The Romance of the Rose - The Duenna's Speech

Guillaume Lorris and Jean de Meun (le Clopinel)
The Romance of the Rose (13th Cent.)

The Duenna's Speech on Women and Love

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The Duenna.

Fair-Welcome, dear, no cherubim
Is fair, and sweet, and good as you.
My joyous days are all worn through,
While yours are barely yet begun,
Your woof of life as yet unspun.
Alas! my strength is on the wane,
And needs must I my limbs sustain
Ere long on helpful crutch or staff,
While you with joy-brimmed heart may laugh
Careless of what your fate may be.
Yet must you pass, assuredly,
Sooner or later, through the fire,
Which all men feel of love's desire,
And in that wave must plunge you, which
Queen Venus dights for poor and rich.
Prepare you, then, belovèd one,
Ere over you love's waters run,
By these wise counsellings I give;
For he doth perilously live

Who breasts love's waves, yet knows them not,
But if my creed you once have got
By heart, you shall arrive at last
Safely in port, all dangers past.

Believe me, if, when young as you,
I'd known love's art as now I do,
And of its ways had been aware
(For I, in youth, was passing fair),
You would not hear me groan and sigh
As I consider mournfully
My outworn visage, and repine
At every pucker, seam and line,
When of my beauty lost I think,
Whereof gay lovers fain would drink
Long draughts to quench their lovesick heat:
(Good Lord! it makes my pulses beat!)
For then was I of high renown,
Alike in countryside and town,
For fairness, and of gallants proud
And rich there never lacked a crowd
Around my dwelling. Many a score
Of blows came rattling 'gainst my door,
When I disdained with answering word
To let them know their calls were heard,
Because it happed forsooth that I
Already had good company.
Hereout grew oft a wild uproar,
And monstrous wroth was I therefor.
The porch, 'neath stout and sturdy stroke,
Would yield sometimes, and then awoke
A fierce mellee, and lives and limbs
Were lost to please my wayward whims,

For sharply raged fierce contests then.
If learnèd Algus, of all men
The wisest in his reckoning,
Should his ten wondrous figures bring
To bear thereon, I doubt if well
By multiplying he could tell
The number of the deadly fights
Wherein my gallants strove o' nights.
Right fair of face was I, and sound
Of body, and of sterlings round
Had many a thousand, glistering white,
But like a dunce my business dight.
I was, in truth, a fair young fool,
Of no experience in love's school.
Nought of love's theory I knew,
But learned in its practice grew,
And all throughout my life have I
Its battles fought unflinchingly.
And now to you may I impart
The mysteries of that sweet art,
For blame were mine should I forego
To teach young folk the lore I know.
'Tis no great marvel if love's pleasure
You neither know to mete or measure,
Since you are but a nestling still,
With callow wings and yellow bill;
While I so wrought have in the field
Of love that unto none I yield
In knowledge, but might lightly dare
To fill a grave professor's chair.
'Tis but a fool who would despise
And mock old age, by time grown wise,
For wit and practice there are found,
And many who have trod the round
Of life have proved, beyond a doubt,
Those good, when all is else worn out
On which they have their substance spent;
Save for that twain their lives were shent.
When I had wit through practice won,
A thing with no small labour done,
Full many a noble man did I
Trick and beguile most skilfully
But also, often was deceived
Ere yet full wit had I achieved.
Unhappy wretch! 'twas all too late,
Youth failed and left me desolate.

And now beheld I that my door,
Which on its hinges heretofore
Swung day and night, stood idly to,
From hour to hour none passed therethrough,
Until I thought: 'Alas! poor soul,
Thy life is changed to grief and dole!'
When thus I saw my dwelling left
Deserted, nigh in twain was cleft
My heart, and I betook me thence,
Shamed and abashed my every sense.
Such misery scarce could I endure,
What balsam my deep wounds could cure,
When gay-clad gallants in the street,
Who lately fawned before my feet,
And spent their breath to sing my praise,
Now passed me in the public ways
Unheedingly, with heads tossed high,
As I were struck with leprosy?

They'd pass me by with hop and skip
As one not worth an apple pip:
And some, to whom I'd favour shown,
Now voted me a wrinkled crone.
It seemed as each would put on me
Some new refined indignity.

Upon the other hand no man,
How fine soe'er of feeling, can,
Dear friend, believe the woes I felt,
Or how mine eyes in tears would melt,
When rose the picture in my mind
Of old good days when kisses kind
Were showered upon me 'mid delights
Of joyous days and passioned nights --
Sweet words to sweeter actions wed.
Alas! for ever all are fled,
Past over to return no more.
Far better had a prison door
Closed on me than that I were born
So soon. Ah God! what scathing scorn
Have fair gifts lost brought down on me,
And consciousness they ne'er can be
Reclaimed hath sent a poisoned dart
Of anguish through my wasted heart.
I ask again, why was I born
So soon? unhappy wretch forlorn!
Is there, but you, one single one
To whom I can complain, dear son?
In no wise could my vengeance reach
My foes so well as if I teach
To you my doctrine for this end;
Thereon my breath I well may spend,

With well-proved precepts how to be
A scourge to those who scourged me;
And you right apt will be thereto
Recalling all I say to you,
Since you by happy chance have got
So young a mind as faileth not
To keep in memory the wit
That old experience plants in it.
For Plato said, long years agone,
That, things which men in youth had known
Stay fixed within the memory fast,
Though many a year be overpast.

Ah, dearest son, beloved youth,
If strong and young as you forsooth
I were, the laws by Draco made
My fierce revenge should cast in shade:
Such vengeance on my foes I'd take,
Before I could mine anger slake,
As never yet was known ere now
In all the world's great age I trow.
Those ribalds who have passed me by
With mocks and jeers, insultingly,
And have disdained my glance to meet,
With open scorn in public street,
Good Lord! but they should dearly pay
Whene'er arrived the reckoning day,
For that contemptuous, scathing pride
Wherewith they have my spirit tried.
For, using the experience I
Have learned through God's good clemency.
Know you the fashion they should fare?
In my turn would I pluck them bare;

And then, as grapes within a press
Are trod, I'd tread them; penniless
Should they be left, and foul worms feed
Upon them in their direful need,
Whilst on a dunghill should they lie
Naked, in filth and misery.
And those who, in my prosperous days,
Were foremost in my love and praise,
Would I most cruelly entreat,
And spurn like dogs beneath my feet,
Aye, grind them to the very earth,
And pill them till they were not worth
A clove of garlic -- it would fain
My heart to see their need and pain,
And bring them to such dire distress
That they should on my footsteps press
Stamping with rage.

Regrets are vain;
Time flown can ne'er return again,
Nor could I, of all those who bowed
Before me ere my face was ploughed
With wrinkles, keep on one my hold,
My menace was a tale that's told,
But, by the ribalds, I thereof
Was warned erewhile with many a scoff.
Believe you, much I wept therefor,
Aye, and shall weep for evermore,
Yet, when thereon I musing think,
Long draughts of joy supreme I drink
From memory's well. Oh, dear delights!
Whereof the very thought excites
A thrill through every limb, as though
The merry life of long ago

I lived once more. My body seems
Rejuvenate, as in sweet dreams
Sometimes appears. Now, by the rood,
I swear it does me untold good
To muse on youth's sweet joys, though I
By men was cozened cruelly:
No idle life a damsel leads
Who makes her pleasures serve her needs.

