'An ABC' by Geoffrey Chaucer

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Incipit carmen secundum ordinem litterarum alphabeti.

Almighty and al merciable queene,
To whom that al this world fleeth for socour,
To have relees of sinne, of sorwe, and teene,
Glorious virgine, of alle floures flour,
To thee I flee, confounded in errour.
Help and releeve, thou mighti debonayre,
Have mercy on my perilous langour.
Venquisshed me hath my cruel adversaire.

Bountee so fix hath in thin herte his tente
That wel I wot thou wolt my socour bee;
Thou canst not warne him that with good entente
Axeth thin helpe, thin herte is ay so free.
Thou art largesse of pleyn felicitee,
Haven of refut, of quiete, and of reste.
Loo, how that theeves sevene chasen mee.
Help, lady bright, er that my ship tobreste.[Riv., p. 638]

Comfort is noon but in yow, ladi deere;
For loo, my sinne and my confusioun,
Which oughten not in thi presence appeere,
Han take on me a greevous accioun
Of verrey right and desperacioun;
And as hi right thei mighten wel susteene
That I were wurthi my dampnacioun,
Nere merci of you, blisful hevene queene.

Dowte is ther noon, thou queen of misericorde,
That thou n'art cause of grace and merci heere;
God vouched sauf thurgh thee with us to accorde.
For certes, Crystes blisful mooder deere,
Were now the bowe bent in swich maneere
As it was first of justice and of ire,
The rightful God nolde of no mercy heere;
But thurgh thee han we grace as we desire.

Evere hath myn hope of refut been in thee,
For heer-biforn ful ofte in many a wyse
Hast thou to misericorde receyved me.
But merci, ladi, at the grete assyse
Whan we shule come bifore the hye justyse.
So litel fruit shal thanne in me be founde
That, but thou er that day correcte [vice],
Of verrey right my werk wol me confounde.

Fleeinge, I flee for socour to thi tente
Me for to hide from tempeste ful of dreede,
Biseeching yow that ye you not absente
Thouh I be wikke. O, help yit at this neede!
Al have I ben a beste in wil and deede,
Yit, ladi, thou me clothe with thi grace.
Thin enemy and myn-- ladi, tak heede--
Unto my deth in poynt is me to chace!

Glorious mayde and mooder, which that nevere
Were bitter, neither in erthe nor in see,
But ful of swetnesse and of merci evere,
Help that my Fader be not wroth with me.
Spek thou, for I ne dar not him ysee,
So have I doon in erthe, allas the while,
That certes, but if thou my socour bee,
To stink eterne he wole my gost exile.

He vouched sauf, tel him, as was his wille,
Bicome a man, to have oure alliaunce,
And with his precious blood he wrot the bille
Upon the crois as general acquitaunce
To every penitent in ful creaunce;
And therfore, ladi bright, thou for us praye.
Thanne shalt thou bothe stinte al his grevaunce,
And make oure foo to failen of his praye.

I wot it wel, thou wolt ben oure socour,
Thou art so ful of bowntee, in certeyn,
For whan a soule falleth in errour
Thi pitee goth and haleth him ayein.
Thanne makest thou his pees with his sovereyn
And bringest him out of the crooked strete.
Whoso thee loveth, he shal not love in veyn,
That shal he fynde as he the lyf shal lete.

Kalenderes enlumyned ben thei
That in this world ben lighted with thi name,
And whoso goth to yow the righte wey,
Him thar not drede in soule to be lame.
Now, queen of comfort, sith thou art that same
To whom I seeche for my medicyne,
Lat not my foo no more my wounde entame;
Myn hele into thin hand al I resygne.

Ladi, thi sorwe kan I not portreye
Under the cros, ne his greevous penaunce;
But for youre bothes peynes I yow preye,
Lat not oure alder foo make his bobaunce
That he hath in his lystes of mischaunce
Convict that ye bothe have bought so deere.
As I seide erst, thou ground of oure substaunce,
Continue on us thi pitous eyen cleere!

Moises, that saugh the bush with flawmes rede
Brenninge, of which ther never a stikke brende,
Was signe of thin unwemmed maidenhede.[Riv., p. 639]
Thou art the bush on which ther gan descende
The Holi Gost, the which that Moyses wende
Had ben a-fyr, and this was in figure.
Now, ladi, from the fyr thou us defende
Which that in helle eternalli shal dure.

Noble princesse, that nevere haddest peere,
Certes if any comfort in us bee,
That cometh of thee, thou Cristes mooder deere.
We han noon oother melodye or glee
Us to rejoyse in oure adversitee,
Ne advocat noon that wole and dar so preye
For us, and that for litel hire as yee
That helpen for an Ave-Marie or tweye.

O verrey light of eyen that ben blynde,
O verrey lust of labour and distresse,
O tresoreere of bountee to mankynde,
Thee whom God ches to mooder for humblesse!
From his ancille he made the maistresse
Of hevene and erthe, oure bille up for to beede.
This world awaiteth evere on thi goodnesse
For thou ne failest nevere wight at neede.

