Geoffrey Chaucer

Troilus and Cressida

Book III

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2001, All Rights Reserved.

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O Blissful light, of which the beams clear

adorn all the third heaven fair!

O sun’s beloved, O Jove’s daughter dear,

pleasure of love, O grace of air,

in gentle hearts and ready to live there!

O true cause of health and gladness,

blessed be your power and your goodness!


In heaven and hell, in earth and salt sea

your power is felt, if I truly discern all,

since man, bird, beast, fish, herb and green tree

feel at times your influence eternal.

God loves, and from love will never fall:

And in this world no living creature

without love, has worth, or may endure.


You Jove first to those effects so glad

(through which all things live and be)

brought him, and amorous him made

towards mortal things: and as you wish, ye

gave him in love ease or adversity:

and in a thousand forms down him sent

to love on earth, and where you wished he went.


For you fierce Mars quenched his ire:

and as you wish you make hearts fine:

at least, those that you wish to set on fire,

they fear shame, and vices they resign.

You make them courteous, fresh and benign,

and high or low, whatever a man intends,

the joy he has, your power to him sends.


You hold kingdom and house in unity:

you the true cause of friendship are also:

you know all the secret quality

of things, that folk wonder about so,

when they cannot see why time should show

that she loves him, or why he loves her,

or why this fish, not that one, comes to the weir.


You have set a law for folk in the universe,

and this I know from those that lovers be,

that they who work against you have the worse

of it: now, lady bright, of your benignity,

in reverence to those who serve thee,

whose clerk I am, now teach me to write true

some of the joy folk feel in serving you.


Do you into my naked heart sentiment

infuse, and show me of your sweetness. –

Calliope, your voice now be present,

for now it is needed: see you not my distress,

how I must tell right now of the gladness

of Troilus, all for Venus’s honouring?

To which gladness him who has need God bring.

Calliope, the Muse of Epic Poety

‘Calliope, the Muse of Epic Poety’
Anonymous, c. 1750 - c. 1780
The Rijksmuseum


All this time meanwhile lay Troilus

rehearsing his lesson in this manner:

‘My faith!’ thought he, ‘this I will say, and thus:

thus will I entreat my lady dear:

that word is good, and this shall be my cheer:

this I must not forget, any wise.’

God grant it all works out as he shall devise.


And lord, how fast his heart began to beat,

hearing her coming, and he heaved a sigh!

And Pandarus, that led her, by and by,

came near and began in at the curtain to spy,

and said: ‘God give health to those who die!

See, who is here coming to visit you:

Lo, here is she that is your death too.


At that it seemed as if he wept almost.

‘Ah,’ said Troilus, so ruefully,

‘whether I am woeful, O mighty God you know’st.

Who is there? I can see nothing, truly.’

‘Sir,’ said Cressid, ‘it is Pandar and I.’

‘You, sweet heart? Alas I may not rise

to kneel and do you honour, in any guise.’


And he raised him upward, and she right so

began her soft hands both on him to lay:

‘Oh, for the love of God, do you not so

for me,’ she said, ‘ah! what do you say?

Sire, I come to you for two causes today:

first to thank you, and from your lordship seek

the continuing protection I beseech.’


At this, Troilus, who heard his lady pray

for his support, was neither quick nor dead,

nor, for shame, might to her one word say,

even if men should strike off his head.

But lord! he blushed so suddenly red,

and sire, his lessons, that he thought he knew

in how to speak to her, his wits ran through.


Cressid all this spied out well enough,

for she was wise, and loved him nonetheless

though he was not forward, nor seemed tough,

nor bold enough to sing a fool a mass.

But as his shame began somewhat to pass,

his words, as long as my rhymes hold,

I will tell you, as teach the books of old.


In altered voice, truly because of dread,

which voice shook, and therefore his manner

was greatly abased, and now his colour red,

now pale, to Cressid, his lady dear,

with look downcast and humble cheer,

lo, the very first words that from him start

are twice: ‘Mercy, mercy, sweet heart.’


And he was silent a while, and when he could bring

himself to speak, said: God knows, that I have

as faithfully as I have had it in my enabling,

been yours (so God my soul save)

and shall, till I, poor wretch, am in my grave.

And though I dare not, and cannot, complain

to you, it’s true that none the less I suffer pain.


This is as much, now, O womanly one,

as I may say: and if this does you displease,

I will avenge it on my own life, right soon

I think, and set your heart at ease,

if with my death your heart I can appease.

But since you have heard me have my say,

now I care not how soon I pass away.’


With that his manly sorrow to behold,

might have left a heart of stone in pain:

and Pandar wept as if he might melt, all told,

and nudged his niece again and again,

and said: ‘True hearts are woebegone!

For love of God make of this thing an end,

and slay us both at once before you wend.’


‘I? What?’ said she: ‘by God and by my truth,

I do not know what you would have me say.’

‘I? What?’ said he: ‘that on him you have ruth,

for God’s love, and let him not fade away.’

‘Now then, thus,’ she said, ‘I will him pray

to tell me the object of his intent:

I never knew yet quite what he meant.’


‘What I might mean, O sweet heart dear?’

said Troilus, ‘O lovely, fresh and free!

That with the streams of your eyes clear

you might look some time friendly on me,

and then agree that I may be he,

without a trace of vice in any way,

who might in truth serve you every day.


As towards my own lady and chief resort,

with all my wit and all my diligence,

and I to have, at your will, comfort,

subject to your punishment, equal to my offence,

even death, if I fail in your defence:

and that you deign to show me so much honour,

as to command me aught at any hour.


And I to be yours, very humble, true,

secret, and in the pains I take patient,

and ever more desire fresh anew

to serve, and ever likewise diligent,

and with good heart all wholly bent

on obeying your wishes, however they smart:

lo, I mean this, my own sweet heart.’


Said Pandarus: ‘Lo, here’s a hard request,

and reasonable, for a lady to spurn!

Now, my niece, by Jove’s natal feast,

were I a god, your death you would earn,

who hear clearly this man will only burn

for your honour, and see him almost die too,

and yet are so loth to suffer him to serve you.’


With that she began her eye on him to cast

all pleasantly and all graciously,

considering, and went not too fast

with her words, but said to him softly:

‘Mine honour excepted, I will truly,

and in such form as he can now devise,

accept him fully as servant, in my eyes .


Beseeching him, for God’s love that he

will, in honour of truth and nobleness,

as I mean well, so mean well to me,

and my honour with wit and finesse

always guard: and if I may do him gladness,

from here on, then I will not feign:

now all be whole, no longer complain.


But nevertheless, I warn you,’ said she,

‘king’s son though you be, in this

you shall no more have sovereignty

over me in love than right in such case is.

Nor will I forbear, if you do amiss,

to be angry with you: but while you me serve

cherish you truly as you deserve.


And in short, dear heart and all my knight,

be glad, and regain your lustiness,

and I shall truly, with all my might,

your bitterness turn all to sweetness.

If I be she that may bring you gladness,

for every woe you shall receive a bliss’:

And him in her arms took and began to kiss.


Pandarus fell on his knees, and up his eyes

to heaven threw, and held his hands high.

‘Immortal God,’ said he, ‘that never dies -

Cupid, I mean - this does you glorify:

and Venus, you may make your melody.

Without hand to them, it seems that in the town,

at this marvel, I hear each bell sound.


But ho! nor more now of this matter,

because these folk will come up soon,

who have the letter read: ‘lo, I them hear.

But I conjure you Cressid, for one

and two, you Troilus, when you are up and gone,

that to my house you come at my inviting,

for I will full well arrange your coming.


And ease your hearts there right enough,

and let’s see which of you can ring the bell

for speaking of love aright.’ With that he laughed:

‘For there you will have a chance to tell!’

Said Troilus: ‘How long shall I dwell

before it’s done?’ Said he: ‘When you shall rise

this thing shall be exactly as I advise.


At that Helen and also Deiphebus

came upwards, right at the stair’s end:

and lord! so then began to groan Troilus

to his brother and his sister, to pretend.

Said Pandarus: ‘It’s time our way to wend.

Take, my niece, your leave of all three,

and let them talk, and come along with me.’


She took her leave of them as politely

as she could, and they did her reverence

as fully as they could and graciously,

and spoke wondrously in her absence,

of her, in praise of her excellence:

and her demeanour, wit, and her manner

commended so, it was a joy to hear.


Now let her take her way to her own place,

and we will turn to Troilus again,

who began the letter lightly to trace

that Deiphebus had in the garden seen.

And of Helen and him he would fain

be free, and said that his request

was to sleep, and after talk have rest.


Helen kissed him, and took her leave all blithe,

Deiphebus also, and home went all who might.

And Pandarus, as fast as he could drive,

then came to Troilus: straight as a crow’s flight:

and on a pallet all that glad night

he lay by Troilus with a merry face,

to talk, and it was well they were together a space.


When everyone had vanished but these two,

and all the doors were shut quite fast,

to tell in brief, without more ado,

Pandarus, at this, before time passed

rose, and on his bed’s side sat,

and began to speak in sober guise

to Troilus as I shall you advise.


