Romance of the Rose - Appius and Virginia

Le Roman de la rose

The Tale of Appius and Virginia



















[Reason asserts that Love is superior to Justice; the
Lover asks Reason for proof of this assertion:]


"With pleasure, but
Prithee, thy lips meanwhile keep shut.
Justice held undivided sway
O'er all the earth in Saturn's day.
Saturn, whose son, as Ovid sings,
Cut off, as they were chitterlings,
His father's cullions, and the sea
Consigned them to most cruelly,
And thence was fair Queen Venus born
(Unless old histories be forsworn).
If Justice came again on earth,
And mankind recognised her worth
Once more as in the age of gold,
Sweet brotherhood should then infold
All sons of men, 'neath Justice' eye,
Dwelling together peaceably;

For Love once dead or fled away,
Ruthless would be stern Justice' sway.
But if mankind were joined in one
Great brotherhood of love, then none
Would wrong his fellow, and vice sped
Were not all call for Justice dead?"

The Lover.

"Past doubt it then were needed nought."


"Well say'st thou, for in Love's school taught
All men would live in peaceful rest,
Neither by kings nor lords oppressed.

No provostship or bailiehood
Would people need if all were good;
No judge would then be set above
His fellow-man, and therefore Love
Should before Justice be preferred,
Although 'tis true her voice is heard
Restraining evil, which hath been
Wellspring of all earth's lords, I ween,
In whom is freedom lost. For ne'er,
Except for Crime and Sin, vile pair,
Had kings been known in any land,
Nor Justice shown her iron hand.
For judges, even from the first,
Bewray themselves as men accurst,
But they their own souls should discern,
In hope the world's respect to earn
As men, fair, careful, and upright,
Not giving sentence in despite
Of truth; not false, with palms that itch
For bribes, alike from poor and rich.

But judgment set they at a price,
And ancient usage in a trice
Upset to serve their turn; they clip
And gather, grasp and pare and snip;
And poor and helpless men beguile
Of land or chattels; many a while
The judge who hangs the thief is he
Who ought to deck the gallows tree,
If only he were doomed aright
For all the crimes his hands have dight."


Learn how Virginius made his plea
To Appius, who corruptedly
His Fair and well-loved daughter gave
To Claudius for his chattel slave.

"A CORD vile Appius merited,
When he his felon servant sped
As witness false to foully swear
Against Virginia, maid most fair,
Of brave Virginius daughter dear,
As doth in Livy's page appear,
Because he could not subjugate
Her virtuous mind, nor quell the hate
His suit inspired. Vile Claudius cried
In open court: `Upon my side,
O judge, give sentence, seen I can
Prove clearer claim than other man
To this fair maid, who is to me
The house-bred slave in simple fee,
For she beneath my roof was born,
And being thence unjustly torn,
Was to Virginius' palace led,
And therein reared and nourished.
Great Appius, sentence give, I pray
That, from Virginius reft away,
Restored she be to my good care.
And if denial he should dare
To give my oath, I straight will bring
Good witness to affirm the thing.'
'Twas thus this villain servant told
His vile and treacherous tale with bold,

Unblushing speech, and ere the word
Of brave Virginius could be heard,
Vile Appius hasty judgment gave,
And the pure virgin, as a slave,
Decreed to Claudius. Then her sire,
Most noble knight, his soul afire,
Beheld how this decree unjust
Consigned his loved one to the lust
Of Appius, and that all in vain
He strove to save his child from stain;
So rather than such foul disgrace
Should sully her, he set his face
To suffer grief, than hell more hot,
If Titus Livius japeth not."


This telleth how -- the judgment given --
Virginius unto madness driven,
Strake off his well-loved daughter's head,
Though to her life his life was wed,
Preferring rather that his child
Should die unstained than live defiled
Then the sad head to Appius sent,
Who met his well-earned chastisement.

FOR not in rage, but fondest love,
Virginius slew this spotless dove,
And then, all gory, at the feet
Of Appius cast her visage sweet
In open court, before the eyes
Of all who stood there, and loud cries

OF horror raised they. History saith
That the vile judge ordained the death
Of good Virginius, but the crowd,
The tale all heard, cried out aloud
That such foul treason must not be
Wrought, and yet find impunity:
But for his treachery, to the jail
Straightway the unjust judge they hale,
Who there foul expiation made,
By his own hand to hell betrayed.
And Claudius, witness false and base,
Had met the hangman face to face
Had not Virginius nobly craved
His pardon from the crowd, and saved
His pitiful life; agreed he went
Thenceforth to outer banishment,
While other witnesses forsworn
Met death beneath the people's scorn.

Judges, in short, are scoundrels vile
List ye what Lucan saith the while
In golden verse: `Vain hope! to find
Great power with virtuous will combined.'
But if with hardened hearts they cling
To crime, and strive by pilfering
And robbery base to swell their stream
Of worldly wealth, the Judge supreme
Shall cast them down to hell, and there
Bid Satan cords of steel prepare
To bind their necks. Except I not
Proud kings or prelates, for their lot
Is cast with judges, whether they
Be shaven pates or people lay.

'Tis not for us these men to crown
With state, that they may trample down
Suitors, and every cause exploit
To fill their purses by adroit
Chicanery, and shut their door
To claimants cursed in being poor.
But theirs in person 'tis to sit
Each cause to hear, and judge of it
With righteous care, for false or true,
With all the points that 'long thereto.
Slaves of the populace are they,
Who win full foison day by day
From mother earth, and not their will
It was to let these miscreants fill
Their maws by foul despoil. Their time
All folk should pass in peace, for crime
Judges should punish, and 'tis theirs
Themselves to mount the gallows stairs
And execution do on thieves,
If no man willingly relieves
Their hands thereof, for justice they
Should do whate'er the price they pay.
For since the people 'tis who 'quite
The justicers, undoubted right
Have they to justice, and a vow
These judges made thereto, I trow,
On their investment.

Thy request
Is now fulfilled, and thou mayst rest
Content, since I have given thee proof
Of all thou wouldst for thy behoof."




The judgement

and virtue