IN winter's just return, when Boreas gan his reign,|
And every tree unclothed fast, as nature taught them plain :
In misty morning dark, as sheep are then in hold,
I hied me fast, it sat me on, my sheep for to unfold.
And as it is a thing that lovers have by fits,
Under a palm I heard one cry as he had lost his wits.
Whose voice did ring so shrill in uttering of his plaint,
That I amazed was to hear how love could him attaint.
' Ah ! wretched man,' quoth he ; 'come, death, and rid this woe ;
A just reward, a happy end, if it may chance thee so.
Thy pleasures past have wrought thy woe without redress ;
If thou hadst never felt no joy, thy smart had been the less.'
And rechless* of his life, he gan both sigh and groan :
A rueful thing me thought it was, to hear him make such moan.
'Thou cursed pen,' said he, 'woe-worth the bird thee bare;
The man, the knife, and all that made thee, woe be to their share :
Woe-worth the time and place where I so could indite ;
And woe be it yet once again, the pen that so can write.
Unhappy hand ! it had been happy time for me,
If when to write thou learned first, unjointed hadst thou be.'
Thus cursed he himself, and every other wight,
Save her alone whom love him bound to serve both day and night.
Which when I heard, and saw how he himself fordid ;1
Against the ground with bloody strokes, himself e'en there to rid ;
Had been my heart of flint, it must have melted tho' ;
For in my life I never saw a man so full of woe.
With tears for his redress I rashly to him ran,
And in my arms I caught him fast, and thus I spake him than :
' What woful wight art thou, that in such heavy case
Torments thyself with such despite, here in this desart place ?'
Wherewith as all aghast, fulfill'd with ire and dread,
He cast on me a staring look, with colour pale and dead :
' Nay, what art thou,' quoth he, 'that in this heavy plight
Dost find me here, most woful wretch, that life hath in despite ?'
' I am,' quoth I, 'but poor, and simple in degree ;
A shepherd's charge I have in hand, unworthy though I be.'
With that he gave a sigh, as though the sky should fall,
And loud, alas ! he shrieked oft, and, 'Shepherd,' gan he call,
'Come, hie thee fast at once, and print it in thy heart,
So thou shalt know, and I shall tell thee, guiltless how I smart.'
His back against the tree sore feebled all with faint,
With weary sprite he stretcht him up, and thus he told his plaint :
' Once in my heart,' quoth he, 'it chanced me to love
Such one, in whom hath Nature wrought, her cunning for to prove.
And sure I cannot say, but many years were spent,
With such good will so recompens'd, as both we were content.
Whereto then I me bound, and she likewise also,
The sun should run his course awry, ere we this faith forego.
Who joyed then but I ? who had this worldès bliss ?
Who might compare a life to mine, that never thought on this ?
But dwelling in this truth, amid my greatest joy,
Is me befallen a greater loss than Priam had of Troy.
She is reversed clean, and beareth me in hand,
That my deserts have given cause to break this faithful band :
And for my just excuse availeth no defence.
Now knowest thou all ; I can no more ; but, Shepherd, hie thee hence,
And give him leave to die, that may no longer live :
Whose record, lo ! I claim to have, my death I do forgive.
And eke when I am gone, be bold to speak it plain,
Thou hast seen die the truest man that ever love did pain.'
Wherewith he turned him round, and gasping oft for breath,
Into his arms a tree he raught, and said : 'Welcome my death !
Welcome a thousand fold, now dearer unto me
Than should, without her love to live, an emperor to be.'
Thus in this woful state he yielded up the ghost ;
And little knoweth his lady, what a lover she hath lost.
Whose death when I beheld, no marvel was it, right
For pity though my heart did bleed, to see so piteous sight.
My blood from heat to cold oft changed wonders sore ;
A thousand troubles there I found I never knew before ;
'Tween dread and dolour so my sprites were brought in fear,
That long it was ere I could call to mind what I did there.
But as each thing hath end, so had these pains of mine :
The furies past, and I my wits restor'd by length of time.
Then as I could devise, to seek I thought it best
Where I might find some worthy place for such a corse to rest.
And in my mind it came, from thence not far away,
Where Cressid's love, king Priam's son, the worthy Troilus lay.
By him I made his tomb, in token he was true,
And as to him belonged well, I covered it with blue.
Whose soul by angels' power departed not so soon,
But to the heavens, lo ! it fled, for to receive his doom.