Troilus and Criseyde

Author: Geoffrey Chaucer  | Date: 1385

Book I

To tell the double sorrow in his love that Troilus had, son of King Priam of Troy, how his lot passed from woe to weal and afterwards to woe again, this is my purpose ere I part from you. Tisiphone, help thou me to endite these dolorous verses, that drop like tears from my pen; to thee I call, goddess of anguish, cruel Fury, ever sorrowing in pain; help me, the sorrowful instrument, that as well as I can help lovers to wail. For fitting is a dreary comrade to a woeful wight, and a sorry cheer to a sorrowful history. For I, the servant of Love’s servants, dare not pray Love to speed me, though I die, so unpleasing am I, so far in the dark distance from him. But if my verse may bring gladness to any lover and avail him with his lady, to me be the travail and to him the thanks. But ye lovers that bathe in bliss, if any drop of pity be in you, remember your own past heaviness, and other folk’s adversity, and think how ye too have felt Love’s displeasure (or ye won him too easily), and pray for them that be in the case of Troilus, as ye shall hear, that Love may bring them to the heaven of fruition; and pray eke for me to dear God that I may have might to show in Troilus’ luckless lot somewhat of such pain and woe as Love’s folk endure. And pray eke for them that be in despair and may never be healed, and for them that be hurt by slanderous tongues, pray God of His mercy to grant them soon to pass out of this world that are in despair of Love’s grace. And pray eke for those in joy, that God grant them ever good continuance and might so to please their ladies that it be honor and pleasure to Love’s deity. For so I hope best to profit my soul, praying for Love’s servants, writing their woe and living in charity, and having pity of them as if I were their own brother. Now hearken with good will, for now I go straight to my matter, where ye may hear the double sorrows of Troilus’ love for Criseyde, and how in the end she forsook him.

It is well known how the valiant Greeks went armed toward Troy in a thousand ships, besieged the city nigh ten years, and wrought all their harm in diverse ways but with one intent, to avenge the ravishment of Helen done by Paris. Now it befell that there dwelt in the town a lord of great authority, a great seer named Calchas, so expert in wisdom through the replies of his god, Lord Phoebus, or Delphic Apollo, that he foreknew Troy must be destroyed. So when this Calchas knew by reckoning and eke by answer of Apollo that the Greeks should bring such a force as should overthrow the city, he laid his plan to leave it anon; for well he knew by divination that Troy should be destroyed. Wherefore this prophetic sage took full purpose to depart in secret, and stole away privily to the Greeks’ host, and they in courteous wise received him worshipfully and humbly, in hope that he had cunning to counsel them in every peril which they had to fear.

A clamor rose through all the town, when this was first perceived, and it was everywhere said that Calchas was fled as a traitor and allied with them of Greece; and men thought to be avenged on him that had thus falsely broken his faith, and said that he and all his kin together were worthy to be burned, skin and bone. Now in these straits and all unknowing of his false and wicked deed, Calchas had left his daughter, in much trouble, sore in dread for her life, not knowing what to do; for she was a widow and without a friend to whom to make her moan. Criseyde was this lady’s name; to my belief, in all Troy-town was none so fair, for so surpassing and angelic was her beauty that she seemed a thing immortal, a heavenly perfect creature sent down in scorn of earthly nature. This lady, that heard all day in her ear of her father’s shame, falseness and treason, was wellnigh out of her wit for dread and sorrow, and in her flowing widow’s habit of brown samite she fell on her knees before Hector, and with piteous voice and tender weeping made her defence and begged his grace. Now this Hector was pitiful of nature, and seeing how wo-begone and fair she was, of his benignity he cheered her and said: ’Forget your father’s treason, a plague on it!, and you yourself, while you list, dwell here with us in joy; and all the honor shall you have that men could do you if your father dwelt here still; and your body shall ever be protected, as far as my knowledge may go.’ She thanked him with humble cheer, and would have thanked him more if he had suffered her; took her leave and kept herself quietly at home, with such household as behooved her station. As long as she dwelt in that city she observed her dignity, and was full well beloved and spoken of by young and old. But whether she had children or not I cannot learn from my books, wherefore I pass that over.

