Jean de Meung
The Romance of the Rose (Le Roman de la Rose)
Part IV: Chapters LI-LV - The Jealous Husband
Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved.
This work may be freely reproduced, stored, and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose.
- Chapter LI: The jealous husband on Chastity and woman.
- Chapter LI: The jealous husband on loose behaviour.
- Chapter LI: The jealous husband on young bloods and a faithless wife.
- Chapter LII: The jealous husband beats his wife.
- Chapter LII: Friend condemns jealousy, praising equality in marriage.
- Chapter LIII: The end of the Golden Age.
- Chapter LIV: The origins of kingship and possession.
- Chapter LIV: How young men should behave towards their lover.
- Chapter LIV: Sweet-Thoughts and Sweet-Speech return.
- Chapter LV: The Lover takes leave of Friend.
Chapter LI: The jealous husband on Chastity and woman
Beauty wars with Chastity so,
And Ugliness drives her also
To serve, perforce, Venus on high,
Whom chaste women do deny.
‘Beauty wars with Chastity’
“So Ugliness, as we see, goes chasing
Chastity away, with so heavy
A club, it vexes wondrously,
If Chastity remains in power,
For the span of a single hour.
Now Chastity is in ill plight,
She’s assailed from left and right,
And has no help from anywhere,
And so must flee the field there
For she doth see that she’s alone;
Even if she swear not, I’d own
That she knows enough of battle,
When any with her do struggle,
Not to dare to contest a fight
Where she cannot win outright.
Let Ugliness be cursed, for she
Doth now attack poor Chastity,
Whom she should succour and defend.
Though all she might do, in the end,
Were set Chastity twixt her chemise
And her body, she should at least
Do so. And Beauty’s much to blame,
Who should honour Chastity’s name,
And ensure, if she’s able to,
That peace is forged between the two.
She should, at least, do all she may
To win her good graces alway,
If she’d be noble, courteous, wise;
And pay her true homage, likewise,
Not bring on her disgrace and shame;
For even the ancient text doth claim,
There, in the sixth book of Virgil,
Upon the authority of the Sibyl,
That none whose life is lived chastely,
Will come to damnation. Hear me,
I swear by God, the Celestial King,
That she who to beauty doth cling,
Or makes efforts to seem beautiful,
Admires herself, and doth trouble
To dress herself, and richly too,
Is waging war on Chastity, who
Indeed has many an enemy;
In the cloister and the abbey
Even they do take against her,
They are not so immured ever
That they fail to hate her truly,
Seeking to shame poor Chastity.
To Venus women pay homage,
All, regardless of the damage,
And paint with coquettish display,
And fool onlookers on the way,
And go wandering down the street
Just to be seen by those they meet,
To rouse in the company of men
A fierce desire to sleep with them.
For this they wear their finery
In church, and dress for revelry,
For none of them would e’er do so,
If they thought that none would know;
And please, by this, they do believe,
Those whom they’re seeking to deceive.
If to honesty we’d lay claim,
On God do women bring great shame.
Misguided, foolish, they see not
That, when considering their lot,
They should thank God for the beauty
That he gave them; their coquetry
Extends to chaplets all of flowers,
In silk or gilded; thus, for hours,
They proudly flaunt themselves in town,
Lower themselves, their flowery crown
An object lower and baser still,
That these sad wretches, dressed to kill,
Upon their foolish heads must set,
To think themselves more lovely yet.
And God by them is much despised,
Who has but failed them in their eyes,
For, as their foolish hearts conceive,
God did them an outrage, they believe,
Who, in encompassing their beauty,
Proved but negligent in His duty.
So they seek beauty in creations,
That God made, in various fashions,
Perchance flowers, or bright metal,
Or for some rarity they’ll settle.
The same’s true of men, certainly,
If, to appear more handsome, we
Add chaplets and adornments thus,
To those beauties God did give us,
For we act towards Him wrongly
If we think ourselves treated badly
By Him, regarding those features,
With which He gifts living creatures.
I care not for such games as these;
Sufficient not to burn or freeze,
Is all the clothing that I need;
My protection is guaranteed,
From rain and wind and misery,
If God doth keep me company,
By homespun, every bit as well
As purple robes lined with squirrel.
It seems but money lost, to me,
Your purchases of finery,
Robes of blue, brown, camelot,
Green, and scarlet, the whole lot
Lined with fine grey fur, or vair,
That see you scamper everywhere,
Posturing, and simpering so,
As through the dust and dirt you go,
While prizing neither God, nor me.
