John Gower, Confessio Amantis, "Tale of Florent"


Mi Sone, and I thee rede this,
1.1397: What so befalle of other weie,
1.1398: That thou to loves heste obeie
1.1399: Als ferr as thou it myht suffise:
1.1400: For ofte sithe in such a wise
1.1401: Obedience in love availeth,
1.1402: Wher al a mannes strengthe faileth;
1.1403: Wherof, if that the list to wite
1.1404: In a Cronique as it is write,
1.1405: A gret ensample thou myht fynde,
1.1406: Which now is come to my mynde.
1.1407: Ther was whilom be daies olde
1.1408: A worthi knyht, and as men tolde
1.1409: He was Nevoeu to themperour
1.1410: And of his Court a Courteour:
1.1411: Wifles he was, Florent he hihte,
1.1412: He was a man that mochel myhte,
1.1413: Of armes he was desirous,
1.1414: Chivalerous and amorous,
1.1415: And for the fame of worldes speche,
1.1416: Strange aventures forto seche,
1.1417: He rod the Marches al aboute.
1.1418: And fell a time, as he was oute,
1.1419: Fortune, which may every thred
1.1420: Tobreke and knette of mannes sped,
1.1421: Schop, as this knyht rod in a pas,
1.1422: That he be strengthe take was,
1.1423: And to a Castell thei him ladde,
1.1424: Wher that he fewe frendes hadde:
1.1425: For so it fell that ilke stounde

Page 1.75

1.1426: That he hath with a dedly wounde
1.1427: Feihtende his oghne hondes slain
1.1428: Branchus, which to the Capitain
1.1429: Was Sone and Heir, wherof ben wrothe
1.1430: The fader and the moder bothe.
1.1431: That knyht Branchus was of his hond
1.1432: The worthieste of al his lond,
1.1433: And fain thei wolden do vengance
1.1434: Upon Florent, bot remembrance
1.1435: That thei toke of his worthinesse
1.1436: Of knyhthod and of gentilesse,
1.1437: And how he stod of cousinage
1.1438: To themperour, made hem assuage,
1.1439: And dorsten noght slen him for fere:
1.1440: In gret desputeisoun thei were
1.1441: Among hemself, what was the beste.
1.1442: Ther was a lady, the slyheste
1.1443: Of alle that men knewe tho,
1.1444: So old sche myhte unethes go,
1.1445: And was grantdame unto the dede:
1.1446: And sche with that began to rede,
1.1447: And seide how sche wol bringe him inne,
1.1448: That sche schal him to dethe winne
1.1449: Al only of his oghne grant,
1.1450: Thurgh strengthe of verray covenant
1.1451: Withoute blame of eny wiht.
1.1452: Anon sche sende for this kniht,
1.1453: And of hire Sone sche alleide
1.1454: The deth, and thus to him sche seide:
1.1455: "Florent, how so thou be to wyte
1.1456: Of Branchus deth, men schal respite
1.1457: As now to take vengement,
1.1458: Be so thou stonde in juggement
1.1459: Upon certein condicioun,
1.1460: That thou unto a questioun
1.1461: Which I schal axe schalt ansuere;
1.1462: And over this thou schalt ek swere,
1.1463: That if thou of the sothe faile,
1.1464: Ther schal non other thing availe,

Page 1.76

1.1465: That thou ne schalt thi deth receive.
1.1466: And for men schal thee noght deceive,
1.1467: That thou therof myht ben avised,
1.1468: Thou schalt have day and tyme assised
1.1469: And leve saufly forto wende,
1.1470: Be so that at thi daies ende
1.1471: Thou come ayein with thin avys.
1.1472: This knyht, which worthi was and wys,
1.1473: This lady preith that he may wite,
1.1474: And have it under Seales write,
1.1475: What questioun it scholde be
1.1476: For which he schal in that degree
1.1477: Stonde of his lif in jeupartie.
1.1478: With that sche feigneth compaignie,
1.1479: And seith: "Florent, on love it hongeth
1.1480: Al that to myn axinge longeth:
1.1481: What alle wommen most desire
1.1482: This wole I axe, and in thempire
1.1483: Wher as thou hast most knowlechinge
1.1484: Tak conseil upon this axinge."
1.1485: Florent this thing hath undertake,
1.1486: The day was set, the time take,
1.1487: Under his seal he wrot his oth,
1.1488: In such a wise and forth he goth
1.1489: Hom to his Emes court ayein;
1.1490: To whom his aventure plein
1.1491: He tolde, of that him is befalle.
1.1492: And upon that thei weren alle
1.1493: The wiseste of the lond asent,
1.1494: Bot natheles of on assent
1.1495: Thei myhte noght acorde plat,
1.1496: On seide this, an othre that.
1.1497: After the disposicioun
1.1498: Of naturel complexioun
1.1499: To som womman it is plesance,
1.1500: That to an other is grevance;
1.1501: Bot such a thing in special,
1.1502: Which to hem alle in general

