Many men sayn that in sweveninges · ther nys but fables and lesynges · But men may some sweven sen · whiche hardely that false ne ben · but afterward ben apparaunt – Many people say that dreams are nothing but nonsense and imaginings, but some can be shown to have been borne out and not to have been false. Such an example is given by Macrobius, who didn’t believe them to be lies and falsehoods when he revealed to us the dream of King Scipio. And whoever takes them for a joke, or thinks that nothing they predict ever comes true, and that such a belief denotes simple-mindedness, then let them call me a fool if they wish but I truly believe that dreams are significant when they come to people who dream secretly at night about things that are going to happen.
When I was nineteen years old, an age when Love seizes the hearts of young folk, I went to bed early one evening, as was my habit, and soon fell into a deep sleep and dreamed a marvellous dream; and everything about it came true, just as I dreamed it. Now I will relate this dream to you faithfully, for your pleasure and delight, for Love has commanded me to do so. And if anybody should ask me, whether a man or a woman, what this book is to be called that I’m reading to you now, it is to be called the Romance of the Rose, in which all the artifice of love is revealed. It is a pleasure to compose it, and may God grant that she to whom it is directed will like it as well, she who has such great worth and so fully deserves to be loved that it is right and proper that she be called Rose, by everybody.
I dreamed that it was May – this was about five years ago or more now– a time of love and jollity, when everything is glad and there isn’t a hedge or a bush anywhere that hasn’t been newly clothed in fresh, green leaves and the woods that were dry and empty in winter have renewed their leaves, and the earth has regained its confidence because of the sweet dews that have moistened it, and the poverty of winter is all forgotten. The ground becomes so proud at this time that it wishes to acquire a new mantle and it creates a robe which is so magnificent that it contains a hundred colours in the leaves and flowers that spring from it in abundance.
The birds, which abandoned their singing during the biting winds, dark skies and horrible weather of winter, find a way of showing, in the bright sunshine of May, that their hearts are joyful and carefree again. They do this with their delightful songs; the nightingale does her best to make as much sound as she can, the lark and the green woodpecker display their joy over and over again and young people make up their minds to be happy and amorous as well, because the season is so suited to it. It takes a hard heart indeed not to fall in love in May, when surrounded by all this joy, hearing the birds in the trees singing their piteous songs of love lost and their joyful songs of love found.
During this beautiful time of year, when love distracts us all, I imagined one night, as I slept in my bed, that morning had already come, and so I got up and got dressed, and washed my hands, then drew a silver needle from its case and threaded it, for I intended to go outside to hear the birds singing in the bushes, as they love to do. And in this dear, sweet season, with a brand new thread fastening my sleeves, I went out alone to enjoy myself, listening to the small birds who were doing their utmost to sing to one another on boughs that were filled with blossom. Jolly, carefree and full of gladness, I made my way towards a river that I could hear flowing nearby, for I could think of nothing more pleasant at that moment than to be beside this river. It was racing down from a nearby hill in full swell, the flow was crystal clear and as cold as spring water, not as wide as the Seine, nor meandering, but flowing swiftly in a straighter channel, and a soft, green meadow came right down to the water’s edge. I had never seen such lovely water before and I bent down to cup my hands and wash my face in it, delighted to be in this exhilarating place, and I could see that the bottom was covered in shining gravel. The morning air was clear and bright, not too cold and not too hot as I began to walk through the meadow beside this river, following it downstream.
When I had been walking for a while, I came to the edge of what seemed to be a large garden, enclosed behind a high wall that was crenulated and that had, on the outside, many carvings and images in bas-relief, all of them painted and adorned with colour. I studied them all intently, and I shall try to describe them to you, as far as I can remember them:
In the middle stood HATE who, because of her anger, displeasure and envy was an instigator of quarrels, an irritable wretch, a scold, full of cunning and vindictiveness. Her image depicted these qualities very well; she was the opposite of well-dressed, she was scruffy and dishevelled like a mad woman, her features were wrinkled and ugly, her mouth frozen in a grimace, her nose depicted halfway through a snort of contempt. She was a hideous sight, foul and corrupted, and her head was wrapped in a great towel.
There was another image painted on the wall nearby to the left, and the name above her head was CRIMINALITY.
And yet another portrait on the other side of Hate, called VILLAINY. Villainy was similar to the other images and, believe me, she seemed a nasty piece of work, scornful and malicious but confident and audacious with it. The artist who had painted her was very skilled and accomplished, he’d made her look churlish and disdainful, ugly and uncaring, without the ability to love any creature at all.
Next I found depicted COVETOUSNESS, that leads people astray in many ways, urging them to take things without any thought of giving them back, and to store up great strong rooms of treasure for themselves. She it is who lends money to people for interest, turning less into more through a burning desire to increase her wealth. This is she who teaches thieves and harlots to rob and to steal; which is a pity, for they end up hanging by their necks in the end, for the sake of a bagful of pennies. She urges folk to plot and devise schemes to take other people’s property from them through theft or fraudulent accounting, and it is she who inspires people to commit treason, or contempt of court by perjuring themselves to deprive maidens, young men and children of their rightful inheritance. In this image of her, her hands were open, her fingers grasping, for covetousness is always ready to seize other people’s things, always on the lookout for something to grab.
I saw another image, next to Covetousness, and she was called AVARICE. Her depiction was truly horrible, wretched and downtrodden and as green as a leek, her colour so disgusting that she looked very sick indeed and so emaciated as to be on the point of starvation, living on only bread kneaded with sour vinegar, which was why she was so thin. Her clothes were nothing but rags; she wore an old torn jacket as though it had been attacked by dogs and she looked just like a beggar. She held a garment on a tiny wooden hanger, a coat made of a coarse, brown cloth with no soft fur to adorn it but only harsh sheepskin, heavy and black, and it was very old, for Avarice is always slow to buy new clothes. She was loath to wear even this garment too often, and if it was getting shabby, she’d need to have a real shortage before she thought to replace it, and then it would be with something just as cheap.
Avarice held a purse in her other hand that hung by a strap, and it was so firmly clasped that it was a rare event indeed that anything ever come out of it. A desire to open this purse scarcely afflicted her, it was rather her intention not to let a penny escape from it.
Very close by was depicted ENVY who never laughs and is never pleased in any way at all unless she hears of some great calamity or pestilence. Nothing makes her happier than news of some accident or misadventure, a worthy man brought down by ill fortune or a great family brought to ruin; this is what makes her laugh. To hear of a man who has risen to great honour through his own ability, through his prowess or intelligence or some other capability, this weighs her down; believe me, she goes mad if she hears of someone who has been blessed by good fortune. Envy has such a cruel nature that she denies faithfulness and loyalty to everyone, friends and family, and she has no blood relatives whom she does not count as enemies. She would take pleasure in hearing even of her father’s misfortune, I expect.
But she pays a high price for this malice; it causes her so much suffering when she hears of some good happening somewhere that she nearly melts with the heat of her envy and her heart nearly breaks in two if she learns that God has been taking care of people.
Envy never ceases from casting blame. I imagine that if Envy knew the best man who has ever lived, on this side of the sea or beyond it, she would find fault with him. And if he was so clever and well-regarded that she couldn’t assassinate his character completely, she would chip away at him and bring him down as much as she could.
This depiction of Envy had been given a marvellous expression: she looked askance with piercing eyes, a furrowed brow and a look of pure distain on her face, for she couldn’t look anyone directly in the eyes.
SORROW was depicted next to Envy, upon this superbly constructed stone wall. It was clearly seen by the look of her that she had spent a lifetime in misery; it looked as though she had jaundice and seemed more pale even than Avarice, and thinner too. Dark thoughts plagued her day and night, sorrow and distress had turned her flesh yellow and dull, the colour was all washed out, for no one had ever been as burdened by sadness as she. I swear that no one could please her, nor do anything to bring her relief or a little pleasure, and she did nothing to try to cheer herself up. Her sorrows ran so deep and her heart was so filled with anger and remorse that she was a pitiful sight to behold. She scratched her face and tore her clothes and scratched her neck in distress, and only because she had nothing to inflict any more serious injury with, and her hair was dishevelled and hung in disarray, torn and matted about her shoulders. I can tell you for certain that she wept so much that there isn’t a person in this whole world so hard-hearted that they wouldn’t have felt great pity to see her in this state. She hit herself, clapped her hands together and wrung them, so engrossed was she in her own sorrow; she was consumed by it and a slave to it. She gave no thought to games or entertainment nor to any shows of affection, for those so deep in sorrow have no desire to play or to show any enthusiasm for anything, neither to dance nor to sing, nor to make any joy at all, for joy is the opposite of sorrow.
OLD AGE was depicted next, a foot shorter than she had been in her youth, scarcely able to feed herself and so old and feeble that her beauty had all gone. Her complexion was sallow, her hair as white as flour and indeed, it would be no dreadful thing, nor sin, if her life were to come swiftly to an end. He body had become incapable, dry and shrivelled through age, a foul, withered thing that had once been so plump and soft. Her face was wrinkled and haggard, both her hands were skeletally thin and she couldn’t go a single step without a walking aid.
She was afflicted by TIME, that passes continually and never rests but travels ever onwards and slides along so silently and inconspicuously that it seems to be standing still although it is actually moving without pause and, indeed, going so fast that no man is able to point to the present moment even, for by the time he has done so, thirty more moments have already passed – ask any learned man about this; she was afflicted by TIME, that does not rest but goes ever onwards with no return, like water flowing downhill, where not even a drop can go back against the flow. Nothing can endure against time, not metal nor any earthly creature, for everything is affected by it. TIME causes everything to change, to be nurtured and to grow but then to wane and finally to be destroyed. It is TIME that made our ancestors grow old, and kings and emperors as well, and which will overcome us all in the end. It is TIME that governs everything and which makes old people so profoundly old that, to my mind, she could do nothing for herself now and had turned again to childhood and had no more intellect and no more strength to draw from herself than a child of two years old. But nonetheless, I believe that she had been pretty once, and vivacious, when she was in her prime. But all that was past now and she was in her dotage. She was wearing a fur cape and was wrapped up very warmly because she felt the cold dreadfully; for old people are always cold, it is in the nature of being old.
There was another depiction on this wall, she seemed like a hypocrite and her name was POPE-HOLY. It is she who never shrinks from any evil scheme in private, when nobody is looking, although she goes about with her face full of compassion and with an air of holiness as though butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth. But there is no harm that she will not contemplate.
The image was a perfect representation of her. She exuded humility and wore the clothes and shoes of a nun, as though she was, for the love of God, steeped in religion and devoted to it. She held a Book of Psalms in her hand and seemed busy at her prayers to God and to the holy saints, and gave no thought to frivolity or merriment but looked always to be intent upon doing good works, and to this end she wore a hair shirt next to her skin. She was certainly not fat, but rather she seemed weary through fasting and her complexion was deathly pale. The gates of Paradise will be denied to her, though, for such hypocrites put on a pretence of piety and only because they think that it will benefit their own souls. For a little short-lived admiration they will lose God and his kingdom, as Christ said in his gospel.
Last of all was an image of POVERTY. She was all alone and hadn’t a penny in the world, even if she were to sell all her clothes; she looked as though she was about to be hanged, for she was as naked as a worm. If the weather had been bad, she would have died of cold there and then, for she wore just a sackcloth that had patches in it everywhere; this was her coat and her gown, she had nothing else to wear, but just stood there shivering.
She was placed a little way away from the others, in an alcove, where she could lurk and cower on her own, for Poverty, however this misfortune has come about, is always shunned and excluded. The day is cursed on which a poor man is conceived, for God knows, all too seldom is a poor man fed properly or adequately clothed or cared for in such a way that he has a chance of breaking free of his poverty and making something of himself.
All these things were clearly painted in gold and azure on that wall, just as I have described. The wall itself was squarely built in dressed stone, and quite high, and it enclosed the garden securely. No shepherd could wander in. If there had been anyone about who could have taken me into this garden, by means of a ladder or a stairway or something of that nature, I would have been very pleased, for I don’t believe that such joy and pleasure could be found anywhere to compare with that beautiful place. The garden was not so hostile as to deny a home to numerous birds either; an area so abundant in birdlife has never been seen! It was so full of birdsong and leafy branches that I will wager that there were more birds in that garden than in the whole kingdom of France. The sound coming from it was beautiful, and it should gladden this whole world. I, myself, was made so happy by it that I would have given a hundred pounds to be shown a way in so that I could see the assembly of birds inside, may God keep them and protect them. They sang, through their joyous throats, dances of love, and merry notes!
While I was listening to this birdsong, I focused my mind onto how I might find a way into this garden, but I couldn’t see any way of doing it. I couldn’t find an entrance, there was no hole in the wall that I could clamber through and there was nobody around to ask, for I was all alone. This annoyed me greatly. But at last I convinced myself that it was impossible that there could be no stairway or entrance or ladder anywhere at all to provide a way into such a beautiful garden, so I set off at a brisk walk and followed the wall around until I came to a small doorway. But it was closed and locked.
There was no other way in to the garden that I could see.
So I began to hammer my fist against this door, which was small and well made, but I could see no other way of getting in so I pushed and hammered and paused for a while to hear if anybody was coming, and at last the door opened and a well-mannered young lady stood before me.
