Medieval English Poetry
Geoffrey Chaucer: The House of Fame
14th century, Middle English. Numerous printed copies.
After a while she grew so wonderfully that she touched the Earth with her feet and with her head she touched heaven.
Geoffrey Chaucer dreams that he has ascended from a temple of glass in the claws of an eagle, arriving in the heavens at a mountain of ice upon which rests a crystal building. Within this huge building, called the House of Fame, resides a goddess.
But in this riche lusty place, that Fames halle called was, ful moche prees of folk ther nas, ne crouding... – there was no crowding in this vigorous place; and high up upon a dais, in an imperial seat of solid ruby, I saw a creature forever seated –
perpetually y-stalled, a feminyne creature whom nature had created only once. At first I truly thought that she was so small as to be less than a yard in height, but after a while she grew so wonderfully that she touched the Earth with her feet and with her head she touched heaven. And there I saw a greater wonder still, looking into her eyes; but I did not count them all, for she had as many as there are feathers on a bird, or on the four beasts that honour God’s throne, as John wrote in the Apocalypse. Her hair, wavy and curly, shone like burnished gold and she had as many ears and tongues as there are hairs on a beast. And on her feet I saw partridges’ wings and Lord! the jewels and riches I saw on this goddess! And Lord! the harmonious melody of heavenly songs I heard sung around her throne, such that the palace walls rung. So sung the mighty Muse Calliope and her eight sisters, meek and humble; and evermore, eternally, they sung: 'Praised be you and your name, Goddess of renown and fame.' And on her shoulders were the heraldic emblems of all those who had achieved fame; even of Alexander and Hercules.