Jean de Meung
The Romance of the Rose (Le Roman de la Rose)
Part VI: Chapters LXI-LXIX - False-Seeming And Abstinence
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 LXI: False-Seeming joins Love’s court.
- Chapter LXI: False-Seeming speaks of true and false religion.
- Chapter LXI: False-Seeming speaks of his own guile.
- Chapter LXII: False-Seeming on religious deceit.
- Chapter LXII: False-Seeming speaks against beggary.
- Chapter LXIII: False-Seeming deals with special cases of beggary.
- Chapter LXIII: False-Seeming on religious hypocrisy.
- Chapter LXIII: How to recognise the hypocrites.
- Chapter LXIII: The servants of the Antichrist.
- Chapter LXIII: The University of Paris versus the Mendicant Orders.
- Chapter LXIII: False-Seeming speaks of Fraud to the God of Love.
- Chapter LXIII: Amor launches the attack on Jealousy’s tower.
- Chapter LXIV: False-Seeming and Abstinence approach Ill-Talk.
- Chapter LXV: False-Seeming and Abstinence greet Ill-Talk.
- Chapter LXVI: Abstinence reproaches Ill-Talk.
- Chapter LXVII: False-Seeming beguiles Ill-Talk.
- Chapter LXVIII: False-Seeming slays Ill-Talk and cuts out his tongue.
- Chapter LXIX: False-Seeming and his company placate the Crone.
- Chapter LXIX: The Crone speaks with Fair-Welcome.
Chapter LXI: False-Seeming joins Love’s court
How the God of Love lifts his ban
On False-Seeming, who’s now his man,
At which his troops are filled with joy;
King of the Rascals is his employ.
‘False-Seeming joins Love’s court’
‘NOW False-Seeming, since all agree,
You’re mine; go aid my company,
And from henceforth their ills relieve,
For none of them must you e’er grieve;
But think to stir their bravery
And trouble thus our enemy.
You’ve licence and authority,
King of my Rascals you shall be,
Since our Chapter wills it so.
You are a wicked traitor though,
Unconstrained your thieving crimes,
Perjured a hundred thousand times;
Nonetheless, in all our hearing,
Describe, twill be reassuring,
In general terms, I command you,
In what places they may find you,
If they’re forced to seek you out;
And you can tell us all about,
How we’re then to recognise you,
For one needs much wit so to do.
Tell us what places you frequent.’
‘Sire, in many I’m resident,
Of which I may not tell you aught,
Forgive me, now; for if I sought
To tell the truth about those same,
It would bring trouble and shame.
If my companions get to know
Then they’ll seek to harass me, so
As to bring great trouble on me,
If I know aught of their cruelty.
For they would silence everywhere
Truth that runs contrary to their
Situation, they’ll not listen.
Ill indeed on me would fasten,
If I said one word, at present,
That sounded not sweet and pleasant.
For all the words that hurt and sting,
Will please them not if such I bring,
Which from the Gospels I compile
Words that flay them for their guile,
And they are cruel in evil ways.
Indeed, I know, all that one says,
If one does speak of them at all,
Reaches their ears through the wall,
No matter how secure your Court;
Sooner or later, I’ll be caught.
I’m speaking not of decent men,
Who heed not what they hear of them;
But those who think they are the one
I mean, arouse one’s suspicion
That they would wish their life to be
One of Fraud, and Hypocrisy,
That did conceive and nourish me.’
‘And twas a fine conception too,’
Said Amor, ‘and profitable,
Since the pair conceived a devil.
Nevertheless, how e’er that be,
Now, without fail, you shall,’ said he,
‘In the hearing of every person,
Give the name of every mansion
You dwell in, and show all your ways;
You may not hide your life always.
You must reveal now how you serve,
And by what means, if you’d deserve
The place that you sought among us.
And if, for the truth you tell us,
You are beaten, which you are not
Accustomed to, such be your lot;
You will not be the first who was.’
‘Sire, if it please you, and because
I seek to serve you willingly,
Though I die for it accordingly,
I shall, and will so do this day.’
False-Seeming, without more delay,
Began his speech, before them all:
‘Generals, now hear what I let fall.
Those who would False-Seeming know
Must to the world, and cloister go,
None but these two hide my address,
Though one the more, the other less.
Briefly, I lodge where I am bidden,
And where I think myself best hidden;
The hiding place that’s most secure
Is under the vesture seeming poor.
The worldly are the more overt,
The religious the more covert.
(Of course, I would not wish to blame
Religion, nor its ways defame,
In whatever dress one finds it.
Nor the religious, not a bit,
Humble and faithful; tis their lot,
Yet, nonetheless, I love it not.)
I mean the falsely religious,
Both criminal and malicious,
Those who wish to wear the habit,
Yet in their hearts will not submit.
True believers show compassion,
Never spiteful in their passion,
Following not the paths of pride,
Living humbly, side by side.
With such folk I do not dwell,
Or, if I do, must feign as well.
Though I can adopt their habit,
I’d rather be hanged than do it,
And thus forgo my intention,
Whatever face I must put on.
I dwell with those puffed up with pride,
The cunning, full of guile inside,
Those who covet worldly honour,
Those who great affairs favour,
Who go about to seek donations,
And cultivate good relations
With the powerful they follow,
Pretend to poverty, yet wallow
In the haunts of food and wine;
Eat and drink all that’s divine,
Preach poverty to you the while,
As they fish for wealth in style,
With a seine or trammel net.
By my life, they’ll catch it yet!
They’re not religious or worldly,
Their argument, most unworthy,
Yields a shameful conclusion;
This man is cloaked in religion,
Therefore he must be religious,
Yet the argument is specious,
As robust as a hollow trunk;
For the habit makes not the monk.
Yet none do that error counter,
No matter how full their tonsure,
Though they shave it in tranches,
Like Fraud, into thirteen branches,
As Logic’s sharp razor sanctions;
None make such fine distinctions,
For none do seek to lay all bare,
Which is why you’ll find me there
Most often, for where’er I go,
Whate’er I say, or do, or know,
No more than Sir Tybalt the cat,
Chases aught but a mouse or rat,
Do I pursue aught but Fraud;
Nor doth my appearance afford
A clue as to with whom I dwell,
Nor from my words can you e’er tell,
No matter how truthful they seem,
Or innocent and kind their theme.
If you have eyes to see, then you
Must every action keep in view,
For those who do not as they say,
They practise to deceive alway,
Whatever costume they may wear,
Whatever title they may bear,
Lord or lady, clerk or layman,
Sergeant, servant, man or woman.’
Chapter LXI: False-Seeming speaks of true and false religion
‘False-Seeming speaks of religion’
AS False-Seeming sought to explain,
Amor addressed him once again,
Scorning what he sought to express
As if twere falsehood and foolishness:
‘What, devil? Are you devoid of shame?
Who are these people you proclaim?
Can one then not find religion
Housed in a secular mansion?’
‘Yes, Sire, it follows not always
That those who pursue the world’s ways
Lead wicked lives, and unseemly,
Or must lose their souls completely,
For a great sorrow that would be.
It is the case that frequently
Religion doth indeed flower true
In robes decked with many a hue.
