Jean de Meung

The Romance of the Rose (Le Roman de la Rose)
The Continuation

Part XI: Chapters C-CIV - Genius’ Sermon

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved.

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Chapter C: Nature sends Genius to Love’s camp

(Lines 20029-20136)

Here Lady Nature doth implore

Genius to seek out Amor,

And salute him, and ensure

His courage is aroused once more.

‘NOW Genius, fine orator,

Go seek the host of fair Amor,

He who ever strives to serve me,

And, I am certain, so loves me

That with a heart, frank, debonair,

He’s drawn to my works so fair

As the iron’s drawn to the magnet.

Say that I send him greetings yet,

And to Lady Venus my friend,

The same to all his host extend,

Except for False-Seeming alone,

Because he doth for ever roam

With proud felons, and he visits

All those dangerous hypocrites,

Of whom, indeed, the Scripture says

They’re but pseudo-prophets always.

I have my own suspicions, beside,

That Abstinence is full of pride;

False-Seeming she doth resemble,

Seeming charitable and humble.

If False-Seeming is still found

Where proven traitors do abound,

Let him not stand in God’s presence,

Nor yet his lover, Abstinence,

So greatly are such to be feared.

If to Amor it had not appeared

That they were so necessary

To his fight, and, assuredly,

He could manage naught without them,

He would have wished to banish them;

And yet if advocates should prove

Of them, in the cause of true love,

That their sinfulness was far less,

I shall pardon them, nonetheless.

Go to the God of Love, my friend,

To him my greetings thus extend,

Speak my complaint, ask not that he

Should seek to gain justice for me,

But speak so he may be comforted,

When he has heard your news, instead;

Please him, and grieve our enemies,

And so may all those troubles cease

That I see him now troubled by:

Tell him I send you, my ally,

To excommunicate all those

Who our firm will would thus oppose,

And to absolve the brave stalwarts

Labouring, with virtuous hearts,

To follow the laws here written

In my book, as they were bidden,

Those who strive to multiply

Their offspring, as time goes by,

Whose thoughts are on loving well,

For I hold them my friends as well,

And bring their souls thus to delight;

But let them guard themselves aright

From all the vices I have named,

And for their virtues thus be famed.

Grant them sufficient pardon too

Not for ten years, for not a sou

Is such a meagre pardon worth,

But pardon forever, on this Earth,

For every wrong they may have done,

When they’ve confessed to every one.

When midst Love’s army you appear,

By whom you will be held most dear,

After you’ve greeted them for me,

As you know how, full courteously,

To show them that I am forgiving,

Announce the pardon in their hearing,

The judgement that I’d have you write.’

He wrote the missive, in her sight,

She sealed it, then gave him it so,

Then she urged him to up and go.

She sealed it, then gave him it so

‘She sealed it, then gave him it so’

Now that Nature, the fair goddess,

Had told all that she would confess,

As rule and custom seek of us,

Her valiant priest, brave Genius,

Absolved her and gave her penance

Good and fitting, in this instance;

A penance that he felt accorded

With the error she’d committed:

For he enjoined her then to stay

Within her forge, and toil away,

At her customary labour,

As she did when free of dolour,

And perform such service ever,

Until the King gave some other

Counsel to her, He who doth make

All things and can all things unmake.

‘Sir, ‘she replied, ‘most willingly.’

‘Then I shall go, immediately,’

Said Genius, ‘all the sooner

To bring aid to the true lover.

First this silken chasuble though

I’ll doff, this alb and surplice, so.’

Then he went to hang each thing

On a hook there, before dressing

In fresh clothes, his secular wear,

Less encumbering for that affair,

As if for a dance, and not a fight,

And so took wings for instant flight.

Chapter CI: Genius is greeted with joy

(Lines 20137-20206)

How the fair goddess Nature

Returned to her forge to labour,

With the care her work demanded,

As Genius had commanded.

Nature returns to her forge

‘Nature returns to her forge’

‘THEN Nature, at her forge once more,

Wrought with her hammers, as before,

While Genius, beat his wings and flew

Faster than the wind e’er blew,

And came, as swiftly as he might,

To Love’s host, and did there alight;

But failed to locate False-Seeming,

Who had departed, swiftly fleeing,

As soon as the Crone met capture,

Who’d oped the door of the tower,

And then had allowed me to come

Where I could be with Fair-Welcome;

False-Seeming had fled I believe,

Instantly, without asking leave.

Yet Genius, arriving thence,

Found, indeed, strict Abstinence,

Who, on seeing the priest nearby,

Summoned all her strength to fly

After False-Seeming, on his track,

Such that none could hold her back;

For she’d no longing to be seen,

By any watching, with, I mean,

A priest, e’en for four gold bezants,

If False-Seeming was not present.

But Genius, without delay,

Greeted all, in a courtly way,

As he ought, and the occasion

For his visit gave, the reason

In full, forgetting naught, he told.

Yet I’d not seek here to unfold

The tale of all the joy it brought,

When they received the full import

Of all his news, for I’ll be brief,

And grant your ears some relief;

For many a time those who preach

Are too verbose in what they teach,

And drive their listeners away

By speaking in that tedious way.

For now the God of Love did push

A chasuble on Genius

A ring, and crosier, and mitre,

Clearer than crystal and far brighter,

And eager for his prompt oration,

Brooked no further preparation,

Ere the judgement was read aloud.

Venus, all smiles, amidst the crowd,

Could not be silent, filled with joy,

So much so, she, no longer coy,

Pressed in his hand a burning brand,

Not virgin wax, you’ll understand,

To enforce the excommunication

Of those condemned by his oration.

