The Tale of Constance

Use the glossary in The Riverside Chaucer for words not glossed in the margins; see also a note on Gower's spellings.

Confessio Amantis, Book II, 587-1612














































































































































































































A worthi kniht in Cristes lawe 
Of grete Rome, as is the sawe,
The Sceptre hadde forto rihte;
Tiberie Constantin he hihte,
Whos wif was cleped Ytalie:
Bot thei togedre of progenie 
No children hadde bot a Maide; 
And sche the god so wel apaide, 
That al the wide worldes fame 
Spak worschipe of hire goode name. 
Constance, as the Cronique seith, 
Sche hihte, and was so ful of feith,
That the greteste of Barbarie,
Of hem whiche usen marchandie,
Sche hath converted, as thei come 
To hire upon a time in Rome, 
To schewen such thing as thei broghte; 
Whiche worthili of hem sche boghte, 
And over that in such a wise 
Sche hath hem with hire wordes wise 
Of Cristes feith so full enformed, 
That thei therto ben all conformed, 
So that baptesme thei receiven 
And alle here false goddes weyven. 

Whan thei ben of the feith certein, 
Thei gon to Barbarie ayein, 
And ther the Souldan for hem sente 
And axeth hem to what entente
Thei have here ferste feith forsake. 
And thei, whiche hadden undertake 
The rihte feith to kepe and holde, 
The matiere of here tale tolde 
With al the hole circumstance. 

And whan the Souldan of Constance 
Upon the point that thei ansuerde 
The beaute and the grace herde, 
As he which thanne was to wedde, 
In alle haste his cause spedde 
To sende for the mariage. 
And furthermor with good corage 
He seith, be so he mai hire have, 
That Crist, which cam this world to save, 
He woll believe: and this recorded, 
Thei ben on either side acorded, 
And therupon to make an ende 
The Souldan hise hostages sende 
To Rome, of Princes Sones tuelve: 
Wherof the fader in himselve 
Was glad, and with the Pope avised
Tuo Cardinals he hath assissed 
With othre lordes many mo, 
That with his doghter scholden go, 
To se the Souldan be converted. 

Bot that which nevere was wel herted, 
Envie, tho began travaile 
In destourbance of this spousaile 
So prively that non was war. 
The Moder which this Souldan bar 
Was thanne alyve, and thoghte this 
Unto hirself: "If it so is 
Mi Sone him wedde in this manere, 
Than have I lost my joies hiere,
For myn astat schal so be lassed." 

Thenkende thus sche hath compassed
Be sleihte how that sche may beguile
Hire Sone; and fell withinne a while, 
Betwen hem two whan that thei were, 
Sche feigneth wordes in his Ere, 
And in this wise gan to seie: 
"Mi Sone, I am be double weie 
With al myn herte glad and blithe, 
For that miself have ofte sithe 
Desired thou wolt, as men seith, 
Receive and take a newe feith, 
Which schal be forthringe of thi lif: 
And ek so worschipful a wif, 
The doughter of an Emperour, 
To wedde it schal be gret honour. 
Forthi, mi Sone, I you beseche 
That I such grace mihte areche,
Whan that my doughter come schal, 
That I mai thanne in special, 
So as me thenkth it is honeste, 
Be thilke which the ferste feste 
Schal make unto hire welcominge." 

The Souldan granteth hire axinge, 
And sche therof was glad ynowh: 
For under that anon sche drowh 
With false wordes that sche spak 
Covine of deth behinde his bak.
And therupon hire ordinance 
She made so, that whan Constance 
Was come forth with the Romeins, 
Of clerkes and of Citezeins, 
A riche feste sche hem made: 
And most whan that thei weren glade, 
With fals covine which sche hadde 
Hire clos Envie tho sche spradde, 
And alle tho that hadden be 
Or in apert or in prive 
Of conseil to the mariage, 
Sche slowh hem in a sodein rage 
Endlong the bord as thei be set, 
So that it myhte noght be let; 
Hire oghne Sone was noght quit,
Bot deide upon the same plit. 

Bot what the hihe god wol spare 
It mai for no peril misfare: 
This worthi Maiden which was there 
Stod thanne, as who seith, ded for feere, 
To se the feste how that it stod, 
Which al was torned into blod: 
The Dissh forthwith the Coppe and al 
Bebled thei weren overal; 
Sche sih hem deie on every side; 
No wonder thogh sche wepte and cride 
Makende many a wofull mone. 

Whan al was slain bot sche al one, 
This olde fend, this Sarazine, 
Let take anon this Constantine 
With al the good sche thider broghte, 
And hath ordeined, as sche thoghte, 
A nakid Schip withoute stiere,
In which the good and hire in fiere,
Vitailed full for yeres fyve, 
Wher that the wynd it wolde dryve, 
Sche putte upon the wawes wilde.