For many a holy saint has died,
Devout, religious, free of pride,
Who wore but everyday attire,
And yet to naught less did aspire;
And I could name a good many.
For almost all those we call holy,
All those women to whom we pray,
Chaste virgins, or wed many a day
And the mothers of lovely children,
Dressed in clothes that were common
Amongst all folk, and in them died,
And yet were saints and canonized.
The eleven thousand virgins,
Who before God, freed of their sins,
Held their candles, were in like state,
Those girls whose feast we celebrate,
When they received their martyrdom,
But are no less of the holy kingdom.
A good heart good thought doth make,
A robe doth neither give nor take;
Good thought it is that fashions one
Who in themselves reveal religion.
Go place the fleece of Dame Belin,
Upon the wolf, Sir Ysengrin,
Instead of his sable mantle,
So a sheep he doth resemble,
And set him with the ewes today,
Would he not pick and choose his prey?
Why, he’d drink no less of their blood,
But deceive them more than he could,
For, though seeming more familiar,
He’d be no less fierce, but crueller.
Since they’d never recognise him,
If he fled, they’d flee behind him.
Be there a few such wolves abroad
Amongst your new apostles, Lord,
Then, Holy Church, you’re in trouble
Should these fine knights of the table
Mount an attack upon your City;
Weak then proves your authority.
If those who swore to defend it
Are the enemies who attack it,
Who can hold it gainst such a foe?
Twill be taken without a blow
From catapults with siege-towers twinned,
Their banners blowing in the wind.
If you’d not save it, if you care
To let them wander everywhere,
Then let them; as their commander,
Your role is simply to surrender,
And render tribute to them too,
Make peace with them, for if you do
Twill be no worse than that they
Prove masters of all they survey.
By day they run to mend the wall,
By night they mine, so it will fall;
They know indeed how to flout you.
Think then of setting out anew
The grafts that you would see bear fruit,
Don’t linger till the weeds take root.
But peace, enough! Now let me turn
From this subject; though I’ll return
To it, perchance, let it be gone,
Lest I o’er tire you, and pass on.’
Chapter LXI: False-Seeming speaks of his own guile
‘Now, I’d make a compact with you;
I will advance your friends for you,
So long as they seek my company;
And they are fools if they scorn me,
For they must be my friends indeed,
By God, that is if they’d succeed.
That I’m a traitor’s a true belief;
God judges me to be a thief;
I’m perjured; what I seek to do
Few men can know before I do.
For many in failing to perceive
My deceit, did their death receive,
And do receive, and shall receive,
Who never can my fraud believe.
He who does so, if he is wise,
Guards himself from my disguise;
Yet so subtle is my deception,
It takes a man of great perception.
For Proteus, the master of this,
Who changed his form as he did wish,
Was ne’er so skilled at fraud and guile,
As I am; for tis a good long while
Since I came to town yet was known,
However much my face was shown.’
Chapter LXII: False-Seeming on religious deceit
How the treacherous False-Seeming
Hides men’s hearts, by his scheming,
In robes grey or black in colour,
Behind faces pale and meagre.
‘FOR I know how myself to cover;
Dressed in one garb, then another,
Now a knight, and now a friar,
Now a canon, now a prior,
Now a clerk, and now a palmer,
Now the pupil, now the master,
Castellan, forester I’ve played.
In short, I am of every trade.
Now I’m a prince, and now a page,
I can speak each man’s language.
At one time I am old and grey,
Then a young man I do play,
Robert or Robin, I’m your man,
Franciscan, or Dominican;
Or, to follow my companion
Who comforts me as we go on,
(She the strict Lady Abstinence)
Other forms my looks enhance.
To whate’er she wishes, I aspire,
Whate’er fulfils her least desire.
At times I’m dressed as a woman,
As you, demoiselle or madam;
Next I’m in religious dress,
Now devotee, now prioress;
Now as a nun or abbess dressed,
Now a novice, or now professed.
And I traverse every region,
Searching out all religion.
But of religion, let’s be plain,
I take the husk, and shun the grain;
To deceive, I dwell within it,
Seeking no more than the habit.
What’s there to say? In this wise,
As I please, I my heart disguise.
Though my tune doth suit the words,
My deeds are other than my words.’
At this point False-Seeming sought
To fall silent, but Love by naught
Seemed offended, and then did he
Speak thus, to please the company:
‘Tell me now, more especially,
How you serve thus, deceitfully;
Don’t be ashamed to speak of it,
For, as you tell us, by your habit
You’d seem to be a holy hermit.’
‘Tis true, though I’m a hypocrite.’
‘But you go preaching abstinence,’
‘Tis true, and yet I fill my paunch
With sweet morsels and fine wine,
Such as suit all those in my line.’
‘But you go preaching poverty.’
‘True, yet I am more than wealthy.
And although poverty I feign,
No poor man will I entertain.
A hundred times, the King of France
Would I wish as my acquaintance,
Than a poor man, by Our Lady,
However fine his soul may be!
When I hear some naked beggar
On a dunghill, who doth shiver,
Racked by hunger, cry his cares,
I meddle not with his affairs;
If the hospital he should see,
No comfort will he get from me,
For not a single gift will he
Give to me to feed my belly.
He licks his knife, has not a sou;
What can a wretch like that grant you?
He’s a fool who hopes to be fed
Looking for meat in a dog’s bed;
But tis fine my visit to fulfil
To some rich usurer who’s ill.
I’ll go and comfort him each day,
And hope to bear some cash away;
And if vile death should stifle him,
Then to his grave I’ll carry him.
And if any seek to shame me,
Because I shun the poor, and blame me,
Do you know how I seek escape?
I tell them, spreading out my cape,
That the rich man’s tarnished more
By his sinfulness, than the poor,
And has the greater need of counsel;
Thus I needs go when he’s unwell.’
Chapter LXII: False-Seeming speaks against beggary
‘AND yet, the soul’s harmed equally
By an excess of poverty,
As much as by excessive wealth,
They both impair the soul’s health,
When at either extremity,
Prosperity or beggary.
Sufficiency lies twixt the two,
The mean, ever full of virtue.
For Solomon has written all
About it in his book, its title
Proverbs, speaks of it with care,
In the thirtieth chapter, there:
“O Lord, through your power keep me,
From riches and from beggary.’
For the rich man who doth address
His wealth, thinks on it to excess,
Gives his heart to foolishness,
And his Creator he neglects.
How can I save a man from sin,
If a state of beggary he’s in?
He cannot help but be a sinner,
Thief, perjurer, or God’s a liar,
Who to Solomon did allow
The words I told you of but now.
I swear to you, that I ne’er saw
It written there in any law
(At least tis not in our Gospels)
That Jesus Christ or his Apostles,
When they went about the earth
Sought their bread ever, or knew dearth,
They’d no desire for beggary.
The masters of divinity
Were wont to preach thus frequently,
In Paris, all throughout the city.
The Apostles could make demands,
Without begging with open hands,
For they were pastors, in God’s name,
And the cure of souls did claim.