Genius, without more ado,

Mounted to a grand lectern, to

Better communicate the speech,

That Nature had sent him to preach.

The generals sat upon the ground,

No better seats could there be found,

While Genius unveiled his charter,

Making a sign thus with his finger,

Wagging it there to ask for silence.

And those pleased by his eloquence

Looked about and nudged each other,

Then quieted, listening together

To his words, at the commencement,

Of this, the definitive judgement.

Chapter CII: Genius pronounces judgement on Mankind

(Lines 20207-20408)

How that most brave priest Genius,

Amidst the host, before Venus,

Preached aloud, with every care,

All Nature’s commandments there,

So that each there understood

All Nature wished for their good.

Genius pronounces judgement

‘Genius pronounces judgement’

‘BY Nature’s sole authority,

Who has Earth in her custody,

As the constable and vicar

Of the eternal Emperor,

Whose seat is in the sovereign tower

Of the earthly city whose power

Is administered by Nature,

Of all good things, the minister,

Through that influence of the stars,

Which ordains, blesses, and mars,

According to the imperial law,

Of which Nature is executor,

Who has given birth to each thing

Since the Earth had its first being;

And grants them their allotted term

For growth and increase, root and germ,

Creating all for their due purpose,

Beneath the heavens about us,

That circle Earth in ceaseless flow,

As high above us as below,

And never rest, by night or day,

But ever turn, without a stay;

With this, I excommunicate,

The faithless and the apostate,

And I condemn, without respite,

Be they lowly, or men of might,

All those who those works have stained,

By which Nature is sustained.

But those who, with all their power,

Seek to defend Nature’s dower,

And who strive ever to love well,

Let them, in whom no base thoughts dwell,

Who labour loyally, at all hours,

Go to paradise decked with flowers.

Let them but make true confession,

And all their deeds (tis my profession)

I’ll take upon me, as best I can;

Nor needst pardon any such man.

Ill was it when Nature, in accord

With law and custom, did afford

Those false folk, of whom I murmur,

Pen and book, forge and hammer.

Ploughshares too she did allow,

With sharp blades, so they might plough

The wide fields, not full of stones,

But rich and deep, in fertile zones,

Which need intensive cultivation,

If a man would prosper by them,

For they wish to forgo labour,

Nor will they serve her with honour;

Rather Nature they’d destroy,

And flee their forges, man and boy,

Their books, and every fertile field,

That she made precious, and doth yield,

So that things might yet continue,

And, undying, be born anew.

These faithless ones of whom I speak

Should be ashamed when they seek

To spurn the pen nor learn to write

That they their letters might indite,

Nor even make a mark that shows.

Sad the book’s future; who knows,

But that its loss may prove total,

If Mankind’s hands remain idle,

Such that the anvils rust away,

Their hammer blows stilled always,

For now they will be eaten through

And not one blow delivered true.

The fields will lie bare and fallow,

Knowing not the plough or harrow.

As well to be buried alive,

As flee the tools, and never strive,

That God has shaped with His hand,

And gave my lady, to command,

Wishing to give the tools to her

So she might forge ones similar,

To give being, as an eternal

Species, to these sadly mortal

Creatures here, who work but evil;

For if none here took the trouble

To use their tools for sixty years,

Behold, Mankind fast disappears.

If it pleased God that such prevail,

His wish were that the world fail,

Or the Earth remain, deserted, bare,

With but dumb creatures dwelling there,

Until it pleased him to create

A new Mankind in other state,

Or He revived the first again,

To populate the world; and then

If they were still all virgin when

Sixty years had passed again,

If He wished to reinstate them

He would have to recreate them;

And so on, ever. If any say

God would take desire away

From this one but not another,

I say each man is as his brother;

Indeed, because His grace is such

That He has never ceased to touch

The world with virtue, it must be

Pleasing to Him, equally,

That all are born here in like state,

Filled with the grace He doth create.

Must I question my conclusion,

That barren folk go to perdition?

I know no answer, in brief,

Except faith justifies belief;

For God loves, at their beginning,

All folk alike, in their being,

And grants rational souls to all;

To men, as to women, they fall.

I believe he desires each one,

And not merely this or that one,

To follow the path that’s better,

So as to come to Him the sooner.

If he would have some folk live

Their lives as virgins, it doth give

Me to think why would He not

Wish upon others that same lot?

What deters Him, since, with these,

He cares not if generation cease?

Let those who would respond, reply,

I know no more of it, say I,

Let divines come and divine,

Who endlessly such things refine.

But those who write not with the pen

By which the species doth live again,

In those precious books, that Nature

Prepared not for the idle creature

To despise, but granted to all,

That which might be used by all,

Such that each might be a writer

And Man and Woman live forever;

Those that the twin hammers receive

But forge not, with what they receive,

Right truly, on the true anvil,

Those who so consort with evil

Blinded by sin, they go astray,

In pride despising the true way,

That furrow in the fertile field,

But seek to make the barren yield,

Ploughing deserts, in their haste,

Where all their seed goes to waste,

Who will not keep to the straight track,

But turn the plough to show its back,

And justify their sinful labour

By perverse precedents moreover,

Seeking to follow Orpheus,

(Who chose to plough wrongly thus,

Nor write, nor strike the true anvil;

May he hang by the neck, that devil

Who contrived such for the creature,

And wrought evil against Nature)

Those who spurn such a mistress,

Read her book backwards no less,

And from the wrong page, whence,

They fail to grasp its proper sense;

And thus pervert the writing when

They come to preach to other men, 

As well as excommunication

That condemns them to damnation,

Since the true path they’d forego,

Ere they die, let them lose, also,

The sack they bear, its sorry tale,

That is the sign that they are male!