Then to this country-side I came,
And service took beneath the dame
Who holds you here, and gives me charge
That hence you wander not at large.
The Lord, who guards us all from ill,
Grant that my duty I fulfil,
And doubt I not this well may be,
If you will walk but prudently.
The charge, forsooth, were one of rare
And special peril, seen how fair
Nature hath made you, if your wit
Did not your body's beauty fit:
But you have prowess, sense, and grace;
And since that now both time and place
Serve us so well, nor need we fear
To suffer from intruders here,
'Tis well that you should list from me
Good counsel, but you need not be
Surprised to find my words but few.
No will have I to press on you
The theme of love and thereon preach,
But since that goal you'll someday reach,

Suffer that I point out the way
And paths thereof, where many a day
I wandered ere my beauty went
And left me wearied, worn and spent.

The Lover.

Then ceased the dame and gave a sigh,
In case Fair-Welcome made reply.
But little rest of tongue she took,
Noting his fixed attentive look,
Prepared to listen and say nought
And so within herself she thought:
A proverb 'tis: Who saith not nay,
May well be credited with yea;
Thus far he's listened, and no doubt,
If I proceed, will hear me out.

Then once more did the crone begin
Her wearisome foul tale to spin,
Deeming that she by wordy trick
Might cozen me to try and lick
Honey from thorns, and hoping he
Might his mere friend consider me,
Without true love, but he amain
Told me the tale he heard again;
And had he ta'en her word for truth
I needs had been betrayed forsooth,
But whatsoever the hag might do
Or say, Fair-Welcome proved him true;
I had his solemn oath and word
And that my heart had reassured.

The Duenna.

O dear sweet son, towards whom I yearn,
'Tis my desire that you should learn
Love's wiles to save you from deceit.
When you upon life's journey meet
With Cupid, let my counsels guide
Your steps, for no man ever tried
That path untaught, but hath perforce
Been stripped of all, till last his horse
He needs must sell; I charge you hear
My counsel which your way will clear,
If you but heed the lore I tell,
Who know love's art and mystery well.


Herein the harridan prepares
Fair-Welcome's mind for love affairs,
And shows how evil women may,
In love, both go and lead astray.

FAIR son, whoso of love is fain,
That bitter-sweet, that pleasant pain,
Must Cupid's ten commandments know,
Yet keep him at arm's length I trow.
All these to you would I declare,
Perceived I not how great a share
Of each has nature deigned to bless
You with, in her sweet kindliness,
Yea to the hilt that you can need.
Ten are there, but fools only, heed
The latter two, wise men dispense
Therewith, not valuing them two pence.

The former eight attend You well.
But he were under folly's spell
Who wasted on the other two
His time -- tis what a dolt would do.
Too great a burden it is to lay
Upon a lover when you say,
Though his large heart would all embrace,
With one alone must it enlace.
The son of Venus counsels this,
But sorely will he do amiss
Who follows his advice, and dear
Shall pay, as will at last appear.
In love, fair son, remain you free,
Fix not on one especially:
Suffer your heart at will to roam,
Nor lend nor give it to one home,
But let it be your constant boast
That, his it is who pays the most,
Yet see the buyer doth not get
A bargain though his gold you sweat.
Above all, give it not away,
Better, burn, hang, or drown one may.
Remember, when you give, to twist
Your fingers fast with folded fist,
But taking, open wide your hand,
Fools only give, pray understand,
Except it be by way of lure,
Some fourfold profit to ensure,
Or in return fair gift to get
Whereby good guerdon one may net;
Such gifts as these will I allow,
For good it is to give, I trow,

When one can make the gifts bear fruit;
Then largess doth with profit suit.
Such giving no man need repent,
Thereto I freely give consent.

As to that bow of rarest price
And shafts of subtle artifice,
You know their use and management
Better than Love himself who spent
His life thereon, no greater craft
Hath he the bow to bend, and shaft
To speed, than you; though oft you know
Nothing of where those shafts may go.
For when a shaft at random speeds,
Some one of whom the archer heeds
No jot, may by mere chance be hit,
But you are known to be so fit
And skilful when the bow you draw,
That scarce you need to list my saw.
You may, God helping, chance to wound
Some one whose conquest may be found
Much to your profit. Need is none
That I should lecture you upon
The different deckings and attire
Which often help a heart to fire,
Nor what therein your choice should be.
I should discourse but uselessly
If you recall that song of old
That from my lips hath often rolled,
As we together sat alone,
Of passionate Pygmalion.
You thence of dress much more may learn
Than plough-beasts know of sods they turn.

Instruction in the art of dress,
Is not, with you, my business.

And if all this doth not suffice
You presently shall hear advice,
If so you will, where you may find
Example of the clearest kind.
But would you in the meantime make,
Choice of a friend for friendship's sake,
Bestow your love, my dearest son,
On him who for yourself alone
Doth love you, but not recklessly
Towards others let affection be
With purpose savoured, I will find
You many a one with purse well lined.
'Tis well to make some rich man friend,
Who feareth not his wealth to spend,
For him who knows to spoil and pill.
Fair-Welcome well might work his will
With such an one; he need but make
Believe that he for friend would take
None other for a heap of gold,
And swear that would he but have sold
The chance to some one else to kiss
The Rose, that treasury of bliss,
In gold and jewels might he swim,
But so his heart is true to him,
That none but he shall come anear
To share the prize he holds so dear.
Thousands may bear the same tale spun:
'Fair sir, you are the favoured one,

May God's curse fall on me if I
Permit another to come nigh The Rose.'

All reckless may he be
Of broken oaths and perjury;
Lovers' false oaths the gods amuse,
Who all such crimes with smiles excuse.
Great Jove and all the Gods loud laughed
At lovers' lies the while they quaffed
Their nectar, nor did they disdain
False oaths their wished-for ends to gain.
When Jupiter would reassure
Queen Juno, and her doubtings cure,
By the dark stream of Styx he sware,
Yet proved him perjured then and there.
Lovers the same course may pursue,
Nor feel one touch of shame thereto,
But swear by altar, saints, and fane --
The Gods example gave amain.
The Lord forgive me, but none e'er
Should credit oaths that lovers swear
For young folks' hearts are vain and light,
Changing as oft as day and night,
And old men's too, for that, pardee
Will swear false oaths right royally.

A proverb 'tis, known far and wide,
That, who doth o'er the fair preside
Should first his own advantage mind;
And if one miller will not grind
Your corn, forthwith you go elsewhere.
The mouse who must perforce repair

To one hole only, needs must be
In peril when 'tis his to flee.
And so a damsel fair, ywis,
When mistress of the field she is,
And may at will her suitors fain,
Good right hath she their gold to gain,
Nay, she would be a fool indeed
Who failed her interest to speed
Through giving all her love to one.
I swear by Saint Lifard of Meun
The fool doth all her 'vantage lose
Who one from out the crowd doth choose.
A captive she consents to be
And falleth most deservedly
To grief and misery a prey,
For that on one she cast away
Her heart. If he abandon her,
Where shall she find a comforter?
For if a woman holdeth fast
To one, his love will soon be past,
And in the end, poor wretch, she's left
Of friends, of goods, of hope, bereft.


This tells how Dido, mighty Queen
Of Carthage, racked with sorrow keen
For that great love she suffered through
Eneas, with a sword-thrust slew
Herself, and how fair Phillis won
A cruel death through Demophon.

DIDO, great queen of Carthage, strove
Vainly to keep AEneas' love,

Who owed to her whate'er he had,
For she received him when the sad
City of Troy in flames he fled,
And reached her shores to misery wed.
His comrades dealt she no small share
Of honour, for the love she bare
To him, and bade his ships refit,
With many a storm, bulged, torn, and split;
And in her passion vowed that he
Lord of her realm and self should be;
In turn, great oaths AEneas swore
His heart was hers for evermore,
And soul and body would he give
To her, and in her love would live.