And on the death of their Master,
Each then with his hands did labour,
And from naught else gained sustenance,
And in such efforts showed patience;
And if they had aught left over
Gave it to those who were poorer.
They built no palaces or halls,
And ever dwelt in humble stalls.
A fit man, I recall, should give,
If he has not the means to live,
Himself to labour, and be ready
To exercise his hands and body;
No matter how religious he be,
Or anxious to serve God is he.
And such is what he ought to do,
Except in such cases as I’ll tell you
About, for I recall them well,
When of them I have time to tell.
And he should sell all that he has,
And give himself to labour, as
Holy Scripture tells us, no less,
Even if he’s of perfect goodness.
The idler who haunts other’s tables,
Is a thief, and serves them fables.
No man’s excused for the reason,
That he’s obliged to pray in season,
For he should forgo God’s service,
While carrying out his every wish
As well in doing what he must.
For he must eat, and that is just,
And sleep, and do the other things,
While prayers do rest their wings.
From prayer all men must withdraw
To do their work, as I said before,
For Scripture doth with that agree,
That holds the truth for all to see.
And so declares Justinian,
Saying no able-bodied man,
Should seek to beg, but instead
Should labour for his daily bread,
In any manner that he can.
Twere better to maltreat the man,
Or to punish him openly,
Than sustain him in beggary.
And those who do such alms receive
Commit a wrong, so I believe,
Unless they own the privilege
Of doing so, as some allege,
And are excused the penalty;
But tis not right; they have received
It from some prince they’ve deceived.
I do not think tis justified
That they should have it who but lied.
Not that I would seek to limit
The power of any prince to grant it,
Nor do my words say aught, you know,
As to whether he should or no;
I must not meddle in the matter.
And then, according to the letter,
He who eats the offerings due
To weary men without a sou,
Naked, feeble, crippled, aged,
Who cannot labour to be fed,
Such a one who eats what’s meant
For the poor, to their detriment,
His damnation’s but delayed,
If He errs not who Adam made.
Yet know that where God commands
The rich to sell all in their hands,
Give to the poor, and follow Him,
He did not intend that, on a whim,
They should serve Him by beggary.
That was never his solemn plea.
He meant they should work with their hands,
And by good works keep his commands.
Saint Paul demanded the Apostles
Work to put meat on their tables,
To win what was necessary;
And he forbade them beggary.
For he said: ‘With your hands labour,
Acquire nothing through another.’
He wished them to demand naught
From those they preached to, or taught,
And ne’er to sell the Gospel word.
He feared that all gifts so conferred
Might then seem extortion, merely;
For in this world there are many
Who, to tell the truth, will choose
To give, since they dare not refuse
From shame or, riled by beggary,
Simply give alms so they can flee.
Know you how they profit by it?
They lose the gift and the merit.
When the virtuous folk who heeded
Saint Paul’s sermons, gently pleaded,
With him to take what they offered,
For God’s sake, he ne’er proffered
A hand, but worked with it to gain
All that which did his life sustain.’
‘Tell me,’ said Love, ‘how a man
Strong in body follows God’s plan,
Who must sell all he had before
And give the money to the poor,
Yet wishes only ever to pray,
And labour not even for a day?
Can it be done?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Then how?’
If he decides to make a vow,
And thereby enters an abbey,
Endowed with its own property,
Such as the white monks do offer,
The black, the canons regular,
Knights of the Hospital or Temple;
Each I give, as an example;
So Augustine suggests, and he
May live there free of beggary.
Nonetheless many monks labour,
Then run to serve the Lord later.
And since there was once great discord
Which I, at the time, did record,
About the state of beggary,
I’ll discuss the question briefly,
How a man who has naught to eat
May live, a beggar on the street;
And, case by case, I’ll state it plain,
So none need hear the thing again.
No matter if the wicked murmur,
Truth leaves no neglected corner,
And brave the reward I shall yield,
By daring to plough such a field.’
Chapter LXIII: False-Seeming deals with special cases of beggary
False-Seeming deals, in verity,
With every case of beggary.
‘HERE are all the special cases:
If a man so low and base is
That he knows naught of any trade,
Yet seeks one where he might be paid,
Then he can take up beggary,
Until he’s learnt enough to be
Master of something, and can gain
A living, free of beggary’s pain.
Or if he cannot toil and labour
When illness doth him disfavour,
Or through weakness, or old age,
He may act on beggary’s stage.
Or if, by chance, he’s been raised
In such a manner he’s amazed
By aught but living delicately,
Good men, in his community,
Should take pity on him now,
And through fellowship allow
Him to beg and gain his bread,
Rather than hunger till he’s dead.
Or if he indeed he has the power,
The wit and the wish to labour
And is prepared to labour hard,
But cannot find, or near or far,
Any who would have him do
Aught that he is accustomed to,
Then that man might certainly
Gain a living by beggary.
Or if he earns wages by work,
And that labour doth not shirk
But cannot earn enough to live,
Then he may ask who will give,
And go about from day to day,
Seeking thus to bolster his pay.
Or if, since the faith he’d defend,
He’s taken knighthood as his friend
And deeds of arms, or learning sought,
Or for some noble cause has fought,
And is weighed down by poverty,
Then, as I claim, that man may be
A beggar till he can seek labour,
And his needs in that way cover.
Then let him labour with bodily
Hands not spiritual ones, you see,
And put his own hands to good use,
With no hidden meaning as excuse.
In all these and similar cases
Or any you find in other places
As rational as those listed here,
He who so wishes may appear
As a beggar, not otherwise,
If he of Saint-Amour tells no lies,
William, that is, who this did teach,
And disputed, and so did preach
In Paris, amongst the divines.
And ne’er aid me bread and wine
If all the University
Did not then with his truth agree,
And the common folk in general,
Who heard William preach to all;
And none shall here find excuse
If their assent they would refuse.
He who’d murmur, his be the pain,
He who’s angry, let him complain,
For I’ll not keep quiet about it,
If I were to lose my life for it;
Or like Saint Paul, without reason,
Be shut away in some dark prison;
Or be banished from the kingdom
Wrongly again, like that William
Of Saint-Amour, Hypocrisy
Drove into exile, out of envy;
For there, she, my mother, chased him,
And then she plotted against him
Because he did Truth discover.
Then he erred against my mother,
In writing a new book leastways,
In which he did expose her ways,
Would have me quit mendicancy,
And go and toil, laboriously,
If I lacked all means of support.
I was but a drunkard he thought,
Since labouring pleased me not,
While how to labour I’d forgot.
There’s too much pain in labour;
I like an audience, and prayer,
Where false holiness may hide
The subtle fox concealed inside.’
Chapter LXIII: False-Seeming on religious hypocrisy
‘WHAT the devil! What’s this you say?
What words are these that you relay?’
‘What now?’ ‘Tis blatant faithlessness,
Fear you not God? Tis sin no less.’
‘Why no, the man who God doth fear
Gains little in this age, tis clear,
For the good, who evil eschew
And lawfully their lives pursue,
And fare according to God’s law,
They win their bread, yet little more.
Such people drink of misery,
And no life so displeases me.
But look now, what heaps of money,
Fill the usurer’s granary,
The loan-shark’s, the counterfeiter’s,
Bailiff’s, provost’s, beadle’s, mayor’s.
