Jean de Meung
The Romance of the Rose (Le Roman de la Rose)
Part X: Chapters XCVIII-XCIX - Nature’s Confession
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 XCVIII: Nature tells the story of Deucalion and Pyrrha.
- Chapter XCVIII: Nature on personal responsibility.
- Chapter XCVIII: Nature on the animal kingdom.
- Chapter XCVIII: Nature on the celestial influences: the tempest.
- Chapter XCVIII: Nature on the celestial influences: the rainbow.
- Chapter XCVIII: Nature on the celestial influences: sensory deception.
- Chapter XCVIII: Nature on the celestial influences: fantasy and dream.
- Chapter XCVIII: Nature on the celestial influences: comets.
- Chapter XCVIII: Nature on the celestial influences: the worth of kings.
- Chapter XCIX: Nature on nobility and learning.
- Chapter XCIX: Nature continues to speak of the celestial influences.
- Chapter XCIX: Nature complains of Humankind.
- Chapter XCIX: Nature speaks of the Trinity.
- Chapter XCIX: Nature regrets Mankind.
- Chapter XCIX: Nature speaks of Man and the Fall.
Chapter XCVIII: Nature tells the story of Deucalion and Pyrrha
How, through divine Themis’ advice,
Deucalion, and Pyrrha his wife,
Did restore, in body and soul,
All their friends, and made them whole.
‘THEY threw themselves upon their knees,
There, to Themis, they made their pleas,
Seeking how they might work together
Their whole lineage to recover.
And when Themis heard their prayer,
Which was, honest, good, and fair,
She told them they must up and go,
And behind them they must throw
The bones, now, of their great mother.
This reply seemed harsh and bitter
To Pyrrha, who did straight refuse,
From such a fate sought to excuse
Herself, saying she would never
Defile the bones of her mother;
But then heard this explanation
Of the words, from Deucalion.
“Another meaning must be found.”
He said, “Our mother is the ground,
The solid earth, its rocks and stones,
And surely those must be her bones.
We must throw the rocks behind us,
For we’ll restore our lineage thus.”
So they both did as he had said,
Men sprang up from the rocks that sped
From the hands of Deucalion,
Hurled now with firm intention,
And from Pyrrha’s there sprang up, whole,
Women, live of body and soul.
Just as Lady Themis had said,
Who had set the thought in his head;
For these folk need seek no father;
The hardness of stone thereafter,
Would ever be present in that line.
Thus he’d worked wisely to design
A vessel that would float, and could
Save both their lives, amidst the flood.
Likewise could anyone escape
Who foresaw such a watery fate.
Or if cruel Famine forth should sail,
One who would see the harvest fail,
And watch the people die each hour
For lack of grain and lack of flour,
They could store their grain away,
Ere cruel Famine marred their day,
Two years before, or three, or four,
So they might feel the pinch no more
Than in good years; folk great and small,
Whatever dearth might them befall.
So did Joseph there, in Egypt,
When through his good sense and merit,
He gathered such a store of wheat
That all the people there could eat,
Defeating misery and hunger.
Or if such folk learnt earlier
That there might come, that winter,
A depth of cold beyond measure,
They could give their closest care
To warm clothing, and gather there
Great cartloads of logs piled higher
Than was their wont, to feed the fire.
And when the wintry season came,
They could strew, before the flame,
Around the house, across the floor,
Heaps of fair and clean white straw,
From the farm, shut tight the doors
And windows, warm now and secure.
Or build bathhouses, good and hot,
In which, with all their clothes forgot,
They could work, or sing and dance,
When they heard the storms advance,
And saw the stones the tempest yields
Like to destroy beasts in the fields,
That tempest that will freeze a river.
Their heated rooms would them deliver
From all such threat of storms or ice,
And they could scorn, with true advice,
All ills, and laugh, and dance within,
And, free of danger, safety win,
Scorning winter’s coldest weather,
By labouring, in advance, together.
Yet, if God works not His miracles,
Through visions, or through oracles,
There can be none, it seems to me,
Unless they know by astronomy
All the peculiar conditions,
All the varying positions
Of the heavenly bodies, and
Know what weather they do command,
Who might foresee, by any science
Such things, as if by prescience.
For though the body has such power
That it can flee the sudden shower,
And so thwart the heavens’ intent
By sheltering gainst the firmament,
Yet the soul’s more powerful still
Than body; through mere strength of will,
It moves the body, carrying,
What else would be but a dead thing.
Far better then, and more easily,
Through true knowledge, as we see,
Free-Will can readily conquer
Whatever might make it suffer,
And need not grieve for anything
If it consents not to that thing,
And learns by heart this clause:
Of its own unease tis the cause.
Mere external tribulation
Simply affords it occasion;
No man needs care for destiny.
Though his natal chart he doth see,
And learns his exact condition,
What value has such prediction?
Free-Will can conquer destiny,
However fated one might be.
Of destiny I would speak more,
And fortune and chance explore,
And expand on all this matter
Raising and answering other
Questions, each with an example,
But the time I’ve spent is ample,
And I would never reach the end.
Other writings I would commend;
Some clerk, perchance, is on hand,
One well-read, who may understand.’
Chapter XCVIII: Nature on personal responsibility
‘I would have said naught about it,
And ne’er would have spoken of it,
But it pertains to my whole matter,
For some opponent may chatter
About me, hearing me complain
Of his unfaith, to mask his disdain
For that Creator he seeks to blame,
Claiming that I would him defame,
Though wrongly. He will often say
He lacks free-will to forge his way,
In that God, through His prevision,
So holds the mind in subjection
That He by destiny hath decreed
Every human thought and deed;
If toward good a man would tend,
God forces him towards that end.
And if for evil he sets course,
Then God will drive him there, perforce;
With more than His finger doth thrust
Him on to do whate’er he must;
All his sinning, and alms-giving,
His scorn of folk or fair-speaking,
His fair praise, or foul detractions,
His thefts, his murderous actions,
Marriage, or forging a treaty,
Now reasonably, now foolishly.
“For,” says he, “tis forced to be,
God made this girl for him to marry,
Nor could he now wed another
For any reason; he must have her.
For she was destined his to be.”
And if the thing turns out badly,
If he’s a fool perchance, or she is,
And in discussion of this foolish
Match, someone condemns whoe’er
Consented to the whole affair,
He’ll respond to them by saying:
“Let God be the judge of the thing,
For He willed it should turn out so.
He brought it all about, you know.”
Then with an oath he’ll swear likewise
Naught could have happened otherwise.
No, no! He gives a false reply;
The true God, He who cannot lie,
Serves not mankind such a sauce
That they consent to evil’s course.
From that is born the mad intent
That leads to just such ill consent,
And moves men to enact those deeds
Of which no man should sow the seeds;
And no such seeds would any sow,
If only they themselves did know,
And upon their Creator did call,
Who, if they but love Him, loves all;
For those folk alone love wisely
Who do know themselves entirely.’