Even at night, when lying quietly
Beside me naked, I can’t hold you,
For when I’d seek to embrace you,
And would comfort you, all’s amiss,
I may not steal a single kiss,
And even though I’m warm enough,
You sulk, a devil in a huff,
And will not turn your face to me,
Whate’er I do, but wriggle free.
And then a headache you will feign
And sigh, and murmur, and complain,
Struggling there so, and resisting,
That I grow fearful of insisting,
Nor dare your shores then to assail,
So great the fear that I may fail.”
Chapter LI: The jealous husband on loose behaviour
“WHEN I wake from sleeping thus,
It seems to me quite wondrous
How those wild lads win anything,
By pawing daily at your clothing,
If you do twitch away your hem,
When you disport yourself with them,
And do annoy those fellows quite
As much as you do me at night.
You give no thought to anything,
Away you flee, to dance and sing,
Through the gardens and the meadows,
With all those mad faithless fellows,
Who’ll drag a married woman through
The green grass, in the morning dew;
Fools, who despise me altogether,
Whispering, to one another:
‘Tis but to spite that jealous wretch.’
To the wolves be given that flesh!
Those bones let the wild curs claim!
What else brings on me such shame?
Tis through you, my scarlet lady,
Through you, and their tomfoolery;
Foul bitch, vile bawd, base whore;
Delivered to those dogs, I’m sure
Your body ne’er will last the year;
Through you, shame is mine I fear;
I’ve joined, through all your lechery,
Saint Arnold’s vast fraternity,
The patron saint of cuckolds he;
No man is safe from cuckoldry,
Who has a wife, he’ll discover,
Howe’er he doth guard and watch her,
Not though he has a thousand eyes.
All women seek their own demise,
No guard or keeper’s worth a sou,
And if the deed they do not do
The wish within doth never sleep,
From which, if they but can, they leap
To the deed, the wish ever there.
Juvenal would ease our despair,
By saying, of this innate need
We name carnality, that, indeed,
It is the very lightest sin
That stains a woman’s heart within,
For their nature doth demand
Of them far worse, you understand.
See now how the mother-in-law
Brews poison for the son-in-law,
Devising charms and sorceries
And other hidden devilries;
No man could total their amount,
No matter how well he doth count.
You’re all, or were, or will be whores
By deed, or wish which is the cause,
For he who may the deed contain,
The wish itself cannot restrain;
Thus he who doth search your mind,
The whore within will ever find.
This advantage you all possess,
Of your desires you are mistress;
For not by beating or admonition
Can any man change your position;
Yet the man who can change your heart,
He doth win lordship by his art.”
Chapter LI: The jealous husband on young bloods and a faithless wife
“Though that’s an impossible thing;
But O Sweet Lord, Celestial King,
With these rascals what shall I do,
Opposing me, who shame me too!
If to threaten them I would seek,
They would merely think me weak;
Yet if with them I sought to fight
They’d beat me, or kill me outright.
They’re cruel, their deeds outrageous,
For every ill deed, they’re rapacious;
Young, headstrong, wild, yet handsome too,
Thus they think me not worth a sou.
For youth doth so their hearts inflame,
Filling them all with fire and flame,
That they must, of necessity,
Indulge in every kind of folly,
Though so fantastic, so flighty,
Each a Roland desires to be,
A Samson, or a Hercules;
The latter two, as men do say,
Or I’ve read as much anyway,
Resembled each other bodily,
As like as any men could be.
For Hercules was seven feet tall,
Solinus writes, as I recall,
And he says that not another
In his height was ever greater.
At twelve tasks did he labour,
Therein slew many a monster;
Yet, though he completed twelve,
A thirteenth he could not resolve.
That came about through Deianira,
His love, who destroyed her lover,
Poisoning him with the venom
On the shirt that she’d been given,
For he was taken with Iole,
His heart mad with love already;
Thus Hercules, a mighty man,
Was conquered, and by a woman.
And Samson likewise, who feared
No man at all and yet was sheared,
Being deceived by Delilah,
Who his flowing locks did gather.
Tis folly I breed, by speaking so,
For you’ll repeat, as well I know,
All my words, one upon another,
When you depart, to some other;
You’ll go crying to those fools,
And I’ll be taught a lesson too,
My head and thighs sorely lashed,
Or my shoulder torn and gashed;
If you can seek them anymore,
For if I should hear of it before,
As soon as I can, why there I’ll be,
And as long as my arms are free,
And my pestle’s not been taken,
Your ribs will soon be aching.
