The Earthly Paradise

Manuscripts of The Earthly Paradise

Early Drafts:

The Hill of Venus, Fitzwilliam Library MS [pdf]

Fitzwilliam MS

[f. 0] [epigraph illegible]


This story tells how a certain knight fell into the hands of Venus who made him her love, and when he repenting at last, journeyed to Rome that he might be shrived of that sin, also how he being rejected by the Pope became once and for all the servant of Venus and how God showed his displeasure of the hard hearts that brought this about.

[f. 1]            The Hill of Venus

I saw a forest once, in Germany
Set in a lordship called Turingia,
Wherefrom midmost, a mountain rose so high
That on the top thereof the low clouds lay
Where rain or thunder brooded o’er the day
Which from the base a man could scarcely know
So thick about it did the oak trees grow.

And there I followed up a certain glade
That went unto this hill; on every side
Grew an oak grove, that seemed of purpose made,
In years long passed away the hill to hide,
The mighty branches spread so far and wide
Underneath which no brushwood could I see
But all with smooth grass was spread daintily.

Now at the end thereof a place I found
Where the scarped hillside of all life was bare
And showed black locks that gave a ringing sound
Beneath my staff: and midmost I saw there
A cavern cut by nature, or man’s care
In days perchance when little was their skill
In following arts either for good or ill.

[f. 2] Thereat I gazed awhile in thought, and then
I would have entered: but I heard one say
Behind me, “Art thou weary yet of men
Nor wisest more to see the light of day
That in such wise thou throwest life away?
Or has thou yet perchance done such a crime
Thou wishest here to die before thy time?”

So turning round straightaway I saw come forth
Right from behind an oak-stem an old man
And little was his homespun weed of worth,
All bent he was, his hair scanty and wan
And with a staff he went as such-like can.
While I, my masters, was young enow,
With golden curls heaped up above my brow.

“Nay,” said I, “what thing is there here?
That you cry out as though this went to hell.
I have seen many a thing that all men fear
Yet lived.” “Nay hereby mayst thou go there well
Now ever come again thereof to tell.”
The old carle said. “Now listen if thou wilt,
Then if thou still art willful there be spilt.

[f. 3] Yet better were it first thou came with me
Lest o’er thy blood some evil spell be cast.”
So at his word I turned round silently,
And slowly with him from the place I past,
Till being thence a furlong gone, at last
He spoke, and said “Yea verily and hell
To in that mount for there doth Venus dwell.

Once and again have I heard tell of this
That young men lost by mighty sorcery
Have entered there, and cast away their bliss,
And in reward how endless misery,
That happy for a short while they might be;
Yea I remember of a corps cast forth,
Of one who entered there, whom on the north,

Because he was the son of a great man,
Our parson buried many years ago:
For whom let masses now do that they can.
And if thou doubtest yet these things are so
Listen again; throughout these woods I go
Herding the swine that feed here on the mast
And sometimes nigh this oak grove have I past

[f. 4] By night time, but unwillingly enow.
And so it chanced that on a certain night,
I think it is twenty years gone now,
Here lay I lated [?], and in evil plight
Because I durst not crawl thence till daylight,
For wounded by a ranger had I been
A while agone and yet the wound was green.

So half the night I lay and trembled there
Because as helpless in the brake I lay
Most terrible things I saw, both foul and fair,
Neither have I been able yet to say
What things they were, no not until this day.
But this I say, there did I hear and see
The God of Heaven mocked most horribly

By things that coming out from yonder hill,
In uncouth guise danced on the herbage green;
And with sweet songs they did the forest fill;
And she who in the midst of them was Queen,
I shrinking closer fearful to be seen
Knew well for Venus, by what tales I heard
From elders ere I came to wear a beard.

[f. 4v] In siege and skirmish

[f. 5] So he being done I got him on my way
Thanking him for his tale, and thought of it
As long as I was quite alone that day.
And through my mind bewildering thoughts would flit
How in some glorious guise that Queen would sit
Throned in the unknown hollow of the hill,
And in my heart was left a longing still.