All live by plundering other men,
The common people bow to them
While, like wolves, they plunder more;
For all men trample on the poor,
And none view them as aught but prey,
And with their spoils all speed away;
Their substance is consumed by rich men,
Who, without first scalding, pluck them.
The strongest doth rob the weakest,
While I, in my simple robe dressed,
I dupe the duped and the duper,
I rob the robbed and the robber.
Great heaps and piles, by my trespass,
Of precious treasure, I amass
That naught can afterwards destroy.
If on a palace I should employ
All my wealth, and take my pleasure,
In company, all at my leisure,
At table, filled with every fare,
(Since for no other life I care)
Still my heaps of gold would grow.
Before my treasury’s emptied so,
Coins will find me, in abundance,
All of my tricks my wealth enhance.
All my aim is acquisition,
My worth far greater than my income.
Though they ought to beat or slay me,
I would claim each man, each lady.’
‘You seem a holy man.’ ‘Yes, master,
A priest ordained, a sacred brother,
Of this whole world I’m the curé,
Tomorrow, now, and yesterday,
Going about to shrive each soul;
For none without me can be whole;
Preaching and counselling I go,
Yet not dirtying my hands so.
I have permission from the Pope,
And he thinks me no fool, I hope,
For I seek ever to confess,
Emperors, in purple dressed,
King, duke, baron and count;
But not the poor, for such amount
To naught, I hate such confession,
If tis for no other reason
Than that I dislike poor people,
Their state is neither fair nor noble.
But empresses, and duchesses,
And great queens and countesses,
Fine ladies who haunt palaces,
And rich beguines and abbesses,
Wives of bailiffs, wives of knights,
Proud bourgeois ladies, fair sights,
And the nun, and the demoiselle,
Provided they are rich as well,
Whether barely or well dressed,
They too all go away confessed.
And for the salvation of souls,
I enquire throughout households,
Of how they do spend their days,
And of their lord’s and lady’s ways.
I fill their minds with this belief:
That their parish priest’s a thief
Compared to me and my company,
Though many a cur follows me,
To whom folks’ secrets I reveal,
And not a thing do I conceal.
And they reveal all that they see,
So naught in this world’s hid from me.’
Chapter LXIII: How to recognise the hypocrites
‘SO you may recognise these evil
Folk who go deceiving people,
I will utter a few words here,
Of Saint Matthew’s which appear
In that twenty-third chapter of his,
For so speaks the great evangelist:
“Now upon the chair of Moses
(The gloss upon the words supposes
The Old Testament as meant by these)
Sit the Scribes and Pharisees
(Those accursed, who fraud commit,
And earn the title hypocrite.)
Do as they say, not as they do,
For they will preach glibly to you,
To mouth the good they’re never slow,
They have no wish to act it though.
They’ll attach to the unaware
A heavy load they cannot bear,
Setting it upon their shoulder,
Yet themselves lift not a finger.”’
‘Why not?’ asked Love, ‘They wish it not,’
Said False-Seeming, ‘a porter’s lot
Is oft to bear his load and suffer,
These folk wish it upon another.’
If good works they perchance pursue,
Tis so that folk those works can view.
For larger phylacteries they send,
Their shawl-fringes they extend,
And seek among the seats at table
The highest and most honourable,
And the best ones in the synagogue,
As ever doth the arrogant dog;
They would be greeted in the street
By everyone they chance to meet,
And called “master”, formally,
Which, indeed, they ought not to be,
For the Gospel speaks against it,
And that arrogance hid within it.
We have another custom too,
In dealing with those we eschew,
Since we wish to show our hate,
And, in full force, attack their state.
He whom one hates, the others do
Also, and seek to ruin him too.
If we see that he might acquire
Honour or land he doth desire,
Revenues, or some possession,
Then we give all our attention
To finding how he seeks to climb
The better to spread our quicklime,
And hold him fast, by defamation,
If that will further his damnation.
We’ll cut the rungs from his ladder,
And strip him of his friends, the latter
All vanishing without a word,
And naught of it will he have heard,
For had we sought it openly,
Perchance we’d be blamed, then we
Might be thwarted of our scheme,
For if he knew of what we dreamed
He might defend himself against it,
And we be reprimanded for it.
If one of us good works has done,
Tis claimed by each and every one;
Indeed, by God, if he did feign
To do it only, or but deigned
To boast he had advanced some man,
We’ll all stand parties to the plan,
And say, for you’ll hear it stated,
That such and such we elevated.
And then, in order to win praise,
We persuade rich men to raise
Letters, by lies, that bear witness,
In their text, to our great goodness,
So all the world will then believe
That virtue in us folk perceive.
And ever we feign to be poor,
Yet though we but complain the more,
We are those who have everything
Without owning to a single thing.
I broker trades, draft agreements,
Draw up marriage arrangements,
Prove wills, act as an attorney,
Or as a messenger I’ll journey,
Or conduct investigations,
Into dishonest situations.
To sound another man’s business,
Doth grant me pleasure to excess;
And if you have business to do
With any I frequent, then you
But needs tell me, and it is done,
The minute you ask, tis begun.
And if you treat me well in this,
You’ll have deserved my service.
But any man who’d chastise me,
He will lose my favour swiftly,
I neither love nor value the man
Who reproves me, you understand.
I’m happy to reprove another,
But his reproof I will not suffer;
For I who others have chastised,
Seek not myself to be chastised.’
Chapter LXIII: The servants of the Antichrist
‘A hermitage, I love it not;
I’ve quit the woods, the desert hot,
And to Saint John the Baptist leave
Such barren lodging, there I’d grieve,
With naught in my vicinity.
A town, a castle, or a city,
There halls and palaces I gain,
Where a man may have free rein;
Out of the world I claim to be,
But there I plunge and bathe all free.
And take my ease and swim around,
Better than any fish I’ve found.
I’m a servant of the Antichrist,
One of his thieves, thus enticed
To wear the habit, of whom tis writ
A life of pretence they lead in it;
Like lambs without, all free of sin,
Yet like ravening wolves within.
Everywhere, on both land and sea,
We war with the world, in enmity
Would have in fine detail decreed
The life that everyone should lead.
If there’s a castle or a city
Where a heretic’s sitting pretty,
Perchance one coming from Milan,
Since they’re known for it, to a man,
Or exacts too high a penalty
In renting, or in usury,
Far too eager to make a gain,
Or if he’s a lecher, again,
Or robber, or simoniac,
Or a provost, all dressed in black,
Or a prelate, full of joyfulness,
Or a fat priest, with a mistress,
Or a whore, with a hostelry,
Or a pimp, or keeps the brothel key,
Or sins at whate’er vice there is,
That merits a measure of justice,
Then by the saints to whom we pray
If he sends not lampreys our way,
A pike, a salmon, or some eels,
If they’re gettable, for our meals,
Or pies, or tarts, or a fine cheese
In a wicker basket, they will please,
Or cooking pears, the sweeter ones,
Or fat young geese, or plump capons,
With which we’ll tickle our palates,
Or perchance a brace of rabbits,
Or if he fails, through lack of wit,
To bring a kid to roast on the spit,
Or a few pork chops for us to peck,
He’ll find a rope around his neck,
And be led away to feel the fire,
To yell as loud as a town crier,
And be heard by all, far and near;
Or be imprisoned, and disappear,
Into some high tower’s dank cell,
Like all who fail to treat us well,
For all the sins that he’s committed,
More perchance than he’s admitted.
