Hoccleve's Translation of The Epistle of Cupid by Christine da Pisan

The text is lightly glossed; see the glossary in the Riverside Chaucer for words not defined here.

Cupido, unto whos commandement 
The gentil kinrede of goddes on hy on high, above
And peple infernal been obedient, 
And the mortel folk seruen bisyly, 
5 Of goddesse Sitheree sone oonly, only son of . . . Citherea (Venus)
To alle tho that to our deitee tho = those
Been sogettes greetinges senden we. subject
In general, we wole that yee knowe 
That ladies of honour and reverence 
10 And other gentil wommen han ysowe sown, distrubuted
Swich seed of complainte in our audience  hearing
Of men that doon hem outrage and offense 
That it our eres greeveth for to heere, grieves our easrs to hear
So pitous is th' effect of hir mateere; 
15 And passing alle londes on this yle isle, island
That clept is Albioun they moost complaine; is called
They sayn that ther is croppe and roote of guile, top and bottom (i.e., everything) of guile
So can tho men dissimulen and faine Those men so well know how
With standing dropes in hir eyen twaine, their two eyes
20 Whan that hir herte feeleth no distresse. their heart
To blinde wommen with hir doublenesse, their hypocrisy
Hir wordes spoken been so sighingly 
And with so pitous cheere and contenance, 
That every wight that meeneth trewely 
25 Deemeth that they in herte han swich greuance. 
They sayn so importable is hir penance unbearable
That but hir lady list to shewe hem grace unless their lady desires
They right anoon moot sterven in the place. immedately must die
A, lady min, they sayn, "I yow ensure, 
30 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; 
35 And elles moot min herte breste on two." must . . . burst
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 please
40 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, moved by pity
Weening al thing were as that tho men saye, supposing . . . those
45 Granten hem grace of hir benignitee, grant them (i.e., men)
For they nat sholden for hir sake deye, die
And with good herte sette hem in the weye 
Of blisful love -- keepe it if they konne! 
Thus other while been the wommen wonne. 
50 And whan the man the pot hath by the stele, steel (handle)
And fully of her hath possessioun, 
With that womman he keepeth nat to dele cares not to deal
After, if he may finden in the toun afterwards
Any womman his blind affeccion 
55 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, mate
As unto every wight is light to knowe, easy
Whan this Traitour the womman hath forsake 
60 He faste him speedeth unto his felowe; 
Til he be ther his herte is on a lowe, fire, flame
His fals deceit ne may him nat suffise, 
But of his treson telleth al the wise. 
Is this a fair avaunt? Is this honour boast
65 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 
70 But ful greet repreef unto him and here. reproof
To her nay yit was it no repreef, denial 
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 -- 
75 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 trickery . . . craftiness
A sely, simple, and ignorant womman innocent
80 Betraye is no wonder, syn the Citee since
Of Troie, as that the storie telle can, history
Betrayed was thurgh the deceit of man, 
And set afir and al doun overthrowe, 
And finally destroyed as men knowe. 
85 Betrayen men nat Remes grete and kinges? realms
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 
90 To thing that souneth into hy falshede? tends to . . . high
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, 
95 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,
100 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 riding
And as an hors fro day to day is hired,
That whan thou twinnest from hir compaignie
105 Another comth and blered is thin eye. bleared (tricked)
Now prike on faste and ride thy journeye; 
Whil thou art ther, shee behinde thy bak 
So liberal is shee can no wight withsaye, refuse
But quikly of another take a snak, 
110 For so the wommen faren al the pak. 
Whoso hem trusteth hanged moot he be! 
Ay they desiren chaunge and noveltee. 
Wherof procedeth this but of envye? 
For he himself here ne winne may, Since
115 Repreef of her he speketh and villenye vilainy
As mannes labbing tonge is wont alway. gabbing . . . accustomed
Thus sundry men ful often make assay 
For to disturbe folk in sundry wise ways
For they may nat acheven hir emprise. 
