THE HOUSE OF FAME. From The Modern Reader's Chaucer,
ed. John S. P. Tatlock and Percy MacKaye (New York: Free Press,
For educational use only.
GOD turn every dream to good for us! For to my Wit it is Wondrous,
by the rood, what causes dreams by night or by morrow; and why
some be fulfilled and some never, why that is a vision and this
a revelation, why this is one kind of dream, and that another,
and not to every man alike; why this one is an illusion and that
an oracle. I know not, but whosoever knows the causes of these
prodigies better than I, let him divine; for I certainly wot naught
thereof, and never think to trouble my Wittoo arduously to learn
their kinds of significance, or the length of time to their fulfilment,
or why this is cause of dreams rather than that; as whether folks'
temperaments make them dream of what they have been thinking on;
or else, as others say, over-en-feeblement of brains from sickness
or abstinence, imprisonment, frequenting of stews, or great distress;
or else disorder of Nature's customs, as when a man is too zealous
in study, or melancholy or so full of inward fear that no man
may offer him relief; or else whether the devoutness and meditation
of some often cause such dreams; or be it that the cruel, hard
life which these lovers lead, who hope or fear overmuch, so that
their mere fancies cause visions; or whether spirits have the
power to make folk dream o nights; or if the soul from its proper
nature be so perfect, as men judge, that it foreknows what is
to he, and warns one and all of each of their haps to come, by
means of visions or figurings, but our flesh cannot understand
these aright, because the warnings are too dark; --I know not
what the cause is good luck in this to great clerks, who treat
of this matter and others. For I will now make note of no opinion,
but only pray that the holy cross turn every dream to good for
us. Forever have I since I was born, nor any man else before me,
I firmly believe, dreamed so wonderful a dream as I did the tenth
day of December; which, as I can now recall it, I will tell you
But trust well, at my beginning I will anon make invocation with special devoutness, to the god of sleep, who dwells in a cave of rock by a stream which comes from Lethe, which is a bitter riser of hell; hard by a folk called the Cimmerians ever sleeps this mirthless god with his thousand sleepy sons, whose wont is ever to sleep; and this god I tell of I pray to grant me success to tell my dream aright, if every dream be within his power. And may He who is Mover of all that is and was and ever shall be give them that hearken to it joy of all they dream this year, and to stand all in the favor of their loves or in whatever plight they were fainest to stand in, and shield them from poverty and shame and mishap and every ill, and send all their desire to them that receive it well and scorn it not or misjudge it in their minds through malicious intent. And whosoever through presumption or hate or scorn or envy, through spite or mockery or wickedness, may misjudge it,-- dream he stockings-on or stockings-off I pray Jesus God that every ill that any man has had since the beginning of the world may befall him therefor ere he die, and that he may fully deserve it all, lo! with such a fulfillment as had Croesus King of Lydia of his vision, who died upon a high gibbet! This prayer shall he have of me; no more charity have I than this! Now, as I have told you, hearken to what I dreamed ere I awoke.
The tenth day of December, when it was night, I lay down to sleep even where I was wont, and fell asleep wondrous soon, as one who was weary from walking a pilgrimage of two miles to the shrine of Saint Leonard, to make soft what had been troublous.
But as I slept I dreamed I was within a temple of glass, in which were more golden images standing in sundry niches, and more rich tabernacles, and more pinnacles of gemmed work, and more cunning picturings and rare manners of figures in old work than ever I had seen. For verily I knew never where I was, but well I knew, truly, that it was of Venus, this temple, for straight-way I saw her figure pictured, floating naked in a sea; and also her rose-garland white and red, perdy, about her brows; and her comb to comb her hair; her doves, and Dan Cupid, her blind son, and Vulcan, full brown of his face.
But as I roamed about, I found a tablet of brass on a walls
where was written: 'I will now sing, if I am able, the arms and eke the man, who, fugitive from Troy-country, first came through his fate into Italy to the Lavinian strand with full great suffering.'And then anon began the story, as I shall tell you all. First I saw the destruction of Troy, through the Greek Sinon, who with his false oaths and his feigned cheer and his leasings made the horse to be brought into the city, through which the Trojans lost all their happiness. And after this, alas!, was graven how Ilium was assailed and won, and King Priam pitilessly slain and also Polites his son, by Sir Pyrrhus.
And next to that I beheld how Venus, when she saw the castle burning, descended from heaven and bade her son Aeneas to flee; and how he fled and escaped from all the press, and took Anchises his father and bare him away on his back, crying Alack and alackaday! ' Which Anchises carried in his hands those gods of the country which were unburned. And next in all this company I saw how Creusa, the wife of Sir Aeneas, whom he loved as his soul, and her young son Iulus, and eke Ascanius also, fled with so heavy looks that it was piteous to see; and how at a turning of a path as they went in the forest Creusa was lost and died, alas!, but I know not in what wise; how he sought her, and how her spirit bade him to flee the host of the Greeks and said he must to Italy without fail, as was his destiny; so that it was piteous to listen to her words when her spirit appeared to him, and how she prayed him to guard her son. There I saw eke graven how he and his father and his household sailed forth with his ships towards the land of Italy, as straight as they could go.
There, cruel Juno, who art Lord Jupiter's wife, and hast hated
ever all the Trojan blood, I saw thee run as a mad-woman, and
call on Aeolus, the god of winds, to blow out from all directions
so wildly that he should drown lord and lady, serving-man and
wench, of the whole Trojan nation without any rescue. There I
save arise such a tempest that every heart might shudder to see
it painted on the wall. There, Venus, I saw eke graven how thou,
my lady dear, weeping with full woeful countenance, prayedest
Jupiter on high, because the Trojan Aeneas was thy son, to save
and guard his fleet. There saw I Jove kiss Venus and grant abatement
tempest. There saw I how it ceased, and how Aeneas proceeded with great toil and privily arrived in the country of Carthage; and on the morrow, how he and a knight called Achates met with Venus walking ill rare disguise, as she had been an huntress, with thewind blowing through her hair; how Aeneas when he knew her, began to bewail his sufferings, and that his ships were sunk, or else lost, he knew not where, how she begat to comfort him and bade him go to Carthage, where he should find his folk who had been left behind on the sea.
And, to pass over this thing shortly, she put Aeneas so in grace with Dido, queen of that land, that, to tell it briefly, shebecame his love in heart and body. why should I speak more artfully or strive to paint my words in speaking of love? It will not be; I know nothing of that craft. And eke to tell the manner in which they became acquainted, it were a long story to tell, and would delay you over-long. There I saw graven how Aeneas told Dido every chance that had happened to him on the sea. And after that was graven how she made of him, in brief and in a word, her life, her love, her joy, her master, and did him all the reverence, and lavished on him all the wealth that any woman could, weening all had been as he had sworn her and hereby deeming that he was good, for such he seemed.Alas! what evil is wrought by appearance when it is false to the truth of the case! For he was traitor to her, wherefore, alas! she slew herself. Lo! how ill a woman does to love him who is unknown! For lo, by heaven! it is not all gold that shines. For, on my life, many a cursed fault may be covered under goodly seeming; therefore be no wight so foolish as to takea lover only because of aspect, speech or friendly manner; for this every woman shall find, that sometimes a man by his nature will appear outwardly the fairest, till he have gained what he desires, and then he will invent excuses, and swear that she is unkind or false or sly or two-faced. All this I am minded of by Aeneas and Dido, and her foolish inclination, who loved a guest all too soon. Wherefore I will say a proverb:
'Who knows the herb right perfectly May safely lay it to his eye.'