Friend nor neighbour, kith nor kin,
Will save you from the mess you’re in,
Nor those lechers who pursue you;
Why did you meet me, and I you,
Alas? In what ill hour I was born,
That you do hold me in such scorn,
And let each rabid stinking cur
Flatter, caress, cling like a burr,
Till he’s your lord and your master,
When I should play that role, rather,
By whom your life is now sustained.
Food and shoes and clothes, you’ve gained,
While you’d have me share with rascals,
Layabouts, and evil scoundrels,
Who will bring you naught but shame,
Who’ve robbed you of your good name,
That name you care not who harms,
While you hold them in your arms.
To your face, they cry they love you,
And yet, behind, ‘whore’ they dub you,
And say what’s worse of their lover,
When they assemble together,
How each vile scoundrel’s served you;
For I know well what tis they do.
Tis true, tis certain, without fail,
That when you let them so prevail,
They know full well how to insist,
Since you’ve no power to resist.
And when that crowd has swallowed you
Midst which all do squeeze and press you,
I’faith my envy then is great
Of their life, and pleasant state.
But know this now, and learn it well,
Tis not your body casts a spell,
Nor your pleasant conversation,
Tis solely that it gives occasion,
For them to joy and find delight
In your gold buttons, and have sight
Of your robes and your pelisses,
That I, the fool, buy; all that pleases.
For when you’re off to sing and dance,
Or to your foolish gatherings prance,
And I stay home, a fool, and drink,
A hundred pounds in weight doth clink,
Pure gold and silver, on your head.
Then, you choose to dress, instead
Of wool, in camelot and vair,
Such that I melt away with care,
With anger and anxiety,
Such pain and chagrin torments me.
What worth to me do these things hold,
These pretty coifs with bands of gold,
These woven head-dresses in silver,
That bright gleaming ivory mirror,
Those gold bracelets, made so well,
And all adorned with fine enamel;
And each rare precious gilded crown,
That has me pacing up and down,
It is so rich and shines so fair,
With all the costly jewels there,
Sapphires, rubies, emeralds, more,
All that makes you so fine a whore,
Gold ties, with rare gems blessed,
At your sides, and at your breast,
And those dresses, and that cincture,
With clasps of so rich a nature,
All those seed-pearls and that gold;
Yet what worth do such baubles hold?
See, you do wear your shoes so tight,
And so adjust your dress’s height,
That both your ankles are on show;
Oh, comfort me thus, Saint Thibaut,
Within three days tis sold, complete!
You’re base as dust beneath my feet;
God’s body, you’ll have but a coat
From me, and then a coarse surcoat;
A hempen kerchief you’ll be given,
Plain, not fine, and badly woven,
One that’s torn, its life extended,
Sewn about, and roughly mended,
No matter how great your complaint;
And you’ll be belted, like a saint.
Would you know what your belt will be?
Plain leather, and no clasp; you’ll see.
And from my ancient worn-out boots
You shall have shoes as tough as roots,
Ample enough to stuff with cloth;
While all those trinkets you can doff,
Which merely provide occasion
To commit your fornication;
No, you’ll flaunt yourself no more
And seek to play the willing whore.
Come tell me now, without a lie,
That other rich new dress I spy,
That you appeared in yesterday,
When you went off to dance and play
For love’s sake, where did you get it?
(For I know I never bought it;
You never had that dress from me)
You swore to me by Saint Denis,
Saint Philibert, then Saint Peter,
That you had it from your mother,
Who sent you all the cloth, indeed;
For so great is her love for me,
Or so you’d have me understand,
She’d shed coins from her grasping hand,
So I need spend not one of mine.
May she be grilled alive, that fine
Priest’s whore, that foul old bitch
That mackerel, that dried-up witch;
And you’ll merit a roasting too,
If what you tell me proves untrue!
Oh, and I could go and ask her,
But then, like mother, like daughter;
Tis labour in vain so to do,
I know twould yield nary a sou;
I know you’ll have talked together.
Your heart and that of your mother
If I know aught, will speak as one;
I know where you’re coming from.
For that old painted whore will be
In accord with what you agreed.
Many a time they’ve beaten her,
She’s been bitten by many a cur,
So many roads has she been down,
But now she’s as ugly as a clown,
Her looks all gone, can’t earn a sou,
And so, I know, she’s selling you.
Three or four times a week she’s here,
And leads you away, that old dear,
Off to make some fresh pilgrimage,
Her old-accustomed war to wage,
(For I know all her foul design)
And walk you slowly down the line
As if you were a fine filly for sale,
And see you're paid for on the nail.
Think you that I’m too blind to see?
What stops me breaking every
Bone in your body, with this pestle?
Like a chick in pâté may you nestle.”’