My dearest lord, and my brother dear,

God knows, and you, that it made me sore

to see you languishing so this year,

for love, from which your woe grew always more,

so that I, with all my power and all my lore,

have ever done my utmost business

to bring you to joy out of distress:


and I have brought it to the state you know’st,

so that through me you now stand in the way

of faring well – I say it without boast –

and know you why? Shame it is to say,

for you I have begun a game to play

which I would never do for any other,

although he were a thousand times my brother.


That is to say, for you I have become

between joke and earnest, such a go-between

as makes women to men come:

though I say naught, you know well what I mean:

for you I have my niece (of vices clean)

made so fully trust your nobleness,

that everything shall be as you wish.


But God, that knows all, I take to witness

that covetously I this never wrought,

but only to abridge your distress

from which you well nigh died, as I thought.

But, good brother, do now as you ought,

for God’s love, and keep her from blame,

since you are wise, and always guard her name.


For you know well, her name as yet here

among the people, as one might say, hallowed is:

for that man is unborn, I truly swear

who ever knew her do a thing amiss.

But woe is me, that I, who cause all this,

have to consider she is my niece dear,

and I her uncle, yet a traitor clear.


And were it known that I, through my own cunning,

had in my niece created this fantasy,

to do your pleasure and come running,

why, all the world would upon it cry

and say that I the worst treachery,

did, in this case, that ever was begun,

and she’d be lost, and you have nothing won.


Wherefore before I go another pace

one more I beseech you and now say

that privacy must go with us in this case,

that you must never reveal us, that’s to say,

and be not angry though I often pray

you to hold secret such a deep matter:

for reasonable, you know it, is my prayer.


And think what woe has befallen before this

through boasting, as men can read:

and what mischance in this world yet there is

from day to day, through that wicked deed.

Because of which the ancients were agreed

and told us in wise proverbs when we were young

that the first of virtues is to hold your tongue.


And were it not that I desire to abridge

diffuse discussion, I could almost

a thousand stories to you allege

of women lost through false and foolish boast.

You have learnt enough yourself, and know’st,

proverbs against that vice of always blabbing,

though men might speak the truth in their gabbing.


O tongue, alas! so often here before

have you made many a lady bright of hue

say: “Alas the day that I was born!”

And many a maid’s sorrow to renew,

and for the most part, all of it untrue

that men claim, if tested were what they weave:

by his nature no boaster can be believed.


A boaster and a liar all is one,

as thus: suppose a woman grant me

her love, and says that other will she none,

and I am sworn to keep to secrecy,

and after I go tell it two or three.

Then I am a boaster at the least,

and a liar, since my oath’s deceased.


Now look then if they be not to blame,

that manner of folk: what shall I call them, what,

who boast of women, and by name,

that never even promised this or that

nor knew them more than they did my old hat?

It is no wonder, so God my wounds heal,

that women dread with us men to deal.


I say this not out of mistrust for you,

nor for wise men, but the foolish,

and because the harm that’s in the world now

as often comes through folly as through malice.

For I know well, that in wise folk vice

no woman dreads, if she is well apprised,

for the wise by the fool’s fate are advised.


But now to the purpose: beloved brother dear,

keep all these things that I have said in mind,

and be close, and be now of good cheer,

for in your day of need you’ll me true find.

I shall your business do in such a kind,

and with God’s help, that it will satisfy.

For it shall be just as you’d hope it might.


For I know well that you mean well, too:

therefore I dare this fully to undertake.

You know also, what the lady granted you,

and the day is set the contract to make.

Now good night, I cannot keep awake:

and pray for me, since you are now in bliss,

that God soon send me death or joy like this.’


Who could tell of half the joy, or guess

what the soul of Troilus then felt,

hearing the assurance in Pandar’s request?

His old woe, that made his heart swell

began for joy to waste away and melt.

And all the wealth of his sighs so sore

fled at once: he felt them no more.


But just as these coppices and hedges,

that have in winter been dead and grey,

re-clothe themselves in green when May is,

when every lusty lad likes best to play:

just in that same wise, truth to say,

his heart was suddenly filled with joy,

till there was never gladder man in Troy.


And he began his look on Pandar to cast

both soberly and friendly, to see,

and said: ‘Friend, in April last

as well you know, if it remembered be,

how near death from woe it was you found me,

and how you went about this business

to know from me the cause of my distress.


You know how long I refused to tell

you, who are the man that I best trust:

and yet there was no risk as it befell,

I know that truly, but tell me, just,

since I was loth to tell you though I must,

how dare I speak to others of this matter,

who tremble now, where no one can us hear?


But nevertheless, to you by that God I swear all,

who as He wishes may this whole world govern,

and if I lie, may Achilles with his spear

cleave my heart, though my life were eternal,

as I am mortal, if soon or late it fall

that I would betray it, or dare, or can,

for all the good God made under the sun,


then I would rather die and fate be mine

I think, now chained up in a prison,

in wretchedness, with filth and vermin,

a captive of cruel King Agamemnon:

and this in all the temples of this town,

and by all the gods, I will to you swear

tomorrow morning, if you wish to hear.


And that you have done so much for me,

that I may never more it repay,

this I know well, though I might now for thee

die a thousand times in a day:

I will serve you, what more can I say,

as your true servant, wherever you may wend,

for evermore until my life’s end.


But here with all my heart I you beseech,

never to imagine in me such folly

as I now say: for me to think by your speech,

that this, which you do for me, so friendly,

might be taken by me as if it were bawdry.

I am not mad, though stupid I may be:

it is not so, I know that well, indeed.


But he that goes for gold or for riches,

on such an errand, call him what you wish:

and this that you do call it nobleness,

compassion, and fellowship, and trust.

Distinguish it so, for far and wide we must

know that the differences must be discerned

between similar things, as I have learned.


And so that you know I think not, nor dream

that this service is a shame or a joke,

I have a fair sister Polyxene,

Cassandra, Helen, or any of the pack:

be she ever so fair, and nothing lack,

tell me which you will have of anyone

for yours, and leave all to me alone.


But since you have done me this service,

to save my life and not out of greed,

so, for the love of God, this enterprise

carry it through, for now there is most need:

for high and low, without a doubt indeed,

I will always all your rules keep.

Now good night, and let us both sleep.


Thus each held him with the other well blessed,

that all the world could not better it amend:

and on the morrow, when they were both dressed,

each to his own needs began to attend.

But Troilus, though like a fire he burned,

from fierce desire of hope and of pleasure,

did not forget self-control and measure.


But in himself with manhood he restrained

each wayward deed, and unbridled glare,

so that all who lived, truth to say,

should have no sign, by word or manner,

what he might think concerning this matter.

From everyone he was as far as is the cloud,

over his thoughts so well he drew a shroud.


And all the while, which I to you describe,

this was his way of life, with all his might

by day he was in Mars’s high service,

that is to say, in arms, as a knight.

And for the greater part, in the long night

he lay and thought how that he might serve

his lady best, her thanks for to deserve.


I will not swear, although he lay full soft,

that in his thought he was all at ease,

nor that he did not turn his pillows oft

and wish that what he lacked he might seize.

But that in such cases men are hard to please,

for aught I know, no less than was he,

I consider that a possibility.


But certain it is, back to the point to go,

that all this while, as is written in the history,

he saw his lady sometimes, and also

she spoke with him, when she dared, and he

and she by agreement, as best could be,

decided carefully in their need

as they dared, how they should proceed.


But it was spoken in so brief a wise,

in such watchfulness, and such fear

(lest anyone divine or realise

aught of the two, or to it have an ear),

that in all this world nothing was so dear

to them, as that Cupid would them grace send

to bring their speeches to a happy end.


But in the little that they spoke or wrought,

his wise spirit always took such heed,

it seemed to her he knew what she thought

without a word: so that there was no need

to ask him to do aught or aught forbid,

so that she thought that love, though it came late

of all joy had opened to her the gate.


And briefly to maintain our pace,

so well his work and words he set,

that he stood so full in his lady’s grace,

that twenty thousand times without a let

she thanked God that they had met:

He could govern himself in such a wise

that all the world might not a better devise.


Therefore she found him so discreet, in all

so secret, and of such obedience,

that she felt he was truly to her a wall

of steel, and shield from every nuisance:

so that to be in his good governance

(so wise he was) no longer gave her fear,

I mean as far as propriety made clear.


And Pandarus, to quicken the fire,

was always alike present and diligent:

to help his friend was his only desire.

He pushed things on: he to and fro was sent:

he carried letters when Troilus was absent:

there never was man who in his friend’s need

bore himself better than he did, indeed.


But now perhaps some man might hold

that every word, or sound, or look, or cheer,

of Troilus I might indeed unfold

all this while said to his lady dear.

I think it is too long a thing to hear:

and of the man who is in such a state,

all his words, or every look, relate.


In truth, I have not heard it done before,

in story, nor has any man here I’ve seen:

and though I would, I could not, for

there was a letter sent them between

that would, as my author says, well contain

half this book, of which he did not write:

how then can I a line bring to sight?


