Chaucer's 'A.B.C.': Priere de Nostre Dame

PRIERE DE NOSTRE DAME

All-potent Queen, whose mercies never cease,
From whom the world seeks at its darkest hour
For balm in sorrow, and from sin release;
Virgin all-glorious, of all flowers the Flower,
To thee, when clouds of error round me lower,
I flee — thou Quintessence of Courtesie;
Lest, in my perilous languor, by his power
My cruel adversary vanquish me.

Bounty doth hold thine heart so strong in hand,
That well I wot thou wilt my succour be,
Nor canst the prayer of good-intent withstand
That asks thine help — thine heart is aye so free:
Largess art thou of full felicitie,
Haven and Refuge for the tempest-driven;
Lo, how the arch-thieves seven are chasing me;
Help, Lady bright, ere that my ship be riven.

Comfort is none, but in you, Lady dear,
For lo, my sin and my confusion,
Which in thy presence ought not to appear,
Such hold have taken, and so driven me on
As one all-wretchless, desperate and undone,
That, seeing what my sinfulness hath been,
They well may hold that I my doom have won
From you, if mercy fail me, blissful Queen.

Doubt is there none, O Queen of Mercy mild,
That thou art cause of grace and mercy here;
So God vouchsafe him to be reconciled
To us through thee, Christ's blissful Mother dear.
Were now the bow, with arm and eye severe,
Bent as at first, in justice and in ire,
The righteous God would of no mercy hear;
But we, through thee, have grace as we desire.

Ever hath been mine hope of rest in thee
For heretofore full oft, in many a wise,
Unto thy mercy thou hast taken me.
But mercy, Lady, at the Great Assize,
When we shall come before the Judge's eyes,
So little fruit shall then in me be found,
That, but thou ere that day my Schooler be,
Of very right my work will me confound.

Flying, I flee for succour to thy tent,
To hide me from the tempest full of dread,
Beseeching thee to ne'er thyself absent,
Though I be wicked. Help me at this need,
Albeit a beast I be in wit and deed,
Yet, Lady, me encompass with thy grace:
Thine enemy and mine, Lady, take heed,
Unto my death is purposed me to chase.

Gracious Maid, gracious Mother, thou who never
Wast bitter, nor in the earth, nor in the sea,
But, full of sweetness and of mercy ever,
Help that my Father be not wroth with me;
Speak thou to him whose face I dare not see;
So have I done on earth, alas the while,
That, if thou wilt no wise my succour be,
To pit eterne he will my ghost exile.

Him tell, that he vouchsafed in his great will
Man to become, to bring man near to God;
And on the cross he wrote that blissful bill
Of all acquittance, with his precious Blood,
To penitents a very certitude;
Pray, therefore, Lady bright, for us alway:
So shalt thou palsy his grim hardihood,
And foil our foe, and fail him of his prey.

I wot well thou wilt succour us when we call,
So much of bounty doth thine heart contain,
For, when a soul shall into error fall,
Thy pity hastes and hales him back again,
Making his peace with his dread Sovereign,
And bringing him out of the crooked street;
Whoso thee loveth shall not love in vain,
That shall he find when life and death do meet.

Kalendars lettered with bright red be they
That in this world are lighted with thy name,
And whoso walks with thee in the right way,
He in his soul shall dread not to walk lame;
Now, Queen of Comfort, since thou art the same
To whom I seek for my soul's medicine,
Let not my foe — no more — my wounds inflame:
Into thine hands my healing I resign.

Lady, thy sorrow can I not pourtray
Under that cross, nor his great sufferance;
But, for the pains ye both endured, I pray
Let not our foe, the foe of all (mischance
Betide him) in his lustful arrogance
Boast over that which ye have bought so dear;
As erst I said, our Stay and Ground of stance,
Still keep on us thy pitying eye and clear.