Bot he which alle thing mai schilde, 
Thre yer, til that sche cam to londe, 
Hire Schip to stiere hath take in honde, 
And in Northumberlond aryveth; 
And happeth thanne that sche dryveth 
Under a Castel with the flod, 
Which upon Humber banke stod 
And was the kynges oghne also, 
The which Allee was cleped tho, 
A Saxon and a worthi knyht, 
Bot he believed noght ariht. 
Of this Castell was Chastellein 
Elda the kinges Chamberlein, 
A knyhtly man after his lawe; 
And whan he sih upon the wawe
The Schip drivende al one so, 
He bad anon men scholden go 
To se what it betokne mai. 

This was upon a Somer dai, 
The Schip was loked and sche founde; 
Elda withinne a litel stounde 
It wiste, and with his wif anon 
Toward this yonge ladi gon, 
Wher that thei founden gret richesse; 
Bot sche hire wolde noght confesse, 
Whan thei hire axen what sche was. 
And natheles upon the cas 
Out of the Schip with gret worschipe 
Thei toke hire into felaschipe, 
As thei that weren of hir glade: 
Bot sche no maner joie made, 
Bot sorweth sore of that sche fond 
No cristendom in thilke lond; 
Bot elles sche hath al hire wille, 
And thus with hem sche duelleth stille. 

Dame Hermyngheld, which was the wif 
Of Elda, lich hire oghne lif 
Constance loveth; and fell so, 
Spekende alday betwen hem two, 
Thurgh grace of goddes pourveance
This maiden tawhte the creance
Unto this wif so parfitly, 
Upon a dai that faste by 
In presence of hire housebonde, 
Wher thei go walkende on the Stronde, 
A blind man, which cam there lad, 
Unto this wif criende he bad, 
With bothe hise hondes up and preide 
To hire, and in this wise he seide: 
"O Hermyngeld, which Cristes feith, 
Enformed as Constance seith, 
Received hast, yif me my sihte." 

Upon his word hire herte afflihte
Thenkende what was best to done, 
Bot natheles sche herde his bone
And seide, "In trust of Cristes lawe, 
Which don was on the crois and slawe, 
Thou bysne man, behold and se."
With that to god upon his kne 
Thonkende he tok his sihte anon, 
Wherof thei merveile everychon, 
Bot Elda wondreth most of alle: 
This open thing which is befalle 
Concludeth him be such a weie, 
That he the feith mot nede obeie. 

Now lest what fell upon this thing.
This Elda forth unto the king 
A morwe tok his weie and rod, 
And Hermyngeld at home abod 
Forth with Constance wel at ese. 
Elda, which thoghte his king to plese, 
As he that thanne unwedded was, 
Of Constance al the pleine cas 
Als goodliche as he cowthe tolde. 
The king was glad and seide he wolde 
Come thider upon such a wise 
That he him mihte of hire avise, 
The time apointed forth withal. 

This Elda triste in special 
Upon a knyht, whom fro childhode 
He hadde updrawe into manhode: 
To him he tolde al that he thoghte, 
Wherof that after him forthoghte; 
And natheles at thilke tide 
Unto his wif he bad him ride 
To make redi alle thing 
Ayein the cominge of the king, 
And seith that he himself tofore
Thenkth forto come, and bad therfore 
That he him kepe, and told him whanne.

This knyht rod forth his weie thanne; 
And soth was that of time passed 
He hadde in al his wit compassed 
How he Constance myhte winne; 
Bot he sih tho no sped therinne, 
Wherof his lust began t'abate,
And that was love is thanne hate; 
Of hire honour he hadde Envie, 
So that upon his tricherie 
A lesinge in his herte he caste. 
Til he cam home he hieth faste, 
And doth his ladi t'understonde
The Message of hire housebonde: 
And therupon the longe dai 
Thei setten thinges in arrai, 
That al was as it scholde be 
Of every thing in his degree; 
And whan it cam into the nyht, 
This wif hire hath to bedde dyht, 
Wher that this Maiden with hire lay. 

This false knyht upon delay 
Hath taried til thei were aslepe, 
As he that wolde his time kepe 
His dedly werkes to fulfille; 
And to the bed he stalketh stille, 
Wher that he wiste was the wif, 
And in his hond a rasour knif 
He bar, with which hire throte he cutte, 
And prively the knif he putte 
Under that other beddes side, 
Wher that Constance lai beside. 

Elda cam hom the same nyht, 
And stille with a prive lyht, 
As he that wolde noght awake 
His wif, he hath his weie take 
Into the chambre, and ther liggende 
He fond his dede wif bledende, 
Wher that Constance faste by 
Was falle aslepe; and sodeinly 
He cride alowd, and sche awok, 
And forth withal sche caste a lok 
And sih this ladi blede there, 
Wherof swoundende ded for fere 
Sche was, and stille as eny Ston 
She lay, and Elda therupon 
Into the Castell clepeth oute, 
And up sterte every man aboute, 
Into the chambre and forth thei wente. 