Her hair was blonde, her flesh as tender as a chick’s, her features smooth and her eyes as large and grey as a falcon’s. Her nose was of good proportion, her breath was pleasant and sweet, her flesh was white with a healthy complexion, her mouth was small and round and she had a cleft chin. Her neck was pretty and well-proportioned with no scars or scabs and as white as fresh snow on a branch, so that from Burgundy to Jerusalem I don’t expect that you could find a more delightful neck to admire, anywhere. She had a lovely figure too; men would find no desire to seek a nicer one, whatever country they were from. She wore a chaplet of gold embroidery – no maid had ever worn a prettier one – and above this chaplet she wore a rose garland. She was holding a mirror in her hand and her hair was platted with gold ribbons in a very intricate way. Her sleeves had been sewn stylishly, and to protect her hands she wore a pair of white gloves. She was wearing a green coat of fine Flemish Cloth of Gaunt, and by the look of her clothing I could see that she was not used to hard physical work! When she had preened herself thoroughly, her work for the day was over, I think. She led a happy life, I’m sure; I imagine she led a merry life in May! She had one thought only, night and day, and that was to dress strikingly and alluringly.
Now, this beautiful maiden had opened the door for me, so I thanked her in my politest terms and asked her her name, and who it was that I had the pleasure of speaking to. She was quite open and her answer was in no way threatening or disdainful:
‘Sir, my name is IDLENESS. Everybody calls me this. I am powerful and very privileged, and in particular regarding the total freedom I enjoy to attend solely to my own happiness and amusement, and to give all my attention to my appearance. I am a friend of Pleasure, who is the lord of this garden and who caused all the trees to be fetched from Alexandria and planted here. When the trees had grown tall, Pleasure caused this wall, that you can see, to be built, and he had those images on the outside carved and painted, which are neither happy nor subtle but full of grief and misery, as you have seen for yourself.
‘Often, when looking for comfort, Sir Pleasure comes into this place with all his followers, who live a lively and joyful existence. Pleasure is here now, he’s listening to the birds, the song-thrush and the nightingale and other happy little fowls; he and all his followers are walking about for their enjoyment, for a more suitable place to amuse oneself in would be impossible to find, even if one searched from here to India for it. Pleasure has in his company the most delightful people one could hope to find in the whole world, and they follow him about all the time.’
When IDLENESS had told me this, and I had listened to her closely, I said:
‘May God keep me, but if Sir Pleasure is in this garden with all his followers, no one, if it pleases you, is going to deny me the pleasure of joining his company today! No one is going to prevent me from seeing it all, this night, in the flesh, for I can well believe that he is handsome and generous and has a very courteous and convivial gathering around him.’
At once, without another word being spoken, I went through the little gateway that IDLENESS had opened for me into that beautiful garden.
When I was inside, my heart was filled with delight. I truly believed that I was in Earthly Paradise for it was so beautiful there; believe me, it seemed like a spiritual place. Certainly, to my way of thinking, there can be nowhere in Paradise so good to be in, or to live in, as in this GARDEN. I truly believe it. There were so many birds singing and flying about: nightingales, finches, green woodpeckers and bull-finches, all the species that delight in filling the places where they live with sweet song. There could be seen many flocks of turtle doves and skylarks – I saw many larks that were nearly exhausted from singing, and there were blackbirds and song-thrushes who were competing with one another and aiming to drown out all the other songbirds. The singing that I’ve described would make for an excellent religious service. They sang their songs as delightfully as angels in heaven! Believe me, when I heard them I felt certain, if rather apprehensively, that no living man can ever have heard such beautiful melodies, the sound was so beautiful that I couldn’t believe it was coming from birds; rather it seemed as though it was coming from mermaids (as we call them here in England) because of the entrancing songs that they sing across the sea, although in France they are called Sirens. But these birds gave all their thought to their singing and there were no slouches or apprentices amongst them, but rather they seemed all to be masters of their art. Their melodies and phrases were subtle and intelligent, and certainly, listening to this singing and looking about at the greenery, I grew so happy and joyful in my heart that I have never before felt so blissful nor so well contented and filled with rapture. Then I knew that IDLENESS had served me well and that I ought to be her friend, unquestionably, since she had opened the door to this garden for me and let me in.
And what happened afterwards, I shall tell you: first in respect of the reasons surrounding the presence of Pleasure there and the nature of the people who were with him, and then I will gladly describe to you the garden. I won’t describe everything at once, it’s not possible to, but I’ll try to include everything in its turn, in due order, as well as I can.
The birds made a wonderful service, it was truly delightful as they sat on their branches and twigs. They sang harmoniously, lais of love, each in their language of choice, some high-pitched, some low and relaxed. The sweetness of their melody made my heart sing along with them in reverence.
As I listened intently, I couldn’t stop myself from going further into the garden. More than anything I wanted to see Sir Pleasure, for I wanted to witness his countenance and his character, this was what I most wanted to see.
So I went further in and found a little path on my right hand side bordered with mint and fennel and soon, without a word of a lie, I came upon PLEASURE. I approached him at once. He was enjoying himself in the company of so pleasant a crowd that when I saw them I wondered where such people could have come from, they were all so fine-looking and handsome; to my sight they looked like brightly feathered angels!
They were dancing a carol, to music provided by a lady named JOYFULNESS. She was a wonderful singer and made some very impressive verses for these folk to dance to. It seemed to come so naturally to her. Her voice was clear and sweet, there was nothing coarse or unbefitting about it and her technique was impressive, indeed it seemed to be perfect. She was accustomed to singing wherever she was, to everybody’s great joy, and she gave herself entirely to this occupation. There was never anything she wanted to do more. If you had been watching with me you would have seen the dancing and the singing, the displays of agility and merriment upon the springy green grass, you would have seen flutists, jugglers and minstrels singing at the tops of their voices, some singing songs of Lorraine – for in Lorraine the tunes are much catchier than they are here – and there were many men and women with tambourines, and acrobatic dancers who performed their art with perfection, tossing their drums and tambourines high into the air and catching them and balancing them on one finger without making a single mistake.
Two lovely damsels, very young and full of grace, in little dresses with short skirts and nothing else, and with their hair immaculately dressed and plaited, had persuaded Sir Pleasure to join in the dance. But I don’t intend to give a detailed description of each movement and contortion that it involved, only to say that one partner would come against the other very intimately and their mouths would be so close together that, in their play, it looked as though they were about to kiss. They certainly knew how to dance! But what point is there in describing it any further? I shall say only that I had no desire to leave, whilst I could watch them dancing like this.
I was completely awestruck, and only slowly became aware that a lady was watching me. Her name was COURTESY the worshipful, the gracious, and may God look kindly upon her always! She called over to me very politely: ‘What are you doing over there, my dear sir? Come here! If it would amuse you to dance with us, please do so.’
Without any hesitation at all, I joined in the dance, without any apprehension or pretence of modesty but just threw myself into it entirely, and I was very pleased that Courtesy had invited me to join in. If I had only dared, I would happily have joined in before.
I began to take especial notice of the bearing, the shape, the demeanour, the etiquette and deportment of all of the people who were dancing around me, and I shall quickly describe them to you now:
Pleasure was very handsome, very tall, I’d never seen a finer-looking man. His face was as round as an apple, red and white everywhere and he looked in good health. He was fit and good-looking, with a mouth and nose that were well-proportioned, grey eyes, hair that was shiny and curly, broad shoulders and a smallish waist; he looked as though he was the product of an artist, I thought, a painted perfection, so noble was his stature, so well-balanced and pleasing. His limbs were of exactly the right length and I’d never seen a man so agile. He scarcely had a beard at all, it was in its first growth, he was very young, and very vivacious, nimble but very strong. The clothes that he wore were of silk decorated with birds, with gold ornamentation; his robe was very curiously tailored, cut into slits from top to bottom, and his shoes were very well-made, with vents and slits, and fastened with laces. The affection and playfulness of his lover had prompted her to make a chaplet of roses and she had set it on his head to wear. And do you know who his lover was?
Dame JOYFULNESS, she who sang with such a beautiful voice. Since the age of twelve she had granted him her love, and Sir Pleasure held her by the finger as they danced, and she him; there was great love between them. They were both very good-looking, her colour was like that of a newly opened rose and her flesh so soft that a man might be able to injure it with a small and slender thorn, I dare say. Her forehead had not a wrinkle in it, her eyebrows were attractively curved and her grey eyes, those windows into her soul, laughed always a moment before her mouth did. I don’t know what to say of her nose, it was exquisite, and her shining blond hair was beyond comparison as well. The garland around her head was of silk and gold braid; I’ve seen a thousand such garlands and have never seen one as fine. Her dress was of silk embroidered with gold, it was beautiful and of a material that was similar to the one that Pleasure was wearing, which was a joy to her in itself.
Beside her, on her other side, was the god of Love, who can apportion love just as he pleases. But he can put fear into the hearts of common folk and make people submissive, he can make noblemen act like servants and ladies cower like their maids, when he sees that they are too proud.
This god of Love, in appearance, was no kitchen boy or scullion, his beauty was greatly deserving of esteem. I hesitate to begin to describe the magnificence of his robe, for he was not clad in silk at all but in flowers and buds, decorated with love-knots and shields, with birds, leopards and lions and other animals all beautifully depicted, but everywhere knotted and woven out of flowers, a diverse mingling of every sort of flower, of every shape and colour, set into circles, and no kind of flower was missing in my opinion, not even broom or violet, or periwinkle, or any flower a man might think of. Many rose leaves were entwined amongst these flowers, and on his head he wore a chaplet of red roses. Nightingales were flying around his head and the draft from their beating wings blew the leaves and the flowers about as he moved to avoid them: nightingales, parrots, larks, blue tits and woodpeckers. He seemed like an angel who had come down from heaven.
Love had with him a bachelor who was his constant companion, and he was called PASSIONATE GAZE. This young man stood watching the dance, and in his hands he held two bows. One of these bows was made from the wood of a tree that bears disgusting fruit; this foul stick was crooked and bent and full of knots, and as black as a blackberry or a sloe, but the other bow was made from wood from a tree without a blemish, it was long and smooth, well-fashioned and symmetrical, and it was decorated with carvings and portraits, and picked out with inscriptions, depicting ladies and bachelors in happy and light-hearted mood. Passionate Gaze held these two bows along with ten arrows, of which five were in his right hand. They were well-made and shaved expertly, nocked and feathered properly, embellished with gold and with very strong, sharp points. There was no iron or steel in them at all, but only gold – except for the feathers and the wood, of course. Here are the names of these arrows:
The swiftest of these arrows, and the most graceful and efficient through the air, was called BEAUTY.
The second arrow, that hurt a little less, was called HONESTY, and it was feathered with sincerity and unaffectedness.
The third was called COURTESY, and it was feathered with generosity.
The fourth was called GOOD COMPANY. It is a heavy arrow, but whoever aims it well and shoots it correctly can do a lot with it.
The fifth of these arrows, and the last, was called FASHIONABLE. The least grievous of them all, yet it can inflict a nasty wound, but the chances of recovery are high and it causes the least suffering, because the pain doesn’t last very long, and this in itself is a comfort.
The other five arrows were of a different sort. They are horrible to describe; shaft and point, they were as black as a fiend in hell.
The first of them was called PRIDE.
The next arrow was called DISHONESTY and it was dipped in a poison called Theft, and another called Spiteful Lies.
The third was called SHAME.
The fourth was HOPELESSNESS.
The fifth was INCONSTANCY, which was forever changing direction.
All five of these arrows were of one nature, very like each other and they entirely suited the hideous, crooked bow that was rough and knotty. This bow seemed a perfectly fitting instrument to deliver these five ghastly arrows that were so in contrast to the other five. But I won’t speak of their power and their strength here, I shall do so later when I explain their significance as accurately and as truthfully as I can. All will be revealed, I promise, before this book comes to a finish.
But let me return to my tale. I was describing to you the appearance and demeanour of all the folk who were dancing. The God of Love led a very pretty lady by the hand.
This lady was called BEAUTY, like the arrow I described to you just now. She was very virtuous and with a lovely disposition, not scorched by the sun but as clear and bright as moonlight, against which all the stars seem like small candles, as we say. Her flesh was as tender as flower-dew, her mood as modest as a newly-wedded bride, as white as a lily, or a rose on a rosebush, her face gentle and well-proportioned. She was small and elegant and had no need to embellish her beauty; no trimmed eyebrows, cosmetics or curlers for her! She didn’t need any of that! Her hair was long and natural and hung down to her ankles. Her nose, her mouth, cheeks and eyes were beautifully proportioned and everything else about her was, as well. I get a lovely feeling at the very core of my heart when I remember her, there was no one so wonderfully stunning to look at in the whole world; she was young with a beautiful complexion, intelligent, courteous, elegant and refined, and with a lovely little waist.
Beside Beauty danced WEALTH, a noble lady of high birth and greatly esteemed. The most worthy give full honour to Wealth and busy themselves in her service, so that they might deserve her love; they call her ‘Lady’, every one of them, for everybody in the wide world lives in fear of her. If anyone dares to wrong her, or any of her folk, in word or in action, he can certainly be called brave for she is very powerful and can make or mar, and there is not a man in this world who can call himself safe in her hands. Her court has many a flatterer and many an envious sycophant who spends his time casting blame and disparaging those who best deserve love and a good name; they do this in front of everybody in order to beguile them. These flatterers smile and distribute so much praise that the world becomes a man’s oyster, and then they point at him and tell lies about him behind his back, just to bring him down again. A great number of worthy and intelligent men, a hundred of them, have received their death because of this, because of envy and insincerity and have had people turn against them when someone should have been more discrete. May they all have a bad end, these flatterers and sycophants. No man of any worth enjoys their company.