Events fell betwixt the Greeks and Trojans as they do in war; for one day they of Troy paid dearly, and another day they of Greece found the Trojans no whit soft, and thus both in turn, up and down, Fortune whirled on her wheel. But to tell all this, and how the town came to destruction, is not in my purpose; it were a long digression from my matter and would delay you too long. The events about Troy, how they befell, whosoever can may read in Homer or in Dares or in Dictys.

But though the Greeks shut in them of Troy and besieged their city all about, yet they would not leave their old usages in devoutly honoring their gods. And in especial honor they held a relic called Palladium, that was their trust above every other. And so befell in the time of April, when the mead is clothed with the new green of lusty Ver the spring, and with sweet-smelling flowers white and red, in sundry wise the folk of Troy did their old observances, as I read in the book, and held the feast of the Palladium, and to the temple went solemnly many a wight to hear the service of the relic; and especially went many a lusty knight, and many a bright lady, and fair maiden high and low, full well arrayed, both for the season and the feast. Amongst other folk was Criseyde; in black widow’s habit, but none the less, even as the first of our letters is now an A, so stood she first, matchless in beauty. Her goodly looks gladdened all the throng; never was seen thing more to be praised, nor under a black cloud so bright a star as was Criseyde; so said all folk that beheld her in her black weeds. And yet she stood alone behind others, full low and still, in little space and nigh the door, ever bashful and gentle, simple of attire, yet confident in eye and manner. Now Troilus, as he was wont, with his young knights, was going around and about in that broad temple ever beholding the ladies of the town; for no devotion had he to any, to lose sleep for her, but praised and censured whom he would, and as he walked about he watched keenly if any knight or squire of his retinue would sigh or let his eyes feed on any woman. Then he would smile and hold it folly, and say, She sleeps sweetly, God wot, whilst you roll and turn! Perdy, I have heard tell of your lovers’ lives and your moonish devotion, and what labor you have to win love and what perplexity to keep it, and when your prey is lost, woe and dolor! You very fools, fond and blind; not one can beware by others!

And with that word he turned up his face as if to say, ’Lo! is not this wisely said?’ At which the God of Love began to lower for very ire, and planned to be avenged; and anon he showed indeed that his bow was not broken, for suddenly he hit him squarely. And still, oh blind world and purpose of man! can he pluck as proud a peacock. How often falls the event contrary to overweening and foul presumption, for caught is the proud and caught is the humble! This Troilus has climbed aloft, and little weens that he must come down. But ever fail fools’ thoughts. When proud Bayard feels his corn, he skips out of the road, till the long lash hits him, and then he thinks, ’though I prance ahead first in the traces, full fat and newly clipped, yet I am but a horse, and I must endure a horse’s lot and tug with my fellows.’ So fared this fierce proud knight, though he were son to a noble king and deemed naught could stir his heart against his will; yet with a look his heart blazed up, so that he who but now was most lifted up with pride suddenly grew most subjected to love. Therefore, all ye wise and proud and noble, take example by this man not to scorn Love, that can so soon enthrall to him the freedom of your hearts. For ever it was and ever will be that Love can bind all things, and no man can annul the law of Nature. This ye all know, that men read of none that have had greater wit than they who have been most subdued by Love, and the strongest and highest of degree have been overcome by him. This ever was so, and is, and men shall ever see it, and truly it fits well to be so; for the wisest of all have rejoiced in love, and they most in woe have been most comforted, and often love has appeased the cruel heart and made the noble nobler of repute and caused them to dread vice and infamy. Therefore, since Love cannot well be withstood but can bind you as he will, and since he is so virtuous of nature, refuse not to be bondman to him. The staff is better that bends than that which breaks.

But to leave other collateral things, I mean to tell on my tale especially of this king’s son, both of his joy and of his cold cares, and of all his deeds in this affair. This Troilus was going forth about the temple in his sport, looking now on this lady, and now on that, whether she were of the town or of the country-side, and it fell by chance that his eye pierced through a crowd and lighted on Criseyde, and there it stopped. Suddenly astonied, he began to behold her better and more carefully. ’O God-a-mercy,’ thought he, ’where have you dwelt before that are so fair and goodly to see?’ Therewith his heart began to swell, and he sighed, softly lest men should hear him, and then he put on again his first sportive air.