Bot he, which alle untrouthe mente, 
This false knyht, among hem alle 
Upon this thing which is befalle 
Seith that Constance hath don this dede; 
And to the bed with that he yede 
After the falshed of his speche, 
And made him there forto seche, 
And fond the knif, wher he it leide, 
And thanne he cride and thanne he seide, 
"Lo, seth the knif al blody hiere! 
What nedeth more in this matiere 
To axe?" And thus hire innocence 
He sclaundreth there in audience 
With false wordes whiche he feigneth. 

Bot yit for al that evere he pleigneth, 
Elda no full credence tok: 
And happeth that ther lay a bok, 
Upon the which, whan he it sih,
This knyht hath swore and seid on hih,
That alle men it mihte wite,
"Now be this bok, which hier is write,
Constance is gultif, wel I wot." 
With that the hond of hevene him smot 
In tokne of that he was forswore, 
That he hath bothe hise yhen lore, 
Out of his hed the same stounde 
Thei sterte, and so thei weren founde. 

A vois was herd, whan that they felle, 
Which seide, "O dampned man to helle, 
Lo, thus hath god the sclaundre wroke
That thou ayein Constance hast spoke: 
Beknow the sothe er that thou dye."
And he told out his felonie, 
And starf forth with his tale anon. 
Into the ground, wher alle gon, 
This dede lady was begrave: 
Elda, which thoghte his honour save, 
Al that he mai restreigneth sorwe. 

For the seconde day a morwe 
The king cam, as thei were acorded; 
And whan it was to him recorded 
What god hath wroght upon this chaunce, 
He tok it into remembrance 
And thoghte more than he seide. 
For al his hole herte he leide 
Upon Constance, and seide he scholde 
For love of hire, if that sche wolde, 
Baptesme take and Cristes feith 
Believe, and over that he seith 
He wol hire wedde, and upon this 
Asseured ech til other is. 

And forto make schorte tales, 
Ther cam a Bisschop out of Wales 
Fro Bangor, and Lucie he hihte, 
Which thurgh the grace of god almihte 
The king with many an other mo 
Hath cristned, and betwen hem tuo 
He hath fulfild the mariage. 
Bot for no lust ne for no rage 
Sche tolde hem nevere what sche was; 
And natheles upon the cas 
The king was glad, how so it stod, 
For wel he wiste and understod 
Sche was a noble creature. 

The hihe makere of nature 
Hire hath visited in a throwe, 
That it was openliche knowe 
Sche was with childe be the king, 
Wherof above al other thing 
He thonketh god and was riht glad. 
And fell that time he was bestad 
Upon a werre and moste ride; 
And whil he scholde there abide, 
He lefte at hom to kepe his wif 
Suche as he knew of holi lif, 
Elda forth with the Bisschop eke; 
And he with pouer goth to seke 
Ayein the Scottes forto fonde 
The werre which he tok on honde. 

The time set of kinde is come, 
This lady hath hire chambre nome, 
And of a Sone bore full, 
Wherof that sche was joiefull, 
Sche was delivered sauf and sone.
The bisshop, as it was to done, 
Yaf him baptesme and Moris calleth; 
And therupon, as it befalleth, 
With lettres writen of record 
Thei sende unto here liege lord, 
That kepers weren of the qweene: 
And he that scholde go betwene, 
The Messager, to Knaresburgh, 
Which toun he scholde passe thurgh, 
Ridende cam the ferste day. 

The kinges Moder there lay, 
Whos rihte name was Domilde, 
Which after al the cause spilde: 
For he, which thonk deserve wolde, 
Unto this ladi goth and tolde 
Of his Message al how it ferde. 
And sche with feigned joie it herde 
And yaf him yiftes largely, 
Bot in the nyht al prively 
Sche tok the lettres whiche he hadde, 
Fro point to point and overradde,
As sche that was thurghout untrewe, 
And let do wryten othre newe 
In stede of hem, and thus thei spieke: 

"Oure liege lord, we thee beseke 
That thou with ous ne be noght wroth, 
Though we such thing as is thee loth 
Upon oure trowthe certefie. 
Thi wif, which is of faierie, 
Of such a child delivered is 
Fro kinde which stant al amis: 
Bot for it scholde noght be seie, 
We have it kept out of the weie 
For drede of pure worldes schame, 
A povere child and in the name 
Of thilke which is so misbore 
We toke, and therto we be swore, 
That non bot only thou and we 
Schal knowen of this privete: 
Moris it hatte, and thus men wene
That it was boren of the qweene 
And of thin oghne bodi gete.
Bot this thing mai noght be foryete, 
That thou ne sende ous word anon 
What is thi wille therupon." 