Let them those twin pendants lose,

That, in that purse, they so abuse!

Those two hammers hanging there

May they forgo the wretched pair!

And may the pen be snatched away

With which they fail to write, I say,

And in those precious books indite,

Fit for what the honest write!

And if they can’t plough rightly there

And hold a line with their ploughshare,

Then let their bones be broken now

And ne’er mended to drive the plough!

May all those who revere their name

Live their lives in deepest shame!

May their sad and dreadful sin

Prove a sorrow and pain within,

And they be beaten in every place

So that all men do know its face!

For God’s sake, all you lords alive,

Let not such sins as these survive!

At Nature’s work, free of evil,

Be you quicker than a squirrel.

Lighter, more lively, as you go

Than bird doth fly or wind doth blow.

Do not forgo this, Nature’s guerdon,

For all your sins I hereby pardon

If you ensure that you work well,

Move and skip and leap, pell-mell,

And never let yourself grow cold,

With icy limbs, when young or old.

Put all your tools to work, each day;

Who works is warm enough, I say.’

Chapter CIII: Genius exhorts Love’s host to procreate

(Lines 20409-20812)

How Genius swore damnation

And brought excommunication,

On all those who would not ensure

The species lived for evermore.

‘COME plough, my lords, for God’s sake plough,

Revive your lineages now.

Unless you do think of ploughing,

Naught ensures their continuing.

Tuck your clothes all up before,

To take the air, not less but more,

Or if you wish go naked, bold,

Yet not too hot and not too cold;

Raise the guide-boards of your ploughs

With bare hands, and naked brows,

Grip them in your arms, full tight,

And drive your ploughshares aright,

All along the straight and narrow

Plough them deeper in the furrow,

Nor let the horse that goes before

Slow, for God’s sake, but be sure

To spur on the creature, harshly,

And when you wish to plough deeply,

Grant it the greatest blows you can,

As great as e’er did any man;

Or yoke a horned ox to the plough

And grant it its head, I allow,

And spur it onwards with a goad;

Thus to our benefit runs the road.

If you spur it well and often,

The better will the plough go then.

And then when you have ploughed enough,

And are weary of ploughing thus,

And have reached that point indeed,

Where you must rest from the deed

(For nothing doth last long I say,

Without some rest along the way)

And cannot yet advance it farther,

Let not desire flag, but rather,

Wait till your weariness doth pass.

Cadmus, at a word from Pallas,

Ploughed two hundred feet of ground,

And sowed the serpent’s teeth around;

From those teeth, armed knights arose

To fight each other midst the rows,

Where all died in that disaster,

Except for five, companions after,

Who sought to aid Cadmus when he

Built the walls of Thebes, that city

Of which Cadmus was the founder.

With him they walled the ground there,

And then they peopled that city,

Full mighty, in antiquity.

A good sowing had brave Cadmus,

He who advanced his people thus;

If you commence as well as he,

Your lineages advanced will be.

And you have two advantages

In fostering your lineages,

If you would not forge a third,

You have a sense of the absurd,

For here’s the one danger to you,

Defend yourself, and smartly too;

You are attacked on but one side,

Three of their champions beside

Are weak, and you, in riding forth,

Are fools if you can’t beat the fourth.

There are three sisters too, you know,

Two of whom will their aid bestow,

Only the third can harm you aught,

For she it is cuts all lives short.

They will prove a comfort to you,

Clotho wields the spindle, tis true,

While Lachesis draws out the thread

But Atropos cuts and shears instead

Whate’er the other two can spin;

Atropos would not have you win;

Unless to your ploughing you leap

She’ll bury your line, good and deep,

And upon yourself she will spy.

There is no creature worse, say I,

You have no greater enemy;

Pardon, my lords, but pardon me;

Remember your good forefathers,

And all your ancestral mothers;

Do as your fathers did before

Of your lineages make sure.

What did they do? Now pay heed,

For they made sure of them indeed,

If their prowess you but recall,

For they have engendered you all.

If twere not for their chivalry

You’d not be alive, and free,

Thus they took full pity on you.

For love, and then for friendship too,

Think of all those yet to appear,

Who’ll maintain your lineage here,

Don’t let yourselves be harmed again,

Pens you have, think of writing then,

Don’t let your weapons rust away,

At the forge, go hammer, each day.

Help Clotho and Lachesis too,

Such that if Atropos shears through

Six fine threads, for she’s a villain,

You shall spin another dozen.

Oh, think yourselves to multiply

So that you may cheat, thereby,

The cruel, unyielding Atropos,

Who’ll hinder all, to your sad cost.’

Chapter CIII: Genius speaks of the Fates and the Furies

‘SHE, that miserable wretch, doth strive

Against all those who are alive,

And at their death rejoices; thus,

She nurtures vicious Cerberus,

Who craves their deaths instantly,

And slavers over them greedily,

And would well-nigh die of hunger

If she failed to grant him succour;

And if she had not, then he could

Have found no other who would.

She ne’er ceases to feed him though;

When she chooses to feed him so,

Then she hangs the cur at her breast,

For she has three nipples, I attest,

(Matching his three mouths so) where

He butts, and tugs, suckling there.

He was not weaned, nor will be so,

For he seeks no other milk, I know;

No other meat doth he demand

Except the bodies and souls on hand.

Women and men thus he doth throw

Into his gullet, and down they go,

Piles of them, into his three throats.

She feeds him there alone, and gloats,

Thinking to sate him readily,

And yet she finds him ever hungry,

However much she tries to fill him.

