Song of Antigone
by Geoffrey Chaucer
From Troilus and Criseyde, Book II, 118-125, approximately 1382-87.
Followed by my rendering into modern English. Please forgive any clumsiness.
This yerd was large, and rayled alle the aleyes,
And shadwed wel with blosmy bowes grene,
And benched newe, and sonded alle the weyes,
In which she walketh arm in arm bitwene;
Til at the laste Antigone the shene
Gan on a Trojan song to singe clere,
That it an heven was hir voys to here.--
She seyde, 'O Love, to who I have and shal
Ben humble subgit, trewe in myn entente,
As I best can, to yow, lord, yeve ich al
For ever-more, myn hertes lust to rente.
For never yet thy grace no wight sente
So blisful cause as me, my lyf to lede
In alle joye and seurtee, out of drede.
'Ye, blisful god, han me so well beset
In love, y-wis, that all that bereth lyf
Imaginen ne cowde how to ben bet;
For, lord, with-outen jalousye or stryf,
I love oon which that is most ententyf
To serven wel, unwery or unfeyned,
That ever was, and leest with harm distreyned.
'As he that is the welle of worthinesse,
Of trouthe ground, mirour of goodliheed,
Of wit Appollo, stoon if sikernesse,
Of vertu rote, of luste findere and heed,
Thurgh which is alle sorwe for me deed,
Y-wis, I love him best, so doth he me;
Now good thrift have he, wher-so that he be!
'Whom sholde I thanke but yow, god of love,
Of al this blisse, in which to bathe I ginne?
And thanked be ye, lord, for that I love!
This is the righte lyf that I am inne,
To flemen alle manere vyce and sinne:
This doth me so to vertu for to entende,
That day by day I in my will amende.
'And who-so seyth that for to love is vyce,
Or thraldom, though he fele in it distresse,
He outher is envyous, or right nyce,
Or is unmighty, for his shrewdnesse,
To loven; for swich maner folk, I gesse,
Defamen Love, as no-thing of him knowe;
They speken, but they bente never his bowe.
'What is the sonne wers, of kinde righte,
Though that a man, for feblesse of his yën,
May nought endure on it to see for brighte?
Of love the wers, though wrecches on it cryen?
No wele is worth, that may no sorwe dryen.
And for-thy, who that hath an heed of verre,
For cast of stones war him in the werre!
'But I with al myn herte and al my might,
As I have seyd, wol love, un-to my laste,
My dere herte, and al myn owene knight,
In which myn herte growen is so faste,
And his in me, that it shal ever laste.
Al dredde I first to love him to biginne,
Now woot I wel, ther is no peril inne.'
[This yard was large, and all the alleys were fenced,
And well shadowed with green, blossomy boughs,
And newly benched, and all the ways were sandy
Which she walked along, arm in arm;
Till at last shining Antigone
Began to clearly sing a Trojan song,
And it was heavenly to hear her voice--
She said, 'O Love, to whom I have been and shall
Be a humble subject,--true in my intent
As well as I can be to you, lord,--let it be
Forevermore that you occupy my heart.
For never before has your grace sent anyone
Such bliss as you've sent me, leading my life
Out of dread into joy and certainty.
'You, blissful god, have set me so well
In love, this way, that it's impossible to imagine that
Anything living could be better served;
For, lord, without jealousy or strife
I love one who is the most attentive
To serve me well, unweary and unfeigned,
That ever was, and the least strained with harm.
'He is the well of worthiness,
Grounded in truth, mirror of goodness,
Wise as Apollo, steadfast as stone,
Root of virtue, source of joy,
Through him all sorrow is dead to me;
In this way, I love him best, and he loves me;
Good luck to him wherever he is!
'Who should I thank but you, god of love,
For all this bliss I've begun to bathe in?
Thank you, lord, for the fact that I love!
This is the right way of life I'm in—
To discard all vice and sin:
This points me in the way of virtue
So that day by day I mend my ways.
'And whoever says that love is vice
Or slavery because he feels distress in being in love,
He's either envious or wicked
Or too weak to love, despite his shrewdness;
I guess people like that
Defame love, because they know nothing of it;
They talk, but they never bent love's bow.
'What, is the sun any worse
When a man, because he has feeble eyes,
Can’t endure it because it's too bright?
Is love any worse because wretches cry that it is?
No weal is worth anything if it can't dry up sorrow.
And furthermore, anyone that has a glass head
Should think first before he throws stones!
'But I--with all my heart and all my might,
As I've said,--will love to my last breath
My dear heart, my own knight,
In whom my love has grown so strong,
And his in me, that it will last forever.
At first I dreaded to begin loving him,
But now I know that there's no peril in love.]
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