Without doubt this is true.519
But let us speak of Aeneas, how he betrayed her and left her
full unkindly, alas! So when she utterly perceived that he would
fail in his troth to her, and would turn from her to Italy, she
began to wring her two hands. ' Alas! ' quoth she, ' alas, woe
is me! is this the troth of every man, that he will have anew
one every year (if it will last that long), or else three, peradventure?
As thus: of one he would have fame in magnifying his reputation;
another, he says, for friendship, and there shall be yet the third,
that shall be taken, lo, for delight or some especial advantage.'
In such words Dido bemoaned her great pain, as I dreamed; I cite
none other author. 'Alas!' she said, 'my sweet heart, have pity
on my bitter sorrows, and slay me not! Go not away! Ah woful Dido,
alas!' Then she said to herself, ' Aeneas, what wilt thou do?
Ah that neither thy love, nor thy pledge that thou least sworn
with thy right hand nor my cruel death, may keep thee here with
me still! Ah, have pity of my death! Surely, my dear heart, thou
knowest full well that never yet, so far as my wit could stretch,
have I wronged thee in thought or deed. Ah, have ye men such goodliness
in speech, and never a bit of truth? Alas, that ever woman had
pity on any man! Now I well see and can tell others that we wretched
women have no subtlety; for certainly thus we be served every
one, for the more part. However sorely ye men can groan, anon
as soon as we have accepted you, in truth we are deceived, for
though your love last for a season, watch for the conclusion how
for the more part ye will end. Alack that I was born, for through
you good native is lost, and all my deeds are read and sung over
all this land, in every mouth. O evil Report! for low, there is
nothing so swift as she is. Ah, true it is, everything is known,
though it be wrapped deep in mist. And eke, though I might live
forever, I can never so retrieve what I have done, that, alas!,
I shall not be said to have been shamed through Aeneas, and that
it shall not be judged of me thus: Lo even as she has done, she
will of a surety do again.' Thus the people say privily. But what
is done is not yet to do; verily, all her lament and moan availed
her not a straw. And when of a truth she knew that he was gone
forth unto his ships, she went anon into her chamberand called
her sister Anne and lamented to her, and said that
she was the cause why she first loved Aeneas, and had counselled her thereto. But what! When this was said and done, she rove herself to the heart and died of the bitter wound. But all the manner of her death and the words she said, whosoever would fain know it, let him read Virgil in the book of the Aeneid, or the epistle in Ovid, which she wrote ere she died. And were it not too long to endite, by heaven I would put it here.
But alack for the harm and pity that have betided from such faithlessness, as men may often read in books, and see it still in deed every day, so that it is dolorous to think on! Lo Demophon, duke of Athens, how he forswore himself full falsely, and wickedly betrayed Phyllis, who was the king's daughter of Thrace, and falsely tarried past his appointed time , and when she knew he was false, she hanged herself by the neck because he had been so faithless to her. Lo! was not this a woe and a laxity? Eke, lo! how false and heedless was Achilles to Briseis, and Paris to Oenone, and Jason to Hypsipyle, and again Jason to Medea, and Hercules to Dejanira (for he left her for Sole, which brought him his death, perdy!). Eke how false wasTheseus, who betrayed Ariadne, as the story tells us, the Devil be his soul's destruction! For he would have been all devoured, willy-nilly, had it not been for Ariadne. And because she pitied him, she helped him to escape from his death. And he played her a right false trick; for some time after this he left her sleeping alone on a desert isle amid the sea, and stole away and left her to shift for herself; and took her sister Phaedra withhim and went to his ship. And yet he had sworn to her by all that ever he could swear upon that, so she saved his life; he would wed her; for, as the book says, of a truth she desired naught else.
But to excuse Aeneas fully for his great trespass, the book says that in truth Mercury bade him go into Italy and leave the region of Africa and Dido and her fair town.
Thcn I saw graven how Sir Aeneas set sail for Italy; and how
there arose a great tempest, and how he lost his steersman, whom
the rudder, ere he took heed, smote overboard, lo! as he slept.
And also I saw how the Sibyl and Aneas, hard by an isle, went
down into hell to see his father, the noble Anchises; how he found
there Palinurus, and Dido, and eke Deiphobus;
and he saw every torment of hell, which were long to relate which whoever wishes to know, he must read many a line in Virgil or Claudian or Dante, who can tell it.
Then I saw graven all the arrival of Aeneas in Italy, and his treaty with king Latinus, and all the battles that he was in and eke his knights, ere he gained what he would have, and how he took Turnus' life and won Lavinia in marriage, and all the marvelous portents of the celestial gods; how, maugre Juno and all her arts and fetches, Aeneas achieved all his emprise, for Jupiter took care of him at the petition of Venus whom I pray ever to save us and ever ease us of our sorrows!
When I had seen all these sights thus in this noble temple,I thought, 'Ah Lord that madest us! Never yet saw I such magnificence of figures and such wealth as I have seen graven in this church. But I wot not who had them wrought, nor where I am nor in what land. But now I will go out even to the wicket, and see if I can espy any man stirring anywhere who can tell me where I am.'
When I came out at the doors I gazed about me diligently.Then
I saw only a large field as far as I could see, without town or
house or tree or bush or grass or plowed ground; for all the field
was sand, as fine as men may see yet lying in the desert of Libya.
Nor saw I any manner of being that is formed by Nature, to instruct
or direct me. 'O Christ, Who reignest in blessedness,' I thought,
' save me from phantom and illusion!' And devoutly I cast mine
eyes to the heaven. Lo, at the last I was ware then how hard by
the sun, as far up as I could discern with mine eye, methought
I beheld an eagle soar, only it seemed much greater than any eagle
that I had ever seen. But verily this is as true as death, it
was golden, and shone so brilliantly that never man had seen such
a sight, unless the heaven had gained another sun all new and
of gold; so brightly shone the eagle's feathers. And then it began
somewhat to descend.
BOOK I I.
Incipit liber secundus.
Now hearken, every manner of man who can understand English and list to learn of my dream; for now or never ye shall hear of so wondrous a vision that neither Esaias nor Scipio nor King Nebuchadnezzar, Pharaoh, Turnus, nor Elcanor dreamed such a dream as this. Now, fair blessed Cyprian dame, be my helper in this task! And ye who dwell on Parnassus, by thepure fount of Helicon, help me to endite and rhyme! O Thought that recorded all that I dreamed and locked it in the treasury of my brain, now shall men see if there be any power in thee to tell all my dream aright. Now make known thy power and craft!