Yet if he has sufficient wealth
To construct a tower himself,
No matter if the stone’s prepared,
Or left unshaped, and unsquared,
Or it be made of wood or earth,
Or whate’er else may give it birth,
As long as he’s amassed inside
Such temporal goods as it will hide,
And mounted a catapult atop it,
To aim before it and behind it,
And fire as well toward each side,
A host of such missiles as I’d
Be prepared to list for you,
Then he might prove famous too;
And if he hurled from mangonels
Rare wines, in casks and barrels,
Or wine-sacks of a hundredweight,
Freedom might yet prove his fate.
But if he sends not nourishment,
Let him find some equivalent,
Abandoning lies and fallacies,
If he hopes our anger to appease;
Or we’ll bear witness, and strive,
To have the fellow burned alive
Or give to him such punishment
As weighs more than our nourishment.’
Chapter LXIII: The University of Paris versus the Mendicant Orders
‘YOU’D not know us by our dress,
We false preachers, nonetheless,
You can catch us in the deed,
If you watch closely, and take heed.
And but for the watch that was kept
By the University, for it ne’er slept,
That guards, for all, the sacred key,
The key of Christianity,
All were ruined by ill intention
In the year of the Incarnation
Twelve hundred and fifty five,
(I yield the truth to no man alive)
For a book was released, tis true,
A common example I give to you,
A book that came from the Devil,
The Eternal Gospel was its title,
As brought by the Holy Spirit,
The very phrase suggested it;
Such was the name it had earned,
Twas thought worthy of being burned.
In Paris, not one woman or man,
In the square before Notre-Dame,
Might not have had it to transcribe
If they pleased, nor all the tribe.
There they’d have found with ease
Such ill comparisons as these:
That by as much, in its nobleness,
Be it of heat or of brightness,
As doth the sun exceed the moon,
Which is paler at night’s noon,
Or by as much as nut doth shell,
(I mock you not, this I do tell,
I swear on my soul, without guile)
Doth this “Gospel”, such its style,
Exceed that which the Evangelists
Of Jesus Christ gave us; it insists,
That book, on such comparisons,
A mass of them; but I pass on.
The University that but seemed
Asleep (or perchance it dreamed),
At the noise of that book’s fame,
Rose then, and hardly slept again,
But armed itself for battle rather,
When it perceived a vile monster,
Ready to war against it, and send
The book to judgement at the end.
But those who had issued the thing,
Now withdrew it from the ring,
And then made haste to conceal it
Knowing not how to defend it,
By gloss or by exposition,
Against all those in opposition,
Who wished to denounce each word
Written there, and would be heard.
I know not, regarding this thing,
What result the book may bring,
But he must wait, its begetter,
Until they can defend it better.
Thus the Antichrist we yet attend,
For to him our heads we’ll bend;
Those who do not wish to join us,
They shall all be slain before us.
Against them we’ll incite all folk,
By the fraud that doth us cloak,
Thus they’ll perish by the sword,
Or in some other way be gnawed,
If they refuse to do as bidden.
For in the book it is written
That recounts this, there we see:
“While Peter has authority,
Then John cannot show his power.”
Now that I’ve shown you this sour
Rind of meaning which doth hide
The sense, I’ll show the fruit inside.
“Peter” means the Pope, by intention,
The secular clergy by extension,
Who do keep to Jesus Christ’s law,
Guard and defend it, what is more,
Against all the false impeachers.
And by “John” is meant the preachers,
Who claim no law is tenable
But that of their Eternal Gospel,
That which the Holy Spirit sent
To guide both sinful and innocent.
By the “power” of John it means
The force of grace which it seems
Those vaunt who’d convert the sinner,
And have him turn to God after.
Many another devilry
Is commanded (for all to see,
In the aforementioned tome,
That is against the law of Rome,
And belongs to the Antichrist)
Of those who are by it enticed.
They may command the murder
Of all those who side with Peter,
But will never have the power
To slay, or punish or devour
Peter’s law, this I guarantee,
For enough will endure you see
To maintain that law forever,
So that at last there’ll be no other.
And the law John doth proclaim
Will thus be thwarted of its aim.
But I’ll speak no more of it here,
For the matter is too great I fear.
Yet if the book had been accepted,
My state would ne’er be neglected,
For I have friends among the great
Who forever set me in high estate.’
Chapter LXIII: False-Seeming speaks of Fraud to the God of Love
‘FOR Fraud, my lord, and my father,
Of all this world is emperor,
And my mother is its empress.
Despite the Holy Spirit’s success,
Our powerful lineage doth reign;
In every kingdom, I’d maintain,
And it is right that we do so,
For a face on all we do bestow;
And thus we do all men deceive,
Yet the deception none perceive.
Or if tis recognised by the few,
None dare tell the truth to you.
But he who doth fear my brother
More than God stirs God’s anger;
He who fears but a simulation
Is of the faith no great champion,
No more than he who might complain,
But does not, to avoid the pain.
Such a man wishes not to hear
The truth, nor have his God appear,
Him God will punish, without fail.
No matter how the ship doth sail;
For we have honour among men,
And we’re thought such goodly men,
That we’ve authority to punish
Without reproof, which we relish.
Who indeed should win honour
But we who are ever at prayer,
Before all men, quite openly,
Whate’er we practice covertly?
Is that any greater a folly
Than to encourage chivalry,
And love all the noble and pleasant
People, with clothes so elegant?
If they were such as they appear,
As fine that is as their fine gear,
Such that they did what do they say,
Were that not a great pity I say,
Rather than playing the hypocrite?
May those be cursed who welcome it!
Certainly, they’ll find no love here.
But Beguins with all their headgear,
Their faces ever pale and sweet,
Wide grey robes down to their feet,
All spotted with dirt from the street,
Knitted leggings, boots to compete
With the pouches of quail-hunters,
Princes should make them governors
Of themselves and all their land,
In peace or war, you understand.
A prince should ever cleave to those
Who e’er the path to honours chose,
And if they’re other than it seems,
And win life’s favour by such means,
Tis there I’d settle my estate,
To trick, and so deceive the great.
Now by that I seek not to say
One should despise a habit alway,
Unless beneath it pride doth lie;
For none should hate the poor, say I,
Because of the clothes that they wear.
Though God Himself doth not care
For those who leave the world behind
Yet whom in search of power we find,
And worldly glory, earth’s delights.
Who can think such Beguins right,
Such hypocrites, who surrender
Themselves to God then do other,
Saying they have abandoned all,
When they’d grow fat in riches’ hall?
They are like curs that instantly
Return to their vomit greedily.
And yet to you I dare not lie,
Although I certainly would try
To cheat you, were I not to feel
You’d know it, and the trick reveal.