But to the main point: then I say thus,

that being in concord and in quiet,

to these two, Cressida and Troilus,

as I have told, in this time so sweet,

save only that they could not often meet,

nor have a chance their speeches to fulfill,

that it befell, just as I shall you tell,


that Pandarus, who always worked with might

to achieve the end I shall speak of here,

and to bring to his house some night

his fair niece and Troilus together, where

at leisure all this high matter

of their love could be fully unwound,

had, he was sure, a time for it found.


For he with great deliberation

had everything that might it avail

forecast, and put in execution,

and neither spared the cost or the travail:

if they came, then nothing would them fail:

and as for being at all espied there,

that an impossibility he knew were.


There was no sign in the wind

of any magpie or any spoil-sport:

now all is well, for all the world is blind

in this matter, both wild and taught.

This timber is all ready to be wrought:

we lack nothing but knowing if we could

of the certain hour when come she should.


And Troilus, that all this preparation

knew in full and waited as he may,

had also for it made a great provision

and found a reason, and what he would say,

if that he were missed by night or day

while he was about this service – ay,

that he was going to make a sacrifice,


and must at such and such a temple wake,

alone, answered of Apollo for to be:

and firstly see the holy laurel quake

before Apollo spoke out of the tree,

to tell him when the Greeks would next flee,

and therefore let no man stop him, God forbid,

but pray to Apollo to help in this need.


Now there is little more to be done:

but Pandar was up, and briefly to explain,

right soon upon the changing of the moon,

when the world is lightless a night or twain,

and the heavens were preparing to rain,

he straight one morning to his niece went:

you all have heard the end of his intent.


When he was come he began again to play,

as was his wont, and at himself to jape:

and finally he swore and began to say,

by this and that, she should him not escape,

no longer causing him after her to gape,

but certainly she must, by her leave,

come and sup with him at his house on the eve.


At which she laughed, and gave a brief excuse,

and said: ‘It rains: lo, how could I go?’

‘Let be,’ he said, ‘do not stand and muse:

it must be done, you shall be there, though.’

So at the last they were at one, I know,

or else (he swore it softly in her ear),

he would never come near her anywhere.


Soon after this she began quietly him to sound,

asking him if Troilus would be there.

He swore not, to her, that he was out of town,

and said: ‘Niece, suppose that he were,

you need not have for that the more fear:

for rather than men might him there espy,

I would rather a thousand times to die.’


My author did not choose to declare

what she though about it when he said so

(that Troilus was out of town, not there),

whether that is he told the truth or no:

but that without delay with him to go

she granted him, since that is what he sought,

and, as his niece, obeyed him as she ought.


But nevertheless she began him to beseech,

that though to go with him was nothing to fear,

to beware of foolish people’s speech,

who dream up things that never were,

and be careful whom he brought there,

and said: ‘Uncle, since I trust you so,

make sure all’s well, and do as you will now.’


He swore, Yes, by stocks and stones,

and by the gods that in heaven dwell,

or else he would be sunk, soul and bones,

with King Pluto, as deep down in hell

as Tantalus. What more should I tell?

When all was well he rose and took his leave,

and she to supper came when it was eve.


Giulio Sanuto, after Titiaan, 1565
The Rijksmuseum


With a number of her own men

and with her fair niece Antigone

and others of her women, nine or ten.

But who was glad now? Who should be

but Troilus that stood and might see

through a little window in a room

where since midnight he had been entombed,


unknown by anyone but Pandarus?

But to the point. Now, when she was come

with all joy, and all friendly fare,

her uncle in his arms embraced her soon:

and after to the supper all came and some,

when it was time, softly down them sitting:

God knows, there was no dainty lacking.


And after supper they began to rise,

well at ease, with hearts fresh and glad:

and lucky the man that could best devise

something she liked, or that to laugh her made.

He sang, she played, he told tales from Wade:

and at the last, as everything has ending,

she took her leave, and her way was wending.


But, O, Fortune, executrix of destiny,

O influences of the heavens high,

truth is, under God, you our herdsmen be,

though to us beasts, you the causes deny.

This I mean now, for she began home to fly,

but all was done, without her say,

by the gods’ will, so that she must stay.


The bent Moon with her horns pale,

Saturn, and Jupiter in Cancer joined were,

so that such a rain from heaven began to hail,

that every manner of woman who was there

had of that smoking rain a heartfelt fear.

At which Pandar laughed, and said then:

‘What a time for a lady to go hence!’


But, good niece, if I might ever please

you in anything, then I pray you,’ said he,

‘to set my heart now greatly at ease

by dwelling here all this night with me,

because this is your own house, you see:

for by my truth – I say it, it is no game –

to leave now would put me to shame.’


Cressid, who knew what was fit and good

as well as half the world, heeded his prayer:

and since it rained, and all was in flood,

she thought: ‘I may as well stay here,

and grant it gladly with a friend’s cheer,

and have thanks, as begrudge it, then abide:

for to go home is certainly denied.


I will,’ she said, ‘my uncle loved and dear,

since you think it right to do so,

I am truly glad to stay with you here:

I only said in jest that I would go.’

‘Well, many thanks, niece,’ he said, ‘though

it were jest, or not, truth to tell

I am glad now that you wish here to dwell.’


So all is well, and then began aright

new joy, and all the feast again:

but Pandarus, if only he might

would have hurried her to bed there and then,

and said: ‘Lord! this is a mighty rain!

This is weather to be sleeping in:

and that I think we should soon begin.


And, niece, know you where I would have you lie,

so that we shall not lie too far asunder,

and so that you shall not, I dare say,

hear the noise of rain nor of thunder?

By God, just in my little closet yonder.

And I will in the outer house alone

be warden of your women everyone.


And in this middle chamber that you see

your women shall sleep well and soft:

and there, where I said, yourself shall be:

and if you sleep well tonight, come oft,

and do not bother what weather is aloft.

Take wine now, and when you wish to rest

we’ll go: I think that will be best.’


There was no more said: but hereafter soon

(the spiced wine drunk and curtains drawn anon)

everyone began, that had no more to be done

in that place, out of the chamber to be gone.

And ever more heavily the rain rained down,

and it blew as well, so wonderfully loud,

that no man well nigh hear another could.


Then Pandarus, her uncle, as he ought,

with the women who were most her about,

gladly to her bed’s side her he brought,

and took his leave, and full low he bowed.

and said: ‘Here at this closet door without

just across from you your women sleep, all

so that whom you wish of them you may call.


So when she was in the closet laid,

and all her women gone, in obedience,

and were abed there as I have said,

there was no more need to speak or prance,

but they were bidden to bed, and mischance

to anyone who was stirring anywhere,

and let them sleep that abed were.


But Pandarus that knew each detail well

of the ancient dance, and every point therein,

when he saw that everything fell

out as he wished, he thought he would begin

and began the door to quietly unpin,

and still as a stone, and quickly at that,

by Troilus down he himself sat.


And right to the point briefly to go,

of all these things he told him word and end,

and said: ‘Make yourself ready, so

that into heaven’s bliss you now may wend.’

‘Now blissful Venus, you to me grace send,’

said Troilus, ‘for never as much need

had I before now, nor half the dread indeed.


Said Pandarus: ‘Dread not a detail,

for it shall be just as you would desire:

as I may thrive, this night I’ll make it well

or I’ll throw all the gruel in the fire.’

‘Blissful Venus, yet this night me inspire,’

said Troilus, ‘as truly as I serve you,

and will do better and better till life is through.


And if I had, O Venus full of mirth,

bad aspects of Mars or of Saturn,

or you were combust or hindered at my birth,

beg your father of his grace the harm discerned

to avert, so that I glad again may turn,

for love of him you loved in the wood,

I mean Adonis, whom the boar bathed in blood.

The Death of Adonis

‘The Death of Adonis’
Magdalena van de Passe, c. 1636 - 1670
The Rijksmuseum


Jove also for the love of fair Europe,

the which, in a bull’s form, away you took:

now help me, O Mars, you with bloody cloak,

for love of Cypris, no hindrance to me brook.

O Phoebus, think when Daphne hid her look

under the bark, and laurel grew in dread,

for her love yet, O help now in my need!

Apollo en Daphne

‘Apollo en Daphne’
Robert van Audenaerd, after Carlo Maratti, Giovanni Paolo Melchiori, 1685 - 1728
The Rijksmuseum


Mercury, for the love of Herse too,

for which Pallas showed Aglaurus her wrath,

now help, and also Diana, I you beseech,

that this enterprise be not to you loth,

O fatal sisters, which before any cloth

was shaped for me, my destiny spun:

so help me in this work that is begun.’

Minerva asks Time to Ignite Jealousy in Aglauros

‘Minerva asks Time to Ignite Jealousy in Aglauros’
Johannes of Lucas van Doetechum, after Gerard van Groeningen, c. 1572
The Rijksmuseum


Said Pandarus: ‘You wretched mouse’s heart,

are you so afraid that she will bite?