Wealth was wearing a purple robe, and don’t think that I’m making this up when I say that there was not another one like it in the whole world, not by a thousand times! There was none so fine, for it was decorated with gold embroidery everywhere, and embellished all around the edges with stories of dukes and kings, and it had a band of gold tassels and enamelled buttons and around her neck was a beautifully embossed collar which topped her robe, encrusted with jewels, and her waistband had a buckle made from a precious stone of such value and power that whoever wore this shining stone had no need to fear poison whilst it was lying against them; this stone was worthy of anyone’s affection and to a rich man it is worth all the gold in Rome and the islands of Friesland put together! This girdle contained another precious stone as well, for the clasp was of such virtue that it could cure toothache and the palsy, and a person who looked at it before eating breakfast would be safe from blindness all day; this waistband was decorated with heavy gold bars, each the weight of a gold coin, above a tissue of satin. Upon her hair was a circlet of burnished gold and it would be a cunning man indeed who could describe all the precious stones that were in this circlet and no one could put a value on them; there were rubies, sapphires, garnets and emeralds, each more than two ounces in weight, all mounted cleverly around a huge diamond, a stone so clear and so bright than one could go about at night and see for a mile or more as though it was broad daylight, so much light came from this stone.
Dame Wealth led a graceful young man by the hand whom she loved very much. His passion was property and house furnishing, but he liked fine clothes as well and loved to own expensive horses. He would take it as though he had been accused of theft or murder if anyone dared to suggest that he had a horse in his stables that was less than perfect. His purpose was always to be acquainted with riches and to spend a lot of money and Wealth was able to sustain him in this and to keep his expenditure going. She sent him a plentiful supply of silver and gold, without any disapproval or hesitation, as though she had it stored up in a granary.
Next in the dance was LARGESS, who put all her effort into being bountiful and generous. She was a descendent of Alexander the Great and her greatest joy was to be able to give things away and to say: ‘Have this!’ God always sent her enough, though, and the more she gave away the more she found that she had. She’d acquired great fame and distinction, for people of all kinds and in all walks of life were wholly at her disposal, through all the gifts that she bestowed. If she made an enemy, I firmly believe that she’d be able to make friends with him again very quickly, so generous was she with her gifts. She was loved by rich and poor alike, everywhere.
Avarice was only half as eager to grab and to hoard than Largess was to give and to spend. And it has to be said that the man who is both wealthy and tight-fisted is acting like a complete idiot! A nobleman can have no greater failing than avarice, and none that does him more harm. A miser can never raise an army to win lordship or land, he has too few friends to help him, for the man who prefers to keep his treasure under lock and key than reward his friends for their help is not going to retain many of them for very long. In the same way that a loadstone will attract iron to it when the iron is placed nearby, so gold and silver attract the hearts of men.
Largess was wearing a Saracen robe of deep purple, her face was pretty and her collar was open, for she had just given away a gold broach to a lady who was there, as a present, and certainly, an open collar suited her, for her silk undergarment revealed the attractiveness of her skin, which was as white as milk. She was intelligent and greatly honoured, and she held a noble knight by the hand, a close relation of King Arthur of Britain; this knight carried the king’s standard and his sacred banner into battle and is still of such renown that men continue to speak well of him to this day, in front of barons, earls and kings. This knight had just arrived back from a tournament nearby, where he had performed great feats of chivalry, through his valour and his prowess, and had cast down many a noble knight for the love of his lady.
Next to him danced GENEROSITY who was wearing some fine clothes. She was not brown or tanned but as white as newly-fallen snow. Her nose was well-proportioned, her eyebrows pleasingly curved, her eyes filled with good-humour and her hair fell to her ankles. She seemed as innocent as a dove on a tree, her heart calm and benign, but she never allowed herself to be forced to do anything that her heart didn’t incline her to. If a man was in distress and aching for her love, her heart would feel great pity for him, she was so amiable and generous, and if a man was in peril because of her she would be very alarmed, fearful that she would be committing an outrage if she did not do her very best to help him.
She was wearing a short tunic that had not been woven out of hemp, I can tell you! There was no garment so lovely in all of Arras, I’m sure. Lord, it was gathered in pleats delightfully, there was truly nothing out of place. Generosity was well-clothed, that’s for sure. No cloth sits better upon a damsel than linen, a woman looks far lovelier in a linen tunic than in a heavy gown, and white linen beautifully tucked together tells a man that the woman wearing it is playful and friendly.
Beside her danced a bachelor; I cannot tell you his name but he was tall and fair and just like – well, I’ll say no more than this, but he was like the son of the lord of Windsor.
Next to them danced Courtesy, whom everybody praised, for she was neither proud nor a fool but measured and in no way excessive, intelligent and cautious, and virtuous. She spoke pleasantly and politely and held no grievance, nor would she slander anybody for the world. She was brown and healthy, and very pretty and graceful. I know of no lady so pleasant; she was worthy to be an empress or a crowned queen. She was the one who beckoned me over to dance when I first encountered them, may God bless her.
Beside her danced a knight who was very well-spoken and well-regarded. He was a valiant and courageous warrior, armour suited him well, his lady loved him very much and he knew how to treat someone with the utmost honour.
Next to him danced IDLENESS, who was always close to me. I have already told you how she looked and how she was dressed. It was she who rewarded me by opening the gate into this garden and letting me in.
Next to Idleness danced YOUTH, filled with energy, she was not yet twelve years old and was wild and giddy, but didn’t mean any harm by it; she intended no insult but only playfulness and wantonness, for children, as you know, have only play on their minds. Her lover was beside her always, with such licence that he kissed her whenever he liked, in open view of all the dancers; they had no concern with privacy, nor with what anybody might think or say about them but kissed whenever they liked, like two young doves. The young man was very good-looking, the same age as his sweetheart and with the same lack of inhibition.
These vivacious people danced together, with many others that I haven’t described, and when I had had a good look at them all and the dances had finished, and many of the participants had gone with their lovers to play with one another beneath the trees, I conceived a desire to go and look around the beautiful garden, to see all the lovely laurels, the pine trees, cedars and olives trees. Ah lord! They lived lustily! He would be a great fool who would refuse such a life, that’s for certain! I can say this without any fear of contradiction: that whoever could happily live this life wouldn’t be looking for a better one. There can be no greater Paradise than having sex freely available at all times!
So I went from this place into the garden, enjoying myself immensely. The God of Love quickly called Passionate Gaze to him and told him that he should take up his golden bow at once and prepare to shoot an arrow. Passionate Gaze swiftly selected his bow of shining gold and took one of the five arrows that were sharp and ready. Now God who sits in majesty, protect me from deadly wounds! If it is the case that he wants to shoot me and if one of his arrows makes contact with me, it will hurt me a lot, I know!
But I, who knew nothing of all this, walked up and down the many paths and he followed closely behind me, for I had no desire to stop and rest until I had seen the whole garden, which in plan was squarely laid out and as broad as it was long.
Every tree was laden with fruit – unless it was a tree which doesn’t produce any, of course, of which there were a few. There were certainly a huge number of pomegranates, which bears a wonderful fruit, especially beneficial to people who are ill. There were a lot of trees that produce nuts, such as sweet nutmegs, and almonds in plenty, and there were figs and dates throughout the garden, for those who required them. There were also many spice trees, such as clove and liquorice, ginger and cardamom, cinnamon and zedoary; many lovely spices to eat as a digestive after a meal. There were many more familiar trees as well: peaches, quinces and apples, crab apples, plums, pears and chestnuts, cherries, which many people love to eat, chequers and damsons, which made for a lovely sight. There were tall laurels and pines everywhere in this garden, also cypress and olive trees, which are not often seen in this country. There were strong elms of great height, sycamore, rowan, oak and ash, tall plane trees, yew, poplar and lime. What more can I say? If I described to you every kind of tree that was growing there, you would be stuck here forever before I finished!
These trees were all spaced about thirty feet away from one another, large and tall for the most part, and their canopies were so broad that their branches knitted together, intertwined and so full of green leaves that they provided ample shade to the ground, so that no direct sunlight could trickle down to harm the tender grasses beneath. There you could see deer on the ground, and many squirrels leaping from bough to bough. There were rabbits playing on the grass, emerging from their burrows, rabbits of many colours and shapes, frolicking about.
In places I saw SPRINGS which were crystal clear, with no frogs in them at all, lying in shadow; but I couldn’t tell you the number of the tiny little streams which Pleasure had caused to flow through their individual channels and which made such a pleasing noise as they bubbled along.
Beside these springs, and along the banks of the streams, sprang grasses as soft and dense as any velvet upon which a man might lie his lady before making love to her, as on a feather bed. The ground was as soft and sweet as this, for the grass was moistened and nourished by the water. And the place was made even more beautiful by an abundance of flowers, those that normally grow in the summer and those which grow in the winter, all together in profusion: the violet, the colourful periwinkle, yellow, white and red flowers, such a mixture as is never found in any ordinary meadow. The ground was delightful, astonishing, it looked as though buckets full of paint had been thrown everywhere! And every flower was fresh and new, with a beautiful perfume.
But I will not spend too long describing this wonderful garden to you. It is impossible to describe everything, neither half the beauty nor half the profusion and plenty. I followed the paths as my fancy took me, going left and right, and did not let a turning escape me until I had explored every secluded corner, and as I walked, the God of Love was always behind me, stalking me like a hunter, waiting for the right moment, the right distance and the opportunity to have a clear shot.
And so it happened that I took a short rest beside a spring, under a tree, a tree that in France is called a pine. Not since before the time of King Charlemagne had such a lovely tree been seen by man, nor one so tall. It was the tallest tree in the whole garden, and beneath it nature had placed a spring of crystal clear water, bubbling out from a rock of marble. On the stone above this spring, near the edge, was written in small letters: ‘Here died the fair Narcissus’.
Narcissus was a young bachelor whom Love had caught imperiously in his net, causing him to weep and to lament and so incapacitating him that the young man had found no other recourse but to die. For a fair lady, whose name was Echo, loved him more than any other and began to endure such pain because of him that she told him that if he couldn’t love her in return, then he must be the cause of her death, there could be no other way. But he was so harsh and cruel that he wouldn’t grant her her wish, not for all her tears and entreaties. And when she heard him warn her thus, she endured so much misery and took his hostility so much to heart that she died. But before she died, she prayed piteously to God that the proud-hearted Narcissus, who was so intransigent, might one day be overcome by such a love himself, and so distressed by it that he would never find any joy from it at all, but would feel in every vein the sorrow that true lovers experience when they are cruelly thwarted and rejected.
It was a reasonable thing to ask, given the circumstances, so God granted it. By chance, Narcissus came to this spring, to rest in its deep shade one day when he had finished hunting, for he had been chasing deer all day and was hot and exhausted, breathless and so thirsty that he was quite distressed. When he came to this spring, shaded by green branches, he wanted to drink the water and to splash his face with it so he fell to his knees and stretched down his head and neck to drink from the pool, and in the water he saw his own reflection, his nose, his mouth, his eyes. Confused and astonished, his own reflection ensnared him, for he could clearly see before him a child of great beauty. And now Love had the opportunity to take revenge for the disdain and imperiousness that Narcissus had shown to him, he paid him back with interest, for Narcissus was so captivated by this image that he saw in the water that, in all honesty, he fell so deeply in love with his own reflection that he died through grief; for when he realised that there was no way that he could achieve his desire and that he was caught without any hope of escape, he went mad and died shortly afterwards. And in this way, he received his comeuppance for spurning the lady.
Ladies, take note, you who transgress against your lovers, for if their deaths can be laid at your door, God will reward you for your scheming.
When I read this inscription, and understood that this was the very spring where Narcissus had met his end, I recoiled in horror. But then, after a while, I realised that there could be no danger to myself if I approached THE SPRING, so why should I be afraid of it? So I went up to it and stooped down and I could see the crystal clear water, and gravel at the bottom that shone like silver. There could be no question that this was the most beautiful spring in the world! The water was continually refreshed with new, welling up in a tiny fountain two fingers in height, and the grass around the spring was lush and moist and in such good condition that it could no more die in winter than the sea might run dry.
At the bottom of this spring I saw two crystals that were craftily positioned, and this will be hard for you to believe, but I swear that it is true, that when the sun cast his beams into the water and warmed it, then each crystal glittered in a hundred colours, blue, yellow, red, green. This marvellous crystal contained such power that the entire place, trees, leaves, animals and birds – the whole garden – was visible in it. And so that you can understand, I’ll give you an example: a mirror. For just as a mirror clearly shows everything that can be seen in its reflection, the colour as well as the shape, with no concealment, so this bright crystal revealed every corner of the garden to whoever peered into the water to look, without any deception; for wherever they stood at the edge of the pool, half of the garden was clearly visible and if they moved around to the other side, then the other half of the garden came into view. Nothing was so small nor hidden that it couldn’t be seen in this crystal, as though it was painted there.