Page 1.77

1.1503: Is most plesant, and most desired
1.1504: Above alle othre and most conspired,
1.1505: Such o thing conne thei noght finde
1.1506: Be Constellacion ne kinde:
1.1507: And thus Florent withoute cure
1.1508: Mot stonde upon his aventure,
1.1509: And is al schape unto the lere,
1.1510: As in defalte of his answere.
1.1511: This knyht hath levere forto dye
1.1512: Than breke his trowthe and forto lye
1.1513: In place ther as he was swore,
1.1514: And schapth him gon ayein therfore.
1.1515: Whan time cam he tok his leve,
1.1516: That lengere wolde he noght beleve,
1.1517: And preith his Em he be noght wroth,
1.1518: For that is a point of his oth,
1.1519: He seith, that noman schal him wreke,
1.1520: Thogh afterward men hiere speke
1.1521: That he par aventure deie.
1.1522: And thus he wente forth his weie
1.1523: Alone as knyht aventurous,
1.1524: And in his thoght was curious
1.1525: To wite what was best to do:
1.1526: And as he rod al one so,
1.1527: And cam nyh ther he wolde be,
1.1528: In a forest under a tre
1.1529: He syh wher sat a creature,
1.1530: A lothly wommannysch figure,
1.1531: That forto speke of fleisch and bon
1.1532: So foul yit syh he nevere non.
1.1533: This knyht behield hir redely,
1.1534: And as he wolde have passed by,
1.1535: Sche cleped him and bad abide;
1.1536: And he his horse heved aside
1.1537: Tho torneth, and to hire he rod,
1.1538: And there he hoveth and abod,
1.1539: To wite what sche wolde mene.
1.1540: And sche began him to bemene,

Page 1.78

1.1541: And seide: "Florent be thi name,
1.1542: Thou hast on honde such a game,
1.1543: That bot thou be the betre avised,
1.1544: Thi deth is schapen and devised,
1.1545: That al the world ne mai the save,
1.1546: Bot if that thou my conseil have."
1.1547: Florent, whan he this tale herde,
1.1548: Unto this olde wyht answerde
1.1549: And of hir conseil he hir preide.
1.1550: And sche ayein to him thus seide:
1.1551: "Florent, if I for the so schape,
1.1552: That thou thurgh me thi deth ascape
1.1553: And take worschipe of thi dede,
1.1554: What schal I have to my mede?"
1.1555: "What thing," quod he, "that thou wolt axe."
1.1556: "I bidde nevere a betre taxe,"
1.1557: Quod sche, "bot ferst, er thou be sped,
1.1558: Thou schalt me leve such a wedd,
1.1559: That I wol have thi trowthe in honde
1.1560: That thou schalt be myn housebonde."
1.1561: "Nay," seith Florent, "that may noght be."
1.1562: "Ryd thanne forth thi wey," quod sche,
1.1563: "And if thou go withoute red,
1.1564: Thou schalt be sekerliche ded."
1.1565: Florent behihte hire good ynowh
1.1566: Of lond, of rente, of park, of plowh,
1.1567: Bot al that compteth sche at noght.
1.1568: Tho fell this knyht in mochel thoght,
1.1569: Now goth he forth, now comth ayein,
1.1570: He wot noght what is best to sein,
1.1571: And thoghte, as he rod to and fro,
1.1572: That chese he mot on of the tuo,
1.1573: Or forto take hire to his wif
1.1574: Or elles forto lese his lif.
1.1575: And thanne he caste his avantage,
1.1576: That sche was of so gret an age,
1.1577: That sche mai live bot a while,
1.1578: And thoghte put hire in an Ile,

