'Fortune' by Geoffrey Chaucer

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This wrecched worldes transmutacioun,
As wele or wo, now povre and now honour,
Withouten ordre or wys discrecioun
Governed is by Fortunes errour.
But natheles, the lak of hir favour
Ne may nat don me singen though I dye,
Jay tout perdu mon temps et mon labour;
For fynally, Fortune, I thee defye.

Yit is me left the light of my resoun
To knowen frend fro fo in thy mirour.
So muchel hath yit thy whirling up and doun
Ytaught me for to knowen in an hour.
But trewely, no force of thy reddour
To him that over himself hath the maystrye.
My suffisaunce shal be my socour,
For fynally Fortune, I thee defye.

O Socrates, thou stidfast champioun,
She never mighte be thy tormentour;
Thou never dreddest hir oppressioun,
Ne in hir chere founde thou no savour.
Thou knewe wel the deceit of hir colour,
And that hir moste worshipe is to lye.
I knowe hir eek a fals dissimulour,
For fynally, Fortune, I thee defye!

La respounse de Fortune au Pleintif

No man is wrecched but himself it wene,
And he that hath himself hath suffisaunce.
Why seystow thanne I am to thee so kene,
That hast thyself out of my governaunce?
Sey thus: "Graunt mercy of thyn haboundaunce
That thou hast lent or this.' Why wolt thou stryve?
What wostow yit how I thee wol avaunce?
And eek thou hast thy beste frend alyve.

I have thee taught divisioun bitwene
Frend of effect and frend of countenaunce;
Thee nedeth nat the galle of noon hyene,
That cureth eyen derked for penaunce;
Now seestow cleer that were in ignoraunce.
Yit halt thyn ancre and yit thou mayst arryve
Ther bountee berth the keye of my substaunce,
And eek thou hast thy beste frend alyve.

How many have I refused to sustene
Sin I thee fostred have in thy plesaunce.
Woltow than make a statut on thy quene
That I shal been ay at thyn ordinaunce?
Thou born art in my regne of variaunce,
Aboute the wheel with other most thou dryve.
My lore is bet than wikke is thy grevaunce,
And eek thou hast thy beste frend alyve.

La respounse du Pleintif countre Fortune

Thy lore I dampne; it is adversitee.
My frend maystow nat reven, blind goddesse;
That I thy frendes knowe, I thanke it thee.
Tak hem agayn, lat hem go lye on presse.
The negardye in keping hir richesse
Prenostik is thou wolt hir tour assayle;
Wikke appetyt comth ay before syknesse.
In general, this reule may nat fayle.

La respounse de Fortune countre le Pleintif

Thou pinchest at my mutabilitee
For I thee lente a drope of my richesse,
And now me lyketh to withdrawe me.[Riv., p. 653]
Why sholdestow my realtee oppresse?
The see may ebbe and flowen more or lesse;
The welkne hath might to shyne, reyne, or hayle;
Right so mot I kythen my brotelnesse.
In general, this reule may nat fayle.

Lo, th'execucion of the majestee
That al purveyeth of his rightwysnesse,
That same thing "Fortune'" clepen ye,
Ye blinde bestes ful of lewdednesse.
The hevene hath propretee of sikernesse.
This world hath ever resteles travayle;
Thy laste day is ende of myn intresse.
In general, this reule may nat fayle.

Lenvoy de Fortune

Princes, I prey you of your gentilesse
Lat nat this man on me thus crye and pleyne,
And I shal quyte you your bisinesse
At my requeste, as three of you or tweyne,
And but you list releve him of his peyne,
Preyeth his beste frend of his noblesse
That to som beter estat he may atteyne.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Fortunate Literary Genius of Chaucer

Geoffrey Chaucer is one of those literary geniuses that never cease to amaze us. He is synonymous with the Middle Ages, and his works have stood the test of time. Among his many works, "Fortune" is one of the most remarkable. In this poem, Chaucer explores the theme of fate and the impact of fortune on human beings.

The Poem as a Whole

"Fortune" is a short poem that consists of seven stanzas with three lines each. The poem is written in Middle English, which can make it a bit challenging for modern readers to understand. However, it is worth the effort to study it, as it is a gem of medieval literature. The poem is also known as "Balade De Bon Conseyl," which means "Ballad of Good Counsel."

The poem begins with the narrator addressing Fortune, who is portrayed as a powerful and capricious force that controls the destinies of human beings. The narrator then proceeds to give advice to his readers on how to deal with Fortune. He suggests that one should not be too complacent when fortune smiles upon them because she can turn her back on them at any moment. Similarly, when Fortune frowns upon a person, they should take it in stride, knowing that her fickle nature means that she will eventually smile upon them again.

The Meaning of Fortune

The concept of Fortune was very important in medieval culture. People believed that one's fate was determined by the stars and that Fortune was a force that could make or break them. Fortune was seen as a lady who could bestow wealth, power, and success or take them away. Chaucer's poem reflects this belief and portrays Fortune as an unpredictable force that can change a person's luck in an instant.

The poem also suggests that one should not rely too much on Fortune. Instead, the narrator advises his readers to be prudent and to plan for the future. He suggests that one should invest in virtues such as wisdom, justice, and faith, which can help a person weather the storms of life.