Chapter XCVIII: Nature on the animal kingdom
‘Nature on the animal kingdom’
‘SURELY, among those dumb creatures
No such true self-knowledge features,
Who know themselves not, by Nature;
For if of language they’d a measure,
And Reason, to know one another
So that they could teach each other,
Mankind would reap the consequence.
The fine war-horses, filled with sense,
Would never let themselves be ridden,
And bear armoured knights when bidden;
The ox would never choose to bow
Beneath the yoke of cart or plough;
Asses, mules, camels for mankind
Would never bear a load behind;
Nor would the elephant that blows
A loud trumpet with his long nose,
And feeds himself with his nose too
As humans with their hand will do,
Would ne’er a castle bear aloft
Upon his backbone, long and oft;
All cats and dogs would flout mankind
Since they could live without mankind;
Bears, wolves, lions, leopards, boars
Would crunch humans in their jaws;
Even a rat would kill a small one,
If in its cradle it should find one;
No hawk would come to the call,
Nor put itself at risk, at all,
But rather take men by surprise,
And, as they slept, pluck out their eyes;
And if any say, in answer,
That easily men would conquer,
Since they are good at making armour,
Helmets, coats of mail, swords, arrows;
So could the creatures do also.
Have they not monkeys, marmosets
Who could make them coats, and sets
Of armour from leather and iron too,
Doublets in fact, as good and true?
For they would never lack for hands,
And theirs would be as good as Man’s:
And then they could write as well,
They would have the wit to spell
Out all the ways, for one another,
All the ways that they might conquer,
All of those methods by which they
Could trouble Man, and make him pay.
And earwigs and fleas, their peers,
If they but crept into folk’s ears,
While all those folk were sleeping,
Would have them wondrously grieving.
And even lice and nits, and mites
Could often trouble them in fights,
Making them forsake their labour,
And itch and twitch, like their neighbour,
Bow, and bend, and flinch, and dip,
Turn, and jump, and leap, and skip,
Scratch themselves, and tear their hair,
Shed clothes and shoes, and then run bare.
And flies could, at their meals, pursue
These wretched folk, and bite them too,
Swarming, darting at their faces,
Whether the pageboy’s or His Grace’s.
Ants and lesser vermin would be
The cause of many an injury,
If of themselves they’d cognisance.
The truth is that their ignorance
Comes from their proper natures;
But if clearly rational creatures
Whether humans, or angel horde,
All of whom should praise the Lord,
Know themselves not, it suffices
That the fault lies with those vices
That trouble and do cloud the mind;
For such folk too could Reason find,
And use their free-will readily,
While no excuse can set them free.
And that is why I spoke at length
And did these arguments present,
To quell all gossip on the matter,
For none has a defence to offer.
But to pursue my whole intention,
And see my labour over and done,
Due to the heart-ache it produces,
That body and soul so abuses,
I’ll speak no more about it now.
To the heavens once more I bow,
Which do all that they need to do
To the host of creatures who
Receive the skies’ influences
As per their diverse substances.’
Chapter XCVIII: Nature on the celestial influences: the tempest
‘THEY make conflicting winds to blow,
The air to kindle, and roar below,
And lightning strike many a region,
And storms rumble, and the legion
Of clouds burst open, full of vapour,
To blaring drum-rolls of thunder.
Then blind heat and rapid motion
Tear the rushing storm-clouds open,
Amidst struggles and commotion,
Over all the earth and ocean.
The tempest with its lightning rages,
Raising dust-storms for the ages,
Felling church-steeples and towers,
And many an ancient tree devours,
Tearing it bodily from the ground;
None so deep-rooted or so sound,
That their roots sank deep enough
To save their fall, nor strong enough
To keep their boughs from shattering
And flying onwards in the wind.
Some claim it as the work of devils,
With their talons, midst their revels,
And the hooks and crooks they use;
Yet such claims aren’t worth two sous.
For they are wrong in all they say,
Naught with them has had its way
Except the storm-winds and the rain
That pursues them o’er the plain.
Those are the things that make them pine,
That fell the wheat, and spoil the vine,
And beat the fruit down from the trees,
Blowing so hard they strip, with ease,
The harvest from the boughs before
Their harvest won time to mature.
The heavens make the atmosphere,
At various times shed tear on tear,
And all the clouds, in sympathy,
Strip themselves naked, suddenly,
And do not give a bare fig for
The dark cloaks that they wore before,
Feeling such sorrow that they tear them
Into small pieces ere they’d wear them.
And then they help the air to cry,
And weep as if they all must die,
Their depths of sorrow so profound,
Their tears so dense upon the ground
That all the rivers break their banks,
And wash against the wooded flanks
Of hills, and sink the flooded fields
Beneath those waters heaven yields,
Such that the harvest then must fail,
While times are hard, along the vale,
So that the poor folk who labour
Weep for hopes now lost forever.
And when the rivers overflow
The fish that through their waters go,
As is reasonable and right,
Since there they dwell, both day and night,
Swim away, now lords and masters,
To graze the fields, amid the waters,
Skim the meadows, pluck the vines,
And bathe among the oaks and pines,
And take from the savage creatures
Their heritage, their halls and manors,
As they go swimming everywhere;
And thus enrage the deities there,
Bacchus, Ceres, Cybele, Pan,
Who then behold that fishy band,
Go swishing their fins, at leisure,
Through all their delightful pasture.
And the Satyrs, in their cohorts,
Are full of the saddest thoughts,
When their green and pleasant woods
Are lost to the swirling floods.
The Naiads bewail their fountains,
While the waters overwhelm them,
Drown their sources deep below,
As if they wept their losses so.
And the Nymphs and the Dryads
Have hearts as sad as the Naiads
So sick with grief they feel lost,
Seeing the trees tempest-tossed,
And of the River-Gods complain,
Who seek to bring them now fresh pain,
Unrecompensed, and undeserved,
While naught of theirs has been thus served.
And the fish now find a lodging
In the villages adjoining,
Vile and wretched now, where they
In every room and cellar play,
No place so valuable and fine,
Whether a temple or a shrine,
Where they are not everywhere
Denying gods the act of prayer,
Driving from dark sanctuaries
The statues with their deities.’
Chapter XCVIII: Nature on the celestial influences: the rainbow
‘AFTER the storm, when all is well,
Fair weather doth the foul dispel,
The tempest and its rain now cease,
That the heavens did so displease,
Soon the air’s wrath disappears,
And smilingly the sky appears.
Swiftly, as the clouds perceive
The joy the air doth now receive,
They all rejoice, as well, and so
That fair and pleasing they might show,
They deck themselves, free of dolour,
In many a varied colour,
And spread their fleeces out to dry
As now the fair sun lifts on high,
And in clear resplendent weather
They tease and card them together;
Next they spin, and when they’ve spun,
Then they set twirling in the sun,
Great spindlefuls of white thread,
As if to sew the sleeves they spread.