Page 1.79

1.1579: Wher that noman hire scholde knowe,
1.1580: Til sche with deth were overthrowe.
1.1581: And thus this yonge lusti knyht
1.1582: Unto this olde lothly wiht
1.1583: Tho seide: "If that non other chance
1.1584: Mai make my deliverance,
1.1585: Bot only thilke same speche
1.1586: Which, as thou seist, thou schalt me teche,
1.1587: Have hier myn hond, I schal thee wedde."
1.1588: And thus his trowthe he leith to wedde.
1.1589: With that sche frounceth up the browe:
1.1590: "This covenant I wol allowe,"
1.1591: Sche seith: "if eny other thing
1.1592: Bot that thou hast of my techyng
1.1593: Fro deth thi body mai respite,
1.1594: I woll thee of thi trowthe acquite,
1.1595: And elles be non other weie.
1.1596: Now herkne me what I schal seie.
1.1597: Whan thou art come into the place,
1.1598: Wher now thei maken gret manace
1.1599: And upon thi comynge abyde,
1.1600: Thei wole anon the same tide
1.1601: Oppose thee of thin answere.
1.1602: I wot thou wolt nothing forbere
1.1603: Of that thou wenest be thi beste,
1.1604: And if thou myht so finde reste,
1.1605: Wel is, for thanne is ther nomore.
1.1606: And elles this schal be my lore,
1.1607: That thou schalt seie, upon this Molde
1.1608: That alle wommen lievest wolde
1.1609: Be soverein of mannes love:
1.1610: For what womman is so above,
1.1611: Sche hath, as who seith, al hire wille;
1.1612: And elles may sche noght fulfille
1.1613: What thing hir were lievest have.
1.1614: With this answere thou schalt save
1.1615: Thiself, and other wise noght.
1.1616: And whan thou hast thin ende wroght,
1.1617: Com hier ayein, thou schalt me finde,
1.1618: And let nothing out of thi minde."

Page 1.80

1.1619: He goth him forth with hevy chiere,
1.1620: As he that not in what manere
1.1621: He mai this worldes joie atteigne:
1.1622: For if he deie, he hath a peine,
1.1623: And if he live, he mot him binde
1.1624: To such on which of alle kinde
1.1625: Of wommen is thunsemlieste:
1.1626: Thus wot he noght what is the beste:
1.1627: Bot be him lief or be him loth,
1.1628: Unto the Castell forth he goth
1.1629: His full answere forto yive,
1.1630: Or forto deie or forto live.
1.1631: Forth with his conseil cam the lord,
1.1632: The thinges stoden of record,
1.1633: He sende up for the lady sone,
1.1634: And forth sche cam, that olde Mone.
1.1635: In presence of the remenant
1.1636: The strengthe of al the covenant
1.1637: Tho was reherced openly,
1.1638: And to Florent sche bad forthi
1.1639: That he schal tellen his avis,
1.1640: As he that woot what is the pris.
1.1641: Florent seith al that evere he couthe,
1.1642: Bot such word cam ther non to mowthe,
1.1643: That he for yifte or for beheste
1.1644: Mihte eny wise his deth areste.
1.1645: And thus he tarieth longe and late,
1.1646: Til that this lady bad algate
1.1647: That he schal for the dom final
1.1648: Yive his answere in special
1.1649: Of that sche hadde him ferst opposed:
1.1650: And thanne he hath trewly supposed
1.1651: That he him may of nothing yelpe,
1.1652: Bot if so be tho wordes helpe,
1.1653: Whiche as the womman hath him tawht;
1.1654: Wherof he hath an hope cawht
1.1655: That he schal ben excused so,
1.1656: And tolde out plein his wille tho.

Page 1.81

1.1657: And whan that this Matrone herde
1.1658: The manere how this knyht ansuerde,
1.1659: Sche seide: "Ha treson, wo thee be,
1.1660: That hast thus told the privite,
1.1661: Which alle wommen most desire!
1.1662: I wolde that thou were afire."
1.1663: Bot natheles in such a plit
1.1664: Florent of his answere is quit:
1.1665: And tho began his sorwe newe,
1.1666: For he mot gon, or ben untrewe,
1.1667: To hire which his trowthe hadde.
1.1668: Bot he, which alle schame dradde,
1.1669: Goth forth in stede of his penance,
1.1670: And takth the fortune of his chance,
1.1671: As he that was with trowthe affaited.
1.1672: This olde wyht him hath awaited
1.1673: In place wher as he hire lefte:
1.1674: Florent his wofull heved uplefte
1.1675: And syh this vecke wher sche sat,
1.1676: Which was the lothlieste what
1.1677: That evere man caste on his yhe:
1.1678: Hire Nase bass, hire browes hyhe,
1.1679: Hire yhen smale and depe set,
1.1680: Hire chekes ben with teres wet,
1.1681: And rivelen as an emty skyn
1.1682: Hangende doun unto the chin,
1.1683: Hire Lippes schrunken ben for age,
1.1684: Ther was no grace in the visage,
1.1685: Hir front was nargh, hir lockes hore,
1.1686: Sche loketh forth as doth a More,
1.1687: Hire Necke is schort, hir schuldres courbe,
1.1688: That myhte a mannes lust destourbe,
1.1689: Hire body gret and nothing smal,
1.1690: And schortly to descrive hire al,
1.1691: Sche hath no lith withoute a lak;
1.1692: Bot lich unto the wollesak
1.1693: Sche proferth hire unto this knyht,
1.1694: And bad him, as he hath behyht,
1.1695: So as sche hath ben his warant,

