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The Floure of Curtesye

John Lydgate 1370 (Suffolk) – 1451

In Feverier, whan the frosty moone
Was horned, ful of Phebus firy lyght,
And that she gan to reyse her streames sone,
Saynt Valentyne, upon thy blisful nyght
Of dutie whan glad is every wight,
And foules chese, to voyde her olde sorowe,
Everyche his make, upon the next morowe,

The same tyme, I herde a larke synge
Ful lustely, agayne the morowe gray:
'Awake, ye lovers, out of your slombringe,
This glad morowe, in al the haste ye may!
Some observaunce dothe unto this day,
Your choyse agen of herte to renewe,
In confyrmyng forever to be trewe.

'And ye that be, of chosyng, at your large
This lusty day, by custome of nature,
Take upon you the blisful holy charge
To serve love, whyle your lyfe may dure,
With herte, body, and al your besy cure,
Forevermore, as Venus and Cipride
For you disposeth, and the god Cupyde.

'For joye owe we playnly to obey
Unto this lordes mighty ordynaunce,
And, mercylesse, rather forto dye,
Than ever in you be founden varyaunce;
And though your lyfe be medled with grevaunce,
And, at your herte, closed be your wounde,
Beth alway one, there as ye are bounde.'

That whan I had herde and lysted longe,
With devoute herte, the lusty melodye
Of this hevenly comfortable songe,
So agreable as by ermonye,
I rose anon, and faste gan me hye
Towarde a grove, and the way take,
Foules to sene everyche chose his make.

And yet I was ful thursty in languisshyng;
Myn ague was so fervent in his hete,
Whan Aurora, for drery complaynyng,
Can distyl her chrystal teeres wete
Upon the soyle with sylver dewe so swete;
For she durste, for shame, not apere
Under the lyght of Phebus beames clere.

And so, for anguysshe of my paynes kene,
And for constraynte of my sighes sore,
I set me downe under a laurer grene
Ful pitously; and alway more and more,
As I behelde into the holtes hore,
I gan complayne myn inwarde deedly smerte,
That aye so sore crampisshed myn herte.

And whyle that I, in my drery payne
Sate and behelde, aboute on every tre
The foules sytte, alway twayne and twayne,
Than thought I thus: 'Alas, what may this be,
That every foule hath his lyberté
Frely to chose, after his desyre,
Everyche his make thus, fro yere to yere?

'The sely wrenne, the tytemose also,
The lytel redbrest, have free election
To flyen yfere and togyther go
Where as hem lyst, aboute envyron,
As they of kynde have inclynacion,
And as Nature, empresse and gyde
Of every thyng, lyst to provyde.

But man alone, alas, the harde stounde!
Ful cruelly, by kyndes ordynaunce,
Constrayned is, and by statute bounde
And debarred, from al suche plesaunce.
What meneth this? What is this purveyaunce
Of God above, agayne al right of kynde,
Without cause, so narowe man to bynde?

'Thus may I sene, and playne, alas!
My woful houre and my disaventure,
That doulfully stonde in the same caas
So ferre behynde from al helth and cure.
My wounde abydeth lyke a sursanure;
For me fortune so felly lyste dispose,
My harme is hyd, that I dare not disclose.

'For I my herte have set in suche a place
Where I am never lykely forto spede,
So ferre I am hyndred from her grace
That, save Daunger, I have none other mede;
And thus, alas, I not who shal me rede,
Ne for myne helpe shape remedye,
For Male Bouche, and for false Envye.

'The whiche twayne aye stondeth in my wey
Malyciously, and false Suspection
Is very cause also that I dey,
Gynnyng and rote of my distruction,
So that I fele, in conclusyon,
With her traynes that they wol me shende
Of my labour, that dethe mote make an ende.

'Yet or I dye, with herte, wyl, and thought,
To God of Love this avowe I make:
As I best can, howe dere that it be bought,
Where so it be that I slepe or wake,
Whyle Boreas dothe the leaves shake,
As I have heyght plainly, tyl I sterve,
For wel or wo, that I shal her serve.

'And for her sake, nowe this holy tyme,
Saynt Valentyne, somwhat shal I write;
Although so be that I cannot ryme,
Nor curyously by no crafte endyte,
Yet lever I have that she put the wyte
In unconnyng than in neglygence,
Whatever I saye of her excellence.

'Whatever I say, it is of duté,
In sothfastnesse, and no presumpcion;
This I ensure to you that shal it se,
That it is al under correction,
What I reherce in commendacion
Of her, that I shal to you, as blyve,
So as I can, her vertues here discryve.

'Ryght by example as the somer sonne
Passeth the sterre with his beames shene,
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

4:01 min read

John Lydgate

John Lydgate of Bury was a monk and poet, born in Lidgate, Suffolk, England. The sheer bulk of Lydgate's poetic output is prodigious, amounting, at a conservative count, to about 145,000 lines. He explored and established every major Chaucerian genre, except such as were manifestly unsuited to his profession, like the fabliau. In the Troy Book, an amplified translation of the Trojan history of the thirteenth-century Latin writer Guido delle Colonne, commissioned by Prince Henry, he moved deliberately beyond Chaucer's Knight's Tale and his Troilus, to provide a full-scale epic. The Siege of Thebes is a shorter excursion in the same field of chivalric epic. The Monk's Tale, a brief catalog of the vicissitudes of Fortune, gives a hint of what is to come in Lydgate's massive Fall of Princes, which is also derived, though not directly, from Boccaccio's De Casibus Virorum Illustrium. The Man of Law's Tale, with its rhetorical elaboration of apostrophe, invocation, and digression in what is essentially a saint's legend, is the model for Lydgate's legends of St. Edmund and St. more…

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