She was not among the smallest of her stature, but all her limbs answered so well to womanly perfection that never creature seemed less masculine. The very manner of her moving let a man guess her high estate and womanly nobility. Wondrous well Troilus began to like her movements and her bearing, which was a little scornful, for she let her look fall a little on one side as if to say, ’what! may I not stand here?’ And after that her face brightened a little, till it seemed as if he had never seen so good a sight. There began to quicken in him so great a desire that the fixed impression of her began to fasten in his heart’s bottom, and though before he had let his eye rove, he was fain then to let his horns shrink in till he scarce knew how to look. Lo! he that thought himself so wise, and scorned them that suffer love’s pains, was full unaware that Love dwelt within the subtle beams of her eyes, until with her look he seemed suddenly to feel the spirit die in his heart. Blessed be Love that can thus convert men! Thus he stood to behold her in her black garb, nor made a sign nor said a word to tell his desire or why he stood thus. To maintain his former air he sometimes cast his look on other things, and then once more on her, as long as the service lasted, and afterwards, wellnigh confounded, he went softly out of the temple repenting that he had ever jested at Love’s folk, lest the load of mockery should fall on himself; but he hid his woe, lest it should be known on any side.

When he had thus gone from the temple, he straight returned to his palace, shot through with her look as with a dart. Yet still he feigned joyousness, and brightened all his visage and speech, and ever smiled at Love’s servants, saying, ’Lord! how joyously you lovers live! As often woe as weal betides the cunningest of you, that serves most attentively. Your hire is paid you; but how, God wot! Not well for well, but scorn for good service. In faith, your order is nobly ruled. All your rites may prove in vain, save for a few pitiful matters; and yet no faith demands such devotion as yours, you know full well. And that is not the worst, by my troth, but if I told you the worst point, however truly I spoke you would chide at me. But consider this, whatever with the best intent you do or leave undone, full often your lady will misconstrue and take it ill. If she be wroth, for any reason, you will have a groaning-time. Ah, happy is he that can be one of you!’

But for all this talk he held his peace when he could; love began so to lime his feathers that he was scarce able to feign to his retinue that he was oppressed by other cares. He knew not what to do for woe, and bade his men go where they would. When he was alone in his chamber, he sat down upon his bed’s foot, first sighed and then groaned, and thought so constantly on her that, as he sat there broad awake, his spirit dreamed he saw her in the temple, and began newly to consider the manner of her looking, and thus he began to make a mirror of his mind in which he saw all her form. He found it in his heart to grant that it was a happy fortune to him to love such a one, and if he strove to serve her he might win her grace or at least be among her followers. And so he reflected that neither travail nor vexation, borne for so goodly a lady, could be thrown away or shame him, even though it were known, but he should be honoured and exalted by all lovers more than before. Thus he reasoned at the beginning of his love, all unaware of his woe to come; and thus he took his purpose to follow love’s trade, but at first to keep his work privy and hide his desire from every living wight, unless he might be advanced by letting it be known some time, remembering that love too widely blown abroad yields bitter fruit, though the seed be sweet. And he thought of much more,- what to speak, what to hold in, and how to bring her to love him. So he straightway began to indite a song, and to triumph over his sorrow, and with good hope he fully assented to love Criseyde and not repent. I will give every word of his song, save for the difference of our tongues, not only the substance, as mine author Lollius does; and whoso will hear it may find it in these next verses.

If Love is not, ah God! what feel I so?

And if Love is, what manner of thing is he?

If Love be good, from whence then comes my woe?

If he be ill, wondrous it seems to me

That every torment and adversity

Which comes of him I can so joyous think;

For ever I thirst, the more from him I drink.

And if ’tis in mine own delight I burn,

From whence then comes my wailing and complaint?

Rejoicing, why to tears do I return?

I wot not, nor, unweary, why I faint.

Oh living death, oh sweet harm strange and quaint!

How can this harm and death so rage in me,

Unless I do consent that it so be?

And if I do consent, I wrongfully

Bewail my case; thus rolled and shaken sore

All rudderless within a boat am I

Amid the sea and out of sight of shore,

Betwixt two winds contrary evermore.

Alas, what is this wondrous malady?

For heat of cold, for cold of heat, I die.

To the god of Love he said with devout voice, ’Lord, now thine is my spirit, as it ought to be. I thank thee, Lord, that hast brought me to this. Whether she be a woman or a goddess that thou makest me serve, verily I know not, but as her man I will ever live and die. Thou standest mightily in her eyes as in a place fit for thy power. Wherefore, Lord, if my service or I may please thee, be gracious to me; for my royal estate here I resign into her hand and full humbly become her man and make her my lady.’

