René d'Anjou

The Book of the Heart Seized by Love
(Le Livre du Coeur d’Amour Épris)

Part IV: The Isle of the God of Love

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2023 All Rights Reserved.

This work may be freely reproduced, stored and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose. Conditions and Exceptions apply.


Chapter LXVII: Coeur and Desire find Hope once more

The hermit now left the chapel to re-join the lady, while the three companions awaited his return. Coeur and Desire, having heard the hermit say that Lady Hope, their noble mistress, lodged there, gazed at one another. Ask not if they were joyful, for they loved her greatly, and were deeply in debt to her for the help and comfort she had granted them previously. They had not waited long ere the hermit returned and told them to enter, since that was agreeable to Lady Hope.

The hermit showed them a narrow stall where they could leave their horses, which contained fodder he had gathered that morn. They led their mounts to the place, set the fodder before them, and went directly to the hermit’s little chamber, where they found Lady Hope. Coeur and Desire recognised her in an instant, and did her reverence; and Lady Hope, in turn, displayed great happiness and joy on recognising them.

The hour came for them to dine: the hermit swiftly set the board, for he saw that the three companions were greatly famished, and seated them at the table. Hope sat between Coeur and Desire, with Largesse opposite them, and the hermit served them, and satisfied their appetite as best he could. He fed them a sufficiency of what the Lord had provided, and the company ate with a good appetite, practically nothing having passed their lips for a good two days.

Chapter LXVIII: Lady Hope and the three companions hear the Mass recited

After dinner, once the board had been cleared, Lady Hope summoned Coeur and Desire, and began to converse with them, asking whom Largesse was, and how their affairs had gone since they had departed from her. The two companions talked to her of Largesse, telling her whence he had guided them, and describing all the adventures that had occurred to them, from the moment she had left them on the perilous bridge over the River of Tears, where she had saved Coeur from drowning, until now.

It grew late, and the time came to rest, so they called to the hermit, their host, and asked him if he would perform the Mass first thing next morning, which he promised to do. They said goodnight to Lady Hope, and saluted her, and the hermit led them to a corner where he had laid out a pallet of fresh straw, for he had given up his own mattress to Lady Hope, and left himself without a bed. The companions lay down, covered themselves as best they could, and were soon asleep, weary and much fatigued as they were.

When dawn broke, they woke, arose and were dressed in no time, since they had slept clothed in their tunics. They went to the hermit’s chapel, where they found him saying Matins; they wished him good day, and the hermit returned their salute. They asked if Lady Hope had already risen, and he replied that he knew not. One of them went to find her, but encountered her on her way to the chapel, fully ready to hear the Mass, since she had already said her prayers before quitting her chamber.

The hermit donned his sacred robes, and performed a Mass of the Holy Ghost for them, which Hope and the three companions listened to with deep devotion. 

Chapter LXIX: The companions request Hope’s guidance and counsel

One the Mass had been said, the three companions addressed Lady Hope, and, before taking leave of her, begged her, since they had told her all their news, to grace them with hers, and tell them what had happened to her since they had seen her last, and also to counsel them and tell them how they should best act in order to achieve their enterprise of which she was aware; and of her maternal goodness to speak a little of the adventures that awaited them, as she had done once before, since they knew, if she pleased, she could tell them of those very same.

Then Lady Hope began to smile, and was pleased to tell the three companions all that she had heard, not only Coeur and Desire that is, but also Largesse, who when she had heard him named recognised him as one whom she had seen before, and who seemed to have great confidence in her. Then she addressed them, in a brief harangue, in the manner of a discourse, speaking as follows:

Chapter LXIX: Hope gives an extensive reply

‘Now, my children, I will address,

Since I’ll tell all, no more nor less,

That which you have requested so,

Which otherwise you could not know.

Fair Welcome, who is bound to me,

I sought to bring across the sea,

And lead him to the god of Love;

He is the friend I did remove

As I have informed you before,

From the dungeon, oped its door,

Where Jealousy imprisoned him,

For there, indeed, his hopes were dim,

And naught but death was in his mind,

Which rouses pity in me, men find.

And that is ever Jealousy’s way,

Who groans if others joy display.

And whether it be wrong or right,

Brooks no excuse, woe her delight.

After that, I remembered you,

Ere you came within my view,

For I have ne’er ceased to rely

On meeting you, should I pass by.