Chapter LII: The jealous husband beats his wife
How the jealous spouse doth beat
His wife, the beating so complete
He tears her very tresses from her,
In his jealousy and anger.
‘The jealous husband beats his wife’
‘THEN her spouse, sweating with rage,
As if it be war that he doth wage,
Will pull and tug her by the hair,
And at those tresses rip and tear,
In jealousy, mad at her there;
Like a lion, or a savage bear.
Then around the house he drags her,
In bitter rage, possessed by anger,
And slanders her most evilly,
Nor though she swear, most faithfully,
Will he forgive her, or relent
Such is the power of his intent;
He slaps her, beats her, hits her, thumps her,
While she screams, howls, weeps, and sends her
Lamentations to the skies,
Through every window, with her cries.
She reproaches him in every manner
She knows, just as it comes to her,
In front of the neighbours who arrive,
And think them the greatest fools alive,
And save her, ere she meets her death,
While he’s there still catching his breath.
And when his lady meets with this,
Words and blows that send all amiss,
With this diverting viol he plays,
With which our jongleur fills her days,
Think you she’ll love him the more?
At Meaux she’d rather see him, or,
Much further off in the Romagna.
I’ll go further, so great her anger,
She’ll love him not, such is her plight.
Seem to do so? Perchance she might;
But if he could fly through the sky,
And see the view from up on high,
And observe, without him falling,
All their deeds, in every calling,
And, at ease, consider them all,
Then he will know what may befall,
And all the dangers that lie at hand,
And yet will never understand
All the tricks that women may use,
To defend themselves from abuse.
If he and she then sleep together,
He himself is in great danger.
Indeed in sleeping or in waking,
He should fear the steps she’s taking
To poison him, her pain avenge,
Or cut his throat now, in revenge,
Or grant him vast anxieties,
Through desperate infidelities;
Or let him think that she will flee,
If she can’t otherwise be free.
Women lack all honour and shame,
When they choose to play a game,
For here’s the truth: though full of sense,
They have not an ounce of conscience
Where love or hatred are concerned;
Valerius himself discerned,
That women are bold and clever
In doing harm, studious ever.’
Chapter LII: Friend condemns jealousy, praising equality in marriage
‘MY companion; this oaf, this fool,
Over whose flesh may mad wolves drool,
Who fills his heart with jealousy,
As I’ve described him honestly,
Would have lordship over his wife,
Who should be the love of his life,
His equal, and his companion;
Thus the law views their union.
And he her companion, rather
Than her jealous lord and master.
When he makes her cringe with fear,
And fails to treat her as his peer,
But grants her a life of unease,
Think you then that he doth please?
Or that their love will thus endure?
What does she say? No, no more!
He shall have no more of her love,
Who his lordship seeks to prove.
For love will die, nor can it be
Where lovers do claim sovereignty.
Love cannot live and last apart
From a free and an honest heart.
This reason, too little rehearsed,
Is why, of those who do, at first,
Love each other for love’s sake,
Then in marriage each other take,
Many find “true love” fails to be
A bond that binds enduringly.
For he who once loved for love’s sake,
He, whom his lady her lord did make,
She, who was his mistress rather,
Now calls himself lord and master,
Over her, whom he called his lady
When he did love previously.’
‘Loved her!’ ‘Truly.’ ‘In what manner?’
‘In such a manner, that if his lover
Said to him: “My love, leap to it.”
Or “Pass me that thing, just do it.”
He’d pass it to her, without fail,
Or through the air he would sail.
In truth, whate’er she might say,
Why, he’d leap to it, right away,
Hoping she’d approve the measure,
For her wish was all his pleasure;
But once they were married, oh,
As I have told you, twas not so,
For once the wheel of fate had turned,
He who to serve her once had yearned,
Commanded her to serve instead,
As if she were his slave, and led
Her on a tight leash, and told her
Of her work account to render.
Yet his lady he used to call her;
She dies inside, at what befalls her.
For she doth think herself ill-used,
On finding herself now so abused
By this fellow, of proven worth,
The best that she had found on earth,
Who now would grind her in the dust.
Now she knows not in whom to trust,
Under the yoke of this new master,
With no one there to defend her.
Now the game’s changed for the worse,
Now the rules seem all adverse;
She cannot, and she dare not play.
What pleasure now will she display?
If she obeys not, hear him moan,
Angry with her; while she doth groan;
Both thus will murmur angrily,
Each now the other’s enemy.
