'Parliament Of Fowles, The' by Geoffrey Chaucer

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Here begynyth the Parlement of Foulys


The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne,
Thassay so hard, so sharp the conquering,
The dredful Ioy, that alwey slit so yerne,
Al this mene I by love, that my feling
Astonyeth with his wonderful worching
So sore y-wis, that whan I on him thinke,
Nat wot I wel wher that I wake or winke.

For al be that I knowe nat love in dede,
Ne wot how that he quyteth folk hir hyre,
Yet happeth me ful ofte in bokes rede
Of his miracles, and his cruel yre;
Ther rede I wel he wol be lord and syre,
I dar not seyn, his strokes been so sore,
But God save swich a lord! I can no more.

Of usage, what for luste what for lore,
On bokes rede I ofte, as I yow tolde.
But wherfor that I speke al this? not yore
Agon, hit happed me for to beholde
Upon a boke, was write with lettres olde;
And ther-upon, a certeyn thing to lerne,
The longe day ful faste I radde and yerne.

For out of olde feldes, as men seith,
Cometh al this newe corn fro yeer to yere;
And out of olde bokes, in good feith,
Cometh al this newe science that men lere.
But now to purpos as of this matere --
To rede forth hit gan me so delyte,
That al the day me thoughte but a lyte.

This book of which I make of mencioun,
Entitled was al thus, as I shal telle,
`Tullius of the dreme of Scipioun.';
Chapitres seven hit hadde, of hevene and helle,
And erthe, and soules that therinnr dwelle,
Of whiche, as shortly as I can hit trete,
Of his sentence I wol you seyn the grete.

First telleth hit, whan Scipion was come
In Afrik, how he mette Massinisse,
That him for Ioye in armes hath y nome.
Than telleth hit hir speche and al the blisse
That was betwix hem, til the day gan misse;
And how his auncestre, African so dere,
Gan in his slepe that night to him appere.

Than telleth hit that, fro a sterry place,
How African hath him Cartage shewed,
And warned him before of al his grace,
And seyde him, what man, lered other lewed,
That loveth comun profit, wel y-thewed,
He shal unto a blisful place wende,
Ther as Ioye is that last withouten ende.

Than asked he, if folk that heer be dede
Have lyf and dwelling in another place;
And African seyde, `ye, withoute drede,'
And that our present worldes lyves space
Nis but a maner deth, what wey we trace,
And rightful folk shal go, after they dye,
To heven; and shewed him the galaxye.

Than shewed he him the litel erthe, that heer is,
At regard of the hevenes quantite;
And after shewed he him the nyne speres,
And after that the melodye herde he
That cometh of thilke speres thryes three,
That welle is of musyk and melodye
In this world heer, and cause of armonye.

Than bad he him, sin erthe was so lyte,
And ful of torment and of harde grace,
That he ne shulde him in the world delyte.
Than tolde he him, in certeyn yeres space,
That every sterre shulde come into his place
Ther hit was first; and al shulde out of minde
That in this worlde is don of al mankinde.

Than prayde him Scipioun to telle him al
The wey to come un-to that hevene blisse;
And he seyde, `know thy-self first immortal,
And loke ay besily thou werke and wisse
To comun profit, and thou shalt nat misse
To comen swiftly to that place dere,
That ful of blisse is and of soules clere.

But brekers of the lawe, soth to seyne,
And lecherous folk, after that they be dede,
Shul alwey whirle aboute therthe in peyne,
Til many a world be passed, out of drede,
And than, for-yeven alle hir wikked dede,
Than shul they come unto that blisful place,
To which to comen god thee sende his grace!' --

The day gan failen, and the derke night,
That reveth bestes from her besinesse,
Berafte me my book for lakke of light,
And to my bedde I gan me for to dresse,
Fulfild of thought and besy hevinesse;
For bothe I hadde thing which that I nolde,
And eek I ne hadde that thing that I wolde.

But fynally my spirit, at the laste,
For-wery of my labour al the day,
Took rest, that made me to slepe faste,
And in my slepe I mette, as I lay,
How African, right in the selfe aray
That Scipioun him saw before that tyde,
Was comen and stood right at my bedes syde.

The wery hunter, slepinge in his bed,
To wode ayein his minde goth anoon;
The Iuge dremeth how his plees ben sped;
The carter dremeth how his cartes goon;
The riche, of gold; the knight fight with his foon;
The seke met he drinketh of the tonne;
The lover met he hath his lady wonne.

Can I nat seyn if that the cause were
For I had red of African beforn,
That made me to mete that he stood there;
But thus seyde he, `thou hast thee so wel born
In loking of myn olde book to-torn,
Of which Macrobie roghte nat a lyte,
That somdel of thy labour wolde I quyte!' --

Citherea! thou blisful lady swete,
That with thy fyr-brand dauntest whom thee lest,
And madest me this sweven for to mete,
Be thou my help in this, for thou mayst best;
As wisly as I saw thee north-north-west,
When I began my sweven for to wryte,
So yif me might to ryme and endyte!