120 Ful many a man eek wolde for no good 
That hath in love spent his time and used 
Men wiste his lady his axing withstood refused his request
And that he were of his lady refused, If
Or waast and vain were al that he had mused empty
125 Wherfore he can no bettre remedie knows
But on his lady shapeth him to lie: intends
Every womman, he sayth," is light to gete; easy
Can noon sayn `nay' if shee be wel ysoght. pursued 
Whoso may leiser han with hir to trete have leisure . . . converse
130 Of his purpos ne shal he faille noght." 
But on madding he be so deepe broght in madness
That he shende al with open hoomlynesse ruin
That loven wommen nat as that I gesse. 
To sclaundre wommen thus what may profite slander
135 To gentils namly that hem armen sholde arm themselves
And in deffense of wommen hem delite delight
As that the ordre of gentillesse wolde would (require)
If that a man list gentil to be holde considered
Al moot he flee that is to it contrary All must he
140 A sclaundring tonge is therto Aduersary. 
A foul vice is of tonge to be light 
For whoso mochil clappeth gabbeth ofte speaks muh often lies
The tonge of man so swift is and so wight 
That whan it is araised up on lofte  raised
145 Reson it sueth so slowly and softe follows
That it him nevere overtake may. 
Lord, so the men been trusty at assay! trial (when tested)
Al be it that men finde o womman nice, one . . . foolis
Inconstant, rechelees, or variable heedless of rules
150 Deinous, or proud, fulfilled of malice, disdainful
Withoute faith or love and deceivable, 
Sly, queinte and fals, in al unthrift coupable, foolshness culpable
Wikked and feers and ful of crueltee -- fierce 
It folweth nat swiche alle wommen be. 
155 Whan that the hy god angels fourmed hadde high
Among hem alle whether ther was noon (whether is not translated)
That founden was malicious and badde? 
Yis, men wel knowen ther was many oon 
That for hir pride fel from hevene anoon. 
160 Shal man therfore alle angels proude name? 
Nay, he that that susteneth is to blame. 
Of twelue apostles oon a traitour was; 
The remanaunt yit goode were and true. 
Thanne, if it happe men finden par cas by chance
165 O womman fals, swich is good for t' eschewe One
And deeme nat that they been alle untrue. 
I see wel mennes owne falsenesse 
Hem causeth wommen for to truste lesse. 
O, every man oghte han an herte tendre 
170 Unto womman and deeme her honurable, 
Whether his shap be either thikke or sclendre fat or thin
Or he be badde or good; this is no fable. 
Every man woot that wit hath resonable Every man who has a reasonable mind knows
That of a womman he descended is. 
175 Than is it shame speke of hir amis. 
A wikked tree good fruit may noon foorth bringe 
For swich the fruit is, as that is the tree. 
Take heede of whom thou took thy beginninge 
Lat thy moder be mirour unto thee; 
180 Honoure her if thou wilt honoured be. 
Dispise thou nat her in no maneere 
Lest that therthurgh thy wikkednesse appeere. through that
An old proverbe seid is in English 
Men sayn that brid or foul is dishonest, bird
185 What so it be, and holden ful cherlish 
That wont is to deffoule his owne nest. 
Men to saye of wommen wel it is best 
And nat for to despise hem ne deprave
If that hem list hir honour keepe and save. 
190 Ladies eek complainen hem on clerkes 
That they han maad bookes of hir deffame their slander
In whiche they lakken wommennes werkes criticize
And speken of hem greet repreef and shame reproof
And causelees hem yeue a wikked name. give them
195 Thus they dispised been on every side 
And sclaundred and belowen on ful wide. bellowed (talked about) 
Tho wikked bookes maken mencion 
How they betrayeden in special 
Adam, Dauid, Sampson, and Salomon 
200 And many oon mo. Who may rehercen al many one more
The tresoun that they have doon and shal? 
Who may hir hy malice comprehende? Who can their high
Nat the world, clerkes sayn; it hath noon ende. 