Tis why in ancient times, my friend,
Men did ever friendship extend
Free of the bonds of servitude,
Peaceably, and with gratitude,
Nor would relinquish liberty
For all the gold of Araby;
Though if any had sought to try,
He’d have found none could buy,
For this was long ere pilgrimage,
To other lands none took passage
To adventure in strange countries,
No man had e’er traversed the seas.’
Chapter LIII: The end of the Golden Age
How Jason set sail from Greece,
All to seek the Golden Fleece,
And did many a marvellous
Deed for it, and most perilous.
‘Jason and the Golden Fleece’
‘JASON was first to sail abroad,
When he, the very first sea-lord,
Sought to win the Golden Fleece,
By shattering the Ocean’s peace,
As Neptune thought, who saw him sail;
While Triton, raging, roused a gale,
And Doris, and all her daughters,
At this trick played by Ocean’s waters,
Were by that cunning so dismayed
They all thought themselves betrayed,
Viewing these ships that sailed the seas
Where’er the mariners did please.
Yet those earlier folk I mention,
Knew not the art of navigation.
When they sought all that was good
They found it in their neighbourhood;
All folk were wealthy equally,
And loved each other mutually.
Those simple folk of honest ways,
Loved without lordship all their days.
Living peacefully with each other,
None sought aught from another,
Till Fraud came with couched lance,
Sin, and Ill-Fortune, did advance,
(This last cares not for sufficiency)
And Pride, who disdains equality,
Covetousness and Avarice,
Envy, with every vice there is.
And they roused Poverty from Hell,
So long there, that none could tell
Aught of her, her ways, her birth,
For none saw her before on earth.
Ill was it that she came so quickly,
Her coming brought evil swiftly.
Poverty, her intentions wrong,
Brought Larceny, her son, along,
Who’ll beat a path to the gibbet
To bring aid to his mother, yet
She cannot help his being hung
Time and again, the death-knell rung,
No more than his father, Faint-Heart,
Who doth in sorrow grieve apart.
Not even that young lady, Laverna,
Goddess of thieves, who doth ever
Govern robbers, and guides their way,
Who hides the sins of night away,
And with dark clouds conceals deceit,
So their work no eyes might greet,
Until by Fortune they’re forsaken,
Caught in the act, and thus taken,
Not even she’s sufficient pity
When their neck the rope doth see,
That she’d declare them innocent,
No matter how much they repent.
At once those evils, in a body,
Roused by some elemental fury,
By grief, by anger, and envy,
On viewing men’s fraternity,
Scattered throughout every land,
Sowing discord on every hand,
Slander, hatred, and discontent,
Through annoyance and ill-intent.
As they held yellow gold most dear,
They scoured the earth till it appear,
Searching earth’s entrails for gold
And other metals, formed of old,
Such that all hearts grew envious,
Mining the rock for aught precious.
So Covetousness and Avarice,
Fuelled mortal desire, with this,
That greed for possession moulds;
The former wins, the latter holds.
And yet the latter ne’er will spend
One piece till her existence end;
Her heirs and her executors,
Of her wealth shall prove the masters,
Unless, ere that, comes some mischance;
And, if her wealth is lost to chance,
Why none I think will weep for her,
And if not, tis they will prosper.
As soon as all this wicked band
Had troubled folk through every land,
Man’s former life was scorned, until
Men never ceased from doing ill.
False and treacherous they became,
Possession now was all their game,
They even parcelled out the earth,
And thus to boundaries gave birth,
And once they’d set their boundaries,
Then they waged battle over these,
And then they of their spoils did boast.
The strongest men acquired the most,
Yet when they ran to seek out more,
Those who’d proven idle before
Their caves and their shelters entered,
And stole all that they had gathered.
So then they all were forced to find
One person who their goods would mind,
And seize upon such malefactors,
And justice grant to their accusers,
Without fear of opposition;
And gathered then for his election.’
Chapter LIV: The origins of kingship and possession
Here you may see, for here is weighed,
The truth of how their king was made,
Who swore on oath, then, instantly,
To guard them, and their property.
‘THEY chose, in concert, a villain,
One who was to battle given,
Biggest, strongest, of all their horde,
And made him their prince and lord.
He swore he would maintain the right,
And to defend their goods would fight,
If they as king would proclaim him
And grant all needed to sustain him.
Among themselves they so agreed,
And gave him all that he might need,
And long term he held this office.
Yet when robbers, full of malice,
Saw him alone, they did gather,
And attacked him, all together,
Whenever they set out to steal.
Then there arose a loud appeal
For taxes to support the prince,
And raise an army, and then, since
They all agreed, they paid the tax
One and all, to dissuade attacks,
And gave the king great tracts of land.