This forseid African me hente anoon,
And forth with him unto a gate broghte
Right of a parke, walled of grene stoon;
And over the gate, with lettres large y-wroghte,
Ther weren vers y-writen, as me thoghte,
On eyther halfe, of ful gret difference,
Of which I shal yow sey the pleyn sentence.

`Thorgh me men goon in-to that blisful place
Of hertes hele and dedly woundes cure;
Thorgh me men goon unto the welle of Grace,
Ther grene and lusty May shal ever endure;
This is the wey to al good aventure;
Be glad, thou reder, and thy sorwe of-caste,
Al open am I; passe in, and hy the faste!'

`Thorgh me men goon,' than spak that other syde,
`Unto the mortal strokes of the spere,
Of which Disdayn and Daunger is the gyde,
Ther tre shal never fruyt ne leves bere.
This streem yow ledeth to the sorwful were,
Ther as the fish in prison is al drye;
Theschewing is only the remedye.'

Thise vers of gold and blak y-writen were,
Of whiche I gan a stounde to beholde,
For with that oon encresed ay my fere,
And with that other gan myn herte bolde;
That oon me hette, that other did me colde,
No wit had I, for errour, for to chese
To entre or flee, or me to save or lese.

Right as, betwixen adamauntes two
Of even might, a pece of iren y-set,
That hath no might to meve to ne fro --
For what that on may hale, that other let --
Ferde I; that niste whether me was bet,
To entre or leve, til African my gyde
Me hente, and shoof in at the gates wyde,

And seyde,`hit stondeth writen in thy face,
Thyn errour, though thou telle it not to me;
But dred the nat to come in-to this place,
For this wryting is no-thing ment by thee,
Ne by noon, but he Loves servant be;
For thou of love hast lost thy tast, I gesse,
As seek man hath of swete and bitternesse.

But natheles, al-though that thou be dulle,
Yit that thou canst not do, yit mayst thou see;
For many a man that may not stonde a pulle,
Yit lyketh him at the wrastling for to be,
And demeth yit wher he do bet or he;
And if thou haddest cunning for tendyte,
I shal thee shewen mater of to wryte.'

With that my hond in his he took anoon,
Of which I comfort caughte, and went in faste;
But, lord! so I was glad and wel begoon!
For over-al, wher that I myn eyen caste,
Were trees clad with leves that ay shal laste,
Eche in his kinde, of colour fresh and grene
As emeraude, that Ioye was to sene.

The bilder ook, and eek the hardy asshe;
The piler elm, the cofre unto careyne;
The boxtree piper; holm to whippes lasshe;
The sayling firr; the cipres, deth to pleyne;
The sheter ew, the asp for shaftes pleyne;
The olyve of pees, and eek the drunken vyne,
The victor palm, the laurer to devyne.

A gardyn saw I, ful of blosmy bowes,
Upon a river, in a grene mede,
Ther as swetnesse evermore y-now is,
With floures whyte, blewe, yelowe, and rede;
And colde welle-stremes, no-thing dede,
That swommen ful of smale fisshes lighte,
With finnes rede and scales silver-brighte.

On every bough the briddes herde I singe,
With voys of aungel in hir armonye,
Som besyed hem hir briddes forth to bringe;
The litel conyes to hir pley gunne hye.
And further al aboute I gan espye
The dredful roo, the buk, the hert and hinde,
Squerels, and bestes smale of gentil kinde.

Of instruments of strenges in acord
Herde I so pleye a ravisshing swetnesse,
That god, that maker is of al and lord,
Ne herde never better, as I gesse;
Therwith a wind, unnethe hit might be lesse,
Made in the leves grene a noise softe
Acordaunt to the foules songe on-lofte.

The air of that place so attempre was
That never was grevaunce of hoot ne cold;
Ther wex eek every holsum spyce and gras,
Ne no man may ther wexe seek ne old;
Yet was ther Ioye more a thousand fold
Then man can telle; ne never wolde it nighte,
But ay cleer day to any mannes sighte.

Under a tree, besyde a welle, I say
Cupyde our lord his arwes forge and fyle;
And at his fete his bowe al redy lay,
And wel his doghter tempred al this whyle
The hedes in the welle, and with hir wyle
She couched hem after as they shulde serve,
Some for to slee, and some to wounde and kerve.

Tho was I war of Plesaunce anon-right,
And of Aray, and Lust, and Curtesye,
And of the Craft that can and hath the might
To doon by force a wight to do folye --
Disfigurat was she, I nil not lye;
And by him-self, under an oke, I gesse,
Saw I Delyt, that stood with Gentilnesse.