And when they can muster courage
To go once more on pilgrimage,
They harness white steeds, and mount them,
Passing over vale and mountain;
And like mad things they do flee,
For Aeolus, the winds’ deity,
(Thus the god is named, indeed)
Has so equipped each lively steed,
(And there’s no charioteer, they say,
Who doth those steeds so well array)
With such fine wings for their feet
No bird has such, or can compete.
A cloak of blue the sky now wears,
That which in India he bears,
Decks himself out, and thus displayed
In festive gear, sweetly arrayed,
Waits while the sun doth brightly burn,
Until the clouds seek their return,
Who, to solace the earth below,
As much as to hunt, as they go,
Carry a bow in their right hand,
Two or three more at their command,
And these are called celestial bows,
And no man but a master knows,
One who can teach optics that is,
How the sun selects and varies
The colours that their bows possess,
Nor why there are not more or less,
Nor why those colours, and that form;
And such will take care to inform
Himself, as a true disciple,
Of Nature’s friend, Aristotle,
Who knew more than any man,
Since Cain. And Ibn al-Haytham,
Was no mean intellect, one who
Wrote a book of Optics; that too
He must know about who’d know
All that’s written of the rainbow;
With it he should be familiar
Who’d be a student of Nature.
And he should know geometry,
Its mastery is necessary,
To work the proofs in that same book.
There a student may take a look
At the shape and strength of mirrors
Possessed of such wondrous powers
That the very smallest thing,
As tiny letters, in close writing,
Or the finest grains of sand,
Are seen so close and near at hand,
And so large, any can distinguish
Them, and read, count, as they wish,
From such a distance, that any man
Who wishes to speak of it and can,
And tells of the vision he received
Is scarcely likely to be believed,
By any who’d not seen such laws
In action, and knew not the cause,
For then he would give it credence
Since he’d have seen the evidence.
If Mars and Venus who faced capture
As in bed they lay together,
Had ere they mounted on that bed
Gazed in such a mirror instead,
As long as they held the mirror
So they could view the bed closer,
They would never have been bound
By that fine subtle net that round
The bed, Vulcan, her spouse, had set
With neither knowing of the net.
For even if he’d wrought it finer
Than that woven by a spider,
They would the net have thus perceived,
And Vulcan then had been deceived.
For every fine link there would seem
As thick and wide as a wooden beam,
And cruel Vulcan would no longer,
Though hot with jealousy and anger,
Have caught them there and visibly
Have proven their adultery;
Nor would the gods have learnt aught,
If they such mirrors they had brought,
For they would have fled the place
On seeing the net before their face,
And elsewhere than Vulcan’s fire
Had gone to hide all their desire.
Or had worked some expedient
To quench all their sorry intent,
Without knowing shame or grief.
Now say, by the faith and belief
You owe me, have I spoken truly?’
Genius replied: ‘Most surely,
They’d have proved, such mirrors,
In truth, most useful, to the lovers,
For they could have met elsewhere
If they’d known the danger there;
Or, perchance, Mars the god of war,
Gripping his well-tempered sword,
Would have taken, with his own hand,
Vengeance on that jealous Vulcan.
Then he could have been quite certain
Of making love to his lover then,
In that bed, without seeking other,
Such as the ground neath a cover.
And if it happened by some chance,
One hard and cruel, in that instance,
That Vulcan came upon the pair,
Even though Mars clasped her there,
Venus who’s a cunning lady,
(For in the sex there’s trickery)
When she heard the door opening,
All her nakedness now hiding,
Would have invented some excuse,
Through some cavil at his abuse,
And given Vulcan a good reason
Why Mars presence was no treason;
And sworn, by whoe’er you wished,
Twas scarcely proof of some tryst,
And forced him therefore to believe
That naught there did they conceive.
Even if he had viewed it all,
She would still have chosen to call
Him purblind: for how could he see?
Such double-speak comes easily,
And doth show its diverse uses,
In formulating good excuses;
For none will swear or tell a lie
More boldly than the sex, say I;
Mars would easily have gone free.’
‘You speak, indeed, sir priest,’ said she,
With wisdom and with courtesy,
For in their hearts they certainly
Are full of subtlety and malice,
(Who knows it not, proves but foolish)
However that is no excuse.
Most certainly they will use
A lie more boldly than a man,
Especially whene’er they can
Be accused of some misdeed,
Then they often feel the need
To escape the situation;
So I make this proclamation,
That all who view a woman’s heart
Should ne’er be proud of that art;
Nor can it be done safely, too,
For some mischance must then ensue.’
Thus Nature and Genius did agree
Or so, at least, it seemed to me;
Yet Solomon says, nonetheless,
Since I’d be truthful: ‘He is blessed
That doth a good woman find,
If she to him doth truly bind.’
Chapter XCVIII: Nature on the celestial influences: sensory deception
‘POWERS there are, many others,’
Said Nature, ‘possessed by mirrors.
Large objects that are placed nearby
Seem so far off beneath the sky,
That the largest mountains yet,
From France to Sardinia set,
Are rendered so small, so tiny,
Of such a meagre size entirely,
Once could hardly distinguish
If one tried, twixt that and this.
Other mirrors show, with verity,
The quantity and quality
Of things within, as one can see
If one regards them carefully.
And others still will burn a thing,
One upon which they are looking,
If one doth adjust them rightly,
To gather the sun’s rays tightly,
Such that the rays, all together,
Are reflected from the mirror.
Others make diverse images
Appear in diverse packages,
Columns, oblongs, and reversed,
All the varying forms rehearsed.
Those who are of mirrors master
Make one form beget another,
Showing four eyes in one head,
If one before that mirror’s led.
They can make phantoms appear
To those who look, and over here
Outside the mirror, or over there,
Alive, in the water, or the air,
One can see the phantoms quiver,
Between the eye and the mirror,
By simply varying the angle.
Whether compound or single,
By one method or by diverse,
The form, now seen as its inverse,
By such means doth multiply
Itself ere it doth reach the eye,
Appearing to the watching gaze,
In accord with the reflected rays,
That it has variously received.
So the observer is deceived.
Aristotle, too, bears witness,
Who knew about it, more or less;
(For all knowledge he held dear)
A certain man, it doth appear,
Was ill, and with some malady
So dire that he could barely see;
And the air was dark and turbid,
And he, for this twin reason, did
See there before him his own face
Move in the air from place to place.
In short, when free of obstacles,
Mirrors seem to work miracles.
Varying distance, moreover,
Without mirrors, plays the deceiver;
For, seemingly, the distance brings
Close together, separate things,
And can make one thing seem two
According to the point of view;
Make six of three, or eight of four,
If one wished to render more,
For more or less one can perceive,
If so placed that one doth receive
Their light; or many things seem one,
If they’re so ordered by someone.