Page 1.82

1.1696: That he hire holde covenant,
1.1697: And be the bridel sche him seseth.
1.1698: Bot godd wot how that sche him pleseth
1.1699: Of suche wordes as sche spekth:
1.1700: Him thenkth welnyh his herte brekth
1.1701: For sorwe that he may noght fle,
1.1702: Bot if he wolde untrewe be.
1.1703: Loke, how a sek man for his hele
1.1704: Takth baldemoine with Canele,
1.1705: And with the Mirre takth the Sucre,
1.1706: Ryht upon such a maner lucre
1.1707: Stant Florent, as in this diete:
1.1708: He drinkth the bitre with the swete,
1.1709: He medleth sorwe with likynge,
1.1710: And liveth, as who seith, deyinge;
1.1711: His youthe schal be cast aweie
1.1712: Upon such on which as the weie
1.1713: Is old and lothly overal.
1.1714: Bot nede he mot that nede schal:
1.1715: He wolde algate his trowthe holde,
1.1716: As every knyht therto is holde,
1.1717: What happ so evere him is befalle:
1.1718: Thogh sche be the fouleste of alle,
1.1719: Yet to thonour of wommanhiede
1.1720: Him thoghte he scholde taken hiede;
1.1721: So that for pure gentilesse,
1.1722: As he hire couthe best adresce,
1.1723: In ragges, as sche was totore,
1.1724: He set hire on his hors tofore
1.1725: And forth he takth his weie softe;
1.1726: No wonder thogh he siketh ofte.
1.1727: Bot as an oule fleth be nyhte
1.1728: Out of alle othre briddes syhte,
1.1729: Riht so this knyht on daies brode
1.1730: In clos him hield, and schop his rode
1.1731: On nyhtes time, til the tyde
1.1732: That he cam there he wolde abide;
1.1733: And prively withoute noise
1.1734: He bringth this foule grete Coise

Page 1.83

1.1735: To his Castell in such a wise
1.1736: That noman myhte hire schappe avise,
1.1737: Til sche into the chambre cam:
1.1738: Wher he his prive conseil nam
1.1739: Of suche men as he most troste,
1.1740: And tolde hem that he nedes moste
1.1741: This beste wedde to his wif,
1.1742: For elles hadde he lost his lif.
1.1743: The prive wommen were asent,
1.1744: That scholden ben of his assent:
1.1745: Hire ragges thei anon of drawe,
1.1746: And, as it was that time lawe,
1.1747: She hadde bath, sche hadde reste,
1.1748: And was arraied to the beste.
1.1749: Bot with no craft of combes brode
1.1750: Thei myhte hire hore lockes schode,
1.1751: And sche ne wolde noght be schore
1.1752: For no conseil, and thei therfore,
1.1753: With such atyr as tho was used,
1.1754: Ordeinen that it was excused,
1.1755: And hid so crafteliche aboute,
1.1756: That noman myhte sen hem oute.
1.1757: Bot when sche was fulliche arraied
1.1758: And hire atyr was al assaied,
1.1759: Tho was sche foulere on to se:
1.1760: Bot yit it may non other be,
1.1761: Thei were wedded in the nyht;
1.1762: So wo begon was nevere knyht
1.1763: As he was thanne of mariage.
1.1764: And sche began to pleie and rage,
1.1765: As who seith, I am wel ynowh;
1.1766: Bot he therof nothing ne lowh,
1.1767: For sche tok thanne chiere on honde
1.1768: And clepeth him hire housebonde,
1.1769: And seith, "My lord, go we to bedde,
1.1770: For I to that entente wedde,
1.1771: That thou schalt be my worldes blisse:"

