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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Temples of Venus, Mars, and Diana

By Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340–1400)

FIRST in the temple of Venus mayst thou see

Wrought on the wall, full piteous to behold,

The broken sleepès, and the sighès cold,

The sacred tearès, and the waimentíng,

The fiery strokès of the désiríng

That lovès servants in this life enduren;

The oathès, that hir covenánts assuren.

Pleasance and hope, desire, foolhardiness,

Beauty and youthè, bawdry and richesse,

Charmès and force, leasíngs and flattery,

Dispencè, business, and jealousy

That weared of yellow goldès a garlánd,

And a cuckoo sitting on her hand;

Feastès, instruments, carólès, dances,

Lust and array, and all the circumstances

Of love, which that I reckoned have and reckon shall,

By order weren painted on the wall,

And mo than I can make of mentìón.

For soothly all the mount of Citheron,

There Venus hath her principal dwellíng,

Was showèd on the wall in portrayíng,

With all the garden and the lustiness.

Nought was forgot the porter Idleness,

Ne Narcissus the fair of yore agone,

Ne yet the folly of King Solomon,

Ne yet the greatè strength of Hercules,

The enchantèments of Medea and Circes,

N’of Turnús with the hardy fierce couráge,

The richè Crœsus caitiff in serváge.

Thus may ye see, that wisdom ne richesse,

Beauty ne sleightè, strengthè, hardiness,

Ne may with Venus holden champarty,

For as her list the world then may she gye.

Lo, all these folk so caught were in her las

Till they for woe full often said, “Alas!”

Sufficeth here ensamples one or two,

And though I couldè reckon a thousand mo.

The statue of Venus, glorious for to see,

Was naked fleting in the largè sea,

And from the navel down all covered was

With wavès green, and bright as any glass,

A citole in her right hand haddé she,

And on her head, full seemly for to see,

A rosé garland fresh and well smellíng,

Above her head her dovès flickeríng.

Before her stood her sonè Cupido,

Upon his shoulders wingès had he two;

And blind he was, as it is often seen;

A bow he bare and arrows bright and keen.

Why should I not as well eke tell you all

The portraitúre, that was upon the wall

Within the temple of mighty Mars the red?

All painted was the wall in length and brede

Like to the estres of the grisly place,

That hight the greatè temple of Mars in Thrace,

In thilkè coldè frosty regìón,

There-as Mars hath his sovereign mansìón.

First on the wall was painted a forést,

In which there dwelleth neither man ne beast,

With knotty gnarry barren treès old

Of stubbès sharp and hideous to behold,

In which there ran a rumble and a sough,

As though a storm should bresten every bough:

And downward from an hill, under a bent,

There stood the temple of Mars armipotent,

Wrought all of burnèd steel, of which th’ entry

Was long and strait and ghastly for to see.

And thereout came a rage and such a vese,

That it made all the gatès for to rese.

The northern light in at the doorès shone,

For window on the wall ne was there none

Through which men mighten any light discern;

The doors were all of adamant eterne,

Yclenchèd overthwart and endèlong

With iron tough, and for to make it strong,

Every pillár the temple to sustene

Was tunnè-great, of iron bright and sheen.

There saw I first the dark imagining

Of felony, and all the compassing;

The cruel irè, red as any gleed,

The pickèpurse, and eke the palè drede;

The smiler with the knife under the cloak;

The shepen brenning with the blackè smoke;

The treason of the murdering in the bed,

The open war, with woundès all bebled;

Contek with bloody knife and sharp menáce.

All full of chirking was that sorry place.

The slayer of himself yet saw I there,

His heartè-blood hath bathèd all his hair:

The nail ydriven in the shode anight;

The coldè death, with mouth gapíng upright.

Amiddès of the temple sat mischance,

With díscomfórt and sorry countenance,

Yet saw I woodness laughing in his rage,

Armèd complaint, outhees, and fierce outrage;

The carrion in the bush, with throat ycorven,

A thousand slain, and not of qualm ystorven;

The tyrant with the prey by force yreft;

The town destroyed, there was nothing left.

Yet saw I brent the shippès hoppèsteres,

The huntè strangled with the wildè bears:

The sowè freten the child right in the cradle;

The cook yscalded, for all his longè ladle.

Nought was forgotten by th’ infortúne of Marte;

The carter overridden with his cart;

Under the wheel full low he lay adown.

There were also of Mars’ divisìón,

The barber, and the butcher, and the smith

That forgeth sharpè swordès on his stith.

And all above depainted in a tower

Saw I Conquést, sitting in great honóur,

With the sharpè sword over his head

Hanging by a subtle twinès thread.

Depainted was the slaughter of Juliús,

Of great Neró, and of Antoniús:

Albe that thilkè time they were unborn,

Yet was hir death depainted therebeforn,

By ménacíng of Mars, right by figúre,

So was it showèd in that portraitúre,

As is depainted in the stars above,

Who shall be slain or ellès dead for love.

Sufficeth one ensample in stories old,

I may not reckon them allè though I wold.

The statue of Mars upon a cartè stood

Armèd, and lookèd grim as he were wood,

And over his head there shinen two figúres

Of starrès, that be clepèd in scriptúres,

That one Puella, that other Rubeus.

This god of armès was arrayèd thus:

A wolf there stood before him at his feet

With eyen red, and of a man he eat:

With subtle pencil depainted was this story,

In redoubting of Mars and of his glory.

Now to the temple of Dián the chaste

As shortly as I can I will me haste,

To tellen you all the descriptìón:

Depainted be the wallès up and down

Of hunting and of shamefast chastity.

There saw I how wofúl Calistope,

When that Dian aggrievèd was with her,

Was turnèd from a woman to a bear,

And after was she made the lodèstar:

Thus was it painted, I can say no farre;

Her son is eke a star as men may see.

There saw I Danè yturnèd till a tree,

I meanè not the goddesse Diánè,

But Peneus’ daughter, which that hightè Danè.

There saw I Acteon an hart ymakèd,

For vengeance that he saw Dian all naked:

I saw how that his houndès have him caught,

And freten him for that they knew him naught.

Yet painted was a little furthermore,

How Atalanta hunted the wild boar,

And Meleager, and many another mo,

For which Diana wrought him care and woe.

There saw I many another wonder story,

The which me list not drawen to memóry.

This goddess on an hart full highè seet,

With smallè houndès all about her feet,

And underneath her feet she had a moon,

Waxing it was, and shouldè wanen soon.

In gaudy-green her statue clothèd was,

With bow in hand and arrows in a case.

Her eyen castè she full low adown

There Pluto hath his darkè regìón.

A woman travailing was her beforn,

But for her child so longè was unborn

Full piteously Lucina gan she call,

And saidè, “Help, for thou mayst best of all.”

Well could he painten lifely that it wrought,

With many a florin he the huès bought.