So, I have journeyed to this place,

And ne’er a moment slacked my pace.

Now, God be thanked, I find you here,

But let the past swift disappear,

And let us speak of what’s to be.

You will have much to do, I see,

Before Sweet Mercy’s won by you,

Yet be not dismayed; stay true;

Let your belief in me ne’er cease,

You’ll win her, whoe’er that displease,

Despite the torments you shall know

Upon the sea, where you must go,

And many a grievous woe beside

Overcome, on the other side.

I believe that you yet recall,

Without my repeating it all,

That you must combat Rejection,

And Refusal, scorn dejection,

Ere Sweet Mercy yields to you;

Each of you knows this to be true.

You shall walk the sacred ground

Of Love, wherein sadness profound

Will pain your hearts as you view

The sepulchres and portraits too

Of lovers who died in the quest

Of her you seek (for there they rest),

Of her with whom you’ll take your ease,

And yet rejoice, if God so please.

Shall I point out to you the way,

Ere I now cease? Well, then, I say,

Here is the path that you must take,

When this place you, at last, forsake:

After this wood ends, that you see,

Sited there, midst a wild country,

Stands a tall cross, plain to the eye.

Coeur, approach it and so pass by,

And you, others, all three together,

For, believe me, that path is ever

The quickest way to reach the sea.

Once you arrive, now hark to me,

There you’ll find that a boat doth ride

The wave, a barque, tis long and wide.

Boldly then, make your way aboard,

The heavens will fair winds afford;

They will carry you o’er the main,

Till you shall reach dry land again;

For to the isle of the god of Love,

O’er the ocean, that boat will move.

Adieu, for I must now depart;

No more have I to say, dear Heart.’

Chapter LXX: The three companions reach the seashore

Then Lady Hope vanished from the three companions’ sight in such a manner that they knew not what had become of her, and they gazed at each other, amazed at how swiftly she had disappeared from view. But Coeur and Desire who had seen her do thus before, and who had managed to endure all the ills she had prophesied, were undismayed and reassured Largesse. Then all three together went to find the hermit, to take leave of him and thank him for the kindness he had shown them. Largesse took six gold bezants from his purse, and offered them to the hermit, who would not take them, so Largesse dropped them into the chapel’s collection box in the hermit’s presence, who told him they would be employed for God’s work. Then the hermit brought them water to drink before they left, saying that they would soon be grateful for it.

When the three companions had drunk, and eaten a morsel, they took leave of the hermit, found their steeds which they mounted, and took to the road, riding through the woodland, as Lady Hope had instructed them. They rode at a goodly pace till they emerged from the trees, a distance of a league and a half or so, without meeting with any adventure that the story relates, and once beyond it could see the coast, about a league away. Their hearts trembled, but they recalled all that Lady Hope had told them, which comforted them greatly.

They road swiftly towards the sea, without straying from their path, until, at noon, they reached the shore. They looked about them, and saw the barque ready to sail, as Lady Hope had prophesied. Then they drew close, and deliberated amongst themselves as to what they should do. Desire was the first to declare his thoughts on the matter, and spoke as follows:

‘What do we fear now, gentlemen?

Hope gave us guidance, once again.

Has not the lady said if we

Have confidence in her, then she

Will preserve us from harm always,

And thus, all ills met with this day?’

Chapter LXXI: They board the vessel and encounter two maidens

With this, Coeur immediately dismounted, annoyed and ashamed at having delayed so long, marched to the water’s edge and boarded the vessel. His two companions did the same, handing their mounts to the valets, who received them as payment for their services. Once the three companions were installed aboard, they inspected the boat from prow to stern, and there they found two noble maidens sleeping, who attended on those who sought to cross the sea, an office to which they had been appointed by the god of Love, who recompensed them well for doing so.

On hearing the sound of horses ashore, they awoke; for in truth, when the aforesaid creatures no longer had the bit in their mouths, nor the bridle on their heads, none could hold them, and they commenced to rear at each other violently, striking with hooves and teeth, neighing loudly and causing a great stir. It was this loud neighing that woke the slumbering maidens within the vessel, while the three companions were installed by their valets on the prow of the ship, where they helped them doff some of their armour and remove the spurs from their feet.