This lettre, as thou hast herd devise, 
Was contrefet in such a wise 
That noman scholde it aperceive: 
And sche, which thoghte to deceive, 
It leith wher sche that other tok. 
This Messager, whan he awok, 
And wiste nothing how it was, 
Aros and rod the grete pas 
And tok this lettre to the king. 
And whan he sih this wonder thing, 
He makth the Messager no chiere, 
Bot natheles in wys manere 
He wrote ayein, and yaf hem charge 
That thei ne soffre noght at large 
His wif to go, bot kepe hire stille, 
Til thei have herd mor of his wille. 

This Messager was yifteles, 
Bot with this lettre natheles, 
Or be him lief or be him loth, 
In alle haste ayein he goth 
Be Knaresburgh, and as he wente, 
Unto the Moder his entente 
Of that he fond toward the king 
He tolde; and sche upon this thing 
Seith that he scholde abide al nyht 
And made him feste and chiere ariht, 
Feignende as thogh sche cowthe him thonk. 
Bot he with strong wyn which he dronk 
Forth with the travail of the day 
Was drunke, aslepe and while he lay, 
Sche hath hise lettres overseie 
And formed in an other weie. 

Ther was a newe lettre write, 
Which seith: "I do you forto wite, 
That thurgh the conseil of you tuo 
I stonde in point to ben undo, 
As he which is a king deposed. 
For every man it hath supposed, 
How that my wif Constance is faie;
And if that I, thei sein, delaie 
To put hire out of compaignie, 
The worschipe of my Regalie 
Is lore; and over this thei telle, 
Hire child schal noght among hem duelle, 
To cleymen eny heritage. 
So can I se non avantage, 
Bot al is lost, if sche abide: 
Forthi to loke on every side 
Toward the meschief as it is, 
I charge you and bidde this, 
That ye the same Schip vitaile, 
In which that sche tok arivaile, 
Therinne and putteth bothe tuo, 
Hireself forthwith hire child also, 
And so forth broght unto the depe 
Betaketh hire the See to kepe.
Of foure daies time I sette, 
That ye this thing no longer lette, 
So that your lif be noght forsfet."

And thus this lettre contrefet 
The Messager, which was unwar, 
Upon the kingeshalve bar,
And where he scholde it hath betake. 
Bot whan that thei have hiede take, 
And rad that writen is withinne, 
So gret a sorwe thei beginne, 
As thei here oghne Moder sihen
Brent in a fyr before here yhen:
Ther was wepinge and ther was wo, 
Bot finaly the thing is do. 

Upon the See thei have hire broght, 
Bot sche the cause wiste noght, 
And thus upon the flod thei wone, 
This ladi with hire yonge Sone: 
And thanne hire handes to the hevene 
Sche strawhte, and with a milde stevene 
Knelende upon hire bare kne 
Sche seide, "O hihe mageste, 
Which sest the point of every trowthe, 
Tak of thi wofull womman rowthe 
And of this child that I schal kepe." 

And with that word sche gan to wepe, 
Swounende as ded, and ther sche lay; 
Bot he which alle thinges may 
Conforteth hire, and ate laste
Sche loketh and hire yhen caste 
Upon hire child and seide this: 
"Of me no maner charge it is 
What sorwe I soffre, bot of thee 
Me thenkth it is a gret pite, 
For if I sterve thou schalt deie: 
So mot I nedes be that weie 
For Moderhed and for tendresse 
With al myn hole besinesse 
Ordeigne me for thilke office, 
As sche which schal be thi Norrice." 

Thus was sche strengthed forto stonde; 
And tho sche tok hire child in honde 
And yaf it sowke, and evere among 
Sche wepte, and otherwhile song 
To rocke with hire child aslepe: 
And thus hire oghne child to kepe 
Sche hath under the goddes cure.

And so fell upon aventure, 
Whan thilke yer hath mad his ende, 
Hire Schip, so as it moste wende 
Thurgh strengthe of wynd which god hath yive, 
Estward was into Spaigne drive 
Riht faste under a Castell wall, 
Wher that an hethen Amirall 
Was lord, and he a Stieward hadde, 
Oon Thelous, which al was badde, 
A fals knyht and a renegat. 
He goth to loke in what astat 
The Schip was come, and there he fond 
Forth with a child upon hire hond 
This lady, wher sche was al one. 
He tok good hiede of the persone, 
And sih sche was a worthi wiht, 
And thoghte he wolde upon the nyht 
Demene hire at his oghne wille, 
And let hire be therinne stille, 
That mo men sih sche noght that dai. 

