THE FIRST BOOK
THE double sorrow <1> of Troilus to tell,
That was the King Priamus' son of Troy,
In loving how his adventures* fell
From woe to weal, and after* out of joy,
My purpose is, ere I you parte froy.*
Tisiphone,<2> thou help me to indite
These woeful words, that weep as I do write.
To thee I call, thou goddess of torment!
Thou cruel wight, that sorrowest ever in pain;
Help me, that am the sorry instrument
That helpeth lovers, as I can, to plain.*
For well it sits,* the soothe for to sayn,
Unto a woeful wight a dreary fere,*
And to a sorry tale a sorry cheer.*
For I, that God of Love's servants serve,
Nor dare to love for mine unlikeliness,* <3>
Praye for speed,* although I shoulde sterve,**
So far I am from his help in darkness;
But natheless, might I do yet gladness
To any lover, or any love avail,*
Have thou the thank, and mine be the travail.
But ye lovers that bathen in gladness,
If any drop of pity in you be,
Remember you for old past heaviness,
For Godde's love, and on adversity
That others suffer; think how sometime ye
Founde how Love durste you displease;
Or elles ye have won it with great ease.
And pray for them that been in the case
Of Troilus, as ye may after hear,
That Love them bring in heaven to solace;*
And for me pray also, that God so dear
May give me might to show, in some mannere,
Such pain or woe as Love's folk endure,
In Troilus' *unseely adventure*
And pray for them that eke be despair'd
In love, that never will recover'd be;
And eke for them that falsely be appair'd*
Through wicked tongues, be it he or she:
Or thus bid* God, for his benignity,
To grant them soon out of this world to pace,*
That be despaired of their love's grace.
And bid also for them that be at ease
In love, that God them grant perseverance,
And send them might their loves so to please,
That it to them be *worship and pleasance;*
*honour and pleasure*
For so hope I my soul best to advance,
To pray for them that Love's servants be,
And write their woe, and live in charity;
And for to have of them compassion,
As though I were their owen brother dear.
Now listen all with good entention,*
For I will now go straight to my mattere,
In which ye shall the double sorrow hear
Of Troilus, in loving of Cresside,
And how that she forsook him ere she died.
In Troy, during the siege, dwelt "a lord of great authority, a
great divine," named Calchas; who, through the oracle of
Apollo, knew that Troy should be destroyed. He stole away
secretly to the Greek camp, where he was gladly received, and
honoured for his skill in divining, of which the besiegers hoped
to make use. Within the city there was great anger at the
treason of Calchas; and the people declared that he and all his
kin were worthy to be burnt. His daughter, whom he had left in
the city, a widow and alone, was in great fear for her life.
Cressida was this lady's name aright;
*As to my doom,* in alle Troy city
*in my judgment*
So fair was none, for over ev'ry wight
So angelic was her native beauty,
That like a thing immortal seemed she,
As sooth a perfect heav'nly creature,
That down seem'd sent in scorning of Nature.
In her distress, "well nigh out of her wit for pure fear," she
appealed for protection to Hector; who, "piteous of nature,"
and touched by her sorrow and her beauty, assured her of
safety, so long as she pleased to dwell in Troy. The siege went
on; but they of Troy did not neglect the honour and worship of
their deities; most of all of "the relic hight Palladion, <4> that
was their trust aboven ev'ry one." In April, "when clothed is the
mead with newe green, of jolly Ver [Spring] the prime," the
Trojans went to hold the festival of Palladion - crowding to
the temple, "in all their beste guise," lusty knights, fresh ladies,
and maidens bright.
Among the which was this Cresseida,
In widow's habit black; but natheless,
Right as our firste letter is now A,
In beauty first so stood she makeless;*
Her goodly looking gladded all the press;*
Was never seen thing to be praised derre,*
*dearer, more worthy
Nor under blacke cloud so bright a sterre,*
As she was, as they saiden, ev'ry one
That her behelden in her blacke weed;*
And yet she stood, full low and still, alone,
Behind all other folk, *in little brede,*
And nigh the door, ay *under shame's drede;*
*for dread of shame*
Simple of bearing, debonair* of cheer,
With a full sure* looking and mannere.