And so in time I came to Ratisbon
And there I met a certain ancient knight,
Who in his days both gifts and fame had won
In siege and skirmish, and stricken fight
To whom I told as shortly as I might
The tales that from the old carle I had heard
How of that place he was so sore afeard.

“Perfay,” he said, “he told but truth to thee
Yea I myself thereof such tales could tell,
What things had happened there by sorcery
Thou well might’st think that swineherd did right well
To stop thee at the going down to hell.”
“Now” quoth I, “while the wind blows through the trees
This summer morning tell me one of these.”

[f. 5v]  rode a young.

[f. 6] For we were sitting in a garden then
Hard by the minster, at an hostelry;
And from outside the sound of many men
Smote on our ears but soft and pleasantly,
While from the steeple came the jackdaws cry
Betwixt the chimes. So there the ancient man
This story of the sorceress began.

Part II

Throughout the forest where you were that tide
Once rode a knight to bring the boar to bay,
Till all his folk were scattered far and wide,
And he about the failing of the day
Had come alone into that broad green way.
And toward the mouth of the black cavern drew
Whereof full many a wondrous tale he knew.

So as he rode along he thought of these,
And nought but fair things therein could he find
In outward seeming: ladies mid the trees
Playing about with some unfrightened hind,
Or listening with their sweet eyes and kind
Scarce open, to the stories of old time
Half saddened by the lapsing of the ryme

[f. 7] All this out in the forest, but within
That hollow hill, the vague sweet stories told
Still of fair ladies, clad in raiment thin
As bathing naked in the fountains cold,
While some strange sun streamed through their hair of gold.
To make a road from Muscoby to France.

And on his mind there crowded thenceupon,
Thoughts of the women he had known as yet;
Their meagre beauty, scant and hardly won
Their fading faces drawn by tear and fret,
Their hard light hearts, so ready to forget,
Till all that glory, to the world outside
Seemed like the thought of June in winter-tide

And now by this, at last, being fully come
Unto the opening of the cavern black,
He thought, “If I should make this place my home
What good things must I be content to lack,
Because I deem hence is no turning back.
Here must I dwell until the Judgment day
Shall come at last, and play out all the play.

[f. 6v] Laid among flowers by plashing fountains cold

or crowding wonderous halls with sport or dance
Forgetting time careless of all mischance

[f. 7] All this out in the forest, but within
That hollow hill, the vague [?] stories told
Still but of ladies lovely in their sin
While some strange sun streams through their hair of gold
To make a round from Muscovy to France.

And in his mind he called up thereupon,
Thoughts of the women he had known as yet;
Their vague beauty, scant and hardly won
their boding faces drawn by many a fret,
Their hard light hearts, so ready to forget,
Till all that story to the world outside
Seemed like the thought of June in winter tide.

Till he drew rein at last being fully come
Unto the opening of the cavern black,
And thought, I should make this place my home
What good things must I be content to lack,
Because I deem hence is no turning back
Here must I dwell until the Judgement day
Shall come at last, and play out all the play.

[f. 7v] the King at going into the cave [illeg.]

[f. 8] And yet again he said, “need it be so?
Within this world of strange things if I dwell
Need I do more than look upon the show,
And coming back thereof great marvels tell
When I am old, and so at last scape Hell.”
Yea in his heart he thought, but durst not say
Hell is a doubtful thing and far away.

Then from his good horse he lighted down,
And got his naked sword into his hand,
And loosed the woodknife in its girdle brown,
Then looking back into the autumn land
O’er his shoulder, doubtful did he stand
One moment, then with whirling dizzy head
The unknown darkness slowly entered.

Groping he went and found no stop or stay,
For underfoot the floor was smooth enow,
Though full of shaky windings was the way
And though in going at first he stooped down low,
For fear his head might chance to catch a blow,
Yet soon he stood upright and touched nothing,
Nor ‘gainst the roof did his outstretched sword ring.