I’d have assuredly tried to win
And not left off for fear of sin;
And that I’ll surely seek to do,
If you now treat me badly, too.’
At this the God of Love did smile,
And all the company laughed a while,
In amazement, and cried aloud:
‘Here’s a lad to make us proud!’
‘False-Seeming,’ said Love, ‘come, tell me,
Since I’ve brought you so near to me
That in my court you are a power,
The King of Rascals from this hour,
Will you now keep faith with me?’
‘Why yes, I swear it faithfully,
Your father, nor your ancestors,
E’er had an officer more sure.’
‘How come? Tis against your nature.’
‘Take a chance; you’ll ne’er be surer,
For if true pledges you require here,
Twill not make you any the wiser,
Even if I gave hostages,
Letters, testimonies, gages.
On you as witness now I call,
Confirm this truth: that none can haul
The wolf from his hide till he’s skinned,
Howe’er you beat him when he’s sinned.
Think you all tricks I shall forgo,
Because in humble robes I show?
Beneath them I have worked much ill.
By God, my heart will follow still
That life; if my gaze seems humble too,
Think you evil I’ll cease to do?
My dear friend strict Abstinence
Has need of all my providence,
For she’d have been in sorry plight,
If she’d not had me in her sight;
Let us both carry out this task.’
‘So be it, no pledge shall I ask.’
The thief knelt down upon the spot,
His treacherous face awhile forgot,
And pale without, yet black within,
Thanked Love, ere battle did begin.
Chapter LXIII: Amor launches the attack on Jealousy’s tower
NOW there was naught to do that day
But start the assault, without delay,
And this Amor commanded loudly.
They took up arms thus, instantly,
Such weapons as would best endure,
And when their armour was secure,
They sallied forth, full of ardour,
And soon came to the walled tower,
Which they intended not to quit
Until they’d either conquered it,
Or they’d been taken, or been slain.
Four divisions they now maintain,
For each of those four forces waits
To force one of the keep’s four gates.
Whose guards are not lazy or idle,
But strong and vigorous in battle.
Chapter LXIV: False-Seeming and Abstinence approach Ill-Talk
False-Seeming takes counsel here
As to their garb, how they appear;
Then Ill-Talk he and Abstinence
Approach, in seeming innocence.
‘False-Seeming and Abstinence’
NOW I’ll speak of the appearance
Of False-Seeming and Abstinence,
Who now against Ill-Talk did go.
They held a council, you must know,
On how they should act, and whether
They should just appear together,
Or if they should go in disguise.
By agreement, they did devise,
A plan of proceeding covertly,
As though they were pious, saintly
Folk upon some pilgrimage.
So Abstinence did there engage
To dress herself as a Beguine,
In a robe made of cameline,
And with a large kerchief, she said,
Of white cloth, would drape her head.
Nor did she forget her psalter,
She had too her paternoster
Beads all strung on a white lace cord,
Which she had not purchased abroad,
Twas a gift from a holy brother,
Whom she claimed to be her father,
And whom she visited quite often,
More than the other holy men,
And he would often visit her,
And many a fine sermon gave her.
And, by False-Seeming, he never
Failed frequently to confess her,
And they performed that confession
With such intense devotion,
Their two heads did never cease,
To meet beneath the one headpiece.
I’d say she was of goodly stature,
Though a little pale of feature,
Like that vile mare the rider whips,
That horse in the Apocalypse,
Marked, among wicked company,
Pale and stained with hypocrisy;
For that mount it bore no colour
Except a foul and deathly pallor,
And with that pale and sickly hue
This Abstinence was covered too.
Her appearance represented
One who of her state repented.
She held a staff, made of larceny,
Darkened it was with misery,
She’d had from Fraud, as a gift,
And a bag of cares she did lift.
Once ready, she then departed.
False-Seeming, from whom she parted,
As if to test his skill, moreover,
Was garbed as one Brother Cutler,
His face humble, full of pity,
And nary a trace of pride had he,
In appearance sweet and peaceful;
From his neck there hung a Bible.
Without a squire, he went his way,
Though he, to bear his weight that day,
As if his limbs were impotent,
Upon a crutch of treason leant.
In his sleeve he did conceal
A razor of sharpened steel,
That he’d had forged, and with the name
Of Cut-Throat he’d endowed that same.
So they progressed, the hale and lame,
Until to Ill-Talk they both came,
Who was seated there beside his gate;
The passers-by he viewed, in state,
And hence two pilgrims he did see,
Who bore themselves with humility.
Chapter LXV: False-Seeming and Abstinence greet Ill-Talk
How False-Seeming and Abstinence
In Love’s cause do now advance
To salute Ill-Talk the treacherous
Who often doth speak ill of us.
‘False-Seeming and Abstinence greet Ill-Talk’
AND they saluted him most humbly,
Abstinence first, with a low curtsy;
She approached Ill-Talk quite near,
Then False-Seeming did appear
And bowed, and Ill-Talk greeted them
But doubting not, nor fearing them,
Stirred not, for gazing neath his brow
He thought he knew them well enow,
Abstinence seemed to him familiar,
But knew not she brought falseness there;
He knew not that she was constrained
To a life of thievery, and but feigned
To come, as he thought, in good faith,
For she came in a state of unfaith;
And if in good faith she had begun,
Good faith she’d lacked from that time on.
He had seen False-Seeming too,
Yet the falseness was nary on view;
He was false, but of falsity
Had ne’er been convicted, you see,
For he worked so hard at seeming,
That of falseness none were dreaming
Who viewed him, yet if you’d seen him,
Before in these clothes you saw him,
You’d swear by the Celestial King
That he you’d seen, in the dancing,
You knew as fair Robin, that man
Who’s now become a Dominican.
But doubtless, here’s the sum of it,
The Dominicans are men of wit,
And their order would be badly run,
If they were wretches like this one;
And the Carmelites, and Franciscans,
No matter how vast the expansion
Of their stomachs, nor the plunder
They take from every other brother.
But none draw a true consequence,
From the realm of mere appearance,
By any argument they e’er make,
Since mask for essence they mistake.
You’ll always find some sophism,
That doth the argument envenom,
If you possess the subtlety
To comprehend duplicity.
Now when the pilgrims had wended
Their way to Ill-Talk as intended,
Stick and crutch they dropped like that,
And down beside Ill-Talk they sat.
Who said to them: ‘Come, as you’re here,
Tell me the news now, and make clear
Your reason for it, your business,
Whate’er brings you to this fortress.’
‘Sire,’ said strict Abstinence,
‘We come here in penitence,
With pure hearts, clear and sound,
As pilgrims we are onward bound;
We almost always go on foot,
Our heels are dusty, black as soot,
We are both sent, to and fro,
Among the errant folk, we go,
As an example, and to preach,
So the sinner we might reach;
We seek to catch no other fish.
We come, as is our wont and wish,
To seek shelter, in God’s name;
And to amend your life we claim,
Should it not displease, a moment,
To preach a sermon’s our intent;
A brief one, but a word or two.’
And thus Ill-Talk replied: ‘Then you
‘May have such shelter as you see,
It ne’er shall be denied by me,
And say whatever pleases you,
Whate’er that is, I’ll listen too.’