At goddes wille and thus sche lai, 
Unknowe what hire schal betide;
And fell so that be nyhtes tide 
This knyht withoute felaschipe 
Hath take a bot and cam to Schipe, 
And thoghte of hire his lust to take, 
And swor, if sche him daunger make,
That certeinly sche scholde deie. 
Sche sih ther was non other weie, 
And seide he scholde hire wel conforte, 
That he ferst loke out ate porte, 
That noman were nyh the stede, 
Which myhte knowe what thei dede, 
And thanne he mai do what he wolde. 
He was riht glad that sche so tolde, 
And to the porte anon he ferde: 
Sche preide god, and he hire herde, 
And sodeinliche he was out throwe 
And dreynt, and tho began to blowe 
A wynd menable fro the lond, 
And thus the myhti goddes hond 
Hire hath conveied and defended. 

And whan thre yer be full despended, 
Hire Schip was drive upon a dai, 
Wher that a gret Navye lay 
Of Schipes, al the world at ones: 
And as god wolde for the nones, 
Hire Schip goth in among hem alle, 
And stinte noght, er it be falle 
And hath the vessell undergete, 
Which Maister was of al the Flete, 
Bot there it resteth and abod. 
This grete Schip on Anker rod; 
The Lord cam forth, and whan he sih 
That other ligge abord so nyh, 
He wondreth what it myhte be, 
And bad men to gon in and se. 

This ladi tho was crope aside, 
As sche that wolde hireselven hide, 
For sche ne wiste what thei were: 
Thei soghte aboute and founde hir there 
And broghten up hire child and hire; 
And therupon this lord to spire
Began, fro whenne that sche cam, 
And what sche was. Quod sche, "I am 
A womman wofully bestad. 
I hadde a lord, and thus he bad, 
That I forth with my litel Sone 
Upon the wawes scholden wone, 
Bot why the cause was, I not: 
Bot he which alle thinges wot 
Yit hath, I thonke him, of his miht 
Mi child and me so kept upriht, 
That we be save bothe tuo." 

This lord hire axeth overmo 
How sche believeth, and sche seith, 
"I lieve and triste in Cristes feith,
Which deide upon the Rode tree." 

"What is thi name?" tho quod he. 

"Mi name is Couste," sche him seide: 
Bot forthermor for noght he preide 
Of hire astat to knowe plein, 
Sche wolde him nothing elles sein 
Bot of hir name, which sche feigneth; 
Alle othre thinges sche restreigneth, 
That a word more sche ne tolde. 
This lord thanne axeth if sche wolde 
With him abide in compaignie, 
And seide he cam fro Barbarie 
To Romeward, and hom he wente. 
Tho sche supposeth what it mente, 
And seith sche wolde with him wende 
And duelle unto hire lyves ende, 
Be so it be to his plesance. 

And thus upon here aqueintance 
He tolde hire pleinly as it stod, 
Of Rome how that the gentil blod 
In Barbarie was betraied, 
And therupon he hath assaied 
Be werre, and taken such vengance, 
That non of al thilke alliance, 
Be whom the tresoun was compassed, 
Is from the swerd alyve passed; 
Bot of Constance hou it was, 
That cowthe he knowe be no cas, 
Wher sche becam, so as he seide. 

Hire Ere unto his word sche leide, 
Bot forther made sche no chiere. 
And natheles in this matiere 
It happeth thilke time so: 
This Lord, with whom sche scholde go, 
Of Rome was the Senatour, 
And of hir fader th'emperour 
His brother doughter hath to wyve, 
Which hath hir fader ek alyve, 
And was Salustes cleped tho; 
This wif Heleine hihte also, 
To whom Constance was Cousine. 

Thus to the sike a medicine 
Hath god ordeined of his grace, 
That forthwith in the same place 
This Senatour his trowthe plihte,
For evere, whil he live mihte, 
To kepe in worschipe and in welthe, 
Be so that god wol yive hire helthe, 
This ladi, which fortune him sende. 
And thus be Schipe forth sailende 
Hire and hir child to Rome he broghte, 
And to his wif tho he besoghte 
To take hire into compaignie: 
And sche, which cowthe of courtesie 
Al that a good wif scholde konne, 
Was inly glad that sche hath wonne 
The felaschip of so good on. 

Til tuelve yeres were agon, 
This Emperoures dowhter Custe 
Forth with the dowhter of Saluste 
Was kept, bot noman redily 
Knew what sche was, and noght forthi 
Thei thoghten wel sche hadde be 
In hire astat of hih degre, 
And every lif hire loveth wel. 