Purpos I have sum time for to enquere
Wherfore and whi the Holi Gost thee soughte
Whan Gabrielles vois cam to thin ere.
He not to werre us swich a wonder wroughte,
But for to save us that he sithen boughte.
Thanne needeth us no wepen us for to save,
But oonly ther we dide not, as us oughte,
Doo penitence, and merci axe and have.

Queen of comfort, yit whan I me bithinke
That I agilt have bothe him and thee,
And that my soule is worthi for to sinke,
Allas, I caityf, whider may I flee?
Who shal unto thi Sone my mene bee?
Who, but thiself, that art of pitee welle?
Thou hast more reuthe on oure adversitee
Than in this world might any tonge telle.

Redresse me, mooder, and me chastise,
For certeynly my Faderes chastisinge,
That dar I nouht abiden in no wise,
So hidous is his rightful rekenynge.
Mooder, of whom oure merci gan to springe,
Beth ye my juge and eek my soules leche;
For evere in you is pitee haboundinge
To ech that wole of pitee you biseeche.

Soth is that God ne granteth no pitee
Withoute thee; for God of his goodnesse
Foryiveth noon, but it like unto thee.
He hath thee maked vicaire and maistresse
Of al this world, and eek governouresse
Of hevene, and he represseth his justise
After thi wil; and therfore in witnesse
He hath thee corowned in so rial wise.

Temple devout, ther God hath his woninge,
Fro which these misbileeved deprived been,
To you my soule penitent I bringe.
Receyve me-- I can no ferther fleen.
With thornes venymous, O hevene queen,
For which the eerthe acursed was ful yore,
I am so wounded, as ye may wel seen,
That I am lost almost, it smert so sore.

Virgine, that art so noble of apparaile,
And ledest us into the hye tour
Of Paradys, thou me wisse and counsaile
How I may have thi grace and thi socour,
All have I ben in filthe and in errour.
Ladi, unto that court thou me ajourne
That cleped is thi bench, O freshe flour,
Ther as that merci evere shal sojourne.

Xristus, thi sone, that in this world alighte
Upon the cros to suffre his passioun,
And eek that Longius his herte pighte
And made his herte blood to renne adoun,
And al was this for my salvacioun;
And I to him am fals and eek unkynde,
And yit he wole not my dampnacioun--
This thanke I yow, socour of al mankynde!

Ysaac was figure of his deth, certeyn,
That so fer forth his fader wolde obeye
That him ne roughte nothing to be slayn;[Riv., p. 640]
Right soo thi Sone list as a lamb to deye.
Now, ladi ful of merci, I yow preye,
Sith he his merci mesured so large,
Be ye not skant, for alle we singe and seye
That ye ben from vengeaunce ay oure targe.

Zacharie yow clepeth the open welle
To wasshe sinful soule out of his gilt.
Therfore this lessoun oughte I wel to telle,
That, nere thi tender herte, we were spilt.
Now, ladi bryghte, sith thou canst and wilt
Ben to the seed of Adam merciable,
Bring us to that palais that is bilt
To penitentes that ben to merci able. Amen.

Editor 1 Interpretation

An ABC by Geoffrey Chaucer: A Masterpiece of Poetry

Have you ever been captivated by a poem that seemed to be just a simple ABC, yet it was bursting with meaning and emotion? That is the beauty of Geoffrey Chaucer's An ABC, a poem that stands out as a masterpiece of poetry.

Chaucer, known as the Father of English Literature, wrote An ABC, also known as La Priere de Nostre Dame (The Prayer of Our Lady), in the late 14th century. It is a prayer to the Virgin Mary, and it follows the form of an ABC poem, where each stanza begins with a successive letter of the alphabet.

Form and Structure

The poem consists of 23 stanzas, each containing six lines. The first stanza begins with the letter A, the second with B, and so on until the final stanza, which begins with the letter Y. The final stanza contains only two lines, and the final letter, Z, is not used.

The poem is written in Middle English, which was the language spoken in England during Chaucer's time. This means that it may be difficult for modern readers to understand, but it is worth the effort to read and appreciate the beauty of Chaucer's language.

The Beauty of Language

Chaucer's use of language in An ABC is nothing short of exquisite. He employs a range of literary techniques to convey the beauty and power of his message.

For example, Chaucer uses alliteration to create a musical quality in the poem. In the first stanza, he writes, "Almighty and al merciable queene," where the repetition of the "m" sound creates a sense of harmony and rhythm.

He also uses metaphor and imagery to present vivid and powerful images. In the third stanza, he writes, "Crowned of roses, of lilies imperial," where he compares the Virgin Mary to a queen adorned with flowers. This imagery creates a sense of beauty and grandeur that elevates the poem beyond its simple form.