It was at that moment, that the two maidens opened their eyes, and with a frightened air raised their heads and looked around to see whence came the noise. They then perceived the three companions, who were now aboard, and, rising to their feet, glided gently towards them, as if undismayed and fearful of naught. They saluted Coeur, then Desire and Largesse, all three returning their salute. Then the maidens asked the three companions what adventure had led them there, and Desire replied as follows:

The companions embark

‘The companions embark’
Codex Vindobonensis 2597, fol. 51v: Le Livre du Coeur d’Amour Épris, (Barthélemy d'Eyck, 1460-1469)
Wikimedia Commons

Chapter LXXI: Desire’s reply to the maidens

‘My mistress Confidence, and you Attention,

We are here, urged on by the true intention,

I and my two companions, to ask of you,

If you will aid the crossing we now pursue,

For we are in greater haste, than e’er before,

In our desire to achieve the further shore.

We will reward you well, to your heart’s content,

Such that, by God, of your deed you’ll ne’er repent.

And if you would know our names at once, then he

Is Coeur, who is much esteemed by all that be,

And I am named Desire, and here is Largesse,

And all three beg you’ll forgo sweet idleness,

And bear us o’er the sea to the god of Love,

For we three hope that our aim he will approve.’

Chapter LXXII: The maidens take to the oars and the boat sets forth

Without replying, the two maidens prepared to grant the aforesaid request of the three companions, and simply attired so as to row more easily, a thing lovely to see since they were nobly formed, they raised anchor, and set forth on the waves, so effectively that they were soon a goodly distance from shore, such that they were hard put to distinguish the land from the expanse of water through which they ploughed.

Gazing at the maidens as they laboured thus, Coeur pitied the extent of their efforts; he therefore advanced in order to offer his aid, begging them to pass him an oar, and show him what he must do. Confidence addressed Coeur, smilingly:

‘Coeur, full of impetuosity,

There’s scant need for such courtesy;

You shall not labour at the oar,

For little you’ve known of such before!

By my soul, let me be, for I

Am used to it, we both can ply

The oar, both I and my sister;

For loyal hearts we labour ever.

Suffer us now to guide you there,

Mix not in what is our affair!’

Chapter LXXIII: The vessel is caught in a gale

While they were speaking together thus, the weather being calm and bright, and the slightest of undulations, roused by the gentlest breath of a fresh breeze, stirring the surface of the sea, in the most propitious way one might wish, and blowing from astern sufficiently to drive the boat towards the isle of the god of Love, the two maidens ceased to row, then, without a moment’s delay, one loosed the sail, which was furled to the yard above; she slackened the ropes clewing it fast, and shook out the canvas, which quickly caught the wind. The other maiden sped to the helm to set their direction: and thus, with the one attending to the sail and the other steering, they maintained their course. 

The three companions who had not rested for three days, slept so deeply and for so long that they woke not till the wind strengthened, the waves rose higher, and the swelling sea grew somewhat troubled, in such a manner that the vessel was forced to pitch and toss, here and there, quite wildly; its motion roused the three, who felt dizzied and somewhat seasick. They began to visibly lose colour, confused and unsure what to do, until Desire could stay silent no longer; he spoke as follows:

Chapter LXXIII: Desire encourages the others

‘Ah, Lord above! How Amour doth ever

Stand by while his faithful servants suffer,

And grants them scant repose until too late!

I hold him foolish who, sad to relate,

Sets forth without knowing how to return.

Oh, how the tempest rages, the waves churn,

All about! Now, in truth, I feel and know

How tis when the soul from the flesh doth go.

Dead I would rather be, embrace my fate,

Than dwell much longer in this wretched state!

Nonetheless, I’d not choose to be onshore,

Whatever the ills we three must endure,

If we were forced thus to forsake our quest,

Quit our enterprise, at the storm’s behest.

May God guide us, and grant us patience now,

Later, we’ll be proud of ourselves, I’d vow.’

Chapter LXXIV: They reach an isle where Companionship and Friendship are fishing

So, Desire lamented, as the tale tells, because of the tempest that tormented him endlessly; and not him alone but also his two companions, even though they uttered not a word of complaint: though that was because their lips could not form the sounds, so troubled and anguished were they, as could be seen clearly by their expressions.

When the two maidens perceived their state, they made them lie down to avoid experiencing a worse bout of sea-sickness, and they gave way to the maidens’ wish; indeed, they lay down willingly for assuredly they had great need of repose at that moment, and it was necessary for them to rest. Though they had naught to eat or drink, they had no appetite for such. Curled up, thus, they better endured the sickness that overcame them whenever they stood or lay straight. 