Even a man who is so small
That a dwarf one might him call,
May appear to the watching eye
As tall as ten giants, neath the sky,
And over the woods seem to pass
Without one branch above the grass
Breaking, so that all shake with fear;
While giants as dwarfs may appear
To the eyes, which see quite wrongly,
When they see things so diversely.
And those folk who are so deceived
By the impression they’ve received,
Through mirrors or through distances,
Which have produced such instances,
Then they will boast to another,
And say, not truly but in error,
That some devil they’ve perceived,
And yet twas but the eyes deceived.
Weak eyes that illness doth trouble
Make a single thing seem double;
A double moon shows in the sky,
Two candles seem but one thereby.
None there are whose powers of sight
Are such they always see aright,
And many things are judged to be
Other than what we ought to see.
But I’ll not take the trouble now
To tell of mirrors-shapes, or how
The rays are reflected from them,
Nor all the angles of those rays,
Will I describe, for one may look
And find them written in a book;
Nor why the image of a thing
Is reflected to those watching,
When they become observers,
And turn to gaze at the mirrors;
Nor the image’s location;
Nor the reasons for deception;
Nor, dear priest, of that thing,
Where its image has its being,
In the mirror, or without it.
I would speak no more about it,
Nor of other wondrous visions
Pleasant, or the source of frissons,
One may see happening suddenly;
Whether they occur externally
Or are no more than fantasy;
You must hear it not from me.
I must not utter one word more,
But, of all that I said before,
Say naught and pass swiftly by,
Nor picture it to the mind’s eye.
For I have a wealth of matter,
Twould be tiresome to chatter,
And much of it is hard to teach,
Even if one knew how to preach
To laymen, particularly,
Who’d learn but superficially,
And who’ll ne’er believe a thing
To be true, without them viewing
(Regarding mirrors, especially,
All of which work so diversely)
Instrument, and experiment;
If those folk gave their consent,
Who know all, by demonstration,
Of this science in operation.
Hard too it is to teach of visions
Strange and wondrous apparitions,
No matter who sought to explain,
Even so twould bring them pain;
And speak too of the deceptions,
That are brought by such visions,
Whether while waking or sleeping,
That many folk find confusing.
Thus I’d seek to forgo all this,
Not to weary ourselves I’d wish,
I with speaking, you with hearing;
Prolixity is well worth fleeing.
We women toy with difficulty,
And in speech are most contrary,
So, I pray, be you not displeased
If I have not yet wholly ceased
To speak of these things forever,
But I’d just say this, however,
Many are so addled in their heads,
That they are driven from their beds
By visions; they dress, twould appear,
Gather together all their gear,
While common sense is fast asleep,
But other senses vigil keep:
With staffs and stakes, at their backs
Pruning hooks, sickles, and sacks,
All day the road they will follow
While never caring where they go.
They’ll even mount upon a horse,
O’er hill and dale then take their course,
Dry road or muddy trail they’ll face
Till they reach some alien place.
But then, when common sense doth wake,
They marvel, and their heads they shake.
When their right senses they attain,
And are midst their neighbours again,
They all swear that, tis no fable,
They were swept up by the Devil,
And carried there from their bed,
And yet twas they went there, instead.’
Chapter XCVIII: Nature on the celestial influences: fantasy and dream
‘AND then, it will often happen,
When someone is truly stricken
By some oppressive malady,
That can stir them to a frenzy,
And when they’re insufficiently
Guarded, or are alone, maybe,
They leap up, taking to the road,
And never stop until that road
Leads them to some savage place,
Or grove, or meadow, where they pace
Awhile, and then fall to the ground.
And afterwards, if they are found
By some passer-by, whenever,
He will see they’re dead of fever,
Or from cold; because they had,
No nurses but the fools or mad.
Then one sees, though they are fit,
Many people who through habit
Are given to disordered thoughts,
Those who think not as they aught,
Seized by deep melancholy,
Which brings them much misery,
Or by some immeasurable fear,
That makes strange images appear
Within their minds, though other
Than those I talked of earlier,
When speaking about the mirror,
Which things I did briefly cover;
All of these, to them, it seems
Appear quite real, as in dreams.
There are those whose deep devotion
Leads to too much contemplation,
Such that in their minds appear
The images which they hold dear.
Except they think them wholly
Real, for they see them clearly
Outside themselves; tis but a lie,
As in a dream one may espy,
While thinking it a true instance,
Something of spiritual substance,
As Scipio did, formerly.
Hell and Paradise one may see,
Heaven and earth, the sea and sky,
And all that one may seek thereby.
And one may see the stars up there,
And birds all flying through the air
And fishes swimming in the sea,
And wild things in the woods maybe,
Playing, and leaping all about,
And diverse people, in and out,
This one alone, in their chamber,
Or in the woods, a mighty hunter,
On the hills, and by the river,
Meadow, vineyard, or wherever;
And dream then of pleas and judgements
Of battles, and of tournaments,
And dance at balls and sing carols,
And hark to fiddles and to viols;
And e’en smell odorous spices,
And taste some dish that entices,
And lie there in one’s lover’s arms,
Though yet distant from their charms;
Or perchance find Jealousy
To find the parties there together,
Just as Ill-Talk had informed her,
He who invents what may occur,
And deals lovers harm, moreover.
One who claims to be a lover,
And therefore burns for the other,
From which comes toil and sweat,
When at night they sleep, or yet
Are still awake and in deep thought,
(For I know what love has brought)
They dream of some beloved thing
That they hope the day will bring,
Or dream about some enemy,
Some rival, proving contrary.
Or if they’re filled with mortal hate
They’ll dream then, in that wrathful state,
Of struggles with the enemy,
Who has so roused their enmity,
And all that follows, as in war,
By contrast with what went before,
Or directly; if in prison,
They are held, for any reason,
They dream then of deliverance,
If their hopes are good, perchance;
Or dream of the gibbet and rope,
If their hearts hold little hope;
And folk will dream of aught, beside,
That is within, and not outside;
Things unpleasant they think real
Since their reality they feel;
There, joy and sorrow all may find,
And bear it all within the mind,
Which the five senses so deceive
With the phantoms it may receive.
Thus many folk, in their folly,
Think they indulge in sorcery,
By night, with the faery lady,
And say, in all the world, every
Third child is born with such
A disposition, and at its touch
Three times a week they will go
Following their destiny so.
They enter houses in that state,
Fearing neither bars, nor gate
They slip through cracks and crevices,
Or cat-flaps, and so need no keys.
And their souls leave their bodies
And travel with the witch ladies,
Through palaces and through mansions;
And prove it all by such reasons
As that various things they’ve seen
Did not come to them in dream,
Rather tis their souls that labour
And about the world thus hover;
And they tempt people to believe
That while they journey thus, at eve,
If they’re turned about their centre,
Their bodies they cannot re-enter.
That is a most dreadful folly,
A mortal state that cannot be,
For the body’s but a dead thing
Once the soul’s not there within.