Ovide in his book called Remedie Remedy (Remedia amoris)
205 Of Love greet repreef of wommen writeth, reproof
Wherin I trowe he dide greet folie 
And every wight that in swich cas deliteth; 
A clerkes custume is whan he enditeth custom . . . composes
Of wommen, be it prose rym or vers, rhyme
210 Sayn they be wikke, al knowe he the revers. To say . . . although
And that book scolers lerne in hir childhede 
For they of wommen be waar sholde in age, 
And for to love hem evere been in drede, 
Syn to deceive is set al hir corage. Since . . . heart (desire)
215 They sayn peril to caste is avantage; consider, plan for
Namely swich as men han in be trapped, 
For many a man by wommen han mishapped 
No charge what so that the Clerkes sayn 
Of al hir wrong wryting do we no cure 
220 Al hir labour and travaille is in vain 
For betwixt us and my lady Nature 
Shal nat be suffred whil the world may dure 
Clerkes by hir outrageous tirannye 
Thus upon wommen kithen hir maistrye make known their
225 Whilom ful many of hem were in our chaine 
Tied and -- lo! -- now what for unweeldy age 
And for unlust may nat to love attaine 
And sayn that love is but verray dotage; 
Thus for that they hemself lakken corage 
230 They folk exciten by hir wikked sawes 
For to rebelle again us and our lawes. 
But maugree hem that blamen wommen moost 
Swich is the force of oure impressioun 
That sodeinly we felle can hir boost 
235 And al hir wrong imaginacioun 
It shal nat been in hir elleccioun 
The foulest slutte in al a town refuse 
If that us list, for al that they can muse. 
But her in herte as brenningly desire 
240 As thogh shee were a duchesse or a queene 
So can we mennes hertes sette on fire 
And as us list hem sende joye and teene 
They that to wommen been ywhet so keene whetted (eager for) 
Our sharpe strokes how sore they smite 
245 Shul feele and knowe and how they kerve and bite. 
Pardee, this greet clerk, this sotil Ovide subtle
And many another han deceived be 
Of wommen, as it knowen is ful wide. 
What no men more and that is greet daintee 
250 So excellent a clerk as that was he 
And other mo that koude so wel preche 
Betrapped wern for aght they koude teche. 
And trusteth wel that it is no meruaille 
For wommen knewen plainly hir entente 
255 They wiste how sotilly they koude assaille 
Hem and what falshode in herte they mente 
And tho Clerkes they in hir daunger hente 
With o venym another was destroyed  venom
And thus the Clerkes often were anoyed 
260 Thise ladies ne gentils nathelees These
Weren nat they that wroghten in this wise manner
But swiche filthes that wern vertulees were without virtue
They quitten thus thise olde Clerkes wise 
To clerkes forthy lesse may suffise 
265 Than to deprave wommen generally defame
For honour shuln they gete noon therby. shall
If that tho men that lovers hem pretende 
To wommen weren faithful, goode, and true, 
And dredden hem to deceive and offende, 
270 Wommen to love hem wolde nat eschewe; 
But every day hath man an herte neewe 
It upon oon abide can no while. it cannot remain on one
What force is it swich oon for to beguile? 
Men beren eek the wommen up on honde i.e., decieve
275 That lightly and withouten any paine 
They wonne been; they can no wight withstonde 
That his disese list to hem complaine. 
They been so freel they mowe hem nat restraine. frail . . . may
But whoso liketh may hem lightly have 
280 So been hir hertes esy in to grave. 
To Maistir Iohn de Meun as I suppose 
Than it was a lewde occupacioun 
In makinge of the Romance of the Rose --
So many a sly imaginacioun 
285 And perils for to rollen up and doun -- 
So long procees, so many a sly cautele, trick
For to deceive a sely damoisele! innocent
Nat can we seen, ne in our wit comprehende 
That art and paine and sotiltee may faille taking pains . . . subtlty
290 For to conquere and soone make an ende, 
Whan man a feeble place shal assaille, 
And soone also to venquishe a Bataille 
Of which no wight dar make resistence, 
Ne herte hath noon to stonden at deffense. 
