René d'Anjou

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

Part VIII: The House of Rebellion

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

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Chapter CXXXVIII: Amor grants Coeur the permission he seeks

There were no other tapestries hanging in the aforesaid salon, though there was a wall-hanging, and a canopy above the table, whose curtains of golden cramoisy, stretched above the seats of honour, were wondrously luxurious. Having described the room, the tale recommences by speaking of Amor, who had gathered his Council. He first asked advice of his mother, Lady Venus, then of the others in order, regarding Coeur’s request, conveyed to him by Desire, as you have heard. Their counsel having been given, they rendered their final conclusion: that Coeur be retained in Amor’s service, for he was worthy of serving at a royal court, while all thought he would prove a good and loyal servant, and valiant moreover, while he had shown, as to the quest, that he had undertaken it solely at Desire’s behest.

However, they were all of the thinking that Amor should make Coeur swear on oath to serve him faithfully, and to observe his commandments scrupulously. That being done, it seemed to them that Amor should grant Coeur permission to win Sweet Mercy, and be accompanied by several of Amor’s friends, but should absolutely forbid him to slay Refusal or Rejection, since they were of Amor’s court, rebellious and little loved though they were; for, if they were not so, too many people would trouble Amor. However, there was no problem in him giving them a good beating to render them more amiable. As for Jealousy, and the slanderers, let him put them to death if he could capture them, for they had ever been, and were yet, a source of every manner of harm to Amor and his company.

This being their conclusion, it was decreed that Honour, the most prominent among them, should announce that same. So, Coeur and his companions were summoned. They knelt before Amor, but he made them rise and commanded Honour to inform them of his decision, having taken the advice of his counsel.

Honour bowed, and then began to relate, in an ordered and most rhetorical manner, all that had been discussed, and agreed. Coeur thanked Amor most humbly, but he was not pleased, nor was Desire, to be forbidden from slaying Refusal and Rejection, for it seemed to them that, while that pair lived, they could not achieve their quest as they wished. Nonetheless, pleased or no, Coeur knelt, having saluted Lady Venus reverently, and addressed Amor in the following manner:

‘High and puissant god, of old,

Lord on earth, to whom I hold,

I thank your grace, and most humbly,

Yet am not contented, wholly,

For it seems quite wrong to me,

That they should not cease to be,

Vile Refusal and Rejection,

Both in need of swift correction.

Yet patience is, I understand,

Required of me; tis your command.

It nonetheless, seems a marvel,

That such is your word and counsel:

Refusal your servant ever,

And Rejection. Tis but error,

Surely, for if that pair were dead

All faithful lovers would instead

Of seeking, as I, for mercy,

Obtain such far less painfully.

But let that go. I beg of you,

Grant me certain of your friends,

For on their aid my quest depends,

And let those same accompany me.

I ask of you, in amity,

First Pity, then Fair-Welcome too,

To aid the task that I pursue,

And lend me Promise, for Pity,

Advised the same, most strongly,

When she counselled me to seek

Your court, else my fate is bleak.

Of your grace, let Humble-Request

Accompany me, on my quest.

Then grant me leave to go, my lord;

Delay I cannot long afford.’

Chapter CXXXIX: Coeur swears to serve the god of Love

Then Amor began to smile, and said to himself that Coeur was somewhat hot and hasty. He consulted his Council, whose assessment was that Coeur had not asked for any of Amor’s people who could not readily be spared; and so, it was decreed that Loyalty, in the name of the god of Love, should receive Coeur’s oath, whereby he would pledge good and faithful service to Amor and undertake, henceforth, to respect his commandments. Loyalty then took up a book, had Coeur place his hand upon it and received his oath, expressed in these terms:

‘Coeur, swear and promise, here this day,

Always, faithfully, to obey

And serve the god of Love, ever,

From this duty failing never;

And flee from Chastity, in winter,

As swiftly as in full summer;

And exercise your intellect

In showing Love your due respect.

If his commandments you would know,

Read all, and understanding show,

Of the fair Romance of the Rose,

That doth the art of love enclose;

For you’ll find within all the ten

Commands he has imposed on men.

Take good care to study it well,

For it will serve all doubts to quell.

Flee, too, the wicked slanderers,

For harm they’ll do to you, those curs;

And guard yourself from Jealousy

Ever a cunning enemy.

Evil to him who slays them not,

When captivity proves their lot!

Yet vengeance, in this connection,

On Refusal and Rejection

You must not take, nor Fear nor Shame;

Amor would have you spare those same,

For he has long enjoined them to

Spare no pains, but keep in view

Sweet Mercy, and so guard her well.

The reason for it, I shall tell:

Too many suitors she would find

Annoying her, time out of mind.

