The Legend of Lucrece

By Geoffrey Chaucer

LGW 5 1680 Now mot I seyn the exilynge of kynges
LGW 5 1681 Of Rome, for here horible doinges,
LGW 5 1682 And of the laste kyng Tarquinius,
LGW 5 1683 As seyth Ovyde and Titus Lyvius.
LGW 5 1684 But for that cause telle I nat this storye,
LGW 5 1685 But for to preyse and drawe to memorye
LGW 5 1686 The verray wif, the verray trewe Lucresse,
LGW 5 1687 That for hyre wifhod and hire stedefastnesse
LGW 5 1688 Nat only that these payens hire comende,
LGW 5 1689 But he that cleped is in oure legende
LGW 5 1690 The grete Austyn hath gret compassioun
LGW 5 1691 Of this Lucresse, that starf at Rome toun;
LGW 5 1692 And in what wise, I wol but shortly trete,
LGW 5 1693 And of this thyng I touche but the grete.
LGW 5 1694 Whan Ardea beseged was aboute
LGW 5 1695 With Romeyns, that ful sterne were and stoute,
LGW 5 1696 Ful longe lay the sege and lytel wroughten,
LGW 5 1697 So that they were half idel, as hem thoughten;
LGW 5 1698 And in his pley Tarquinius the yonge
LGW 5 1699 Gan for to jape, for he was lyght of tonge,
LGW 5 1700 And seyde that it was an ydel lyf;
LGW 5 1701 No man dide there no more than his wif.
LGW 5 1702 “And lat us speke of wyves, that is best;
LGW 5 1703 Preyse every man his owene as hym lest,
LGW 5 1704 And with oure speche lat us ese oure herte.”
LGW 5 1705 A knyght that highte Colatyn up sterte,
LGW 5 1706 And seyde thus: “Nay, sire, it is no nede
LGW 5 1707 To trowen on the word, but on the dede.
LGW 5 1708 I have a wif,” quod he, “that, as I trowe,
LGW 5 1709 Is holden good of alle that evere hire knowe.
LGW 5 1710 Go we to-nyght to Rome, and we shal se.”
LGW 5 1711 Tarquinius answerde, “That liketh me.”
LGW 5 1712 To Rome be they come, and faste hem dyghte
LGW 5 1713 To Colatynes hous and doun they lyghte,
LGW 5 1714 Tarquinius and ek this Colatyn.
LGW 5 1715 The husbonde knew the estris wel and fyn,
LGW 5 1716 And prively into the hous they gon,
LGW 5 1717 Nor at the yate porter nas there non,
LGW 5 1718 And at the chambre-dore they abyde.
LGW 5 1719 This noble wif sat by hire beddes side
LGW 5 1720 Dischevele, for no malyce she ne thoughte;
LGW 5 1721 And softe wolle oure bok seyth that she wroughte
LGW 5 1722 To kepen hire from slouthe and idelnesse;
LGW 5 1723 And bad hire servaunts don hire besynesse,
LGW 5 1724 And axeth hem, “What tydyngs heren ye?
LGW 5 1725 How seyth men of the sege, how shal it be?
LGW 5 1726 God wolde the walles were falle adoun!
LGW 5 1727 Myn husbonde is to longe out of this toun,
LGW 5 1728 For which the drede doth me so to smerte
LGW 5 1729 That with a swerd it stingeth to myn herte
LGW 5 1730 Whan I thynke on the sege or on that place.
LGW 5 1731 God save my lord, I preye hym for his grace!”
LGW 5 1732 And therwithal ful tenderly she wep,
LGW 5 1733 And of hire werk she tok no more kep,
LGW 5 1734 And mekely she let hyre eyen falle;
LGW 5 1735 And thilke semblaunt sat hire wel withalle.
LGW 5 1736 And eek hire teres, ful of honeste,
LGW 5 1737 Embelished hire wifly chastite;
LGW 5 1738 Hyre contenaunce is to hire herte dygne,
LGW 5 1739 For they acorde bothe in dede and sygne.
LGW 5 1740 And with that word hire husbonde Colatyn,
LGW 5 1741 Or she of him was war, com stertynge in
LGW 5 1742 And seyde, “Drede the nat, for I am here!”
LGW 5 1743 And she anon up ros with blysful chere
LGW 5 1744 And kiste hym, as of wives is the wone.