This was the perilous mirror in which proud Narcissus saw all his face, causing him to gaze transfixed at it. For whoever looks into this mirror has no hope of rescue from being drawn into loving something which he sees there. Many a worthy man has been blinded by it, and the most intelligent are the soonest entrapped. Here comes new obsession, new courage and new fear! There is no wisdom to seek here, no good advice, for Venus’s son Cupid has sown the seeds of love all around this place, where good advice is futile. He has set his nets all around to catch these damsels and bachelors – for Love catches mostly these, whatever nets or snares he chooses to lay – and because of this, the pool is called the Spring of Love and has been written about by many people, in many books. But no one will receive a better description of this spring than I will give you, nor hear the truth explained to them more clearly than you will when I have revealed to you the heart of the matter.
I was very happy to remain beside this spring, looking at the crystal that clearly showed to me a thousand things nearby; but it was a sorry hour that I spent there, I have to say, for since then I have suffered immeasurably. Had I known at the beginning the power that this mirror possesses, I would not have stayed there, gazing into it. I would have been better off going somewhere else, for I had fallen into a trap that has ensnared many.
The Rose Garden
I saw in that mirror then, amongst a thousand other things, a rose garden full of roses that was enclosed by a hedge. I was so overcome with desire at the sight of this rose garden that an eagerness seized hold of me – one which has captured many another man, to his downfall – and not for the whole of Paris or of Pavia would I have allowed myself to be obstructed, as I made my way towards this rose garden; and when I was nearly there the perfume from these roses was so delightful that it went to my very heart, as though I had been steeped in perfume. And if I had not been afraid of doing something wrong, or of offending someone or being punished for wrongdoing, I would have plucked one of these roses there and then, to hold in my hand and to smell its perfume as I went along. But I feared that I might regret it if I did so, if I offended the lord whose garden this was. But there was such a great abundance of roses that no rose garden can ever have been so gorgeous. Some were closed in buds and others fully open, still others growing in sprays and clumps, or forming as buds on new stems; I love these slightly open ones, for large and open flowers last only for a day but buds will stay fresh for two or three days at least. I love red roses, and especially the newly opened buds; the man who can have one is a lucky man indeed. If I could have gathered a garland of them, I would have given anything to do so.
Amongst the rosebuds I chose one that seemed, to my eyes, much more beautiful than all the others, when I considered the matter carefully. It was such a perfect red, and so clear and bright, that Nature could not have improved upon it. It had four pairs of leaves framing it and the stalk was straight and held the rose perfectly upright. The smell of the roses filled the air so much that I had no desire to leave but, on the contrary, I tried to approach and to pick this rosebud, but I couldn’t get near enough to it for all the thistles and prickles, thorns and briars that were in the way.
The God of Love had spent all day following me as quietly as he could, and he stood now beside a fig tree with his bow bent. And when he saw how carefully I had gone about choosing this rosebud, thinking it more beautiful than all the others, he took an arrow that was razor sharp, put it to his bow, drew the string up to his ear and released the arrow so swiftly that it went through my eye and deep into my heart. All of a sudden I felt such a chill that, even when I am clothed warmly I have often found myself shivering ever since. I fell to the ground with the shock of the impact and lay for a long time in a swoon, and when I had recovered consciousness I was still confused and convinced that I had lost a lot of blood. But the arrow sticking out of me had drawn no blood at all, the wound was quite dry. I held the arrow in my two hands and pulled it out, and let out a great sigh as I did so. I pulled out the wooden shaft and the three feathers, but the barbed arrowhead, which was called Beauty, had lodged so deeply into my heart that I couldn’t remove it. It remained in my heart, although I hadn’t shed a drop of blood. I felt very anxious and didn’t know what to do, or where to find a physician, and I knew that I had no hope of getting any help. But my heart drew ever closer to this rosebud, despite all my worry, and it continued to occupy all my thoughts. If I could have gained possession of it, it would have cured me completely. Just the sight of it, and its perfume, was enough to allay most of my fears.
So I made my way towards this beautiful rosebud, and very quickly Love fastened another arrow to his bow and prepared to shoot. The arrow’s name was Honesty, and when Love was near enough, he drew his bow and shot at me with all his might, so that the arrow entered my eye and wounded me in the heart. I did my best to pull it out, with great effort, but the arrowhead was left in my heart, which made me want to get close to this rosebud even more intensely. The more pain I felt, the greater was my desire to go into the rose garden where this beautiful rosebud was growing. I would have been better off resisting, but my heart drove me on, for always the body is led by the heart; for good or ill, they must go together, of necessity. But this archer hadn’t finished with me yet, for all his effort was directed towards making me more acceptable to him, so he selected a third arrow and released it when he judged the moment to be right. The arrow’s name was Courtesy, and it penetrated to my heart. I fell unconscious and lay deathly pale for a long while, until I recovered my senses and gathered enough strength to try to draw the arrow out. But for all my pulling at it and wiggling, the arrowhead remained buried; the impact had driven it in so deeply that I was unable to extract it, but the pain and anxiety compelled me even more to try to make my way into that rose garden, to see the rosebud that pleased me so.
But I hesitated to do so, because the archer was so near. After being burnt, a child remains fearful of fire; and yet, for all my pain and discomfort, and although I could see arrows coming towards me with points of sharpened steel, yet nothing could stop me from gazing longingly towards that rose garden. Love had given me the strength to do his will and to obey his commandments, so I rose to my feet, as feeble as the wounded man that I was, and set off again, without any concern for the archer. I approached the rose garden but found the thorns to be impenetrable; the thistles and the briars were sharp and dense and I could find no way through that hedge. I had to stay where I was, much to my distress. The barrier was wide, and it completely enclosed the rose garden.
But one thing pleased me: I was so near that I could smell the rosebud’s perfume and see it’s beautiful colour, and this gave me a great deal of pleasure. I took such joy from being so near to my rosebud that my woes disappeared completely, my sorrow and distress vanished and I had no thought for my wounds at all. Nothing could have pleased me more than to stay beside that rose garden forever.
But when I had been there for a while, the God of Love, who had already injured me to the heart, loosened another arrow at me, one called Good Company, which is fully able to make ladies show mercy. The fresh wound made my colour change at once and I fell again in a faint, sighing and complaining. It didn’t seem fair that my injuries were getting worse and worse. I had no hope of alleviation and my situation was so desperate that I thought more of death than of life, for that was where Love seemed to be guiding me. I had no power to resist him, even if he appeared to be intent upon making me a martyr. And while I watched in anguish, the God of Love took a fifth arrow, which was called Fashionable, which compels any lover to do his utmost to attract his love, whatever the cost. But although this arrow was keenly ground, and its point was as sharp as any razor, the God of Love had smeared it with a precious ointment that would work to sooth the wounds in my heart that I had already suffered and make me feel a little better. This arrow made a great hole in my heart that hurt a lot, but then the ointment began to spread around my wounds, in every direction, and cause all my pain to subside and make my heart joyful and light. But for this ointment, I would have been dead for sure. I pulled the arrow out, but the head, which caused such pain, remained in my heart with the other four, and will never be removed, I dare say. But the ointment brought me great relief, although I felt anguish at the fresh wounds that I had received and went around all day with a changed complexion. The arrows were so full of intense potency, so diverse and changeable that men might see in all of them both sweetness and suffering, bitterness mixed with joy. Now they were calm, now they were intense. I could feel both harm and pleasure in them, now continuously painful, now eased with ointment. My suffering increased here, receded there, with both comfort and pain coexisting together.
Now the God of Love seized his moment, he quickly leapt over to me and cried with great passion:
‘Yield to me! There is no escape for you now! There is nothing you can do, so don’t make any trouble. If you yield to me at once, you shall receive mercy. The man is a fool who fights against that which should please him; no good comes from such stupidity. So when submission is necessary, accept the fact. Resistance is pointless. Come over here, speak with me and yield to me with grace and acceptance.’
‘Gladly, sir,’ I answered. ‘If this is what you wish, then I willingly submit and shall enter your service. May God forbid that I should go against your wishes! I will not commit so great an offence. To do so would be foolish in the extreme since you are able to do what you like with me, to be my saviour or my destroyer, to let me live or let me die. I cannot escape from you, my life and death are in your hands and there is no survival outside of your service. Therefore I yield to you entirely, secure in the hope and expectation that in the fullness of time you will send me comfort and ease; for otherwise I am done for. An eternity of suffering awaits me if you will not take me into your care. How could I find comfort unless you, yourself, can save me? It is you who have caused my wounds, and only you can heal them. If it pleases you that I should be your prisoner, then I fully accept it. I yield to you unreservedly, with all sincerity, and will be governed by your desire. I have heard you praised so much that I place myself entirely at your disposal and will do whatever you want me to do, unwaveringly, hoping that in time I shall receive your mercy for the suffering that I endure.’
And with this pledge, I went down onto one knee and yielded myself to him, offering to kiss his feet; but he wouldn’t let me and instead said:
‘I both love and respect you for giving me such an answer. Your response has been so courteous that I now know that you are a noble gentleman, from these words. A man could search far and wide and never once receive such an answer from a wicked man. No such sentiments could ever surface in a villain’s thoughts. And what is more, your eloquence shall not diminish either. I will augment it and cause it to increase, to your great benefit. But first I require you to pay homage to me. It will be to your advantage. Kiss me on the mouth. No wicked man has ever dared to approach or to touch me there, and I swear that no scoundrel shall ever do so. The man who kisses me must be courteous and good-natured, educated, refined and in no way coarse; also friendly and accommodating.
‘But I must warn you of one thing: that pain and adversity await those who will serve me, which must be suffered and struggled against. But to balance this, you will have the joy and comfort of knowing that you serve an excellent master. Of Love I carry the standard, of Courtesy the banner, for I am of the same kind: gentle, courteous, humble and generous. Whoever wants to honour me, to serve and to fear me, must abstain from all transgression and wickedness, embrace courtesy with conviction and with good intent, from the moment that he is caught in my prison, and he must absolutely, from that moment on, and with all his energy, focus upon gentility, if he wants any help from me.’
At once, and with no hesitation, I became his man. Kneeling with my hands clasped before me, I thanked him many times and held myself in submission. And the joy I felt when I kissed his mouth was astonishing! My heart warmed and I felt such pleasure and joyfulness that I had no desire to be lethargic any more. Then he asked me for guarantors.
‘I have,’ he said, ‘accepted homage from many who have later deceived me. In all honesty, untrustworthy felons have often beguiled me and achieved their desires through deception, which troubles me greatly, and if I ever get them within reach, their unfaithfulness will cost them dearly. But because I love you, I will tell you for certain that I shall not take this risk with you: I will bind you now so tightly that you cannot get away; you will not be able to renege upon our covenant or do anything that is not seemly. It would be a great pity if you proved to be false, since you seem so sincere.’
‘Sir, if it pleases you, but I wonder why you require this of me? Why do you require hostages or guarantors from me, or any other form of surety, since you know that you have crept up on me so successfully and taken my heart away from me so completely that it will do nothing for me now unless it is with your blessing? My heart is yours, not mine at all, and it is ready to do whatever you desire; whatever may come of it, it is so eager to please you that there can be no danger for you at all. The demands you have set are not fair. If you doubt its faith, keep my heart under lock and key and hold it as my guarantor.’
‘That’s not a bad idea,’ replied Love at once. ‘I agree to this. Whoever has the heart in his keeping is master of the body, that’s for sure. It would be an outrage to ask for more.’
He drew out a little key, a quaint little object make of polished gold and said to me: ‘I will shut your heart away with this key, for all my jewels are locked away and protected by it, so that no one can steal them. This key carries great power.’ Then he touched me on the side with it and without any discomfort at all on my part he seized my heart and possessed it, without any seeming harm to myself at all. When he had done this and had all the assurance he needed: ‘Sir,’ I said, ‘I am eager to do anything you want me to, but look favourably upon my obedience and recompense me accordingly for it, in good faith. Please don’t imagine that I doubt you in any way, but a servant wastes his effort if his lord cannot reward him for his service.’
‘Have no fear,’ Love replied. ‘Since you have come to me for help and relief, I shall accept your service with thanks and elevate and reward you accordingly, if wickedness doesn’t intervene to hinder you, and I don’t expect that it will. But no one can chance upon honour and esteem without earning it first, so wait a little, and suffer your distress. What is hurting you at the moment will lessen in time. I know what will save you and what the best medicine for you is. And if you keep faith with me, I shall help you in your undertaking, I’ll heal your wounds and make them clean, however deep-seated and gangrenous they may have become. To be brief, you shall receive salvation. And certainly, you’ll be able to show people where your loyalties lie, by demonstrating your adherence to my commandments, which I bestow upon those who worship me by right.’
‘Ah, sir, for God’s love!’ I exclaimed. ‘Before you go, then, explain to me carefully what your commandments are, so that I can do my best to keep them; for to obey them is my firm intention, but if I don’t know what they are I am likely to go astray, if only inadvertently, so I beg you with all my heart to teach them to me, so that I don’t contravene them.’
The God of love then commanded me as you will shortly hear, word for word, just as this romance records it.