As to four blows from your baton,

Amor would care not a button,

Tis the right reward, of old,

For those who do more than they’re told.

Amor welcomes your fealty:

Now, bow to him on bended knee,

As a sign of your reverence,

And of your true obedience,

And certain of his company,

He will lend you, presently,

(All those that I have heard you name),

To aid your just and valiant aim.’

The castle of Jealousy

‘The castle of Jealousy’
Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meung (Roman de la Rose)
Netherlands, S. (Bruges) c. 1490-c. 1500
British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts

Chapter CXL: The Venus tapestries

Then Amor summoned Lady Pity, Fair-Welcome, Promise, and Humble-Request, and ordered them to go with Coeur on his quest to win Sweet Mercy, for he had suffered enough distress, and it was high time that he was rewarded in that fashion. Yet they must guard themselves from doing anything contrary to that which Loyalty had said, a requirement to which Lady Pity, Fair-Welcome, Promise and Humble-Request willingly agreed.

It was time for supper, and Lady Venus wished to retire to her chamber; though, first of all, the companions in quest of Sweet Mercy took their leave of her, since they wished to depart early in order to carry out their undertaking. Signalling her agreement, she took each by the hand and commended them benignly to God. Then she walked directly towards her chamber, in a remarkably elegant manner. I can say naught of her apparel, for reasons of brevity, but also because I am incapable of describing them correctly; but I can at least assure you that she was beautiful, and arrayed like a goddess.

The tapestries in her chamber were all of satin cramoisy, embroidered with pure gold and pearls, depicting various personages, and displaying a verse regarding each, as follows:

Chapter CXL: The first tapestry: Pleasant-Manner and Friendly-Countenance

‘Pleasant-Manner and Friendly-Countenance

Snare true hearts in memory’s net, where they

Make sad hearts languish, on mere sufferance,

Ere they win ease (not simply tolerance),

Lost in pensive sadness, many a day.’

Chapter CXL: The second tapestry: Youth, Beauty and Idleness

‘Youth and Beauty, their time have wasted not:

In the form of Idleness, their taut net

They have extended jointly, in this spot,

So strongly are they bent, no wiles forgot,

In trapping winged hearts, aloft as yet.’

Chapter CXL: The third tapestry: Joyful-Mien and Gracious-Welcome

‘Joyful-Mien and then Gracious-Welcome

Tie the feet with bonds of acquaintance,

Thus, sweetly, they make loving hearts become 

Their willing servants by a ruse, in sum

They capture them, with ne’er a remonstrance.’

Chapter CXL: The fourth tapestry: Friendly-Mien and Courteous-Manner

‘Friendly-Mien and fair Courteous-Manner,

At the left side of Seductive-Seeming,

Have set their net at the oak-wood’s corner,

Awaiting the appointed hour, as ever,

When some frail winged heart comes flying.’

Chapter CXL: The fifth tapestry: Foolish-Presumption and Hope

‘Here, with fondest Hope, Foolish-Presumption,

Expecting some poor heart to flutter by,

Has limed a branch, on high, with illusion;

And what chance now, in its wild confusion,

Has that lost heart to free itself, and fly?’

Chapter CXL: The sixth tapestry: Sadness and Grief

‘Sadness and Grief own cages wrought of sighs,

And woven with the flowers of columbine,

In which many a winged heart now lies,

And these they make to sing, e’er their demise,

Notes of woe that those strong bars entwine.’

Chapter CXL: The seventh tapestry: Roger Bon-Temps

‘Seeing all these simple hearts thus caught,

And then ill-treated for their foolishness,

With none to pity their mistake, in short,

I withdrew my heart, and freedom sought,

To set it far from care, and from excess.’

Chapter CXL: The eighth tapestry: An Elderly Sage

‘I count this Roger Bon-Temps, here, as wise.

He who, in good time, withdrew his heart,

That, in Amor’s glade, taken by surprise,

He might not be so caught, nor plucked likewise,

Midst many another, trapped with subtle art.’

A hermit instructing a squire

‘A hermit instructing a squire’
Jean de Courcy, Alain Chartier, Romon Lull, Christine de Pisan (Le Chemin de Vaillance)
Netherlands, S. (Bruges), before 1483
British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts

Chapter CXLI: The companions dine with Amor, and then take their rest

Here, the tale relates that Amor delayed not in commanding that the tables be laid, which order was executed swiftly by those assigned to the task. Amor had Honour dine at his table, with the companions of the quest opposite him, and ask me not if they were well served. After dining, once the tables had been removed and thanks rendered, Amor conversed awhile with the companions. Then he ordered that a bed-chamber be prepared so they might take some rest, and that the castle gates be opened for them the next morning, for he knew that they wished to leave at an early hour, and that Coeur and Desire were impatient to be on their way. All was done according to his command, and with this the companions took leave of Amor and wished him goodnight, and Amor, in turn, saluted them in commending them benignly to God.