This eagle that I have spoken of, that soared so far on high and shone as with feathers of gold, I began to behold more and more, and to see its beauty and the marvel of it all. But never was lightning-stroke, or that thing which men call the thunderbolt which sometimes has smitten a tower to powder and burned it by its swift onslaught that so swiftly descended as this bird, when it beheld me abroad in the field. And with his grim and mighty feet, within his long sharp claws, he caught meat a swoop as I fled, and soared up again, carrying me in his strong claws as easily as if I were a lark, how high I cannot tell you, for how I came up I knew not. For every faculty in my head was so astonied and stunned, what with his swift ascent and mine own fear, that all my sense of feeling died away, so great was mine affright.
Thus I lay long in his claws, till at last he spoke to me in
human voice and said, ' Awake and be not so aghast! fie upon you!
' And then he called me by name, and, to arouse me the better,
so I dreamed, he said 'Awake!' to me, even in the same voice and
tone that one whom I could mention uses, and at that voice, to
tell the truth, my mind returned to me, for it was spoken to me
kindly, as it was never wont to be. And at this I began to stir,
and he bore me on in his talons till he felt thatI grew warm and
eke felt my heart beating. Then he began to
be mirthful with me and with words to comfort me, and said twice, ' Marry, you are troublesome to bear, and more than your need be, perdy! For, so God help me, you shall have no harm of this. This thing that has happened to you is for your Instruction and your profit. Let see! dare you look yet? Be fully assured, I tell you plainly, I am your friend.'
And therewith I began to marvel within my mind. ' O God Who madest nature,' thought I, 'am I to die in none other way? Will Jove stellify me, or what thing may this all mean? I am neither Enoch nor Elias nor Romulus nor Ganymede, who as books tell, was borne up to heaven by Lord Jupiter and made the gods' butler.'
Lo this was my fancy then! But he who carried me espied that I thought thus, and said, 'You think amiss in your own mind; for Jove is not minded, I dare well put you fully out of doubt to make a star of you as yet. But ere I bear you much farther I will tell you what I am, and whither you shall go, and why I came to do this, so you take good heart and tremble not for fear.'
' Gladly,' quoth I .
' Now that is well,' quoth he. ' First, I who have you in my
feet, at which thing you fear and marvel, dwell with the god of
thunder whom men call Jupiter, who sends me full often flyingfar
to do all his commands. And for this cause he has sent meto you
now hearken, by your troth! he has pity of you, verily because
so long and attentively you have served his blind grand-son Cupid
and also the fair Venus, ever yet without guerdon; and nevertheless
have set your wit full small though it beto making books, songs,
ditties, in rhyme or in cadence, as you best know how, in worship
of Love, and of his servants also, that have sought and seek his
service; and strive to praise his art, although you had never
a portion therein. Wherefore, so God bless me, Jove deems it great
humility and eke great virtue, that full often you will set your
head to aching by night, so diligently enditing, and evermore
of Love, in honor and praiseof him and to the furtherance of his
folk; and have set forththe whole of their matter, and despise
neither him nor his folk, though you must needs go upon the dance
with them he cares to promote but little. Wherefore as I said,
in truth, Jupiter
considers this and other things also, fair sir; that is, that you gain no tidings of Love's folk, whether they be glad or no, nor of anything else that God made; not only that no tidings come to you from far lands, but you hear neither this nor that of your very neighbors who dwell almost at your door; for when your labor is all ended and you have made all your reckonings, instead of rest and novelty you go home anon to your house, and as dumb as any stone you sit at another book till your eyes are all dazed. Thus you live like a hermit (though your abstinence be but small!).
'And therefore Jove of his kind favor wills that I should bear you to a place which is called the House of Fame, to give you some disport and diversion, as some recompense for your labor and devotion to Cupid the careless, lo, ever without reward! And so this god will of his grace requite you with some manner of thing, if you will be of good heart. For trust well, when we be come where I say, you shall hear of more wondrous things, I dare wager, more tidings of Love's folk, both truthful sayings and lies; and more loves newly started, and more love's long labors won; and more loves that betide by chance, no man wot why, save as a blind man starts up an hare; and more jollity and goings-on, whilst they find love true as steel, as they think, and see joy and well-being everywhere; more discords, more Jealousies, more murmurs, more changes, more dissimulations and feigned makings-up, and more wool pulled over folks' eyes and then fleeced off without razor or scissors in two hours, than there be grains of sand; and eke more lovers falsely led on, and more renewals of old abandoned acquaintances, more love-days and reconcilings, than there be strings on instruments of music; and eke more exchanges of loves than ever were grains of corn in barns. Scarce can you believe all this? ' quoth he.
No, so surely may God help me!' I said.
' No? Why?' quoth he.
' Because to my wit it seems impossible, though Fame had all the magpies and all the spies in a whole kingdom, that she should yet hear all this, or they espy it.'
'Ah, yes, yes! ' quoth he to me. 'That can I prove by reason
worthy of credence, so you give heed to understand my words. First
you shall hear where she dwells, as your own book
relates it. As I shall tell you, her palace stands even in the very midst of the way betwixt heaven, earth and sea; so that, whatsoever is spoken privily or openly in all three of these domains every sound must pass to it, or whatsoever comes from any mouth, be it read or sung or whispered, or spoken in security or fear; certainly it must needs thither, that palace stands in so exact a spot, and the road thereto is so open.
'Now hearken well, for I will show you a right proper argument and a noble demonstration out of mine own imagining. Geoffrey, you know this right well, that everything there is in nature has a natural place where it is best conserved, toward which place everything is naturally inclined and moves to come thither when it is far away therefrom. As thus; lo, you may ever see that any heavy thing, as stone or lead, or something of weight, if you carry it never so high and let go your hand, it will fall down. Even so I say of fire or sound or smoke or other light things; they always seek to go upward on high. Whilst each is free, light things go up and heavy things down. And for this reason you perceive that every river, of its nature, tends to go to the sea, fish have their dwelling in river and sea, as I read, and trees eke be in earth. And hence each thing has its proper mansion, to which it seeks to repare and where it is ever at its best. Lo, this opinion is well known from the mouth of every philosopher, as Aristotle, and Lord Plato, and many another clerk.
'And, to confirm my interpretation, you know this well, that speech is sound, else no man could hear it. Now hearken to what I shall teach you. Sound is naught but broken air: and every speech that is uttered, aloud or privily, good or ill, is in substance nothing but air. For as flame is but lighted smoke, sound is broken air. But this may be in many ways, of which I will tell you two; as sound that comes of pipe, or of harp when a pipe is blown strongly, the air is twisted and rent with violence; lo, this is mine interpretation. And when men smite harp-strings, heavily or lightly, lo, the air breaks apart with the stroke. Even so it breaks when men speak, thus you have learned what speech is.
'Next now I will teach you how every word or noise or sound,
though it were piped by a mouse, must needs through its
multiplication come to the House of Fame. I prove it thus: take heed, now, by experiment; for if now you throw a stone into water, you know well that anon it will make a little round spot like a circle, peradventure as broad as a pot-lid; and right anon you shall see how that wheel will cause another wheel, and that, the third and so forth, friend, every circle causing another wider than itself was. And thus from small circle to great, each circumscribing theother, each caused by the other's motion, but ever increasing till they go so far that they be at both brinks. Although you cannot see it from above, these circles spread beneath the water as well, though you think it a great marvel. And whoever says that I vary from the truth, bid him prove the reverse. And even thus, of a certainty, every word that is spoken, loud or privy, first moves a circle of air thereabout, and from this motion anon another circle is stirred. As I have proved of the water, that every circle causes a second, even so is it with air, my dear brother; each circle passes into another greater and greater, and bears up speech or voice or noise, word or sound, through constant increase till it come to the House of Fame; take this in earnest or no; it is truth .