The Furies show concern for him,

Those three most cruel pursuers,

Of every crime the avengers,

Alecto, and Tisiphone,

For I know the names of all three,

And the third one is Megara,

Who, if she could, would all devour.

These three await you all, in Hell,

There they beat and whip folk well,

Hang, and strike, and skin, and maul,

Drown, burn, grill and boil them all,

Before the cruel judges three,

Who sit in full consistory,

And bind all those who once did strive

To fuel their vices when alive.

By means of such tribulations

They extract from them confessions,

Of all the evils they did spawn

Since the moment they were born,

Before them all the folk do tremble,

Yet a coward I should resemble

If I failed to name them thus,

King Minos, and Rhadamanthus,

The third Aeacus, their brother;

And Jupiter he was their father.

Now, those three in the world above

Three such worthy men did prove,

And all maintained the right so well

That they were made judges in Hell;

Such was the reward that Pluto

Granted them in the world below;

Their souls departed; such his need

To have them serve him there, indeed.

My lords, for God’s sake, go not there.

Gainst vices struggle, everywhere,

All those that Nature, our mistress,

Told me of when she did confess

Today at my mass; there are plenty,

You will find here six and twenty,

More harmful than you might think;

But the virtuous will not sink,

All those who love and live well,

To where those three Furies dwell,

The three whom I have named before

Whose reputations all deplore,

Nor need you fear condemnation,

By those judges, to damnation.

I would name to you the vices,

Yet, the task, it scarce entices,

That the Romance doth disclose,

The lovely Romance of the Rose;

Gaze, if you please, upon them there,

The better to guard you from care.’

Chapter CIII: Genius describes the paradisial reward for virtue

Genius describes the reward for virtue

‘Genius describes the reward for virtue’

‘NOW, think you virtue to recover;

Let each man embrace his lover,

And let his lover embrace him,

And kiss, and fête, and comfort him,

And each be faithful to that same,

Nor thought ever to be to blame.

And when you’ve finished your employ,

As I commend, sated with joy,

Think of going to confession,

Twill do you good, and ill will lessen;

And call on the Celestial King,

Nature’s master in everything.

He will succour you in the end,

When Atropos’s shears descend.

He will save both soul and body;

He is my lady’s mirror, the lovely

Mirror without which she would

Know nothing of the bad or good.

He doth govern her and rule her,

But for His she knows no other

Rule, for what she knows He taught her,

When as his chamberlain he sought her.

My lords, I wish that this sermon

All, word for word, ere it be gone,

(For such my lady doth command)

All present here should understand,

(One’s book is not always around,

And tis so tiring to write it down)

And that all should learn it by heart,

And so recite it in whate’er part

They reach, be it town or city,

Or some castle, where’er they be,

In summer or in winter, I say,

For those who are not here today.

Tis a good thing to remember

What flows from a good teacher,

And a better to speak of it again,

For so one might to praise attain.

All my speech is full of virtue,

A hundred times more precious too

Than sapphire, ruby, or spinel.

Fair lords, my lady needs as well

Such preachers to uphold her law,

And chastise all the sinners for

Transgressing her rules every day

That they should learn and keep alway.

And if you too do preach like this,

According to my word and promise,

As long as word and deed agree,

You will ever gain your entry

To that park’s sweet meadow too

Where the Son of the Virgin ewe,

Leading his flock, doth gently pass;

They go behind Him o’er the grass.

In His fleecy coat he’s dressed,

As he goes on before the rest,

All in their scattered company,

Along the narrow path they see,

Buried deep in flowers and grass,

So little worn by those that pass.

There the little white ewes go,

Good-natured creatures that do flow

Over all the fresh grass grazing,

And the wild flowers springing.

Know you it is such a pasture,

And of so wondrous a nature,

That every delightful flower

Is fresh and pure, born that hour,

Such as maidens cull in spring,

As fresh and new to everything

As the twinkling stars that shine

Midst the grass at morning time,

Gleaming in the early dew;

And they hold their beauty too

Through the whole day, pure in colour,

Fresh and living, greet each other,

Nor in the evening show their age,

But can be gathered at each stage,

And are the same at eve as morn,

Seeming as when they were born;

Nor are they, you may be certain,

Overblown or still half-open,

But rather shine, at every hour,

In all the fullness of their flower;

For the sunlight falling there

Harms them not, nor doth impair

The dew, whose drops like jewels seem,

With which the living flowers do gleam,

That brings a beauty absolute,

It sweetens them so at the root.

No matter how much of the grass

The flock consume as they pass,

Nor how many flowers they eat,

Or they tread beneath their feet,

They cannot consume so much

That all revives not at a touch;

Moreover, and I speak no fable,

All there is incorruptible,

However much the sheep may graze;

They live, securely, all their days,

Whose wool is not sold in the end,

Nor fleece is used, you may depend,

For woollen cloth, nor doth their skin

Give unknown folk shelter within.

They will not be sent for slaughter,

Nor their flesh be eaten; rather,

Free from all illness and decay,

Naught there shall take their life away.

And yet, whate’er I’ve said to you,

The Good Shepherd, and this is true,

He whom all the flock doth follow,

Doth clothed in woollen garments go,

Yet shears them not, nor despoils them,

Takes not a wisp of value from them;

For it seems good to Him He shares

A robe of wool resembling theirs.

I’d say no more, for fear I bore you,

Yet no night obscures their view,

There all is day, and that forever,

And evening can touch them never,

Nor does the dawn there advance,

At morning, in like circumstance;

For like the evening is the morn,

And the evening’s like the dawn.