They withdrew, and retired to sleep, all three in the one room, in order that they might rise together and ready themselves quickly in the morning. But first they arranged for a Mass to be said at dawn, and Largesse slipped a few coins into three or four purses, as judged necessary. Then they lay down to rest, and having talked of their enterprise awhile, they slept till the break of day.

Chapter CXLII: Lady Pity and Fair-Welcome arrive at the House of Rebellion

At dawn, Desire was the first to wake, and called to his companions, then he went to Lady Pity’s door to call to her. The latter rose and readied herself, immediately, while Desire, returning to the room in which he had slept, found his companions dressed for attending Mass. They then walked off together, passing by the room of Lady Pity, to whom they wished good morning, she returning their salute and going with them to hear the Mass.

Once the Mass had been said, they left the Castle of Pleasure and went, on foot, in the direction of the House of Rebellion, where Sweet Mercy might be found. The aforesaid place was no more than two miles or so from the castle, less than a league certainly.

Coeur and Desire ordered Pity and Fair-Welcome to go on ahead and agreed that Fair Welcome would re-join them to inform them of Sweet Mercy’s attitude towards them, even though Lady Pity had already indicated her favourable disposition towards Coeur and Desire on the last occasion she had visited her. She set out on the road immediately, accompanied by Fair-Welcome, and they walked so swiftly that in but a little time they arrived at the House of Rebellion. They found Resistance at the door, having already risen, for he took great care in the guarding of Sweet Mercy. On seeing Lady Pity and Fair-Welcome, he bristled with indignation, wrinkled his brow, and could not refrain from speaking, as follows:

Chapter CXLII: Resistance addresses them

‘Behold, this vile old mackerel,

Come here looking for a quarrel!

The Devil take her, if he chooses!

Yet her time she merely loses,

As does, indeed, this youth also,

Fair-Welcome, who plays the beau,

And keeps the crone good company.

If they were not of Amor’s party,

This pair would never enter here.

For they’d ne’er guard it well, I fear.’

Chapter CXLIII: Fair-Welcome makes reply

Fair-Welcome gazed at him, reddening with anger, and could not help replying in these terms:

‘Be silent, rebellious villain!

Never a fair word, tis certain,

Ever leaves your lips, say I.

What concerns you not, you cry

Aloud; now let us pass swiftly,

For we would speak with Sweet Mercy.’

Chapter CXLIV: He returns with news, and Coeur advances on the House of Rebellion

With this, they entered the mansion, and went straight to Sweet Mercy’s chamber, who reddened when she saw Lady Pity. But she dared not say a word because of Shame and Fear who were watching her closely, as were Jealousy and the slanderers who were present. Then Lady Pity sat down beside her, and asked how she had done since the last time she had seen her. She added, in a whisper, that Coeur, of whom she had spoken the other day, was on his way and would soon be there. Sweet Mercy blushed more deeply, which was perceived by the slanderers, who told Shame and Fear of it, and ran off to announce that same to Refusal and Rejection.

Lady Pity demanded the greatest possible discretion of Sweet Mercy, if she wished to send a message to Coeur, her true friend; saying that she could do so by means of Fair-Welcome, who would return to Coeur promptly. Sweet Mercy indicated to Fair-Welcome that Coeur should come to her as soon as possible; she dared not speak in other than a whisper, being so closely watched.

Fair-Welcome then left Sweet Mercy’s presence, leaving Lady Pity with her, and went in haste to re-join Coeur and the other companions whom he found already but a crossbow-shot distant from the mansion. With a glad countenance he gave the news, announcing how he and Lady Pity had found Sweet Mercy, who awaited his arrival with eagerness. Yet they must be prudent, for Refusal, Rejection, Jealousy and the slanderers, with Shame and Fear were ever watchful, within the mansion, and they suspected, so he thought, that Coeur would soon be there.

So, each raised the stave with which they had been furnished before leaving the Castle of Pleasure, and Coeur gazed on his good sword and hauberk, as well as his steel helm, which he was never without, and said to himself that he would give Jealousy and the slanderers a deal of trouble if he met with them. Once each had taken up their stave, as best they could, they advanced on the mansion together, and, in but a little time, were at the door of the House of Rebellion, where they found Refusal, who was awaiting their arrival, clad in an old thickly-woven vest, his head covered by a rusted bassinet, of ancient design. He was fat and ugly, deformed and hideous, and had the look of a rebellious individual of ill character. He held in his hand a large branch cut from a medlar, and was full of anger and discontent, and ready to fight. Desire spoke first, addressing him in these words:

‘Refusal, we must enter here,

For we would wish, be it clear,

To speak awhile with Sweet Mercy

Whom we have all come to see.’