[f. 8v] earth and stone

[p.9] Thus for three hours through darkness did he go,
Hearing no sound, till thoughts began to rise
Within his fearful mind, things were not so
As those tales told, but all were phantasies,
Begotten of gross heart and lustful eyes.
“Yet onward will I go,” he thought, “and try
How far within this mountain I must die.”

So as he went on, soon he saw afar
Something that glimmered faintly like a light,
Then as the ship seeing the pole star
After a leaden day and inky night
He shouted and pressed on to his delight
And ever greater grew that light to him
Till with strange daylight his dazed eyes did swim,

And in a strange new country was he now
Where a fair vale was spread before him wide,
With pleasant meads, and blossomed trees arow
And wonderful rife fruit on every side
And dainty flowers that the brown earth did hide.
Warm was the air, as is some morn of May
When heaven seems with us if it would but stay.

[f. 9v] Coming out into the new land

[f. 10] So as his eyes gained strength, he looked to see
The husbandmen, with sickle, or slow wain
From road to meadow moving painfully
Or to housestead crawling back again,
But there he saw no labour and no pain,
Though through the trees white gables rose on high
And mid the meadows fair folk he could spie.

Therewith he sheathed his sword; and yet he saw
Down in the valley where a city lay,
Midmost wherefrom, pure white without a flaw
A temple rose, built in the ancient way
And fairer than the tongue of man can say;
Nor to this city was there gate or wall
Moat for defense, or sign of fear at all.

Thither he turned and on the way he met
Full many a lusty youth and sweet lady
With fragrant flowers on their young heads set,
Clothed in the fashion of a day gone by
Meet for the flowery place and sunny sky
Made bright with silken flowers, and soft and thin
And yet with gems and pearls set thick therein.

[f. 11] And they saluted him in smiling wise
As he past by; yet some when he was gone
Turned and gazed after him with wondering eyes,
And one sweet thing he met, going alone,
Singing a happy song in a low tone
Set, as she past, a red rose in his hand
And bade him welcome to that happy land.

So on he went, and being now well nigh come
To the beginning of the city fair
He turned about, and looked towards his old home
And saw the mighty mountain rise up there
Piled all of the black rocks slippery and bare.
Thereat he shuddered, and turned back again
To that fair city, and long flowery plain.

And truly as I said he could not see
Great wall, or dyke, or bastion tower built here
As for defense; yet natheless, daintily
Within the gardens walls not built for fear
Stood, hung about with fruit and many a ----
Edged the sweet flowers, here and there bridged o’er
With hanging bridges, paved with silver floor

[p.12] Whereby fair ladies’ rosy feet might pass
To hide amid the fair flowers of the meads
Or shine themselves like silver in the grass
Or sometimes mid the flowering water-weeds
Swung gilded boats, or moored among the reeds
Swayed to and fro, while on the water wan
Languidly and light there floated many a swan.

But when he well beheld the houses fair
Yet more and more was amazed thereat,
So wonderful and rich the work was there.
From story up to story slow he raised
His wondering eyes, and still thereat he gazed
For they were carved all o’er with histories
Of things long done, in lands beyond the seas.

There statues of the ancient gods he saw
And images of kinds long passed away
The winds, the sun and moon until all their glow
The order of the whole year, day by day:
All ways of men in earnest and in play
And all things wrought in such a marvelous wise
They might have drawn a look from dying eyes.

[f. 12v] Some waded daintily with girt up gowns
Some mid the roses made the fleeting crowns
And some were laid half sleeping in the boats
resting white feet fell

[f. 13] And gilded spires and banes were borne aloft
From the fair walls by carven turrets high
And doves and pigeons in their flutterings aloft
With bright unknown birds thereabout did fly,
And from the windows came melodiously
The sound of music that made all things seem
Half dim and fleeting, like a happy dream.

