Translation from Petrarch


Mine old dear en'my, my froward master,
Afore that Queen I caused to be accited
Which holdeth the divine part of nature,
That like as gold in fire he might be tried.
Charged with dolour, there I me presented
With horrible fear, as one that greatly dreadeth
A wrongful death and justice alway seeketh.

And thus I said: ‘Once my left foot, Madam,
When I was young I set within his reign;
Whereby other than fierily burning flame
I never felt, but many a grievous pain.
Torment I suffered, anger and disdain,
That mine oppressed patience was past
And I mine own life hated at the last.

‘Thus hitherto have I my time passed
In pain and smart. What ways profitable,
How many pleasant days have me escaped
In serving this false liar so deceivable?
What wit have words so prest and forcible
That may contain my great mishappiness
And just complaints of his ungentleness?

‘O small honey, much aloes and gall
In bitterness have my blind life tasted.
His false sweetness, that turneth as a ball,
With the amorous dance have made me traced,
And where I had my thought and mind araced
From all earthly frailness and vain pleasure,
He took me from rest and set me in error.

‘He hath made me regard God much less than I ought
And to myself to take right little heed.
And for a woman have I set at naught
All other thoughts, in this only to speed.
And he was only counsellor of this deed,
Always whetting my youthly desire
On the cruel whetstone, tempered with fire.

‘But, alas, where now had I ever wit
Or else any other gift given me of nature
That sooner shall change my wearied sprite
Than the obstinate will that is my ruler?
So robbeth my liberty with displeasure
This wicked traitor, whom I thus accuse,
That bitter life have turned me in pleasant use.

‘He hath chased me thorough diverse regions,
Thorough desert woods and sharp high mountains,
Thorough froward people and strait pressions,
Thorough rocky seas, over hills and plains,
With weary travail and laborous pains,
Always in trouble and in tediousness,
In all error and dangerous distress.

‘But nother he nor she, my t'other foe,
For all my flight did ever me forsake,
That, though timely death hath been too slow
That as yet it hath me not overtake,
The heavenly goodness of pity do it slake
And not this, his cruel extreme tyranny,
That feedeth him with my care and misery.

‘Since I was his, hour rested I never
Nor look for to do, and eke the wakey nights,
The banished sleep may no wise recover.
By deceit and by force over my sprites
He is ruler; and since, there never bell strikes
Where I am that I hear not, my plaints to renew.
And he himself, he knoweth that that I say is true.

‘For never worms have an old stock eaten
As he my heart where he is alway resident;
And doth the same with death daily threaten.
Thence come the tears and the bitter torment,
The sighs, the words, and eke the languishment
That annoy both me and peradventure other.
Judge thou that knowest th'one and th'other.’

Mine adversary with grievous reproof
Thus he began: ‘Hear, Lady, th'other part,
That the plain truth from which he draweth aloof,
This unkind man, shall show ere that I part.
In young age I took him from that art
That selleth words and maketh a clattering knight,
And of my wealth I gave him the delight.

‘Now shameth he not on me for to complain
That held him evermore in pleasant game
From his desire that might have been his pain.
Yet only thereby I brought him to some frame
Which as wretchedness he doth greatly blame.
And toward honour I quickened his wit
Where else as a dastard he might have sit.

‘He knoweth that Atrides that made Troy fret,
And Hannibal to Rome so troublous,
Whom Homer honoured, Achilles that great,
And the African, Scipion the famous,
And many other by much virtue glorious,
Whose fame and honour did bring them above,
I did let fall in base dishonest love.

‘And unto him, though he no deals worthy were,
I chose right the best of many a million,
That under the moon was never her peer
Of wisdom, womanhood, and discretion.
And of my grace I gave her such a fashion,
And eke such a way I taught her for to teach
That never base thought his heart might have reach.

‘Evermore thus to content his mistress,
That was his only frame of honesty,
I steered him still toward gentleness
And caused him to regard fidelity;
Patience I taught him in adversity.
Such virtues he learned in my great school,
Whereof he repenteth, the ignorant fool.

‘These were the deceits and the bitter gall
That I have used, the torment and the anger,
Sweeter than for to enjoy any other in all.
Of right good seed ill fruit I gather
And so hath he that th'unkind doth further.
I nourish a serpent under my wing
And of his nature now ginneth he to sting.

‘And for to tell at last my great service:
From thousand dishonesties I have him drawn,
That by my means in no manner of wise
Never vile pleasure him hath overthrown,
Where in his deed shame hath him always gnawn,
Doubting report that should come to her ear.
Whom now he accuseth he wonted to fear.

‘Whatsoever he hath of any honest custom,
Of her and me, that holdeth he every whit.
But lo, there was never nightly phantom
So far in error as he is from his wit
To plain on us: he striveth with the bit
Which may rule him and do him pleasure and pain
And in one hour make all his grief remain.

‘But one thing there is above all other:
I gave him wings wherewith he might fly
To honour and fame and, if he would, farther
By mortal things above the starry sky.
Considering the pleasure that an eye
Might give in earth by reason of his love,
What should that be that lasteth still above?

‘And he the same himself hath said ere this.
But now forgotten is both that and I
That gave her him, his only wealth and bliss.’
And at this word, with deadly shright and cry,
‘Thou gave her me,’ quod I, ‘but by and by
Thou took her straight from me. That woe worth thee!’
‘Not I,’ quod he, ‘but price that is well worthy.’

At last both, each for himself concluded,
I trembling, but he with small reverence:
‘Lo, thus as we have now each other accused,
Dear Lady, we wait only thy sentence.’
She, smiling after this said audience,
‘It liketh me,’ quod she, ‘to have heard your question,
But longer time doth ask resolution.’
Author of original: 
Francesco Petrarch
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