Now herke how thilke unstable whel, 
Which evere torneth, wente aboute. 
The king Allee, whil he was oute, 
As thou tofore hast herd this cas, 
Deceived thurgh his Moder was: 
Bot whan that he cam hom ayein, 
He axeth of his Chamberlein 
And of the Bisschop ek also, 
Wher thei the qweene hadden do. 
And thei answerde, there he bad, 
And have him thilke lettre rad, 
Which he hem sende for warant, 
And tolde him pleinli as it stant, 
And sein, it thoghte hem gret pite 
To se so worthi on as sche, 
With such a child as ther was bore, 
So sodeinly to be forlore. 

He axeth hem what child that were; 
And thei him seiden, that naghere,
In al the world thogh men it soghte, 
Was nevere womman that forth broghte 
A fairer child than it was on. 
And thanne he axede hem anon, 
Whi thei ne hadden write so: 
Thei tolden, so thei hadden do. 
He seide, "Nay." Thei seiden, "Yis." 
The lettre schewed rad it is, 
Which thei forsoken everidel. 

Tho was it understonde wel 
That ther is tresoun in the thing: 
The Messager tofore the king 
Was broght and sodeinliche opposed;
And he, which nothing hath supposed 
Bot alle wel, began to seie 
That he nagher upon the weie
Abod, bot only in a stede;
And cause why that he so dede 
Was, as he wente to and fro, 
At Knaresburgh be nyhtes tuo 
The kinges Moder made him duelle. 

And whan the king it herde telle, 
Withinne his herte he wiste als faste 
The treson which his Moder caste; 
And thoghte he wolde noght abide, 
Bot forth riht in the same tide 
He tok his hors and rod anon. 
With him ther riden manion, 
To Knaresburgh and forth thei wente, 
And lich the fyr which tunder hente,
In such a rage, as seith the bok, 
His Moder sodeinliche he tok 
And seide unto hir in this wise: 
"O beste of helle, in what juise
Hast thou deserved forto deie, 
That hast so falsly put aweie 
With tresoun of thi bacbitinge 
The treweste at my knowlechinge 
Of wyves and the most honeste? 
Bot I wol make this beheste, 
I schal be venged er I go." 

And let a fyr do make tho, 
And bad men forto caste hire inne: 
Bot ferst sche tolde out al the sinne, 
And dede hem alle forto wite 
How sche the lettres hadde write, 
Fro point to point as it was wroght. 
And tho sche was to dethe broght 
And brent tofore hire Sones yhe: 
Wherof these othre, whiche it sihe 
And herden how the cause stod, 
Sein that the juggement is good, 
Of that hir Sone hire hath so served; 
For sche it hadde wel deserved 
Thurgh tresoun of hire false tunge, 
Which thurgh the lond was after sunge, 
Constance and every wiht compleigneth. 

Bot he, whom alle wo distreigneth, 
This sorghfull king, was so bestad, 
That he schal nevermor be glad, 
He seith, eftsone forto wedde, 
Til that he wiste how that sche spedde, 
Which hadde ben his ferste wif: 
And thus his yonge unlusti lif 
He dryveth forth so as he mai. 

Til it befell upon a dai, 
Whan he hise werres hadde achieved, 
And thoghte he wolde be relieved 
Of Soule hele upon the feith 
Which he hath take, thanne he seith 
That he to Rome in pelrinage
Wol go, wher Pope was Pelage, 
To take his absolucioun. 
And upon this condicioun 
He made Edwyn his lieutenant, 
Which heir to him was apparant, 
That he the lond in his absence 
Schal reule: and thus be providence 
Of alle thinges wel begon 
He tok his leve and forth is gon. 

Elda, which tho was with him there, 
Er thei fulliche at Rome were, 
Was sent tofore to pourveie; 
And he his guide upon the weie, 
In help to ben his herbergour, 
Hath axed who was Senatour, 
That he his name myhte kenne. 
Of Capadoce, he seide, Arcenne 
He hihte, and was a worthi kniht. 
To him goth Elda tho forth riht 
And tolde him of his lord tidinge, 
And preide that for his comynge 
He wolde assigne him herbergage; 
And he so dede of good corage. 

Whan al is do that was to done, 
The king himself cam after sone. 
This Senatour, whan that he com, 
To Couste and to his wif at hom 
Hath told how such a king Allee 
Of gret array to the Citee 
Was come, and Couste upon his tale 
With herte clos and colour pale 
Aswoune fell, and he merveileth 
So sodeinly what thing hire eyleth, 
And cawhte hire up, and whan sche wok, 
Sche syketh with a pitous lok 
And feigneth seknesse of the See; 
Bot it was for the king Allee, 
For joie which fell in hire thoght 
That god him hath to toune broght. 

This king hath spoke with the Pope 
And told al that he cowthe agrope,
What grieveth in his conscience; 
And thanne he thoghte in reverence 
Of his astat, er that he wente, 
To make a feste, and thus he sente 
Unto the Senatour to come 
Upon the morwe and othre some, 
To sitte with him at the mete. 

