« AnteriorContinuar »
THE PROLOGE OF NINE GOODE WYMMEN.
ATHOUSANDE tymes I have herde telle,
But God forbede but men shulde leve
1 In the margin of Fairfax MS. 16 is written in red letters the following gloss:—' Bernardus monachus non vidit omnia.' This appears to have been a proverbial expression of equivocal import, meaning either that however wise St. Bernard may have been, there were yet some things which had escaped him; or, with a sly inuendo, that St. Bernard asserted more than he ever saw, and that his statements are, therefore, to be taken cum gram eaUs. St. Bernard is considered the last of the Fathers. He was born in 1091, at the Castle of Fontaine, within half a league of Dijon, and died on the zoth of August, 1153. His father was of the family of the Counts of Chatillon; his mother was Elizabeth, daughter of the Count of Montbard. At the age of z2he resolved to embrace the monastic profession, and by his extraordinary powers of persuasion induced his uncle, and other members of his family who came to dissuade him from his purpose, to join with him in founding a more than usually severe order of monachism. He and his infant community, by the labour of their own hands, changed the rugged valley of Absinthus into an agricultural paradise, and raised, in the midst of the wilderness, the first few sheds, which afterwards expanded into the Abbey of Clairvaulx. Here his father tallowed him to die, in 1117, His works are chiefly sermons explanatory of scripture. But, though he was well versed in the Latin classics, his style is entirely spoiled by being interwoven with the Hebraisms of the Scriptural language.
And to the doctrine of these olde wyae,
And as for me, though that I konne but lyte,
Now have I thanne suche a condition,
■ What an interesting picture does tbe great poet here give of his tastes! His books occupy all his leisure, and for them he is content to forego the pleasures of society; but when May returns, and the landscape puts on its summer garb, his devotion to his books is superseded by his still more ardent devotion to Nature.
3 See vol. ii. p. J6j, note 2.
So glad am I, whan that I have presence
1 Thia is an allusion to the allegory upon which is founded the poem Of The Flower and Vie LeaJ.—See vol. iy. p. J48
Vol. in. v
That in this derke world me wynt and ledyth,
But wherfore that I spak to yeve credence
1 Here the poet addresses the lady directly in the second person.
2 The poet compares his heart to a harp, from which his mistress evokes such music as she pleases, whether joyful or sad. This idea has been often imitated by modern poets.
3 Agenorts dmigltter was Europa, and the beast which led her away, that is, took her captive, was the bull into whose shape Jupiter transformed himself. By this periphrasis is meant that the sun had now entered Taurus, that is, that it was May.
And doune on knees anoon ryght I me sette,
And as I koude, this fressh flour I grette,
Knelyng alwey, til it unclosed was,
Upon the smale, softe, swote gras,
That was with floures swote embrouded al,
Of swich swetenesse, and swich odour over al,
That for to speke of gomme, or herbe, or tree,
Comparison may noon ymaked be;
For yt surmounteth pleynly alle odoures,
And of riche beaute of floures.
Forgeten had the erthe his pore estate
Of wynter, that him naked made and mate,
And with his swerd of colde so sore greved;
Now hath thattempre sunne al that releved
That naked was, and clad yt new agayn.
The smale foules, of the seson fayn,
That of the panter and the nette ben scaped,
Upon the foweler, that hem made awhaped
In winter, and distroyed hadde hire broode,
In his dispite hem thoghte yt did hem goode
To synge of hym, and in hire songe dispise
The foule cherle, that for his coveytise,
Had hem betrayed with his sophistrye.
This was hire songe, ' The foweler we deffye,
And al his crafte.'1 And somme songen clere
Layes of love, that joye it was to here,
In worshippyng and preysing of hire make;
And, for the newe blisful someres sake,
Upon the braunches ful of blosmes softe,
In hire delyt, they turned hem ful ofte,
1 The picture drawn iu this passage belongs to mediaeval times, and foreign countries. It can scarcely be said to have a counterpart in modern English life. In the classical and middle ages small birds were a common article of food, as they are on the Continent at the present time, and the season for catching them with a panter, or bagnet, was winter, when the scarcity of food made them tame. The poet here represents their songs in the spring, as the expression of their exultation at having baffled the stratagems, quaintly termed sophistries, by which the fowler had endeavoured to allure them to their destruction.