So, they passed that day till evening, and when the sun was near to setting, the gale weakened as the sun descended, and raged less wildly than it had done, though the waves still ran full and high, and the sea was still troubled and restless. Little by little it grew calmer, such that before night fell, and the sky was wholly dark, the wind ceased to blow, and the sea was again calm.

It was at that precise moment, that the two maidens perceived, on a rocky isle surrounded by the sea, Companionship and Friendship, fishing with rod and line: on seeing the two maidens the pair recognised them from afar, called to them, and demanded to know why they were there and what they sought. The cries they uttered woke Coeur, Desire, and Largesse, and on raising their heads they saw the island, which fact scared them a little for fear their vessel was about to strike the rocks.

The two maidens began to laugh at the sight of the three companions in such a state of fright. Attention spoke as follows:

Companionship and Friendship fishing from the rocky isle

‘Companionship and Friendship fishing from the rocky isle’
Codex Vindobonensis 2597, fol. 55r: Le Livre du Coeur d’Amour Épris, (Barthélemy d'Eyck, 1460-1469)
Wikimedia Commons

Chapter LXXIV: Attention addresses the three companions

‘Noble and gracious Coeur, what ails you now,

And Desire, ever faithful I would vow,

And you, Largesse, what is it you see here

That seems to fill the three of you with fear?

We are women, and own no fear at all,

And with good reason: no ill shall befall,

Yet we see you brave fellows shake with fright!

List to my words, for here we may alight.

There’s not a threat of danger near at hand,

We are as safe here as we were on land.

Arise now, for the time has come, I think,

When you’ll find strength anew to eat and drink:

In a moment or two, you’ll be on shore,

And you can seek for nourishment once more.

Upon this rock we all shall pass the night.

Now cease to think, rejoice at this new sight!

These two ladies will see about our supper,

By their grace we all shall dine together.

They are true servants in the company

Of the god of Love, and will ever be.

Come now, disembark, forego more delay,

We’ll find rest here, until the break of day.’

Chapter LXXV: The companions dine with the four ladies

The brave companions were the first to set foot on shore, followed by the two maidens, and Companionship and Friendship received them in their dwelling, joyously, and most willingly, and made them eat of what they had there; instead of ship’s biscuit they ate grilled fish, a fish that the ladies called Go-Between. And Coeur, full of astonishment, asked what sort of fish that was, for it seemed to him he had seen the like before, in France and elsewhere, but named otherwise. Finding that Coeur was surprised by the name they gave, Friendship said sweetly to him:

‘Know then, noble Coeur, the name they employ

For the fish you eat, and happily enjoy,

There, in France, would in truth be ‘mackerel’,

A flavoursome fish that suits lovers well

That suffer from such sickness. It will ease

The worst of pangs, and ‘lettuce’ too doth please,

A sweet relief, and pleasant medicine.

So, eat away, and from the fair cuisine

Of Love, on a Friday, seek no other.

Eat well, such is ever in my larder.’

Chapter LXXVI: The company spend the night on the isle

The three companions addressed their plates without more ado, and ate heartily. Then they drank of the good wine that was there, to their heart’s content. They arose, and gazed at the isle and the waves in the moonlight. But it was not long before Companionship and Friendship took up rod and line, and baited their hooks with what they called ‘gifts’. And once they had cast their hooks in the water, they soon caught plenty of fish, of the kind spoken of before. Desire was delighted to view this, and never ceased from watching the ladies employing themselves thus.

Largesse asked why they fished by night, and waited not for daylight when they might see better and catch the fish more readily, but Companionship replied that he understood naught, for it was the nature and habit of such fish to approach the shore at night rather than in the daytime. It was useless to fish by day for they would find none, or at least surprisingly few, that failed to hide in the depths.  

After a while, Desire called to his companions, and told them he wished to sleep; he informed them that, according to the custom followed in those waters, those who wished to sail abroad were obliged to depart two or three hours before dawn, that is at the hour when the morning star was apparent in the sky, the star which in France they call the ‘day-star’; he knew this because he had sailed this sea before in the company of other brave hearts than the one present. Confidence spoke to Coeur, and Largesse, in the same terms; and then Companionship and Friendship took them gently by the hand and led them to the hut they had built to which they could retire to rest after the fishing. They were poorly lodged there, but endured it patiently. The torment they had suffered at sea during the preceding day meant that they found rest all the more sweet and pleasant at that time, and their lodgings more agreeable; besides, after labour no bed seems hard, as everyone knows.