I saw Beautee, withouten any atyr,
And Youthe, ful of game and Iolyte,
Fool-hardinesse, Flatery, and Desyr,
Messagerye, and Mede, and other three --
Hir names shul noght here be told for me --
And upon pilers grete of Iasper longe
I saw a temple of bras y-founded stronge.

Aboute the temple daunceden alway
Wommen y-nowe, of whiche some ther were
Faire of hem-self, and somme of hem were gay;
In kirtels, al disshevele, wente they there --
That was hir office alway, yeer by yere --
And on the temple, of doves whyte and faire
Saw I sittinge many a hunderede paire.

Before the temple-dore ful soberly
Dame Pees sat, with a curteyn in hir hond:
And hir besyde, wonder discretly,
Dame Pacience sitting ther I fond
With face pale, upon an hille of sond;
And alder-next, within and eek with-oute,
Behest and Art, and of hir folke a route.

Within the temple, of syghes hote as fyr
I herde a swogh that gan aboute renne;
Which syghes were engendred with desyr,
That maden every auter for to brenne
Of newe flaume; and wel aspyed I thenne
That al the cause of sorwes that they drye
Com of the bitter goddesse Ialousye.

The god Priapus saw I, as I wente,
Within the temple, in soverayn place stonde,
In swich aray as whan the asse him shente
With crye by night, and with ceptre in honde;
Ful besily men gunne assaye and fonde
Upon his hede to sette, of sondry hewe,
Garlondes ful of fresshe floures newe.

And in a privee corner, in disporte,
Fond I Venus and hir porter Richesse,
That was ful noble and hauteyn of hir porte;
Derk was that place, but afterward lightnesse
I saw a lyte, unnethe hit might be lesse,
And on a bed of golde she lay to reste,
Til that the hote sonne gan to weste.

Hir gilte heres with a golden threde
Y-bounden were, untressed as she lay,
And naked fro the breste unto the hede
Men might hir see; and, sothly for to say,
The remenant wel kevered to my pay
Right with a subtil kerchef of Valence,
Ther was no thikker cloth of no defence.

The place yaf a thousand savours swote,
And Bachus, god of wyn, sat hir besyde,
And Ceres next, that doth of hunger bote;
And, as I seide, amiddes lay Cipryde,
To whom on knees two yonge folkes cryde
To ben hir help; but thus I leet hir lye,
And ferther in the temple I gan espye

That, in dispyte of Diane the chaste,
Ful many a bowe y-broke heng on the wal
Of maydens, suche as gunne hir tymes waste
In hir servyse; and peynted over al
Of many a story, of which I touche shal
A fewe, as of Calixte and Athalaunte,
And many a mayde, of which the name I wante;

Semyramus, Candace, and Ercules,
Biblis, Dido, Thisbe, and Piramus,
Tristram, Isoude, Paris, and Achilles,
Eleyne, Cleopatre, and Troilus,
Silla, and eek the moder of Romulus --
Alle these were peynted on that other syde,
And al hir love, and in what plyte they dyde.

Whan I was come ayen unto the place
That I of spak, that was so swote and grene,
Forth welk I tho, my-selven to solace.
Tho was I war wher that ther sat a quene
That, as of light the somer-sonne shene
Passeth the sterre, right so over mesure
She fairer was than any creature.

And in a launde, upon an hille of floures,
Was set this noble goddesse Nature;
Of braunches were hir halles and hir boures,
Y-wrought after hir craft and hir mesure;
Ne ther nas foul that cometh of engendrure,
That they ne were prest in hir presence,
To take hir doom and yeve hir audience.

For this was on seynt Valentynes day,
Whan every foul cometh ther to chese his make,
Of every kinde, that men thenke may;
And that so huge a noyse gan they make,
That erthe and see, and tree, and every lake
So ful was, that unnethe was ther space
For me to stonde, so ful was al the place.

And right as Aleyn, in the Pleynt of Kinde,
Devyseth Nature of aray and face,
In swich aray men mighten hir ther finde.
This noble emperesse, ful of grace,
Bad every foul to take his owne place,
As they were wont alwey fro yeer to yere,
Seynt Valentynes day, to stonden there.

That is to sey, the foules of ravyne
Were hyest set; and than the foules smale,
That eten as hem nature wolde enclyne,
As worm or thing of whiche I telle no tale;
And water-foul sat loweste in the dale;
But foul that liveth by seed sat on the grene,
And that so fele, that wonder was to sene.

There mighte men the royal egle finde,
That with his sharpe look perceth the sonne;
And other egles of a lower kinde,
Of which that clerkes wel devysen conne.
Ther was the tyraunt with his fethres donne
And greye, I mene the goshauk, that doth pyne
To briddes for his outrageous ravyne.