Why, don this furred cloak above your shirt,

and follow me: for I’ll take the blame tonight –

but wait, and let me go before, a mite.’

And with that word began to undo a trap-door,

and Troilus drew in by the sleeve and more.


The fierce wind so loud began to roar,

that no one any other noise could hear:

and those who lay without, at the door,

slept securely, all together there,

and Pandarus, with full sober cheer

went to the door as soon as he could,

where they lay, and softly did it shut.


As he came back secretly,

his niece woke, and asked: ‘Who goes there?’

‘My dear niece,’ he said, ‘it is I:

do not wonder or let it make you fear.’

And he came near, and said in her ear:

‘No word, for love of God, I you beseech:

let no one rise and hear our speech.’


‘What, which way are you come in, Benedicite.’

she said, ‘and how unbeknown to us all?’

‘Here at this secret trap door, ‘said he.

Said Cressid then: ‘Let me somebody call.’

‘I pray, God forbid, that it should not fall

to you’ said Pandar ‘to have such folly wrought:

they might imagine what they never thought.


It is not good a sleeping hound to wake,

nor give any one a secret to divine.

Your women are all asleep, I undertake,

as for them, men might the house undermine:

and they will sleep until the sun shine.

And when my tale is all brought to an end,

unknown, just as I came, I’ll wend.


Now, my niece, you will understand,’

said he, ‘as agree you women all,

that for her to take a man in hand,

and him her love and dear heart call,

and then make a fool of him and more, -

I mean by loving another all the while -

she shames herself and him beguiles.


Now, the reason why I tell you all this,

you know yourself, as well as any might,

how your love all fully granted is

to Troilus (one of the worthiest knights

in the world), and to him your troth plight,

so that, unless he wronged you, you could

never be false to him while live you should.


Now it stands thus, that since I went

from you, this Troilus, plain to say,

through a passage by a privy went,

into my chamber during all this rain,

unknown by anyone, I am certain,

save myself, as I hope to have joy,

and by that faith I owe Priam of Troy.


And he is here in such pain and distress,

that if he is not quite maddened by this,

he suddenly must fall into madness,

unless God helps. And the cause is this:

He says he has been told by a friend of his

that you were in love with one Horaste:

for sorrow of which this night shall be his last.’


Cresseida, who all these things had heard,

began suddenly to feel cold about her heart,

and with a sigh quite sorrowfully answered:

‘Alas! I thought, whatever tales were told,

my dear heart would not me hold

so lightly false. Alas! Imaginations wrong,

what harm they do! For now I live too long.


Horaste! (Alas! and false Troilus?)

I do not know him, God help me so,’ said she.

‘Alas what wicked spirit told him thus?

Now certain, Uncle, tomorrow if I him see

I shall of this as fully excuse me

as ever did woman, if he like.’

And with that she began full sore to sigh.


‘O God,’ she said, ‘that worldly happiness,

which the clerks call false felicity,

is mixed with so much bitterness!

In anguish, then, God knows, ‘said she,

‘is the condition of vain prosperity:

for either joys come not together,

or else for no one are they always there.


O brittle well-being of man’s joy, unstable,

with whomsoever you are, or how you stay,

either he knows that you, Joy, are mutable,

or knows it not – it must be this or that way.

Now if he knows it not, how can he say

that he has true joy and happiness,

who is, through ignorance, still in darkness?


Or, if he knows now that joy is transitory,

as every joy of worldly thing must flee,

then every time it rises to memory,

the dread of losing makes him so that he

may in no perfect happiness be.

And if to lose his joy he cares a mite,

then it seems that joy is worthless quite.


Wherefore I will conclude in this manner

that truly, for aught I can espy,

there is no true well-being in this world here.

But, O you wicked serpent jealousy,

you suspicious and envious folly,

why have you made Troilus me mistrust,

that have never wronged him, nor must?’


Said Pandarus: ‘Thus falls out the case.’

‘Why, my uncle,’ she said, ‘who told you this?

Why does my dear heart do so, alas?’

‘You know now, my niece,’ said he, ‘how it is:

I hope all will be well that is amiss,

for you may quench all this at a guess:

and do it right now, I think that is the best.’


‘I shall do so tomorrow, yes,’ said she,

‘and before God, so that it will suffice.’

‘To-morrow? Ah! that would be good,’ said he,

‘No, No, it may not wait in this wise:

for, my niece, so write the clerks who are wise,

that danger is made greater by delay:

No, such waiting’s useless anyway.


Niece, all things have their time, I dare avow,

for when a chamber is on fire, or a hall,

it is in more need of sudden rescue

than to dispute and argue among us all

how could the candle into the straw fall.

Ah! Benedicite! For among all that hot air

the harm is done, and farewell the fieldfare!


And, my niece, and do not disapprove:

if you leave him all night in such woe,

God help me, you have him never loved,

that dare I say between us two though.

But I know well you will not do so:

you are too wise to do so great a folly,

to put his life all night in jeopardy.’


‘I have never loved him! By God, I know

you have never loved so,’ said she.

‘Now by my health,’ said he, ‘is that so?

Well, since you make an example out of me,

if I all night were him in sorrow to see

for all the treasure in the town of Troy,

I pray God I never may have joy.


Now look you then, if you who are his love

put his life all night in jeopardy

for nothing, now by that God above

not only does this delay come of folly,

but malice also, if I do not lie.

Why, plainly, if you leave him in distress,

you neither with kindness act nor nobleness.’


Cressid then said: ‘Will you but do one thing,

and you will stifle with it all his unease:

take here, and carry to him, this blue ring,

for there is nothing might him better please

but I myself, nor better his heart appease:

and say my dear heart that his sorrow

is groundless, that will be seen tomorrow.’


‘A ring?’ said he, ‘yes, hazel-woods go shake!

Yes, my niece, that ring must have a stone

that might a dead man alive make:

and such a ring I know you have none.

Discretion from your head is gone:

that I feel now, ‘he said,’ sorrow to you both.

O time lost! Truly you may curse sloth.


Do you not know a noble and high heart

does not sorrow or fail for something slight?

For if a fool’s jealous anger were to start

I would not set his sorrow at a mite,

but fob him off with a few white

lies, to another day, when I might him find,

but this thing is of another kind.


This man is so gentle and tender of heart

that with his death he will his sorrow avenge,

for trust in this, however sore he smarts,

he will no jealous words to you send.

And therefore, niece, before his life end.

speak to him yourself of this matter:

for with a word you may his heart steer.


Now have I told what danger he is in,

and his coming unknown, and out of sight,

no, by heaven, there is no harm or sin:

I myself will be with you all this night.

You know also that he is your own knight,

and that by right you must in him trust,

and I am ready to fetch him to you just.’


This event was so pitiful to hear,

and also so like a truth, prima facie,

and Troilus, her knight to her so dear,

his private coming and the safe place,

that though she showed to him her grace,

considering all things as they stood,

it is no wonder, since she did all for good.


Cressid answered: ‘As I hope God to eternal rest

will bring my soul, so I feel for his woe.

And, uncle, I would also try to do the best

for him, if I have the grace to do so:

but whether you stay or, for him, go,

I am till God a clearer mind does send

on a dilemma’s horns, at my wit’s end.’


Said Pandarus: ‘Now, niece, will you listen?

Dilemma is called “the rout of boys”:

it seems hard, for boys will not learn

because of their sloth and willful ploys:

it’s said by him who isn’t worth their toys.

But you are wise, and what we have on hand

is neither hard nor reasonable to withstand.’


‘Then, uncle,’ said she, ‘do as you must:

but before he comes I will arise,

and, for the love of God, since all my trust

is in you two, and you are both wise,

work now in so discreet a wise

that I may honour have, and he pleasure:

for I am here all under your measure.’


‘That is well said,’ he answered, ‘my niece dear,

good fortune fall on that wise gentle heart!

But lie still, and accept him right here:

you and he can still be quite apart:

and you can ease each other’s smart,

for Love of God: and Venus, bless, why very

soon I hope, that we shall all be merry.’


Then Troilus very soon was kneeling there,

full soberly, right by her bed’s head,

and in his best manner greeted her:

but lord! how suddenly she grew red.

No, though men should strike off her head,

she could not one word aright out sing

suddenly, all because of his coming.


But Pandarus, who could so subtly feel

his way in everything, to jest began,

and said: ‘Niece, see how this lord can kneel:

now, by your truth, see this noble man.’

And with that word he for a cushion ran,

and said: ‘Now while you wish stay on your knees,

and may God soon bring your hearts to peace.’


I cannot say (since she did not bid him rise)

if sorrow put it out of her remembrance,

or else if she took it in this wise

as a duty, for his observance.

But I find indeed she did this favour grant,

that she kissed him, although she sighed sore,

and asked him to sit, and kneel no more.


Said Pandarus: ‘Now you can begin:

Now make him sit, good niece dear,

on your bedside there within,

so that each can the other better hear.’

And with that to the fire he drew near,

and took a light, and set his countenance

as if to look upon an old romance.