Here, from the texts, we understand
Was, as they tell, the true beginning
Of earthly princes, this first king;
For all those ancient deeds of men
The old texts tell us; and the pen
That wrote them we should ever praise
And thank, and treasure them always.
Then the people amassed treasure,
In precious gems, gold and silver,
Silver and gold being workable,
And they made of them valuable
Vessels, belts, buttons and rings,
Coins, and clasps, and other things.
Out of tough iron they forged arms,
Knives, swords, whatever harms,
Pikes and axes; and coats of mail,
All to make their neighbours quail.
They built towers and palisades,
And crenellated walls they made;
Those with treasure, unopposed,
Their castles and cities enclosed,
And gated their great palaces,
Fearful lest aught went amiss
Of all the treasure they had won,
For indeed it might be stolen,
Or taken from them yet, by force.
Thus anxiety took its course,
In all those hostages to Fortune,
Who proved sadly out of tune.
For all they’d held before as one,
Unowned as is the moon and sun,
Once to riches they were fated,
They severally appropriated,
Till one indeed might own more,
Than could be hoarded by a score.
Yet I’d not give you two sous for
Such greedy scoundrels and, what’s more,
Though they lack hearts I care not,
What care I if they do or not?
Let them love or hate each other,
Or rent their love to one another;
But tis a great grief, a disgrace,
That these ladies, bright of face,
Who charm and joyfulness display,
Who ought to prize love, so I say,
And defend it, should yet be sold
Into such vileness; bought for gold.
Tis an ugly thing to hear and know,
How true hearts sell themselves so.’
Chapter LIV: How young men should behave towards their lover
‘YET, be that as it may, trust me,
A young man should seek to study;
On arts and sciences doth depend
His power to guard and to defend,
Himself and his true love, at need;
So she not go from him, indeed.
Such may advance a youth truly,
Besides, it won’t harm him any.
And then, that youth should remember
To heed this, my counsel, ever:
If he doth love her, young or old,
And thinks, or knows, or is told
She seeks or has sought another,
He should never blame his lover
For seeking or acquiring any,
But should recapture, amiably,
His love without reproaching her;
And then, the less to estrange her,
Though tis in the act he catch her,
His eyes should not fix upon her,
Rather should he be as one blind,
Or as one blessed with half a mind,
So she believes that he hath not
In truth had sight or sound of aught.
And if some man sends her a letter,
He ought not then to upset her
By feverishly glancing through it,
To find their secrets, nor undo it.
His heart should harbour no desire,
To go against her will entire,
But welcome her whene’er they meet,
As she appears from some side street,
And let her go where’er she wish,
As she desires, that way or this,
For she has no wish to be tied;
And I’d have you know, beside,
This that I tell you, for it ought
In scholars’ textbooks to be taught:
If he would have his lady grace
All his days, he should grant her space,
Not cloister her, nor pen her in,
But let her come and go at whim:
For he who would confine her so,
Such that she cannot come and go,
Be it his lover or his wife,
Will lose her love from out his life.
He must believe naught against her,
However sure of what’s said of her,
But he should tell that he, or she,
Who brings such news, most forcefully,
Tis all foolishness what they say,
None finer saw the light of day;
At her good works unceasingly,
Nor ever found untrustworthy.
He should not seek to accuse her
Of sin, or beat her, or strike her:
For he who doth strike a woman
Thinking thus to strengthen his hand
In love, and subdue her through that,
Resembles one who’d tame a cat
Beats it, but then will call to it,
So he can collar it, and cage it;
And yet he is most likely to fail,
For an angry cat away will sail.
But should she strike him, or scorn him,
He should beware the love in him
Alters not; if he’s struck or scorned,
Though she torment him, be warned,
He should not try to seek revenge,
For there is naught here to avenge,
Rather he should thank her kindly,
And say such martyrdom would he
Gladly embrace, and without cease,
If he thought his service did please;
Saying that he would die rather
Than be forced to live without her.
And if perchance he does strike her
For seeming too proud, in anger,
Or because she has riled him so
By nagging at him; or doth throw
Out menaces, and threaten freely;
Then to purchase peace, must he
Make love to her, to end the fight,
Ere ever she doth leave his sight;
Especially if he’s poor; abuse
In a poor man finds less excuse;
For she’ll soon flee, he’ll discover,
If he fails to bow down before her.