Alas! small joy her kindness sped;
Ere long, the faithless lover fled
O'er the bright sea without one word
To her, who died whenso she heard
His treachery, for she straight withdrew
Into her chamber, and pierced through
Her loving heart with selfsame sword
He erst had borne, her love and lord.

Unhappy Dido, who in mind
Still kept her traitorous love unkind,
Seized the bright blade, and as she stood
Naked, the point with hardihood
Thrust 'neath her breasts, twin hills of snow,
And fell thereon to end her woe.
O grievous sight, O sad to see!
Full hard of heart that man must be,

Who could behold, with heart unmoved,
How thus her constancy was proved
Towards the treacherous man through whom
Her joyous life met death's grim doom.

And Phillis fair, who did await
Her Demophon, disconsolate,
And, for he came not, with a cord
Sought death, since false she proved his word.

Of Paris and OEnone hear
She, body and soul, forgetting fear,
Gave up to him; with what return?
Alas! her love he did but spurn.
Small letters on the trees he cut
To tell her of his flitting; but
Her love reflected not his heart
He less esteemed it than a tart.
These letters were right skilfully
Engraven on a poplar tree,
And said, till Xanthus sought again
His source, he faithful would remain;
Alas! though that did ne'er occur,
For Helen he deserted her.

Was not Medea, beauteous maid,
By Jason treacherously betrayed,
Who perjured him, though she, to save
His life, both home and honour gave,
When the fierce bulls with breath of fire
Would work on him destruction dire?
She braved the flames with subtle charms,
Subdued the beasts and saved from harms

Her lover; then the dragon dread
Her song soothed till he slumbered,
Nor from that sleep awaked he more
Till Jason gained the golden store.
And when earth's warriors, wild and fierce,
Would fain his heart with swordpoint pierce,
Her sorcery and magic skill
Did so that host with madness fill
That, when amid them Jason threw
A stone, no man his fellow knew
But all in desperate combat fought
Till each from each his death-blow bought,
And so the Golden Fleece she wan
For that well-loved, but false-heart man.
That comfort he might have, forsooth,
His father AEson unto youth
Restored she, and the sole reward
She asked him was, that he would toward
Her love return his love again.
Alas! fond hope! misplaced and vain.
His false heart soon forgot the good
She wrought, in loving hardihood,
And in the ending set above
Her head a new and younger love.
Hearing hereof she could not brook
Her wretchedness, but madly took
Her children, (in her sore distress
Blind to a mother's tenderness,)
And strangled them, more ruthless she
Than stepdames oft have proved to be.

A thousand more such tales could I
Relate, but time too swift doth fly.

These ribalds all play double parts,
And to a thousand give their hearts.
And wherefore should not women do
The same, and love as freely too
She's but a fool, who fixes on
One man, and clings to him alone.
A woman should have hosts of friends,
And play them all, to serve her ends,
'Gainst one another. If no grace
She hath, 'tis well she set her face
To gain it, and should be most high
And haughty unto those who try
To please her best, and towards those be
Most kind, who treat her distantly.

Fair sports and songs 'tis hers to know,
And strife and reprimands forego.
If she be plain, by dainty dress.
Should she repair ill-favouredness
And should it hap, to her dismay,
Her thick blond tresses fall away,
Or even though they have not dropped
By nature, they have needs been cropped
By reason of some malady,
And thus her beauty wasted be;
Or if some ribald, anger led,
Hath torn the hair from off her bead,
With rage so cruel as to leave
No locks she can in braidings weave;
Then, with a view to clothe her pate,
Hair must she get of one who late
Hath died, or yellow silk must tie
Beneath neat fillets skilfully.

Above her ears she'll bear such horns
As neither stags or unicorns
Could boast if they should dare to plight
Themselves with her in deadly fight.
Or if she have the need to dye
Her hair, she should most carefully
Choose the right plants; leaves, bark, and root,
Will each the varied purpose suit.

And lest her bloom of cheek grow pale,
Whereat her spirit well might fail,
She should within her chamber keep
Sweet unguents, that she thence may reap
A secret freshness; yet have care
They are not known by sight or flair
To lovers, or 'twould breed despite.
If she hath neck and bosom white,
Then let her cut her bodice low,
Her fair and dazzling skin to show,
Two palms behind and eke before,
There's no device attracts men more.
If she hath shoulders set too high
Judges of form to satisfy
At balls and routs, fine lawn I guess
Would lessen their unseemliness.
If hands she hath nor fine nor fair,
But corned and blistered here and there,
'Twere well, that with a bodkin she
Should dress and tend them carefully,
Or better still, with gloves should hide
Defects -- no man need pry inside.
And if her breasts too ample grow,
A swathe-cloth should she bind below

To bear them up, and hold them tight
Against her chest. When thus she's dight
She'll find that she can move with ease,
And lightly dance, if so she please.

And, if a dainty, well-bred quean
Her Venus chamber keeps she clean;
No spider webs will there be found,
And things unseemly from the ground
She'll sweep, dust, burn, and clear away,
E'en as a thrifty housewife may.
Is her leg ugly? ne'er 'tis bare.
Too large her foot? 'tis shod with care.
More wily she than e'er neglect
To hide with skill the least defect.
If she be cursed with noisome breath,
It doth not worry her to death,
But heed she taketh not to speak
To any till her fast she break,
And careful is her mouth ne'er goes
Too closely towards her lover's nose.
When laughter doth provoke her, so
She laughs that two sweet dimples show
About her mouth, on either side,
The which she never opes right wide
In laughing, but conceals beneath
A well-set smile, her doubtful teeth.
A woman if she laugh or smile
Should keep her mouth close shut the while,
For if too wide she open it
It looks is though her cheeks were slit;
And if her teeth are nothing grand,
But crossed and out of order stand,

'Tis just as well that they remain
Fast hid, would she not win disdain.
Women should learn to cry with grace,
But they so oft find time and place
For tears, I need not teach them how
To weep, that soon enough they trow,
For every woman in her eye
Stores tears, and one and all can cry
At will. A man should not disturb
Himself thereat, but check and curb
His pity, even though he sees
The tears fall fast as rain from trees.
When women cry at will, 'tis not
That they some cruel grief have got,
But mere vexation and chagrin
That some vile trick they're baffled in.
A woman's tears are but a trap,
Oft-times they flow for no ill hap,
But with desire that she may nought
By word or deed betray her thought.

She should behave her when at table
In manner fit and convenable;
But should, ere yet she takes her place,
'Fore all the household show her face,
To let those present understand
That she much business hath in hand.
Hither and thither should she flit
And be the last of all to sit,
Making the company await
While scanneth she each dish and plate;
And when at last down sitteth she,
On each and all her eye should be.

Before the guests should she divide
The bread and see each one supplied.
Then let her know the heart to win
Of some one guest by putting in
His platter dainty morsels, or
A wing or leg of fowl before
Him sets she, with choicest slice,
Of pork or beef will she entice
His appetite, or savory fish,
If of the day that be the dish.
No stint she makes, if he permits,
To ply his taste with choicest bits.

'Tis well she take especial care
That in the sauce her fingers ne'er
She dip beyond the joint, nor soil
Her lips with garlick, sops, or oil,
Nor heap up gobbets and the charge
Her mouth with pieces overlarge,
And only with the finger point
Should touch the bit she'd fain anoint
With sauce white, yellow, brown or green,
And lift it towards her mouth between
Finger and thumb with care and skill,
That she no sauce or morsel spill
About her breast-cloth.

Then her cup
She should so gracefully lift up
Towards her mouth that not a gout
By any chance doth fall about
Her vesture, or for glutton rude,
By such unseemly habitude,

Might she be deemed.