Cressid, who was Troilus’s lady as by right,

and clearly stood her ground with faithfulness,

although she thought her servant and her knight

should not by rights untruth in her suggest,

yet nevertheless considered his distress,

and that love is the reason for such folly,

so she spoke to him thus of his jealousy:


‘Lo, my heart, as needs the excellence

of love, against which no one may,

nor truly ought to, make resistance:

and also because I felt and saw you display

your great truth and service every day,

and that your heart all mine was, in truth again,

this made me first have pity on your pain.


And your goodness, as I always found it,

of which, my dear heart, and all my knight,

I thank you for it as far as I have the wit,

although I cannot do it as were right.

And I, with all my knowledge and my might,

have and ever shall, however I smart,

be true to you, and whole, with all my heart:


And, for certain, will be proven, you may believe.

But, my heart, what all this is saying

should be told, so long as you do not grieve

that I to you truly of yourself complain.

For with it I mean finally the pain

that holds your heart and mine in heaviness,

fully to slay, and every wrong redress.


My good love, I know not why or how

jealousy, alas, that wicked snake could start

to creep, so without reason, into you:

the harm of which I would make depart.

Alas that he, completely or in part,

should find his refuge in so noble a place:

may Jove soon from your heart him chase.


But, O you Jupiter, O author of nature,

is this an honour to your deity

that folk innocently injuries suffer,

and he who’s guilty goes free?

Oh were it lawful to complain of thee,

who undeservedly suffers jealousy,

then I would at you complain and cry.


And all my woe is this, that folk are used

to saying thus: “Well, jealousy is love”:

and have a heap of poisonous things excused

because on it one grain of love they shove!

But the high God who sits above

knows if it’s nearer love’s, or hatred’s game,

and from that it ought to take its name.


But certainly some kinds of jealousy

are excusable more than others in this.

As when there is cause, or some fantasy

with piety so well suppressed is,

that it scarcely does or says amiss,

but truly drinks in all its distress:

and that I excuse for its nobleness.


Yet some so full of fury is, and spite,

that it overcomes its repression:

but, my heart, you are not in that plight,

and I thank God, for your passion

I will not call it but an illusion,

from the abundance of your love and busy care,

that causes your heart’s unease here.


For which I am sorry, but not cross:

but for my duty and your heart’s rest,

however you wish, by ordeal or by oath,

by lot, or in what way you suggest,

for love of God let us prove it for the best.

And if am guilty, let you me slay:

Alas! What more can I do or say?’


At that a few bright tears new

out of her eyes fell, and thus she said:

‘Now God, you know in thought or deed untrue

to Troilus was never yet Cressid.’

With that her head down on the bed she laid,

and with the sheet covered it, and sighed sore,

and held her peace: not one word spoke she more.


But now may God help to quench this sorrow:

and so I hope He will, for He best may:

for I have seen after a misty morrow

follow full often a merry summer’s day,

and after winter follows green May.

Men see every day, and read in stories

that after fierce attacks come victories.


This Troilus, when he her words had heard,

have no doubt, did not care to sleep:

for it seemed not only like strokes of a rod,

to hear, and see, Cressid, his lady, weep:

but sure he felt about his heart creep,

for every tear with which Cressid did part,

the cramp of death, taking him at the heart.


And in his mind he began that time to curse

that he came there, and that he was born.

For bad is now turned into worse,

and all the labour he had done before

he thought it lost, he felt himself forlorn.

‘O Pandarus, ‘thought he, ‘all your wiles

have served for nothing, so alas the while!


And at that he hung down his head,

and fell on his knees, and sorrowfully sighed.

What could he say? He felt that he was dead,

for she was angered who might make sorrow light.

But nevertheless, when he could speak aright

then he said thus: ‘God knows that in this game,

when all is known, then I am not to blame.’


Therewith the sorrow so gripped his heart,

that from his eyes there fell not a tear,

and all his spirits fastened in a knot

so stunned and oppressed they were.

The feelings of sorrow, and of fear,

or any feeling else, fled out of town,

and suddenly swooning he fell down.


This was no little sorrow to see:

but all was hushed, and Pandarus acted fast:

‘O niece, peace, or we are lost,’ said he,

‘be not aghast.’ But certain, at the last,

with this and that, he into bed him cast,

and said: ‘O wretch, is this a manly heart?’

and off he rent all to his bare shirt.


And said: ‘’Niece, unless you help us now,

alas, your own Troilus is forlorn,’

‘Oh yes, I would so, if only I knew how,

gladly,’ she said, ‘alas that I was born.’

‘Then, niece, will you pull out the thorn

that sticks in his heart?’ said Pandar.

‘Say all is forgiven, sorrow is over.’


‘Yes, that to me,’ she said, ‘better were

that all the good the sun about goeth.’

And at that she whispered in his ear:

‘Well, my dear heart, I am not wroth,

here take my truth, and many another oath.

Now speak to me, for it is I, Cressid.’

But all for nothing, he opened not a lid.


At that his wrist and the palms of his hands

they began to chafe, and wet his temples twain:

and to deliver him from bitter bonds,

she kissed him often, and in brief, again,

to recall him she took every pain.

And at the last he began his breath to draw

and after that recovered, as before.


And his mind and reason began to take:

but he was wondrously amazed I guess,

and with a sigh when he began to wake,

he said: ‘O mercy, God, what is this?’

Why do you look as though things were amiss?’

Cressid said then: ‘Is this a manly game:

what, Troilus! Will you do so? For shame!’


And at that her arm over him she laid,

and all forgave, and many times him kissed.

He thanked her, and to her spoke and said

what was most like to set his heart at rest.

And she to that answered him her best,

and with her kindly words she sought

to encourage him, and his sorrows to comfort.


Said Pandarus: ‘For ought I can espy,

I and this light here are doing naught:

light is not good for a sick person’s eye.

But, for the love of God, since you are brought

to this good place, let no heavy thought

in the hearts of you two left hanging be.’

And carried the candle off to the chimney.


Soon after this, though no need was there,

when she such oaths as she could devise

had made him take, she thought there was no fear

nor reason none, to bid him from thence rise.

Even lesser things than oaths might suffice

in many a case: for everyone I guess,

who loves well, means only gentleness.


But still she wished to know, and soon,

of what man, and also where, and why

he was jealous (since there was no cause, none),

and also what signs he thought he knew it by.

She bade him tell her that quite promptly,

or else for certain she would him accuse

of testing her out of malice, with no excuse.


Without more ado, briefly I say, again,

he had to obey his lady’s request:

and, to do less harm, he had to feign.

He told her, at such and such a feast

she might have looked at him at least.

I know not what else, none of it worth a fig:

as he that needs must for a reason dig.


And she answered: ‘Sweet, though it was so,

what harm was that, since I no evil mean?

For by that God that brought together us two,

in everything my intention’s clean:

such arguments are not worth a bean.

Will you childish jealousy counterfeit then?

Well it is fitting that you should be beaten.


Then Troilus began sorrowfully to sigh:

if she were angry he thought his heart was dead,

and said: ‘Alas! upon my bitter sorrow, ay,

have mercy, sweet heart, my Cressid:

and if in the words that I have said

was any wrong, I will no more trespass.

Do what you wish: I am all in your grace.


And she answered: ‘for guilt there’s misericorde:

that is to say that I forgive all this.

And evermore of this night keep record,

and take great care you do no more amiss.’

‘No, my dear heart,’ said he, ‘my bliss.’

‘And now,’ she said, ‘that I made you smart,

forgive it me, my own sweet heart.’


At this, Troilus, with the bliss of it, surprised,

put his trust in God’s hand, as one who meant

nothing but good: and suddenly apprised,

he took her in his arms, fast to him bent,

and Pandarus, with wholly good intent,

lead him to sleep, and said: ‘If you are wise

don’t swoon now, lest other folk rise.’


What might, or may, the hapless lark do, say,

when the sparrow-hawk has it in its feet?

no more can I: but of these two,

to those to whom this tale is bitter, or sweet,

though I take a year, some time I must complete,

following my author, to tell of their gladness,

just as I have told of their sadness.


Cressid, when she felt herself thus taken,

as the clerks write in their books of old,

just like an aspen leaf was shaken,

when she felt him in his arms her fold.

But Troilus, all free of cares cold,

began to thank the blissful gods, all seven:

thus sundry pains bring folk to heaven.


This Troilus clasped her in his arms true,

and said: ‘O sweet, so may I always go on,

now you are caught, now is there but we two:

now yield you, for the other boot’s now on.’

To that Cressid answered thus at once:

‘Had I not before now, my sweet heart dear,

have yielded, I would not now be here.’


Oh, it is truly said that healed to be

of a fever or other great sickness,

men must drink (as men may often see)

the bitterest drink: and to have gladness

men often drink pain and great distress:

I mean as here (as in this adventure),

that through his pain was found all his cure.


And now sweetness seemed more sweet

because bitterness had gone before:

for out of woe into bliss they fleet,

such as they had not felt since they were born.

Now is this better than both to be forlorn.