Page 1.84

1.1772: And profreth him with that to kisse,
1.1773: As sche a lusti Lady were.
1.1774: His body myhte wel be there,
1.1775: Bot as of thoght and of memoire
1.1776: His herte was in purgatoire.
1.1777: Bot yit for strengthe of matrimoine
1.1778: He myhte make non essoine,
1.1779: That he ne mot algates plie
1.1780: To gon to bedde of compaignie:
1.1781: And whan thei were abedde naked,
1.1782: Withoute slep he was awaked;
1.1783: He torneth on that other side,
1.1784: For that he wolde hise yhen hyde
1.1785: Fro lokynge on that foule wyht.
1.1786: The chambre was al full of lyht,
1.1787: The courtins were of cendal thinne,
1.1788: This newe bryd which lay withinne,
1.1789: Thogh it be noght with his acord,
1.1790: In armes sche beclipte hire lord,
1.1791: And preide, as he was torned fro,
1.1792: He wolde him torne ayeinward tho;
1.1793: "For now," sche seith, "we ben bothe on."
1.1794: And he lay stille as eny ston,
1.1795: Bot evere in on sche spak and preide,
1.1796: And bad him thenke on that he seide,
1.1797: Whan that he tok hire be the hond.
1.1798: He herde and understod the bond,
1.1799: How he was set to his penance,
1.1800: And as it were a man in trance
1.1801: He torneth him al sodeinly,
1.1802: And syh a lady lay him by
1.1803: Of eyhtetiene wynter age,
1.1804: Which was the faireste of visage
1.1805: That evere in al this world he syh:
1.1806: And as he wolde have take hire nyh,
1.1807: Sche put hire hand and be his leve
1.1808: Besoghte him that he wolde leve,
1.1809: And seith that forto wynne or lese

Page 1.85

1.1810: He mot on of tuo thinges chese,
1.1811: Wher he wol have hire such on nyht,
1.1812: Or elles upon daies lyht,
1.1813: For he schal noght have bothe tuo.
1.1814: And he began to sorwe tho,
1.1815: In many a wise and caste his thoght,
1.1816: Bot for al that yit cowthe he noght
1.1817: Devise himself which was the beste.
1.1818: And sche, that wolde his hertes reste,
1.1819: Preith that he scholde chese algate,
1.1820: Til ate laste longe and late
1.1821: He seide: "O ye, my lyves hele,
1.1822: Sey what you list in my querele,
1.1823: I not what ansuere I schal yive:
1.1824: Bot evere whil that I may live,
1.1825: I wol that ye be my maistresse,
1.1826: For I can noght miselve gesse
1.1827: Which is the beste unto my chois.
1.1828: Thus grante I yow myn hole vois,
1.1829: Ches for ous bothen, I you preie;
1.1830: And what as evere that ye seie,
1.1831: Riht as ye wole so wol I."
1.1832: "Mi lord," sche seide, " grant merci,
1.1833: For of this word that ye now sein,
1.1834: That ye have mad me soverein,
1.1835: Mi destine is overpassed,
1.1836: That nevere hierafter schal be lassed
1.1837: Mi beaute, which that I now have,
1.1838: Til I be take into my grave;
1.1839: Bot nyht and day as I am now
1.1840: I schal alwey be such to yow.
1.1841: The kinges dowhter of Cizile
1.1842: I am, and fell bot siththe awhile,
1.1843: As I was with my fader late,
1.1844: That my Stepmoder for an hate,
1.1845: Which toward me sche hath begonne,
1.1846: Forschop me, til I hadde wonne
1.1847: The love and sovereinete

Page 1.86

1.1848: Of what knyht that in his degre
1.1849: Alle othre passeth of good name:
1.1850: And, as men sein, ye ben the same,
1.1851: The dede proeveth it is so;
1.1852: Thus am I youres evermo."
1.1853: Tho was plesance and joye ynowh,
1.1854: Echon with other pleide and lowh;
1.1855: Thei live longe and wel thei ferde,
1.1856: And clerkes that this chance herde
1.1857: Thei writen it in evidence,
1.1858: To teche how that obedience
1.1859: Mai wel fortune a man to love
1.1860: And sette him in his lust above,
1.1861: As it befell unto this knyht.
1.1862: Forthi, my Sone, if thou do ryht,
1.1863: Thou schalt unto thi love obeie,
1.1864: And folwe hir will be alle weie.
1.1865: Min holy fader, so I wile:
1.1866: For ye have told me such a skile
1.1867: Of this ensample now tofore,
1.1868: That I schal evermo therfore
1.1869: Hierafterward myn observance
1.1870: To love and to his obeissance
1.1871: The betre kepe: and over this
1.1872: Of pride if ther oght elles is,
1.1873: Wherof that I me schryve schal,
1.1874: What thing it is in special,
1.1875: Mi fader, axeth, I you preie.