The fire of love (God save me from it!) deigned not to spare his royal blood, his might or his prowess, but held him low in thralldom, and burned him so ever anew in sundry wise that sixty times a day he grew pale. Day by day so grew his delight in thinking of her that he set at naught every other care, and full often, thinking to allay his heat, he would strive to see her goodly face. But ever the nearer he was, the more he burned; the nearer the fire, the hotter, as all this company knows. But far or near, by night or day, for wisdom or folly, I promise you, his heart, which was the eye of his mind, was ever on her, who was fairer to see than ever was Helen or Polyxena. Not an hour of the day passed that he said not to himself a thousand times, ’Goodly one whom I labor to serve as best I can, now would to God, Criseyde, you would pity me before I die. Alas, dear heart! my health and cheer and life are lost unless you pity me.’

All other fears were fled from him, both of the siege and for his own safety, and no other desires bred in him but tender yearnings to that one object, that she should have compassion on him and he might be her man for life; lo, herein stood his life! The fell deeds of arms of Hector or his other brethren moved him not at all, and yet wherever men went he was found among the best and remained the longest where peril was, and did such feats of arms that it was a marvel to think of, till as he thus won renown in arms all the Greeks dreaded him like death. Yet all this was not for hatred to the Greeks, nor yet for the defence of the town, but only that his fame might please her the better. From this time love bereft him of his sleep and made his meat his foe, and his pains so increased that, if one noted him well, they showed in his face. Lest men should divine that the fire of love was burning him, he feigned other sickness and said he had a fever and it went hard with him. How it was I cannot say, whether his lady understood not all this, or feigned she did not, one of the two; but at all events I find in the book that she seemed to reck not of him nor of his pain or what was in his mind. This Troilus felt such woe that he was wellnigh mad, for his dread was ever this, that she so loved some other man that she would never take heed of him, for which he seemed to feel his heart bleed. Nor durst he tell a word of his woe, even to win all the world. When he felt a little lightening of his grief, full often he would lament thus with himself, ’O fool! now you are in the snare, who used to mock at love’s tortures. Now you are caught; you may gnaw your own chains. You were wont to reproach lovers for a thing from which you cannot defend yourself. If this be known, what will every lover say of you except ever to laugh you to scorn behind your back, and say, "There he goes, that sapient sir that held us lovers in such low esteem! Now, God be thanked, he goes in the dance of those whom Love will promote but little." But ah, woful Troilus! since you are ordained to love, would God that you had lighted on one who might know all your woe, though she had no pity; but your lady is as cold in love toward you as frost beneath a winter moon, and you melt away like snow in fire. Would God I were already arrived in the port of death, to which my sorrow will bring me; Lord, it were a comfort to me! Then I should be quit of languishing in fear. For if my hidden sorrow should be blown abroad, I shall be mocked a thousand-fold more than any fool on whose folly men make rhymes. But now God help me, and you too, sweet, by whom Love has caught me,- yes, never man so fast. Mercy, dear heart! save me from death, for more than my life I will love you to the end. Cheer me with some friendly look, though you may never promise aught else.’

These words he spoke and full many another, and ever in his complaint called on her name, till he nigh drowned in salt tears; but all was for naught, she heard not his lament, and when he thought on the folly of such doings, his woe multiplied a thousand-fold.

Once, whilst he was thus bewailing himself alone in his chamber, a friend of his that was named Pandarus came in unawares, and heard him sigh and saw his distress. ’Alas!’ quoth he, ’who is the cause of all this to-do? Merciful God! what evil has happened? Have the Greeks made you grow lean as soon as this? Or have you some remorse of conscience and are fallen into devoutness and bewail your sins, and are frighted into an access of attrition? What an honor to the besiegers of our town, that they can pack away the jollity of our lusty folk, and bring them to holiness!’ These words he said to anger him, that anger might drive out his sorrow for the time, and arouse his spirit, for well he knew that to the ends of the earth was not a man of greater hardihood nor more desirous of honor.

’What chance,’ quoth Troilus, ’has guided you to see me languishing here, rejected by every creature? But for the love of God, hear my request and go away, for in faith the sight of my dying will pain you, and die I must; therefore go away, But if you fancy that I am thus sick out of fear, mock me not, for it is not so. It is another thing, far more than the Greeks have done, which makes me grieve and pine to death. Be not wroth though I tell it not right now; I hide it for the best.’