But a master wastes his time when his disciple’s thoughts are elsewhere, and it is useless to put effort into teaching those who will not listen. All you who yearn after love, then, pay attention, for now this romance starts to reward the efforts that you have made so far. It’s time to listen carefully – if there is anyone available who can recite these words and can repeat them to you accurately and with understanding – for otherwise the lesson will be lost. For a reader with no understanding of his text loses the point of it very quickly. This book has a fine ending, offering new insight, and whoever chooses to listen to the end will learn the craft of Love, if he will stay long enough for me to reveal all of this romance to him and to explain the significance of this dream. The truth that is hidden at the moment shall be uncovered, for the revelation of this dreaming contains no word of a lie.
‘For a start,’ said Love, ‘I require you, above all else, to avoid wickedness. Avoid this, if you want to remain true to me. I curse all those who are evil. Wickedness and evil make for a villain, and by his wicked deeds a villain is exposed. Villains are without pity, without friends, without love or any kindness and I will not receive them into my service.
‘But be clear: it is not my intention to call a man a gentleman based only upon his upbringing or who his parents are. When you see before you a man who possesses virtue, who behaves commendably and carries himself with dignity, even though he may not be of noble parentage, you may well say – and it will be the truth – that he is a gentleman. And in the same way, a churl is recognised by his actions and his behaviour, not by his upbringing; whether high- or low-born, it’s all the same, it doesn’t matter.
‘And don’t spread malicious gossip and tittle-tattle that seeks to do harm. There is no virtue in spreading lies. Take Sir Kay as an example: he is often reviled for being spiteful and malicious, in contrast to Sir Gawain, who was often praised for his courtesy, whereas Kay was hated for his evil tongue.
‘Show wisdom, be friendly, polite and reasonable to everybody you meet, whatever their station in life. And when you come into company, see that you always give an appropriate greeting, and if they beat you to it and are able to greet you first, don’t remain silent but return this greeting as quickly as you can.
‘On no account allow yourself to utter profanities or to be coarse and rude. Never use filthy speech, swear or mix your words with expletives. I consider no man to be courteous who uses foul words.
‘Serve all women, praise them, elevate them and increase their honour as much as you can. If you encounter any misogynist, or someone who is trying to do women down, a man who despises them and wants to keep them in their place, then confront him and tell him to be quiet. Put all your energy and all your thoughts into pleasing women and making their lives pleasant, so that they always speak well of you, for it will earn you much praise.
‘Steer well clear of arrogance. It should be plain to you by now that arrogance and conceit are both stupid and sinful. The man who harbours arrogance in his heart is not able to be humble or compliant and therefore cannot serve. Arrogance is opposed to all the arts of love. He who would truly love should be affable and jolly, without appearing proud, opinionated or self-obsessed, but should be elegant and able to clothe himself attractively, for to present a fashionable appearance is not pride, you should know, but a desire to please others. So clothe yourself as well as your means allow, for fine clothes often give a good impression. Make sure that they fit, and that they are well-made, that the sleeves are the right length, and always have at least one good pair of boots or shoes looking clean and new, and fitting so well that common folk, when they see you wearing them, are completely perplexed as to how it can be possible even to get them on and off. Wear gloves that contain silk, and if you have money, spend it willingly and enthusiastically, but if not, then don’t worry. Always be cheerful if you can, but never waste your money. Wear a hat adorned with fresh flowers, or a chaplet of roses on Whitsunday, for these don’t cost very much. Wash your hands, clean your teeth, and make sure that your clothes are clean. If your nails are dirty, scrub the filth away, and comb your hair properly. But don’t wear cosmetics. Love dislikes a beauty that is unnatural.
‘Always try to be as joyful as you can. Love finds no pleasure in a miserable man; the sickness that laughs at its own distress is a courteous one, for it is a sickness that mixes sweetness and bitterness. The pain of love is marvellous; now a lover is joyous, now full of complaint, writhing in distress, now singing happily, now moaning again. Today he laments his agony, tomorrow he dances in the streets. The life of the lover is full of contradictions and can change from one hour to the next. But if you can be happy, and show it in a way that will please others, then I command you to do so, for men should always do what they can do best. From this comes honour and renown. Wherever your talents lie, don’t reject invitations or appear unfriendly and dismissive. If you ride a horse well, then gallop enthusiastically so that men can see what you can do. If you wield a spear or a sword with some skill, then take part in tournaments and make a name for yourself. If you have a good voice, don’t refuse to sing when you are asked to do so but do it willingly and enjoy the complements that follow.
‘It is fitting always for you to play a musical instrument and to dance and have fun. If a man can dance well, his popularity is assured. And it will do you no harm either to compose songs and verses for your lady, so that she may know the pain that you are suffering for her sake, for this will stir her heart when she hears of your distress.
‘Make sure that you don’t acquire a reputation for stinginess, for this will harm you a great deal. Reason dictates that a lover is more generous with his gifts than a villain who does not love. If you have anything to give, give it freely, if you wish to live under Love’s laws, for he who, for a mere glimpse, or a stolen kiss, has given all his heart and kept nothing of it for himself, has already demonstrated his willingness to be free with his gifts.
‘Now I will briefly recapitulate for you, in verse, what I have already said, so that you may remember it all the more easily and be able to recall it to mind wherever you are, for a man remembers best what is brief and concise:
To follow Love and walk beside,
Be courteous, abandon pride,
Be playful, merry, full of joy,
Give gifts, do nothing to annoy.
‘But first, I urge you, indeed I require you, to set all your thoughts towards love without any regret, but to be sustained only by faith, by anticipation of the blissful time when your love will at last be rewarded. And in order to be sure that you will be faithful to love, I desire you, indeed I command you, to cast your heart into one place alone and not to share it around, for that is being deceitful and I hate deception. If a man shares his love around, each recipient gets only a small part of it. But I have no fears for the man who sets his desire in only one place. Therefore, don’t let your love stray in the slightest, for if you only loan it out, here and there, I think that this is a wretched thing. Give it whole and entire and your reward will be greater. And remember that love requires that it be given freely, as a gift, so give it with good grace. A gift given freely is held in much higher esteem than one offered grudgingly, or with conditions.
‘When you have gifted your heart, entirely and in one place, as I have just explained, then your sufferings will begin. When your love comes to mind, wherever you are, you will feel a need to excuse yourself quickly and to be alone, so that no one will guess what the matter is. You’ll feel a need to be alone with your thoughts and not to share them, you will sweat and then shiver, flush red and then go pale. You will never have experienced such anxiety before. No fever was ever as bad as the way you are feeling now. Many times it will happen that you’ll forget yourself so entirely it will seem as though you’re made of wood. You’ll find yourself as dumb as a stone, rooted to the spot, but then you’ll suddenly come to again and feel dreadfully embarrassed about it and sigh in confusion. Be in no doubt that many who are experiencing the sickness of love have found themselves in this situation.
‘The thought will suddenly occur to you that your love is too far away. You’ll exclaim: ‘God! Will I ever see her again? My thoughts are with her but my heart has no power to carry my eyes along with it. They see nothing that pleases me. They must go to visit her, without delay! So off you go, but many times you will fail in your intent, and once again you’ll find that your head is in turmoil. You’ll want to be near her but you cannot find her, your journey has been wasted and the sighing and complaining returns, with a new sorrow. Your heart aches so much that you’ll take every opportunity to see if by chance you might catch a glimpse of your love, and if you do see her, all your other business is forgotten, your eyes feast upon her and all else fades into irrelevance. When you see her, your heart is so ravished that you could gaze at her all day. The more you see, the more you desire and the flame grows larger; for if you look at the matter carefully, it’s clear that it is just like a fire, for the closer you get to her, the hotter you become, you will find this out when you experience it. I’m telling you the truth. In any situation, those closest to a fire burn the most. And yet, for all the heat, and although you sweat and burn for love, you’ll have no desire to back away.
And when necessity forces you to spend the rest of the day thinking about that beautiful creature you were looking at, rebuking yourself for not speaking to her and telling her how you feel, you will accuse yourself of cowardice, for being so timid and lacking the courage to speak to her. You were so close to her, and yet you said nothing! If you had only said something! She might have taken you into her arms, and that would have been worth more to you than a room full of treasure.
‘You will fret and rebuke yourself, and you’ll take the earliest opportunity to return to the place where you saw her last. You’ll never dare to go to her house, but you’ll take any opportunity to allow your business to take you to where she might be, without arousing suspicion; but you are acutely aware that you mustn’t make it obvious. You’ll become very anxious that people don’t guess how you are feeling. You’ll think up devious excuses to go where she might be, and if it transpires that you see your love, you will greet her and blush uncontrollably, your heart will pound and then you’ll go pale, you’ll have difficulty getting your words out; and if it happens that you manage to begin a conversation with her and want to say three things or more, you’ll remember two of them and forget all the others. Try as you might, your mind will have gone blank. Unless it is all a deception, of course: for false lovers can prattle away and chat a girl up and say whatever they want to without any hesitation, for they are able to think one thing and say another, but that is just being deceitful.
‘When you have spoken to her and the moment has passed and you realise that most of what you wanted to say to her was left unsaid, you will burn with regret, as fiercely as a martyr in a fire. This is the struggle that you will have to endure unceasingly. There is no end to it, until she is able to bring peace to you at last.
‘And during the night, a thousand things will torment you. Although you will eagerly retire to your bed, sleep will not come easily, you’ll toss and turn from one side to the other and lie spread-eagled like a man exhausted from war. You’ll form an image of her in your mind, in all its perfection, and be assured, it will seem to you at some point during the night that she is lying there naked in your arms, in bed with you, as vividly as if it was really happening. Then your imagination will run wild, you will dream of joy, but soon you’ll be sighing and weeping again, murmuring: “Dear God, I’ve had such a beautiful dream, but now I’m awake and the vision has disappeared like mist. Twenty times a day I try to conjure this vision, and it makes me so happy to pretend that it is true, and it destroys me when I know that it is not. Lord, why can’t you send me some relief? If only I could die in her arms! This suffering is hard to take, it hurts me constantly. If Love could only arrange that I might have joy of my sweet lady, all my troubles would be over. Alas! It is foolish to make such an outrageous request, I know. Such a request deserves a stern rebuke and I would be satisfied with much less. Just a kiss would suffice. It she could give me just a single kiss, I would be transported to heaven. But these are all foolish thoughts. I aspire to things that are too high for me to achieve. I don’t know whether I should be saying this, but I know for a fact that I would rather have one friendly look from her than a thousand nights of unrestrained sex with any other woman.
‘”Oh lord,” you will say, “will I ever see the day that she is my lady? Oh God, when will it be dawn? It is horrible just lying here. It’s hateful being without her. There’s nothing good about not being able to sleep. I wish the sky would brighten and the night would go away. If it was nearing dawn, I could get up. Oh, slow sun, get a move on!”
‘You will spend all night like this, in pain and discomfort without getting any sleep. If you thought you knew about love before, you’ll find that you’ve discovered more about it now. You’ll lie and suffer like this, and get up before dawn and dress yourself, then secretly leave your room to go out alone, whatever the weather, and never mind that it’s raining or sleeting, hail or snow, but you’ll walk to where she lives, she who will likely be fast asleep still and with no concern for you at all, but your heart will be full of anxiety, as you look to see if the gate is bolted, and you’ll wait there full of fear, shivering in the wind and the rain. Then you’ll pluck up the courage to go to her door, to see if you can find a crack or a hole anywhere to lay an ear, to make sure that everybody is asleep; all except for your love, of course. And if you can hear that she is awake, you might tell yourself that you are prepared to put yourself in jeopardy and ask for her grace, confess your feelings to her and leave her in no doubt that you have been unable to sleep because of her. Women ought to take pity on men who suffer so much on their account. And see, for the love of she who has stolen your heart, that you receive a kiss for your trouble, if only from the door furniture before you leave.
‘And so that no one sees you in front of the house, on in the street, make sure that you have gone before it is light. Such coming and going, such sorrowful walking is the lot of all lovers, they do not grow fat; under their clothes they are pale and lean, their complexions pallid. You will see for yourself how you must be tested. Those who instead can relax and eat well are no more than deceivers. It’s no wonder they grow as fat as abbots and priors, they gain what they want through deception.
‘But I command one thing from you, which is that you must be generous to the maid who serves your lady, so that her gratitude will stand you in good stead. Give her gifts and win her over; it will buy you a reputation for generosity and put you in a good light. Be good to all your lady’s servants, it will pay you dividends because they have the ear of their mistress behind closed doors. They’ll tell her that they think you are well-mannered, courteous and generous, and she will think better of you because of it.
‘Make sure that you don’t travel far away. And if you can’t avoid a prolonged absence or have to go abroad, leave your heart behind to collect upon your return. Hold her constantly in your thoughts, that sweet thing who holds your heart in her keeping.’
When Love had given me these instructions: ‘Sir,’ I said, ‘how can it be that lovers are able to endure all this pain that you have described? I marvel that any man could survive it at all! How is it possible to endure such anguish, such burning and sighing, so many anxious thoughts and such pent-up woe, day and night? It seems a miracle that a man could last a month in this torment, unless he was made of steel!’