The gentil faucoun, that with his feet distreyneth
The kinges hond; the hardy sperhauk eke,
The quayles foo; the merlion that payneth
Him-self ful ofte, the larke for to seke;
Ther was the douve, with hir eyen meke;
The Ialous swan, ayens his deth that singeth;
The oule eek, that of dethe the bode bringeth;

The crane the geaunt, with his trompes soune;
The theef, the chogh; and eek the Iangling pye;
The scorning Iay; the eles foo, heroune;
The false lapwing, ful of trecherye;
The stare, that the counseyl can bewrye;
The tame ruddok; and the coward kyte;
The cok, that orloge is of thorpes lyte;

The sparow, Venus sone; the nightingale,
That clepeth forth the fresshe leves newe;
The swalow, mordrer of the flyes smale
That maken hony of floures fresshe of hewe;
The wedded turtel, with hir herte trewe;
The pecok, with his aungels fethres brighte;
The fesaunt, scorner of the cok by nighte;

The waker goos; the cukkow ever unkinde;
The popiniay, ful of delicasye;
The drake, stroyer of his owne kinde;
The stork, the wreker of avouterye;
The hote cormeraunt of glotonye;
The raven wys, the crow with vois of care;
The throstel olde; the frosty feldefare.

What shulde I seyn? of foules every kinde
That in this world han fethres and stature,
Men mighten in that place assembled finde
Before the noble goddesse Nature,
And everich of hem did his besy cure
Benignely to chese or for to take,
By hir acord, his formel or his make.

But to the poynt -- Nature held on hir honde
A formel egle, of shap the gentileste
That ever she among hir werkes fonde,
The moste benigne and the goodlieste;
In hir was every vertu at his reste,
So ferforth, that Nature hir-self had blisse
To loke on hir, and ofte hir bek to kisse.

Nature, the vicaire of thalmighty lorde,
That hoot, cold, hevy, light, and moist and dreye
Hath knit by even noumbre of acorde,
In esy vois began to speke and seye,
`Foules, tak hede of my sentence, I preye,
And, for your ese, in furthering of your nede,
As faste as I may speke, I wol me spede.

Ye knowe wel how, seynt Valentynes day,
By my statut and through my governaunce,
Ye come for to chese -- and flee your way --
Your makes, as I prik yow with plesaunce.
But natheles, my rightful ordenaunce
May I not lete, for al this world to winne,
That he that most is worthy shal beginne.

The tercel egle, as that ye knowen wel,
The foul royal above yow in degree,
The wyse and worthy, secree, trewe as stel,
The which I formed have, as ye may see,
In every part as hit best lyketh me,
Hit nedeth noght his shap yow to devyse,
He shal first chese and speken in his gyse.

And after him, by order shul ye chese,
After your kinde, everich as yow lyketh,
And, as your hap is, shul ye winne or lese;
But which of yow that love most entryketh,
God sende him hir that sorest for him syketh.'
And therwith-al the tercel gan she calle,
And seyde, `my sone, the choys is to thee falle.

But natheles, in this condicioun
Mot be the choys of everich that is here,
That she agree to his eleccioun,
What-so he be that shulde be hir fere;
This is our usage alwey, fro yeer to yere;
And who so may at this time have his grace,
In blisful tyme he com in-to this place.'

With hed enclyned and with ful humble chere
This royal tercel spak and taried nought:
`Unto my sovereyn lady, and noght my fere,
I chese, and chese with wille and herte and thought,
The formel on your hond so wel y-wrought,
Whos I am al and ever wol hir serve,
Do what hir list, to do me live or sterve.

Beseching hir of mercy and of grace,
As she that is my lady sovereyne;
Or let me dye present in this place.
For certes, long may I not live in peyne;
For in myn herte is corven every veyne;
Having reward only to my trouthe,
My dere herte, have on my wo som routhe.

And if that I to hir be founde untrewe,
Disobeysaunt, or wilful negligent,
Avauntour, or in proces love a newe,
I pray to you this be my Iugement,
That with these foules I be al to-rent,
That ilke day that ever she me finde
To hir untrewe, or in my gilte unkinde.

And sin that noon loveth hir so wel as I,
Al be she never of love me behette,
Than oghte she be myn thourgh hir mercy,
For other bond can I noon on hir knette.
For never, for no wo, ne shal I lette
To serven hir, how fer so that she wende;
Sey what yow list, my tale is at an ende.'

Right as the fresshe, rede rose newe
Ayen the somer-sonne coloured is,
Right so for shame al wexen gan the hewe
Of this formel, whan she herde al this;
She neyther answerde `Wel', ne seyde amis,
So sore abasshed was she, til that Nature
Seyde, `doghter, drede yow noght, I yow assure.'