This tale hath Couste noght foryete, 
Bot to Moris hire Sone tolde 
That he upon the morwe scholde 
In al that evere he cowthe and mihte 
Be present in the kinges sihte, 
So that the king him ofte sihe. 

Moris tofore the kinges yhe 
Upon the morwe, wher he sat, 
Fulofte stod, and upon that 
The king his chiere upon him caste, 
And in his face him thoghte als faste 
He sih his oghne wif Constance; 
For nature as in resemblance 
Of face hem liketh so to clothe, 
That thei were of a suite bothe.
The king was moeved in his thoght 
Of that he seth, and knoweth it noght; 
This child he loveth kindely, 
And yit he wot no cause why. 
Bot wel he sih and understod 
That he toward Arcenne stod, 
And axeth him anon riht there, 
If that this child his Sone were. 
He seide, "Yee, so I him calle, 
And wolde it were so befalle, 
Bot it is al in other wise." 

And tho began he to devise 
How he the childes Moder fond 
Upon the See from every lond 
Withinne a Schip was stiereles, 
And how this ladi helpeles 
Forth with hir child he hath forthdrawe. 
The king hath understonde his sawe,
The childes name and axeth tho, 
And what the Moder hihte also 
That he him wolde telle he preide. 
"Moris this child is hote," he seide, 
"His Moder hatte Couste, and this 
I not what maner name it is." 

But Allee wiste wel ynowh, 
Wherof somdiel smylende he lowh;
For Couste in Saxoun is to sein 
Constance upon the word Romein. 
Bot who that cowthe specefie 
What tho fell in his fantasie, 
And how his wit aboute renneth 
Upon the love in which he brenneth, 
It were a wonder forto hiere: 
For he was nouther ther ne hiere, 
Bot clene out of himself aweie, 
That he not what to thenke or seie, 
So fain he wolde it were sche. 

Wherof his hertes privete 
Began the werre of yee and nay, 
The which in such balance lay, 
That contenance for a throwe 
He loste, til he mihte knowe 
The sothe: bot in his memoire 
The man which lith in purgatoire 
Desireth noght the hevene more, 
That he ne longeth al so sore 
To wite what him schal betide. 
And whan the bordes were aside
And every man was rise aboute, 
The king hath weyved al the route,
And with the Senatour al one 
He spak and preide him of a bone,
To se this Couste, wher sche duelleth 
At hom with him, so as he telleth. 

The Senatour was wel appaied,
This thing no lengere is delaied, 
To se this Couste goth the king; 
And sche was warned of the thing, 
And with Heleine forth sche cam 
Ayein the king, and he tho nam 
Good hiede, and whan he sih his wif, 
Anon with al his hertes lif 
He cawhte hire in his arm and kiste. 
Was nevere wiht that sih ne wiste 
A man that more joie made, 
Wherof thei weren alle glade 
Whiche herde tellen of this chance. 

This king tho with his wif Constance, 
Which hadde a gret part of his wille, 
In Rome for a time stille 
Abod and made him wel at ese: 
Bot so yit cowthe he nevere plese 
His wif, that sche him wolde sein 
Of hire astat the trowthe plein, 
Of what contre that sche was bore, 
Ne what sche was, and yit therfore 
With al his wit he hath don sieke. 

Thus as they lihe abedde and spieke, 
Sche preide him and conseileth bothe, 
That for the worschipe of hem bothe, 
So as hire thoghte it were honeste, 
He wolde an honourable feste 
Make, er he wente, in the Cite, 
Wher th'emperour himself schal be: 
He graunteth al that sche him preide. 
Bot as men in that time seide, 
This Emperour fro thilke day 
That ferst his dowhter wente away 
He was thanne after nevere glad; 
Bot what that eny man him bad 
Of grace for his dowhter sake, 
That grace wolde he noght forsake; 
And thus ful gret almesse he dede, 
Wherof sche hadde many a bede.

This Emperour out of the toun 
Withinne a ten mile enviroun, 
Where as it thoghte him for the beste, 
Hath sondry places forto reste; 
And as fortune wolde tho, 
He was duellende at on of tho. 
The king Allee forth with th'assent 
Of Couste his wif hath thider sent 
Moris his Sone, as he was taght, 
To themperour and he goth straght, 
And in his fader half besoghte,
As he which his lordschipe soghte, 
That of his hihe worthinesse 
He wolde do so gret meknesse, 
His oghne toun to come and se, 
And yive a time in the cite, 
So that his fader mihte him gete 
That he wolde ones with him ete. 