LGW 5 1745 Tarquinius, this proude kynges sone,
LGW 5 1746 Conceyved hath hire beaute and hyre cheere,
LGW 5 1747 Hire yelwe her, hire shap, and hire manere,
LGW 5 1748 Hire hew, hire wordes, that she hath compleyned
LGW 5 1749 (And by no craft hire beaute nas nat feyned),
LGW 5 1750 And caughte to this lady swich desyr
LGW 5 1751 That in his herte brende as any fyr,
LGW 5 1752 So wodly that his wit was al forgeten.
LGW 5 1753 For wel thoghte he she wolde nat ben geten;
LGW 5 1754 And ay the more that he was in dispayr,
LGW 5 1755 The more he coveyteth and thoughte hire fayr.
LGW 5 1756 His blynde lust was al his coveytynge.
LGW 5 1757 A-morwe, whan the brid began to synge,
LGW 5 1758 Unto the sege he cometh ful privily,
LGW 5 1759 And by hymself he walketh soberly,
LGW 5 1760 Th’ ymage of hire recordynge alwey newe:
LGW 5 1761 “Thus lay hire her, and thus fresh was hyre hewe;
LGW 5 1762 Thus sat, thus spak, thus span; this was hire chere;
LGW 5 1763 Thus fayr she was, and this was hire manere.”
LGW 5 1764 Al this conseit hys herte hath newe ytake.
LGW 5 1765 And as the se, with tempest al toshake,
LGW 5 1766 That after, whan the storm is al ago,
LGW 5 1767 Yit wol the water quappe a day or two,
LGW 5 1768 Ryght so, thogh that hire forme were absent,
LGW 5 1769 The plesaunce of hire forme was present;
LGW 5 1770 But natheles, nat plesaunce but delit,
LGW 5 1771 Or an unrightful talent, with dispit —
LGW 5 1772 “For, maugre hyre, she shal my leman be!
LGW 5 1773 Hap helpeth hardy man alday,” quod he;
LGW 5 1774 “What ende that I make, it shal be so.”
LGW 5 1775 And girte hym with his swerd and gan to go,
LGW 5 1776 And forth he rit til he to Rome is come,
LGW 5 1777 And al alone his wey than hath he nome
LGW 5 1778 Unto the hous of Colatyn ful ryght.
LGW 5 1779 Doun was the sonne and day hath lost his lyght;
LGW 5 1780 And in he cometh into a prive halke,
LGW 5 1781 And in the nyght ful thefly gan he stalke,
LGW 5 1782 Whan every wight was to his reste brought,
LGW 5 1783 Ne no wight hadde of tresoun swich a thought.
LGW 5 1784 Were it by wyndow or by other gyn,
LGW 5 1785 With swerd ydrawe shortly he com in
LGW 5 1786 There as she lay, this noble wif Lucresse.
LGW 5 1787 And as she wok, hire bed she felte presse.
LGW 5 1788 “What beste is that,” quod she, “that weyeth thus?”
LGW 5 1789 “I am the kynges sone, Tarquinius,”
LGW 5 1790 Quod he, “but, and thow crye or noyse make,
LGW 5 1791 Or if there any creature awake,
LGW 5 1792 By thilke God that formed man alyve,
LGW 5 1793 This swerd thourghout thyn herte shal I ryve.”
LGW 5 1794 And therwithal unto hire throte he sterte,
LGW 5 1795 And sette the poynt al sharp upon hire herte.
LGW 5 1796 No word she spak, she hath no myght therto.
LGW 5 1797 What shal she seyn? Hire wit is al ago.
LGW 5 1798 Ryght as a wolf that fynt a lomb alone,
LGW 5 1799 To whom shal she compleyne or make mone?
LGW 5 1800 What, shal she fyghte with an hardy knyght?
LGW 5 1801 Wel wot men that a woman hath no myght.
LGW 5 1802 What, shal she crye, or how shal she asterte
LGW 5 1803 That hath hire by the throte with swerd at herte?
LGW 5 1804 She axeth grace, and seyth al that she can.
LGW 5 1805 “Ne wilt thow nat,” quod he, this crewel man,
LGW 5 1806 “As wisly Jupiter my soule save,
LGW 5 1807 As I shal in the stable slen thy knave,
LGW 5 1808 And ley hym in thy bed, and loude crye
LGW 5 1809 That I the fynde in swich avouterye.
LGW 5 1810 And thus thow shalt be ded and also lese
LGW 5 1811 Thy name, for thow shalt non other chese.”
LGW 5 1812 These Romeyns wyves lovede so here name
LGW 5 1813 At thilke tyme, and dredde so the shame,
LGW 5 1814 That, what for fer of sclaunder and drede of deth,
LGW 5 1815 She loste bothe at ones wit and breth,
LGW 5 1816 And in a swogh she lay, and wex so ded
LGW 5 1817 Men myghte smyten of hire arm or hed;
LGW 5 1818 She feleth no thyng, neyther foul ne fayr.