This Pandarus, nigh melting for sorrow and pity, said full often, ’Alas! what may this be? Now, friend,’ quoth he, ’if ever love or faith has been betwixt you and me, be not so cruel as to hide so great a care from your friend. Know you not that it is I, Pandarus? If I can do you no comfort, at least I can share your pain with you, as it is a friend’s right to do with pain and pleasure. I have loved you all my life through wrong and right, and ever shall through true or false report. Then hide not your woe from me, but tell it straightway.’

Then began this sorrowful Troilus to sigh, and ’God grant it be best,’ he said, ’to tell it you; for since you wish it so, tell it I will, though my heart burst. Well I wot you can give me no ease, but lest you deem that I trust you not, hearken, friend, for thus it stands. Love, against which stoutest defence least avails, so sore assails me with despair that my heart is driving straight upon the rocks. Desire assails me so burningly that I would rather be slain than be king of Greece and Troy together. Let this that I have said suffice, my faithful friend Pandarus, for now you know my woe, which I have told to no other. For the love of God, hide well my cold care, for many a harm might follow if it were known. Do you live in gladness, and leave me to die in my distress, unregarded.’

’Why have you thus unkindly hidden this from me so long, fool that you are?’ quoth Pandarus. ’Peradventure your longing may be for such a one that my judgment may help us.’

’That,’ quoth Troilus, ’were a wondrous thing; you that could never guide yourself well in love, how, a Devil! can you bring me to bliss?’

’Yea, Troilus, now hearken,’ quoth Pandarus; ’though I be foolish yet it often happens that one who through excess has come to grief by good counsel may keep his friend therefrom. I have seen a blind man walk safe, where he fell who could look afar. A fool can often guide a wise man. A whetstone is no carving-instrument, yet it sharpens them. Eschew that wherein I have gone astray, and learn wisdom in my school, for so will your wit be well employed. All things are understood through their contraries. For how could the sweet ever have been known by him who had never tasted the bitter? No man may be truly glad, I trow, that was never in distress. White set by black and shame by honor, each shows forth more, as all men know. Then since so much may be learned from contraries, I, that have so often fared grievously in love, ought to know how to counsel you in your dismay. Nor should you be ill-pleased though I desire to bear with you your heavy load,- it will hurt the less. Well I know that it fares with me as a shepherdess named Oenone wrote to your brother Paris in a lament; you saw the letter she wrote, no doubt?’

’Nay, never yet,’ quoth Troilus.

’Now hearken,’ said Pandarus, ’it was thus. "Phoebus, that first invented the art of medicine, knew remedies of herbs for every man’s hurt; yet for himself his cunning was all barren, for love toward the daughter of King Admetus had so bound him in a snare that all his craft could not remedy his sorrow." So fare I, alack for me! I love one best, and win nothing but dole. Yet perchance I can counsel you, though not myself; twit me no more. I have no cause to soar and sport like a hawk, yet I can tell somewhat for your help. And of one thing you may be right certain, that I shall never betray you, though I die upon the rack; nor, by my troth, care I to dissuade you from your love, though I knew it were for your brother’s wife Helen. Be she what she may, love her still. Therefore trust me fully as your friend, and tell me plainly your affair and final cause of woe. Fear not at all that my intent now is to reprove you, for no wight may forbid a man to love till he list to leave it. Know well that each is an error, to mistrust all and to confide in all, but to take the mean is wisdom; for to trust some one will test and prove his fidelity, and therefore I would fain correct your wrong conceit, and make you trust some wight and tell him your woe. Therefore tell me, if you will. The wise man says, "Woe to him that is alone, for if he fall he has none to help him rise." Since you have a friend, tell him all. For the most hopeful way to win love, in verity, as wise men will tell you, is not to wallow and weep like Queen Niobe, whose tears can yet be seen in marble. Leave your dreary weeping and let us lighten your woe with other talk, that your woeful hours may seem shorter. Delight not to search woe for more woe, like these fools in ill luck who add to their sorrows by other sorrow and care not to seek for cure. Men say misery loves company; that we ought to grant, for both you and I complain of love. So full of sorrow am I that no more ill luck can perch on me, because there is no room for it. God grant you be not afraid of me, lest I beguile you of your lady! You wot well whom I love as best I can, long time past. And since you know I speak from no wiliness, and since I am he whom you most trust, tell me somewhat. You know all my woe.’