This lord hath granted his requeste; 
And whan the dai was of the feste, 
In worschipe of here Emperour 
The king and ek the Senatour 
Forth with here wyves bothe tuo, 
With many a lord and lady mo, 
On horse riden him ayein; 
Til it befell, upon a plein 
Thei sihen wher he was comende. 
With that Constance anon preiende 
Spak to hir lord that he abyde, 
So that sche mai tofore ryde, 
To ben upon his bienvenue
The ferste which schal him salue; 
And thus after hire lordes graunt 
Upon a Mule whyt amblaunt 
Forth with a fewe rod this qweene. 

Thei wondren what sche wolde mene, 
And riden after softe pas; 
Bot whan this ladi come was 
To th'emperour, in his presence 
Sche seide alowd in audience, 
"Mi lord, mi fader, wel you be! 
And of this time that I se 
Youre honour and your goode hele, 
Which is the helpe of my querele, 
I thonke unto the goddes myht." 

For joie his herte was affliht
Of that sche tolde in remembrance; 
And whanne he wiste it was Constance, 
Was nevere fader half so blithe. 
Wepende he keste hire ofte sithe, 
So was his herte al overcome; 
For thogh his Moder were come 
Fro deth to lyve out of the grave, 
He mihte nomor wonder have 
Than he hath whan that he hire sih. 

With that hire oghne lord cam nyh 
And is to th'emperour obeied; 
Bot whan the fortune is bewreied, 
How that Constance is come aboute, 
So hard an herte was non oute, 
That he for pite tho ne wepte. 

Arcennus, which hire fond and kepte, 
Was thanne glad of that is falle, 
So that with joie among hem alle 
Thei riden in at Rome gate. 
This Emperour thoghte al to late, 
Til that the Pope were come, 
And of the lordes sende some 
To preie him that he wolde haste: 
And he cam forth in alle haste, 
And whan that he the tale herde, 
How wonderly this chance ferde, 
He thonketh god of his miracle, 
To whos miht mai be non obstacle: 
The king a noble feste hem made, 
And thus thei weren alle glade. 

A parlement, er that thei wente, 
Thei setten unto this entente, 
To puten Rome in full espeir
That Moris was apparant heir 
And scholde abide with hem stille, 
For such was al the londes wille. 

Whan every thing was fulli spoke, 
Of sorwe and queint was al the smoke, 
Tho tok his leve Allee the king, 
And with full many a riche thing, 
Which th'emperour him hadde yive, 
He goth a glad lif forto live; 
For he Constance hath in his hond, 
Which was the confort of his lond. 
For whan that he cam hom ayein, 
Ther is no tunge it mihte sein 
What joie was that ilke stounde 
Of that he hath his qweene founde, 
Which ferst was sent of goddes sonde, 
Whan sche was drive upon the Stronde, 
Be whom the misbelieve of Sinne 
Was left, and Cristes feith cam inne 
To hem that whilom were blinde. 

Bot he which hindreth every kinde 
And for no gold mai be forboght, 
The deth comende er he be soght, 
Tok with this king such aqueintance, 
That he with al his retenance 
Ne mihte noght defende his lif; 
And thus he parteth from his wif, 
Which thanne made sorwe ynowh. 
And therupon hire herte drowh 
To leven Engelond for evere 
And go wher that sche hadde levere,
To Rome, whenne that sche cam: 
And thus of al the lond sche nam 
Hir leve, and goth to Rome ayein. 

And after that the bokes sein, 
She was noght there bot a throwe, 
Whan deth of kinde hath overthrowe 
Hir worthi fader, which men seide 
That he betwen hire armes deide. 
And afterward the yer suiende
The god hath mad of hire an ende, 
And fro this worldes faierie
Hath take hire into compaignie. 
Moris hir Sone was corouned, 
Which so ferforth was abandouned 
To Cristes feith, that men him calle 
Moris the cristeneste of alle.

And thus the wel meninge of love 
Was ate laste set above; 
And so as thou hast herd tofore, 
The false tunges weren lore, 
Whiche upon love wolden lie. 
Forthi touchende of this Envie 
Which longeth unto bacbitinge, 
Be war thou make no lesinge 
In hindringe of an other wiht:
And if thou wolt be tawht ariht 
What meschief bakbitinge doth 
Be other weie, a tale soth 
Now miht thou hiere next suiende, 
Which to this vice is acordende. 

word, saying
was called
was called

was called
business, trade

intent, purpose

took counsel

here (on earth)

schemed, devised

reach, attain

secret plan

free, escaped




providence, foresight

was afflicted

boon, request


listen, hear

before, beforehand


to abate

to understand

on high, aloud
could know


make known

safe and sound

read over

is called





behalf of the king


at the last


not knowing

if she refuse him

inquire, ask


pledged his word



one place


judicial punishment


find out

one fashion (similar)

word, speech


boards (for dining tables)





on his father's behalf




had rather (be)

following year


most Christian



Text adapted from: The English Works of John Gower, ed. G. C. Macaulay, EETS e.s. 81-82. London. 1900-01.