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The Letter of Cupid

Thomas Hoccleve 1368 – 1426



Cupido, unto whos commandement
The gentil kinrede of goddes on hy
And peple infernal been obedient,
And the mortel folk seruen bisyly,
Of goddesse Sitheree sone oonly,
To alle tho that to our deitee
Been sogettes greetinges senden we.

In general, we wole that yee knowe
That ladies of honour and reverence
And other gentil wommen han ysowe
Swich seed of complainte in our audience
Of men that doon hem outrage and offense
That it our eres greeveth for to heere,
So pitous is th' effect of hir mateere;
And passing alle londes on this yle
That clept is Albioun they moost complaine;
They sayn that ther is croppe and roote of guile,
So can tho men dissimulen and faine
With standing dropes in hir eyen twaine,
Whan that hir herte feeleth no distresse.
To blinde wommen with hir doublenesse,

Hir wordes spoken been so sighingly
And with so pitous cheere and contenance,
That every wight that meeneth trewely
Deemeth that they in herte han swich greuance.
They sayn so importable is hir penance

That but hir lady list to shewe hem grace
They right anoon moot sterven in the place.

"A, lady min," they sayn, "I yow ensure,
Shewe me grace and I shal evere be,
Whiles my lif may lasten and endure,
To yow as humble in every degree
As possible is, and keepe al thing secree
As that yourselven liketh that I do;
And elles moot min herte breste on two."

Ful hard is it to knowe a mannes herte,
For outward may no man the truthe deeme
Whan word out of his mouth may ther noon sterte,
But it sholde any wight by reson queeme
So is it seid of herte, it wolde seeme.
O faithful womman, ful of Innocence,
Thou art betrayed by fals apparence!

By procees wommen, meved of pitee,
Weening al thing were as that tho men saye,
Granten hem grace of hir benignitee,
For they nat sholden for hir sake deye,
And with good herte sette hem in the weye
Of blisful love -- keepe it if they konne!
Thus other while been the wommen wonne.

And whan the man the pot hath by the stele,
And fully of her hath possessioun,
With that womman he keepeth nat to dele
After, if he may finden in the toun
Any womman his blind affeccion
On to bestowe -- foule moot he preeve!
A man for al his ooth is hard to leeve.

And for that every fals man hath a make,
As unto every wight is light to knowe,
Whan this Traitour the womman hath forsake
He faste him speedeth unto his felowe;
Til he be ther his herte is on a lowe,
His fals deceit ne may him nat suffise,
But of his treson telleth al the wise.

Is this a fair avaunt? Is this honour
A man himself to accuse and diffame?
Now is it good confesse him a traitour,
And bringe a womman to a sclaundrous name,
And telle how he hir body hath doon shame;
No worship may he thus to him conquere
But ful greet repreef unto him and here.

To her nay yit was it no repreef,
For al for pitee was it that shee wroghte;
But he that breewed hath al this mescheef,
That spak so fair and falsly inward thoghte --
His be the shame as it by reson oghte;
And unto her thank perpetuel
That in a neede helpe can so wel.

Althogh that men by sleighte and sotiltee
A sely, simple, and ignorant womman
Betraye is no wonder, syn the Citee
Of Troie, as that the storie telle can,
Betrayed was thurgh the deceit of man,
And set afir and al doun overthrowe,
And finally destroyed as men knowe.

Betrayen men nat Remes grete and kinges?
What wight is, that can shape a remedie
Againes false and hid purposed thinges?
Who can the craft tho castes to espye,
But man whos wil ay reedy is t' applye
To thing that souneth into hy falshede?
Wommen, be waar of mennes sleighte, I rede;

And ferthermore han the men in usage,
That wheras they nat likly been to speede
Swiche as they been with a double visage,
They procuren for to pursue hir neede;
He prayeth him in his cause proceede
And largely him quiteth his travaille;
Smal witen wommen how men hem assaille.

To his felawe another wreche sayth,
"Thou fishest fair! Shee that hath thee fired
Is fals and inconstant and hath no faith.
Shee for the rode of folk is so desired
And as an hors fro day to day is hired,
That whan thou twinnest from hir compaignie
Another comth and blered is thin eye.

Now prike on faste and ride thy journeye;
Whil thou art ther, shee behinde thy bak
So liberal is shee can no wight withsaye,
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Thomas Hoccleve

Thomas Hoccleve or Occleve was an English poet and clerk. more…

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