Chapter CXLV: Refusal replies to Desire’s challenge

On hearing this, Refusal gazed at him, so furiously that, with regard to his visage, sparks seem to leap from his helmet’s visor. He replied angrily, in these terms:

‘Off with you, and be on your way,

My fine sirs: God guide you, this day!

Whom do you think to mock at, so?

Take your staves, and baggage, and go.

Swiftly, direct yourselves elsewhere,

Tis not to my good self, I swear,

You should address such words. Away!

Let God give you welcome, I say.’

Chapter CXLVI: Humble-Request speaks courteously to Refusal

Then Desire and Coeur, ardent and angry as they were, thought to vent their fury, and fight. But Humble-Request restrained them, and said they should let Refusal be, for he himself would say a few words. He then addressed Refusal, in the following manner:

‘Refusal, lord Amor’s command,

Through myself you understand,

Is that you let this company

Enter in, without treachery,

That to Sweet Mercy they may speak,

Such is his will, for her they seek,

And be not displeased if they

Spend some time with her, in that way;

All they do, is done with honour,

Coeur indeed desires naught other.’

Chapter CXLVII: Refusal, in turn, replies insultingly to Humble-Request

Then Refusal raised himself on his toes, and proudly and fiercely, mocking and scorning Humble-Request, Amor’s emissary, replied thus:

‘So, you, my son, raised in the school

Of fine words, take me for a fool!

You may well know how to address

Those who prize mere verbal excess.

Tis not so here, if tis elsewhere!

Never shall I such language bear.

Do the worst that you’re able to,

By God, this door is closed to you!’

Chapter CXLVIII: Promise restrains Coeur

At this, Coeur delayed no more: he unsheathed his good sword and prepared to attack Refusal, who himself thought to return the compliment with a blow to the head. But Promise drew Coeur back, so that he could not strike, and begged the companions to allow him to speak. They accorded him space, and Promise addressed Refusal in the following manner:

‘Refusal, tis right to afford

The courteous a fair reward.

Let us enter; in recompense,

You’ll surely prove your own good sense,

While I will promise faithfully

Gold and silver to pay, in fee,

And in such quantity, indeed,

You’ll ne’er be poor, or rue the deed.’

Chapter CXLIX: Largesse intervenes

Refusal heard Promise out, and softened a little, but would not agree to his demand, for he never trusted the promises made to him.  While they were conversing, Largesse joined them, and suddenly threw a purse full of coins at Refusal’s right ear, so violently that he was stunned, and ceased his gross and rebellious speech. As he threw the purse, Largesse offered Refusal a few words:

‘Refusal, let us go and see,

I beg of you, this Sweet Mercy;

We will not stay long, I maintain,

And you’ll receive as much again.

Chapter CL: Refusal, once bribed, leads them to Sweet Mercy’s chamber

With this, Largesse took another purse full of deniers, and threw it disdainfully at Refusal’s other ear, with such force that he was stunned: but he was not so wild or fearful as not to do as the cur does, at who’s head one hurls a piece of bread, namely to seize it promptly. He sat on the ground, feigning to be hurt, but the wretch was unharmed. He clasped the two purses to him, and allowed Coeur and his companions to enter the mansion.

The bribe immediately rendered the way to Sweet Mercy’s chamber open, and they found her in the company of Lady Pity, who was pressing and exhorting her to show affection for the noble Heart seized by love. And when Coeur saw her, he was totally enraptured, for she was so beautiful and sweet that she seemed a veritable angel. I will abstain from describing her to you, for my art lacks the power to do so, and my pen the words, and to rightly depict the overwhelming loveliness and sweetness which was hers one would need to compose a far larger text than this.

Yet what I can say is that she was dressed in a robe and mantle of royal purple, that her tresses spread over her shoulders, and that on her head she wore a gold diadem adorned with precious stones. What can I say? She was by far the loveliest creature ever seen.

When Coeur and his companions had gazed at her attentively a while, they looked about them, and saw a company of ignoble wretches around her. Coeur asked Fair-Welcome who these people were, and Fair-Welcome replied:

‘Coeur, my friend, the slanderers are they,

Who ne’er speak the truth, by night or day,

Behold, there too is Jealousy,

And Shame, and Fear, I also see.

Such guard Sweet Mercy, God curse them!

May Saint Anthony’s fire seize them!