Dan Troilus, as he was wont to guide
His younge knightes, led them up and down
In that large temple upon ev'ry side,
Beholding ay the ladies of the town;
Now here, now there, for no devotioun
Had he to none, to *reave him* his rest,
*deprive him of*
But gan to *praise and lacke whom him lest;*
*praise and disparage
whom he pleased*
And in his walk full fast he gan to wait*
If knight or squier of his company
Gan for to sigh, or let his eyen bait*
On any woman that he could espy;
Then he would smile, and hold it a folly,
And say him thus: "Ah, Lord, she sleepeth soft
For love of thee, when as thou turnest oft.
"I have heard told, pardie, of your living,
Ye lovers, and your lewed* observance,
And what a labour folk have in winning
Of love, and in it keeping with doubtance;*
And when your prey is lost, woe and penance;*
Oh, very fooles! may ye no thing see?
Can none of you aware by other be?"
But the God of Love vowed vengeance on Troilus for that
despite, and, showing that his bow was not broken, "hit him at
Within the temple went he forth playing,
This Troilus, with ev'ry wight about,
On this lady and now on that looking,
Whether she were of town, or *of without;*
*from beyond the walls*
And *upon cas* befell, that through the rout*
*by chance* *crowd
His eye pierced, and so deep it went,
Till on Cresside it smote, and there it stent;*
And suddenly wax'd wonder sore astoned,*
And gan her bet* behold in busy wise:
"Oh, very god!" <5> thought he; "where hast thou woned*
That art so fair and goodly to devise?*
Therewith his heart began to spread and rise;
And soft he sighed, lest men might him hear,
And caught again his former *playing cheer.*
*She was not with the least of her stature,*
*she was tall*
But all her limbes so well answering
Were to womanhood, that creature
Was never lesse mannish in seeming.
And eke *the pure wise of her moving*
*by very the way
She showed well, that men might in her guess
Honour, estate,* and womanly nobless.
Then Troilus right wonder well withal
Began to like her moving and her cheer,*
Which somedeal dainous* was, for she let fall
Her look a little aside, in such mannere
Ascaunce* "What! may I not stande here?"
*as if to say <6>
And after that *her looking gan she light,*
*her expression became
That never thought him see so good a sight.
And of her look in him there gan to quicken
So great desire, and strong affection,
That in his hearte's bottom gan to sticken
Of her the fix'd and deep impression;
And though he erst* had pored** up and down,
Then was he glad his hornes in to shrink;
Unnethes* wist he how to look or wink.
Lo! he that held himselfe so cunning,
And scorned them that Love's paines drien,*
Was full unware that love had his dwelling
Within the subtile streames* of her eyen;
That suddenly he thought he felte dien,
Right with her look, the spirit in his heart;
Blessed be Love, that thus can folk convert!
She thus, in black, looking to Troilus,
Over all things he stoode to behold;
But his desire, nor wherefore he stood thus,
He neither *cheere made,* nor worde told; *showed by his countenance*
But from afar, *his manner for to hold,*
*to observe due courtesy*
On other things sometimes his look he cast,
And eft* <7> on her, while that the service last.**
And after this, not fully all awhaped,*
Out of the temple all easily be went,
Repenting him that ever he had japed*
Of Love's folk, lest fully the descent
Of scorn fell on himself; but what he meant,
Lest it were wist on any manner side,
His woe he gan dissemble and eke hide.
Returning to his palace, he begins hypocritically to smile and
jest at Love's servants and their pains; but by and by he has to
dismiss his attendants, feigning "other busy needs." Then, alone
in his chamber, he begins to groan and sigh, and call up again
Cressida's form as he saw her in the temple - "making a mirror
of his mind, in which he saw all wholly her figure." He thinks no
travail or sorrow too high a price for the love of such a goodly
woman; and, "full unadvised of his woe coming,"
Thus took he purpose Love's craft to sue,*
And thought that he would work all privily,
First for to hide his desire all *in mew*
*in a cage, secretly
From every wight y-born, all utterly,
*But he might aught recover'd be thereby;*
*unless he gained by it*
Rememb'ring him, that love *too wide y-blow*
*too much spoken of*
Yields bitter fruit, although sweet seed be sow.
And, over all this, muche more he thought
What thing to speak, and what to holden in;
And what to arten* her to love, he sought;
And on a song anon right to begin,
And gan loud on his sorrow for to win;*
For with good hope he gan thus to assent*
Cressida for to love, and not repent.