I say the same of every hour,

The day is in the moment’s power,

That day that cannot fade away

Howe’er night may seek a way:

It owns to no temporal measure,

That day so fair, that lasts for ever,

That present that glows so bright,

Without future or preterite,

For, to all that such truth can see,

Time there’s composed of all three;

One present compasses the day,

But not one that doth pass away

In part, and so doth make an end,

Nor leaves a part to come, my friend;

For past was never present there,

Where His flock doth take the air,

And future has such permanence,

That it can never seek a presence.

For the sun is there resplendent,

Forever bright, in the ascendant,

And ever to that point did bring

The day, in an eternal spring.

So fair a spring none ever saw

In Saturn’s reign, nor one so pure,

When he ruled o’er the age of gold,

And his son Jupiter proved bold,

Castrating his father, cruelly,

Doing him harm and injury.’

Chapter CIII: Genius speaks about eunuchs

‘TO speak true, most assuredly,

Those who would castrate a worthy

Man work him great harm and shame,

And bring dishonour on that same,

For even if I told you naught

Of the pain and shame it brought,

The least harm that it doth prove:

It loses him his lover’s love.

No matter how close their ties.

Or if in marriage there he lies,

All will go wrong in that affair,

For, be she ever so debonair,

He’ll lose the love of a good wife.

It is a sin to impair a life,

A great sin to castrate a man

For he loses you understand

Far more than a lover so dear

In whom now he will find scant cheer,

Or a wife, for they are the least;

He loses the vigour, all decreased,

That a valiant man should possess,

For eunuchs are, all must confess,

Cowards, perverse in their fashion,

Malicious, in the mode of woman.

No eunuch, I say, for certain,

Has bravery or vigour in him,

Unless tis in the ways of vice

Some work of malice, cold as ice.

Then, women are always ready

To undertake some devilry,

And eunuchs will attempt the same

Who act like women in all but name.

The man who doth castrate another,

Though he be no thief or murderer,

Nor is of mortal sin guilty,

Has at least sinned to this degree,

That he has truly wronged Nature,

Stealing the power to engender;

Though they pondered his action

None could excuse his infraction.

At least I could not, for if I too

Thought about it long, like you,

I’d wear out my tongue, in truth,

Before I could forgive, in sooth,

Such a wrong, so great an error,

As he committed towards Nature.

But howe’er great the sin might be,

Jupiter he cared naught, not he,

So long as he, you understand,

Might hold the power in his hand.

And when that flesh away he hurled,

And thus was lord of all the world

Then he issued his commandment,

The law expressing his intent,

And to those mortals did it give,

To teach the people how to live,

Delivered in open audience;

Of which I’ll teach you now the sense.’

Chapter CIV: Jupiter’s commandment

(Lines 20813-21428)

Hear now how Jupiter teaches

That all folk should seek what pleases,

Do all according to their wish

And will; and his law doth publish.

‘“JUPITER, who doth rule the Earth

Commands that each one, from their birth,

Should think to satisfy their ease,

If aught there is that doth them please

Let them do it, if tis their part,

And so bring solace to their heart.”

For nothing further did he call,

Granting licence to one and all,

That individually each might do

That from which pleasure might accrue,

For pleasure, he said, in their presence,

Was the best thing in existence,

And of life the sovereign good;

All should seek it as best they could.

And so that all would follow him,

And for their example take him

And his deeds, he wrought, in the flesh,

Whate’er pleased him, and sought no less;

Dan Jove wrought as his heart advised,

He by whom pleasure was so prized.

As Virgil says in his Georgics,

He who wrote the fine Bucolics,

(For in the Greek writers he found

All that Jove did on solid ground)

Before Jove came, and did endow

Mankind, no man did drive a plough,

No man had ever ploughed a field,

Or made the fertile soil to yield.

Those simple folk, peaceful and good

Set no boundaries, as now they would:

Communally they sought for all

The good things that did them befall.

He ordered the land divided, this

Because none knew what was his,

And marked out, acre by acre;

He set the venom in the viper,

And he set malice up on high,

So the wolves might rage thereby;

Cut down the oaks, each wild beehive,

No living brooks did there survive;

He quenched the fires everywhere,

(To drive the people to despair!)

So men must seek a spark from stone,

So cunning he, from there alone;

Diverse new arts he entertained,

The stars he numbered and he named;

And he had snares and lime-traps set

And caught wild creatures in the net,

And hallooed hounds to hunt the deer

The first time such sport did appear;

And he first tamed the birds of prey,

With all the cunning men display,

And set the sparrow-hawks to sail,

Made war, on partridges and quail,

And cranes, in tourneys in the air,

And goshawks flew, and falcons there,

And had them fly down to the lure,

And so their tameness would endure,

And they’d upon one’s fist alight,

He fed the birds both morn and night.

Thus cruel hawks in their bondage

Served the youth in that new age,

And they were held in slavery,

To act as the fierce enemy,

The ravishers, most terrible,

Of other birds born peaceable.

Men could fly not through the air,

And yet could not live lacking their

Wild game, that all desired to eat,

To make their meals thus complete,

Greedy for such delicacies,

For the fowl that most did please.

And then a ferret he would set

To drive the rabbit to his net.

He loved to feed his body ever

And had the fish, from sea and river,

Baked, poached, skinned, and embayed

In new sauces that he had made,

With many fine herbs and spices

Mingled in their various guises.

Thus such arts all came about,

For all things, day in, day out,

Yield to labour, and necessity,

When driven by harsh poverty,

For such ill stirs an active mind,

Through the need that it doth find;

So says Ovid himself who knew

A great deal of such trouble too,

Good and bad, honour and shame,

And tells, in letters, of that same.