Moses, that saw the red flame wrap the wood,
The Burning Bush, whose never a brand was brent,
Was sign of thine unspotted Maidenhood;
Thou art the Bush, whereon he made descent —
The Holy Ghost — to Moses' wonderment,
Burning not burnt — pure figure of the pure:
Help, Lady, help, that hell on us ne'er vent
The flame that shall eternally endure.

Noble Princess, that never hadst a peer.
Certes, in us if any comfort be
Of thee that cometh, Christ's own Mother dear,
We have none other melody, nor glee,
Us to rejoice in our adversity;
Nor advocate that will and dare so pray
For us, and that too for so small a fee —
Ave-Mary — one, or two, as hap it may.

O very Light of eyes that be stark blind;
O very Love of labour and distress;
O Treasurer of bounty to mankind
Whom, to his Mother for her humbleness,
God chose, from Handmaid making Misteresse
Of heaven and earth, our tale of prayer to speed;
This world doth ever wait for thee to bless,
Since thou dost never fail a man at need.

Purpose have I some time to ask and hear,
Wherefore and why the Holy Ghost thee sought
When Gabriel's voice came greeting to thine ear
Not for our worry he such wonder wrought,
But for to save the sheep that he had bought:
Then needeth us no weapon us to save,
But only, that we did not, as we ought,
Do penitence, and mercy ask and have.

Queen of all Comfort, right well when I think
That I stand guilty before him and thee,
And that my soul is worthy but to sink;
Ah, caitiff I, ah, whither shall I flee?
Unto thy Son, who shall my Pleader be,
Who but thyself — who art sweet Pity's Well?
More ruth hast thou on our adversity,
Than hath this world a living tongue to tell.

Redress me, Mother; me, thy child, chastise;
For certainly, my Father's chastening
Abide I dare not — not in any wise —
So terrible is his full reckoning:
Mother, from whom our joys began to spring,
Be ye my Judge, be ye my sick soul's Leech;
For, ever in you is pity freshening,
To all that will for pity you beseech.

Sooth is — without thee the good God will grant
Forgiveness none; but of his graciousness,
With thee his mercies are not slack, nor scant;
Thee hath he made his Vicaire, and no less
Than Vice-reine of the world, and Governess
Of heaven — in proof, that in thy will it lies
The sharp edge of his justice to repress;
Thee hath he crowned in such royal-wise.

Temple devout, God's chosen Sojourning,
Whereof these misbeliefed deprived be,
To you my soul in penitence I bring;
Receive me — for no further can I flee,
Choked, Heavenly Queen, with thorns that poison me,
For which the earth was cursed to its core;
I am so wounded, as you well may see,
That well-nigh lost am I, the smart so sore.

Virgin apparelled, as Heaven's noble Bride,
That leadest us unto the highest tower
Of Paradise, my Counsel be and Guide;
So be my succour, and thy grace my dower:
Ah, in mire have I wandered till this hour;
Lady, adjourn me to that bower and bourne,
That titled is thy Bank of Freshest Flower,
Where peace and mercy ever shall sojourn.

Xrist, thy dear Son, on earth alighting, here
Bare, on the cross, that death his passion crown;
Bare, that blind Longeus his full Heart should spear
And make his Heart's Blood run in torrents down:
And this, all this, for my salvation —
And I, so hard to him and false of mind;
And yet, he will not my damnation —
For this I thank thee, Succour of mankind.

Ysaac was of his death a figure plain,
That so far forth his father would obey,
Albeit, he had wrought nothing to be slain;
So, lamb-like, went thy Son to death that day:
Now, Lady, full of mercy, thee I pray,
Since me his mercy hath so sure annealed,
Be ye not scant for all we sing, or say,
'Twixt us and wrath to stand our Targe and Shield.

Zacharia calleth thee the Open Well,
Wherein the sinful soul is washed from guilt;
Therefore, this lesson shall my tongue forth tell,
Save for thy tender heart this stream were spilt:
Now, Lady bright, since thou both canst and wilt,
Be merciful to Adam's errant seed,
And bring us to that palace that is built
For penitents, that are penitents indeed.
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