Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE LEGEND OF GOOD WOMEN: 2. THE LEGEND OF THISBE, by GEOFFREY CHAUCER

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THE LEGEND OF GOOD WOMEN: 2. THE LEGEND OF THISBE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: At babiloine whylom fil it thus
Last Line: A woman dar and can as wel as he.

At Babiloine [Babylon] whylom fil it thus,
The whiche toun the queen Semiramus
Leet dichen al about, and walles make
Ful hye, of harde tyles wel y-bake.
Ther weren dwellinge in this noble toun
Two lordes, which that were of greet renoun,
And woneden so nigh, upon a grene,
That ther nas but a stoon [stone]-wal hem bitwene,
As ofte in grete tounes is the wone.
And sooth to seyn [seen], that o man hadde a sone,
Of al that londe oon of the lustieste.
That other hadde a doghter, the faireste,
That estward in the world was tho dwellinge.
The name of everich [every one] gan to other springe
By wommen, that were neighebores aboute.
For in that contree yit, withouten doute,
Maidens been y-kept, for Ielosye,
Ful streite, lest they diden som folye.
This yonge man was cleped Piramus,
And Tisbe hight the maid, Naso [Ovid] seith thus;
And thus by report was here name y-shove
That, as they wexe in age, wex here love;
And certein, as by reson of here age,
Ther mighte have been bitwix hem mariage,
But that here fadres nolde hit nat assente;
And bothe in love y-lyke sore they brente,
That noon of alle here frendes mighte hit lette
But prively somtyme yit they mette [to dream]
By sleighte, and speken som of here desyr;
As, wry the gleed, and hotter is the fyr;
Forbede a love, and it is ten so wood [ten times as mad].
This wal, which that bitwix hem bothe stood,
Was cloven a-two, right fro the toppe adoun.
Of olde tyme of his fundacioun;
But yit this clifte was so narwe [narrow] and lyte,
It as nat sene, dere y-nogh [enough] a myte.
But what is that, that love can nat espye?
Ye lovers two, if that I shal nat lye,
Ye founden first this litel narwe [narrow] clifte;
And, with a soun as softe as any shrifte,
They lete here wordes through the clifte pace,
And tolden, whyl that they stode in the place,
Al here compleynt of love, and al here wo,
At every tyme whan they dorste so.
Upon that o syde of the wal stood he,
And on that other syde stood Tisbe,
The swote soun of other receyve,
And thus here wardeins wolde they deceyve.
And every day this wal they wolde threte,
And wisshe to god, that it were doun y-bete.
Thus wolde they seyn [seen] -- "allas! Thou wikked wal,
Through thyn envye thou us lettest al!
Why nilt thou cleve, or fallen al a-two?
Or, at the leste, but thou woldest so,
Yit woldestow but ones lete us mete,
Or ones that we mighte kissen swete,
Than were we covered of our cares colde.
But natheles, yit be we to thee holde
In as muche as thou suffrest for to goon [proceed]
Our wordes through thy lyme and eek [also] thy stoon [stone].
Yit oghte we with thee ben wel apayd."
And whan thise ydel [idle] wordes weren sayd,
The colde wal they wolden kisse of stoon [stone],
And take here leve, and forth they wolden goon [proceed].
And this was gladly in the even-tyde
Or wonder erly, lest men hit espyde;
And longe tyme they wroghte in this manere
Til on a day, whan Phebus gan to clere,
Aurora with the stremes of here hete
Had dryed up the dew of herbes were;
Unto this clifte, as it was wont to be,
Com Pyramus, and after com Tisbe,
And plighten trouthe fully in here fey
That ilke same night to stele awey,
And to begyle here wardiens everichoon [every one],
And forth out of the citee for to goon [proceed];
And, for the feldes been so brode and wyde,
For to mete in o place at o tyde,
They sette mark here meting sholde be
Ther king Ninus was graven, under a tree;
For olde payens that ydoles heried
Useden tho in feldes to ben beried.
And faste by this grave was a welle.
And, shortly of this tale for to telle,
This covenant was affermed wonder faste;
And longe hem thoughte that the sonne laste,
That hit nere goon [proceed] under the see adoun.
This Tisbe hath so greet affeccioun
And so greet lyking Piramus to see,
That, whan she seigh her tyme mighte be,
At night she stal awey ful prively
With her face y-wimpled subtiny;
For alle her frendes -- for to save her trouthe --
She hath for-sake; allas! and that is routhe
That ever woman wolde be so trewe
To trusten man, but she the bet him knewe!
And to the tree she goth a ful good pas,
For love made her so hardy in this cas;
And by the welle adoun she gan her dresse.
Allas! than comth a wilde leonesse
Out of the wode, withouten more areste,
With blody mouthe, of strangling of a beste,
To drinken of the welle, ther as she sat;
And, whan that Tisbe had espyed that,
She rist her up, with a ful drery herte,