In short, as Jupiter intended,

When he his power extended,

Over Earth, his rule, perverse,

Changed all from good to bad, to worse.

For he proved lax in everything;

Shortening the time granted spring,

Dividing the year’s length in four,

As now, and not as twas before;

Spring, summer, autumn, winter

These the seasons, and so forever,

Where once was one endless spring.

For Jupiter he changed everything,

Who when he so began his reign

Did thus the age of gold disdain,

And brought about the age of silver,

And then of brass; for folk did ever

Continue to degenerate,

And draw towards a base estate,

Until that lesser age did pass,

Changed to iron from that of brass,

Delighting the gods of darkness,

The shadowy courts full of vileness,

Who are jealous when men thrive,

While gazing on them yet alive.’

Chapter CIV: Genius speaks of the black sheep and the white

‘IN their pens, below, they hold,

And ne’er to be set free of old,

The dolorous black sheep, weary,

Ill, wretched, in their melancholy,

Who the path would not pursue

That the fair Lamb led them too,

That which would have freed them quite,

And turned all their black fleeces white.

They the broad road chose to follow,

That led them to their dark hollow,

And with so great a company,

They filled the whole road completely.

But no sheep that thereon is caught,

Bears a hide that is worth aught,

From which clothing might be sewn,

Except some vile hair shirt, I’d own,

That is more bristling and rank,

Where’er it brushes either flank,

Than a coat, that merely tickles,

Made of spiny hedgehog prickles.

But whoe’er that pure wool did seek

To card, so soft, and smooth, and sleek,

Of the white sheep, and had enough

To fashion clothes of that fine stuff,

Would be dressed by those creatures

As befits kings or emperors,

Or angels, if they wore such things

As robes of wool beside their wings.

For any who were dressed that way,

And wore such robes of wool today,

Would be dressed more than nobly;

Because of this, especially,

They should hold such creatures dear,

For they prove very few, I fear.

The High Shepherd who those white sheep

Has in His flock, and them doth keep

In pasture, is no simpleton;

No black sheep may graze thereon,

No matter how much they bleat,

For tis the white graze at His feet,

Those who know their Shepherd well

And lodge with Him, as I do tell,

And they are all well known to Him

And are thus, readily, gathered in.

And, I say, the most delightful,

Compassionate, and beautiful,

Of those to that pasture keeping,

Is also the white Lamb leaping,

Who by his toil and suffering

To that park the sheep did bring,

For he knows if the wolf but sees

A stray sheep that doth it please,

The wolf that seeks naught else, I say,

Than a sheep straying from the way

Of the Lamb that leads it ever,

Lacking that defence and shelter,

Then it will eat that sheep alive,

Howe’er against it man may strive.

My lords, the Lamb doth await you,

Of that I’ll speak no more, to you,

Except to pray to God the Father,

That through the grace of His Mother,

He grant the Shepherd guide His sheep,

That from the wolf He may them keep,

And pray that you, through sin, not fail

To graze and gambol in that dale,

That is so lovely, so delightful,

Decked with grass and flowers eternal,

With violets and roses too,

And all good things the eye may view.’

Chapter CIV: Genius compares the pleasure-garden and the park

‘YET if one drew comparison

Twixt that beautiful walled garden,

Where the Lover viewed the dance,

Where Pleasure and his people prance,

(Tis barred by the little wicket gate)

And this fair park, then, I must state,

There is no just comparison,

And one would thus commit a wrong,

As great as one incapable

Of telling pure truth from fable;

For one who was within this park

Or from without its realm did mark,

Would dare, and rightly, to claim

The pleasure-garden nowhere came,

Compared to this fair pasture,

That is not walled so, in a square,

But is so rounded and so subtle,

That there was never ball or beryl

So round, so circular, I’ll allow.

What would you have me tell you now?

Let me speak of those things again,

That the Lover saw on that plain,

Outside the garden, and then pass

Swiftly on, ere you tire, alas:

Ten images before the gate

He saw, each one a vile portrait;

While one who stood outside the park

Would there find Hell and all its dark

Scheming devils, in truth, portrayed,

Ugly and foul, as they displayed

Each fault, each miserable vile thing,

They commit in Hell, their lodging;

And Cerberus who guards its gate;

And then the whole of Earth’s estate,

With all its ancient riches shown,

And every earthly thing that’s known;

And see the seas, and oceans, shine,

And all the fish that swim the brine,

And every river-loving creature,

In sweet, clear, or cloudy water,

All the large and small fish, plain,

That fresh water doth contain,

And the air, each bird that flies,

The insects, and the butterflies,

And all that hums through the air,

And then the fire that everywhere

Surrounds the home, to all intents,

Of all the other elements;

And see each planet and each star,

Clear, bright, and shining from afar,

Wandering or fixed, as each appears,

Attached to their respective spheres.

One might see all that encloses

The park, and all that there reposes,

Openly portrayed, in every wise

As though before one’s very eyes.

Now we’ll return to the garden,

And then relate, as we have done,

What lies inside; the Lover said

He saw the folk that Pleasure led,

As he did dance across the grass,

And o’er the fragrant flowers did pass;

Saw, the youth said, all its features,

Plants, and trees, and all its creatures,

And the brooks, and the springs,

And the fountain there that sings

The one that rises neath the pine,

And boasted not since Pepin’s time

Was there such a wondrous tree,

Nor e’er a fount half as lovely.

For God’s sake, my lords, take care!

All the things he speaks of there,

Are trifles and mere bagatelles.