If it were true, then those who seek
To pursue three times every week,
Such a journey while yet alive,
Thrice would die, and thrice revive,
In that very same week, indeed;
And if twere so, then, by that deed,
They’d be resurrected full often,
All the members of that coven.
The matter’s truly settled, though,
For, without gloss, this thing is so:
None that must meet death, say I,
Has more than one death they can die.
Nor will they be resurrected
Till the Judgement Day expected,
Unless God, by celestial
Decree, allows a miracle,
Such as we read of Lazarus;
For all contention’s settled thus.
And when, to cap the lie, they say
That, after the soul flits away
From the body thus denuded,
If the body is inverted
The soul cannot return to it,
Who, on earth, shall believe it?
For I recall, as true clearly,
The soul severed from the body
Is freer, wiser, cleverer,
Than when they are bound together,
And of the latter’s complexion,
Which then clouds its best intention;
The soul knows better, when apart,
How to make entry than depart;
And would swiftly find the gate
In the body’s inverted state.
Again, if a third in every country
Dallied thus with the faery lady,
As foolish old crones will claim
Because of the visions they name,
Then it must be true, I would claim,
That the whole world doth the same;
There’s none honest or a liar,
Who dreams not such visions entire
All the week, by day or night,
And fourteen times in a fortnight,
Or more, or less, as chance may be,
Given their powers of fantasy.
I’ll speak no more of dreams, will I,
Whether they’re truth, or but a lie;
Or if some should be recognised,
Or if they are to be despised;
Or why some are more terrible
Than others both fair and peaceful,
By telling of the apparitions
Seen by varying dispositions,
And by diverse minds and hearts
Of diverse ages and moral parts;
Or if God employs such visions
To achieve His revelations,
Or malign spirits, to render
Those who see them in danger.
I’ll not speak, nor shall you learn,
For to my subject I return.’
Chapter XCVIII: Nature on the celestial influences: comets
‘THUS, I may tell you, when the clouds
Are tired of shooting those great crowds
Of arrows from their airy bows,
(More moist than dry one would suppose
Since they have sprinkled them with dew
And rain, till they are quite wet through,
Unless Heat dries them out again,
To draw fair weather forth, not rain)
Then they unstring their bows together,
Being sated with their pleasure.
Yet the bows they use each archer
Employs in the strangest manner,
For their colours vanish from them,
When they unstring and sheathe them,
Nor will the clouds e’er draw the same
Bows they have shown to us again.
Since, to repeat their archery,
They must string new bows, you see,
Which the sun can paint once more,
And they must shape them as before.
The heavens have further influence,
For they have power in abundance
Over the land, and sea, and air;
They cause comets to glisten there,
Which are not fixed beyond the sky,
But kindled in the air nearby,
And last but little time alight;
Thence many fables men indite;
The death of princes they divine
Who seek forever for a sign.
And yet those comets will no more
Mark out a king than one who’s poor,
Nor influence in their working
The same poor man less than a king.
Rather they work, as we do know,
And as their influences show
In the world, on each region,
According to the disposition
Of climate, animals and men,
As moved by the powers again
Of the planets and constellations,
Most influential in their stations.
They carry the significance
Of some celestial influence,
Altering conditions, I say,
According as such will obey.’
Chapter XCVIII: Nature on the celestial influences: the worth of kings
‘A King and his court’
‘AND yet I do not claim a king
Should be called rich in anything,
Any more than the least one meets
Going bare-foot through the streets;
For wealth creates sufficiency,
And covetousness poverty.
Be a king not worth a stitch;
Tis he who covets less is rich.
If one reads the ancient writers
Kings are like to artists’ pictures;
This example he doth attest,
Ptolemy, in his Almagest:
If, examining carefully,
One doth view the paintings closely,
Then at a distance they may please,
But close to will such pleasures cease;
From afar they seem delightful,
But close to far less pleasurable.
Powerful friends appear the same,
When unproven, sweet is the name
Of their aid and their acquaintance,
Untested by experience;
But one who tries them thoroughly
Will find such bitterness, that he
Will fear to lean in that direction,
Their favour proving mere election.
Thus, of their love and grace, Horace
Warns us, and of this assures us:
Princes, he says, are not worthy
That thus some heavenly body,
Should mark their princely death rather
Than take note of someone poorer,
For their corpse is worth no more
Than a ploughman’s is, a squire’s, or
A clerk’s; they are of equal worth,
I find, when I view them at birth.
Through me they’re born, naked all,
Strong or weak, and great or small,
I nurture all humanity
In a state of pure equality,
While Fortune, she does all the rest,
Who’s but a fickle jade at best,
And gives out gifts, at her pleasure,
Careless of who wins her favour,
Yet withdraws all she has given,
As she wishes, morn and even.’
Chapter XCIX: Nature on nobility and learning
How Nature doth, with certainty,
Devise the truth, most properly,
From which nobility doth come,
And grant prowess to anyone.
‘YOU who boast of nobility,
And likewise do contradict me,
By claiming that a gentleman
Or such as folk do understand,
Is, through nobility of birth,
A personage of greater worth,
Than those who cultivate the fields,
Or live by what their labour yields,
Why none are noble, I say to you,
Unless they are intent on virtue,
Nor none base except through vice
That unbridled fools doth entice.
A good heart breeds nobility,
For nobility through ancestry
Is worth naught, doth naught impart,
If it lacks true goodness of heart.
A nobleman must show perforce
The prowess of his ancestors,
Who won their own nobility
Through such efforts as men could see,
And on departing from this earth,
Took with them all they’d won from birth,
Leaving their heirs mere possession
Of their wealth upon succession.
That wealth is all they can receive;
Nobility, they can achieve
If they but act to win that too,
By their own sense and true virtue.
A clerk may sooner, I surmise,
Become noble, courteous, wise,
Than kings and princes may (and I
Will tell you now the reason why)
Because a clerk is full of learning,
And can read what’s set in writing,
All that’s proven and reasonable,
And known, and thus demonstrable,
Regarding evils one should shun,
And all the good that can be done.
He sees all things that can be read,
Writ just as they’re done and said;
And reading past lives he can see
Every base villain’s villainy,
The noble deeds of every one,
And of all courtesies the sum;
He views in his books, readily,
What one should follow or should flee.
Disciple or teacher, certainly,
Are noble, or at least should be;
(And those who are not need to know
Tis their wicked heart fails them so)
For they become so with more ease
Than stag-hunters neath the trees.
Clerks whose hearts are not noble
Are worth less than other people,
Since they shun the good they know
While the vice they see they follow,
And they should be punished more
Before the Celestial Emperor,
For their abandonment to vice,
Than lay folk, who do lack advice,
Simple, knowing not the learning
That we see such clerks spurning.
And though princes learn to read
They cannot undertake indeed
To study and to learn as much,
For they have laws to make, and such.
Therefore clerks possess, you know
As far as nobility doth go,
A finer advantage, greater
Than has any earthly ruler.
