The Legend of Thisbe

By Geoffrey Chaucer

LGW 2 706 At Babiloyne whylom fil it thus,
LGW 2 707 The whyche toun the queen Semyramus
LGW 2 708 Let dychen al aboute and walles make
LGW 2 709 Ful hye, of hard tiles wel ybake:
LGW 2 710 There were dwellyng in this noble toun
LGW 2 711 Two lordes, whiche that were of gret renoun,
LGW 2 712 And woneden so nygh, upon a grene,
LGW 2 713 That there nas but a ston-wal hem betweene,
LGW 2 714 As ofte in grete tounes is the wone.
LGW 2 715 And soth to seyne, that o man hadde a sone,
LGW 2 716 Of al that lond oon of the lustyeste.
LGW 2 717 That other hadde a doughter, the fayreste
LGW 2 718 That estward in the world was tho dwellynge.
LGW 2 719 The name of everych gan to other sprynge
LGW 2 720 By women that were neighebores aboute.
LGW 2 721 For in that contre yit, withouten doute,
LGW 2 722 Maydenes been ykept, for jelosye,
LGW 2 723 Ful streyte, lest they diden som folye.
LGW 2 724 This yonge man was called Piramus,
LGW 2 725 Tysbe hight the maide, Naso seyth thus;
LGW 2 726 And thus by report was hire name yshove
LGW 2 727 That, as they wex in age, wex here love.
LGW 2 728 And certeyn, as by resoun of hire age,
LGW 2 729 There myghte have ben bytwixe hem maryage,
LGW 2 730 But that here fadres nolde it nat assente;
LGW 2 731 And bothe in love ylyke sore they brente,
LGW 2 732 That non of alle hyre frendes myght it lette,
LGW 2 733 But pryvyly som tyme yit they mette
LGW 2 734 By sleyghte, and spoken som of here desyr;
LGW 2 735 As wry the glede and hotter is the fyr,
LGW 2 736 Forbede a love, and it is ten so wod.
LGW 2 737 This wal, which that bitwixe hem bothe stod,
LGW 2 738 Was clove a-two, ryght from the cop adoun,
LGW 2 739 Of olde tyme of his fundacioun;
LGW 2 740 But yit this clyfte was so narw and lyte
LGW 2 741 It nas nat sene, deere ynogh a myte.
LGW 2 742 But what is that that love can nat espye?
LGW 2 743 Ye loveres two, if that I shal nat lye,
LGW 2 744 Ye founden first this litel narwe clifte;
LGW 2 745 And with a soun as softe as any shryfte,
LGW 2 746 They lete here wordes thourgh the clifte pace,
LGW 2 747 And tolden, whil that they stode in the place,
LGW 2 748 Al here compleynt of love and al here wo,
LGW 2 749 At every tyme whan they durste so.
LGW 2 750 Upon that o syde of the wal stod he,
LGW 2 751 And on that other side stod Thesbe,
LGW 2 752 The swote soun of other to receyve.
LGW 2 753 And thus here wardeyns wolde they deceyve,
LGW 2 754 And every day this wal they wolde threte,
LGW 2 755 And wisshe to God that it were doun ybete.
LGW 2 756 Thus wolde they seyn: “Alas, thow wikkede wal!
LGW 2 757 Thorgh thyn envye thow us lettest al.
LGW 2 758 Why nylt thow cleve or fallen al a-two?
LGW 2 759 Or at the leste, but thou woldist so,
LGW 2 760 Yit woldest thow but ones lat us mete,
LGW 2 761 Or ones that we myghte kyssen swete,
LGW 2 762 Thanne were we covered of oure cares colde.
LGW 2 763 But, natheles, yit be we to thee holde,
LGW 2 764 In as muche as thow sufferest for to gon
LGW 2 765 Oure wordes thourgh thy lym and ek thy ston.
LGW 2 766 Yit oughte we with the been wel apayd.”
LGW 2 767 And whan these ydele wordes weren sayd,
LGW 2 768 The colde wal they wolden kysse of ston,
LGW 2 769 And take here leve and forth they wolden gon.
LGW 2 770 And this was gladly in the eve-tyde,
LGW 2 771 Or wonder erly, lest men it espyde.