Nor should she set
Drink neatly and Moderately
Lips to her cup while food is yet
Within her mouth.
And first should she
Her upper lip wipe delicately,
Lest, having drunk, a grease-formed groat
Were seen upon the wine to float.
She should not take one long-breathed draught,
Whether from cup or hanap quaffed,
But gently taste with sipping soft
Now and again, but not too oft,
Though thirst impels, at large should drink,
Lest those around perchance should think
Or say, if she the cup should clutch
With eager haste: She drinks too much;
Therefore should she the tempting tide
Resist, nor grip the goblet's side
Like some of that fat matron crew,
So gluttonous and boorish, who
Pour wine adown their cavernous throats
Enough to fill a horseman's boots,
Till lastly are their gullets full,
And all their senses drowned and dull.
She should avoid all such excess
As leadeth on to drunkenness,
For drunken folk no secrets keep,
And if a woman drinketh deep
She leaves herself without defence,
And jangles much with little sense.
To any man she falls a prey
When thus her wits she casts away.

She should not at the table close
Her eyes in sleep, nor even doze,
For many a strange untoward thing
Hath happed to dames thus slumbering
Such places are not made for sleep,
Tis wiser far good watch to keep,
For often folk mishaps have known
Thus sleeping: many have tumbled down
Supine, or prone, or on the side,
And grievous hurt sustained, or died:
She should, who feels disposed to wink,
Of Palinurus' ending think,
Who governed well AEneas' helm
Until he fell within the realm
Of Morpheus, then straight toppled he
From off the ship, and in the sea
Was drowned before his comrades' eyes,
Who mourned his watery obsequies.

Woman should gather roses ere
Time's ceaseless foot o'ertaketh her,
For if too long she make delay,
Her chance of love may pass away,
And well it is she seek it while
Health, strength, and youth around her smile.
To pluck the fruits of love in youth
Is each wise woman's rule forsooth,
For when age creepeth o'er us, hence
Go also the sweet joys of sense,
And ill doth she her days employ
Who lets life pass without love's joy.
And if my counsel she despise,
Not knowing how 'tis just and wise,

Too late, alas! will she repent
When age is come, and beauty spent.
But witful women will believe
My words, and thankfully receive
My counsels and my rules will foster
With care, and many a paternoster
Say for my soul's health when I die
For teaching them so worthily.
Well know I that these golden rules
Shall long be taught in noblest schools.
Fair son, if long you see earth's light,
Most clearly I perceive you'll write
My laws and precepts in a book,
And many a time therein will look,
Please God, when hence from me you're gone
And, duly pondering thereupon,
In knowledge shall outrival me,
And, e'en as I, a teacher be,
Despite the highest chancellors,
In halls, in chambers and boudoirs,
In copse, and garden-close and field
Or nooks by friendly curtains sealed.
And let your scholars learn my lore,
In wardrobe-room and threshing-floor,
In stables or out-offices,
Failing of better spots than these,
And there my precepts should be read,
When you their force have mastered.

Abroad a woman oft should go,
For all the less that she doth show
Herself, the fewer men will press
Around to seek her loveliness,

And sooner she'll be left in lurch.
'Twere well she haunt the minster church,
And visitations oft attend,
And marriages, and duly wend
In high processions; fetes and plays
Should she frequent on holidays,
For in such places, rathe and late,
Venus and Cupid celebrate
High mass. But erst should she in glass,
Upon her tiring, judgment pass,
And when she deems it quite the thing
Should sally forth philandering,
With dignified and high regard,
Not over meek, nor yet too hard,
Pleasant of look, with modest eye,
Nor over-forward, nor too shy.
Her shoulders and her hips should move
So gracefully that all approve
Her progress as of beauty's queen.
Upon her well-shaped feet I ween,
Most carefully-made boots she'll set,
Whereof the joints so well are met,
That, not a plait or crease will show,
But on her legs they'd seem to grow;
And if her costly garment trail
Along the road, she will not fail
Both fore and aft with studied care
To raise it, as she'd catch the air,
Or, as she knows right well to do,
She just uplifts her gown a few
Short inches, quicker pace to suit,
Disclosing thus her winsome foot,

With hope that all the passers by
Its mignon form and turn may spy.

In case she doth a mantle wear,
She should upon her shoulders bear
It so, that it but little hides
The contour of her shapely sides.
And also that she better may
Her body's shape, and clothes, display,
(Which neither thick nor thin should be,
But pearled, and broidered gallantly
With silver, and an alms-purse tied,
In view of all, against her side,)
Her mantle upwards towards her head
Should she with straightened arms outspread,
Whether the way be foul or clean,
After the fashion she has seen
A peacock spread his tail; she may
So sport the mantle, whether grey
Or green it chance to be, that thus
She shows her figure amorous
To all the gallants that she meets
As sails she through the crowded streets.

Should Nature have forgot to trace
The line of beauty in her face,
Her golden locks she will, if wise,
Display to dazzle suitors' eyes
In comely plaits about her neck.
Nothing doth women better deck
And crown, than glory of the hair.

Women should imitate with care

The tactics of the wolf; when she
A sheep would seize with certainty,
That she of one may make her sure
A hundred must her fangs endure.
A woman, likewise, should her net
So spread as many a man to get
Within her toils; but seen she nought
Can tell which 'tis that may be caught,
With view at very least to fix
One man, on all should play her tricks.
It scarce can happen otherwise,
But that among the fools she tries
By thousands, she must find some one
To do all that she would have done.
Nay, many, for 'tis truly said
Art lends to nature potent aid.

And if she several hooketh in,
Who equally her grace would win,
Most carefully should she arrange
The meeting hours to interchange,
For if two happed to come together,
Good chance there were of stormy weather,
And danger is, they seeing through
Her scheme, she fail of both the two,
Shamed and abased, and what e'en worse
She'd count, lose hold on each one's purse.
But not to any should she give
The chance to keep enough to live,
But unto such condition bring
Her lovers, that of everything
Stripped bare, they'd have no choice but die
In hunger, debt, and misery.

Of every penny let her reive them,
For 'tis her loss if aught she leave them.
From poor and needy men should she
Have special care to keep her free;
Ovid or Homer void of cash
Would not be worth a cat's eyelash.

A traveller should she never give
Her heart to, for as he doth live
Now here, now there, e'en so will he
Afection shift as easily
As he his body doth. If wise
My counsel will she so far prize
As let no guest her fancy take,
But if, while sojourning, he make
Of jewels, gold, or gems fair offer,
Let her secure them, locked in coffer,
And then may she fulfil his pleasure,
Whether in haste or at her leisure.
Above all else should she beware
She set her love on that man ne'er
Who in his beauty taketh pride;
Such imbeciles the Gods deride
And scorn, for thus saith Ptolemy,
A master of all science he:
"Such man hath nought of love in him,
With selfish pride his heart's abrim,
The love that he to one declares,
In turn he to another swears,
And many a woman treateth ill,
For all he meets he'll spoil and pill:"
And many a damsel have I heard
Cry shame on such an one's false word.

Should some loud promiser appear,
Whether a trickster or sincere,
And seek to gain her love with great
And solemn vows his life and fate
To link with hers, -- so be it; but
Let her be wary not to put
Herself within his power, unless
He doth a well-filled purse possess.
And if love-letters one indite,
Let her weigh closely if he write
With false intention, for if his mood
Of heart be honest, pure, and good
Then let her forward a reply --
After a pause -- coy, short, and shy;
Delay but brings a lover on
Yet that were lightly overdone,
And when a lover's suit is pressed,
'Tis wise that she awhile protest
Reluctance, not the whole refuse.
But coyly smirk and half excuse,
Now hold him off, now draw him near,
In balance kept 'twixt hope and fear.

