The Lovers' Mass

For words not glossed here see the glossary to the Riverside Chaucer

Introibo (Introit)

With all min whol herte enter
To-fore the famous riche auter
Of the mighty God of Love
Which that stondeth high above
In the Chapel of Cytheron
I will with gret devocion
Go knele and make sacrifise
Like as the custom doth devise
A-fore God praye and wake
Of intent I may be take
To his servise and ther assure
As longe as my lif may dure,
To continue as I best kan
While I live to ben his man.

Confiteor (Confession)

I am aknowe and wot right well
I speke pleinly as I fele
Touchinge the grete tendernesse
Of my youth and my symplesse
Of min unkoning and grene age
Will lete me han noon avantage
To serve love I kan so lite
And yet min hert doth delite
Of his servauntes forto here
To folowe the way of ther servise
Yif I had konning to devise
That I might a serbant be
Amonges other in my degre
Having ful gret repentaunce
In loves court my self to offre
And my servise for to proffre
For fer of my tender youth
Nouther by East ne by South,
Lest Daunger put me a-bake
And Disdain to make wrake
Wold hindre me in mun entente,
Of al this thing I me repente,
As my onscience kan recorde,
I say lowly Misericorde.

Misereatur (Have Mercy)

By god of Loves ordunaunce
Folkes that have repentaunce
Sorowful in herte and no thing right
Which he ha not spent his time aright
But wasted it in idlenesse
Only for lakke of lustinesse
In slep, slugardye, and Slouthe
Of whom is Pity and gret routhe.
But when they repente hem again,
Of al ther time spent in vain,
The god of Love throgh his might
Sith that Mercy passeth right,
Thee mot accepted be to grace
And put Dauunger out of place.
This the will of Dame Venus
And of her Bisshop Genius.

Officium (The Office)

In honour of the god Cupide
First that he may be my guide
In worskip eke of the princesse
Which is lady and maistresse,
By grace they may for me provide,
Humble of herte, devoide of pride,
Envy and rancour set aside,
With-oute change or doublenesse,
In honour of thee
First that he
Joy and welfare in every tide
Be yove to hem, whereso they bide
And yive to hem grace on my distresse
To have pite of ther highnesse,
For in what place I go or ride
In honour of thee
First that he

Kyrie (Have mercy)

Mercy; Mercy; continually; I crye;
In gret disjoint; upon the point; to deye
For that Pite; Is unto me; contraire;
Daunger my fo; Disdain also; whilk tweye
Causen min herte; of mortal smert; dispaire
For that she is; fairest iwis; of fair;
Hath gladnesse; of my seknesse; to playe
Thus my trouble; double and double; doth repaire.

Criste (Christ [have mercy])

Repaireth ay; which night nor day; ne cesseth nought.
Now hope, now dred,; now pensifhede; now thought --
Al thise yfere; palen min chere; and hewe.
Yet to her grace; ech hour and space; I ha besought.
Her list not here; for her daunger; doth ay renewe
Towardes me; for certes she; list not rewe
Upon my paine; and thus my chain; is wrought,
Which hath me bounde; never to be founde; untrewe,

Kyrie (Have Mercy)

Untrewe? Nay; to see that day; God forbede.
Voide Slouthe; kepe my trouthe; in dede.
Eve and morowe; for joy or sorow; I have behight
Til I sterve; ever to serve; her wommanhede.
In erthe living; ther is no thing; maketh me so light.
For I shal die; ne but were her Mercy; mor than right
Of no desertes; but Mercy certes; my journey spede.
Adieu al play; thus may I say; I, woful wight:

Gloria in excelsis (Glory [to God] on high)

Worship to that lord above
That called is the god of Love;
Pes to his servantes everichon
Trewe of hert, stable as ston
That faihful be;

To hertes trewe of ther corage
That list chaunge for no rage,
But kep hem in their hestes stille,
In all maner wedres ille
Pes, concord, and unitee.

God send hem soon their desires
And reles of their hot fires
That brenneth at their herte sore
And encresseth more and more
This my prayere.

And after winter with his showres
God send hem comfort of May flowres;
After gret wind and stormes kene
The glad sonne with bemes shene
May appere,

To yive hem light after dirknesse,
Joy eke after hevynesse
And after dool and ther wepinge
To here the somer fowlles singe
God yive grace.

For ofte sithe men ha seyn
A ful bright day after gret reyn
And til the storm be laid aside,
The herdes under bush abide
And taketh place.

After also the derke night
Voide of the Mone and sterre light,
And after the nightes dool and sorowe
Foloweth oft a ful glad morowe
Of Aventure.