'Now I have told, if you can bear it in mind, how speech or
sound by its very nature is inclined to draw upward; this I have
well proved, as you can perceive; and that the abode to which
each thing is inclined has in truth its particular location. Then
it is right plain that the natural abode of every speech and sound,
fair or foul, has its natural position in the firmament. And since
everything that is out of its natural place of a certainty tends
to go thither, as I have before proved to you, it follows, perdy,
that very sound naturally tends to go right up to its natural
place. And this place which I tell of where Fame is pleased to
live is set in the midst of these three, the sea, the sky, and
the earth, as the place where sound is most readily received.
Then this is the conclusion: every speech of every wight, as I
began first to tell you, moves up on high to pass to Fame's place,
by its very nature. Tell me this faithfully, have I not thus simply
made awoof without any subtlety of speech or great prolixity of
philosophical terms or poetical figures or colors of rhetoric?
Perdy, it ought to please you, for hard language and hard matter
together are annoyous to hear; know you not this well?
And I answered and said, ' Yes! '
'Aha! ' quoth he. 'Lo! thus I can speak simply to a simple man, and show him such arguments that he can shakethem by the beaks, they shall be so paintable. But tell me this pray you, what think you of my conclusion? '
Quoth I, ' It is a good argument, and like to be even so as you have proved to me.
' Perdy,' quoth he, ' and as I trow, you shall yet, ere it be eve, have proof of every word of this argument by experience; and with your ears hear well that every word that is spoken, top and tail and every whit, certainly comes into Fame's house, as I have said. What would you further? ' And with this word he began to soar higher, and said, ' By Saint James, now we willspeak entirely of sport. How fare you? '
' Well,' quoth I.
' Now by your faith,' quoth he, 'see down yonder whether you know any town or house or any other thing. And when ou recognize aught, look you warn me and straightway I shall tell you how far you now are therefrom.'
And then I looked down and beheld fields and plains, andnow hills, now mountains, now valleys, now forests, and now (but scarce I saw them) great beasts; now rivers, now cities, now towns, now great trees, now ships sailing on the sea. But soon, after a while, he had flown so high from the ground that all the world seemed no more than a point to mine eyes; or else the air was so thick that I could discern naught. With that he spake to me anon and said, 'See you any town or aught thatyou know down yonder?'
I said, 'Nay.'
'No wonder is it,' quoth he, 'for Alexander of Macedon was not half so high as this, nor the king Sir Scipio, who in a dream saw every point of hell and earth and paradise; nor eke luckless Dedalus, nor foolish Icarus his child, who flew so high that the heat melted his wings and he fell wet amid the sea and here drowned; for whom was made great lamentation. Now,' quoth he, 'turn your face upward and behold this large region, this air. But look you be not afeared of them that vow shall see for in this region, of a truth, dwells many a citizen, of which Sir Plato speaks. Lo, these be the aerial beasts.'528
And so I saw all that multitude both walk and fly abroad.
'Now,' quoth he then, ' lift up your eyes; lo, see yonder the Galaxy, which men call the Milky Way, because it is white, and some, in faith, call it Watling Street. It was once burned with fire, when the red sun's son, called Phaethon, would at all hazards drive and guide his father's chariot. The chariot-horses knew well that he understood not their manage, and began to leap and plunge and to bear him now up now down till he saw the Scorpion, which is still a sign in heaven. And for fear of that he lost his wit, and let go the reins of his horses; and anon they mounted and descended till both air and earthburned; till lo, Jupiter at last slew him and hurled him from the chariot. Lo, is it not great harm to let a fool have the management of a thing that he cannot control? '
And with this word, sooth to say, he began to soar steadily upward; and rejoiced me more and more, he spake to me with such friendly wisdom. Then I looked below rne and beheld the aerial beasts, clouds, winds, mists, tempests, snows, hails, rains and their generation after their kind, and all the way over which I had come. 'O God that madest Adam,' quoth I, ' great is Thy power and Thy splendor! ' And then I thought of Boethius, who writes, ' A thought may fly so high on the wings of Philosophy as to mount above every element; and when it hath gone so far, then the clouds may he seen behind its back,' and all of which I have spoken. Then I began to grow confused and said,' I wot well that I am here, but whether in body or in spirit verily I wot not; but Thou, God, knowest!' For not as yet had He sent me clear understanding. 'Then I thought on Martian, and eke on the Anticlaudianus, and that their description of all the heavenly region was true, so far as I had experience thereof. Therefore I can now believe them.
And at this the eagle cried out and said, ' Let be your fancies. Will you learn aught about stars? '
' Nay, in very sooth,' quoth I, ' right naught. And why? because I am too old now.'
'Else,' quoth he, ' I would have told you the names of the stars, and all the signs of the heavens, too, and what they be.'
' No matter,' said I.
'Yes verily, it does matter,' quoth he; ' and know you why?
For you read in the poets how the gods have made stars of birdfish, beast, or man or woman, as the Raven, or either Bear, orArion's fine harp, Castor, Pollux, the Dolphin or the seven daughters of Atlas, how all these are set in the sky. For though you often hear of them, yet you know not where they be.'
' No matter,' quoth I. ' It needs not; so God speed me, I believe them that write of this matter even as much as though I knew their places here; and eke they shine so radiantly here, it would ruin all my sight to look on them.'
' That may well be,' quoth he. And so he carried me on awhile, and then cried out so that I heard never a thing so fraud.' Now up with your head, for all is now well over. Lo, Saint Julian! a good hostelry! Behold, see here is the House of Fame.Can you not hear what I hear? '
'What?' I asked.
'The great sound,' quoth he, ' that rumbles up and down in Fame's House, full of rumors, both of fair words and chiding and of false and true compounded. Hearken well, it is not whispered, in faith! Hear you not the great murmur? '
'Yes,' quoth I, ' well enough, perdy.'
'And what sound is it like? '
'Peter!' quoth I, ' like the beating of the sea against hollow rocks, when tempest engulfs the ships, to a man who stands amile thence and hears the roar. Or else it is like the last mutter after a thunder-clap, when Jove has smitten the air. But it makes me sweat for fear!'
'Nay,' quoth he, 'fear not thereat, it is naught that will bite you! Truly you shall have no harm.'
And at this word we were come as nigh the place as a man might hurl a spear. I knew not how, but he set me fairly on my feet in a road, and said, 'Walk on at your ease and take your chance or lot, whatever you shall find in Fame's place.'
'Now,' quoth I, 'whilst we have time to speak, ere I gofrom
you, for the love of God tell me, in sooth I would fain learn
it of you; whether this noise that I hear be, as I have heard
you tell, from folk that live down upon the earth, and comes here
in that manner which I heard you describe but now;and whether
there is not in all that house yonder a living creature that makes
all this loud ado.'