For love of God let every woman take heed,

and do like this, if it happens there is need.


Cressid, all free from dread and misery,

as one who had just cause in him to trust,

made him so happy, it was a joy to see,

when she his truth and clean intent knew just,

and as about a tree, with many a twist,

twists and twines the sweet woodbine,

each began the other in their arms to wind.


And as the new disturbed nightingale,

that ceases (when she first begins to sing)

if she hears a herdsman’s hail,

or in the hedges anyone stirring,

and after clearer does her voice ring,

so Cressid, truly, when her fears went,

opened her heart and told him her intent.


And just as he who sees his death take shape,

and must die, for aught he can guess,

and suddenly through rescue can escape,

and is brought safely out of death:

for all this world, in such present gladness,

was Troilus, and has his lady sweet:

with worse fate let God us never meet!


Her slender arms, her back straight and soft,

her long flanks, fleshly smooth and white,

he began to stroke, and blessed full oft

her snowy throat, her breasts round and slight.

Thus in his heaven he started to take delight,

and with that a thousand times he kissed her too:

so that for joy he scarce knew what to do.


Then he said thus: ‘O Love, O Charity!

Your mother also, Cytherea the sweet,

after yourself the next blessed be she:

Venus I mean, the sweet-willed planet.

And next, you, Hymenaeus, I you greet:

for never did man more to you gods owe

than I, whom you have brought from cares cold.

Hymen and Cupid

‘Hymen and Cupid’
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, 1740
The New York Public Library


Benign love, you holy bond of things,

he who wishes for grace, and does you no honour,

lo, his desire will flee without wings.

For if of your bounty you did not them succour

who serve best and must ever labour,

all were yet lost (that I dare say for certain)

unless your grace outweighed our deserving.


And because you helped me (who least deserve

of those that are numbered in your grace)

when I was like to die, where I serve,

and set me in so high a place

that beyond its bounds no bliss has space,

I can say no more, but praise and reverence

be to your bounty and your excellence.’


And with that, at once, Cressid he kissed

at which, for certain, she felt no unease.

And thus he said: ‘Now by God I wish

I knew how, my sweet heart, I might you please.

What man,’ he said, ‘was ever so at ease,

as I, on which the fairest and the best

that ever I saw deigns her heart to rest?


Here men may see that Mercy is above Right:

the experience of that is felt in me,

that am unworthy of such sweet delight:

but, my heart, of your generosity

think, that though I unworthy be,

yet I must need improve in some wise

simply through the virtue of your high service.


And, for the love of God, my lady dear

since God ordained that I shall you serve,

in that I mean, you will rule me here,

to cause me to live, if you wish, or swerve

to death, teach me how I may deserve

your thanks, so that I, through my ignorance,

do nothing that displeases you by chance.


But, for certain, fresh womanly love,

this I dare say, that truth and diligence

these you shall find in me, life above,

nor will I fail, for sure, in obedience:

and if I do, in presence or in absence,

for love of God, kill me for that deed,

if that would please your womanhood, at need.


‘Oh,’ she said, ‘my own heart just,

my ground of ease, and all my heart dear,

grant mercy: for in that is all my trust.

But let us fall away from this matter:

since it suffices, this that is said here.

And, at one word, without repentance –

welcome, my knight, my peace sufficient.’


Of their delights and joys even the least

were impossible for my wit to say:

but judge, you who have been at the feast

of such gladness, if they enjoyed their play.

I can say no more, except that they

that night, between dread and security,

felt so great the worth of love to be.


O blissful night by them so long sought,

how kind to both of them you were!

Why have I never such a one with my soul bought,

no, nor the least joy that was there?

Away, you, foul disdain, and you, fear,

and let them in this heavenly bliss dwell,

that is so high I cannot all it tell.


But truth is, though I cannot tell it all

as my author can, with his excellence,

yet I have said (and with God’s help, I shall)

in every thing his whole essence.

And if that I, in love’s reverence,

have any word added for the best,

do with it whatever yourselves suggest.


For my words, here and in every part,

I speak them and invite correction

by you that have experience of love’s art,

and allow it all to your discretion

to increase or make a diminution

of my language: and that I you beseech.

But now to the purpose of my former speech.


These two who in each other’s arms we left,

so loth to be split asunder, as it were

because each thought of the other they’d be bereft:

or else, lo, this was their greatest fear,

that all these things but foolish dreams were.

Because of which each often said: ‘O sweet.

Do I hold you, or is it in dream we meet?’


Ah, lord! he began to gaze on her so gladly,

that his look was never turned from her face:

and said: ‘O, dear heart, may it be

that you are truly in this place?’

‘Yes, my heart, I thank God for his grace,’

said Cressid then, and with that him kissed,

so that where his spirit was, he could not guess.


At this Troilus full often her eyes two

began to kiss, and said: ‘O eyes so clear,

it was you that brought me such woe,

you humble nets of my lady dear:

though there be mercy written in you here,

God knows the text is difficult to know,

how could you without bonds bind me so?’


With that he began her fast in his arms to take,

and more than a hundred times began to sigh,

not such sorrowful sighs as men make

from woe, or else when folk may die:

but easy sighs such as she might like

that showed his affection within:

of such sighs he could not make an end.


Soon after this they spoke of sundry things

as suited the purpose of this adventure:

and playing, interchanged their rings,

of which I cannot tell the inscription:

but I know well a brooch, gold and azure,

in which was set a ruby like a heart,

Cressid gave him, and pinned it on his shirt.


Lord! Do you think a covetous wretch

who scorns love and holds it in despite,

through the pence that he can hoard and clutch,

was ever yet given such delight

as there is in love, at every point of sight?

No, for sure, for also, God me save,

such perfect joy no miser can have.


They will say, ‘Yes.’ But lord! They lie,

those busy wretches full of woe and dread:

they call love a madness or a folly,

but it shall befall them as I have said:

they shall forgo the silver and the red,

and live in woe, so God give them mischance,

and every lover in his truth advance.


Would to God that wretches who despise

love’s service all had ears as long

as had Midas, full of avarice,

and thereby had a drink as hot and strong

as Crassus drank for his desires wrong,

to teach them that they are vice’s tools,

and lovers not, though they think them fools.

Parthen Pouring Molten Gold into the Severed Head of Crassus

‘Parthen Pouring Molten Gold into the Severed Head of Crassus’
Reinier Vinkeles, after Jacobus Buys, 1781
The Rijksmuseum


These same two, whose tale I relay,

when their hearts deeply assured were,

then they began to speak and to play,

and rehearse how and when and where

they knew each other first, each woe and fear

that was past: but all such heaviness

(I thank God) was turned to gladness.


And evermore when they fell to speaking

of anything from that time now gone,

with kissing all their story forsaking,

and falling into new joy anon,

they did all their best since they were one,

to recover bliss and be at ease,

and counteract with joy past miseries.


Reason will not let me speak of sleep,

since it is not in accord with my matter:

God knows of that no notice did they keep.

But lest this night, that was to them so dear,

should escape them vainly in some manner,

it was occupied in joy’s business

and all that appertains to gentleness.


But when the cock – public astrologer –

began to beat his breast, and then to crow,

and Lucifer, the day’s messenger,

began to rise, and his beams to throw,

and eastward rose (to him who might it know)

Fortuna Major, then at once Cressid

with sore heart to Troilus said:


‘My heart’s life, my trust, my delectation,

that I was born alas! For me what woe

that day must make of us a separation!

For it is time to rise and from here go,

or else I am lost for ever, so.

O night, alas, why will you not hover above

as long as when Alcmena lay with Jove?

Cornelis Bos, after Michiel Coxie (I), c. 1537 - c. 1555

‘Jupiter and Alcmena’
Cornelis Bos, after Michiel Coxie (I), c. 1537 - c. 1555
The Rijksmuseum


O black Night, as books tell learned folk,

you who are shaped by God this world to hide

at certain times with your dark cloak,

that under it men might in rest abide,

beasts should indeed complain and folk chide

that as day with labour would us test,

you flee like this and will not let us rest.


You end too quickly, alas, your business,

swift Night, may God maker of Nature’s round,

for your haste and your harsh unkindness,

have you, to our hemisphere tightly bound,

that you may never more go underground!

For now (since you hurry so from Troy),

have I thus suddenly lost my joy.’


At this Troilus, who with these words felt

(as it seemed then, in his piteous distress)

the bloody tears from his heart melt,

as one who never yet such heaviness

had known come out of such great gladness,

began then Cressid his lady dear

to clasp in his arms, and said in this manner:


‘O cruel day, denouncer of the joy

that night and love have stolen and hide,

accursed be your coming into Troy,

since every hole has one of your bright eyes.

Envious day, why choose so to spy?

What have you lost? Why do you seek this place?

May God your light quench, in his grace!


‘Alas, how have these lovers incurred guilt?

Pitiless day, yours be the pain of hell,

since many a lover have you harmed, and will:

your pouring down will nowhere let them dwell.

Why do you offer your light here to sell?

Go sell it to those who small seals engrave:

we do not want you, we need no daylight have.’