Now, lorde, that knowest hertes alle
Of lovers that for helpe calle,
On her trouthe of mercy rewe,
Namly on swiche as be trewe,
Helpe to recure.

The Orison

Most mighty and most dredful lord,
That knowest hertes fals and trewe
As wel ther thinking as ther word
Both of lovers old and new
Of pity and of mercy rewe
On thy servaunts that be stable
And make ther joye to renewe
Swich as will never be chaungable.

The Epistel in Prose

From the party of the poor plaintif in love with many yers of probacion professed to be trewe, to all the holy Fraternity and Confrary of the same brotherhood and to all Hospitalleres and religious not spotted nor made foul with no crime of apostasy, nouther noted nor attaint with no double face or simulation nor constrained countenaunce of ypocrisy; To alle swich children of stableness with-oute [ 150 ] variaunce of corage or of herte joye Helth and long prosperitee with perfection of perseveraunce, in their trouthe perpetually t'abide:

Experience techeth that pilgrimes and folkes custoumable to vyage [i.e., travel] when they underfange [undertake] any long weye which that is laborious, somwhile of consuetude [habit] and custom they use a maner to rest on ther way, of entente to wipe and wash away the soot off ther visages; and sum also usen to lie adown the hevy fardelles [burdens] off ther bak for to alleggen [ease] ther wery lemmes [limbs] of ther gret burthen; and somme other usen to gadren [gather] wine and somme to drinken other water or wine of their botell or goordes [gourds] to assuage the gret drynesse of ther gredy thirst; and somme of hem somwhile rekne [reckon] and accounten how muche they ha [have] [ 160 ] passed of ther journee and sodenly turne again ther bakkes towardes som notable citees [cities] which they of newe be partid fro. And therwith al recorden and remembren hem of Citees, castelles, and towns which they ha passed by and not forgete hilles ne valeys digne [worthy] to be put in remembraunce of hit for a memorial. Somme entitlen [enter] hem in smalle bookes of report or in tables [tablets] to callen hem to minde when they seen her time. And somme ought callen to minde gret rivers and smalle and perilles of the see that they ha passed by; and when they han alle accounted and again related the parties passed of her journee, of newe they take to hem force, vigor, and strengthe, mightily, without feintise [deception] to perform and manly to accomplish the residue and remnant of her [170] labour.

And thus I, in semblabe wise [similar manner], al the time of my lif from my grene tendre youth and time that I hadde yeres of discrecion, being and continuing as an errring [wandering] pilrgrim in the servise of the mighty and dredful god of Love how many perilous [assages and wayes that I ha passed by. How ofte in complaining I have setten down to wipen away the soot of my importable [insupportable] labour [ 175 ] And dronken ever of my botell and goordes and bitter drinkes of dreryness; and oft sithes assayed to casten down the importable fardel [burden] of min hevy thoughtes; and amonges all thise thinges looked bakwrd to considren and seen the fin and end of my worthy bretheren and predecessours in love that ha passed the same pilgrimage toforn.

And ther I ha founden and seen [ 180 ] the grete trouthe of Troilus, perseverant to his lives ende; The trewe stable mening of Penelope; the clenness of Polycene; the kindnesse of Dido, queen of Carthage; And rad also often in my contemplatif meditacions The Holy Legende of Martyrs of Cupido [Chaucer's LGW], the secree trouthe of Tristram and Ysoude, and the smalle gerdouns [rewards] of woful Palimides.

All these and an hundred thousand mo called [ 185 ] to mind, me semeth amonges all I am on of the most forsake and ferthest set behind of grace, and most hindered to the mercy of my lady dere. Not withstondinge the grete party of my pilgrimage that I ha done, but that I shal ever for life or deth continue and perservere trewe to my lives ende.

Besechinge full lowly to alle you my brethere un_to whom this littel Epistle is direct, [ 190] that it like you of pitee among your devout observaunces to han me recommended with som especial memorye in your prayers, that yet or [ere] I die, I may some mercy finde, Or that the God of love enspire [breathe into] my ladyes herte of his grace what I endure for her sake.


Venus (Citherea)


lack of cunning



Have mercy

ha = have

laziness and Sloth


You must be acceppted

This = This is


thee (i.e. Cupid)

given to them

Which two

ha = have




were not her Mercy greater than Justice


evil weathers (hard times)


sun with bright rays


many times


devoid of the Moon

by chance



rue (have mercy)

Adapted for beginning readers of Middle English from the edition of MS Fairfax 16, fol. 314 by Eleanor P. Hammond, JEGP VII (1908), 95-104; reprinted, with useful introduction and notes in her English Verse Between Chaucer and Surrey,pp. 207-13 (Widener 10494.224.5).