Thus to become of noble worth,
A thing most honourable on earth,
All those who’d wish to yet be so
This rule alone should hear and know:
Whoe’er would seek to be noble
Must shun pride and ne’er be idle,
Give themselves to arms or study,
And free themselves from villainy;
Their hearts must be humble, gentle,
Courteous ever, to all people,
Except towards their enemy
If neither party can agree.
They should honour every lady
But not confide in her too freely,
For misfortune may come swiftly,
If one’s thoughts are known completely.
Such will earn praise, and gain esteem,
Without blame or censure, I mean,
And for nobility win the name
As they deserve, others the blame.
A knight who in arms is hardy
Strong in deed, in speech courtly,
As, long ago, was Lord Gawain,
Who was no coward, I’d maintain,
And good Count Robert of Artois,
For whom honour was his lodestar;
For he was noble, chivalrous,
From childhood, and most generous,
And, ne’er idle when work began,
Ere age determined, proved a man.
Such a strong and valiant knight
Generous, courteous in a fight,
Should be welcomed by one and all,
Praised, loved, held dear, whate’er befall.
And all should honour the clerk’s part,
Which is to labour at his art,
And ever to the virtues look,
He finds written of in his book.
For they did so in ancient days;
I could name ten who sought such ways,
And truth to tell, all their number
Your ears would tire, and encumber.
For, once, those valiant noblemen,
As all the writings do name them,
Emperor, count, duke and king,
A greater number than I can sing,
Did honour the philosophers,
Gave them towns as their dowers,
Gardens, and delightful places,
Honouring them to their faces.
Naples thus was granted Virgil,
A citadel more delightful
Than Paris, or Lavardin’s chateau,
Where the River Loir runs below.
And, in Calabria, Ennius
Had lovely gardens, generous
Townsfolk did bestow. Name more?
Rather I’d make my case secure
With some of lowlier origin
Who more nobility did win
Than many a king’s son or count;
And though their names I’ll not recount,
They were held so by everyone.
Now however the time has come
When the good who work, endlessly,
To master true philosophy,
Who visit all the lands on Earth
To add to their knowledge and worth,
While suffering much from poverty,
As those in debt, or beggary,
Going naked and barefoot here,
Are neither loved nor held dear.
Princes value them not a sou,
Yet they are nobler, those who do,
(May God save me from such cares)
Than all those who go chasing hares,
Or those who are accustomed to,
In princely palaces, sit and stew.
And he who’d have the praise and fame
For nobility through another’s name,
Without their valour or prowess,
Is he noble? No, he’s worth less;
He should be known as base and low,
And loved far less, I’d have you know,
Than the son of some poor beggar.
Such folk as these I’ll not flatter,
Were they the sons of Alexander,
Who dared such deeds as commander,
And waged campaigns of such worth,
That he was lord of all the earth.
And when all who’d fought against him
Were subdued, and thus obeyed him,
And those others had surrendered,
Who’d left their lands undefended,
He cried out, in pride and sorrow,
That the whole world was so narrow
He could scarce turn round within it;
And, wishing not to waste a minute,
Thought that he would seek another
World, to wage his campaigns further;
Perchance to break the gates of Hell,
That they too might of his fame tell,
At which the infernal gods felt fear,
For if, they thought, he should appear,
As I had warned them, then it would
Be he, not with a cross of wood,
Who’d break the gates at Hell’s door,
For all those sinners gone before,
And crush those gates, in all their pride,
To free, from Hell, his friends inside.
Assume, though, that which cannot be,
That some were born to nobility,
While I cared naught for all the rest,
Called base, whom I thus dispossessed.
What point then in nobility?
Who puts their mind to it may see
In comprehending their true good,
That naught else can be understood
By those who’d prove noble and true,
Other than that they should pursue
The prowess of every ancestor,
And must that burden bear, what’s more,
If they’d assume nobility,
Unless they’d steal it, wilfully,
And win the praise without the worth.
For I would say to all on Earth,
Nobility doth to mortals bring
No other good but this one thing,
That is, this one burden alone;
And to them it should be known,
That no one should praise garner
Through the virtue of some other;
As tis right that none should blame
One person for another’s shame.
Let them be praised who so deserve;
But those that virtue will not serve,
In whom are found true wickedness,
Villainy, ill-humour, baseness,
Bluster, and arrant boastfulness,
Who show deceit and faithlessness,
Stuffed full of insolence and pride,
Charity and largesse denied,
Neglectful, prone to idleness,
As we all too often witness,
Though born of some ancestor,
In whom all virtue lived before,
Tis wrong if they receive today,
Praise due their ancestor. I say
That they should be thought baser,
Than those with no such ancestor.
All folk with wit know this is true:
Tis not the same thing to accrue
Great riches, and great possessions,
Appurtenances, costume, fashions,
As knowledge, and nobility,
And fame through one’s ability,
Regarding what one doth acquire.
For all those filled with the desire
To labour so they might accrue
Wealth and land and costume too,
May leave it freely to their friends,
Even though that wealth extends
To a hundred thousand or more,
In gold, but he who labours for
Knowledge, learning and would gain it
Wholly through personal merit,
His love cannot so work the thing
That he can leave them anything.
Leave them his knowledge? No; the same
With his nobility or fame,
Though his teaching they may sample,
If they follow his example;
Other than this he can do naught,
Nor can more from him be sought.
And many scorn learning, tis true,
And think it all not worth a sou,
Compared to the acquisition
Of riches, and their possession.
They call themselves nobility
Because they are held so to be,
As their ancestors were thought
To be in truth what these ought;
They own hounds and many a hawk,
And talk as other nobles talk,
And hunt along the river, and through
The woods, and fields, and hedges too,
And idle their time away in play.
Yet they’re but ill-born, base I say,
Who’d vaunt others’ nobility,
Scorn truth, full of mendacity;
Those who’d steal, and dissemble,
And ne’er their ancestors resemble.
For when I, Nature, cause the birth
Of true likenesses they seek worth
And nobility that’s other
Than any I at birth can offer,
And has a beauty all its own;
As Inner-Freedom it is known,
Shared equally by all mortals,
With reason, that is granted all
By God and is so fine and good
He and His angels all folk would
Resemble, were it not that Death
Parts the two, in a mortal breath;
Still, these seek fresh nobility
If they’ve inborn ability,
For if that thing they can’t discover,
They’ll ne’er do so through another.
Nor kings nor counts do I except,
For greater shame, in this respect,
Marks out a king’s son who’s a fool,
A clown run wild in Vice’s school,
Than if a cobbler were his father,
A swineherd, or yet a carter.
Indeed there were greater honour
In Gawain, that noble fighter,
Being by a coward engendered,
Sitting by the fire, all cindered,
Than if he were a coward at heart,
Though his father were Renouart.