‘My friend,’ said the God of Love, ‘by the faith that I owe to you, no man can have good things unless he has paid for them first. A man loves best those things which have cost him the most. For be under no illusion, the value of something is measured in direct proportion to its cost, and the pain of love surpasses everything. It is immeasurable. You may as well try to count how many drops of water there are in the ocean; you could drain the seas as dry as an empty well with your counting! Pain kills, but even those in Love’s service will flee from death if they can, and even if they can never escape, they will hold onto their hope and their faith, like the man in prison who has only barley bread and cold water to drink and lies in his own filth with rats on the floor, and yet for all this, he holds onto the hope that one day he will be released and will regain his liberty. He trusts in a better future, for it gives him comfort. Although he lies in straw and dirt, his faith sustains him. And it’s the same with lovers, so it seems to them, those whom Love has shut in his prison. Faith is their salvation. It gives them the courage and the endurance to offer themselves as martyrs. Their faith makes them quite willing to suffer unspeakable pains for the promise of a joy that will come eventually, a hope of ultimate victory.
‘The glory of love lies in faith, for hope is all that love can give. Without hope, no lover could ever survive. Blessed be the faith by which lovers are sustained! Hope is generous and keeps all lovers from the evils of despair. Hope protects their territory from all dangers, wherever they may come from, it is the chief safeguard for lovers. And I will give you three more things which will help you, three other things for those who are caught in my net:
‘The first thing that can bring relief is Daydream. It will allow you to bring her to mind, wherever she is. It is a wonderful thing for her to be present even when she is absent. When any lover finds himself suffering pains, then Daydream can quickly come to his aid and dispel all his agony, for he can form in his mind, as far as he is able to, a vivid image recalling a pleasant moment, when hope was at its highest; for thought at once begins to form a mirror in his mind, and he will set her in it, her laughing eyes, her lovely shape, her manner, her sweet and beautiful mouth, and he will let his mind’s eye take sustenance from this reverie. In this way, Daydream will lessen the pain that lovers feel. Your joys will magnify, I am certain, when you are able to think about her like this, to see her again when she was laughing with you, or being playful. I want you to accept this gift. And if you refuse the next, which is just as pleasant, you will be showing too much hostility towards me, for the second is Confidante, which has been the saviour of many, raised a great number out of their morass and brought comfort to many ladies who are in love, by speaking of the one they love with a friend and hearing all the news about them. It banishes the pain that they conceal in their hearts. It makes them feel much better to speak about them, even when they would rather see them instead.
‘And this reminds me: a long time ago, clerics who knew her wrote about a lovely lady who composed a song about her lover, which went something like this: “When I hear him spoken of, he whom I hold so dear, it takes away all my pain, for he lies so close to my heart. To speak about him drives away all my sorrow, and there is no pleasanter thing than to talk about him with a friend.”
‘She knew full well that Confidante brings much comfort. Her love for him had been well tested and she was sure of his loyalty, and it brought her comfort to have news of him. So I advise you to find a friend who can be discreet and to whom you can speak openly about your joys and anxieties, your sorrows and your hopes. To speak with him will be a comfort, if the two of you can speak privately of that lady who holds your heart in her keeping, if you can speak of her beauty and her conviviality, ask is there is anything he knows that she likes and that you could do to please her. It will be a great comfort to you, and a pleasure to him to know that you trust him so, which is even more to your advantage; and if he, himself, is in love, then so much the better, for he will reciprocate and open his heart to you in return, without any shame, but tell you who she is, and in gratitude he will sing your praises widely, and especially have no compunction in praising you in front of your own lady. You will be like brothers. It is a fine thing to have a friend you can confide in. You can consider yourself very lucky when you are certain of his friendship.
‘The third delightful thing that brings happiness to lovers is called Stolen Glance, although it is no comfort when you are far from your lady, and for this reason you will always desire to be near her. It is the most beautiful thing to be able to see the one you love when the day is still young, and it banishes all sorrow. It can be a magical moment when your eyes meet, and afterwards you will have no fear at all, neither rain nor wind will hinder you, you will feel that you are walking on a cloud. When your eyes are locked on hers, they are not selfish enough to keep the moment to themselves but convey part of that bliss to your heart, for the eye is a good messenger, it can send tidings to the heart that will banish all sorrows and the heart will rejoice that such a large part of its ache has been instantly relieved. Just as the darkness of night is chased away by a bright moon, so the heart is gladdened when the eyes see the lady that it loves. All darkness is gone and the heart is at ease.
‘Now I have explained to you everything that was causing you anxiety. I have told you in good faith what will sustain you, indeed what will sustain every lover who wants to be faithful and resolute in their love. Keep hope by your side and be no stranger to daydreams. The briefest of stolen glances will bring you relief, as will conversation with a trusted friend, touching upon the lady you love. You will take pleasure in them all, and if you can endure with patience and serve with fortitude, you will achieve your desire in the end and be rewarded many times over for it, if you live. But for the moment, this is all you will get.’
The God of Love suddenly vanished and I found myself alone.
Aggrieved at finding myself abandoned, my wounds hurting, I knew of no remedy except to seek out the rosebud; I knew of nothing else that could give me pleasure and I could only find comfort and ease, so I thought, if it was brought about through the auspices of the God of Love and with his blessing. But the rose garden was enclosed by a hedge, as you have heard me say. So I searched around, looking to see if I could find a way through it, in order to get to the rosebud. But I was fearful that I might be accused of wanting to steal the roses, so I was in two minds as to whether to proceed, and as I stood hesitantly, wondering whether to try to find a way into the garden or not, I saw approaching me a young man of good height and supple build, and his name was Affectionate Embrace. He was the son of Courtesy and he allowed me at once to pass through the outer hedge and into the rose garden.
‘Sir, please go through,’ he said, smiling. ‘If you wish to see the fresh roses and to smell their delightful scent, then you have my full permission, provided that you behave with care and restraint, and if you do this, nobody will seek to do you any harm. If I can help you in any way, I shall be delighted to do so. I am obliged to serve you, and I shall do so with great diligence.’
‘I thank you, sir, most heartily,’ I replied. ‘I shall accept your kind offer with great pleasure. It is very generous of you to offer me your service.’
Then without a pause, I made my way through the tangle of thorns and brambles that trailed all over the hedge, and I was very happy, I have to say, to see that beautiful rosebud so freshly springing from the root.
Affectionate Embrace was indeed my friend. He allowed me to stand so close to this rosebud that I could smell its perfume and see its lovely colour. But an ignorant oaf was hiding himself amongst the roses, may all evils come to him! He sought to protect them, and his name was Hostility. This churl was hidden there in the bushes, covered with grass and leaves, waiting to leap upon anyone who dared to reach out a hand and touch the roses. And he was not alone. There were two others with him, equally coarse and rude. One was called Slander, may God bring him sorrow! He could say nothing good about anybody, and many a just and honourable man has suffered at his hands. There was a woman there also, whose name was Shame. Her father, as those of any wisdom will know, is called Wrongdoing, and her mother, Reason. Shame was engendered by these two. And yet, Wrongdoing never had any marital relations with Reason and never lay beside her, he was so hideously ugly, but Reason conceived Shame just by looking at Wrongdoing. And when Shame was born, Chastity was quickly made keeper of the rose garden, which was being invaded by people all the time, but she couldn’t cope and didn’t know what to do, for Venus was acting against her so much that she was stealing the rosebuds day and night. So Chastity, whom Venus had by now thrown over the sea, begged Reason to allow her daughter to protect the rose garden and to keep it fresh and green. Reason, who was fully in accord with this request, agreed that Shame should be the keeper of the rose garden. So there were now three to protect it, so that none, be they young or old, might be strong or brave enough to carry away the rosebuds or roses without her permission.
I would have had all that I wanted, were I not being spied on by these three. For Affectionate Embrace was very amicable, through his courtesy and eagerness to please me, and he invited me to get as close as I wanted to the rosebud, to touch the bush that bore the roses; for there was no harm in it, after all. And because he could see that it would bring me great pleasure, he pulled a green leaf from very near to the rosebud and gave it to me. I was delighted to be holding it. I seemed to be on such good terms with Affectionate Embrace that I thought that everything was now within my reach, and I grew so bold that I began to tell this young man about my encounter with Love and how he had wounded me, and I said: ‘Sir, so may I prosper, but I can have no joy at all unless it can arise; for truly, if I am to be honest, I’ve felt such a pain of desire – so much so that I don’t know what I’m saying – but I fear now to be deserving of your displeasure and I would rather be cut to pieces by knives that that you should be angry with me.’
‘Tell me exactly what you want,’ he replied. ‘I won’t be angry with you, whatever you say.’
‘Then sir, may it not displease you to know of the great unease that has gripped me. It is solely the result of love – I endure great pain, discomfort and mental anguish because of it, all the time. Don’t imagine that I’m not telling you the truth! Love gave me five wounds and I will never recover from the pain of them unless you can grant me that beautiful rosebud, for it is my life, my death, my martyrdom, the treasure that I most desire.’
Then Affectionate Embrace, with fear in his eyes, said: ‘Sir, that cannot happen. What you wish for, it must not arise! What? Would you put me to shame in this way? I’d be a fool if I allowed you to take away that fresh rosebud that’s so beautiful to look at. It is neither wise nor fair of you to want to break a stem off this rose bush and to remove the rose from its proper place. It is very discourteous of you to ask. Leave it where it is and let it grow until it is fully formed, and perfect in its beauty. I don’t want it to be pulled from the rose bush, it is very dear to me.’
Suddenly, Hostility sprung out from the place where he had been hiding. The malice in his voice was clear. He was huge and black, hideously strong, his hair stuck out in spikes, his eyes glowed like coals, his nose was crooked and wrinkled and he came running over, shouting like a madman: ‘Affectionate Embrace, what are you doing by allowing this youth to get so close to these roses? You are making a big mistake! He intends to dishonour you! You deserve reproach for having brought him here. Serving a criminal brings little reward. You have done him a great favour only to be rewarded with shame. I say to your companion: Go away, young man! I’ve a mind to kill you here and now! Affectionate Embrace didn’t realise what you were after when he offered to help you. You are ready to shame him, with great injustice. I don’t trust you any more, you have plainly shown yourself to be a deceiver.’
I didn’t dare stay there any longer, this madman was so agitated that he chased me back through the hedge. I shook with fear as he shouted that if he ever got his hands on me, there would be no escape for me at all.
Affectionate Embrace had vanished completely by now and I was left alone again. In an agony of shame and regret, my thoughts were filled with how foolish I had been, but my pain of longing remained desperate and I was angry with myself that I didn’t dare to go back through the hedge. But it was hopeless to try. I vow that no one truly knows pain until they have been caught in Love’s net. Neither do they know anguish. Love was not joking when he promised me anguish. No heart can think, nor tongue give expression to, a quarter of the pain that I felt. My distress was such that I felt my heart was going to burst when I thought about the rose that Hostility had cast away from me.
I stood for a long while like this, in sorrow and confusion, until I saw the lady from on high looking over in my direction from her tower. Her name was Reason and she quickly came down and approached me. She was neither young nor old, of medium height and medium build, her eyes were bright and she wore a crown on her head and seemed to possess a great deal of authority, for her crown was embellished with many valuable jewels. Her fine appearance, I vow, must have been formed in heaven, for Nature would never have had the skill to create a work of such perfection. For it is the truth, unless words lie, that God himself made her in his own likeness and gave her such power and authority that she can stop people from behaving foolishly; for whoever adheres to her doctrine will never offend again.
While I stood there, now flushed, now pale, she spoke to me:
‘Welcome, my sweet friend,’ she said. ‘Folly and immaturity have put your mind into a spin, and they will lead to your downfall. You have paid a high price for the joys of spring which have made your heart so merry. It was an inauspicious moment which led you to approach this garden that Idleness holds the key to. She invited you to join the dance that she is mistress of, but it is perilous to make her acquaintance. First it is pleasurable, but then much less so. Look how she has trashed you completely! The God of Love would not have seen you had Idleness not taken you into the orchard where Pleasure was playing. But if Folly has ambushed you, then seek to amend it at once and take care not to listen to any more advice that will lead you into pain and regret. It is wise to scold yourself, and if a young man does wrong in any way, or acts foolishly, let him quickly try to repair the harm that has been done. So I advise you to completely forget the God of Love, who has brought you such torment and distress. I can’t see any other way of you protecting yourself, for Hostility, who is so obnoxious, is now cruelly intent upon making you suffer.
‘And yet, Hostility is nothing compared to my daughter Shame, who has the roses in her keep and who looks after them watchfully. And Slander is with these two, who will allow no man to achieve his aims but will hound him wherever he goes, in forty places, and accuse him of things he has never done; there is so much deceit in him and so much eagerness to fabricate a story. You are dealing with unpleasant people and it would be better for you to get away from them and leave them alone, for they will make your life a misery. This is the evil which they call Love, wherein lies nothing but folly, for Love is folly, and those who love will never prosper, nor achieve anything worthwhile. If he is a cleric, his education will have been wasted, and if he has another occupation, he will not flourish in it, for in love he will find more Passion than any monk, hermit or canon! The pain is off the scale, and the joy does not last; its possession causes tribulation, the joy is short-lasting and its attainment so reliant upon chance that I see many who fail miserably and suffer for nothing.
‘It was through no advice from me that you pledged fealty to the God of Love. That was not wisdom but folly. Your heart may have been joyous but your brain was disengaged when you yielded yourself so readily to him. I advise you to drive Love away, for he seeks to make your life seem worthless, and this folly will grow day by day, unless you banish it now. Take the bit firmly between your teeth, strive to conquer your heart and muster some defence, if you can, so that you can make amends for this first offence. The man who only follows his heart will be led into some unpleasant company.’
When I had listened to her chastising me, I responded angrily. I demanded that she stop lecturing me and that she give up trying to get me to renounce Love.