And yet it matters not a whit,

For we are here, their fate is writ.’

Chapter CLI: Coeur asks Humble-Request to speak for him

Then Coeur approached Sweet Mercy, but once before her he was so tongue-tied that he was unable to say a word, so Desire advanced, wishing to speak for him, but Coeur begged him to let Humble-Request speak instead, for he was most eloquent, and knew how to do so on behalf of all true lovers. Then Humble-Request took Coeur by the hand, with Desire on his other side, and approached as near as he might to Sweet Mercy and Lady Pity who was beside her. Saluting her, Humble-Request spoke thus:

‘Lady, may the Lord send to you

Joy, and health, and honour too!

Here is Coeur who suffers still,

For love of you, many an ill:

He comes here offering to serve

Straining every sinew and nerve,

As loyally as a man can do;

Have pity then, tis all for you;

Do so, in sweetness and mercy,

And think not that he seeks any

End but to ensure your pleasure,

Nor offend by any measure.

An ill death he would rather face

Than fail now to obtain your grace.

Wait no longer then, but make

Him your servant, for pity’s sake!’

Chapter CLII: Sweet Mercy replies

When Humble-Request finished speaking, Sweet Mercy looked towards Lady Pity, who was smiling, and from that moment she accepted Coeur as her servant and friend, for she saw that he was a handsome youth, noble yet humble. However, she dared not reveal the same, because Shame and Fear had their eyes upon her. Nonetheless, she could not help but reply, as Pity counselled, in these terms:

‘Humble Request, indeed you know

How to speak well, and have done so,

But I would, willingly, learn indeed,

If tis yourself will serve at need,

For if Coeur does not make all true,

Surely you, by rights, must so do;

Though none, I think, in truth, my friend,

Needs to speak for him, in the end.’

Chapter CLIII: Coeur expresses his love

Coeur, on hearing Sweet Mercy speak thus to Humble-Request, knew that she wished him to speak for himself. He sat down near to her, and in the tones of a man seized strongly by love, he stated his case as follows:

‘Lady, I know not how to tell

Of the torment, the pains of Hell,

The anguish, and the suffering,

I’ve borne for you, nigh unending,

So devoted with every breath,

I am almost reduced to death,

Through the power of your beauty,

Which I would serve most loyally.

Also, regard I’d have you pay,

In part at least, to the true way

I suffer pain for love of you

Without reward, though such is due.

My recompense is yet to be,

Through which deep joy will come to me.

Retain me as your servant here,

Fair one; the honour I’ll hold dear!

I know I’m not truly worthy,

Yet, of your sweet benignity,

If it please you, grant it, lady;

With the deed you will be happy.’

Chapter CLIV: Lady Pity encourages Sweet Mercy to accept his request

At these words, Lady Pity looked at Sweet Mercy, took her by the hand, and in a soft voice, with a trace of a smile, said this to her:

‘Sweet Mercy, come, what think you now?

Poor Coeur was trembling, I avow,

While framing his reply to you.

Would her judgment then prove true

Who chose to yet reject his case?

By God, he has a handsome face,

He’s noble, he’s courteous, too

And, then, he’s devoted to you;

So taken with your charms, can he

Be yet rejected, scornfully?

Retain him as your servant true,

And keep all error far from you.’

Chapter CLV: Sweet Mercy demands Coeur’s loyalty

Sweet Mercy, on hearing those words addressed to her by Lady Pity, was instantly touched at heart, and thought she had delayed overlong and thwarted Coeur too wilfully, he who seemed so fair and courteous; and turning towards him, she answered him as follows:

‘Coeur you are false, a hypocrite,

Or too perfect indeed, for it

Seems, from everything you say,

That you do seek no ill, always.

Should you practise mere deception,

God send ill in your direction!

As for me, I’ll not resist you,

But, with willing heart, enlist you,

As my servant and my friend,

Yet on your honour now depend.

Now, indeed, you must promise me

Ever to serve me faithfully,

And all your life, let not a day

Pass where you my trust betray,

Nor forget me; a sorry dish

Is neglect, and not one I’d wish.’

Chapter CLVI: Coeur swears to serve her faithfully

On hearing Sweet Mercy speak thus, Coeur trembled with joy and changed colour, and replied, blushingly, to her thus:

‘My lady, I give thanks to you,

And swear that I shall e’er be true,

And will serve you most loyally,

Obeying, in all things, wholly.’

Chapter CLVII: Coeur is now attacked by Rejection and Refusal

With this, Desire urged Coeur forward, indicating that the latter was too slow to act, and lingered too long in claiming a kiss from Sweet Mercy. Coeur therefore advanced to kiss the lady, but Shame and Fear interposed themselves instantly, and the slanderers began such an outcry that Rejection appeared, full of anger and spite, followed closely by Refusal, no less wrathful, each clasping a stave cut from a medlar tree.