LGW 2 772 And longe tyme they wroughte in this manere,
LGW 2 773 Tyl on a day, whan Phebus gan to cleere —
LGW 2 774 Aurora with the stremes of hire hete
LGW 2 775 Hadde dreyed up the dew of herbes wete —
LGW 2 776 Unto this clyft, as it was wont to be,
LGW 2 777 Com Piramus, and after com Thysbe,
LGW 2 778 And plyghten trouthe fully in here fey
LGW 2 779 That ilke same nyght to stele awey,
LGW 2 780 And to begile here wardeyns everichon,
LGW 2 781 And forth out of the cite for to goon;
LGW 2 782 And, for the feldes ben so brode and wide,
LGW 2 783 For to mete in o place at o tyde,
LGW 2 784 They sette mark here metynge sholde be
LGW 2 785 There kyng Nynus was grave under a tre —
LGW 2 786 For olde payens that idoles heryed
LGW 2 787 Useden tho in feldes to ben beryed —
LGW 2 788 And faste by this grave was a welle.
LGW 2 789 And shortly of this tale for to telle,
LGW 2 790 This covenaunt was affermed wonder faste;
LGW 2 791 And longe hem thoughte that the sonne laste,
LGW 2 792 That it nere gon under the se adoun.
LGW 2 793 This Tisbe hath so gret affeccioun
LGW 2 794 And so gret lykinge Piramus to se,
LGW 2 795 That whan she say hire tyme myghte be,
LGW 2 796 At nyght she stal awey ful pryvyly,
LGW 2 797 With hire face ywympled subtyly;
LGW 2 798 For alle hire frendes — for to save hire trouthe —
LGW 2 799 She hath forsake; allas, and that is routhe
LGW 2 800 That evere woman wolde ben so trewe
LGW 2 801 To truste man, but she the bet hym knewe.
LGW 2 802 And to the tre she goth a ful good pas,
LGW 2 803 For love made hire so hardy in this cas,
LGW 2 804 And by the welle adoun she gan hyre dresse.
LGW 2 805 Allas! Than cometh a wilde lyonesse
LGW 2 806 Out of the wode, withoute more arest,
LGW 2 807 With blody mouth, of strangelynge of a best,
LGW 2 808 To drynken of the welle there as she sat.
LGW 2 809 And whan that Tisbe hadde espyed that,
LGW 2 810 She rist hire up, with a ful drery herte,
LGW 2 811 And in a cave with dredful fot she sterte,
LGW 2 812 For by the mone she say it wel withalle.
LGW 2 813 And as she ran hire wympel let she falle
LGW 2 814 And tok non hed, so sore she was awhaped,
LGW 2 815 And ek so glad that that she was escaped;
LGW 2 816 And thus she sit and darketh wonder stylle.
LGW 2 817 Whan that this lyonesse hath dronke hire fille,
LGW 2 818 Aboute the welle gan she for to wynde,
LGW 2 819 And ryght anon the wympel gan she fynde,
LGW 2 820 And with hire blody mouth it al torente.
LGW 2 821 Whan this was don, no lengere she ne stente,
LGW 2 822 But to the wode hire weye thanne hath she nome.
LGW 2 823 And at the laste this Piramus is come;
LGW 2 824 But al to longe, allas, at hom was he!
LGW 2 825 The mone shon, and he myghte wel yse,
LGW 2 826 And in his wey, as that he com ful faste.
LGW 2 827 His eyen to the ground adoun he caste,
LGW 2 828 And in the sond, as he byheld adoun,
LGW 2 829 He sey the steppes brode of a lyoun,
LGW 2 830 And in his herte he sodeynly agros,
LGW 2 831 And pale he wex; therwith his heer aros,
LGW 2 832 And ner he com, and fond the wimpel torn.
LGW 2 833 “Allas,” quod he, “the day that I was born!
LGW 2 834 This o nyght wol us lovers bothe sle!
LGW 2 835 How shulde I axe mercy of Tisbe,
LGW 2 836 Whan I am he that have yow slayn, allas!
LGW 2 837 My biddyng hath yow slayn, as in this cas.
LGW 2 838 Allas, to bidde a woman gon by nyghte
LGW 2 839 In place there as peril falle myghte!
LGW 2 840 And I so slow! Allas, I ne hadde be
LGW 2 841 Here in this place a furlong wey or ye!
LGW 2 842 Now what lyoun that be in this forest,
LGW 2 843 My body mote he renten, or what best
LGW 2 844 That wilde is, gnawe mote he now myn herte!”
LGW 2 845 And with that word he to the wympel sterte,
LGW 2 846 And kiste it ofte, and wep on it ful sore,
LGW 2 847 And seyde, “Wympel, allas! There is no more
LGW 2 848 But thow shalt feele as wel the blod of me
LGW 2 849 As thow hast felt the bledyng of Thisbe!”
LGW 2 850 And with that word he smot hym to the herte.