The Structure of the Poem

The structure of the poem is worth noting. It is a ballad, which means that it has a simple and repetitive structure. The first and third lines of each stanza have the same rhyme, while the second line is different. This creates a musical rhythm that makes the poem easy to memorize and recite.

The use of repetition is also significant. The narrator repeats the phrase "hit is noo nay" (it is not no) in every stanza. This phrase emphasizes the idea that Fortune is unpredictable and that one should not take her for granted. The repetition also creates a sense of urgency and reinforces the message of the poem.

The Language and Style of the Poem

Chaucer's use of language and style is remarkable in this poem. He employs a variety of poetic devices such as alliteration, assonance, and repetition to create a vivid and memorable poem. For example, in the first stanza, he uses alliteration to emphasize the power of Fortune: "Flee fro the pres, and dwelle with sothfastnesse/ Suffise unto thy good, though hit be small." The repetition of the "f" sound in "flee," "pres," and "with" creates a sense of urgency and emphasizes the danger of being too close to Fortune.

Chaucer also uses symbolism to convey his message. Fortune is portrayed as a lady who holds a wheel that represents the ups and downs of life. The image of the wheel turning suggests the idea that one's fortune can change at any moment. The narrator advises his readers not to be too attached to the wheel, as it can turn against them at any moment.

The Themes of the Poem

"Fortune" explores several themes that are relevant today. The main theme is the unpredictability of fortune and the importance of being prepared for both good and bad times. The poem also touches on the idea of contentment and the value of virtues such as wisdom and faith. The narrator advises his readers to be satisfied with what they have and to avoid being too greedy or ambitious.

Another theme that the poem explores is the idea of fate. The medieval belief in fate was very strong, and Chaucer reflects this in his poem. However, he also suggests that one can influence their fate by being prudent and virtuous. This theme is relevant today, as many people believe that they can control their destiny through hard work and determination.

The Relevance of the Poem Today

Despite being written in the Middle Ages, "Fortune" is still relevant today. The poem conveys a timeless message about the unpredictability of life and the importance of being prepared for both good and bad times. The idea that one's fate can change in an instant is as relevant today as it was in Chaucer's time.

Furthermore, the poem's message about the value of virtues such as wisdom and faith is also relevant today. In a world that is often focused on material wealth and success, it is important to remember that these virtues can provide us with a solid foundation for navigating life's ups and downs.


In conclusion, "Fortune" is a remarkable poem that showcases Chaucer's literary genius. The poem's message about the unpredictability of life and the importance of being prepared for both good and bad times is as relevant today as it was in the Middle Ages. The poem's language and style are also noteworthy, and Chaucer's use of poetic devices creates a vivid and memorable poem. "Fortune" is a true gem of medieval literature and a testament to Chaucer's enduring legacy as a literary genius.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Fortune: A Masterpiece by Geoffrey Chaucer

Geoffrey Chaucer, the father of English literature, is known for his remarkable contribution to the world of poetry. His works have been celebrated for centuries and continue to inspire generations of poets and writers. One of his most famous works, Poetry Fortune, is a masterpiece that showcases his exceptional talent and creativity.

Poetry Fortune is a poem that was written in the 14th century and is a part of Chaucer's larger work, The Canterbury Tales. The poem is a conversation between the poet and a young man who is seeking advice on how to become a successful poet. The young man is eager to learn the secrets of poetry and the poet, in turn, offers him a series of tips and tricks that he has learned over the years.

The poem is structured in the form of a dialogue between the two characters, with the poet offering his advice in a series of stanzas. The poem is written in Middle English, which can be challenging for modern readers to understand. However, with a little effort, one can appreciate the beauty and depth of the poem.

The poem begins with the young man asking the poet for advice on how to become a successful poet. The poet responds by telling him that poetry is not something that can be learned from a book or a teacher. Instead, it is something that comes from within, from the heart and soul of the poet. The poet tells the young man that he must be passionate about poetry and must be willing to put in the time and effort to develop his skills.

The poet then goes on to offer a series of tips on how to write good poetry. He tells the young man that he must choose his words carefully and use them in a way that is both beautiful and meaningful. He advises him to use metaphors and similes to create vivid images in the minds of his readers. He also tells him to pay attention to the rhythm and flow of his words, as this is what gives poetry its musical quality.

The poet then goes on to talk about the importance of inspiration in poetry. He tells the young man that he must be open to the world around him and must be willing to draw inspiration from his own experiences. He advises him to observe nature, to listen to the sounds of the world, and to pay attention to the emotions of those around him.

The poem then takes a more philosophical turn, as the poet begins to talk about the nature of poetry itself. He tells the young man that poetry is a reflection of the human experience, that it captures the beauty and pain of life in a way that no other art form can. He tells him that poetry is a way of connecting with others, of sharing our deepest thoughts and emotions with the world.

The poem ends with the poet offering the young man a final piece of advice. He tells him that poetry is not something that can be forced or rushed. It is something that must be allowed to flow naturally, like a river. He advises him to be patient and to trust in his own abilities, and to never give up on his dreams of becoming a great poet.

In conclusion, Poetry Fortune is a masterpiece of English literature that showcases Chaucer's exceptional talent and creativity. The poem offers a series of tips and tricks on how to write good poetry, while also exploring the deeper philosophical themes of the nature of poetry itself. It is a poem that continues to inspire and delight readers to this day, and is a testament to the enduring power of poetry as an art form.

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