The Song of Troilus. <9>
"If no love is, O God! why feel I so?
And if love is, what thing and which is he?
If love be good, from whence cometh my woe?
If it be wick', a wonder thinketh me
Whence ev'ry torment and adversity
That comes of love *may to me savoury think:* *seem acceptable to me*
For more I thirst the more that I drink.
"And if I *at mine owen luste bren*
*burn by my own will*
From whence cometh my wailing and my plaint?
If maugre me,<10> *whereto plain I* then? *to what avail do I complain?*
I wot ner* why, unweary, that I faint.
O quicke death! O sweete harm so quaint!*
How may I see in me such quantity,
But if that I consent that so it be?
"And if that I consent, I wrongfully
Complain y-wis: thus pushed to and fro,
All starreless within a boat am I,
Middes the sea, betwixte windes two,
That in contrary standen evermo'.
Alas! what wonder is this malady! -
For heat of cold, for cold of heat, I die!"
Devoting himself wholly to the thought of Cressida - though he
yet knew not whether she was woman or goddess - Troilus, in
spite of his royal blood, became the very slave of love. He set at
naught every other charge, but to gaze on her as often as he
could; thinking so to appease his hot fire, which thereby only
burned the hotter. He wrought marvellous feats of arms against
the Greeks, that she might like him the better for his renown;
then love deprived him of sleep, and made his food his foe; till
he had to "borrow a title of other sickness," that men might not
know he was consumed with love. Meantime, Cressida gave no
sign that she heeded his devotion, or even knew of it; and he
was now consumed with a new fear - lest she loved some other
man. Bewailing his sad lot - ensnared, exposed to the scorn of
those whose love he had ridiculed, wishing himself arrived at
the port of death, and praying ever that his lady might glad him
with some kind look - Troilus is surprised in his chamber by his
friend Pandarus, the uncle of Cressida. Pandarus, seeking to
divert his sorrow by making him angry, jeeringly asks whether
remorse of conscience, or devotion, or fear of the Greeks, has
caused all this ado. Troilus pitifully beseeches his friend to leave
him to die alone, for die he must, from a cause which he must
keep hidden; but Pandarus argues against Troilus' cruelty in
hiding from a friend such a sorrow, and Troilus at last confesses
that his malady is love. Pandarus suggests that the beloved
object may be such that his counsel might advance his friend's
desires; but Troilus scouts the suggestion, saying that Pandarus
could never govern himself in love.
"Yea, Troilus, hearken to me," quoth Pandare,
"Though I be nice;* it happens often so,
That one that access* doth full evil fare,
*in an access of fever
By good counsel can keep his friend therefro'.
I have my selfe seen a blind man go
Where as he fell that looke could full wide;
A fool may eke a wise man often guide.
"A whetstone is no carving instrument,
But yet it maketh sharpe carving tooles;
And, if thou know'st that I have aught miswent,*
Eschew thou that, for such thing to thee school* is. *schooling, lesson
Thus oughte wise men to beware by fooles;
If so thou do, thy wit is well bewared;
By its contrary is everything declared.
"For how might ever sweetness have been know
To him that never tasted bitterness?
And no man knows what gladness is, I trow,
That never was in sorrow or distress:
Eke white by black, by shame eke worthiness,
Each set by other, *more for other seemeth,*
*its quality is made
As men may see; and so the wise man deemeth."
more obvious by
Troilus, however, still begs his friend to leave him to mourn in
peace, for all his proverbs can avail nothing. But Pandarus
insists on plying the lover with wise saws, arguments,
reproaches; hints that, if he should die of love, his lady may
impute his death to fear of the Greeks; and finally induces
Troilus to admit that the well of all his woe, his sweetest foe, is
called Cressida. Pandarus breaks into praises of the lady, and
congratulations of his friend for so well fixing his heart; he
makes Troilus utter a formal confession of his sin in jesting at
lovers and bids him think well that she of whom rises all his
woe, hereafter may his comfort be also.
"For thilke* ground, that bears the weedes wick'
Bears eke the wholesome herbes, and full oft
Next to the foule nettle, rough and thick,
The lily waxeth,* white, and smooth, and soft;
And next the valley is the hill aloft,
And next the darke night is the glad morrow,
And also joy is next the fine* of sorrow."