LGW 2 851 The blod out of the wounde as brode sterte
LGW 2 852 As water whan the condit broken is.
LGW 2 853 Now Tisbe, which that wiste nat of this,
LGW 2 854 But sittynge in hire drede, she thoughte thus:
LGW 2 855 “If it so falle that my Piramus
LGW 2 856 Be comen hider, and may me not yfynde,
LGW 2 857 He may me holde fals and ek unkynde.”
LGW 2 858 And out she cometh and after hym gan espien,
LGW 2 859 Bothe with hire herte and with hire yen,
LGW 2 860 And thoughte, “I wol hym tellen of my drede,
LGW 2 861 Bothe of the lyonesse and al my deede.”
LGW 2 862 And at the laste hire love thanne hath she founde,
LGW 2 863 Betynge with his heles on the grounde,
LGW 2 864 Al blody, and therwithal a-bak she sterte,
LGW 2 865 And lik the wawes quappe gan hire herte,
LGW 2 866 And pale as box she was, and in a throwe
LGW 2 867 Avisede hire, and gan hym wel to knowe,
LGW 2 868 That it was Piramus, hire herte deere.
LGW 2 869 Who coude wryte which a dedly cheere
LGW 2 870 Hath Thisbe now, and how hire heer she rente,
LGW 2 871 And how she gan hireselve to turmente,
LGW 2 872 And how she lyth and swouneth on the grounde,
LGW 2 873 And how she wep of teres ful his wounde;
LGW 2 874 How medeleth she his blod with hire compleynte;
LGW 2 875 How with his blod hireselve gan she peynte;
LGW 2 876 How clyppeth she the deede cors, allas!
LGW 2 877 How doth this woful Tisbe in this cas!
LGW 2 878 How kysseth she his frosty mouth so cold!
LGW 2 879 “Who hath don this, and who hath been so bold
LGW 2 880 To sle my leef? O spek, my Piramus!
LGW 2 881 I am thy Tisbe, that the calleth thus.”
LGW 2 882 And therwithal she lifteth up his hed.
LGW 2 883 This woful man, that was nat fully ded,
LGW 2 884 Whan that he herde the name of Tisbe cryen,
LGW 2 885 On hire he caste his hevy, dedly yen,
LGW 2 886 And doun agayn, and yeldeth up the gost.
LGW 2 887 Tysbe ryst up withouten noyse or bost,
LGW 2 888 And saw hire wympel and his empty shethe,
LGW 2 889 And ek his swerd that hym hath don to dethe.
LGW 2 890 Thanne spak she thus: “My woful hand,” quod she,
LGW 2 891 “Is strong ynogh in swich a werk to me;
LGW 2 892 For love shal yeve me strengthe and hardynesse
LGW 2 893 To make my wounde large ynogh, I gesse.
LGW 2 894 I wol thee folwe ded, and I wol be
LGW 2 895 Felawe and cause ek of thy deth,” quod she.
LGW 2 896 “And thogh that nothing, save the deth only,
LGW 2 897 Mighte thee fro me departe trewely,
LGW 2 898 Thow shalt no more departe now fro me
LGW 2 899 Than fro the deth, for I wol go with thee.
LGW 2 900 And now, ye wrechede jelos fadres oure,
LGW 2 901 We that whilom were children youre,
LGW 2 902 We preyen yow, withouten more envye,
LGW 2 903 That in o grave yfere we moten lye,
LGW 2 904 Sith love hath brought us to this pitous ende.
LGW 2 905 And ryghtwis God to every lovere sende,
LGW 2 906 That loveth trewely, more prosperite
LGW 2 907 Than evere yit had Piramus and Tisbe!
LGW 2 908 And lat no gentil woman hyre assure
LGW 2 909 To putten hire in swich an aventure.
LGW 2 910 But God forbede but a woman can
LGW 2 911 Ben as trewe in lovynge as a man!
LGW 2 912 And for my part, I shal anon it kythe.”
LGW 2 913 And with that word his swerd she tok as swythe,
LGW 2 914 That warm was of hire loves blod, and hot,
LGW 2 915 And to the herte she hireselven smot.
LGW 2 916 And thus are Tisbe and Piramus ygo.
LGW 2 917 Of trewe men I fynde but fewe mo
LGW 2 918 In alle my bokes, save this Piramus,
LGW 2 919 And therfore have I spoken of hym thus.
LGW 2 920 For it is deynte to us men to fynde
LGW 2 921 A man that can in love been trewe and kynde.
LGW 2 922 Here may ye se, what lovere so he be,
LGW 2 923 A woman dar and can as wel as he.