Yet for all this Troilus spoke not a word, but for long lay still as if he were dead; then he started up with a sigh and lent his ear to Pandarus’ voice, and rolled up his eyes till Pandarus feared lest he should fall into madness or die on the spot.

’Awake,’ cried Pandarus sharply; ’what! are you slumbering in a lethargy, or are you like an ass at the sound of a lute, that hears when men ply the strings but no melody can sink into his mind to gladden him, because he is so dull in his beastly nature?’

With that Pandarus ceased his talk, but Troilus as yet answered not a word, for it was not his intent to tell any man for whose love he fared so ill. For it is said, ’a man often makes the rod with which he is beaten,’ as these wise men discourse, especially in telling one’s counsel in affairs of love that ought to be secret. Of itself it will come out soon enough unless it be warily guarded, and sometimes it is a good craft to seem to flee that which in truth a man eagerly hunts. All this Troilus turned over in his heart. But nevertheless, when he heard him cry ’Awake!’, he began to sigh sore, and said, ’Friend, though I lie still I am not deaf. Now peace, and no more shouting! I have heard your words and your lore, but suffer me to bewail my ill hap, for your proverbs cannot help me, nor know you any other cure for me; and I wish not to be cured, I wish to die. What know I of the queen Niobe? Let be your old ensamples, I beg.’

’Yea,’ quoth Pandarus, ’therefore I say fools delight to bewail their woe and care not to seek remedy. Now I know that your reason fails you. But tell me, if I knew who she were for whom you have all this misadventure, durst you that I told her your woe in her ear, since you dare not yourself, and besought her to have some pity on you?’

’Why, no,’ quoth he, ’by my troth!’

’What!’ quoth Pandarus, ’not though I did it as earnestly as though I thought mine own life lay at stake?’

’No, brother, certes,’ said Troilus.

’And why?’

’Because you should never speed.’

’Know you that well?’

’Yea, that is beyond a doubt,’ said Troilus; ’for all that ever you can do she will not be won for such a wretch as I.’

’Alas, how can this be,’ quoth Pandarus, ’that you are thus causeless in despair? What, is not your lady still alive?

$Benedicite! 4 How know you that you can have no grace? Such trouble is not always beyond hope! Why, make not your cure thus impossible, for things to come are often uncertain! I grant that you endure as sharp a woe as Tityus in hell, whose stomach the fowls called vultures evermore tear, as we read in books. But I cannot endure that you remain in so unreasonable a thought as that there is no cure for your woe. With your coward heart and ire and foolish wilfulness, your despair will not even suffer you to tell of your smart, or so much as help yourself by giving a reason, but you lie as one indifferent to all the world. What woman could love such a wretch? If you die thus and she know not why it is, what can she deem but that you have given up the ghost through fear because the Greeks besiege us? Lord, much thanks you will win in this way! "The wretch is dead," she will say, and all the town to boot, "the Devil have his bones!" You may weep here alone and cry and kneel twenty winters. Give a woman love that she knows not of, and she will give you a reward that you shall not feel. Unknown is unkissed, unsought is lost. What! many a man has paid full dearly for love that his lady has known of, yea, for twenty winters, and never yet has he kissed his lady’s mouth. What! should he fall into despair for this, or be a recreant, or slay himself, be she never so fair? Nay, nay! ever alike he shall be fresh and gay for the service of his dear heart’s queen, and think that only to serve her is a guerdon a thousand-fold more than he merits.’

And of that word Troilus took heed, and anon thought of his folly and how Pandarus spoke sooth, that in slaying himself he could gain naught, but only do an unmanly act and a sin, if his lady knew naught of the cause; for full little of his woe she knew, God wot! With that thought he sighed and said, ’Alas! what is best for me to do?’

To which Pandarus answered, ’So please you, the best is that you tell me all your troubles; and by my troth, unless you find that I can medicine you before many days, you may have me torn in pieces and afterwards hanged!’

’Yes, so you may say,’ quoth Troilus, ’but alas! that makes it not true, God wot. It is full hard to help a man when Fortune is his foe. All the men that live and breathe cannot withstand the harm wrought by her cruel wheel, for as she list she plays with bond and free.’