Yea too, amid the gardens did he see
Damsels too beautiful for ought but dreams,
Under the green trees lying languidly
Decked with gray shadow, and flickering faint sunbeams,
Or dipping their white arms into the streams
Amid the frightened fish or wandering
Through flowering thickets, bare of everything,

Along the shallow edges of the moats,
Or with white feet upon the tawny coats
Of stealthy tiger-cats, deep, in the shade
With flowers slipped from loosened hands were laid

[f. 13v, repeats f. 12v] some waded daintily with girt up gowns
Some mid the roses made them fleeting crowns
And some were laid half sleeping in the boats
resting white feet felt
The knight in the street, girls passing him (he stopping only)

[p.14] Slowly therefrom he turned and as with feet
Still lingering, giddy with new happiness
He went, there passed a band of ladies sweet
Whereat with trembling hand he touched the dress
Of her that passed him nighest in the press,
And when she turned and smiled took heart to say
“O sweet and fair where go all these today?”

Then from red lips she answered him again
“Though none but damsels go with us this tide,
Yet follow stranger, if thou art fain
To see the temple gates set open wide,
And our dread Lady sitting throned inside,
And have no fear of her I counsel thee,
For she is kind to such as ye be,

Now, stranger kiss me once for good tidings,

For you shall soon be wrapped in nameless bliss,
And see more wonderful and lovely things
Than you have ever dreamed about ere this.”
So on the lips the fair girl he did kiss,
Who straight her ankles from her gowns set free
Then row in haste to join her company.

[f. 15] Then the good knight, that am yet had to name,
Followed afar, a gentle pace and slow,
And wondered much to see no weak or lame
And no sick man, or any fearful show,
Nor any poor, by signs that he could know,
Nor hideous faces such as oft one meets,
In any place of this fair city’s streets.

But all was beautiful and trim and neat
After the fashion of some ancient day
And music sounded soft in every street
As toward the temple gates he took his way,
Which soon he reached, by what seemed there noonday
That in the world outside was well midnight
For there all light was dark, dark was light

There saw he still full many a history
Showing the triumphs from the ancient time
Who mistress over many a man will be,
Until time ends, in every place and clime.
And some thereof have well been in rhyme
Some still are unrecorded, yet withal,
With fair young figures did they hide the wall

[f. 16] Great silver gates wrought finely as a cup,
Where from the twinkling eyes of emerald gleamed
Were in the midst, whereto white steps led up
O’er which that band of ladies softly streamed
For now the gates were opened, and it seemed
As though some wind of paradise blew thence,
Sweet with red rose, heady with frankincense

So when their raiment from the steps were gone,
And far off in the dimness of the fane
Their gleaming hair was lost, he went alone
Into the temple, trembling, lest in vain
He should have come so far with risk and pain,
And in a pillared place he stood at last,
Where he saw none: and so through dim aisles past,

Till he was stayed by a thick golden well,
From the far side whereof, in gushes came
Such odours as are borne upon the gale
Of Saba (?): and now first he heard the name
Of her who has brought many a man to shame
And yet shall do: for now from side to side
The bands of fair girls in their singing cried

[f. 17] Lady Venus Where art thou
We are faint with waiting now,
We think thou has forgotten us,
Our feeble hands and piteous.

Patience yet a little while,
Haply from her lovely isle
She comes, in some ship’s gleaming wake,
Where the shipmen for her sake
Shall have many a happy dream,
Of green meadow, and sweet dream,
Where the hidden maidens play
In the hottest of the day
And with cheeks and eyes aflame
For the sweetness of their shame,
Tell of these new born desire;
Newly conscious of the fire
That their loveliness doth sow;
There were children long ago
Ere they left to sail the seas.

Haply in the northern breeze
[f. 18] Of the hurrying world without,
She is tangled mid the rout
Of Diana, and they go
Ever slower, and more slow,
Careless of the fleeing hart,
Each one thinking for her part
That her summer slips away,
And no hope has she by day,
And no happiness by night.

Or beneath the flickering light
Stands she by some torchlit door,
Where across the rose-strewn floor,
With her trembling, tender feet,
Her unknown delight to meet,
Goes the pale new wedded bride
Slowly letting her smock glide
To the roses of the floor.