‘Do you imagine,’ I shouted, ‘that Love will consent to open his hand and give me my heart back? He has attacked me with his arrows! Your advice is impossible to carry out. When he first caught me in his grasp, he took my heart so entirely that I have no control over it now, he is so in charge of it that he keeps it under lock and key. So please leave me alone. Waste your time if you want, but your words are pointless and I would rather die in agony than that Love should be able to accuse me of disloyalty. Come what may, I will love truly, and there’s an end to it. I hate being reprimanded like this.’
Reason turned on her heels and abandoned me.
Dismayed, I wandered off, alone and exhausted, for like a fool I could think of nothing better to do. Then I remembered how Love had advised me to find a friend in whom I could confide, for that would help me. And all at once, I sensed that there was just such a person standing nearby, a young man who was courteous, well-mannered, trustworthy and loyal, and his name was Friend. I hurried over to him at once, and poured all my sorrows out to him, concealing nothing. I told him everything: I made my complaint about Hostility, how dreadful he was and how antagonistic he had been towards me, and how, through his cruelty, he would have done me lasting injury, and how, when he had seen me with Affectionate Embrace as we were walking and enjoying ourselves in the garden, he ordered him to leave me and I had found myself alone. I dare not speak to him anymore, for he said that he was going to take revenge if I ever came into the garden again. He saw me reaching out to take the rosebud.’
When Friend had listened to this, he was in no way dismissive but said: ‘Fellow, don’t get so worked up about it. Don’t be so glum. There’s nothing to fear. I’m well acquainted with Hostility myself, I know how fierce he is and how quick to menace Love. It’s happened to me often. But although he appears an ogre to begin with, he ameliorates the more you get to know him. I’ve known him for a long time, and if he appears stern and frightening at first, he’ll be meek afterwards, if you speak to him nicely.
‘I’ll tell you what to do: go to him with humility and ask him to have mercy on you for transgressing, and tell him that you will never again do anything to displease him. The best way to disarm Hostility is to serve him with humility and kindness.
These words so encouraged me and filled me with hope that I went back to face Hostility to see if I could mollify him a little. I approached him hoping for some sort of reconciliation, but I dared not cross the hedge, since he had forbidden me to do so.
I found Hostility still angry with me and unrelenting and he was carrying a heavy club, so I knelt before him in submission, and said: ‘Sir, I’ve come here only to ask for your mercy. I’m very sorry that I made you angry. I’ve come here now to try to make amends and to do whatever you want me to. It was Love who led me into the wrongdoing that I committed earlier. He holds my heart with his key and I cannot get it back; but for neither good nor ill, joy nor pain, would I want to go against your wishes, I would rather suffer every ill than disobey you.
‘So I ask you to have mercy on me. Pity me! Please quell your anger and I will swear for evermore to be reconciled with you. I’m willing to be punished in any way that you want, if I ever transgress again; except in this one regard, which is that you allow me the thing which I cannot relinquish, and that is the love that I have. I ask for nothing else. I will do everything else that you require of me, but you can’t stop me from loving. You are well aware that love cannot be confined. I will love whomsoever I wish, whatever anybody may think about it. But I wouldn’t for the whole of France want to do anything to cause your displeasure.’
Hostility’s temper moderated when he heard me say this, and through my pleading he agreed to quell his anger and to forgive my indiscretion.
‘What you ask for is not unreasonable,’ he conceded. ‘There is nothing in what you say that displeases me. Whether you are in love or not is of no concern to me. Why should I care where you choose to cast your love? So long as you stray away from my roses. Don’t think that I won’t be looking, though, and don’t you dare make another attempt!’
And so we ceased our hostilities. I went back to Friend and told him what Hostility had said, and he was very happy for me.
‘Things are starting to look up,’ he said. ‘He’ll be gracious to you from now on. Although he was belligerent before, he’ll be nice to you if you appeal to his better nature; he may even take pity on you, so be patient, keep smiling, and wait for your opportunity. By forbearance and with calm words, a person can often come to terms with the man who was terrifying him previously.’
In this way, Friend brought me comfort, with a cheerful good humour that gave every impression of having my best interests at heart. But then suddenly I took my leave and went back to the hedge, for I was overtaken by an uncontrollable need to see once again the fresh rosebud upon which my salvation rested. If Hostility would adhere to our agreement he would let me look at it; for I still feared him so much that I would not break his commandment; I was still scared of the harm that he might do to me if I did, and I wanted to earn his goodwill. But it was impossible to get near enough to it now to see it even; his mercy was too limited and I wept when I couldn’t find it, I complained and sighed terribly, I loitered but achieved nothing, for I dared not approach the rose that I loved so much. I knew that Hostility could not doubt that Love was compelling me to do this, that I was not faking it, there was no treachery or falsehood involved and yet, like the villain that he was, he cruelly refused to have any pity on me, although I wept continually.
While I was in such torment, by the grace of God, Courtesy appeared, and with her, Pity, and through their kindness they agreed to go at once to speak to Hostility in order to help me in any way that they could, for they could see that I needed help badly. Courtesy was the first to speak. She said to Hostility:
‘You do wrong to cause this man so much suffering, and such churlishness does you no good. I can’t see what he has done to deserve your animosity, except that he is in love, which is in itself deserving of a little charity, don’t you think? The power of love makes him act as he does, so who can blame him? He has more to lose than you do; he is in agony, look at him! There is no way that Love will let him off the hook. Even if you threaten to kill him, he has no power to resist. Sweet sir, you seem to find pleasure in making his life a misery, but what good will this do to you? How does it benefit you to hound him like this when he is ready to do everything you require of him? If Love has caught him in his net and yet he is willing to do everything that you want him to, is it fair for you to persecute him? You should save your animosity for those whose arrogance makes them defy you. Courtesy requires that you be kind to him, and to all those who show you humility.’
‘She is right,’ affirmed Pity. ‘It is often seen that anger and distress are best vanquished by acquiescence and humility. To persist in the way you do is just cruelty and wickedness. Therefore, I implore you, sir Hostility, to prosecute this war no longer. He is yours to command, he has no intention of trespassing again and will do whatever you ask him to. His offence was slight anyway, and it was all the fault of the God of Love, so you do wrong to harm him for it. His suffering has been great since you separated him from Affectionate Embrace. Affectionate Embrace was his greatest joy, he could alleviate all his pain, and while he was in agony before, you have doubled it by separating them! He has felt nothing but pain ever since. Love has caused him pain enough, he has no need of any more! So please, don’t be angry with him, it won’t do you any good. Have pity on him and allow Affectionate Embrace to return. Both Courtesy and I desire you to show him some mercy, and since she and I are in accord, then please listen to us. I ask you not to refuse us our request; the man is hard-hearted indeed who will not listen to the two of us.’
Hostility had nothing more in his armoury, so he gave in. ‘I will not refuse what you have asked,’ he said. ‘It would be too harsh a discourtesy. I agree that Affectionate Embrace should be allowed to return. I will not stand in his way.’
Courtesy went quickly to Affectionate Embrace and said in a friendly way: ‘You have hurt this lover for too long by drawing away from him and making it painfully clear that you reject his company. You have caused him a great deal of sorrow. Now go and make it up to him. Do what he wants you to now. Be aware that Hostility has been defeated through my help, and through that of Pity, so there is no need, now, to be afraid.’
‘Since Hostility now wishes it, I shall do it at once,’ replied Affectionate Embrace.
So Courtesy caused Affectionate Embrace to be allowed back to me. He greeted me without any hint of animosity, he was as friendly towards me as he had been at the first, he took me by the hand and led me merrily through the hedge and into the rose garden that Hostility had chased me out of.
Now I had permission now to go wherever I liked! I had escaped from hell and found myself in Paradise! Affectionate Embrace, through his generosity, was making it his business to show me every corner of this sweet place.
When I drew close to the rose, I could see that it had grown a little and that the stem was slightly taller. It was fresh and unblemished, a perfect red and beginning to open, but not enough that the anthers and stamens inside were visible yet; they were still enclosed by leaves and petals. The stem was green and straight and it made for a beautiful sight, the more so since it was not yet fully open. It was so perfect, may God bless it, that there can never have been one like it! I was struck dumb. Love’s net tightened around me even more.
I stood there for a long while, until it occurred to me to ask Affectionate Embrace, since he seemed so happy to help me, whether he would grant me something that might bring pleasure to me forever afterwards when I remembered it; that is to say, that through his generosity he might allow me to kiss the rose whose perfume was sending me into raptures.
‘If it doesn’t displease you,’ I asked, ‘I would gladly have a kiss, with your permission; for certainly, I don’t want a kiss without it. It would be the last thing in my mind to want to cause you any offence.’
‘Friend, may God help me, I have no objection myself, but I dare not let you kiss the rose. Chastity is adamant that I should not allow any lover a kiss. If a kiss is allowed, the lover may conceive the expectation of being able to go all the way, for a kiss can produce such ecstasy that the remainder will suddenly feel within reach.’
When I heard him say this, I sighed but I did not argue, for I didn’t want to alienate him. A man shouldn’t push his friends too far, or risk them any harm. Anyway, no one can chop down an oak tree with the first swing of his axe, nor enjoy a bottle of wine until the gapes have ripened and the presses have done their work, so in my agony I remained where I was. But then, all at once, and out of pity for my distress, the goddess Venus, whose power is known far and wide, and who is so at odds with Chastity, came to offer me some comfort. She is the mother of Cupid, the God of Love who is as blind as a stone, and she is a help to many lovers.
This lady carried a burning firebrand in her right hand, whose heat has stirred many a lady into love’s desire and set their hearts ablaze with a passion to serve her. She was very shapely and so exquisitely dressed that, by her clothes you could tell that she was not a nun! I won’t describe her robe to you, nor her jewels, her broaches, nor her girdle or her other adornments, there isn’t time. Just understand that she looked exquisite. But she was certainly not a victim of pride. She strode up to Affectionate Embrace and said to him:
‘Sir, why is it that your manner is so negative and disdainful towards this lover? You deny him even a kiss? You are wrong to refuse him this, considering how he is Love’s servant and seeing how handsome he is! He deserves the joy of love. Look at him! Is he not good-looking, generous and debonair? He is young and energetic, healthy and full of the joys of spring. There is no lady so proud or haughty, no duchess or countess even, whom I wouldn’t consider reprehensible if she refused his affections. He doesn’t have bad breath, his teeth are clean, his lips are rosy red and quite suited to playing gently with another’s in a kiss. So grant him a kiss! I think it wrong of you if you deny him this. The more you obstruct him, the more time you waste.’
The heat from the firebrand that Venus was carrying so warmed the heart of Affectionate Embrace that he was conquered at once and he allowed me to kiss the rose. My pain vanished at once. I went up to the rosebud and sincerely kissed it. Let no one ask how happy I was now! I smelt and touched it and the sensations reached into my very heart and soothed all my pain. I was in ecstasy. It was lovely indeed to kiss such a flower, it was so sweet and pleasant. My pain may never be so great that the memory of this moment cannot alleviate it, although I still suffer.
But the sea can never be so still that a wind cannot quickly stir it into a maelstrom. After calm water, a troubled sea will surely follow, like the phases of the moon. And so it is with Love. He rarely keeps his anchor fixed for long, for as soon as all seems tranquil, a new tempest arrives. The person who serves Love knows anguish, that’s for sure! From hour to hour the pain turns to joy and then back again to pain.
So now I have to relate how Shame suddenly arose, to my great vexation, and how a wall was constructed, and how a broad and wide castle was won by the God of Love through his strength. I will set all this down in writing, and nothing will stop me, so that it might bring pleasure to she who is the very flower of beauty, because she is best able to reward me for the things that I shall reveal, and I do it for her love.
Slander, who will place the thoughts of every lover in their worst light and fill in what he can’t see with distorted guesswork, had been watching me for a long time and when he saw Affectionate Embrace and I laughing and joking so convivially together, he couldn’t prevent his tongue any longer from reporting much more than he could see (which suited his temperament, I have to say, since his mother is an Irish woman and his tongue is filed sharp and square and well able to produce a bitter tirade).
He at once made allegations that the private relationship between Affectionate Embrace and I was less than wholesome, and he spoke so foolishly that he awakened Jealousy who was so agitated when he heard this nonsense that he ran like a madman towards us.
‘Why have you been so negligent in protecting this rose garden while I’ve been away?’ Jealousy accused Affectionate Embrace, who would rather have been somewhere else entirely at this moment.
‘You’ve shown me no regard by trusting this man,’ he accused. ‘You’ve been beguiled! I’ve had grave suspicions about him from the very beginning and they seem to have been born out, and I’ve found you wanting as well. By God, you shall be tied up with rope and thrown into a tower and left there to rot! Shame has been absent for too long. She abandoned you and you lost all sense of danger. She has been negligent, I think, in helping Chastity to protect this rose garden, for otherwise this young rascal would never have been so brave as to attempt to play the games in this garden that he has, and that I deem to be so shameful.’
Affectionate Embrace didn’t know what to say. He would quite happily have fled away and hidden in fear. Jealousy tried to catch hold of us both, and when I saw that he was trying to seize the two of us, I made a run for it.