As he more vehement doth grow,
More hesitation should she show,
Seeing that she hire heart doth hold
Tightly as in a serpent's fold,
Resisting by all means she can,
Assured reluctance doth but fan
His flame, then by degrees her fear
Subsides, and she should soothe and cheer
His heart with many a tender word,
And so they come to sweet accord.

And then will she his heart beguile,
By God and all the saints the while
Swearing that only he at last
Hath all her scruples overpast,
And cries: "Fulfilled is now your hope,
But, by the faith I owe the Pope,
I yield to you for love alone,
Through presents had you never won
My virgin heart; the man lives not
Who e'er through gifts my love had got,
You only have full favour found
Of all the host that fluttered round.
Ah! wicked one, who knew to pitch
The note that might my soul bewitch."
And then, the dotard to deceive,
Sweet clips and kisses should she give.
But, if she follows my advice,
She boldly will demand her price,
And is a fool unless she win
All that he hath outside his skin,
For she the best beloved will be
Who strips a man most ruthlessly.
The more that women make men pay,
The more, far more, beloved are they
For that which lightly is obtained,
Is never looked upon when gained
Above the value of a straw,
A thing of nought, a mere gewgaw.
But if a worthless thing cost much,
That a man holds with hardfist clutch.

To fleece a gull may many aid:
Her valets, and her chambermaid,

Her sister, nurse, and many another,
And e'en with equal zest her mother
Will need anointing in the palms
To quiet conscientious qualms;
Robes, mantles, gloves, and such delights,
They'll pounce upon like ravening kites.
When once the victim's in their grip,
With utter ruthlessness they'll strip
Their prey, till scarce doth he possess
A rag to hide his nakedness.'
Jewels and gold he'll give as though
Nuts were they off a hazel bough.
Soon comes the banquet to an end,
When many mouths assistance lend,
And then they cry aloud: "Good sir,
'Twere well you should your purse-strings stir
To give our lady something new
Of vesture; doth it trouble you
So little? By St. Giles, I know
One who for her would quickly show
His bounty, she through him, I ween,
Might drive her carriage like a queen
And to the damsel would they say:
"Wherefore then make you such delay
To ask more gifts? Why not more bold?
His love to you grows slack and cold."
And she, though with their words content,
Should bid that they such speech forewent,
Vowing she hath no fault to find,
Unless 'tis that he's overkind.
But if she note that he's aware
That ruin in his face doth stare,

And soon must he to beggary fall
Since in her lap he's cast his all,
She judges she may spare the task
More costly gifts from him to ask;
Yet should implore him as her friend
That to relieve her needs he'll lend
His credit, and on given day
Swear that the whole will she repay.
But all return would be by me
Forbidden most unflinchingly.

Then if among her friends she find
A second suited to her mind
(For though she many a friend hath got
She keeps herself heart-whole I wot),
To him should she declare amain
That she her best gown hath been fain
To leave in pawn, alas, for her!
While daily to the usurer
Must she resort, whereat is she
Distressed and troubled grievously,
And nought need he expect increase
Of favour, but if he release
Her pledges. If 'neath folly's curse
He lies, and bears a brimming purse,
He'll dip his hand therein, or take
Some means to borrow for her sake
The sum she needs, which is in truth
No sum whate'er, since she forsooth
Hath got her best robes locked away
Secure from dust and light of day,
Yet impudently bids him look
On every perch, and search each nook

If he to trust her word disdain,
And so she gets the gold amain.
For a last squeezing she demands
A silver girdle at his hands.
Or wimple fair, to deck her head,
And gold her follies to bestead.
If he, unable to supply
Such things, yet seeks to satisfy
Her cravings, by expressing sorrow
And bezants vows to bring to-morrow,
To all his promises should she
Her ears shut fast inexorably.

All men are naturally liars --
In dear days past vile flatterers
More oaths towards me have used to leaven
Their lies, than are there saints in heaven.
If no gold pieces he can spin,
At least can he some wine send in
On credit, or if not, he may
Take himself off, elsewhere to play.

Unless a woman's void of sense,
Of shrinking fear she'll make pretence,
Affect to tremble, shake and shiver,
And 'neath quick apprehensions quiver
When she receiveth furtively
Her friend, and let him plainly see
The dangers she for him doth dare,
Saying, were spouse and friends aware
Of that she doth, most surely they
Surprising them, would make her pay
With life the fond affection she
Bears towards him, while alas! that he

If found there would beyond all doubt
Still living see her heart torn out:
And then he surely will remain
When once within her toils he's ta'en.

'Tis well she should remember when
Her friend she may expect again;
And if there's no one on the watch
Let her undo the window latch
(Although the door serves better far),
Swearing the while that lost they are,
And may account themselves as dead
Should they be thus discovered,
For neither buckler, club, nor glaive
For one short hour their lives could save,
Nor secret chambers guarantee
But what they should dismembered be.

And then should she assume an air
Of anger mingled with despair.
And fall on him with great disdain,
Demanding why doth he remain
So long away -- she doubteth not
The reason is that he hath got
Some other he prefers to her;
Younger perchance, and merrier,
To whom, forsooth, his time he gives,
While she, alas! neglected lives:
Ah! well may she with anguish burn
Who loves, but wins not love's return.
And when he hears her thus complain
'Twill work like fire within his brain,

And forthwith will he deem that she.
Loves him with mad intensity,
And is of him as jealous as
In olden days God Vulcan was
Of Venus, Whom he found at play
With Mars, when Phoebus brought the day,;
[Trapped in the brazen net he'd wrought.
On his own head contempt he brought
When thus he proved himself betrayed,
And openwise a cuckold made.


How Vulcan once espied his wife
Engaged with Mars in amorous strife,
When cunningly he threw a snare
Around the fond but guilty pair.

WHENE'ER Dan Vulcan, dunderhead,
Had spied the amorous twain in bed,
Around the couch a net he threw
(Which was a foolish thing to do;
For little wotteth he of life
Who thinks he only hath his wife),
And then the gods did he convoke
Who crowded round with gibe and joke,
Beholding how the pair were ta'en.
But many 'mong the host, with pain,
Beheld dame Venus' sore distress,
While marvelling at her loveliness
Nor heard unmoved her bitter cries
At suffering such indignities

Before her peers in open day.
Yet 'twas no marvel, one would say,
That Venus unto Mars should give
Herself -- for could she care to live
With Vulcan, black from head to foot,
Hands, face, and throat begrimed with soot?
Such things in Venus' breast must rouse
Disgust, though Vulcan were her spouse.
Nay, even though she had been paired
With Absalom the golden-haired,
Or lovely Paris, Priam's son,
She scarce had been content with one,
For ever would that beauteous queen
Do what all women love I ween.

Women as free as men are born
It is the law alone hath torn
Their charter, and that freedom riven
From out their hands by Nature given.
For Nature is not such a fool
As order, by unbending rule,
Margot to keep to Robichon,
Nor yet for him the only one
To be Marie or fair Perrette,
Jane, Agnes, or sweet Mariette,
But as, dear son, I scarce need teach,
Made each for all and all for each,
And every one for all alike,
E'en as the taste and fancy strike.
So that (although by marriage law
They are assigned like things of straw),
To satisfy Dame Nature's call,
To which they hearken one and all,

And strifes and murders to avoid,
Whereto they well might be decoyed,
Ever have women, foul or fair,
Whether the name of maid they bear,
Or wife, done all within their power
To win back freedom as their dower
Though at great hazards they maintain
Their rights, and evils thick as rain
Have happed both now and formerly.
Ten, nay, a hundred easily,
Could I of instances set forth
But let them pass as nowise worth
My pains to tell or yours to hear,
You'd weary ere the end came near.

