Troilus and Criseyde

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,**

*success **die

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;*

*delight, comfort

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*

*unhappy fortune*

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,*

*pass, go

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*

*watch, observe

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,

*ignorant, foolish

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

the full."

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.*

*jesting demeanour*

*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

she moved*

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.

more pleasant*

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,

*previously **looked

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;

*rays, glances

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.**

*again **lasted

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;

*constrain <8>

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,*

*erred, failed

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

the contrast*

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'

*that same

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."

*end, border