Quoth Pandarus, ’You are wroth, and so blame Fortune; now I begin to understand. Know you not that every manner of wight is subjected to Fortune in some degree? And yet you have this comfort, that as her joys must pass, so must her sorrows; for if her wheel ceased one moment to turn, anon she should cease to be Fortune. Now how know you, since her wheel may not tarry, that her mutability will not do by you as you desire, or she may not be about to help you? Perchance you have cause for singing! Know you, then, what I counsel you? Let be your woe and downcast looks, for he who will have healing must first reveal his wound unto his leech. Though your grief were for my own sister, may I be tied forever to Cerberus in hell but she should be yours to-morrow if she were mine to give. Look up, I say, and tell me anon who she is, that I may go about your business. If I know her at all, I shall hope to speed the sooner. As you love me, tell me if I do.’

Now began Troilus’ vein to bleed, for he was hit. ’Aha! here begins some sport,’ said Pandarus, when he saw him wax all red for shame; and with that word he began to shake him. ’Thief, you shall tell her name.’

Troilus began to tremble as though men were leading him to hell. ’Alas!’ said he, ’my sweet foe, the wellspring of my grief, is named Criseyde!’ And with that word he wellnigh gave up the ghost for dread.

When Pandarus heard her name, Lord! he was glad. ’Dear friend,’ said he, ’this goes well! In Jove’s name, Love has placed you well. Be of good cheer! For good name, discretion and fair demeanor, she has enough of them, and of gentle blood. If she be fair, you know yourself, I dare say! A more bounteous I never saw for one of her station, nor a gladder, nor of speech friendlier, nor one who had more of Heaven’s grace for doing well, or had less need to seek what to do; and as for honor, to crown it all, as far as her might may go, a king’s heart seems by hers a wretch’s. And therefore look you be of good comfort, for certainly in a noble and well-regulated temper the first point is this,- that a man should have peace with himself. In truth you ought to have, for there is nothing but good in loving well a worthy object. You ought not to call it chance, but the grace of God. And also gladden yourself by thinking that since your lady has all virtues, she must have some pity amongst them; but see also that you seek nothing which is against her fair repute, for virtue stretches not itself as far as to shame.

’But right glad I am that I have lived to see your love bestowed so well, for by my troth I durst have sworn that never so fair a grace in love would have betided you. You were wont to check at Love in scorn and call him "Saint Idiot, lord of all fools." How often have you prated and said that Love’s servants, for folly, were verily God’s apes, and some would take to their solitary beds, and munch their meat groaning, and another had the green-sickness, and you would pray God that he might die of it! And some of them, for the cold in bed, would put over them more than they needed, so you would often say; and some would often feign and tell how they had watched when in truth they had slept full sweetly. Thus they strove to rise, yet were underneath at last; so you would say in your japing; and that for the more part these lovers will be ever speaking, and that a sure safeguard against failing is to try everywhere. Now I can jape on you as much as I will; but I will go to the stake on it that you were none of these last ones! Now beat your breast and say to your god, "Grant me thy grace, Lord, for now I am in love, and repent me if I ever spoke ill." Thus you must say with all your heart.’

’Ah, Lord!’ quoth Troilus, ’I consent, and pray that thou forgive my gibes, and I will do so no more whilst I live.’

’Well said,’ quoth Pandarus, ’and now I hope you have appeased the god’s wrath; and since you have wept many a drop and spoken to your god’s pleasure, would to God you might be relieved! Trust well that she from whom all your woe arises may hereafter be your comfort also. The same ground that bears ill weeds bears also these wholesome herbs, and next the foul nettle, rough and thick, waxes, sweet and smooth and soft, the rose; next the valley is the hill on high, next the dark night the glad morrow, next the end of grief is joy. Hold your bridle even loose enough and let things go their natural course, or all our labor is thrown away.

"He hasteth well that wisely can abide."