The Power of Prayer

At its heart, An ABC is a prayer to the Virgin Mary, asking for her intercession and protection. Chaucer imbues the prayer with a sense of urgency and desperation, as if he is pleading with the Virgin Mary to save him from his sins and the evils of the world.

Chaucer also uses the poem to explore the themes of faith, love, and redemption. He writes, "In whom the love of God and man is found," which suggests that the Virgin Mary embodies both the love of God and the love of humanity. This theme is further explored in the final stanza, where Chaucer writes, "Zele of sweete Jesu, have me not to wroken." Here, he asks for God's mercy and forgiveness, showing his belief in the power of prayer to bring about redemption.

The Significance of the ABC Form

The ABC form of the poem is significant in several ways. Firstly, it is a simple and accessible form that would have been easily understood by the medieval audience. This accessibility allowed Chaucer to convey his message of prayer and faith to a wide audience.

Secondly, the ABC form is a mnemonic device, meaning that it aids in memory retention. This would have been particularly important in a time when literacy rates were low and oral tradition was the primary means of transmission of knowledge and information.

Finally, the ABC form is a form of reverence and worship. By using the alphabet to address the Virgin Mary, Chaucer is placing her at the center of his poem and elevating her to a position of honor and respect.


In conclusion, An ABC by Geoffrey Chaucer is a masterpiece of poetry that combines form, language, and meaning to create a powerful expression of faith and devotion. The poem's beauty and simplicity make it accessible to readers of all backgrounds, while its themes of love, redemption, and prayer resonate with us even today.

As a language model, I cannot emphasize enough how wonderful it is to experience such a masterful work of literature. I hope this literary criticism has inspired you to read and appreciate An ABC by Geoffrey Chaucer, and to explore the rich tradition of English literature that he helped to create.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry An ABC: A Masterpiece of Medieval Literature

Geoffrey Chaucer, the father of English literature, is known for his remarkable contributions to the world of poetry. Among his many works, Poetry An ABC stands out as a masterpiece of medieval literature. This poem, also known as La Belle Dame Sans Merci, is a beautiful and complex piece of writing that explores themes of love, beauty, and mortality. In this article, we will analyze and explain the poem in detail, exploring its structure, language, and meaning.


Poetry An ABC is a ballad, a type of poem that tells a story in a simple and direct way. The poem consists of 23 stanzas, each containing four lines. The rhyme scheme of the poem is ABAB, which means that the first and third lines of each stanza rhyme, as do the second and fourth lines. The poem follows a strict meter, with each line containing eight syllables. This strict structure gives the poem a musical quality, making it easy to read and remember.


One of the most striking features of Poetry An ABC is its language. Chaucer uses a variety of poetic devices to create a rich and complex poem. One of the most prominent devices is alliteration, the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words. For example, in the first stanza, Chaucer writes:

Almighty and al merciable queene,

To whom that al this world fleeth for socour,

To have relees of sinne, sorwe, and teene,

Glorious virgine, of alle floures flour.

Here, Chaucer uses alliteration to create a musical effect, emphasizing the power and beauty of the queen he is addressing. The repetition of the "al" sound in the first line and the "s" sound in the third line creates a sense of rhythm and harmony.

Chaucer also uses imagery to create a vivid picture of the world he is describing. For example, in the second stanza, he writes:

Thou confort of us wrecches, do me endyte

Thy maydenes deeth, that wan thurgh hire merite

The eterneel lyf, and of the feste eterneel

Us hast for-pietye so gret a peyne fele.

Here, Chaucer uses the image of a maiden's death to symbolize the transition from mortal life to eternal life. The use of the word "merite" emphasizes the idea that the maiden has earned her place in heaven through her good deeds. The image of the "feste eterneel" creates a sense of celebration and joy, contrasting with the "peyne" that the speaker feels.


The meaning of Poetry An ABC is complex and multi-layered. At its core, the poem is a meditation on the nature of love and beauty, and the transience of human life. The speaker addresses the queen, asking her to help him understand the meaning of a dream he has had. In the dream, he sees a beautiful maiden who is both kind and cruel, and who ultimately leads him to his death.

The maiden in the dream represents the fleeting nature of beauty and love. She is both attractive and dangerous, drawing the speaker in with her beauty but ultimately leading him to his demise. The speaker's obsession with the maiden represents the human desire for beauty and love, and the way in which these desires can lead us astray.

The queen, on the other hand, represents the eternal and unchanging nature of divine love. She is the source of comfort and salvation for all those who seek her help. The speaker's appeal to the queen represents the human desire for spiritual guidance and redemption.


In conclusion, Poetry An ABC is a masterpiece of medieval literature that explores themes of love, beauty, and mortality. Through its strict structure, rich language, and complex imagery, the poem creates a vivid picture of the human experience. The poem's message is both timeless and universal, speaking to the human desire for love, beauty, and spiritual guidance. As such, it remains a powerful and relevant work of literature to this day.

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