295 Than moot it folwen of necessitee 
Syn art asketh so greet engin and paine ingenuity
A womman to deceive, what shee be, whatever
Of constance they been nat so bareine barren
As that some of tho sotil clerkes feine, 
300 But they been as that wommen oghten be: 
Sad, constaunt, and fulfilled of pitee 
How freendly was Medea to Jasoun Medea (see Chaucer, LGW)
In the conquering of the flees of gold! 
How falsly quitte he her affeccion, 
305 By whom victorie he gat as he hath wold. 
How may this man for shame be so bold 
To falsen her that from deeth and shame 
Him kepte and gat him so greet prys and name? 
Of Troie also the traitour Eneas
310 The feithlees man how hath he him forswore 
To Dido that Queene of Cartage was Dido (see Chaucer, LGW)
That him releeved of his greeves sore. troubles, griefs
What gentillesse mighte shee do more 
Than shee with herte unfeined to him kidde? made known
315 And what mescheef to her of it betidde! 
In our Legende of Martyrs may men finde i.e., Chaucer's Legend of Good Women
Whoso that liketh therin for to rede 
That ooth noon ne beheste may men binde; promise
Of repreef ne of shame han they no drede; 
320 In herte of man conceites true arn dede; true thoughts are dead
The soile is naght; ther may no trouthe growe. 
To womman is hir vice nat unknowe 
Clerkes sayn also ther is no malice 
Unto wommannes crabbed wikkednesse. 
325 O womman, how shalt thou thyself chevice, sustain
Syn men of thee so mochil harm witnesse? 
Yee, strah! Do foorth! Take noon hevynesse! straw!
Keepe thin owne, what men clappe or crake whatever men may say
And some of hem shuln smerte, I undertake. shall suffer for it
330 Malice of wommen what is it to drede? 
They slee no men, destroyen no citees, 
They nat oppressen folk, ne overlede, overwhelm
Betraye Empires, Remes, ne Duchees, realms
Ne men bereve hir landes ne hir mees, sustenance
335 Folk enpoisone or houses sette on fire, 
Ne fals contractes maken for noon hire. 
Trust parfit love and enteer charitee, entire, perfect
Fervent wil and entalented corage. 
To thewes goode as it sit wel to be manners 
340 Han wommen ay of custume and usage; 
And wel they can a mannes ire assuage 
With softe wordes discreet and benigne 
What they been inward sheweth owtward signe. 
Wommannes herte to no crueltee 
345 Enclined is; but they been charitable 
Pitous, devout, ful of humilitee, 
Shamefast, debonair, and amiable, 
Dreedful, and of hir wordes mesurable; 
What womman thise hath nat par aventure 
350 Folweth nothing the way of hir nature. 
Men sayn our firste moder nathelees mother
Mede al mankinde leese his libertee to lose
And naked it of joye doutelees, denuded
For goddes heeste disobeyed shee command
355 Whan shee presumed to ete of the tree 
Which god forbad that shee nat ete of sholde, 
And nad the feend been, no more she wolde. nad = ne hadde, had not
Th' envious swelling that the feend our fo 
Had unto man in herte for his welthe 
360 Sente a serpent and made her to go 
To deceive Eve; and thus was mannes welthe 
Bereft him by the feend right in a stelthe, 
The womman nat knowing of the deceit. 
God woot ful fer was it from hir conceit! mind
365 Wherfor we sayn this good womman Eve 
Our fadir Adam ne deceived noght 
Ther may no man for a deceit it preeve 
Proprely, but if that shee in hir thoght 
Had it compassed first or it was wroght; plotte
370 And for swich was nat hir impressioun, 
Men calle it may no deceit by resoun 
No wight deceiveth but he it purpose 
The feend this deceit caste and nothing shee. 
Than is it wrong for to deeme or suppose 
375 That shee sholde of that guilt the cause be. 
Witeth the feend and his be the maugree, ill will
And for excused have hir innocence, 
Sauf oonly that shee brak obedience. 
Touchinge which, ful fewe men ther been -- 
380 Unnethes any dar we saufly saye -- 
Fro day to day as men mowe wel seen, 
But that the heeste of god they disobeye. command
This have in minde, sires, we yow preye 
If that yee be discreet and resonable 
385 Yee wole hir holde the more excusable 
And wher men sayn in man is stedfastnesse 
And womman is of hir corage unstable, 
Who may of Adam bere swich witnesse? 