Another tercel egle spak anoon
Of lower kinde, and seyde, `that shal nat be;
I love hir bet than ye do, by seynt Iohn,
Or atte leste I love hir as wel as ye;
And lenger have served hir, in my degree,
And if she shulde have loved for long loving,
To me allone had been the guerdoninge.

I dar eek seye, if she me finde fals,
Unkinde, Iangler, or rebel in any wyse,
Or Ialous, do me hongen by the hals!
And but I bere me in hir servyse
As wel as that my wit can me suffyse,
From poynt to poynt, hir honour for to save,
Tak she my lyf, and al the good I have.'

The thridde tercel egle answerde tho,
`Now, sirs, ye seen the litel leyser here;
For every foul cryeth out to been a-go
Forth with his make, or with his lady dere;
And eek Nature hir-self ne wol nought here,
For tarying here, noght half that I wolde seye;
And but I speke, I mot for sorwe deye.

Of long servyse avaunte I me no-thing,
But as possible is me to dye to-day
For wo, as he that hath ben languisshing
Thise twenty winter, and wel happen may
A man may serven bet and more to pay
In half a yere, al-though hit were no more,
Than som man doth that hath served ful yore.

I ne sey not this by me, for I ne can
Do no servyse that may my lady plese;
But I dar seyn, I am hir trewest man
As to my dome, and feynest wolde hir ese;
At shorte wordes, til that deth me sese,
I wol ben hires, whether I wake or winke,
And trewe in al that herte may bethinke.'

Of al my lyf, sin that day I was born,
So gentil plee in love or other thing
Ne herde never no man me beforn,
Who-so that hadde leyser and cunning
For to reherse hir chere and hir speking;
And from the morwe gan this speche laste
Til dounward drow the sonne wonder faste.

The noyse of foules for to ben delivered
So loude rong, `have doon and let us wende!'
That wel wende I the wode had al to-shivered.
`Come of!' they cryde, `allas! ye wil us shende!
Whan shal your cursed pleding have an ende?
How shulde a Iuge eyther party leve,
For yee or nay, with-outen any preve?'

The goos, the cokkow, and the doke also
So cryden, `kek, kek!' `kukkow!' `quek, quek!' hye,
That thorgh myn eres the noyse wente tho.
The goos seyde, `al this nis not worth a flye!
But I can shape hereof a remedye,
And I wol sey my verdit faire and swythe
For water-foul, who-so be wrooth or blythe.'

`And I for worm-foul,' seyde the fool cukkow,
`For I wol, of myn owne auctorite,
For comune spede, take the charge now,
For to delivere us is gret charite.'
`Ye may abyde a whyle yet, parde!'
Seide the turtel, `if hit be your wille
A wight may speke, him were as good be stille.

I am a seed-foul, oon the unworthieste,
That wot I wel, and litel of kunninge;
But bet is that a wightes tonge reste
Than entermeten him of such doinge
Of which he neyther rede can nor singe.
And who-so doth, ful foule himself acloyeth,
For office uncommitted ofte anoyeth.'

Nature, which that alway had an ere
To murmour of the lewednes behinde,
With facound voys seide, `hold your tonges there!
And I shal sone, I hope, a counseyl finde
You to delivere, and fro this noyse unbinde;
I Iuge, of every folk men shal oon calle
To seyn the verdit for you foules alle.'

Assented were to this conclusioun
The briddes alle; and foules of ravyne
Han chosen first, by pleyn eleccioun,
The tercelet of the faucon, to diffyne
Al hir sentence, and as him list, termyne;
And to Nature him gonnen to presente,
And she accepteth him with glad entente.

The tercelet seide than in this manere:
`Ful hard were it to preve hit by resoun
Who loveth best this gentil formel here;
For everich hath swich replicacioun,
That noon by skilles may be broght a-doun;
I can not seen that argumentes avayle;
Than semeth hit ther moste be batayle.'

`Al redy!' quod these egles tercels tho.
`Nay, sirs!' quod he, `if that I dorste it seye,
Ye doon me wrong, my tale is not y-do!
For sirs, ne taketh noght a-gref, I preye,
It may noght gon, as ye wolde, in this weye;
Oure is the voys that han the charge in honde,
And to the Iuges dome ye moten stonde;

`And therfor, pees! I seye, as to my wit,
Me wolde thinke how that the worthieste
Of knighthode, and lengest hath used hit,
Moste of estat, of blode the gentileste,
Were sittingest for hir, if that hir leste;
And of these three she wot hir-self, I trowe,
Which that he be, for hit is light to knowe.'

The water-foules han her hedes leyd
Togeder, and of short avysement,
Whan everich had his large golee seyd,
They seyden sothly, al by oon assent,
How that `the goos, with hir facounde gent,
That so desyreth to pronounce our nede,
Shal telle our tale,' and preyde `god hir spede.'