'No,' quoth he, 'by Saint Clara, and so surely may God help me! But of one thing I will warn you at which you will marvel. Lo, you know how every speech comes to the House of Fame yonder; it needs not tell you again. But now understand this right well: when any speech is come up to the palace, anon it becomes like the same wight who spake those words on earth, and in the selfsame garb; and has so the very likeness of him who spake the words that you would trow it were the same body, man or woman, he or she. And is not this marvelous?'
'Yes! by the heavenly King,' quoth I. And at this word he said, ' Farewell, and here I will await you. And may the God of heaven send you grace to learn somegood here.'
And anon I took leave of him and walked on to the palace.
Explicit liber secundus.
Incipit liber tercius.
APOLLO, god of knowledge and light, through thy great power do thou guide this little last book! Not that I desire that poetical art be shown here in sign of skill; but, because ther hyme is light and uncrafty, yet make it somewhat pleasing, even though some verse be wanting in a syllable, and though I seek to display no art, but only my meaning. And if, divine power, thou wilt help me to show now what is noted in my mind lo that is to describe the House of Fame thou shalt see me go straightway to the nearest laurel that I can find and kiss it, be cause it is thy tree. Now enter straightway into my breast!
When I was gone from this eagle, I began to look about.And
truly, before I proceed further, I will describe to you all the
aspect of house and site; and all the manner how I approached
this place, which stood upon so lofty a rock that in Spain there
stands none higher. But I climbed up with great labor, yet notwithstanding
I was attentive to see and to pore wondrous low at my feet, to
find out if I could in any wise of what manner of
stone this rock was; for it was like a thing made of glass, savethat it shone much more brightly. But of what congealed matter it was, I wist not, of a truth. But at last I espied that it was every whit a rock of ice, and not of steel. Thought I, ' By SaintThomas of Kent, this were a feeble foundation on which to build so lofty a place! He ought to boast but little who builds hereon, so God save me!'
Then I saw the whole side graven with many names of famousf olk, who had lived in much weal and had their renown blonwn afar. But scarce could I make out any letters to read their names by; for in truth they were so nearly thawed away that one or two letters of every name were melted away, so unfamous was their fame grown. But men say, 'what may endure forever? '
Then I pondered in my heart how they were melted away by heat, and not worn away by storms. For on the opposite side of this hill, that lay to the north, I saw how it was writtenfull of names of folk that had great renown of old time, and stillthey were as fresh as if men had written them there that veryday or the very hour when I peered upon them. And well Iknew the reason; all this writing which I saw was preserved bythe shadow of a castle which stood on high; and the writing layon so cold a spot that heat could IIU. deface it.
Then I went up the hill and found on top an abode such that
all the men alive would have no cunning to describe the beauty
of it, nor could devise a plan to make such another, its match
in beauty and so wondrously wrought; it still astonies my mind
and makes all my wit labor, to think on this castle.The great
art and heauty, the plan ai.d curious workmanship, Icannot describe
to you; my wit suffices not. Nevertheless all the substance thereof
I have yet in my remembrance. For it seemed to one, by Saint Giles,
all was of beryl, without piecing or joints; both castle and tower
and hall and every chamber saw many subtle devices, gargoyles
and pinnacles, tabernacles and imageries; and eke it was as full
of windows as flakes fall in great snowstorms. And also in each
of the pinnacles were sundry niches in which all about over the
castle outside stood all manner of minstrels and tellers of tales
both tearful and merry, of all that ministers to Fame. There I
heard Orpheus playing full skilfully upon a harp which sounded
clear and well; and
hard by his side sat the harper Arion and Achilles' Chiron, and the Briton Glasgerion, and many another harper; and in seats below them sat small harpers with their glees and instruments and stared up at them and counterfeited them like apes, or as art counterfeits nature. Then I saw standing behind them, faraway and all by themselves, many scores of thousands, who made loud minstrelsy with bagpipes and shawms and many other kinds of pipes, and skilfully played both them of clear and them of reedy sound, such as be played at feasts with the roast meat and many a flute and lilting-horn and pipes made of green stalks, such as these little shepherd-lads have who watch over beasts in the broom.
Then I saw there Atiteris, and Sir Pseustis of Athens, andthat Marsyas who lost his skin, on face, neck, and body, because, lo, he would vie with Apollo, to pipe better than he.There I saw famous pipers of the German speech, both young and old, learning love-dances, springs, rounds and these foreigncapers. In another part I saw standing in a large space certain of them that make bloody sounds with trumpet, clarion and horn; for they that fight and shed blood are fain to have clarioning.There I heard Misenus, of whom Virgil speaks; also I heard Joab trump there, Thiodamas, and others besides. And all them in Aragon and Catalonia, that were acquainted with the clarion, who were famous to hear of in their time, saw I trumpeting there.
On other seats I saw sitting there, playing upon sundry instruments which I cannot name, more folk than there be stars in heaven; of whom I will not now rhyme, considering your pleasure and the time that would be lost: for this you know, that time lost can in no way be recovered. There I saw jugglers playing, rnagicians, wizards and pythonesses, charmeresses, oldwitches, sorceresses, who use exorcisms and eke these mysticfumigations; and also clerks who well know all this natural magic, and who give their minds and their craft, in certain aspects of the ascendant, to making images, through which magic, lo, they may make a man sick or whole. There I saw thee, queen Medea, eke Circe and Calypso; there I saw Hermes Ballenus, Lymote, and eke Simon Magus. There I saw, and knew by name, those who by such arts gained men renown.533
There I saw Colle the juggler perform upon a table of sycamorea thing strange to describe; I saw him carry a windmill under awalnut -shell.
Why should I make a longer story, from now to doomsdayof all the people that I saw? When I had beheld all this folkand found myself free and no whit withheld, and had again museda long while upon these walls of beryl, which shone more brightlythan glass, and tnade all things, in truth, to seem greater thanthey were, as is natural to Fame, I roamed on till I found onmy right the castle-gate, which was so well carven that there wasnever such another; and yet the workmanship was done by chanceas often as by pains. It needs not make you tarry too long, totell you of the flourishes on this gate, nor of the curves, nor ofthe carvings, nor how they are termed in the art of masonry, ascorbels full of imagery. But Lord, how fair it: was to the eyeall pointed with beaten gold!
But in I went, and that anon, and there I met many an onecrying, 'A largess! a largess! hold your hands out! God saveour own noble lady Fame, the lady of this castle; and all themthat desire to have renown of us!' Thus I heard them cryand they came quickly out of the hall and threw down sterlingcoins, nobles and others. And some were crowned like kings-at-arms, with crowns wrought full of lozenges, and on theirgarments many rihands and fringes. Then at last I discovered that they were all pursuivants and heralds, who cry rich folk's praises; and every man of them, I can tell you, had thrown upon him a vesture which men call a surcoat, embroidered wondrous richly, although they were not alike. But, on my life, I will not go about to describe all the coats-of-arms which they thus wore on their surcoats, for it could not be done; men might make a bible on it twenty foot thick, I trow. For verily who-soever knew them might have seen there all the coats-of-arms of famous folk that have lived in Africa, Europe and Asia since Knighthood first began. Lo! how should I tell all this now?