Nonetheless it is no fable,
A prince’s death proves notable,
More so than doth a peasant’s death;
Given the speeches, all that breath
Granted a prince where they do lie,
And foolish people think, thereby,
On seeing comets, they are made
For princes, and are thus displayed.
But if neither princes nor kings
Existed in these realms, the things
Would still be born accordingly,
As the heavenly bodies decree,
All being equal (and what’s more
Though all were peaceful, or at war)
If to those aspects they had run,
Where such work was to be done,
So long as in the atmosphere
Sufficient matter did appear.’
Chapter XCIX: Nature continues to speak of the celestial influences
‘THEY also make the stars appear
Fiery dragons in the atmosphere,
Descending, as they quit the sky;
Foolish folk think these they spy.
But there is no way that reason
Can agree stars fall from heaven,
For naught, there, is corruptible;
All is firm, and strong, and stable,
And receives no imprint there
That can be issued through the air.
Naught could shatter them, like glass;
Nor aught within that they let pass,
No matter how acute or subtle,
Unless perchance twere spiritual;
For the influences pass through,
But yet break naught, nor damage do.
Their various aspects deliver
A hot summer, a cold winter,
Bringing the snowfall and the hail,
Now heavy, now light, without fail,
And many other impressions,
According to their positions,
Whether far, in opposition,
Or near, or in conjunction.
And many folks are thus dismayed
When an eclipse is there displayed,
Thinking it a great misfortune,
They can no longer see the moon,
Or sun, as they were seen before,
And, suddenly, see them no more.
Yet if the cause of such they knew,
No deep dismay would then ensue.
Next, through the winds’ hostility
They’ll raise the waters of the sea,
And make the waves to kiss the sky,
Yet then the sea will pacify,
Until it cannot raise a moan,
Nor raise the waters on its own
Except those that the moon’s decree
Sets moving, of necessity,
Making the tides to ebb and flow,
For naught can stop their doing so.
One who would enquire more deeply
Into the miracles the starry
Bodies and the planets achieve
On earth, would find I do believe
Many a lovely one that, to indite
All, would take forever to write.
Thus the heavens indeed acquit
Themselves towards me, who profit
By their goodness, and they achieve
Their intentions well, I perceive.’
Chapter XCIX: Nature complains of Humankind
‘NOR do I of the elements
Complain, that keep my commandments,
Forming their various solutions,
And turning, in their revolutions;
For whatever there is below
The moon’s corruptible, I know;
Nothing is so well nourished here
It cannot rot, and disappear.
All things obey, by disposition,
And through natural intention,
A law that cannot fail or lie;
For all at its command must die,
And this law is so general
The elements are in its thrall.
Nor of the plants do I complain,
They’re not slow to obey, again;
But are attentive to my law,
And, while they are alive, are sure
To form their branches, and their roots,
Their stems and leaves, flowers and fruits;
Each year each bears all that it may
Until it dies, and fades away,
Like the grass, the bushes, trees;
Nor of the birds or fish, that please
With beauty fair to look upon;
They know how my school is run,
And such fine scholars are they,
They all bear the yoke each day,
Produce young, as is customary,
And honour thus their ancestry.
Nor let their lines die needlessly,
The which is comforting to see.
Nor of the beasts do I complain
For they have never brought me pain,
No, they forever bow the head,
And gaze upon the earth instead.
They hold to my ways, as I bid,
And do as their ancestors did.
The male goes by with his mate,
A fine and fitting couple, their fate
Their young to swiftly engender,
When it seems good to be together;
Nor do they make a market there,
When they conclude the brief affair;
Rather one labours for the other,
Courteously, of their good-nature;
They consider themselves well paid
With all the gifts for them I’ve made.
So too my lovely insects do,
Ants, butterflies, and horseflies too,
And the worms born from manure,
Keep my commands, and are as pure;
And my adders and my vipers,
Are all studious in their labours.
And yet mankind alone, for whom
I make the gifts that all consume,
Mankind alone, I say, whom I
Have formed to gaze upon the sky,
Mankind alone, whom I have borne
In the Divine Master’s very form,
Mankind alone, whom I thus favour,
Is the end of all my labour;
Man has naught, unless from me,
As regards the corporal body,
In the trunk, nor in the members,
Worth more than dust and embers;
Nor as regards the soul, indeed,
Except for what I, here, concede:
He holds from me, his true lady,
Three powers of soul and body,
Since I the truth do here reveal,
I make him be, and live, and feel.
Mankind reaped many a benefit,
If nobility is sought, and wit;
In the godly virtues doth abound,
That in the world below are found;
And is companion to all things
That the world contains, and brings
As its bounty, that all may share;
With the stones has a being there,
With the grass has life, and then,
Feels with the creature in its den,
And not dumb as it, but knowing,
Owns, like the angels, understanding.
What more would you have me say?
Mankind owns all thought might portray,
Yet, a new world in miniature,
Acts far worse than any creature.
As regards Man’s understanding,
Tis true that, as to the giving,
It was not I that decreed it so.
For twas not my gift to bestow.
I am not so powerful or wise
That I could do aught, in that guise;
I make naught that is eternal,
Whate’er I make’s corruptible,
As Plato himself bears witness,
When speaking of my true business,
And of the gods who have no more
Defence ‘gainst death; tis their Creator,
Sustains the gods eternally,
His will alone doth so, says he;
And if His will did not so do,
The gods would all prove mortal too.
My deeds, he says, see dissolution,
So weak my powers of execution,
Compared with the mighty power
Of God, who at this very hour
Sees all triple temporality,
In the moment of eternity.
He is the king, the emperor
And tells the gods he is their father.
Those who read Plato so concede;
His words I’ll give for all to read,
At least, their meaning I’ll advance,
As writ in the language of France.
“You gods, of gods I am the maker,
Both your father and creator,
And you the creatures I have made,
My works, that I have here arrayed,
Through Nature made corruptible,
But, through my will, as yet eternal.
For there is naught made by Nature,
Howe’er careful her endeavour,
That doth not fail at some season.
But whatever God, through reason,
Being good and wise without peer,
Would conjoin and temper here,
He has never wished, nor would
Dissolve that, be it understood;
Such will ne’er come to corruption,
And thus I render this conclusion:
That since you gods began to be
Through your master’s will, when He
Created and engendered you,
Such that I keep, and shall keep you,
You are not of corruption free,
Nor quit of all mortality,
Utterly, for you too would die,
If you were not dear to my eye;
Yet though by nature you are such,
Tis my wish that death not touch
You, for my will is master, hence
Rules the bonds of your existence,
Thus commands its composition,
And makes eternal your position.”
Such is the meaning of the speech
That Plato would indite and teach,
When of God he dared speak further,
Prizing and praising Him as greater
Than any to whom he refers
Among the ancient philosophers.
He could not speak adequately
Lacking the power to completely
Comprehend, from end to end,
What naught else could comprehend,
Except indeed the Virgin’s womb.’