So, our three companions slept, leaving the ladies at leisure to fish all night. And when the hour arrived when the morning star, high, bright and clear, shone in the sky, Companionship called to the two sweet and amiable maidens, who arose and slid their boat (which they had beached, in a narrow inlet, a natural harbour, where the wind could not dislodge it) into the water. Then they raised the mast, attached the furled sail to the yard, and hauled that spar on high, before setting the oars in place.

Chapter LXXVI: The three companions and the two maidens set sail  

It was then that Coeur, Desire and Largesse, who were yet sleeping, awoke, and while they were dressing the two maidens climbed to the summit of the cliff to observe the weather and see if it was favourable for voyaging. They found the horizon clear and calm, free of cloud or wind, and the day vanquishing the night, at that hour when the moon can no longer rival the light of the sun, and the birds begin their chorus. For its part, the sea was serene and tranquil, motionless as a pond. Gulls were wheeling above the waves, while others, a pleasant sight, were pecking about on the rocky shore. The sun persevered in chasing the moon and stars to their rest, until naught but it appeared in the sky. Then the three companions felt ashamed, on viewing the bright day, of having taken so much time to dress and ready themselves. They left the little boxlike hut, and exchanged salutations with the two ladies of the isle.

Coeur now asked where Confidence might lie, and Companionship told him she had gone with her companion, Attention, to the cliff heights to observe the weather. But Friendship, who was still fishing, left her rod and line to assure the three companions that the weather was fine, and that there would be not the least gust of wind at sea that day, with which assurance our trio were most content, and rendered thanks to God, for they much doubted and feared the waves, since they had experienced their power the preceding day and in such a manner that they had thought to die. Confidence and her companion, on hearing the trio speak, recognised the voices of Coeur, Desire, and Largesse, and descended from the cliff and ran to help the three companions board the vessel. And in less time than once could recite two paternosters, the three companions, accompanied by the ladies of the isle who led them straight to the inlet, arrived at the boat, where they all greeted the two maidens, who saluted them all in turn, and then embarked with the three companions, leaving the two ladies of the isle on the shore. The voyagers commended each other, courteously, to God, and thanked the ladies for their hospitality, who asked pardon for not having attended upon them more assiduously the previous night.

Chapter LXXVI: They voyage to the isle of the god of Love  

They raised anchor, and the two maidens directed the vessel calmly over the water, while the tranquil sea bore them along sweetly, without tossing them hither and thither. In a brief while, perforce, they were carried so far from the rocky isle where they had lodged, that it was lost to view. But not the sun, which rose higher and began to shine more brightly, the day being fine, while the calm sea was pleasant and lovely to gaze upon, and they did so gladly.

In viewing the waves, they looked ahead, and saw an island some distance from them, cloaked it seemed in an azure mist so beautiful and fine they took great pleasure in the prospect, it seeming a place more spiritual than terrestrial. They took counsel together, and decided to sail as directly as possible for that lovely isle; the two maidens navigating on that course for two leagues or more. Then they rested awhile, still gazing in the direction of the island.

The sun, already high and shining brightly, pierced the depths of the mist, so effectively that it wholly illuminated a splendid castle, situated in the midst of the isle, which itself glittered and shone so resplendently that it was a wondrous thing to view, and one which no tongue or pen could adequately describe. But I am at least capable of relating that the three companions, gazing upon it, were so charmed they knew not where they were, so amazed were they at the sight of so fine and pleasant a castle, sited upon so lovely and agreeable an island, and on viewing they great beauty of the buildings they could see there.

They pursued their course in such a manner, most effectively, throughout that day, the maidens navigating without interruption while keeping their eyes on that finest of castles, until they were no more than a mile from the island. The evening shadows had not yet fallen, though the sun was no longer shining, and the brightness common to summer days still lingered. They could view the interior of the isle, to a depth of two miles or so, and could see there the most magnificent church that a mortal could ever see, and, as the tale told in speaking of the chateau mentioned above, the church seemed no earthly thing, but rather a celestial one, since the building, and the enclosure about it was sited upon a rock formed wholly of pure love, and the walls were set upon foundations of brownish-grey marble, composed of bright polished jasper, and entirely covered by plaques of pure silver, nobly enamelled with azure stars, and so fine that, though the sun had set, the whole formed a spectacle of absolute beauty.