As soon as they entered the chamber, and saw Coeur close beside Sweet Mercy, ready to embrace her, Rejection raised his stick, and dealt Coeur a great blow on the head, who if he had not had an iron cap beneath his head-covering would have been struck dead. And then, before the latter could lay a hand on his sword, Refusal, in turn, dealt him so violent a blow he was quite stunned. The pair of them struck him so hard, from left and right, that in no time at all they held the upper hand.

Yet Coeur came to his senses swiftly, and angered at being struck by these two wretches, grasped his sword and struck Refusal, who was before him, so firm a blow, that he raised a spark three fingers in length from the latter’s helm; then he regained his stance and dealt Rejection so great a blow that he shaved off a piece of his right cheek. The blow was savage and forceful, but the sword turned in his grasp, such that it fell on the shoulder, and sheared away a large piece: if he’d been offered a hundred gold marks to counter, Rejection could not have raised his arm to strike a blow at that instant.

Chapter CLVII: Battle commences between the two sides

Then the slanderers, with Jealousy, Shame, and Fear, attacked both Coeur and his companions. The battle was fierce, harsh and cruel. Desire, Largesse, Fair-Welcome and Promise bore themselves well; but Humble-Request was content to look on, being only an emissary. What can I say? The battle continued until Coeur, through his prowess, overcame them and made Refusal, Rejection and all their company flee; he then searched the mansion from top to bottom, to make sure none were was hiding there, and to slay Jealousy and the slanderers if he found them within, knowing that they were enemies of his lord and master, the god of Love. But his efforts proved in vain, for they had been amongst the first to flee.

He returned to Sweet Mercy’s chamber, and found her with Lady Pity, filled with fear at having watched them fighting thus. She was somewhat pale as a result, which complemented the hue of her cheeks, a fresh crimson like that of a rose in May. Coeur sat down beside her, reassuring her as gently as he could, and snatched a kiss.

However, the tale is silent a moment regarding this, and returns to speak of Refusal, Rejection, and their company for a while, they having fled, in order to tell a little of their affairs.

Armies of Venus

‘Armies of Venus’
Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meung (Roman de la Rose)
Netherlands, S. (Bruges) c. 1490-c. 1500
British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts

Chapter CLVIII: Refusal and Rejection gain support from Ill-Talk

At this point in the narrative, the story relates that Refusal and Rejection and their troops, having fled Sweet Mercy’s chamber, beneath the blows of Coeur and his company, were now about a mile distant from the House of Rebellion. Refusal, who had been the first to flee like the villain that he was, looked back, and saw Rejection following him, sorely wounded. He waited for him, and once they were together, they both halted awhile, looking on either side of the road to seek a path of escape if anyone pursued them. They were not there long before, one after another, their followers arrived, wounded in head or arm. They gathered as best as they could, and took counsel together as to what to do.

One of the slanderers had heard tell, and was sure it was true, that his master Ill-Talk’s troops had assembled in Amor’s realm; and that, meanwhile, Honour had come to seek counsel and aid from Amor in order to attack them there; and he had since heard troubling news, that Honour had fought against them, and discomforted many. And thus, it had indeed fallen out, for Honour once arrived at the Castle of Pleasure, as the tale has recounted, had persuaded his master Amor to grant him reinforcements, to go and fight the slanderers, and had discomforted a goodly quantity. But he had not undone so many that there was still not a host remaining; that is why he advised Refusal, Rejection and their company to retreat, and go and find Ill-Talk. The latter, once he had heard the tale, granted them as many troops as they wished, for they told him of their desire to avenge the outrage that Coeur and his followers had inflicted on them.

They took with them forty of the most warrior-like slanderers in Ill-Talk’s company, and lay in ambush in a little grove of trees before the House of Rebellion; and all this took no more than three hours, for Ill-Talk and his company were not far distant.

At this point the tale ceases to tell of Refusal and the rest, and returns to speak of Coeur and his people, who were passing the time conversing with Sweet Mercy, without being aware of the force that Refusal and his company were bringing against them.

Chapter CLIX: Desire urges Coeur to return to the Castle of Pleasure

In this final part of our story, the tale relates that, once Coeur and his people had driven away Refusal, Rejection and all their company as you have heard, and Coeur had won a noble kiss of Sweet Mercy, they entertained and amused themselves a good while together, as lovers will with their ladies. After some time, Desire, who forever embraced more than he could hold, urged and exhorted Coeur, as follows:

‘Now, Coeur, as the proud conqueror,

Will you rest thus, and seek no more?