And what need likewise to tell you of the great room of thecastle,
that every wall of it and floor and ceiling and all else was plated
half a foot thick with gold, and that was not at all alloyed-but
to every test as fine as a ducat of Venice (of which all too few
are in my pouch)? And all was studded with bosses full of
the finest fair stones, of which men read in the Lapidary, as thick as grasses grow in a mead. But it were all too tedious to recite the names; therefore I pass on. But in this rich, lusty place, which was called Fame's hall, there was not a very great press of folk, nor any crowding of too great a throng. But allon high, on a dais, sitting on an imperial throne made of anentire ruby, which is called a carbuncle, I saw eternally enthroned a being in woman's form; and never was seen such another formed by Nature. For, sooth to say, at the first methought she was so little that the length of a cubit was longer; but ere long she stretched out so wondrously that she reached to earth with her feet and with her head touched the sky, where shine the seven planets. And eke, to my wit, I saw a still greater wonder, looking upon her eyes; but truly I never counted them; for she had as many eyes as there be feathers upon birds, or as were on the four beasts that did honor God's throne, as John writes in the Apocalypse. Her hair, which lay in waves and curls, shone before mine eyes like burnished gold. And, sooth to say, she also had as many projecting ears and tongues as there be hairs on beasts. And on her feet truly I saw partridge's wings growing.
But Lord, the gems and riches that I saw adorning this goddess! And Lord, the heavenly melody of songs full of concord that I heard sung about her throne, so that all the palace walls rang! so sang the mighty Muse, she who is called Calliope, and eke her eight sisters, full gracious in their visages.And evermore and eternally the folk sang of Fame, as I heard then,
'Blessed be thou and thy name, Goddess of renown and Fame! '
Then, lo, at last I was ware, as I turned mine eyes upward, that this noble queen bore on her shoulders both the coat-of-arms and the name of them that had wide glory, Alexander, and Hercules, who lost his life because of a shirt! Thus I found this goddess sitting in dignity, honor, and splendor; all which Iwill leave a while, to tell you of other things.
Then I saw standing on either side, straight down from the
dais to the broad doors, many a metal pillar, which shone not
very brightly. But though they were of no great splendor,
nevertheless they were made for noble use and great signifi-cance; and folk honorable and reverend I saw standing upon the columns, of whom I will try to tell you.
Lo, first of all I saw stand on high upon a column of lead and fine iron, him of the school of Saturn, the Hebrew, theancient Josephus, who told of Jewish history; and upon his lofty shoulders he bore up the fame of Jewry. And by himstood other seven wise and worthy to be named, helping him to bear the burden so great and so heavy. And because they wrote of battles as well as other old wonders, lo, therefore this column of which I tell you was made of both lead and iron.For iron is the metal of Mars, god of battle; and lo, the lead of a truth, is the metal of Saturn, that turns in so large an orbit. Then on every row stood forth some whom I could recognize, though I tell them not in order, lest I make you tarry too long. These of whom I shall speak I truly saw standing there. Upona strong iron Pillar, stained all over with tiger's blood, was he of Toulouse who is named Statius, who bore up the renown of Thebes on his shoulders, and also the name of cruel Achilles.And in good sooth there stood beside him, wondrous high on aniron pillar, he, the great Homer; and with him Mares andDictys in front, and eke Lollius and eke Guido de Columnis and the English Geoffrey also. And each of these was busy to bear up the fame of 'I'roy, and so heavy was it that to bear it was no sport. But still I full well discerned that there was a little ill-will amongst them. One held that Homer's story was but a fable, and that he spake lies, and feigned in his poems and that he favored the Greeks.
Then I saw standing on a pillar of bright tinned iron that
Latin poet Virgil, who long time has borne up the fame of piousAeneas.
And next him on a pillar of copper was the clerk of Venus, Ovid,
that has sowed wondrous broadly the name of the great god of love.
And there he well bare up his renown upon this pillar, as high
as I could see; for this hall of which I speakwas grown in height,
length and breadth, far greater, a thousandfold, than it had first
been; that I saw well. Then I saw hard by on a column wrought
of stern iron the great poet Sir Lucan of Julius and Pompey. And
by him stood all these clerks that
wrote of the mighty deeds of Rome; so that if I should tell their names, I must tarry all too long. And on a pillar of sulphur next to him stood Sir Claudian, as if he were in a gloomy frenzy sooth to say; he bore up all the renown of hell, of Plutoand Proserpine, queen of the dark torments.
Why should I tell more? The hall was as full of them that wrote old histories as trees be of rooks' nests. But it wereconfusion to hear all the exploits that they wrote of, and whattheir books were named. But whilst I beheld this sight, I heard a noise swiftly approaching, as it were of bees in an hive toward the time of their swarming; for all the world, even such murmuring it seemed to me. Then I looked about and saw that there came entering the hall a right great company, and that from sundry lands, of all sorts and conditions, poor and rich that dwell on earth under the moon. And straightway when they were come into the hall, they fell on their knees before this noble queen, and said, 'of thy grace, bright ladv, grant each of us a boon!' And to some of them she granted it forthwith, and some she refused flatly, and to some she granted the very contrary of their request. But truly I tell you I knew not what her reason was, for I knew full well that this folk had each deserved good fame, although they were diversely treated; even as her sister, dame Fortune, is ever wont to serve men.
Now hearken how she requited those who craved her grace;and yet, lo, all this company said sooth and nothing false.'Madame,' they said, 'we are folk that here beseech thee to grant us now fair renown and let our achievements have that name; in full recompense for good works, give us good repute.'
'I deny it you,' she said forthwith. 'Ye get no good fame of me, by heaven, and therefore go your ways.'
'Alas and alack!' they cried. 'Tell us, what may be thy reason? '
'Because I list not,' quoth she. 'No wight shall speak good
or ill of you, in verity, neither this nor that.' And at that
she summoned her messenger who was in the hall, and bade him,
on pain of blinding, to go speedily and summon Aeolus, the god
of winds: 'ye shall find him in Thrace, and bid him bring his
clarions, that be full diverse in their tone. That is called Clear
Laud with which he is wont to herald them that I please to
have praised; and also bid him bring his other clarion, which everywhere is called Slander, with which he is wont to dishonor them that I will, and to shame them.'
The messenger went speedily and found where, in a rocky cave in a country called Thrace, this Aeolus held the winds in harsh constraint, and oppressed them under him till they roared like bears, so sore did he bind and press them. This messenger cried on high, ' Rise up,' quoth he, 'and haste thee till thou come to my lady; and eke take thy clarions with thee, and speed thee forth.'
And anon he delivered his clarions to a man called Triton to carry, and let go a certain wind, that blew so high and hideously that it left not a cloud in all the long and broad welkin. ThisAeolus nowhere tarried till he was come to Fame's feet, and withhim the man named Triton; and there he stood, still as a stone.And on this there straightway came another huge company of good folk, and cried, ' Lady, pray grant us fair fame, and let our deeds be known so, in honor of nobility, and so may God bless thy soul! For since we have deserved well, it is right that we be requited.'