The poor man must love wisely,
And must learn to suffer humbly,
And suppress any anger too,
Whatever she may say or do;
More than the rich man, in my view,
Who perchance cares not a sou
About her stubbornness or pride,
So long as he is free to chide;
Or is such that he no longer
Wishes to be faithful to her,
And while wishing not to lose her,
Seeks to take another lover;
Though if he give to his new love,
A handkerchief, a pair of gloves,
A chaplet, belt, a clasp, or ring,
Or a jewel, some precious thing,
He must take care that the other
Sees them not; if she discover
Aught, then pain will flood her heart,
And naught can make that pain depart.
Nor must they come face to face
With the first, in the very place
Where this lover he doth greet,
Where they’re accustomed to meet,
For if she comes, and finds them there,
No counsel may that fault repair.
For there’s no cunning wild sow,
Will e’er prove so lethal, I vow,
When cornered; nor no lioness,
So fierce, if she’s under duress,
The dogs, the huntsmen at her back,
Pressing home some fierce attack,
She with her cubs, none so vicious;
Nor any serpent as malicious
When someone treads upon its tail,
For then its anger will prevail,
As a woman, should she discover
Her true love with some new lover;
Then she’ll spit out fire and flame,
Ready her body and soul to maim.
And if she’s not yet caught the pair
In their nest, clasped tightly there,
But is consumed by jealousy,
Thinking or believing that she
Is deceived, whate’er she believes
Or thinks, he must act as thieves
Do, and deny completely
Whate’er she knows, lie blatantly,
And be quick to swear so, on oath;
Then he must ensure they both
Make love again upon the spot,
Thus her clamour will be forgot.
Yet if she tortures him no less,
And he’s obliged then to confess,
Scarcely knowing how to defend
Himself, let him strive in the end,
To make her believe his offence
Was committed in self-defence;
For the woman held him so tight
That struggle as hard as he might
There was no way he could escape,
In fact twas nothing short of rape;
And then, it only happened once.
Let him promise on oath, the dunce,
That it will never happen again,
And so faithful will he remain,
That if she hears a single breath
Of such, let her beat him to death;
Yet he’d prefer if it was that other,
The faithless wrecker and destroyer,
Who was killed, so she might not
Return and clasp him, in that spot;
And if, of him, she did so demand,
Then he’d go not at her command,
Nor allow her to meet him there,
He’d shun the woman everywhere.
Next, he must embrace his lover,
Kiss and coax her, and comfort her,
And beg mercy for his error,
Which shall be repeated never,
And claim he’s full of repentance
And ready to perform the penance
That she choose to impose on him,
If only she will pardon him.
And, if she does pardon him, then
Let him make love to her again.
Next, let him not boast about her,
Such that it doth make her suffer.
For many men boast of women,
With false and feigning words often,
Whose bodies they cannot win,
Blackening their names with sin.
Goodness of heart such men want,
Nor courteous they, nor valiant,
For boasting is a vice most base,
Who boasts is a fool, in any case,
For, if tis true, whate’er he did
Then he should seek to keep it hid,
For Love his treasures doth conceal.
To loyal friends he may reveal
All his secrets, they will keep them;
To them only so display them.
Now, if she fall ill, then tis right
For him to study how he might
Be to her most serviceable,
That he may seem agreeable.
Let him show no sign of ennui
If tis a tedious malady;
He should stay close beside her,
And, in tears, he should kiss her,
And he should vow, if he be wise,
A pilgrimage, neath foreign skies,
As long as she that vow can hear.
And let her favourite foods appear,
Naught bitter that might offend her,
But all should be sweet and tender.
He should tell her his strange dreams,
All stuffed full of pleasant themes;
Claim that at night, when he doth lie
Alone in bed, to his sleeping eye
It seems that in his dream, he takes
(Though he scarce sleeps, but often wakes)
Her in his arms, and all night through
Naked, clasped in his arms, all new
And cured now, and fit and healthy,
Solaced by love-making is she;
In pleasant places all day too;
Such, or similar tales, will do.
Up to this point I have spoken
Of how he should treat a woman
In health and sickness, whose case
Is that he wishes to seek her grace,
And continue his love to prove,
Who might easily lose her love,
Should he fail of his intent to do
Whatever it is she wants him to.
No woman knows her own mind so,
Nor so constant a heart doth show,
Nor proves so true and serious,
That a man can be certain thus
Will he hold her, howe’er he strain,
No more than if he, in the Seine,
Held a wriggling eel by its tail;
Trying to stop her won’t avail,
For she’ll escape quite easily,
Howe’er strong his grip might be.
No creature’s tamed so completely
That it won’t seek to up and flee;
And she is of such diverse nature,
None can be certain of the creature.
I do not claim this of good wives,
Who on virtue found their lives,
Though I myself have found none
And yet have tested many a one.