If any man beheld a dame,
In primal days, who lit a flame
Within his heart, he thought no wrong
To seize her, until one more strong
Should rob him of her, or he changed
His mind and somewhat further ranged.
But hence arose contention great,
And homes were oft left desolate;
And so by wise men were laid down
The laws as those of marriage known.

If you possess both will and wit
To heark what Roman Horace writ,
Give me your ear while I set forth
The wisdom of that man of worth
A woman, free of shame, may quote
Whate'er so great an author wrote:

Fore time, in Helen's days, broke out
Full many a hard-fought battle rout
For woman's love, and many died
Who in that strife their valiance tried
And who shall say how many more
Than those set down in ancient lore?
Not first was Helen, nor will she
Be last of those, unhappily,
Through whom have risen and will rise
Wars among men, whose hearts and eyes
Women have blinded, till away
They throw their lives; the latest day
Of earth shall see this selfsame thing,
That hath been since first broke the spring.
Regard dame Nature, and then hear
Her strength and wondrous power made clear
Through many examples which shall be
Clearly expounded presently.


Herein examples may you see
Of Nature's power and subtlety.

THE bird which from the wood is lured,
Captured, and in gay cage immured,
Tended with gentle love and care,
And fed with choice and dainty fare,
With pleasant song our ear enchants,
But yet one thing doth lack, it pants
Once more to flit among the boughs
And branches which so well it knows
And where 'twould once more gladly be.
In vain you nurse it tenderly,

Ever it pineth to regain
That liberty whereof 'tis fain
Its food it treads beneath its feet,
And 'gainst the bars its wings doth beat,
And up and down its prison goes
From daylight's dawn till twilight's close,
Seeking its passage to make good
Through door or window to the wood.
And every woman doth possess
Within her that same restlessness,
Whatever her condition be,
Matron or maid; unceasingly
One only thought hath she in mind,
Which is, how she may some way find
Her ancient liberty to get,
Thereon, 'fore all, her heart is set.

And so it is with every wight
Who hath him in a cloister pight,
For so he feels repentance' pang
That almost he for rage would hang
Himself, he hath but one desire,
Which burneth up his heart like fire;
He pants once more for liberty,
And vain the struggle findeth he
With change of frock to change his bent
For worldly pleasure; -- sacrament
And holy vows are nought to him.

E'en so a foolish fish doth swim
Within a net, whose mouth is wide
For entry, but when once inside,

Shuts on him, and for evermore
A prisoner stays he, till ashore
He's cast to die; but those without
Crowd round untroubled by a doubt
But what he hath great plenitude
Therein of leisure, peace, and food,
When they perceive him wheel and turn
As if content, and fain would learn
How they may likewise live at ease
With nought to do except appease
Their hunger, and the livelong day
They pass in seeking out some way
By which they too may enter in
And equal life of joyance win:
They vex and worry them to get
An entry to that envied net,
But once within, they must remain,
Escape past hope, repentance vain,
And they therein their lives must spend
Till friendly death brings welcome end.

So each bright youth to servitude
Doth go who takes the monkish hood,
For neither cowl, nor broad-brimmed hat,
Nor cloister gown, can smother that
Which Nature in his heart did plant,
And, unfulfilled, still leaves a want.
He's worse than dead, for all his life
Is racked and torn by mental strife,
Or else with broken spirit he
Plays virtue 'gainst necessity.
Dame Nature lieth not, but still
His mind with bitter thoughts doth fill

Of freedom lost: Horace this thing
Saith well, 'tis worth remembering:
"Though any man should seize a fork,
To drive dame Nature from her work,
Beat her, and chase her out of doors,
She'll quick return to pay old scores."
What matters it? Do what you will,
Each living creature must fulfil
Its nature, and although you drive
It far, it will return and thrive
Nature despiseth violence,
And hath of man-made law small sense:
And thus finds Venus fair excuse
When she from trammels breaketh loose
And so it is with dames, I trow,
Who chafe beneath the marriage-vow.
Nature it is who draws them still
Towards freedom, or for good or ill,
And she so strong is that in vain
Men seek her power to curb and rein.

If one should take, dear son, a cat
That ne'er had known of mouse or rat,
And feed him up most tenderly
With choicest meats, nor let him see
By any chance of rat or mouse,
Yet if should run across the house
Or one or other in his view,
Like bolt from bow he'll 'scape from you
And snap it up, for Nature 'tis
Impelleth him thereto ywis;
He'll rather hunt a mouse than sate
His maw with morsels delicate,

For 'twixt the twain can never be
Treaty of peace and amity.

Or if a new-foaled colt you rear,
So that he ne'er beholds a mare
Till he becomes a full-grown steed
For bit and saddle good at need
A jennet comes within his sight,
At once he neighs with proud delight,
And speedeth madly o'er the field,
Unless he needs to rein must yield.
Not only black steed seeks a black,
But brown, or grey as soon will back,
Or roan, or any other strain,
Unless he's held by bridle-rein.
He troubles not to spy around,
But gaily takes them as they're found,
And in succession serves them all,
If but the chance to him befall.
So with a little chestnut mare,
Unless she be restrained with care,
She'll seek brown, grey, and black in turns
E'en as desire within her burns;
The first one that her fancy takes,
Husband of him she straightway makes.
And what of horse and mare, I say,
Whether black, brown, or roan, or grey,
Is likewise true of bull and cow,
And eke of ram and ewe, I trow,
For rest assured that each of these
Of either sex make free to please
And suit themselves, as e'en they may,
With spouse at will from day to day.

So is it, by my soul, I swear,
Fair son, with every human pair,
Although the law doth claim of right
To check somewhat the appetite.
Somewhat! methinks, a deal too much,
For when folk fall within the clutch
Of law, it bids that each shall cling
To each in every mortal thing,
And husband seek his wife alone,
And she be his both flesh and bone,
And both shall each to other give
Themselves, unchanging while they live;
Yet each, forsooth, doth long to be
From all restraint and bondage free.
And those who view this thing with clear
Impartial eye will know 'tis fear
And shame alone that hold folk back,
Who else would tread in Nature's track,
And, like the cattle, follow sense:
Thereof I've had experience
Myself, for I would give away
My love to any day by day.
And had I not been cowed by shame,
Which curbs the will of many a dame,
When through the town I marching went
(Which none could hinder or prevent),
So decked and dizened, all might know
The part I played, from outward show,
And saw well-liking varlets cast
Soft looks upon me as I passed
(Good Lord! what tremors through me ran
Exchanging glances with a man),

Not one, but all would I embrace,
Could I but find fit time and place;
Giving to each in turn his due
Had I been equal thereunto;
And each had will, as I believe,
In turn my favours to receive:
Prelate or monk except I not,
Nor knight, nor canon, sage or sot,
Burgess or friar, within my fold
All would I take, if not too old.
Religion they'd have cast aside,
Except they feared to be denied
When they should court me. If that they
Had only understood my way
Of thinking, as of women all,
Such fear they ne'er had let befall
Their hearts. Each one, had they dared,
I trow, had readily declared
Their wedlock void, that they to me
Might give themselves all utterly,
Religion spurning, and despite
Of oath or honour, faith or right,
Except perchance, 'twere some poor fool,
Who ne'er had let his love grow cool
For her whose heart he'd gained in youth.
Such one would courteously, forsooth,
Decline my love and turn to her
His well-beloved sweet comforter.
But lovers of that sort are rare.
By God and Saint Amand I swear,
If only opportunity
Of time and place were given to me

