunce,
Upon the manhod and the worthynesse,
Upon the trouthe, and on the stedfastnesse,
Of him whos I am al whiles I may dure;
Ther oghte blame me no creature,
For every wight preiseth his gentilesse.1

In him ys bounte, wysdom, and governaunce,
Wel more than any mannes witte can gesse;
For grace hath wolde so ferforthe hym avaunce,
That of knyghthode he is parfite richesse;
Honour honoureth him for his noblesse;
Therto so wel hath formed him Nature,
That I am his for ever I him assure,
For every wight preyseth his gentilesse.

And not withstondyng al his suffisaunce,
His gentil herte ys of so grete humblesse
To me in worde, in werke, in countenaunce,
And me to serve is al his besynesse,
That I am sette in verrey sikernesse.
Thus oght I blesse well myn aventure,
Sith that him list me serven and honoure,
For every wight preiseth his gentilesse.

1 Here the metre is again changed. In The Compleynte of Venus, the first and third lines fall into one rhyme; the second, fourth, fifth and eighth into another; and the sixth and seventh into a

Now certis, Love, hit is right covenable,
That men ful dere abye the noble thinge,
As wake a-bedde, and fasten at the table,
Wepinge to laugh and sing in compleynynge,
And doune to caste visage and lokynge,
Often to chaunge visage and countenaunce,
Pley in slepyng, and dreme at the daunce,
Al the reverse of eny glad felynge.

Jelousie be hanged be a cable!
She wold al knowe through her espyinge.
Ther dothe no wyght nothing so resonable,
That al nys harme in her ymagynynge.
Thus dere abought is Love in yevynge,
Which ofte he yifeth withoute ordynaunce,
As sorow ynough, and litil of plesaunce,
Al the reverse of any glad felynge.

A lyttel tyme his yift ys agreable,
But ful encomberouse is the usynge;
For subtil Jelosie, the deceyvable,
Ful often tyme causeth desturbynge.
Thus ben we ever in drede and suffrynge;
In no certeyne we languisshen in penaunce,
And han ful often many an hard mischance,
Al the reverse of any glad felynge.

But certys, Love, I say not in such wise,
That for tescape out of youre lace I ment,
For I so longe have be in your servise,
That for to lete yow shal I never assent.
No fors! ye! thogh Jelosye me turment,
Suffiseth me to see hym whan I may;
And therefore certys to myn endyng day,
To love hym best that shal I never repent.

And certys, Love, whan I me wel avise,
Of any estate that man may represent,
Than have ye made me, thurgh your fraunchise,
Chese the best that ever in erthe went.

Now love wel, herte, and loke thou never stent,
And let the jelouse put hit in assay,
That for no peyne, wille I not sey nay J
To love yow best, that shall I never repent.

Herte, to the it oughte ynough suffise,
That Love so highe a grace to yow sent,
To chese the worthiest in alle wise,
And most agreable unto myn entent.
Seeche no ferther, neyther wey ne went,
Si the I have suffisaunce unto my pay,
/Thus wol I ende this compleynt or this lay,
To love hym best ne shall I never repent.


Princes! resseyveth this compleynt in gre,

Unto your excellent benignite

Directe,1 after my litel suffisaunce;

For elde," that in my spirite dulleth me,

Hath of endyting al the subtilite

Welnyghe berefte out of my remembraunce:

And eke to me hit is a grete penaunce,

Syth ryme in Englissh hath such skarsete,

To folowe word by word the curiosite

Of Graunson," floure of hem that maken in Fraunce.


1 Vireute is here the past participle, agreeing with Compleynt, in the first line.

2 This poem was written, therefore, in Chaucer's old age. 3 See ante, p. j02.



[the Prologe to this poem affords conclusive proof of the fact, interesting on other grounds besides that of the mere chronology of authorship, that The Legends of Goode Women was one of the latest productions of the Father of English Poetry.1

The proof of the presumptive date of this Legende is found in the enumeration it contains of several of Chaucer's previous compositions. Those mentioned are The House of Fame, The Dethe of Blaunche the Duchesse, The Parlement of Forties, The Loves of Palamon and Arcite {Knightes Tale), the translation of Boethius (prose), The Life of Saint Cecilia {Second Nonnes Tale), Origenes on the Maudelaine, Balades, Eoundels, Virelaies, and 'many a ley and many a thynge.' It may be inferred from this list, which is obviously incomplete, and from the comprehensive reference to many other productions with which it closes, that The Legende of Goode Women was nearly the last of-Chaucer's writings; a supposition which is still further supported by the penitential and apologetic character of the poem itself As in The Persone's Tale, also written in his old age, he retracts his heresies against religion and morality, so in the Legende he makes satisfaction for his offences against that courtesy and gallantry to ladies which was scrupulously observed by all persons who laid claim to the rank and breeding of gentlemen. The avowed intention of the poem is to atone for the unfavourable characters he had drawn of the female sex in Troylus and Cryseyde and The Romaunt of the Rose, by placing upon record the histories of nineteen ladies whose constancy and purity of life redeemed the honour and virtue of their sex. The work is clearly that of

1 [This conclusion is quite unwarranted. It was written before the Canterbury Tales, and several minor works.—See Preliminary Essay, vol. i. p. 7.]

one who is desirous, as he approaches the termination of his career, to make amends for the errors of his life. There are unmistakeable evidences in the execution of the plan that it was really undertaken as a duty.

The Prologe, in which he enlarges upon the beauty and sweetness of Spring, and describes his interviews with the God of Love, is certainly the noblest part of the poem, and the most characteristic of his taste and genius. Amongst the scattered passages of forcible delineation and picturesque description, which no less emphatically mark his hand, the sea-fight in the legend of Cleopatra may be selected as a striking example. The Legende itself appears to have been left unfinished, for it consists of short sketches of only nine of the nineteen ladies famous in classical story for their constancy and patience, whose histories are proposed at the outset as the subjects of the work. These nine brief narratives are taken almost entirely from Ovid's Metamorphoses and Heroides; but, as might be expected, they are treated in the Gothic rather than the classic spirit, a transformation from which the heroic tales suffer less than the love stories. It may be observed, that if there had been any doubt of Chaucer's acquaintance with the Latin Classics, this poem must completely dispel them, for the reader will find whole passages translated word for word from Ovid's Heroides.

The title of the poem, called indifferently The Legende of Goode Women, and The Saints' Legende of Cupide, or, to place it in its direct order, The Legende of the Saints of Cupide, is a sort of application of the terms and ideas of Christian hagiology to the heathen mythology, an appropriation of forms of which there are many examples in Chaucer's love poems. The ladies who died for love are here considered as Saints and Martyrs of Cupid, just as those who died for the# Christian faith were called by the Church Saints and Martyrs of Christ.

The text of the present edition is founded upon a careful collation of the MS. Fairfax 16, in the Bodleian Library, and Arch. Seld. B. 24, already described.—See vol. iii. p. 269.]

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