The Legend of Cleopatra

By Geoffrey Chaucer

LGW 1 580 After the deth of Tholome the kyng,
LGW 1 581 That al Egipt hadde in his governyng,
LGW 1 582 Regned his queene Cleopataras;
LGW 1 583 Tyl on a tyme befel there swich a cas
LGW 1 584 That out of Rome was sent a senatour
LGW 1 585 For to conqueren regnes and honour
LGW 1 586 Unto the toun of Rome, as was usaunce,
LGW 1 587 To han the world at hire obesaunce,
LGW 1 588 And soth to seyne, Antonius was his name.
LGW 1 589 So fil it, as Fortune hym oughte a shame,
LGW 1 590 Whan he was fallen in prosperite
LGW 1 591 Rebel unto the toun of Rome is he.
LGW 1 592 And over al this, the suster of Cesar,
LGW 1 593 He lafte hire falsly, or that she was war,
LGW 1 594 And wolde algates han another wyf,
LGW 1 595 For which he tok with Rome and Cesar stryf.
LGW 1 596 Natheles, for sothe, this ilke senatour
LGW 1 597 Was a ful worthy gentil werreyour,
LGW 1 598 And of his deth it was ful gret damage.
LGW 1 599 But love hadde brought this man in swich a rage
LGW 1 600 And hym so narwe bounden in his las,
LGW 1 601 Al for the love of Cleopataras,
LGW 1 602 That al the world he sette at no value.
LGW 1 603 Hym thoughte there nas nothyng to hym so due
LGW 1 604 As Cleopatras for to love and serve;
LGW 1 605 Hym roughte nat in armes for to sterve
LGW 1 606 In the defence of hyre and of hire ryght.
LGW 1 607 This noble queene ek lovede so this knyght,
LGW 1 608 Thourgh his desert, and for his chyvalrye;
LGW 1 609 As certeynly, but if that bokes lye,
LGW 1 610 He was, of persone and of gentillesse,
LGW 1 611 And of discrecioun and hardynesse,
LGW 1 612 Worthi to any wyght that liven may;
LGW 1 613 And she was fayr as is the rose in May.
LGW 1 614 And, for to make shortly is the beste,
LGW 1 615 She wax his wif, and hadde hym as hire leste.
LGW 1 616 The weddynge and the feste to devyse,
LGW 1 617 To me, that have ytake swich empryse
LGW 1 618 Of so many a story for to make,
LGW 1 619 It were to longe, lest that I shulde slake
LGW 1 620 Of thyng that bereth more effect and charge;
LGW 1 621 For men may overlade a ship or barge.
LGW 1 622 And forthy to th’ effect thanne wol I skyppe,
LGW 1 623 And al the remenaunt, I wol lete it slippe.
LGW 1 624 Octovyan, that wod was of this dede,
LGW 1 625 Shop hym an ost on Antony to lede
LGW 1 626 Al uterly for his destruccioun,
LGW 1 627 With stoute Romeyns, crewel as lyoun;
LGW 1 628 To ship they wente, and thus I lat hem sayle.
LGW 1 629 Antonius was war, and wol nat fayle
LGW 1 630 To meten with these Romeyns, if he may;
LGW 1 631 Tok ek his red, and bothe, upon a day,
LGW 1 632 His wif and he, and al his ost, forth wente
LGW 1 633 To shipe anon, no lengere they ne stente;
LGW 1 634 And in the se it happede hem to mete.
LGW 1 635 Up goth the trompe, and for to shoute and shete,
LGW 1 636 And peynen hem to sette on with the sunne.
LGW 1 637 With grysely soun out goth the grete gonne,
LGW 1 638 And heterly they hurtelen al atones,
LGW 1 639 And from the top doun come the grete stones.
LGW 1 640 In goth the grapenel, so ful of crokes;
LGW 1 641 Among the ropes renne the sherynge-hokes.