Lo our Queen is at the door
Gold-clad, yet her hair is wet
With the washing of the sea
O sweet Queen we kneel to thee.

[f. 18] So ceased the music, and a murmuring
He heard, that sounded like the noise of doves
That in some far wood sit and sob, telling,
None could learn their tongue, of perished loves,
Or haply moaning that the swift year moves
From spring to autumn, and so surely on
Unto the famine-brining time and war.

Doubtful he stood a little while, there soft
He raised the veil and entered, and saw there
A throne of gold and emerald raised aloft,
And round about a crowd of ladies fair,
Whereof some cisterns in their white arms bare,
Some rose-wreathed harps, and some rose-wreathed alone
But all with reverence looking towards the throne

[f. 19v] Seeomg Venus in her temple, (clothed) chorus of girls

[f. 20] And when at last his dazed eyes turned that way,
There did he see the great enchantress stand,
No worse than when on a unhappy day,
She charmed the apple from the shepherd’s hand
And brought new woe on many an happy land,
Though now a golden gown the limbs did hide
That trembling Paris saw so well that tide.

Then swiftly ran the blood through every vein,
His sight grew dim, and swaying to and fro,
Well nigh he fell, and to his heart a pain
Shot suddenly, and all that glittering show,
The twining arms, the fair hair falling low,
The fine limbs gleaming amongst silk and gold,
Like matters in a dream did he behold.

So as he gazed in extasy, some word
Came from her lips, which yet he heeded not,
New rustling raiment passing him he heard,
And dimly saw the ladies leave that spot,
And therewithal his fearful heart grew hot,
When with the Queen he there was left alone,
And softly she called to him from the throne

[f. 21] “O knight come nigh, and have no fear of me
If thou by chance has come into my lands,
And wouldst be gone, then none will here stay.
But if thou comes there to kissing hands,
And serve me well, obeying my commands,
Then can I be more kind than thou canst tell,
And thou shalt love that gentle service well.

“And in my city, yea in mine own house
Shalt thou dwell now with manifold delight,
Amid fair flowers, with music amorous;
With wine, with damsels playing in your sight,
Or telling tender tales far into the night
While from their eyes half-happy tears roll down
And in the gardens sing the small bird brown.

And so when thus a whole month has gone by,
Within a fair green meadow shall I be,
And thou with all my knights shall come anigh
And do me homage kneeling on the knee,
When also thou shalt forswear utterly
The worship of all things but me alone;
And that day shalt thou see me on my throne

[f. 22] “As when from out the green sea I first came
Hidden of nought; yea too, fair sir, know this,
That I, a great queen, no wise think it shame
Unto my knights to give the greatest bliss
That in me lies: wilt thou then win my kiss?
Then for my sake, be a good man that day,
For in my sight then hold they a tourney.”

Therewith she smiled on him, and he,weeping
For very love said, “O mine own Lady,
It pleaseth thee to mock me in this thing:
So low I am, and thou far off and high.
And yet for thy love gladly would I die;
But why should I speak, of it more or less
Forgive me, Lady, this my foolishness.”

“Nay sir,” she said, This is no mock at all,
And by my beauty this I swear to thee,
That on that day of Tourney, it may fall,
Thou thou [sic] my love amongst all men may be:
And now farewell; nor wilt thou more see me
Until that day: but I will send thee one
To lead thee forth since here thou art alone.

[f. 23] Therewith adown the marble steps she went,
And turned to go; and all about the place
Floated a strange unnamed and balmy scent
As she passed by him at a gentle pace,
While he his trembling body did abase
Before her feet, that going soft and slow
To him passes sweetly as the April snow.

So on his knees e’en after she was gone
Still he abode, until a fair damsel,
Sent him by Venus, came; being that same one
That of the temple erst the news did tell,
Who smiled on him, and cried out, “Said I well
O knight, when of thy happy lot I told,
Or hast thou by some chance been overbold?”