At this point the story ceases to describe in detail the allure of the church’s various aspects, as to do so would take too long (it is impossible to tell of them in their entirety until a more appropriate occasion is forthcoming) and begins to speak of the three companions once more, in order to relate something of their adventures, and return to the heart of our subject matter.

Chapter LXXVII: And steer for the church visible on the island

At this point, the story relates that when the three companions in the boat perceived, as I described previously, the glorious church, which seemed nearer to them then the splendid castle of which the tale has told, they and the maidens decided to steer for the church, as it seemed to them that they would not soon reach shore, and they would be fortunate to do so while it was still light; moreover, they were increasingly weary and needed nourishment, weakened as they had been by sea-sickness, and none of them having had even a morsel of bread all day.

So, the maidens redoubled their efforts at the oars, upon which Desire, who was steering, told Coeur and Largesse to row and allow the maidens to rest, and this they did. But as they rowed quite feebly, he could not help smiling at their situation. He did not smile, however, so discreetly as to avoid his doing so being seen by Coeur, who felt a degree of anger, and called out:

Chapter LXXVII: Coeur reproaches Desire for mocking him 

‘Come now, Desire, what’s this I see?

Are you not once more mocking me?

When I seek toil rather than rest,

As ever, you make of it a jest!

By God, you’re but a malcontent,

To anger me your whole intent,

For instead of cheering me on,

As I work, you pour scorn thereon,

And so, discourage, in the end,

One who believed he was your friend!

I know not why you e’er do so,

But you do ill, I’d have you know.

You’ve not observed a trace in me

Of idleness, you must agree!

Chapter LXXVII: Largesse intervenes to reconcile the pair 

At this, Desire and Largesse realised that Coeur had been angered on seeing Desire smile. Largesse addressed Coeur and Desire both, for he ever intervened to reconcile the pair, and spoke as follows:

‘Ah, devil take me, what is this?

When you’ve ceased to spit and hiss

I’d like a little word or two:

And you must listen, both of you.

By my faith, I’d ne’er have thought

When Honour told me, at his court,

To journey with you both, I’d be

In such impetuous company!

One mocks, the other takes offence,

One smiles, the other makes defence,

And shows a lack of patience here:

You lack all sense it would appear.

You must govern yourselves better,

Obey love’s laws, to the letter,

And seek to be not fools, but wise,

Or you’ll fail of your enterprise.

Coeur, little you recall Hope’s word,

Your behaviour is most absurd,

Angered by a friend’s mere smile,

As though he were but full of guile.

And you, Desire, are wrong indeed,

Our guide, to smile so, when we need

Rather to hear of this fair isle,

To which we journey all the while.

So, make peace, between you, now,

And let us hear the truth. We’ll vow

To listen, as we sail along,

And forget that you both did wrong,

For companions upon a quest

Should not quarrel thus, o’er a jest.’

Chapter LXXIX: Desire tells them of the isle

And the story goes that, at these words, the two companions, Coeur and Desire, were silent and calmed themselves; they realised that they had both done wrong, and might have been taken for a pair of drunks if they had indeed imbibed any wine: Coeur because he had been roused to anger so readily, and Desire, because he had told them nothing of the island to which they were headed, one which he knew well, and because he had failed to encourage them even a little, though he had led many another to that place.

Desire then said that it was high time to offer some encouragement, since they had escaped great peril on the sea, though not the other perils to come of which he had considerable experience, as you will hear later, and spoke to them in the following manner:

‘Gentlemen, be not now displeased,

And listen ere our voyage has ceased.

By God, you ought to be ashamed,

Dear Coeur, for growing so inflamed!

You thought I made a mock, of you,

When I but jested here anew.

Not at all, for those who mock you

Displease me, and annoy me, too.

And too sad are those by a mile

That would not see another smile.

Forget all that, and list to me,

And I will tell of that country.

In truth you gaze upon the isle

Of the god of Love, so fertile,

Full of joys, so delectable

That the place is most notable.

Whether tis fine or it should rain,

Nothing annoys, or gives one pain.