LGW 1 642 In with the polax preseth he and he;
LGW 1 643 Byhynde the mast begynnyth he to fle,
LGW 1 644 And out ageyn, and dryveth hym overbord;
LGW 1 645 He styngeth hym upon his speres ord;
LGW 1 646 He rent the seyl with hokes lyke a sithe;
LGW 1 647 He bryngeth the cuppe and biddeth hem be blythe;
LGW 1 648 He poureth pesen upon the haches slidere;
LGW 1 649 With pottes ful of lyme they gon togidere;
LGW 1 650 And thus the longe day in fyght they spende,
LGW 1 651 Tyl at the laste, as every thyng hath ende,
LGW 1 652 Antony is schent and put hym to the flyghte,
LGW 1 653 And al his folk to-go that best go myghte.
LGW 1 654 Fleth ek the queen, with al hire purpre sayl,
LGW 1 655 For strokes, whiche that wente as thikke as hayl;
LGW 1 656 No wonder was she myghte it nat endure.
LGW 1 657 And whan that Antony saw that aventure,
LGW 1 658 “Allas,” quod he, “the day that I was born!
LGW 1 659 My worshipe in this day thus have I lorn.”
LGW 1 660 And for dispeyr out of his wit he sterte
LGW 1 661 And rof hymself anon thourghout the herte
LGW 1 662 Or that he ferther wente out of the place.
LGW 1 663 His wif, that coude of Cesar have no grace,
LGW 1 664 To Egipt is fled for drede and for destresse.
LGW 1 665 But herkeneth, ye that speken of kyndenesse,
LGW 1 666 Ye men that falsly sweren many an oth
LGW 1 667 That ye wol deye if that youre love be wroth,
LGW 1 668 Here may ye sen of wemen which a trouthe!
LGW 1 669 This woful Cleopatre hath mad swich routhe
LGW 1 670 That ther is tonge non that may it telle.
LGW 1 671 But on the morwe she wolde no lengere dwelle,
LGW 1 672 But made hire subtyl werkmen make a shryne
LGW 1 673 Of alle the rubyes and the stones fyne
LGW 1 674 In al Egypte that she coude espie,
LGW 1 675 And putte ful the shryne of spicerye,
LGW 1 676 And let the cors enbaume, and forth she fette
LGW 1 677 This dede cors, and in the shryne it shette.
LGW 1 678 And next the shryne a pit thanne doth she grave,
LGW 1 679 And alle the serpentes that she myghte have,
LGW 1 680 She putte hem in that grave, and thus she seyde:
LGW 1 681 “Now, love, to whom my sorweful herte obeyde
LGW 1 682 So ferforthly that from that blisful houre
LGW 1 683 That I yow swor to ben al frely youre —
LGW 1 684 I mene yow, Antonius, my knyght —
LGW 1 685 That nevere wakynge, in the day or nyght,
LGW 1 686 Ye nere out of myn hertes remembraunce,
LGW 1 687 For wel or wo, for carole or for daunce;
LGW 1 688 And in myself this covenaunt made I tho,
LGW 1 689 That ryght swich as ye felten, wel or wo,
LGW 1 690 As fer forth as it in my power lay,
LGW 1 691 Unreprovable unto my wyfhod ay,
LGW 1 692 The same wolde I fele, lyf or deth —
LGW 1 693 And thilke covenant whil me lasteth breth
LGW 1 694 I wol fulfille; and that shal ben wel sene,
LGW 1 695 Was nevere unto hire love a trewer quene.”
LGW 1 696 And with that word, naked, with ful good herte,
LGW 1 697 Among the serpents in the pit she sterte,
LGW 1 698 And there she ches to have hire buryinge.
LGW 1 699 Anon the nadderes gonne hire for to stynge,
LGW 1 700 And she hire deth receyveth with good cheere
LGW 1 701 For love of Antony that was hire so dere.
LGW 1 702 And this is storyal soth, it is no fable.
LGW 1 703 Now, or I fynde a man thus trewe and stable,
LGW 1 704 And wol for love his deth so frely take,
LGW 1 705 I preye God let oure hedes nevere ake! Amen.