And also the Titan Sun he began to chide,

and said: ‘O fool, well men may you despise,

who have the Dawn all night by your side,

and suffer her so soon from you to rise

so as to trouble lovers in this wise.

What! Hold your bed there, you, and also your To-morrow:

I bid God so to give you both sorrow.’


Heinrich Aldegrever, 1533
The Rijksmuseum


At that he sighed full sore, and thus he said:

‘My true lady, and of my joy and woe

the well and root, O my good Cressid,

and must I rise, alas, and must I go?

Now I feel my heart must break in two:

for how should I my life one hour save

if with you is all the life I have?


What shall I do, for certain I know not how

or when, alas, I shall the time see

that I in this way may be again with you:

as for my life – God knows how that will be,

since desire right now so burns in me,

that I am dead unless I can return:

how should I long, alas, from you sojourn?


But nevertheless, my own lady bright,

if it were so that I might know fully

that I, your humble servant and your knight,

were in your heart set as firmly

as you in mine (which thing truly

were dearer to me than those two words name)

I could better then endure my pain.’


To that Cressid answered right at once,

and with a sigh she said: ‘O heart dear,

the game, truly, has so far now gone,

that Phoebus shall first fall from his sphere,

and every eagle with a dove pair,

and every rock out of its place start,

before Troilus out of Cressid’s heart.


You are so deep within my heart engraved,

that if I wished to turn you from my thought,

as sure as I hope God will my soul save,

were I to die in torture, I could not.

And, for the love of God that has us wrought,

let in your brain no other fantasy

creep so that it brings death to me.


And that you should have me as fast in mind

as I have you, that I would you beseech:

and if I knew in truth that’s what I’d find,

God could not Himself me new joy teach.

But, my heart, without more speech,

be true to me, or else it were a woe:

for I am yours, by God and my truth, so.


Be glad therefore, and live in confidence:

thus have I never said, and shall to no other do.

And if it were to you a great gladness

to return again, soon after you must go,

as much would I, as you, wish it so,

as surely as I hope God will bring my heart to rest.’

And him she took in her arms and often kissed.


Against his will, since it needs must be,

at this Troilus rose, donned the clothes he had shed,

and in his arms took his lady free

a hundred times, and on his way he sped,

and with such words at which his heart bled

he said: ‘Farewell, my heart and dear sweet:

God grant that we in health soon meet.’


To which no word, for sorrow, she answered,

so deep her distress that he was now away:

and Troilus to his palace fared

as woe-begone as she was, truth to say,

so hard him wrung with sharp desire the pain

to be again where he was in ecstasy,

that it would never leave his memory.


Returning to his royal palace, soon

he soft into his bed began to slink,

to sleep long, as he was wont to do,

but all for nothing: he may well lie and wink,

but sleep will not into his heart sink:

thinking how she, for whom desire him burned,

was worth a thousand-fold more than he had earned.


And in his thoughts began up and down to wind

all her words and every look to see,

and firmly impressed on his mind

the least thing that brought him ecstasy:

and truly, from that memory,

desire burned him anew, and yearning to breed

more than before, and yet he did not heed.


Cressid also, just in the same wise,

began of Troilus in her heart to set

his worthiness, his yearning, his deeds wise,

his nobleness, and how she with him met,

thanking Love for having her so well beset

desiring again to have her heart dear

in such a place, and to give him good cheer.


Pandar, who again in the morrow was

come to his niece, and began her to greet,

said: ‘All this night it rained so, alas,

that my fear is that you, sweet niece,

have little leisure had to dream and sleep:

‘All night,’ he said, ‘the rain kept me awake,

so that some of us, I think, our heads do ache.’


And near he came and said: ‘How stands it now,

this merry morrow, niece, how do you fare?’

Cressid answered: ‘None the better for you,

fox that you are: God give your heart care.

God help me so, you brought about all this fare,

I think,’ she said, ‘for all your words so white.

Oh, who sees you has knowledge of you but slight.’


With that her face she began to hide

under the sheet, and for shame blushed red:

and Pandarus began under it to pry,

and said: ‘Niece, if I deserve to be dead,

here, have a sword, and strike off my head.

With that, his arm all suddenly he thrust

under her neck, and lastly kissed her just.


I pass over all that I need not say,

What! God pardoned his death, and she also

forgave, and with her uncle began to play,

for there was no cause not to do so.

But right to the heart of this matter to go:

when it was time, home to her house she went,

and Pandar had achieved all his intent.


Now turn we again to Troilus

that restless full long abed lay,

and secretly sent to Pandarus

to come to him with all the haste he may.

He came at once, without any delay:

and Troilus soberly he greeted,

and on his bed side was seated.


At this Troilus, with all the affection

of a friend’s love that heart may devise,

to Pandarus on his knees fell down:

and before he would from that place arise,

he began to thank him in his best wise

a hundred times, and began the time to bless

that he was born to bring him from distress.


He said: ‘O friend, of all friends the best

there ever was, the truth for to tell,

you have to heaven brought my soul to rest

from Phlegethon, the fiery flood of hell:

so that, though I might a thousand times sell

upon a day, my life in your service,

it would not a jot of it suffice.


The sun, which all the world may see,

never yet saw (my life, if I lie)

so inwardly fair and good a one as she

whose all I am and shall be till I die:

and that I am thus hers, dare I say,

for that be thanked the high worthiness

of love, and also your kind business.


Thus have you no small thing to me given,

for which I am obliged to you I say

all my life. And why? Because through your help I live

or else I had been dead many a day.’

And with that word down in his bed he lay,

and Pandarus full soberly him heard

till all was said, and then to him answered:


‘My dear friend, if I have done for thee

a service somehow, God knows it is joy indeed

I am as glad of it as any man can be,

God help me so: but do not make a grief

of what I shall say now. Beware of this mischief,

that just as you are brought now into bliss,

you yourself do not let it go amiss.


For of Fortune’s harsh adversity

the worst kind of misfortune is this,

a man to have been in prosperity

and it remembered when it past is.

You are wise enough: therefore do naught amiss:

be not too rash, though you are warm:

for if you are, certain it will you harm.


You are at ease, and hold fast therein:

for just as sure as red is every fire,

it is as great a skill to keep as win.

Bridle your speech always, and your desire

for worldly joy hangs only by thin wire:

that is well proved, it breaks each day, oft:

therefore you need to handle it full soft.’


Said Troilus: ‘I hope, before God,

my dear friend, that I will so me bear,

that through my guilt there shall be nothing lost,

nor will I be so rash as to offend her.

There is no need to speak of this matter,

for if you knew my heart well, Pandar,

God knows of this you would have little care.


Then he began to tell of his glad night,

and why his heart had feared it, and how,

and said: ‘Friend, as I am a true knight,

and by that faith I owe to God and you,

I felt love never half so hot as now:

and always the more that desire incites me

to love her best, the more it delights me.


I know not myself exactly what it is:

but now I feel a new quality,

yes, quite other, than I did before this.’

Pandar answered, and said thus, that ‘he

that once may in heaven’s bliss be,

he feels in other ways, I dare say,

than he did when he first of heard on a day.’


To sum it all in a few words: this Troilus

was never finished talking of this matter,

and of praising to Pandarus

the virtues of his true lady dear,

and thanking Pandarus with glad cheer.

This tale was ever new to begin

till the night separated them again.


Soon after this, since Fortune was good,

come was the blissful time sweet

when Troilus was warned that he could,

where they first met, Cressid, his lady, meet:

at which he felt his heart with joy replete,

and faithfully began the gods to bless

and let them see now if he knew happiness.


And all arranged the manner and the wise

of her coming, and of his also,

as at first, which I need not describe.

But plainly to the gist of it to go,

in joy and safety Pandarus the two

brought to bed when they both thought best:

and thus they were in quiet and at rest.


Nor do you need, since they have met there,

to ask of me if they joyful were:

for if it was well at first, then it was better

a thousand-fold, there is no need to enquire.

Every sorrow was gone and every fear:

and both, I think, had there, and so they knew,

as much joy as heart could comprehend as true.


This is no little thing of which to say,

this goes beyond every wit to devise,

since each began the other’s wish to obey.

Felicity, which these clerks so wise

commend so, may not here suffice:

the joy may not be written of in ink,

that passes all that heart may ever think.


But cruel day, alas the dawn again

began to approach, as they by signs knew,

at which they thought they felt death’s pain:

so sad were they, they began to change their hue,

and began day to despise anew,

calling it traitor, envious and worse,

and bitterly the day’s light they curse.


Said Troilus: ‘Alas! I am now aware,

that Pyrois and those swift horses three,

which draw the sun’s chariot through the air,

have made some short-cut, to spite me:

that is why the day comes so soon to be:

and since the sun hastens so to rise,

I shall no longer do him sacrifice.’

The Sun and its Influence on the World

‘The Sun and its Influence on the World’
Johann Sadeler (I), after Maerten de Vos, 1585
The Rijksmuseum


But day must needs part them soon,

and when their speech was done and their cheer,

they separated as they had to do,

and set a time to meet again together:

and many a night they made after this manner,

and thus for a time Fortune led in joy

Cressida and this king’s son of Troy.