And for these water-foules tho began
The goos to speke, and in hir cakelinge
She seyde, `pees! now tak kepe every man,
And herkeneth which a reson I shal bringe;
My wit is sharp, I love no taryinge;
I seye, I rede him, though he were my brother,
But she wol love him, lat him love another!'

`Lo here! a parfit reson of a goos!'
Quod the sperhauk; `never mot she thee!
Lo, swich hit is to have a tonge loos!
Now parde, fool, yet were hit bet for thee
Have holde thy pees, than shewed thy nycete!
Hit lyth not in his wit nor in his wille,
But sooth is seyd, "a fool can noght be stille."'

The laughter aroos of gentil foules alle,
And right anoon the seed-foul chosen hadde
The turtel trewe, and gunne hir to hem calle,
And preyden hir to seye the sothe sadde
Of this matere, and asked what she radde;
And she answerde, that pleynly hir entente
She wolde shewe, and sothly what she mente.

`Nay, god forbede a lover shulde chaunge!'
The turtle seyde, and wex for shame al reed;
`Thogh that his lady ever-more be straunge,
Yet let him serve hir ever, til he be deed;
For sothe, I preyse noght the gooses reed;
For thogh she deyed, I wolde non other make,
I wol ben hires, til that the deth me take.'

`Wel bourded!' quod the doke, `by my hat!
That men shulde alwey loven, causeles,
Who can a reson finde or wit in that?
Daunceth he mury that is mirtheles?
Who shulde recche of that is reccheles?
Ye, quek!' yit quod the doke, ful wel and faire,
`There been mo sterres, god wot, than a paire!'

`Now fy, cherl!' quod the gentil tercelet,
`Out of the dunghil com that word ful right,
Thou canst noght see which thing is wel be-set:
Thou farest by love as oules doon by light,
The day hem blent, ful wel they see by night;
Thy kind is of so lowe a wrechednesse,
That what love is, thou canst nat see ne gesse.'

Tho gan the cukkow putte him forth in prees
For foul that eteth worm, and seide blyve,
`So I,' quod he, `may have my make in pees,
I recche not how longe that ye stryve;
Lat ech of hem be soleyn al hir lyve,
This is my reed, sin they may not acorde;
This shorte lesson nedeth noght recorde.'

`Ye! have the glotoun fild ynogh his paunche,
Than are we wel!' seyde the merlioun;
`Thou mordrer of the heysugge on the braunche
That broghte thee forth, thou rewthelees glotoun!
Live thou soleyn, wormes corrupcioun!
For no fors is of lakke of thy nature;
Go, lewed be thou, whyl the world may dure!'

`Now pees,' quod Nature, `I comaunde here;
For I have herd al your opinioun,
And in effect yet be we never the nere;
But fynally, this is my conclusioun,
That she hir-self shal han the eleccioun
Of whom hir list, who-so be wrooth or blythe,
Him that she cheest, he shal hir have as swythe.

For sith hit may not here discussed be
Who loveth hir best, as seide the tercelet,
Than wol I doon hir this favour, that she
Shal have right him on whom hir herte is set,
And he hir that his herte hath on hir knet.
Thus Iuge I, Nature, for I may not lye;
To noon estat I have non other ye.

But as for counseyl for to chese a make,
If hit were reson, certes, than wolde I
Counseyle yow the royal tercel take,
As seide the tercelet ful skilfully,
As for the gentilest and most worthy,
Which I have wroght so wel to my plesaunce;
That to yow oghte been a suffisaunce.'

With dredful vois the formel hir answerde,
`My rightful lady, goddesse of Nature,
Soth is that I am ever under your yerde,
Lyk as is everiche other creature,
And moot be youres whyl that my lyf may dure;
And therfor graunteth me my firste bone,
And myn entente I wol yow sey right sone.'

`I graunte it you,' quod she; and right anoon
This formel egle spak in this degree,
`Almighty quene, unto this yeer be doon
I aske respit for to avysen me.
And after that to have my choys al free;
This al and sum, that I wolde speke and seye;
Ye gete no more, al-though ye do me deye.

I wol noght serven Venus ne Cupyde
For sothe as yet, by no manere wey.'
`Now sin it may non other wyse betyde,'
Quod tho Nature, `here is no more to sey;
Than wolde I that these foules were a-wey
Ech with his make, for tarying lenger here' --
And seyde hem thus, as ye shul after here.

`To you speke I, ye tercelets,' quod Nature,
`Beth of good herte and serveth, alle three;
A yeer is not so longe to endure,
And ech of yow peyne him, in his degree,
For to do wel; for, god wot, quit is she
Fro yow this yeer; what after so befalle,
This entremes is dressed for you alle.'