'On my life,' quoth she, ' it shall not be; good works shall not avail you to get good fame of me. But know ye what?I grant you that ye shall have an ill fame and evil praise and worse repute, though ye have deserved fair praise. Now goyour ways, ye are sped. And thou, Lord Aeolus,' quoth she, 'let see now! Take forth thy trump anon that is called Ready Slander, and blow their renown so that every wight shall say evil and cursedness of them, instead of what is good and worthy. For thou shalt trump thus the contrary of what they have done fairly or well.'
'Alas! ' I thought, 'what ill chance have these sorry creatures! For amongst all the crowd shall they thus be shamed guiltless. But what! it must needs be.'
What did this Aeolus do but take out his black trumpet of brass,
fouler than the Devil; and he blew this trumpet as if he would
overthrow all the world, so that this foul trumpet's noise went
throughout every land as swift as ball from gun when fire is touched
to the powder. And such a smoke came out of the end of his foul
trumpet, black, blue, swarthy red, greenish, as comes all on high
from the chimneys where men melt lead.
And one thing more I saw well, that the farther it went the greater it waxed, as a river from its source; and it stank as the pit of hell. Alas, thus guiltless was their shame sounded on every tongue!
Then came the third company and hasted to the dais, and forthwith fell on their knees and said, 'we all be folk that have full rightfully deserved fame, and we pray thee that it be proclaimed even as it is, and blown forth.'
Quoth she, ' I grant it, because it pleases me now that your good works be known; and, in spite of all your foes, ye shall have yet better praise than ye merit, and that anon. Thou Aeolus,' she cried, ' let be thy trumpet that is so black, and take out thine other trumpet that is called Laud, and blow it so that their fame spread nimbly throughout the world, but not too speedily, only so that it be known at last.'
'Full gladly, my lady,' he said, and anon drew out his trumpet of gold and set it to his lips, and blew it east, west, north, south, loud as any thunder, so that every wight marvelled at it, so widely ran the sound ere it ceased. And certes all the breath that issued from his trumpet's mouth smelled as if men placed a potful of balm amid a basket full of roses. This favor he did their renown.
And upon that I espied that the fourth band was coming but certainly they were wondrous few, and they stood in a row and said, 'of a truth, bright lady, we have done well with all our power, but we care not for glory. For God's love, hide our works and our name; for certes we have done them out of goodness and for no manner of thing else.'
'I grant your boon,' said she; ' let your works die! '
With that I turned my head and forthwith saw the fifth band, who louted to this lady and fell on their knees anon, and then all besought her to hide their good works also, and said they gave not a leek for fame or such renown; for they had labored out of piety and love of God, and would naught of fame.
'What! ' quoth she. ' Be ye mad? And think ye to do good and
have no glory for it? Scorn ye to have my name?Nay, ye shall every
one of you live! Thou Aeolus,' quoth she, 'blow thy trumpet, I
command, and that anon, and ring out in
music the deeds of this folk so that all the world may hear of them.' And he blew their praise so clear in his golden clarionsthat the sound went throughout the world, never so keen and soft; but at last it mounted to the sky.
Then came the sixth band and began to cry earnestly to Fame in this manner: 'Thy favor, dear lady! To tell the very truth, we have done neither this nor that, but been idle all our life. But nevertheless we pray to have as fair a fame and great renown and glory as they that have done noble deeds and achieved all their will, in love as in other matters, albeit never was brooch or ring or aught else sent us of women, nor once did they think in their hearts to make us even friendly cheer, but were ready to bring us to our graves, yet let us seem so to the people that all may judge of us that women loved us madly.It shall do us as much good, and avail our hearts to weigh ease over against travail, as if we had won it with labor. For that had been dear bought honor at the cost of all our ease. And thou must do for us yet more; let us be held eke as worthy wise and good, and rich, and lucky in love, for His sake Who sits in heaven. Though we may not have the bodies of women, yet, so God save thee, let men fasten on us the credit! That shall suffice us!'
Quoth she, ' By my troth, I grant it! Now Aeolus, let see, tarry not, take out thy trumpet of gold, and blow as they have asked, so that every man think them at ease, though they walk in full poor pastures.' This Aeolus blew it so loud that it was known through the world.
Then anon came the seventh crowd, and all fell on their knees and said, 'Lady, grant us forthwith the same thing, the same boon, that thou hast done for this last folk.'
'Fie on every one of you! ' quoth she. ' ye gluttonous swine,
idle wretches full of the rotten vice of sloth! What, false thieves,
would ye be famed as good, and nothing deserve it and never recked
thereof? Men ought rather to hang you! Ye belike the tired cat
that would fain have fish; but what think ye? He would not wet
his paws! Ill luck on your pates and eke on mine, if I grant it,
or do you favor to extol you! Thou Aeolus, king of Thrace,' quoth
she, ' go, blow this folk straight-way a sorry favor. And knowest
thou what? Even as I shall
tell thee forthwith. Say, These be they that would have honor and do no sort of toil; and do no good, and yet have praise;and desire men should think that la belle Isolt herself could not refuse them love, and yet she that grinds at an hand-mill is all too good to ease their hearts.'
This Aeolus anon started up, and with his black clarion blew out a sound as loud as winds bellow in hell, and eke in truth the sound was so full of mocks as ever apes were of grimaces.And that went around all the world, so that every wight began to shout at them and to laugh as a madman, such sorry visages men found in their hoods!
Then came another band, that had done treachery, harm, the greatest wickedness any heart could imagine; and prayed her to grant fair fame, and not to disgrace them, but blow them glory and good name by the clarion. 'Nay, certainly,' quoth she;'that were a fault. Though there be no justice in me, I list not do it now; I will not grant you this.'
Then a crowd came leaping in, rapping every man about on the pate till all the hall resounded; and they said, 'Lady sweet and dear, we be such folk as we shall tell thee. In good sooth we be rogues, every one of us, and delight in wickedness as goodfolk in goodness, and rejoice to be known as rogues and full of vice and sins. Wherefore here in a row we pray that our fame be known in all things even as it really is.'
'Verily, I grant it you,' quoth she. ' But who art thou who sayst this, and wearest a stripe on thy hose and such a bell on thy tippet? '
'Madame,' quoth he, 'sooth to say, I am that very rogue that burned the temple of Isis in the city of Athens, lo! '
'Wherefore,' quoth she, ' didst thou that? '
'By my thrift, Madame,' quoth he, ' I would fain have had glory even as other folk in the town had, though they were famous for their excellence and their moral virtue. Thought I, rogues have as great fame, though it be but for roguery, as goodfolk for goodness. And since I cannot have the one, I will not forgo the other. And to get mend of Fame I set the temple afire. Now let our renown be blown quickly, as ever thou hopest for joy! '
' Gladly,' quoth she. ' Thou Aeolus, hearest thou not their prayer? '541
'Yes, Madame,' quoth he, 'I hear well. And I will trumpet it, perdy!' And he quickly took his black trumpet and puffed and blew till the sound was at the world's end.