Those it displeases leave that day,

For Love forbids that they should stay.

He wishes on them woe and pain,

Those who Sweet Mercy would gain,

So, Coeur, take care, I beg of you,

Let not delight obscure your view;

There’s naught Amor would hate so much,

Nor would rouse his anger and such,

I assure you, as that you forget

The sweet prize that you seek to get.

Of other things you will hear

When before him you appear,

But, for now, to the church we go

That makes here so noble a show.

Tis the place that offers succour

To many a poor faithful lover,

To them a refuge it doth prove,

For tis the Hospital of Love.

Therein lie the tombs moreover,

Of many a loyal lover,

For none that are faithless lie there,

They all lie, neath the rain, elsewhere.

Many an epitaph there you’ll see,

That seem beyond mere artistry.

Therein lies one of recent fame,

Worthy of glory was that same,

Alain Chartier, the master,

Of all that becomes a lover.

Of Love he wrought many a rhyme,

The very finest in our time,

And sang many another theme:

With fertile thoughts his verses teem.

Of the Hospital I’ll say no more,

For we’ll lodge there, once on shore.

But let me mention the chateau here,

That so wondrous doth appear:

The Castle of Pleasure tis named,

Where Love resides, and tis famed;

For love of Lady Venus, he

Wrought it; fair as the eye could see,

Its beauty, as wise folk avow,

Yet I’ll speak no more of it now,

For, if God please, the place you’ll see,

Tomorrow, if tis there you be.

For now, I’ll leave off my discourse,

Or we may falter, in our course.’

Chapter LXXX: The companions land, and reach the Hospital of Love

Now the tale says that while the three companions were conversing, Coeur and Largesse continued to ply the oars, and maintain their speed, for night was falling, and they laboured so well that, before Desire had finished the discourse you have heard, they reached the isle of the god of Love. Once there they each put a hand in their purse to pay the two maidens, but Confidence and Attention would accept neither gold nor silver, offering their services moreover to transport the three whenever they wished to pass to and fro. The three companions, thanking them, took their leave, as they did of the travellers.

Then the trio departed the vessel, and leapt ashore. They made their way swiftly towards the Hospital of Love, which lay before them. But they had not gone more than a mile, the least part of the way, when night finally fell, and the moon began to shine, clear, bright and beautiful. For its part the path was fine and well-trodden, for many a poor amorous sufferer had gone there to end their days.

They were aided by the moonlight and the well-made path and in a short while they came to the door of the Hospital. There, before the portal, they found an old lady, very simply dressed, in religious habit; and if you ask me who she was, I will tell you that this was Lady Courtesy, the matron there, waiting for any poor lover in search of lodgings, for they could arrive at any hour.

Then Desire, who recognised her instantly, saluted her and spoke to her in the following manner:

Chapter LXXX: Desire addresses Lady Courtesy   

‘Courtesy, God give you good eve,

And good year, and may you ne’er grieve!

We are three companions who

Seek to find lodging here with you.

From the Hospital, drive us not

Nor let our merits be forgot,

For we are of the company

Of the god of Love, as you see.

You have encountered me before,

Desire am I, on every shore.

Largesse is my companion, here,

To promises he doth adhere,

And this is Coeur whom you know not,

But shall in time, for tis his lot.

Lodge us now, for this one night,

Do not dismiss us from your sight.’

Chapter LXXXI: The companions explain their quest

When Lady Courtesy, the Hospital’s matron, knew that here stood Desire and Largesse, whom she knew to be true servants of the god of Love, the sovereign founder of the Hospital, ask not if she was joyful. She rose from her seat instantly, and advanced, holding out her arms to greet them, and so filled with overwhelming joy was she that for a moment she could not speak. After a while, once she could utter a word, she asked whence they came, where they were journeying to, and the nature of their quest, and also who it was that accompanied them, for he seemed to be a nobleman and she took him for such since he was of their company.