Telleth on this: was he nat changeable? 
390 They bothe weren in a cas semblable, 
Sauf willingly the feend deceived Eve. 
So dide shee nat Adam, by your leeve! 
Yit was that sinne happy to mankinde: 
The feend deceived was for al his sleighte. 
395 For aght he koude him in his sleightes winde, 
God to discharge mankinde of the weighte 
Of his trespas cam doun from hevenes heighte, 
And flesh and blood he took of a virgine, 
And souffred deeth man to delivere of pine. pain
400 And god fro whom ther may nothing hid be, 
If he in womman knowe had swich malice, 
As men of hem recorde in generaltee 
Of our lady of lif reparatrice restorer
Nolde han be born; but for that shee of vice 
405 Was voide and of al vertu wel he wiste 
Endowed of her be born him liste. 
Her heped vertu hath swich excellence
That al too weyk is mannes facultee weak
To declare it; and therfore in suspense 
410 Her due laude put moot needes be. praises
But this we witen verraily: that shee, 
Next god, the best freend is that to man longeth. 
The keye of mercy by hir girdil hongeth. 
And of mercy hath every wight swich neede 
415 That, cessing it, farwel the joye of man! 
Of hir power it is to taken heede; 
Shee mercy may, wole, and purchace can; 
Displese her nat! Honureth that womman 
And other wommen alle for hir sake; 
420 And but yee do, your sorwe shal awake. 
Thou precious gemme, martyr margarete, martyred pearl
Of thy blood dreddest noon effusioun; 
Thy martyrdom ne may we nat foryete. 
O constant womman, in thy passioun 
425 Overcam the feendes temptacioun, 
And many a wight converted thy doctrine 
Unto the feith of god, holy virgine. 
But understondeth: we commende hir noght 
By encheson of hir virginitee 
430 Trusteth right wel it cam nat in our thoght 
For ay we werreie again chastitee wage war
And evere shal; but this leeveth wel yee: believe
Her loving herte and constant to hir lay law
Drive out of remembrance we nat may. 
435 In any book also wher can yee finde 
That of the wirkes or the deeth or lif 
Of Jhesu spekth or maketh any minde 
That wommen him forsook for wo or strif 
Wher was ther any wight so ententif 
440 Abouten him as wommen pardee noon 
Th' apostles him forsooken everichoon 
Wommen forsook him noght for al the feith 
Of holy chirche in womman lefte oonly 
This is no lees for thus holy writ sayth 
445 Looke and yee shuln so finde it hardily 
And therfore it may preeved be therby 
That in womman regneth al the constaunce 
And in man is al chaunge and variaunce 
Now holdeth this for ferme and for no lye 
450 That this treewe and just commendacioun 
Of wommen is nat told for flaterye 
Ne to cause hem pride or elacioun 
But oonly -- lo! -- for this entencioun 
To yeue hem corage of perseverance 
455 In vertu and hir honur to enhaunce 
The more vertu, the lasse is the pride; 
Vertu so noble is and worthy in kinde 
That vice and shee may nat in feere abide 
Shee putteth vice cleene out of minde 
460 Shee fleeth from him shee leveth him behinde 
O womman that of vertu art hostesse, 
Greet is thin honur and thy worthynesse. 
Than thus we wolen conclude and deffine: 
We yow commaunde our Ministres echoon 
465 That reedy been to our hestes encline 
That of tho men untrue, our rebel foon, foes
Yee do punishement and that anoon 
Voide hem our Court and banishe hem for evere 
So that therinne they ne come nevere. 
470 Fulfilled be it! Cessing al delay, 
Looke ther be noon excusacion. 
Writen in th' air the lusty monthe of May 
In our Paleys wher many a milion 
Of lovers true han habitacion 
475 The yeer of grace joyeful and jocounde 
One thousand four hundred and secounde. 

The text is from the edition (in progress) by Charles Blyth; used by permission.