Nor could Solomon find any,
Though he too had tested many,
For he himself was despondent,
On finding none he deemed constant.
If you trouble yourself to seek her,
And find one such then seize her;
For she’s one of the true elite,
One who will be yours complete.
If disinclined to run around
And find a better than she’s found,
Or meet a man who’ll seduce her.
To Chastity, herself she’ll offer.
One more brief word yet I’ll utter,
Ere I do forsake this matter:
In short, whoe’er desires that he
Might keep his love, whoe’er she be,
Whether she’s ugly, or looks fine,
Should observe this rule of mine;
He should remember it always,
And hold it precious all his days:
Let him make it quite clear to her,
He can’t defend himself from her,
So startled is he, and so amazed
By her beauty, may she be praised.
Howe’er good she is, there’s none,
Young, old, right worldly, or a nun,
Ne’er so religious a lady,
Howe’er chaste in soul and body,
Who is not pleased (tis her duty),
When a man doth praise her beauty.
And, if ugly she’s said to be,
Swear she’s lovely as a fairy,
For one may do so securely,
Since she believes it wholly.
For every woman, as they say,
Thinks herself a beauty, alway,
And worthy of the fairest love,
However ugly she doth prove.
All fine noble handsome young men
Should take care to be diligent,
In keeping hold of their ladies,
While condemning not their follies.
Women hate being criticised;
The way their minds are organised,
It seems to them that nary a maid
Has need of being taught her trade;
And he who seeks not to displease,
Should let them do just as they please.
As a cat doth know by nature
How to pounce upon a creature,
And can ne’er be turned from it,
Since this skill it doth exhibit,
From its birth, without a lesson;
However foolish is her person,
By using her innate judgement
A woman knows, though her intent
Be bad or good, or wrong or right,
Or whate’er else it doth invite,
She does only what she ought,
And hates to be rebuked for naught.
She learns this art from no teacher,
Has it from the womb that bore her,
And thus cannot be turned from it,
Since indeed she was born with it,
And he who wishes to correct her
Will ne’er enjoy her as his lover.
So tis, my comrade, with your Rose,
That doth such precious worth enclose
That if you had possession of her,
You would ne’er take aught for her.
And when you have her in the end,
As your most fervent hopes portend,
And you are brimming then with joy,
Why then, great care you must employ,
As one should with so sweet a flower,
Then you’ll enjoy, in that fair hour,
Your love with whom naught doth compare,
Whose peer you shall find nowhere,
No not in fourteen mighty cities.’
‘Indeed,’ said I, ‘for true it is;
Nor in the world find such a thing,
So sweet the joy that it doth bring.’
Chapter LIV: Sweet-Thoughts and Sweet-Speech return
FRIEND brought me solace, thereby;
Great comfort in his words had I;
It seemed, without speaking treason,
That he knew far more than Reason;
Yet now, ere he had reached the end
Of his advice, which I commend,
Sweet-Thoughts and Sweet-Speech came to me,
Who then kept me close company,
And afterwards scarce left my side.
Sweet-Glances came not so allied,
Yet I blamed them not for anything,
For him I knew they could not bring.
Chapter LV: The Lover takes leave of Friend
How the Lover, without delay,
Takes leave of Friend, and goes his way,
Seeking a road that might indeed,
At length, to his Fair-Welcome lead.
‘The Lover takes leave of Friend’
TAKING leave of Friend, we parted,
And, pleasing myself alone, I started
Down the meadow all bright with grass,
And sweet wild-flowers, where I passed,
Listening to the sweet birds sing
Their new songs that joy did bring;
My heart they filled, as they did so,
For their sweet notes did please me so.
Yet Friend had a burden handed
To me, when he thus commanded,
That I shun the castle, keep out,
And scorn to linger thereabout:
I knew not if I could keep to this,
For ever to go there was my wish.
And so once Friend was lost from sight,
Shunning the path toward the right,
Along the left-hand track I strode,
Seeking ever the shortest road.
Willingly, that road I would take
If I but found it, and would make
Every effort, nor be denied,
Unless with aught stronger I vied,
And liberate Fair-Welcome there,
The free, the frank, the debonair;
Once I saw that castle, almost
As soft as a piece of buttered toast,
With all its gateways open wide,
Naught would stop me going inside.
There’d be the devil to pay if I
Did not take it, enter on high,
And swiftly free Fair-Welcome so,
Though a hundred thousand I forego,
In bright gold coins, of a surety,
If that road were but shown to me;
Yet from the castle I now did stray,
But stopped indeed not far away.
The End of Part IV of the Romance of the Rose Continuation