And whan this werk al broght was to an ende,
To every foule Nature yaf his make
By even acorde, and on hir wey they wende.
A! lord! the blisse and Ioye that they make!
For ech of hem gan other in winges take,
And with hir nekkes ech gan other winde,
Thanking alwey the noble goddesse of kinde.

But first were chosen foules for to singe,
As yeer by yere was alwey hir usaunce
To singe a roundel at hir departinge,
To do to Nature honour and plesaunce.
The note, I trowe, maked was in Fraunce;
The wordes wer swich as ye may heer finde,
The nexte vers, as I now have in minde.

Qui bien aime a tard oublie.

`Now welcom somer, with thy sonne softe,
That hast this wintres weders over-shake,
And driven awey the longe nightes blake!

`Saynt Valentyn, that art ful hy on-lofte; --
Thus singen smale foules for thy sake --
Now welcom somer, with thy sonne softe,
That hast this wintres weders over-shake.

`Wel han they cause for to gladen ofte,
Sith ech of hem recovered hath his make;
Ful blisful may they singen whan they wake;
Now welcom somer, with thy sonne softe,
That hast this wintres weders over-shake,
And driven away the longe nightes blake.'

And with the showting, whan hir song was do,
That foules maden at hir flight a-way,
I wook, and other bokes took me to
To rede upon, and yet I rede alway;
In hope, y-wis, to rede so som day
That I shal mete som thing for to fare
The bet; and thus to rede I nil not spare.

Parliamentum avium in die Sancti Valentini tentum secundum
Galfridum Chaucer. Deo gracias.

Editor 1 Interpretation

An Interpretation of Geoffrey Chaucer's "Parliament of Fowles"

As the sun rises on Valentine's Day, a dreamer finds himself in a garden full of nature's creations. He beholds the beauty of the birds, the trees, the flowers, and a river flowing through the meadow. Suddenly, a group of eagles appears in the sky, and the dreamer is taken to a parliament of birds. And so begins the "Parliament of Fowles" by Geoffrey Chaucer, one of the most celebrated poets of the Middle Ages. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve deep into the themes, symbols, and meanings of this classic poem.

Historical and Literary Context

Geoffrey Chaucer lived in the 14th century, during the reign of King Edward III, in England. He was a writer, poet, and diplomat, who wrote prolifically in Middle English, the language spoken during that time. Chaucer is best known for his masterpiece, "The Canterbury Tales," a collection of stories told by pilgrims on their way to Canterbury.

"Parliament of Fowles" is believed to be one of Chaucer's earlier works, perhaps written in the 1380s. It is an allegorical poem, meaning that it uses symbolic characters and events to convey a deeper message. The poem draws upon the classical tradition of the dream vision, in which the narrator falls asleep and enters a dream world, where he encounters various symbols and characters.

Overview of the Poem

The "Parliament of Fowles" is a poem about love and the nature of desire. It is set on Valentine's Day, which was seen as a day of courtly love, a tradition that had emerged in medieval courts. The poem takes the form of a debate among birds, who gather to choose their mates for the year. However, the debate is not just about which bird gets which mate, but about the nature of love, the role of desire, and the conflict between free will and destiny.

The narrator is taken to the parliament of birds by the goddess Nature, who has summoned them to choose their mates. The birds are divided into three groups: the eagles, the birds of prey, and the smaller birds. Each group has its own spokesman, who presents their case to the other birds. The eagles argue that they should have the first choice of mates, as they are the noblest and most powerful birds. The birds of prey argue that they too deserve a chance at love, even if they are not as strong as the eagles. The smaller birds argue that they are just as worthy of love, even if they are not as majestic as the eagles or as fierce as the birds of prey.

As the debate goes on, the narrator overhears two eagles speaking to each other, discussing their own love triangle. They are in love with the same female eagle, and they cannot decide who should have her. Their argument turns violent, and they begin to fight, tearing each other apart. The other birds watch in horror as the eagles kill each other over their desire for one female. In the end, Nature intervenes and declares that the birds should choose their mates based on their own free will, rather than on any hierarchy or tradition. The birds then pair off and fly away with their chosen mates, leaving the narrator to awaken from his dream.

Themes and Symbols

One of the main themes of the "Parliament of Fowles" is the nature of love and desire. The poem explores the tension between the individual's desire for a particular mate and the social and cultural norms that dictate who is allowed to love whom. The eagles, for example, believe that their nobility and power give them the right to choose the best mate, while the smaller birds argue that love should be available to all, regardless of social status. The poet suggests that desire can be both beautiful and dangerous, as the eagles' rivalry leads to violence and death.