In truth, all this of which he tells,

Has in it naught that is eternal,

All he saw there’s corruptible;

He saw the dances that must pass,

As will the dancers on that grass,

And all the things the garden shows,

All that he found it did enclose.

For when that nurse of Cerberus,

Exerts her strength, fell Atropos,

Who can use her powers forever,

And yet will ne’er grow weary ever,

There’s naught mere mortals can employ

To save whate’er she would destroy.

She spies on all things, everywhere,

Except the gods, should they be there,

For, I am certain, things divine

Do not, in truth, to death decline.

For now I will speak of all those

Fair things the park doth enclose;

I’ll speak of them quite generally,

As I would speak of this but briefly,

And those who’d know all, I, truly,

Cannot give the whole entirely,

For no mind could yet believe,

Nor the tongue of man conceive

The worth and beauty and the grace

Of all contained within that place,

The great joy, the lovely gambols,

All the things, true and eternal,

Those that dwell within do find;

For all within that place divine, 

Possess all that is delightful

All there proves true, and is eternal,

And it is right it should be so,

For every good thing doth flow

From the one source and spring,

Which doth water everything,

And which is both healing and pure,

Precious, fair and clear, what’s more,

And from its flow the creatures drink,

Who wished to dwell upon its brink,

Once from the black sheep separated.

And when they drink, and are sated,

They can ne’er be thirsty ever,

And live, as they wished, forever

Free of death and free of sickness.

In good time, shall they progress,

In good time, the Lamb, I say,

They’ll follow on the narrow way,

Protected by the Good Shepherd,

Who desired them for His herd.

None who drink of that fountain

Shall ever die, but live again.

It is not that beneath the tree,

The Lover saw flow readily,

From the slab of marble born,

His praise of which one should scorn.

For that’s the fountain perilous

So bitter, and so venomous,

That it killed the fair Narcissus,

When he gazed within it thus.

The Lover too is not ashamed,

To testify that it be blamed;

He hides not that it proves bitter,

But calls it the perilous mirror,

And says that when he gazed therein,

And saw himself, he found therein

Grief and pain, gave many a sigh.

Behold what sweetness there doth lie!

Lord, what a fountain sweet and fair,

When health but turns to sickness there!

What good will come to those who gaze,

And view themselves where that fount plays!

It flows, he says, in two great waves,

From two deep and hollow caves,

But its twin sources do not flow

From its own self, that I do know;

For there is naught that issues there

That doth not come there from elsewhere;

He says it endlessly runs clear,

Brighter than silver doth appear;

With what trifles he beguiles you,

In truth tis cloudy, and ugly too,

Such that none who sets his mind

To gazing in it, his self can find,

But struggles, and labours withal,

Yet knows his own self not at all.

Its depths hold two crystals, he says,

Which when the bright sun shoots its rays,

Shine so brightly, that those who gaze

See glittering there within, always,

Half of all the things that lie

In that garden and meet the eye.

And so clear and powerful are they,

That gazing in another way

Reveals the rest, bright, unshrouded.

Yet they themselves are dark and clouded!

Why, since the sun shines so brightly,

Can they not show the garden rightly,

Together in one single view?

They cannot, for i’faith the two,

Dark in themselves, are obscure,

And clouded, as I said before.

Of themselves they’re insufficient

To those who gaze with that intent,

Since they gain brightness from elsewhere.

If the sun’s rays do not strike there

So as within their depths to fall,

They have no power themselves at all.

But that which I describe to you,

The fount of all, lovely and true,

Oh, grant me your ear a while, as I

Speaks of the wonders that in it lie.’

Chapter CIV: The eternal fountain

‘THAT fountain, of which I speak,

Which is so lovely, and doth seek

To revive the weary creature,

With its virtues and its savour,

From three sweet springs ever rolling,

Sends its clear sweet water, glistening.

They are so close to one another

That all three act as one together,

Such that, when you view them clear,

Both one and three do there appear,

If you the number there would find,

And never four will come to mind,

But ever three and ever one,

That is their property, in sum.

None has e’er seen such a fount,

For from itself its streams do mount;

No other spring doth create it,

Borne from some other conduit;

It flows itself through all its course,

And has no need of other source.

Holding its own channel alone,

More firmly than the native stone.

It needs no marble to surround it,

Nor pine-tree’s canopy above it,

For from so high a source it flows

No tree so mighty ever grows,

That the height of that pure water

Proves not at its source far greater.

Except that, on a slope, you’d see

Above a lowly olive tree,

One that seems as if descending,

Beneath which the fount is flowing,

And when the little olive tree

Feels the fountain at its knee,

Moistening all its roots below

With its clear, sweet, pure flow

It finds there such sweet nourishment,

It so receives encouragement,

That it is charged with leaves and fruit,

Becomes so tall and great, to suit,

The pine the Lover once described

Never climbed so high, nor thrived

So greatly, nor such width displayed,

Nor produced such wondrous shade.

The olive tree there, on the mount,

Extends its branches o’er the fount,

And thus that fountain it doth shade,

And, in the coolness it has made,

The little sheep hide, there they sip

The sweet dew, that meets the lip,

The cool flow spreads, as it doth pass,

Over the flowers and tender grass.

And hanging from the olive tree

There is a scroll whose letters read,

For those who do its message heed,

As they recline there in its shade:

“Here is the fount of life displayed,

Beneath the leafy olive tree

As lovely as a tree may be,

That bears the fruit of salvation.”

What pine hath so fine a station?

I say to you that in this fount

(Fools will question my account

And say it is no more than fable)

There shines a gem, a miracle,

Greater than all earthly garnets,

Round, and brilliant, with three facets.