To talk with such an one on love,
If lies or truth his tongue should move
And whether he lay or churchman were,
Or regular or secular,
Cinctured with girdle grey or red,
Or hood or hat bedecked his head,
He should right soon declare his flame,
Whether in me he saw the same
To burn, or only deemed a whim
I had myself to yield to him.
Nature for ever busies her,
Desire in all men's hearts to stir,
Therefore, dear son, should we be slow
Venus and Mars to blame, I trow.
And though the Gods in mockery laughed
To see the pair by Vulcan's craft
Ensnared, yet many a one full fain
Had been, could he the place have ta'en
Of Mars, in Venus' fond embrace,
While Vulcan, mad with his disgrace,
Two thousand marks had rather given
Than cuckold stand before high heaven.
The pair be thus exposed to shame,
Reckless of scorn henceforth became,
And boldly practised that which they
Strove erst to hide from light of day,
Shame and decorum cast aside.
And then the Gods told far and wide
The tale, till all through heaven 'twas known,
From mouth to mouth mid laughter thrown.
And Vulcan stormed with rage to think
The draught he brewed he needs must drink,

Since for his folly nought could he
Find balsam, salve, or remedy.
Rather than trap the twain, indeed,
'Twere wiser to have given no heed,
But silently resolve in mind
To be to Venus' failings blind,
So long as she towards him behaved
With kindness, granting all he craved.

From this, let no man e'er forget
That grievous folly 'tis to set
A trap whereby a wife may be
Convicted of inconstancy;
For if she find her thus exposed,
The door of virtue feels she closed
Behind her, and the unhappy wretch,
Whom evil-eyed suspicions stretch
Upon the rack, when he hath caught
His wife, shall ne'er again know aught
Of peace or happiness, but die
The prey of cruel Jealousy.

But she, forsooth, doth merely make
Pretence of jealousy to wake
His anger, and yet cause that he
With love may burn more ardently.

And if he parry not the stroke,
But saith, her anger to provoke,
'Tis true he hath another friend
Then she, with view to gain her end,
Should cry: No button doth she care,
What is his other love to her?

For knows she all the while that he
Thereto entends not seriously.
Then in her turn will she, with mind
More closely round his heart to wind
Her toils, pretend some other is
More suited to her taste, ywis,
And fain of him would she be quit,
Exclaiming: 'Tis but right and fit,
Since I am cuckolded by you,
That our old love were broken through.
Is it surprising if I wish
We both should eat from out one dish?
And then shall he be vexed above
All measure, if so be he love
Her fondly, reft his chief delight;
For no man feels love's flame burn bright
Within his breast, but's racked with dread,
Lest horns, perchance, adorn his head.

Then, as if some wild beast gave chase,
The chambermaid, with fear-struck face,
Runs in, and cries: Alas! we're lost,
The master hath this moment crossed
The fore-court! When the damsel hears
This cry, her face wild terror wears,
While she her gallant thrusteth in
To some dark cupboard, chest, or bin,
Whence, when the proper time arrive,
She lets him out, more dead than 'live.
And he, who anxiously doth wait
Until she comes to liberate
Him once again, by dire despair
And fear is torn while crouching there.

Then, if it prove some new-lit flame, How to Deal with
To whom, incautiously, the dame,
Hath given untimely rendezvous,
She'll quick determine what to do;
And while she keeps the one close hid,
The later comer will she bid
Welcome in some small chamber near,
And grant the grace he seeks of her,
But let him know he must away
Forthwith, howe'er he beg to stay,
And though with rage and grief he cry,
Boldly to him will she reply:
Hence! hence! delay behoveth not,
For I within the house have got
My husband and my cousin kin,
And were you found by them herein,
I swear, by God and Saint Germain,
I ne'er should see your face again
Another time I'll gladly make
You welcome till the morning break,
But stay not now, nor hesitate,
My presence all those folk await.
The house of him she needs must clear,
For till he goes she's racked with fear.
And then must she return in haste
To where the other one doth waste
His hour in terror, lest that he
Be dragged forth ignominiously;
And freeing him from where he's hid,
For consolation doth she bid
Him welcome to her loving arms,
As solace for his past alarms

But, ere permitting all he will,
Into his mind doth she instill
A sense of what great risks she's run,
And fearsome dangers undergone,
While she of madness doth accuse
Herself, who thus by artful ruse
Deceives her husband, e'en while she
Doth wrong herself exceedingly.

And, by her father's soul she swears
That this adventure which she dares!
To pleasure him doth cost too dear,
Although, God wot, they've less to fear
Within her room than those who go
To sport in fields 'neath vines arow,
But pleasure all the more 'tis spiced
With danger is more highly prized.
And whensoever they come to lie
Together in their secrecy,
'Tis well that she exclude the light
From every casement, lest he might
Upon her body spy some spot
Or blemish, when right well I wot
Forth from her chamber would he go
As bolt or arrow shot from bow.
[Pass eighteen lines, they nought avail
To make, but rather mar the tale.]
And should they twixt themselves agree
That, opportune 'twould sometimes be
For her in turn to make repair
To where he dwells, she'll take good care
So to arrange that somewhat late
She comes, for if she makes him wait

A while, she doth but fan the fire
Of anxious unfulfilled desire.
The game of love, I scarce need say,
But winneth zest by short delay,
And little joy the heart doth reap
From pleasure it may win good cheap.
But when she comes within the house
And finds reception amorous,
She then should vow, with signs of fear,
How that her jealous spouse anear
Hath watched her, and she dreads to think
What bitter draught she needs must drink,
So soon as she again doth come
Beneath his tyrant hand at home.
But howsoe'er she plain and sigh,
Whether she speak the truth or lie,
A parlous fear should she dissemble,
And, dreading nought, seem all atremble,
For this will much the joy enhance
Betwixt them of soft dalliance.

But if to him she cannot fare
Nor bid him to her home doth dare,
So close a watch her jealous spouse
Maintains both in and out the house,
To free her she must cause to wink
His wakeful eves 'neath well-spiced drink,
And if he fail to nod 'neath wine,
Herbs should she with his drink combine,
Or mix with food (but in such wise
That nought of danger thence arise),
And then shall he so soundly sleep
As neither watch nor ward to keep,

And she at leisure may fulfill,
Unlet or hindered, all her will.
If lackeys hath she, let her heed
That this and that one forth she speed
While coin, if wisely on them spent,
Will greatly help her fond intent.
Or if she fears lest they should know
Her secret, make them drunk also.
Or to her husband may she say:
"I feel quite out of health to-day,
Some fever, gout, or inward grief,
Affecteth me past all belief;
Our baths are useless, I must hie
Me towards the bagnio presently;
A vapour bath alone can give
Me ease, if you would have me live."
Though for a while the wretch delay
Consent, at last she gets her way;
For when he hath with sorry face
Pondered thereon, with wry grimace
He yields though of his shame afraid.
Then goes she with her chambermaid,
Or else some friendly neighbour, who
Knows well what 'tis her will to do,
Or some companion hath perchance
With whom she carries on love's dance.
Then to the bagnio will she speed,
Though to the baths she gives small heed,
Or else perhaps the bathhouse shuns
And to her swain's embraces runs.
Unless indeed between them 'twere
Agreed that they a bath should share,

For should he knowledge gain that she
Comes there, there also will he be.
No man a woman can protect
Who for herself hath no respect.
Yea, e'en was Argus overmatched
Though with his hundred eyes he watched,
Whereof one moiety he kept
Wide open while the other slept,
For therefore Mercury was sped
By Jove to shear off Argus' head,
Fair Io to revenge I trow,
Whom he transformed had to a cow.
Futile his watch -- a heavy yoke
Bears he who meddles with such folk.