Another theme of the poem is the conflict between free will and destiny. The goddess Nature, who presides over the parliament of birds, represents the force of destiny, the idea that everything happens for a reason. She initially assigns the birds their mates based on their hierarchy and status, but she later changes her mind and allows the birds to choose for themselves. The poet suggests that even though fate may play a role in our lives, we still have the power to make our own choices.

The poem also employs several symbols and metaphors to convey its message. The birds themselves represent different aspects of human nature. The eagles, for example, represent power and nobility, while the smaller birds represent humility and simplicity. The river that flows through the garden represents the flow of time and the inevitability of change. The concept of the "love triangle" that the two eagles find themselves in is a metaphor for the conflict between individual desire and societal norms.

Interpretation and Analysis

The "Parliament of Fowles" is a complex and multi-layered poem, and its interpretation can vary depending on the reader's perspective. One possible interpretation of the poem is that it is a critique of courtly love, the tradition of romantic love that flourished in medieval courts. Courtly love was characterized by a set of ideals and behaviors, including chivalry, devotion, and secrecy. The poem can be seen as a satire of the courtly love tradition, as it exposes the hypocrisy and violence that can result from the pursuit of romantic love.

Another interpretation of the poem is that it is a celebration of the natural world and its beauty. The garden, the birds, and the river are all depicted as sources of wonder and awe, and the poem suggests that nature has its own wisdom and power. The poet may be suggesting that we should look to the natural world for inspiration and guidance, rather than relying solely on human culture and tradition.

Yet another interpretation of the poem is that it is a commentary on the role of women in society. The female eagle that the two males fight over represents the traditional view of women as objects of desire and possession. The poet may be suggesting that women should not be objectified or treated as property, but should have the right to choose their own mates and live their own lives.


In conclusion, the "Parliament of Fowles" is a beautiful and complex poem that speaks to the nature of love, desire, and destiny. Through its use of allegory, symbolism, and metaphor, the poem explores the tension between individual desire and social norms, and the conflict between free will and fate. The poem is a testament to Chaucer's skill as a poet and his ability to capture the nuances of human experience. Its message is timeless and universal, and it continues to inspire readers and scholars to this day.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Poetry Parliament of Fowles: A Masterpiece of Love and Nature

Geoffrey Chaucer, the father of English literature, is known for his remarkable works that have stood the test of time. One of his most celebrated works is The Poetry Parliament of Fowles, a poem that explores the themes of love, nature, and the role of women in society. The poem is a masterpiece that showcases Chaucer's poetic genius and his ability to weave together complex themes in a simple yet profound manner.

The poem is set on Valentine's Day, a day when birds are said to choose their mates. The poem begins with the narrator, who is walking in a garden, stumbling upon a group of birds who are gathered together to choose their mates. The birds are divided into three groups, each representing a different type of bird. The first group consists of birds that mate for life, the second group consists of birds that mate for a season, and the third group consists of birds that do not mate at all.

The birds then engage in a debate about the nature of love and the role of women in society. The debate is presided over by Nature, who is portrayed as a wise and powerful figure. The birds argue about the merits of love and the importance of choosing the right mate. They also discuss the role of women in society and whether they should have the freedom to choose their own mates.

The poem is a celebration of love and nature. Chaucer uses the birds as a metaphor for human beings and their search for love. The birds represent different aspects of human nature, from the loyal and faithful to the flighty and fickle. The poem is also a celebration of nature and its beauty. Chaucer describes the garden in vivid detail, painting a picture of a lush and vibrant landscape.

One of the most interesting aspects of the poem is its treatment of women. Chaucer was writing in a time when women had very little agency and were often treated as second-class citizens. However, in The Poetry Parliament of Fowles, Chaucer gives voice to the female birds and allows them to participate in the debate. The female birds argue passionately for their right to choose their own mates and to be treated as equals. This was a radical idea at the time and shows Chaucer's progressive views on gender equality.

Another interesting aspect of the poem is its use of allegory. The birds represent different aspects of human nature, but they also represent different social classes. The birds that mate for life represent the aristocracy, while the birds that mate for a season represent the middle class. The birds that do not mate at all represent the lower class. This allegory adds another layer of meaning to the poem and shows Chaucer's keen understanding of social dynamics.

The Poetry Parliament of Fowles is also a poem about the power of choice. The birds are given the freedom to choose their own mates, and this choice is seen as a sacred and important decision. Chaucer is arguing that human beings should also have the freedom to choose their own paths in life and to follow their own desires. This is a powerful message that still resonates today.

In conclusion, The Poetry Parliament of Fowles is a masterpiece of English literature. It is a celebration of love, nature, and the power of choice. Chaucer's use of allegory, his progressive views on gender equality, and his poetic genius all combine to create a work that is both timeless and relevant. The poem is a testament to Chaucer's skill as a writer and his ability to capture the essence of the human experience. It is a work that should be read and celebrated for generations to come.

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