Chapter XCIX: Nature speaks of the Trinity
‘FOR tis true that the Virgin whom
God chose, whose womb swelled so,
Comprehended more than Plato.
For she knew ere she bore Him,
As she rejoiced in carrying Him,
That He is the wondrous sphere,
That must without an end appear,
Whose centre is placed everywhere,
Whose circumference lies nowhere;
And the marvel of all triangles,
Whose unity creates three angles,
Yet the three considered wholly,
Form but the one sole entity.
That circle, yet triangular,
That triangle, yet circular,
He entrusted to the Virgin.
Plato knew not that within
His mind; the triple unity
Of that simple Trinity,
Nor the sovereign Deity
In the form of humanity;
That God, as the Creator working,
Formed all human understanding,
And in that flexing of His power,
Gave it to humans as their dower,
Who in truth repaid Him badly,
Thinking to deceive Him, sadly,
And yet themselves they did deceive,
Such that my Lord did death receive,
Who, without me, took human flesh,
To save those wretches from distress.
Without me! Though I know not how,
Except that all to his word doth bow;
Rather was I amazed to see
How He, of the Virgin Mary,
Was born in the flesh, for the sinner,
And crucified in the flesh moreover.
For never through me could it be
That a true virgin bore any,
Yet His Incarnation was foretold
By many a prophet of old,
Both by the Jew, and the Pagan,
To solace every heart, and then
Encourage them to believe, anew,
That the prophecy would prove true.
For in the Eclogues of Virgil,
Is heard the voice of the Sibyl,
As taught by the Holy Spirit:
“With this, fresh lineage we admit,
Sent down from high heaven this day,
To aid the folk who’ve gone astray;
The age of iron thus shall perish,
And the age of gold shall flourish.”
E’en Abu Ma‘shar bears witness,
Howe’er he knew of the business,
That beneath the sign of Virgo,
A maiden would be born below,
Who would prove a virgin mother,
And would suckle then her father,
Her husband having lain with her
Yet refrained from touching her;
This prophecy all know who are
Conversant with Abu Ma‘shar,
Tis writ there in the book, at least;
And therefore all do hold a feast,
All Christian folk, in September,
Who her birth would thus remember.’
Chapter XCIX: Nature regrets Mankind
‘IN all of which I’ve spoken so,
Our Lord Jesus Christ doth know,
I have but laboured for Mankind,
For those wretches, as designed.
They are the summit of my work,
Yet my laws they scorn and shirk;
Those creatures, faithless and forsworn,
Who their lack of blessings mourn,
For nothing will satisfy them.
What more can I say about them?
All of those favours I gave them,
Cannot be withdrawn, tis certain.
Shame they bring me, at their pleasure,
Shame beyond all count and measure.
O fair sweet chaplain, my fair priest,
Is’t right that I should love the least
Of them, hold them in reverence
Who yet dwell in such ignorance?
So help me God the Crucified,
I repent of them,’ Nature sighed,
‘But by the death that He suffered,
To whom that kiss Judas offered,
Whom Longinus struck with his lance,
The tale of Man’s Fall I’ll advance,
His Fall before God, who gave him
To me, and in his image made him;
For Man fills me with discontent.
As Woman, I may not be silent,
Instead, I’ll speak of everything,
For Woman cannot hide a thing.
None now shall be more vilified;
Ill was it when he left my side;
Of all his vices I will tell,
And ever speak the truth as well.’
Chapter XCIX: Nature speaks of Man and the Fall
‘A thief, he’s proud and murderous,
Cruel, miserly, and treacherous,
Brooding, slanderous and hateful,
Envious, spiteful and unfaithful,
An unbeliever filled with lies,
Who perjures himself, and falsifies,
A foolish and inconstant boaster,
Hypocrite and idolater,
A treacherous dog, born to bite,
Bone idle, and a sodomite,
In short a wretch, whom it suffices,
To call the slave of all the vices,
That in himself doth harbour all.
See to what shackles he’s in thrall;
Does he do well to purchase death
Pursuing evil, at every breath?
Yet since all things one day return
The gift received (one none can earn)
At their life’s commencement, later,
When Man comes before his Maker,
Man who ought, as best he might,
To serve and honour Him outright,
And keep from evil, all his days,
How will he dare return that gaze?
And He who’ll judge, with what eye
Will He his creature thus espy,
Who shall be proven then to be
So wicked toward Him, though free
To seek the good, of such base heart
He has no wish to play his part?
Great and small, men do their worst,
While claiming to put honour first,
And are, it seems, so sworn, forever,
In some pact they’ve made together;
Yet their honour is seldom saved
By this pact that they have made,
Great pain, instead, they oft incur,
And death or worldly shame prefer.
But what can such a wretch expect
Who all his sins shall recollect
When he’s before the Judge on high,
Who’ll weigh all things, by and by,
Judge them aright, without error,
And free of deviation ever?
For what reward doth him await,
Except the halter that will straight
Lead him off to Hell’s sad gibbet,
To hang in irons, around him set,
Riveted in eternal shackles,
There before the Prince of Devils?
Or in a cauldron he’ll be boiled,
Or roasted, all his body oiled,
Or on the coals, or on a grill,
Rotated, at some devil’s will,
Like Ixion on his bladed wheel,
Spun by a devil’s paw and heel;
Or must die of thirst and hunger,
Like Tantalus who bathes in water
Up to his chin but, however great
His thirst may be, such is his fate
He cannot ever reach and taste
The water, in that marshy waste;
The more he tries it ebbs and goes,
And hunger too adds to his woes,
Which he can never satisfy;
Maddened by hunger he must die.
He cannot bite the apple he sees
Before his face, nor can it seize;
When he pursues it with his teeth
It lifts higher, leaves him beneath.
Or like Sisyphus he must roll
His stone uphill, achieve the goal
Then see the rock roll down once more,
Doomed to repeat it, as before,
As Sisyphus was forced to do,
Set to raise it ever anew;
Or like the Danaids must fill
A bottomless cask, and refill;
Twas an act of pure futility,
To repay their ancient folly.
And you know too, fair Genius,
The tale of giant Tityus,
Forced to see his liver ever
Torn apart by either vulture.
In that place, many cruelties
And torments and villainies
Exist, where, at every station,
A man may suffer tribulation,
Great misery, and greater pain,
Till my revenge I can obtain.
If the strict Judge, of whom indeed
I spoke, who judges word and deed,
If he were naught but merciful,
Then they too would be delightful,
Those loans made by some usurer,
But he is just and judges ever,
And thus is feared; tis ill to sin,
All you who choose to enter in;
Though I leave to God, tis plain,
All those sins each wretch again
Is stained by, and let Him in this
As He may please, seize and punish.
But those of whom Amor complains,
(For I must hear him, for my pains)
I too complain of, every man,
And as loudly as e’er I can,
Who here denies me tribute too,
That which from every man is due,
That which they owe, and ever will,
While I grant them members still.’
The End of Part X of the Romance of the Rose Continuation