‘Thank you, Sire,’ says Abstinence,
And their sermon doth commence.
Chapter LXVI: Abstinence reproaches Ill-Talk
How Abstinence doth reproach
Ill-Talk for slanders he doth broach.
‘SIRE, of the virtues, the greatest,
The most sovereign, the highest,
A mortal man may call upon,
By knowledge, or by possession,
It is the holding of his tongue.
Whether they be old or young
All should do so, for tis better
To be silent than to utter,
Ill words; who listens willingly,
Fears not God, and is unworthy.
You Sire, in this, are a greater
Sinner than is any other.
For a long while you’ve defamed,
And you are greatly to be blamed,
A young man who lingered here,
Claiming that he did but appear
To deceive Fair-Welcome, yet you
Said, in that, a thing most untrue,
Or you did lie, it would appear;
Now he comes and goes not here,
And perchance you’ll see him not.
Fair-Welcome in prison doth rot,
Who with you did erstwhile enjoy
The fairest games one could employ,
Most of the days of every week,
Nor aught wicked did he e’er seek.
Now he dare not find solace here,
For you’ve forced him to disappear,
Who sought this place for its charm.
What inspired you to do him harm,
If not your evil mind, say I,
That gives birth to many a lie?
Twas your foolish loquaciousness,
That chatters, cries, brays no less,
And brings shame on innocent men,
And saddens and dishonours them,
With tales that lack all evidence,
Through appearance or contrivance.
I challenge you to speak openly
The falsehoods you say covertly;
For tis a sin thus to contrive
Lies about any man alive;
And yours is the greater sin too
Since you know all I say is true.
Nonetheless, the youth cares not,
Gives not a fig now for your thought,
Whate’er it may be, and ne’er will.
And know that he intended no ill,
For he’d have come and gone away,
No reason had he to delay.
He’ll not, unless it catch his eye,
Perchance, when he is passing by;
He does so less than others do.
Yet you, with couched lance, view
This gate, and guard it every day,
Idly the idler lives alway.
Day and night a watch you keep,
But do naught, tis as if you sleep.
Jealousy, who demands something
From you, values you at nothing.
A shame it is that Fair-Welcome,
Is pointlessly held in prison,
Lies there, and none a ransom seeks,
Languishes there, the wretch, and weeps.
If you’d done no more wrong on earth
Than that to this deed you gave birth,
You ought, without more ado, to be
Thrust from out this place, swiftly,
Granted a cell, or iron chains.
You’ll go to Hell, for your pains,
If of your deeds you’ll not repent.’
‘You lie,’ he cried, ‘with ill intent
You come, and unwelcome it is.
Have I entertained you for this,
That you should shame and revile me?
Tis your misfortune, if you take me
For some wretched keeper of sheep;
Go find somewhere else to sleep,
You who do call me a liar,
You’re a trickster, as was your sire.
You two are come here to blame me,
And, as I speak the truth, shame me.
Is that not what you’re here to do?
The Devil take me, and do You,
God above me, here confound me,
If not ten days ere Jealousy
Built her castle I was not told,
(For I repeat what did unfold)
That the youth had kissed the Rose;
Naught more I know, or suppose.
Why be led to think it, say you,
If, in fact, the thing was not true?
By God, I say it, and repeat it,
And I believe the truth is in it,
And I shall trumpet it about,
To all the good folk hereabout,
How the young man the Rose did seek.’
Then False-Seeming began to speak:
Chapter LXVII: False-Seeming beguiles Ill-Talk
How Ill-Talk listened closely to
False-Seeming who did him subdue.
‘ALL that is said about the town
Is not Gospel truth I have found,
Now, as you are not deaf, then I
Can prove this thing is but a lie.
You will agree that, certainly,
No man can love, wholeheartedly,
(Indeed, for all the former knows,
Little of him the latter knows)
A man who doth of him speak ill.
For I have read, and true tis still,
All lovers do those places visit
Their beloved doth inhabit.
This young man doth honour your name,
And you as his friend he doth claim,
And everywhere that he doth meet you,
He doth ever come to greet you
With a joyful and friendly face;
Nor doth he press you but, with grace,
The youth seeks not to weary you,
And comes here less than others do.
Know if his heart was troubled by
The Rose, he’d have been forced to try,
And often then you’d have sought him,
And, in truth, you’d have caught him,
The youth could not have kept away
Not if they’d roasted him that day,
And he’d not be in the state he is.
So you see he thinks not of this;
Nor does Fair-Welcome, surely,
Though he is paying for it sorely.
By God, if they wished it those two,
They’d cull the Rose in spite of you.
Though you have slandered the youth,
Who loves you, as you know in truth,
Accept that, if he did intend
Such a thing, he’d not call you friend,
And never would have called you so,
Nor loved you as he doth, you know.
He would have dreamed up some plan
To take the castle would that young man.
For surely he would see, and know,
For someone would have told him so,
That he could take that path no more,
To the Roses, that he’d had before?
Himself he would surely have seen it
Or from some other have known it?
But now he acts quite otherwise,
Thus by showing yourself unwise
Since in this way fair folk you serve,
Death and damnation you deserve.’
False-Seeming proved the case thereby,
Ill-Talk knew not how to reply,
And deceived by his appearance,
And ready to seek repentance,
Said: ‘By God, it may well be so,
In this you are my master, though
Dame Abstinence is also wise;
You are of one mind, I surmise.
What would you counsel me to do?’
‘Be confessed, without more ado,
And repent of this sin, on the spot,
For you’ve repeated what was not.
I am of an Order, and am a priest,
And I am by no means the least
Of confessors, rather their master;
While this world lasts, they’ve no other;
I have the whole world in my care,
No other priest, no curé has there
Such rights, and by the Lady on high
A hundred times more pity have I
On your soul, than your parish priest,
No matter how singular that beast.
Moreover I’ve a great advantage,
There’s not a single priest as sage,
And learned as am I, you see.
I’ve a licence in divinity,
Tis true by God, long I’ve had it.
The finest people you may meet
Have had me as their confessor,
Since I’m so wise a professor.
If you’ll confess here and now,
Then, that sin forgotten I vow
Which I’ll no longer mention,
You shall have my absolution.’
Chapter LXVIII: False-Seeming slays Ill-Talk and cuts out his tongue
How not with a sword but a razor
False-Seeming did the tongue sever
Of Ill-Talk who fell down dead,
And ne’er a slander in his head.
‘False-Seeming slays Ill-Talk’
SO Ill-Talk bowed his head, humbly,
And, kneeling then, confessed, for he
Sore repented; there, by the moat,
False-Seeming, seized him by the throat,
Squeezed with his hands, and strangled
Ill-Talk, then his tongue he mangled,
And cut it from him with his razor.
They were done with him forever;
And swiftly, without more ado,
Into the moat his corpse they threw.
They broke down the unguarded gate,
Once it was down, passed through it straight,
And found his Normans posted there,
All deep in sleep, with nary a care,
For they had all so drunk their fill
Of more bad wine than I could swill,
The wine they themselves had poured,
That on their backs they lay and snored.