Will you simply settle for this,

And be contented with a kiss!

Have you not heard it often said

“It was on empty air he fed”?

Begin again, more urgently,

In her ear, whisper, privately,

That you will lead her, at leisure,

To the fair Castle of Pleasure,

Where you both may spend your days

With the brave god of Love, always.’

Chapter CLX: Lady Pity encourages Sweet Mercy to comply

On hearing these words, Coeur advanced seeking to embrace Sweet Mercy once more, as Desire had counselled, but she drew back a little, for she still recalled the words that Fear and Shame had previously addressed to her. But Coeur whispered in her ear that he would conduct her to the Castle of Pleasure where they would pass their days in the company of Amor and his mother Lady Venus. But she demurred, thinking that once he had led her to the Castle of Pleasure, he would seek to obtain more than a kiss. Yet, in the end, Lady Pity having asked and understood what they were conversing about, spoke thus to Sweet Mercy:

‘Come, reveal not your displeasure,

But seek the Castle of Pleasure,

With noble Coeur, my fair daughter;

For there indeed you’ll find Honour,

Whom I have left there, with Amor.

Since Honour is there, evermore,

Tis fitting that you dwell there too,

None can slander you, if you do.’

Chapter CLXI: Sweet Mercy expresses her fear of Ill-Talk and his followers

And, in the end, Lady Pity persuaded Sweet Mercy to go to the fair Castle of Pleasure, though the latter expressed regret, for she was fearful of meeting slanderers on the way, as had happened before, and not one limb of the young girl but trembled at the thought; she could not help uttering a few tremulous words as follows:

‘I pray to God to guide us now,

And joy, in this love, to allow,

Freely, at its first commencement,

Yet I feel sure that I will see,

Upon the road, in front of me,

Ill-Talk, our perverse opponent;

Curses on him and his vile crew!

For I have always hated all

Those that e’er claim what is not true

Of folk they viciously pursue.

Such may a sorry death befall!’

Chapter CLXII: Refusal attacks and overcomes Desire

Then Coeur delayed not, but took her by the arm; while Lady Pity placed herself at her other side, with Desire and Humble Request going ahead of, and the others behind, them. They took to the road in this manner, heading straight for the fair Castle of Pleasure. But they had not gone more than a crossbow-shot or more from the House of Rebellion before Refusal, Rejection and their company, as well as the forty slanderers hidden in ambush before that mansion of whom the tale has told, attacked them outright, and being full of anger and malevolence, well-armoured and furnished with staves, began to rain a shower of blows, with all their strength, upon Coeur and his people.

The latter, taken thus by surprise, defended themselves as best they could, but their defence was scarcely effective, for they faced odds of six to one. Nonetheless, Desire, who was brave and ardent, drew his sword and defended himself most valiantly, wounding two of his adversaries at the first encounter. But Refusal, noting that he was working marvels, said to himself that, if this fellow continued long at his task, he would do them much damage. He therefore made for Desire, and struck him on the head with his heavy stave, while the latter was fighting hard against the others, such a blow that he split his head open, and Desire fell beneath the blow like one dead. Then Refusal shouted: ‘Fall on the rest; this fellow is done for!’

Chapter CLXII: Refusal fells Coeur and takes Sweet Mercy prisoner

In but a short time, Refusal and the slanderers wrought such havoc that almost all Coeur’s company were wounded. The latter, seeing his troops manhandled and overcome, began to set abut him to left and right, severing legs and arms, and slaying so many adversaries that one might have deemed Coeur to be the most valiant warrior ever seen.

Now the base old crone, Jealousy, seeing him cutting through their ranks, began to cry out: ‘At him; if he continues longer, we shall soon lack the power to resist!’ At this, Refusal, Rejection and their remaining troop of followers fell upon Coeur, who was now their sole adversary. Then Coeur leant against a massive tree which grew at that spot, and began to deal blows in such a manner that none who had viewed him could but have esteemed his courage.

Nonetheless, it proved in vain, for he lacked the strength to resist the slanderers assembled against him, and Refusal and Rejection who fronted them, fought so fiercely that they struck him whether he would or no. Yet it was not without reply from Coeur who landed such a blow on Refusal’s ancient bassinet that he knocked it forward towards the latter’s shoulders. Refusal, that great misshapen villain, when he felt that blow returned the like, with all his force, upon Coeur’s head, such that his iron cap failed to protect him. He was struck upon the jaw, and wounded on the head so cruelly that the bones of his skull could be seen.

Coeur fell like one dead, while the slanderers continued to attack him, not a mother’s son among them failing to land a blow. Then they withdrew, leaving him and his companions for dead, and surrounded Sweet Mercy whom they found in tears; as for Lady Pity she was no longer there, having hidden amidst the trees when she saw the battle about to commence.