It sits amidst the fount, on high,

So that, full clearly to the eye,

It there illuminates the park.

Its rays shine out, and ne’er grow dark,

Untouched by cloud or wind or rain,

So fine it is, without a stain.

And know you, each facet doth own

(Such is the virtue of the stone)

As much worth as the other two,

Such power to the whole is due;

The other two each worth no less,

However great its loveliness.

And none however hard they try

Can separate the three thereby,

Nor so fuse them all, moreover,

That they are lost in one another.

No sun lights this gem, however,

Which is so pure and true in colour,

So clear, and bright and shining

That the sun, that he saw gleaming

In that pool, those crystals doubled,

Would seem dark, and ever troubled.

What can I tell you here, in short?

No other sun shines in that court,

Except this gem that shines above,

This is the sun that all doth move

There within, of greater splendour

Than any sun, and tis no wonder

That its light banishes the night

Renders the day shining bright,

That fair, eternal day, my friend,

Without beginning, without end,

Holds itself there, eternally,

Without waning one degree

Past any sign that there may be,

Past midnight, or any line

That might divide the present time.

And it has such wondrous power

That any who, in its fixed hour,

Bent towards the fount have gazed

To see their faces their displayed,

No matter how they are aligned

They see the whole park there defined,

And understand all there aright,

And themselves too, at that sight.

And, viewing themselves, thereafter

Each shall become a wise master

And so will never be deceived,

By whate’er they have perceived.

Another wonder I will teach,

The rays of that fair sun do reach

The eyes not to mar or weaken

Those who do look upon them,

Rather they delight, and strengthen

All images in their retention,

And reinvigorate the sight

With true clarity, shining bright,

And filled with a temperate heat,

That with a subtle fragrance sweet

Fills the park, through the power

Of that worth which is its dower.

And though I would not hold you long,

Keep this in your remembrance strong

That whoe’er sees the form and matter

Of that park, would claim, thereafter,

That Adam was not, to their eyes,

Formed in so fair a paradise.

By God’s grace, my lords, how there

Do the garden and park compare?

Give your judgement, in a sentence,

On both accident and substance;

And, tell me then, most faithfully,

Which owns to the greater beauty;

Think, from which of those two founts

The purer, healthier water mounts;

Judge now the natures of the two,

Say which has the greater virtue;

Compare next the precious stones,

And say which place the finer owns;

Compare the pine and olive after,

That stand above the flowing water.

And I will accept your sentence,

If, based upon the evidence,

That I’ve proclaimed heretofore

A true judgement you’ll ensure.

For I say, without flattery,

I yield to no man entirely,

For if you seek a wrong, in sooth,

Speak falsely, or suppress the truth,

I shall not seek to hide from you

I would appeal elsewhere, anew.

That the sooner we might agree,

I will recall for you, briefly,

As I explained before, to you,

The greater goodness, greater virtue.

That – makes the living drunk with death,

This – raises the dead, in a breath.

My lords, know this with certainty,

If you manage yourselves wisely,

And act, in all ways, as you ought

You’ll drink of the fount, as I’ve taught.

And so that all I said may be

Retained by you more readily,

(A lesson’s easier to retain

If few words do its sense explain)

I will briefly repeat for you,

All of the things that you should do.

Seek always to honour Nature,

Serve her well by your labour;

And however goes the season,

Lend her your aid within reason.

If you receive aught from another

Return the same then to that other,

And if you have frittered away

That loan, or lost it all at play,

When you are in funds again,

Then willingly repay that same.

Seek not to murder, or to slay,

Keep hands and mouth clean alway;

Be loyal, and compassionate,

So pass beyond the narrow gate,

Follow the lamb in that fair field,

That doth the life eternal yield,

And drink from that lovely spring,

So clear, sweet, and health-giving

That you will be all free from death,

Once you drink of it, at a breath.

But rather will live joyfully,

Sing on through all eternity, 

Upon the grass, sweet chansonettes

Amidst the flowers, and fair motets,

Carolling neath the olive tree.

What restlessness is this I see?

Tis time for me to finish, clearly,

For lovely songs too may weary,

Now lest I keep you all too long,

I shall, indeed, complete my song.

Now you know what you must do

When you are placed on high here too,

To preach from the pulpit to us.’

Genius preached to the host thus,

Delighting, bringing them solace.

Then his candle, in that very place,

He threw down; and its smoky flame

Spread all its glare about the same,

No lady was protected from it,

So well did Venus seek to spread it.

And the wind so caught it then

That all the women once again,

Bodies, hearts, and thoughts moreover,

Were permeated with that odour.

And Amor spread the news abroad,

All that the charter did afford,

So that no man of discernment,

E’er disagreed with its judgement.

That candle he did thus employ,

And all the host were filled with joy,

For never had they heard, they said

So fine and true a sermon read,

Nor e’er, since they were conceived,

So great a pardon had received,

Nor heard until this fine oration,

Such an excommunication;

And so as not to lose the pardon,

Agreed his judgement on the garden,

And replied at once, to that,

‘Amen, amen, fiat, fiat.’

Since there was naught left to weigh,

There was no reason to delay.

All who admired the sermon’s art,

Took it, word for word, to heart,

For it seemed most salutary,

Its pardon, for all, a charity;

They heard it willingly, I mean.

Now Genius vanished from the scene,

And what became of him none knew.

Then twenty or more raised the halloo:

‘Now to the assault, without delay,

Who understood his speech this day!

Our enemies are discomforted.’

Then all arose, with virtue fed,

Ready now to advance the war,

Take all and raze it to the floor.

The End of Part XI of the Romance of the Rose Continuation