And in a cave with dredful foot she sterte,
For by the mone she seigh hit wel with-alle.
And, as she ran, her wimpel leet she falle,
And took noon heed, so sore she was a-whaped [amazed].
And eek [also] so glad of that she was escaped;
And thus she sit, and darketh wonder stille.
Whan that this leonesse hath dronke her fille,
Aboute the welle gan she for to winde,
And right anoon [at once] the wimpel gan she finde,
And with her blody mouth hit al to-rente.
Whan this was doon, no lenger she ne stente,
But to the wode her wey than hath she nome.
And, at the laste, this Piramus is come,
But al to longe, allas! at home was he.
The mone shoon, men mighte wel y-see,
And in his weye, as that he com ful faste,
His eyen to the grounde adoun he caste,
And in the sonde, as he beheld adoun,
He seigh the steppes brode of a leoun,
And in his herte he sodeinly agroos,
And pale he wex, therwith his heer aroos,
And neer he com, and fond the wimpel torn.
"Allas!" quode he, "the day that I was born!
This o night wol us lovers bothe slee!
How sholde I axen mercy of Tisbe
Whan I am he that have yow slain, allas!
My bidding hath yow slain, as in this cas.
Allas! to bidde a woman goon [proceed] by nighte
In place ther as peril fallen mighte,
And I so slow! allas, I ne hadde be
Here in this place a furlong-wey or ye!
Now what leoun that be in this foreste,
My body mote he renden, or what beste
That wilde is, gnawen mote he now myn herte!"
And with that worde he to the wimpel sterte,
And kiste hit ofte, and weep on hit ful sore,
And seide, "wimpel, allas! ther nis no more
But thou shalt fele as wel the blood of me
As thou hast felt the bleding of Tisbe!"
And with that worde he smoot him to the herte.
The blood out of the wounde as brode sterte
As water, whan the conduit broken is.
Now Tisbe, which that wiste nat of this,
But sitting in her drede, she thoghte thus,
"If hit so falle that my Piramus
Be comen hider, and may me nat y-finde,
He may me holden fals and eek [also] unkinde."
And out she comth, and after him gan espyen
Bothe with her herte and with her yen,
And thoghte, "I wol him tellen of my drede
Bothe of the leonesse and al my dede."
And at the laste her love than hath she founde
Beting with his heles on the grounde,
Al blody, and therwith-al a-bak she sterte,
And lyke the wawes quappe gan her herte,
And pale as box she wex, and in a throwe
Avysed her, and gan him wel to knowe,
That hit was Piramus, her herte dere.
Who coude wryte whiche a deedly chere
Hath Tisbe now, and how her heer she rente,
And how she gan her-selve to turmente,
And how she lyth and swowneth on the grounde,
And how she weep of teres ful his wounde,
How medeleth she his blood with her compleynte,
And with his blood her-selven gan she peynte;
How clippeth she the dede cors [body], allas?
How doth this woful Tisbe in this cas!
How kisseth she his frosty mouth so cold!
"Who hath doon this, and who hath been so bold
To sleen my leef? O spek, my Piramus!
I am thy Tisbe, that thee calleth thus!"
And therwith-al she lifteth up his heed.
This woful man, that was nat fully deed,
Whan that he herde the name of Tisbe cryen,
On her he caste his hevy deedly yen
And doun again, and yeldeth up the gost.
Tisbe rist up, withouten noise or bost,
And seigh her wimpel and his empty shethe,
And eek [also] his swerd, that him hath doon to dethe;
Than spak she thus: "my woful hand," quod she,
"Is strong y-nogh [enough] in swiche a werk to me;
For love shal yive me strengthe and hardinesse
To make my wounde large y-nogh [enough], I gesse.
I wol thee folwen deed, and I wol be
Felawe and cause eek [also] of thy deeth," quod she.
"And thogh that nothing save the deeth only
Mighte thee fro me departe trewely,
Thou shalt no more departe now fro me
Than fro the deeth, for I wol go with thee!
"And now, ye wrecched Ielous fadres oure,
We, that weren whylom children youre,
We prayen yow, withouten more envye,
That in o grave y-fere [together] we moten lye,
Sin love hath brought us to this pitous ende!
And rightwis god to every lover sende,
That loveth trewely, more prosperitee
Than ever hadde Piramus and Tisbe!
And lat no gentil woman her assure
To putten her in swiche an aventure.
But god forbede but a woman can
Been as trewe and loving as a man!
And, for my part, I shal anoon [at once] it kythe!"
And, with that worde, his swerd she took as swythe,
That warm was of her loves blood and hoot,
And to the herte she her-selven smoot.
And thus ar Tisbe and Piramus ago.
Of trewe men I finde but fewe mo
In alle my bokes, save this Piramus,
And therfor have I spoken of him thus.
For hit is deyntee [worth] to us men to finde
A man that can in love be trewe and kinde.
Heer may ye seen, what lover so he be,
A woman dar and can as wel as he.

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