Then Desire told her of their situation, and of the quest to find Sweet Mercy that Coeur had undertaken at his behest, and spoke of all the adventures they had encountered since its commencement, and how he had brought Largesse from the house of Honour, as one who, he was convinced, would prove most helpful to them on their journey. Then Courtesy, hearing this wondrous tale, marked within herself that Desire was truly a servant of Love, to have gained Coeur’s trust so, and led him to undertake such a quest. She then conducted all three to the Hospital, wishing to introduce them to Lady Pity’s chamber, she being the prioress there, though they met her as they went, since she, for her part, was on her way, preceded by a torch, to visit the sick, of whom there were a great number. For the most part they were suffering from wounds inflicted by Refusal and Rejection, as the companions heard recounted later, by the prioress, Lady Pity. Thus, while she was occupied in visiting the sick, and dosing and treating them as best she could, behold here came Lady Courtesy who wished her good eve, and presented the three companions Coeur, Desire and Largesse to her, and apprised her of what she knew concerning their rank and situation, notably in regard to Coeur and the quest he had undertaken at Desire’s instigation.

Chapter LXXXI: They are guests of the ladies Pity and Courtesy

Lady Pity gave them a kind welcome, having recognised Desire and Largesse whom she had seen before at the court of Love, but Coeur she knew not; nonetheless, seeing that he was a fine young man with a noble look, and in the company of those two, and also the leader of the quest, as she had understood from Lady Courtesy who had recounted all to her, she welcomed him with a cheerful face, and invited all three of them to her chamber once she had finished visiting the sick. 

She began to converse with them, but Desire, who was bold and acquainted with her, said that they would much rather eat than converse, for they had eaten little that day, and had suffered and endured great pain and travail. Then he recounted their history from end to end, with all the adventures and accidents that had befallen them. So, the prioress, Lady Pity, gave the order for a table to be laid for the three companions, seated them, and served them an abundance of good things, which they ate with appetite, famished as they were.

But first Coeur removed his armour, for though he was on foot he had not yet seen fit to doff his hauberk or his iron cap, nor to lay down his good sword, with which Desire had chosen to arm him at the start of their quest, as you heard earlier. When they had eaten and drunk to their heart’s desire, the tables were removed, and the ladies Pity and Courtesy approached the three companions: they entered together on the subject of the enterprise that the companions were about. Desire, who had talked a little with his friends in advance, and to whom it seemed appropriate to take counsel concerning their task with the two ladies, began to speak with them, as knowing them better and being more closely acquainted with them, and commenced in the following manner:

‘My Lady Pity, the prioress,

You oft do good deeds, and no less

Is Lady Courtesy well known

For kindliness, as she will own.

See here the Heart that love has seized,

A fine young man who has been pleased

To forgo every other quest,

Undertaking, at my behest,

To win the lovely Sweet-Mercy;

Most willingly, and most humbly.

I have done so that he might serve,

The god of Love, without reserve,

Guided, thus, by Largesse and I,

Who keep him company thereby.

And because we know you ever

Love the virtue and true honour

Of the sovereign god of Love,

You should our enterprise approve.

As true as the paternoster,

True council we’d have you foster,

(As you have done on other shores,

For I know naught to equal yours)

As to what path we should follow,

And how we three might come to know

All that in future we must do,

And must not fail to conquer too,

To win Sweet Mercy in the end,

A lady I would wish my friend;

For if you would but grant us aid,

Then we are sure, our plans once made,

Of achieving what we desire,

Without our falling in the mire.

Seek then to favour us anew,

And we will pray to God for you.’

Chapter LXXXII: The prioress extends her hospitality to them

Then Lady Pity reflected awhile, and after doing so told Desire that she would give consideration that night to all he had said, and grant him a reply the next morning, after Mass, for it was too late to do so that evening and time now to go and rest. Then she ordered Lady Courtesy to prepare such beds for them as their rank demanded, which the latter hastened to do, like one that always desired to bring pleasure to all good folk.

She lit a torch and led them to where they might rest in comfort and at their ease, then, after installing them in their chamber, she wished them good evening. But Coeur, who was curious to see the tombs in that place, and also to make better acquaintance of Lady Courtesy, the matron there, whom he perceived as a noble lady, spoke to her, in rendering her his salute, saying:

Chapter LXXXII: Desire asks to see the tombs of the lovers

‘Lady, give you good-even too,

And such a one as I’d e’er view;

Yet one thing I would ask of thee,

Hoping that you will grant it me:

That tomorrow you’ll lead the way

To the tomb of Alain Chartier,

Whom I, a child, saw once before,

He being of France; one thing more

I would ask, to see all the tombs

Where bodies lie, that time consumes,

If you would deign to show them all

So, I might, later, the names recall.’

The end of Part IV of ‘Le Livre du Coeur d’Amour Épris’