Shame appeared, with great humility, for she knew that she had transgressed. She wore a veil like a nun, and spoke to Jealousy in a low and contrite voice: ‘Sir, if it pleases you, don’t believe all that Slander says. His reports are unreliable. He revels in falsehood and lies and has slandered Affectionate Embrace just to gain your approval. He is no stranger to Mendacity, he’s known him for a long time. Slander has always had it in for young folk. I acknowledge that Affectionate Embrace has been allowed to be on too long a tether and been able to attract the hearts of many, in the service of Love, whom he should not have had anything to do with. But I am sure that it has never crossed his mind that he was doing anything wrong, or acting inappropriately in any way. His mother, Courtesy, has taught him to be friendly and good-natured, he doesn’t like seriousness, he likes play and light-heartedness and hates scheming and deception, envy and sullenness. You know how eager he is to lark around and to share an honest joke with someone.
‘But I have been negligent, I know, so I ask you to forgive me for giving him the free rein that I have and for not correcting him. I repent my folly and ask for your mercy. From now on I will make it my business to force Affectionate Embrace to do your bidding.’
‘Shame, Shame!’ said Jealousy. ‘I am in great fear of being completely undone! Lechery has risen so far that he is almost out of my control. It is no wonder that I am fearful. Lechery reigns everywhere, his power grows day and night. Chastity is fighting for her life, even in the cloister and the abbey! So I intend to enclose the rose garden with a high wall. I have left the roses vulnerable and exposed for too long, and this I truly repent. Now this will end. But I’m still fearful that my troubles won’t be over, for things are all going wrong. I will seek further advice. I have trusted you for too long, and now that will end as well. The person most trusted is in the best position to deceive, and I can see that I am in great peril. The danger can only be lessened if I take immediate action, so I shall build a great fortress that will enclose the roses. In the middle I shall have a tower built and I’ll put Affectionate Embrace in prison there, for I fear that otherwise he will cause me to be betrayed. Then he won’t be able to go around making friends with those whose hearts are set on villainy, like those who have been here before and taken advantage of his good nature and blinded him with their vows of honesty. A fool is easy to beguile, but I will make him regret his overfriendliness.’
With this, suddenly, Fear appeared, shaking with terror at the sight of Jealousy. He was so afraid that he could not utter a word, but just stood there quaking until Jealousy had gone. He stood there with Shame, both he and she quaking with fear, and then Fear said:
‘Shame, in all honesty, it is awful that we have been accused like this, but since what is done is done, we cannot undo it. We have lived for many a year without reproach, many an April and many a May without any cause for rebuke, but now Jealousy mistrusts us and accuses us without any cause or reason. So let us go at once to Hostility and show him that he has made a big mistake in letting his guard slip and not protecting the garden properly. It was foolish of him not to do so, and he has done us great harm by allowing us, for so long, to suffer all the things that Affectionate Embrace has chosen to permit. He must correct this at once or be ignominiously thrown out of this land, for he has no power against Jealousy and cannot fight him, now that Affectionate Embrace is in prison.’
So Fear and Shame both went to see Hostility, and they found him lying asleep under a hawthorn tree, his pillow just a tussock of grass. He was taking a nap. Shame shook him awake quite roughly.
‘Why are you asleep?’ she asked. ‘You’re not doing us any good like this! It’s foolish to trust you to guard the roses and the rosebuds when it’s the season for them to flourish. You have grown too amiable when you should instead be stern and cross, and not afraid to be harsh. You made a great mistake by leaving Affectionate Embrace alone in here so that he could allow that man over there to destroy us all. Although you are sleep, we can plainly hear the great uproar that Jealousy is making. So get up at once! Plug all the gaps in the hedge! It does you no good to be pleasant when you ought to be obnoxious. If Affectionate Embrace is generous and well-mannered, then you ought instead to be cruel and malicious, in fact a complete shit! A churl isn’t a churl if he’s courteous! Men will take you for a fool if they catch you being generous and well-mannered. It doesn’t suit you to be, it makes you into a traitor to your cause. Let all that you do, wherever you are, be like your name – Hostility!’
With a look of horror on his face, Fear backed her up:
‘I’m terrified that you are losing your grip!’ he cried to Hostility. ‘When you should be awake, you are asleep! You’ll be in for it for sure if Jealousy sees you. He’s already had a go at Shame. He’s chased Affectionate Embrace away from this place entirely and says that he’s shortly going to lock him behind a sturdy wall, and it’s all because of your misconduct and your failure to be objectionable and obstinate. I think your courage has failed you.’
The churl began to shake his club as he lay there, his eyes and forehead contorted into a frown and his face reddened like a man consumed with anger. He could hardly bear to hear himself being the object of such blame.
‘I would rather die or go mad than be rebuked like this!’ he exclaimed. ‘I have been betrayed, I admit. I will rather be buried alive than let anyone else into this garden ever again! A curse that I was deceived! I was a fool, I see that now. But I won’t be so again. If anyone dares to set foot in here from now on, they’ll sorely regret it. No one else gets permission from me! I would rather have two swords stab me in the heart and sever every vein in my body than give any further reason to be accused of negligence. From henceforth I shall defend this garden night and day, from everything and everyone.’
He got to his feet, grasped his club and angrily went to inspect the entire garden to see if there was any hole in the perimeter hedge through which a man might gain entry, or any gap. When he found one, he blocked it up so tightly that no man would ever again be able to touch a rose in the rose garden. He shut every man out.
Now Hostility is on the warpath. He’s more objectionable that he ever was before. My song is often ‘Alas!’ because of him, and my heart breaks in two when I remember what has happened to Affectionate Embrace. I shake all over when I recall the rosebud that I used to be able to visit and to admire. And when I remember the kiss and the joy that I gained from it, the touch and the smell, I groan at the absence of that which I most desire. I imagine that I can smell its perfume. And now that I know that I must stay far away from the fresh roses, death seems preferable to me, for the separation seems unbearable. The rose once touched my face, my nose, my mouth, but now I just wait for death. Unless Love can so arrange it that I can once more touch and kiss this rosebud, this pain will never subside. The rosebud is all I want.
‘So it is back to sighing, to sleepless nights, tossing and turning in longing and torment; I cannot properly describe the half of it, I have fallen straight from Paradise back into hell. Where once there was joy there is now only bitterness. Slander has been the cause of all this, with his falsehoods and lies.
But now it is time for me to speak of Jealousy, whose suspicions had been well and truly aroused. There was no quarryman nor mason who could cut and lay a stone whom he did not engage in order to build his tower. In order to protect the roses he first of all constructed a deep ditch, astonishingly large and broad, and behind this he built a sturdy wall of cut stone standing high above the ditch. This wall was very thick and it was six hundred feet long on every side, all four sides were a hundred fathoms long, and in order to be able to repel every attack it was crenulated with battlements and studded all around with turrets, and on every corner was a large tower. Each of these towers was defended with a portcullis to keep off enemies and to bring to grief any who wished to test its impregnability by force. And in the middle of this fortified enclosure was set a large tower, the strongest and finest that has ever been seen. There was no danger of any assault from siege engine, gun or scaffold. The stone was cemented together with strong mortar made from the finest materials and of the highest quality, of quicklime tempered with vinegar, and the stones in the foundations were as hard as adamant. The tower was perfectly round, it was the finest that has ever been built, and around the tower was constructed a wall, and between this wall and the tower were the beautiful rose bushes with their profusion of sweet-smelling blooms. And within this castle were catapults, canons, bows and archers, and nearer to the outer wall were great engines and catapults, and in the battlements, here and there, were giant crossbows. No armour could withstand them and it would be folly for anyone to try to mount an attack.
Outside the ditch were placed further walls and battlements to restrict the freedom of men and horses if they tried to approach too near to this ditch. In this way, Jealousy surrounded his fortress with walls and a deep ditch, and all to protect the rose garden.
Hostility kept the keys to the outer gate which opened towards the east, and had at least thirty servants, all of them trusted and known to him. The gate that faced towards the south was guarded by Shame, and she had many sergeants assigned to her, to carry out her orders. Fear had under her jurisdiction the constabulary that looked towards the north, which is especially vulnerable, so she has to make it her busy duty to ensure that this gate is barred against entry at all times. For Fear is afraid of everything, wherever she is. Even a puff of wind strikes terror into her. So I advise her not to unbar this gate for a moment, lest someone steals a rose. A bird flying past her will make her jump. She’s afraid of her own shadow.
Slander was set to guard the fourth gate with soldiers from Normandy. Like a rabble rouser, he made frequent forays to inspect the other three gates as well, and when it was his turn to take the night watch, he would prepare all his trumpets and bagpipes and let them sound far more often than was necessary; for he would walk back and forth along the wall, looking into every nook and cranny, and even when he found nothing he would pretend that he had found something and then a discordant wail would rise up, an awful noise, as he tried and failed to extemporise songs on the Cornish hornpipes, then he’d make a dreadful racket with pipes and flutes and organs as he composed new songs and melodies claiming how he had never in his life met a faithful woman, nor any who was a true wife to her husband, and that he knew of none who wouldn’t laugh with glee if she heard, or saw, a man contemplating lechery, for all of them have some vice or other: one is dishonest, another stupid, if one is prone to wickedness then another will give a nod and a wink in approval, and if one is wanton, then another is a scold. For Slander (God bring him shame) accuses all women, however blameless. He just likes to spread lies. It grieves me to see the sorrow that is visited upon innocent women, and I wish all the bad fortune in the world to those who busy themselves with harming women in this way.
And may Jealousy be confounded as well. He has made a tower and appointed gaolers to imprison Affectionate Embrace for a long time, to live there in penance. And to give him even more grief, Jealousy has appointed an old woman to watch over him. This devil learnt much of Love’s art in her youth and is well-versed in his amusements, she is expert in his service and knows every move and turn in Love’s repertoire, and every trick, so it is impossible to fool her. She was keeping a constant watch on Affectionate Embrace and made his life a misery. She kept him hidden away, lest he should do anything foolish, for she knew all the old dance.
When Jealousy had Affectionate Embrace safely incarcerated in the tower with all his freedoms taken away, and had full confidence in the impregnability of his castle, he had no fear of any villains stealing his roses and rosebuds any more. The roses were now perfectly safe behind a strong wall.
Now Jealousy can laugh and sing! Free of all fear, he knows that his roses are safe.
It was my turn to mourn. I was on the wrong side of the wall. Whoever knew what I was feeling would have pity for me, I can tell you! I had paid too much for the goods that Love had sold to me. I thought I’d made a good bargain, but now, through the doubling of my pain, I could see that he was asking for further payment, another instalment, and having lost what I thought I had gained I was now worse off than I’d been at the start. Like the farmer who sows seed in the ground and celebrates as the plants grow tall and strong – with a pleasant smell and bearing some fine flowers – but then a storm arrives and blows it all down before he has a chance to harvest anything, his hopes are dashed, and I feared that mine were as well. All my effort had been wasted and my hopes blown away, the flower would not now grow into a seed. Love had seemed to be my friend when I first opened my soul to Affectionate Embrace, who was never less that friendly to me and willing to help me in any way that he could. But Love is so hard to please that he suddenly took it all away again, just when I thought that things were going well.
Love is like Fortune, which changes from moment to moment and is never constant but smiles upon folk for a while and then frowns upon them. You’ll find her now to be a friend, now a foe, her wheel can turn in an instant; she’ll turn away suddenly, for this is how she is. She can raise up the destitute and throw down those who sit in the highest seat, just as she pleases. A man is a fool to trust her. Now I am the one who has been thrust downwards, through change and the turning of the wheel.
Since Affectionate Embrace must be parted from me and shut up in that prison over there, I feel his absence in my heart, for all my joy and all my wellbeing was so much in him, and in the rosebud, that unless that wall which encloses him can open so that I can see him again, Love will not release me from the pain and torment that I feel, nor will he rescue me from the cruel way that things have turned out.
Ah, Affectionate Embrace, my dearest thing! Although you are now a prisoner, at least remain true to me and don’t allow your heart to falter. Don’t let Jealousy, in his rage, put your heart into servitude. Although he may outwardly chastise you and make you bow before him, keep your heart as solid as a rock and be steadfast, and not in any way accommodating to his wishes. Although your body is in prison, make your heart as free as a bird! A faithful heart will not allow itself to be bent, whatever menace it is forced to suffer. If Jealousy hurts you, do the same to him and avenge yourself, at least in thought, if no other way is possible, and in this way you will win out in the end.
And yet, I am fearful that you won’t be able to do it. I worry that you may already hate me for being the cause of your imprisonment. But it wasn’t through any fault of mine. Nothing was ever revealed that should have been kept secret because of me. There is much more harm done to me than to you because of this unfortunate situation. My suffering is worse than any words can describe, it is so bad that it almost drags me into the depths, the thought of it has nearly sent me insane. I can feel my heart bleeding inside me and I dread a comfortless death.
Am I wrong to feel such distress, when wicked liars are so emboldened as to cause me such grief and sorrow? Ah Affectionate Embrace, I can see clearly that they are trying to deceive you, they are trying to make you conform with their law and will pull you along on a string if they can, wherever they wish. I dread that they may already have achieved this, and the thought is destroying me. This game will be my death. If I lose your support, I am dead. There will be no choice for me. If you abandon me, only a life of misery awaits. I will find no comfort anywhere if I am denied your grace. But I hope this will not happen, for then I would be truly in despair.
Here Guillaume de Lorris’s poem ends