In contentment, bliss and in singing

Troilus began his life to lead:

he spent and jousted, and made feasting:

he gave freely often, and indeed

changed attire, and round him, free of dread

kept a world of folk, as befitted his kind,

the freshest and the best that he could find.


So he had such a name and reputation

throughout the world, for honour and largesse,

that it rang up to the gates of heaven:

and as in love he was in such gladness

that in his heart he thought (I guess)

that there was no lover in this world at ease

as much as him, and love began him to please.


The goodness or beauty that Nature too

in any other lady had set

could not a single knot undo,

about his heart, of all Cressid’s net:

it was so narrow meshed and close knit,

that it could not be undone on any side,

no matter what might betide.


And by the hand full often he would take

Pandarus and him to the garden lead,

and such a feast and a long discourse make

to him of Cressid and her womanhood

and of her beauty, that, indeed,

it was a heaven his words to hear:

and then he would sing in this way here:


Love, that of earth and sea has governance:

Love, that his will displays in heaven high:

Love that with a wholesome alliance

holds people joined, whom he chooses to tie:

Love, that knits the laws of friendship, ay,

and couples makes in virtue for to dwell,

bind this accord that I have told and tell.


So that the world with faith permanent,

varies his seasons in harmony agreeing,

that the elements that are discordant

make a bond perpetually lasting,

so Phoebus must his rosy day new bring,

and the Moon have lordship over Night:

all this Love does, ay blessed be his might!


So that the sea, that is greedy in its flow,

constrains within certain limits so

his floods, that they do not fiercely grow

to drown the earth, and all for ever, though:

and if that Love should let the bridle go,

all that now loves should asunder leap,

and lost were all that Love now holds complete.


So willed God, author of Nature’s kind,

that with his bond, Love’s virtue might choose so

to encircle all hearts and fast them bind,

that from his bond no one knows how to go.

And cold hearts, I wish he would them goad

to make them love, and feel pity too

for sad hearts, and help those that are true.’


In all the needs to promote the town’s war,

he was ever the first arrayed to fight:

and certainly (unless the books err),

save Hector, the most dreaded of any knight.

And this increase of hardiness and might

came of his love, his lady’s thanks to win,

that altered his spirit so within.


In time of truce out hawking he would ride,

or else hunt boar, or bear or lion.

He let go the smaller beasts beside.

And when he came riding into town,

often his lady, from her window down,

as fresh as falcon comes out of mew,

was full ready to make him her salute.


And mostly of love and virtue was his speech,

and held in contempt all wretchedness:

and there was no need to him beseech

to honour those that possessed worthiness

or ease those that were in distress.

And glad he was if any one well fared,

who was a lover, when he knew or heard.


For truth to tell, he held as lost to light

every one not in Love’s high service –

I mean folk who ought to have been by right.

And over all this he could speak of ties

of sentiment so well, and in such fresh wise

of all his array, that every lover thought

that all was well whatever he said or wrought.


And though he came of the blood royal,

he never wished from pride a man to chase:

he was benign to all in general,

for which he got thanks in every place.

Thus Love willed (blessed be his grace!)

that Pride and Envy, Anger, Avarice

he began to flee, and every other vice.


You lady bright, the daughter to Dione:

your blind and winged son, that is, Dan Cupid:

you sisters nine, by streams of Helicon,

who on hill Parnassus love to abide:

you that have thus far deigned me to guide –

I can do no more, but since you wish to wend,

blessed be you for ever without end.

Apollo and the Muses on Parnassus

‘Apollo and the Muses on Parnassus’
Francesco Bartolozzi, after Ludwig Guttenbrunn, 1800
The Rijksmuseum


Through you I have told fully in my song

the effect and joy of Troilus’s service,

although there was some sorrow it among,

as my author is pleased to describe it.

My third book I end now in this wise:

and Troilus in happiness and peace

is with Cressid, his own heart sweet.

End of Book Three


BkIII:1 The Third Heaven: In the Ptolemaic system the seven planets moved in their own spheres or heavens. From the stationary central earth the spheres were those of the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. The eighth sphere was that of the fixed stars. Venus therefore holds the ‘third heaven’.

BkIII:7 Calliope: The Muse of epic poetry. The mother of Orpheus.

BkIII:59 Polyxene: The daughter of King Priam and Hecuba of Troy. See Ovid’s metamorphoses Book XIII:429-480. She is sacrificed to appease the ghost of Achilles.

BkIII:85 Tantalus: The king of Phrygia, son of Jupiter, father of Pelops and Niobe. He served his son Pelops to the gods at a banquet and was punished by eternal thirst in Hades.

BkIII:88 Wade: Wace (?) the Anglo-Norman poet (c1100-1175), born in Jersey, made canon of Bayeux by Henry II of England. His major works were the Roman de Rou concerning the history of Normandy, and the Roman de Brut, a free translation of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, dedicated to Eleanor of Aquitaine and containing material relating to the Arthurian legend.

BkIII:90 Joined in Cancer: The relatively rare conjunction of the new Moon with Saturn and Jupiter in Cancer, occurred in the spring of 1385.

BkIII:103 Adonis: In Greek myth the son of Myrrha by her father Cinyras, born after her transformation into a myrrh-tree. (As such he is a vegetation god born from the heart of the wood.) Venus fell in love with him. He was killed by a wild boar that gashed his thigh. His blood became the windflower, the anemone. Adonis is the hellenised form of the Semetic adoni, Lord, and identifies him with Tammuz the vegetation God of the Lebanon and Phoenicia. See Ovid’s Metamorphoses Book X:503-559.

BkIII:104 Europa, Cypris, Daphne: Europe (Europa) was the daughter of Agenor, king of Phoenicia, abducted by Jupiter disguised as a white bull. Cypris was beloved by Mars. Daphne was the Daughter of Peneus the river-god, loved and pursued by Phoebus Apollo. See Ovid’s MetamorphosesBook I:525-552. She was turned into the laurel bough.

BkIII:105 Herse, Diana, The Fates: One of the three daughters of King Cecrops. The most beautiful of the Athenian virgins and admired by Mercury. See Ovid’s Metamorphoses Book II:711-832. Mercury elicited the help of her sister Aglauros. Envy poisoned her heart and she was ultimately turned to stone.

BkIII:134: Dilemma: The text uses the term Dulcarnon from the Arabic du’lqarnayn, meaning two-horned, a name given to Euclid’s forty-seventh proposition in his First Book. Pandarus confuses this with the fifth of the First Book known as flemyng of wrecches (the scourge of wretches) known nowadays as the Pons Asinorum or Ass’s Bridge.

BkIII:180: Cytherea and Hymen: Cytherea is an epithet for Venus from Cythera, the Aegean island, sacred to Venus-Aphrodite who rose from the sea there. Hymen or Hymenaeus was the god of marriage.

BkIII:199: Crassus and Midas: Midas King of Phrygia turned all he touched to gold. See Ovid’s Metamorphoses Book XI:85-145. Crassus was killed in the Roman war against the Parthians in 53BC. Orodes the Parthian King showed his contempt for his wealth by pouring molten gold into his dead mouth.

BkIII:203: Lucifer and Fortuna Major: Lucifer is a name for the morning star (the planet Venus). Venus, closer to the sun than Earth, often appears before sunrise in the morning sky. Fortuna major is a configuration of the last stars in Aquarius and the first in Pisces, indicating by its position in the east at dawn that the sun is in Pisces, or possibly Aries, that is the time is early spring. This corroborates the spring positioning of the planets in the note ‘Joined in Cancer’.

BkIII:204: Alcmena: The daughter of Electryon king of Tiryns, wife of Amphitryon, and mother of Hercules by the god Jupiter, raped by Jupiter disguised as Amphitryon.

BkIII:210: Titan Sun: The name Titan is applied to Sol the sun god, son of the Titan Hyperion. See Ovid’s Metamorphoses Book I:1-30.

BkIII:229: Phlegethon: One of the rivers of the Underworld.

BkIII:244: Pyrois: One of the four horses of the Sun. See Ovid’s Metamorphoses Book II:150-177. The others were Eous, Aethon, and Phlegon.

BkIII:250: The Hymn to Love: This is a free rendering in rhyme royal of Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy Book II metre 8.

BkIII:259: Dione, The Nine, Helicon, Parnassus: Venus was the daughter of Jupiter and Dione (an ancient goddess of Dodona in Greece).The nine are the nine Muses, the daughters of Jupiter and Mnemosyne (Memory). They are the patronesses of the arts. Clio (History), Melpomene (Tragedy), Thalia (Comedy), Euterpe (Lyric Poetry), Terpsichore (Dance), Calliope (Epic Poetry), Erato (Love Poetry),Urania (Astronomy), and Polyhymnia (Sacred Song).Helicon was their mountain in Boeotia from which flowed the stream Hippocrene. Parnassus was their mountain in Phocis.