LGW 5 1819 Tarquinius, that art a kynges eyr,
LGW 5 1820 And sholdest, as by lynage and by ryght,
LGW 5 1821 Don as a lord and as a verray knyght,
LGW 5 1822 Whi hastow don dispit to chivalrye?
LGW 5 1823 Whi hastow don this lady vilanye?
LGW 5 1824 Allas, of the this was a vileyns dede!
LGW 5 1825 But now to purpos; in the story I rede,
LGW 5 1826 Whan he was gon and this myschaunce is falle,
LGW 5 1827 This lady sente after hire frendes alle,
LGW 5 1828 Fader, moder, husbonde, alle yfeere;
LGW 5 1829 And al dischevele, with hire heres cleere,
LGW 5 1830 In habit swich as women used tho
LGW 5 1831 Unto the buryinge of hire frendes go,
LGW 5 1832 She sit in halle with a sorweful sighte.
LGW 5 1833 Hyre frendes axen what hire eylen myghte,
LGW 5 1834 And who was ded; and she sit ay wepynge;
LGW 5 1835 A word, for shame, forth ne myght she brynge,
LGW 5 1836 Ne upon hem she durste nat beholde.
LGW 5 1837 But atte last of Tarquyny she hem tolde
LGW 5 1838 This rewful cas and al thys thing horryble.
LGW 5 1839 The woo to tellen were an impossible,
LGW 5 1840 That she and al hir frendes made attones.
LGW 5 1841 Al hadde folkes hertes ben of stones,
LGW 5 1842 Hyt myght have maked hem upon hir rewe,
LGW 5 1843 Hir herte was so wyfly and so trewe.
LGW 5 1844 She sayde that, for hir gylt ne for hir blame,
LGW 5 1845 Hir husbonde shulde nat have the foule name,
LGW 5 1846 That wolde she nat suffre by no wey.
LGW 5 1847 And they answerden alle, upon hir fey,
LGW 5 1848 That they forgave yt hyr, for yt was ryght;
LGW 5 1849 It was no gilt, it lay not in hir myght;
LGW 5 1850 And seyden hir ensamples many oon.
LGW 5 1851 But al for noght; for thus she seyde anoon:
LGW 5 1852 “Be as be may,” quod she, “of forgyvyng,
LGW 5 1853 I wol not have noo forgyft for nothing.”
LGW 5 1854 But pryvely she kaughte forth a knyf,
LGW 5 1855 And therwithal she rafte hirself hir lyf;
LGW 5 1856 And as she fel adoun, she kaste hir lok,
LGW 5 1857 And of hir clothes yet she hede tok.
LGW 5 1858 For in hir fallynge yet she had a care,
LGW 5 1859 Lest that hir fet or suche thyng lay bare;
LGW 5 1860 So wel she loved clennesse and eke trouthe.
LGW 5 1861 Of hir had al the toun of Rome routhe,
LGW 5 1862 And Brutus by hir chaste blood hath swore
LGW 5 1863 That Tarquyn shulde ybanysshed be therfore,
LGW 5 1864 And al hys kyn; and let the peple calle,
LGW 5 1865 And openly the tale he tolde hem alle,
LGW 5 1866 And openly let cary her on a bere
LGW 5 1867 Thurgh al the toun, that men may see and here
LGW 5 1868 The horryble dede of hir oppressyoun,
LGW 5 1869 Ne never was ther kyng in Rome toun
LGW 5 1870 Syn thilke day; and she was holden there
LGW 5 1871 A seynt, and ever hir day yhalwed dere
LGW 5 1872 As in hir lawe; and thus endeth Lucresse,
LGW 5 1873 The noble wyf, as Tytus bereth witnesse.
LGW 5 1874 I telle hyt for she was of love so trewe,
LGW 5 1875 Ne in hir wille she chaunged for no newe;
LGW 5 1876 And for the stable herte, sadde and kynde,
LGW 5 1877 That in these wymmen men may alday fynde.
LGW 5 1878 Ther as they kaste hir herte, there it dwelleth.
LGW 5 1879 For wel I wot that Crist himselve telleth
LGW 5 1880 That in Israel, as wyd as is the lond,
LGW 5 1881 That so gret feyth in al that he ne fond
LGW 5 1882 As in a woman; and this is no lye.
LGW 5 1883 And as of men, loke ye which tirannye
LGW 5 1884 They doon alday; assay hem whoso lyste,
LGW 5 1885 The trewest ys ful brotel for to triste.