Chapter CLXII: Coeur asks to be taken to the Hospital of Love, to end his days

Refusal now seized Sweet Mercy by the arm, and placed her under guard. Fear and Shame then led her to the House of Rebellion, and held her captive there under closer watch than ever. And when Lady Pity, who had viewed all this from her hiding-place among the trees, saw where Refusal and his company were headed, she ventured forth onto the field to discover whether her people were alive or dead. She found that they had regained their feet, and were on the road to the Castle of Pleasure, which was not two miles away, all except for Coeur, who was so grievously wounded that he seemed dead, moving not a limb.

Then Lady Pity sat down beside him, after drawing him into the shade of the tree, before the slanderers could see him, and she remained beside him until she heard him give a sigh. Ask not if Lady Pity was overjoyed, on realising that he still lived! She dipped her hands in a water-filled rut that she found nearby and sprinkled a little over his temples. At last, she succeeded in rousing him fully from his swoon, and he began to look about him, and ask after his lady, Sweet Mercy, and his companions. Lady Pity told him to think no more on his lady, for she was once more in the hands of Refusal; as for his companions, they were, by now, within the Castle of Pleasure, where Love dwelt.

Then Coeur begged Lady Pity, in God’s name, since his lady was again in Refusal’s hands, to lead him to the Hospital of Love, where he would end his days in worship and prayer. And so, Lady Pity did as Coeur asked.

Chapter CLXIII: The author awakes

Then from the anguish and the pain

My heart now felt, I woke again,

Suddenly opening my eyes,

I cried aloud, in my surprise,

To my chamberlain who lay

Upon his couch, dreaming away,

All night beside me in my room,

Yet woke now at my voice of doom,

And called out: ‘Is there aught you need?’

And I replied: ‘Ah, yes, indeed.’

And then I said, amidst my sighs:

‘Oh, sweetest Lord of Paradise,

I fear that Amor has seized from me

My heart, and stolen it from me,

For, though I feel my side, I find

My heart is gone, and so my mind,

For not a murmur can I feel,

Beneath my hand, nor aught conceal

The wound his dart made in my chest,

When my heart departed my breast.

Filled with anguish now, am I,

Doomed to linger here, and sigh.’

Then he arose, my chamberlain,

And lit the candle, once again,

And then looked closely at my side,

To view the wound from which I sighed,

And found that there was naught to see,

And then addressed me, smilingly,

And told me to lie down once more,

And sleep again, for he was sure

In no way was I like to die.

He reassured me; by and by

I lay down, saying not a word,

For shame, although my fear yet stirred,

And it was long before I slept.

When, at dawn, from my bed I leapt,

I took paper and penned my dream,

With each event as it did seem

To show itself, that night, to me.

To each I pray, where’er they be,

Where tis read, excuse my folly,

For such the ills Amor doth bring

Nor young nor old escape his wing,

And many a time he doth make

Men dream while sleeping or awake;

While, thanks to him, none obtain

Relief from his snare; rather pain

Dogs them, until they cease to smile.

I’ll say naught, ere I rest awhile,

Except that this, to the world, was given

In fourteen hundred and fifty-seven.’

The Dream

‘The Dream’
Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meung (Roman de la Rose)
Netherlands, S. (Bruges) c. 1490-c. 1500
British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts

Chapter CLXIV: René’s envoi to his dedicatee, Jean Duc de Bourbon

My most dear and most beloved nephew and cousin, having read my text, you can now equally understand my sorry state, and can reflect at length upon the grievous pain I have experienced, through believing too soon, and pursuing too lightly, at the instigation of my eyes, the pleasure of my heart, in a manner above all harmful to its good health. 

I pray you, when you have the leisure, to think, as best as you know how, of what you can offer in the way of sound advice, regarding what I should seek henceforth, in terms of a specific remedy and suitable regime that I might adopt, so that I would not be so often tempted and tormented by that subtle spirit, hostile to our wishes; namely the god of Love; he that ignites the heart with importunate desire, which drives men to love so fondly that they die of it, or languish so woefully that they enjoy not a single pleasant day.

And, since I know, of a certainty, that you have experienced this state, it is to you I speak, while begging you, should you find aught that I can do for you, to let me know, as that would give me great pleasure, for I am ready to do all in my power to execute, loyally, your wish and pleasure, as one bound and obliged so to do.

I pray to God that He will grant you your heart’s desire, and as great a reward, and joy in love, as I would ever wish for myself.

The end of Part VIII, and of ‘Le Livre du Coeur d’Amour Épris’