“Lady,” he said “I know not: this I know
That with me was she standing face to face,
Speaking sweet words a little while ago,
Who now has left me lonely in this place,
Now shall I see her now for a long space,
For so she said herself, and certainly
Before that day comes do I fear to die.”

“Nay sir,” she said, and this I say to thee
As of myself, be happy a few days
With us who wish right well your friends to be,
Nor look so downcast at our merry plays,
For this time past, I doubt not that you shall gaze
Oh her fair body as a lover may
Nor will there be a soul to say you nay

“Come now,” she said, “Surely shall all be well,
Come forth with me and see the merry land
And all the fair folk that therein do dwell.”
Therewith she took him gently by the hand,
And he nought loth upon his feet did stand,
And turning towards her smiling face and hind
Smiled also, and with fingers intertwined

They passed, two loving hearts from out the place.
Behold the manner of that land is so,
That if a man of one may not have grace,
Or if the days thereto pass over slow,
Natheless but little sorrow doth he know;
Because the great enchantress for her part
With just so much of longing fills his heart

[f. 24v] moving limbs is lither

rounder arms

[f. 25] As makes him happy past what words can tell
When she he loves, anight him still doth stay,
And loves him too, and everything goes well,
But if she loves him not or is away,
Then certainly ere sunset on that day
Shall he be happy with some other one.
For in that land shall no man be alone

Which well may be; for though all bodies there
Are not alike for beauty certainly
And though, if this one be unmatched for hair
Yet hath that other redder lips than she,
And this, is taller that one when you see
Her limbs [are] lither, and this sweet
Hath [rounder arms], and lovelier soft feet,

Yet are all fair; and though herself indeed
Is far the fairest, yet of other there
Full hard it were for one to give the meed
To this or that, if all arow they were
Before another Paris standing bare;
Such power hath the mighty sorceress
With fleeting joy mens foolish heats to bless.

[f. 25v] A marble palace built deliciously could see

[f. 26] So with this damsel Amyot for a while
Forgot all things, as lovingly they passed
From wonder into wonder, till an isle
Midmost the town she brought him to attest
And they went over a fair drawbridge cast
Across the moat, and Amyot saw there
A wonderful house set in a garden fair.

And through the open windows of that house,
And in the fair pleasance that deged the moat
Ladies he saw, and fair folk amorous,
And on the water many a gilded boat
Laden with lovers mid the swans did float.
And there he heard the sound of chiming bells
To different men such different tales that tells,

So sad it seems to some, to some so gay.
Then to a chamber cam he with his mate,
And there they passed the dreamy time away,
And there together dainty food they ate
And drunk strange wine until the time grew late
And night came, that the keys of all doth keep,
Both joy and grief, then soft they fell asleep.

[f. 26v] Girls getting out of the bath

And glittering through the leaves the hot sun shone
On balmy linen things with gold inrought,
And jewelled girdles meet for those alone
That wore them, wondrous were from India brought
To which the work of one life was but nought
Brooches and chains gold sandals gems in rings

[f. 27] And meantime Venus, going from the fane
Came to a garden made thereto anigh,
Where passing through full many a fragrant lane
Of trellised roses and white lilies high,
She came into a bath made cunningly
Midst of a green lawn, with four granite trees
Set all about, and four ways unto these

Through marble troughs trickled the water wan
From out the bath, where midmost of pure gold
A fountain stood, and therefrom ever ran
Four pleasing streams of water clean and cold;
And round about the bath might you behold
At that same hour, great wealth of raiment laid;
Gold gowns and silken --- full strangely made,

And scented linen things with every seam
Sewn thick with gold, gemmed girdles, one could----
Nowhere but in some languid happy dream,
And jewelled shoes, most fair, but all unmeet
To hide the fairness of the unseen feet.
Brooches and chains, collars and gems in rings
Scattered about with nameless dainty things.