Be diligent, faithful and privy, be merry, liberal and persevering in your service, and all will be well. But he that is distributed into every place, as wise clerks write, is whole nowhere. What wonder if such a one speed not? Some love fares as if one should plant a tree or herb and pull it up straightway on the morrow. No wonder that it never thrives. Since the god of love has bestowed you in a place equal to your own worth, stand fast; you have sailed into a good port. Have ever good hope, in spite of the heaviness of your spirits; for, unless over-haste or your low spirit spoil our work, I hope to make a good end of this. Know you why? I am the less afraid to treat of this matter with my niece because I have heard from old clerks that there was never man or woman begotten yet that was not ready to suffer love’s heat, either celestial or natural. Therefore I hope to find grace for you. As to her, with her beauty and youth, it fits her not yet, though she could and would, to be celestial; but right well it fits her to love and cherish a worthy knight. If she do it not, I hold it for a fault. Therefore I am now and ever ready to strive to do you this service; hereafter I hope to have the thanks of both of you for it, for you both are prudent and can so keep counsel that no man shall be the wiser, and so we all three may be gladdened. By my troth, now I have formed a good conceit of you in my wit! Since Love, of his goodness, has converted you from your sin, you shall be the best pillar of all his faith, I trow, and most harass his foes. See as an ensample now these great clerks that err most deadly against the faith, and are converted from their wicked deeds, through the grace of God that draws them to Him,- then are they the most God-fearing of folk, and strongest in faith, and can better than others withstand error.’

When Troilus had heard Pandarus consent to help him in winning Criseyde’s love, his woe left tormenting him, and hotter waxed his love; and then he said, with sober face though his heart danced, ’Now may blessed Venus so help that before I die I may deserve some thanks of you, Pandarus! But, dear friend, how shall my woe be less till this is finished? And tell me this, what will you say of me and my pain? Most of all I dread lest she be wroth or will not hear or believe it.’

’You have a full great care,’ quoth Pandarus, ’lest the churl should fall out of the moon! Lord, but I hate your foolish going-on! Why, attend to your own part of it! For God’s love, I bid you one boon, and that is to let me alone; you will fare the better!’

’Why, friend,’ quoth Troilus, ’now do as you will! But hark to one word, Pandarus; I would not that you should suspect in me any such wantonness as that I would desire of my lady aught that tends to evil or baseness. For, believe me, I would rather die than she should fancy of me aught but what might tend to virtue.’

Then laughed this Pandarus, and answered anon, ’And I your surety? Fie, every lover speaks thus! Would that she had been standing by and had heard how you spoke! But farewell; I will go. Adieu, and be glad. God speed us both! Give me this anxious task, and of my success be the sweet fruit yours.’

Then Troilus fell on his knees and caught Pandarus tightly in his arms. ’Now fie on all the Greeks!’ he said. ’Soon or late, God will help us, and, if my life hold out, before God some of them shall smart. And yet I am right sorry that this vaunt has escaped me. Now, Pandarus, I can say no more; but you are wise,- you know, you have the power, you are my all. All my life and death I lay in your hand! Help me now!’

’Yes, by my troth,’ quoth Pandarus.

’God reward you, friend! And this especially,’ said Troilus; ’keep me in her mind who may command me to the death.’

This Pandarus, all zealous to aid his dear friend, said, ’Farewell, and be assured I will deserve your thanks; and that you shall see, and here I pledge my troth.’ And so he went his way, thinking how he might best beseech her for grace, and how he might find a time therefor. For a wight that has a house to build runs not to begin the work with hasty hand, but will bide a while, and send out his heart’s line to measure how to begin upon his plan. All this thought Pandarus in his heart, and laid out his work full prudently ere he began it.

But as for Troilus, no longer he lay flat; anon up on his bay steed to play the lion in the field, till woe was the Greek who met him that day! And in the town thenceforth so goodly was his manner, and got him so much favor, that every one loved him that looked on his face. For he became the friendliest wight, the gentlest and eke the most generous, the most prudent, and in a word one of the best knights that lived. Dead was his cruel mocking, his high port and haughty manner, and each fault he exchanged for a virtue. And so let us leave Troilus for a season, who fares like a man sore hurt, who is somewhat relieved of the aching of his wound, but is healed none the more for that and abides the instruction of him who goes about his cure. So thus he awaits what may betide.

$Explicit Liber Primus. 4


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Geoffrey Chaucer

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Chicago: Geoffrey Chaucer, "Book I," Troilus and Criseyde Original Sources, accessed May 20, 2024,

MLA: Chaucer, Geoffrey. "Book I." Troilus and Criseyde, Original Sources. 20 May. 2024.

Harvard: Chaucer, G, 'Book I' in Troilus and Criseyde. Original Sources, retrieved 20 May 2024, from