They were strangled where they slept,
Their slanders silenced, drunk, unwept.
Chapter LXIX: False-Seeming and his company placate the Crone
How False-Seeming who doth placate
Many a lover, now passed the gate
Of the castle, with his mistress,
And Courtesy too, and Largesse.
THEN through the open gate did press
Courtesy also, and Largesse,
And thus all four met together,
Furtively, and there took cover.
The old Crone was not on guard
Who Fair-Welcome’s exit barred.
All four of them at her did glower,
She’d but descended from the tower,
A coif beneath a wimple, instead
Of a veil, covering her head,
A morsel of leisure thus to taste;
The four ran up to her in haste,
And all four then assailed her.
Since she’d no wish to suffer
When she saw all four assemble:
‘I’faith, she cried, ‘you resemble
Fine folk, all brave and courteous,
Now tell me, without any fuss,
Am I to count myself the prize
You seek for in your enterprise?’
‘The prize! Why, sweet gentle mother,
We come not seeking your capture,
But solely to visit here and greet you,
And then, if it should please you,
To place our bodies, completely
At your command, and what’s worthy
That we might happen to possess,
And never fail you, or distress
You, and if you please, sweet mother,
Sweet, for you have ne’er been bitter,
We now request you, should you please,
For no ill there is in these, our pleas,
That Fair-Welcome should no more
Languish within, but issue forth,
To come and play with us awhile
Nor dirty his feet, the sweet child;
Or if he cannot be released,
Speak a word to his friend at least,
And let them comfort one another
And prove a solace to each other,
For that will scarce cost you aught.
And then his friend may be thought
Your liegeman, your slave almost,
Or you his mistress and his host,
His life to do with as you wish,
To sell, or torment, or extinguish.
And then tis good to gain a friend,
And twill be worth it in the end,
For look here at all these jewels,
All these buttons, clasp and buckles,
Will be yours, and a fine garment
He shall grant you, as a present.
His heart is generous, noble too,
He’ll not prove a burden to you;
For you are greatly loved by him;
He’ll not blame you for anything,
For he is wise and most discreet.
Protect him now, thus we entreat,
So none are prompted to complain;
Restore the youth to life again.
Now take this chaplet of fresh flowers
To Fair-Welcome, this gift of ours,
With a warm greeting, tis our plea,
On his friend’s behalf, for he’ll see
These flowers and be comforted;
Better than gold were this instead.’
‘God help me for, if I could though,
And Jealousy ne’er got to know,
And I was not to incur the blame,’
Said the Crone, ‘I’d do that same.
But Ill-Talk the scandal-monger
Who’s given to endless slander,
Jealousy made her sentinel,
And he keeps watch on us as well:
Without hindrance he shouts, he cries
Whate’er he knows, or doth surmise,
And he’ll contrive slanderous tales
If e’er his fount of mischief fails.
Yet he’d not be hindered, though
Were he to hang for doing so.
And if the wretch told Jealousy,
Then shame indeed would fall on me.’
‘As to that,’ they said ‘have no fear,
There’s naught Ill-Talk can see or hear,
His throat cut, and without a bier,
Ill-Talk lies dead in the moat here.
Unless tis through some enchanter,
He’ll ne’er to the gods utter slander,
Ne’er will his accusations pain,
For he’ll ne’er be revived again,
Unless with potions those devils
Down below can work miracles.
He shall cause no trouble for you.’
‘Then I can deny naught to you,’
Said the Crone, ‘but tell the youth
That he must hasten now, in truth;
I shall seek fair passage for him.
He’s not to speak openly, tell him,
Nor must the lad delay too long,
And then he must hurry along,
When I choose to let him know,
Nor let himself or his gear show,
So that our people see him not;
Nor must do aught he should not,
Even though he’d have his way.’
‘Lady, twill all be as you say,’
They cried, and each of them thanked her.
Thus they hatched a plan together.
But howe’er it seemed to other eyes,
False-Seeming, he thought otherwise,
And to himself he whispered low:
‘He for whom we are gathered so,
Trusts me somewhat, and since he
Has never ceased loving certainly,
Then if he’s not in accord with you,
Old Crone, you’ll scarcely, in my view,
Get far along that path ere he
Doth make his entrance secretly,
If he finds but the time and place;
Tis not always you’ll see the face
Of the wolf ere he steals the sheep
From the field, howe’er well you keep
A watch; in church you might delay,
Where you spent hours yesterday.
Jealousy, who did trick him there,
She might easily be elsewhere,
Far off, where’er she needs to be,
And he might come there secretly,
Perchance by night, before the court,
Alone, without a light, in short,
Or perchance with Friend to guide him,
If our Lover did invite him,
Unless that is the moon was bright,
For the moon, with her clear light
Has oft to lovers proved a bane;
And Friend could come and go again;
Then since the castle he doth know,
He could enter it by a window,
Secure a rope and thus ascend,
And then could equally descend.
Or Fair-Welcome, he might do so,
While the Lover waits there below,
For he might well flee his prison,
Where you hold him without reason,
And come to speak with the Lover
If there’s no access for the latter.
Or if he knows that you’re asleep,
And has the chance, then he might creep
Abroad, and leave the gate ajar,
So our true Lover, from afar
Might secretly approach the Rose,
On which his thought he so bestows
And gather it, with ease as well,
If he the other guards can quell.’
Chapter LXIX: The Crone speaks with Fair-Welcome
‘The Crone speaks with Fair-Welcome’
NOW I, who was not far away,
Thought I would do as he did say.
If the Crone would so conduct me
I should have scant difficulty,
And if not, then I would enter,
By whichever route seemed better,
Just as False-Seeming had taught;
I agreed with his every thought.
Now the Old Crone without delay
To Fair-Welcome did make her way,
Who kept the tower against his will,
And in his prison suffered still;
To the doorway there she tottered,
Of the tower, and thus she entered.
Once inside she climbed the stair
As swift as she could, on a pair
Of limbs that trembled as she went.
She sought Fair-Welcome, who leant
In dejection, gainst the battlement,
Most pensive, in his discontent.
Thus, sad and mournful, she found him,
And tried to bring comfort to him.
‘Fair lad, it fills me with dismay
That you such sadness now display.
Tell me your thoughts for, if I know
How to comfort you, I will do so,
Nor shall I fail to do so ever.’
Fair-Welcome knew not whether
She spoke truth to him or a lie,
So thus he made her no reply,
Denied her knowledge of his thought,
Not trusting any news she brought.
He confided nothing to her
For his heart had scant faith in her,
Fearful and trembling as it was,
But dared not show it as it was,
So great had ever been his fear
Of the wretch when she did appear;
Made sure he was from error free,
For he ever feared her treachery.
And so he displayed no unease,
But set himself now at his ease,
And thus assumed a pleasant face.
‘Certainly, lady, though this place
You might think doth sadden me,
I was not saddened, as you can see,
Except in that you’d gone away;
The lack of you doth harm my stay,
So great a love I have for you.
What is it that so delayed you?’
‘What? By my life, you shall know,
Twill bring you joy, for I swear so.’
The End of Part VI of the Romance of the Rose Continuation