With that I turned around; for one who stood right at my back spoke to me kindly, methought, and said, ' Friend, what isyour name? Are you come hither to ask for renown? '
' Nay, in sooth, friend! ' I said. 'Gramercy! I came not hither for any such cause, by my life! It suffices me thatno wight have my name on his lips, even as if I were dead. I myself best know how I stand; for whatsoever I think or suffer I myself will swallow it all, for certainly the greater part, sofar as I have skill.'
'But what do you here then?' said he.
Quoth I, 'That I will tell, the reason why I stand here: to learn some new tidings, some new things, I know not what; tidings of this or that, of love, or such glad things. For certainly he who caused me to come hither told me that I should boths ee and hear wondrous things in this place. But these be no such tidings as I mean.'
' No?' quoth he.
And I answered, ' No, of a truth! For since I first had wit, I knew ever that folk have desired fame and glory and renown diversely. But truly till now I knew not how or where Fame dwelt; nor yet what manner of wight she is, in look or quality, nor the manner of her judgments, till the time I came hither.'
'Lo, what is this which you have heard, which you but now spoke of? ' he asked me. ' But now no matter- for I see well what you would hear. Come forth, stand here no longer, and without doubt I will lead you into such another place where yous hall hear many a thing.'
Then I went forth with him out of the castle, and saw in a
valley below the castle close by such an house that the Domus
Daedali, which is called the Labyrinth, was not half so wondrously
and curiously fashioned. And evermore swift as thought this wondrous
house whirled around, so that it nevermore stood still. And there
came out from it such a roar that had the house stood upon the
Oise, I trow verily that men might easily have heard it as far
as Rome. And the noise which
I heard there went on for all the world like the rush of the stone which is shot from the machine. This whole house was made of twigs, yellow, green, red, and some white, such as men whittle for these cages, or make into these panniers or other baskets; so that with the gusts and the whirring of the twigs, this house was full of squeaks and creakings and much commotion. And eke this house had as many entries as there are leaves on trees in the summer when they are green; and still in the roof men could see a thousand holes, and more yet, to let out the sound easily.
And by day all the time, and by night, the doors are open wide. There is no porter there to hinder any kind of tidings from passing in; and there is never quiet in that place, that it is not full of tidings, either loud or whispered. And all the corners of the house are full of whisperings and pratings of war of peace, marriages, rest, labor, journeyings, abidings, of death, life, love, hate, accord, enmity, of praise, learning, of gains, of health,sickness, of buildings, of fair winds, tempests, pestilence of man and beast; of divers changes of estate for men and nations; oft rust, fear, jealousy, wit, profit, folly, of plenty, and of greatfamine, of ruin, of cheap times and dear; of good or ill government, of fire, of divers events. And lo, be ye sure it was not small, this house of which I write; for it was sixty mile in length. Though the timber were not strong, yet the house was founded to last whilst it should please Chance, which is the mother of tidings, as the sea of springs and founts. And it was shaped like a cage.
'Certes,' quoth I, ' in all the years of my life I never saw such a house.' And as I marvelled thereat, I was ware that mine eagle was perched high upon a rock hard by; and I went to him straight and said thus: ' I pray you, for God's love, wait for me a while, and let me see what wonders are in this place. For peradventure I may yet learn some good from it, or hear somewhat that were pleasant to me, ere I go.'
'Peter! that is mine intention,' quoth he to me. 'Therefore
I tarry. But certainly I tell you one thing: unless I bring you
therein, without doubt you shall never know how even to begin
to enter it, so rapidly it whirls around. But since Joveof his
grace, as I have said, will do you pleasure with such matters
strange sights and tidings, wherewith to drive away your heaviness, such pity he has on your troubles, which you endure meekly, and know yourself quite hopeless of all joy, since Fortune has unjustly made the sum of all your heart's repose to languish and be in point to burst, since he of his great kindness will do you pleasure, though it be but little, and gave express command, to which I am obedient, to further you all Ican, and guide and direct you aright whither you may hear most tidings, therefore you shall straightway learn many an one here.'
With this word forthwith he caught me up betwixt his toes and brought me in at a window of this house, methought; and at that the house seemed to stop, and revolved not at all; and he set me down on the floor. But never was seen, and never again shall be, such a congregation of folk as I saw roaming around, some within, some without; certes there are not leftin the world so many formed by Nature, nor so many creatures dead, so that scarce had I one foot's breadth of room in that place. And every wight whom I saw was whispering privily in another's ear a fresh piece of news, or else all openly spake right thus and said, ' Know you not what has happened lately or now? '
' No,' quoth the other, 'tell me! ' And then he told him this and that, and swore it was true: Thus has he said: Thus he does,' Thus it shall be' Thus I heard tell,' That shall be found,' That Idare wager'; so that all the folk alive have not the cunningto relate the things I heard, some aloud, some in the ear. Butthe most wondrous was this; when one had heard a thing, hecame forth to another and straightway told him the same thingthat he had heard ere it was a moment older, but in the tellinghe made the tidings somewhat greater than ever they had been.
And not so soon was he parted from him as the second met athird; and ere he was done, he told him everything; were thetidings true or false, he would tell them nevertheless, and ever-more with greater increase than at first. thus every word wentfrom mouth to mouth in all directions, evermore increasing, as fire is wont to kindle and spread from a spark thrown amiss, tilla whole city is burtled up.
And when that story was fully spread, and had grown greateron
every tongue than it ever had been, anon it went up to a win-
dow to go out; but ere it could pass out there, it crept out at some crevice and straightway flew forth quickly. And sometimes then I saw a lie and a sober truth at the same time, that by chance drew near to pass out of a window. And when they met there, they were both checked and neither could go out, each so crowded the other, till each cried shrilly, 'Let me go first!,' 'Nay, but let me! And so thou wilt do so, I here assure thee that I shall never part from thee, but be thine own sworn brother. We will both so mingle together that no man, be whenever so angry, can get only one of us, but both at once, all without his leave, come we by morn or night, be we cried aloud or quietly whispered.' Thus I saw falsehood and truth compounded fly abroad as one piece of news.
Thus all the tidings squeezed out of holes straight to the goddess, and she named each after its nature, and allotted to each its duration, some to wax and wane quickly, as does the fair white moon, and let them go. There I could see winged wonders flyf ast, twenty thousand in a company, as Aeolus blew them about.
And Lord! at all times this house was full of shipmen and pilgrims, with scrips brimful of lies, mingled with sooth tidings or alone by themselves. And eke I saw, ah, many a thousand score of these pardoners, couriers and eke messengers, with boxes crammed as full of lies as ever vessel was with dregs. And I went about as fast as I could go, and gave all my mind to divert me and to learn, and eke to hear news which I had heard of some country (which for my part shall not now be told, for truly it needs not; other folk can sing it better than I can, for all must out, sooner or later, all the sheaves in the barn) then I hearda great noise in a corner of the hall where men were telling tidings of love, and I began to look thitherward; for I saw everywight running as fast as he could, and each cried, 'What is it? 'And some said I know not what. And when they were all in amass, those behind began to leap up, and crowded and climbed up on the others, and lifted up their noses and eyes, and trod hard on others' feet, and stamped, as men do after eels.
At last I saw a man whose name I know not, but he seemed to be a man of great authority. . . .
back to Laurel
San Diego State University