But let a woman note this well:
Whatever clerks or laymen tell
Let her no idle tales believe
(Which none but fools as truth receive)
Of sorcerers and enchanters dire,
Or witches dancing round the fire,
E'en though they might surpass the fancy
Of Helenus in necromancy
And second-sight, nor let her think
That she by potions and charmed drink
Can draw some lover to her side
Who from his faith hath wandered wide.

Ne'er could Medea win again
False Jason, he of glance fain;
Nor could wise Circe's magic art
Control Ulysses' wandering heart.

Most careful should a woman be,
Though she a man loves tenderly,
Gifts to forbear of value great
A pillow soft and delicate,
A purse, a handkerchief, or hood,
Not costly, though fair made and good,
A silken lace, a belt to clasp
His waist with inexpensive hasp.
Or pretty pocket-knife of steel.
Or scarf fine wove, and soft to feel,
Such as are made by cloistered nuns.
But give not to those holy ones
Your love, for women secular
In such affairs are safer far.
More free are they to do whate'er
They fancy, and on hand they bear
Their friends or spouses as they please,
But costly both are those and these;
Yet deem I, should I judge the twain,
That nuns cost most with no more gain.
But women's gifts will men of sense
Receive with doubt and diffidence,
For all too often are they nought
But traps whereby fond fools are caught;
And 'gainst their nature women sin,
Who seek by gifts men's love to win.

Largess is better left to men;
Women but compass mischief when
They give great gifts; I've noticed oft
The devil made our hearts too soft.
But nought it matters -- few are they
Of women who give much away.

The gifts that I have named to you,
Fair son, are such as well will do
The fools to cozen, cheat, and gull,
Of which, good Lord, the world is brimfull.
All that is given to you, hold fast,
Remembering youth will soon be past,
For on us creepeth, day by day,
Old age which none can let or stay.
Take care to garnish well your purse,
For thus may you avoid the curse
That surely falls on all folk left
In age's cave, of goods bereft.
Get wealth, for men of starveling need
Are valued not one mustard reed.
Alas! poor fool! that I did not
Practise what now I preach, God wot!

All the fair gifts that came to me
From those who loved me follily,
As readily I gave again
To men of whom my heart was fain,
And gifts have brought me in old age
To eat the bread of vassalage;
The flight of time ne'er troubled me,
And hence, alas! my misery.
Of poverty had I no dread,
But as time came e'en so it sped,
All that I gat I freely spent,
'Twas lightly won and lightly went
Yea, by my soul I might have been,
If prudent, wealthy as a queen,
For many a rich man at my feet
Had I, when gentle, young, and sweet,

And held them fast within my snare.
By God and St. Thibaud I swear
That all I had amassed I gave
Unto a false and traitorous knave,
Who pleased me above all, though he
Put me to shame most cruelly:
My love, I many another called,
But he 'fore all my heart enthralled
Alas! though tender, true, and keen
My love, he prized me not a bean.
Ah! when to what disgrace I fell!
The villain made my life a hell,
Entreated me with foul disgrace,
And called me strumpet 'fore my face.
A woman am I and no more,
And woman's judgment-wit is poor.
The man who loved me, loved I not,
But him who did my features blot
With blows, and beat me with his fist,
Adored I, and that foul hand kissed.
The more he beat me, all the more
My heart felt to its very core
Fond love of him. So well his peace
He made, that soon another lease
Of love I gave him, though my back
And bosom beat he blue and black
With ugly bruises, and no trace
Of beauty left he on my face,
Till I to him for mercy cried,
And then when he repentant sighed
(Of loving favours once more fain),
The wretch, who held my life amain

Within his power, so deftly spake,
That I permitted him to make
His peace within my arms, for he
The game of love knew perfectly.
Ah! villain, traitor, per'jured thief,
How fond my love! how keen my grief!
I cared to live for him alone,
And at his beck had freely gone
Across the seas; yea had he sped
To London, I had followed.
So loved I him, so loved he me,
That each shamed each right recklessly,
And he in riotous display
All that I gave him cast away,
In taverns lording it at dice,
Deep sunk in every wildest vice,
And scorning any craft to learn
Whereby he might fair living earn,
Nor saw why he thereof should heed
While I supplied his wasteful need,
And well I knew the means whereby
To feed his lawless luxury.
For all the world my tenants were,
And what I gained with many a care
And deep disgrace, I showered on him,
While he indulged each caitiff whim.
No thought had he to pass the time
In aught but riot, vice, and crime,
And was of mouth so tender, it
Loved not to feel the needful bit.
But a drear season dawned at last,
The day of light-won gifts was past,

We begged our bread devoid of home,
Our goods not worth a hackle-comb.
No husband had I ever wed,
But hither came as I have said,
Torn, worn, and scratched. with many a briar.

Most earnestly do I desire,
Fair son, that you should learn of me
Wisely to walk and warily,
And thus my sad experience
May to your youth be shield and fence.
For when your Rose is withered quite,
And raven locks exchanged for white,
Then will you lack the gifts that snow
On every side around you now.

The Duenna Teaches
the Young Man About Love

Love's Heyday

Men Fought For Her


She Is Expert
in Love

All Is Changed


Draco's Laws

Her Revenge

Happy Memories

Now I Am a Duenna

You Are Young;
I Shall Instruct You

Cupid's Commandments

Love Many

Give Little; Take Much

Cupid's Bow


Choose a Rich Lover

Jove Laughs
at Lovers' Lies

One Lover Not Enough

Tragedy of Dido
and AEneas

Phillis and Demophon

OEnone and Paris


Medea and Jason

Many Lover Are Best

Women's Arts
to Correct Defects


Hair Dye


Concealment of Defects

Of Women's Tears

Table Manners

Do Not Dip Fingers
Too Deeply in the Sauce

Do Not Spill Wine

Wipe Upper Lip
Before Drinking

Do Not
Drink Too Much

A Drunken Woman
Is Defenceless

No Dozing at Table

Palinurus, AEneas' Steersman

Youth Is Fleeting

This Teaching
Should be Preserved
in a Book

Go Out Frequently

Woman's Attire

Wear Good Shoes

Wear an Elegant Mantle

A Woman's Hair

Spread Your Net Widely

She Should
Bankrupt Her Lovers

She Should
Beware of Travellers

Make Strangers Pay First


Woman Must Be Wary

The Uses of Coyness

Tell Him You
Yielded for Love

But Take All He's Got

Pay Off the Other Women

Demand More Gifts

When He Has No More
Make Him Borrow

Feign Fear


Venus, Mars, and Vulcan


Women Are Free as Men;
Law Enslaved Them

Monogamy Is Not Natural

Law Invents Marriage



The Captive Bird
Desires Freedom

Women Desire
Their Ancient Freedom

The Netted Fish

The Trapped Cloisterer


Nature Will Triumph

The Cat True to
Its Nature

The Horse
Is True to Its Nature

So Too Is the Mare

Law Cannot Check
Natural Appetite

Fear and Shame

A True Lover

Venus and Mars


Folly of Jealousy

Threats of Cuckoldry

The Lover Tricked

Two Lovers

Darkness Conceals Defects

Pretend to Fear
the Husband

Dealing With
the Jealous Spouse


Jove and Io

Medea and Jason

Circe and Ulysses

Do Not Love Nuns

They Are Too Expensive

Forget Not Old Age

Her True Love a Wretch

Her Lover Beats Her

Yet Retained Her Love

He Wastes Her Money

Reduced to Beggary

Learn from My Experience

From The Romance of the Rose by W. Lorris and J. Clopinel, Englished by F.S, Ellis. London, 1900 [Lamont PQ 1528 A24], Vol 2 (of three); side notes added.