[verso] The brimming bath did those that owned them play)
asleep on the daisied grass they lay
Fastening of shoes there was wringing of hair
Buckling of girdles until presently
Was every damsel clad as she should be

[f. 28] Which yet, what eye would look at for within
The plashing water did their owners play,
But little hidden by the water thin,
Or from their shoulders stripped the raiment gay
Or on the daisied grass half sleeping lay,
Or with their feet dipped in the water sat
Upon the brim and talked of this and that.

So looking on them, did fair Venus smile,
And said O damsels on this afternoon
Would I be lonely here a little while,
To hear my turtle doves complain and croon,
And see on one, until the pale round moon
Has thrown black shadows over earth and sea
For many a thought would I think soberly

Then swiftly ran the girls from every side
Unto the heaped up raiment lying there,
And soon again did gold and linen hide
The glories of their bodies soft and fair,

[f. 28v] and yet, --- his fill                    

Showing her bosom to the lovely land
Nor hid her bosom from
And kneeling down undid both clasps and band
About her feet and put her shoes away
Smiling to feel the dewy end of day

[f. 29] Then went the murmurings, and in little space
Had banished twixt the thick pomegranate trees
And Venus stood alone in that fair place,
With loose hair falling lower than her knees,
Playing about her in the evening breeze
That flew the locks across her bosom sweet
And lifted the light raiment from her feet.

Thoughtful she stood, till fell the wind again
And everything about was growing still,
Because the sun was setting, and the plain
Made grey, by the great shadow of the hill,
But that the brown had not yet had his fill
Of lush song, or the small nightingale
Caught hold upon the echoes of the hill.

So as the sun smote on her golden head
Unto her shoulder clasps she raised her hand,
And loosed her raiment to the girdlestead,
And so half naked for a while did stand,
Then kneeling down undid the jewelled band
That bound her shoes, and made her white feet bare
Smiling to see how beautiful they were.

[f. 29v] Now growing high, that would be silver soon

That would be high & turned to silver soon


[f. 30] Then did she rise again, and looked aloft,
And soon with whirring wings to her there drew
Crowds of pinkfooted doves of plummage soft,
And round about her golden head they flew,
And some, the boldest of them crept unto
Her peerless breast, and nestling there they lay,
And, some about her feet did play.

So long she stood thus, that the sun was set,
The nightingale was heard above the croon
Of her grey doves: glimmering and pale as yet
The stars shone out, the yet low golden moon
Cast her faint image in the circling pool
And round her flew the night wind soft and cool

Then did she loose her girdle of fine gold
And let her gown slide down her body sweet,
And senseless things that could behold
Unhidden, that the Graces erst did meet,
As from the clinging silk she draw her feet
And murmuring faint words of all unknown
Into the moonlit pool she stepped adown

[f. 30v] [caption] 7 Venus by herself naked in the bath, then (8) naked walking in the garden (noon)

and                  ^golden

[f. 31] And what strange rites within that place she wrought
I know not, but yet surely this I know
That till the morn again grey twilight brought
Naked about the garden did she go,
Then, her house [golden] she drew into
And so about the middle of next day
Unto her island did she take her way

Part 3

Meanwhile dwelt Amyot in joy and ease
Forgetting all things past, both good and bad,
Whom fair damsel pained herself to please.
With many a pastime did she make him glad,
And many a new delight from her he had:
Gentle she was and to her lady true
And all the lore of love full well she knew.

But as the time drew near unto an end,
Venus, forgetting nothing for her part,
New memory of her loveliness did send,
And caused the unhealed wound again to smart;
So that vague longing grew up in his heart;
And his sweet damsel’s hand he oft would drop,
And midways of his amorous toyingstop:

[f. 31v] [caption] (9) The knight in garden with lady

[f. 32] So changed he grew, that nothing now he cared
To feel her arms about his body twined,
Now would he kiss her shoulders, for him bared,
Or note her legs made naked by the wind,
He left untouched her gentle lips and kind,
And still he stood, as though no whit he heard
Her sweetest song, and her most loving word.

Whereat within her heart she laughed and said,
“My lady is at work, though far away,
And of my labour shall I be well paid;
Yet have we two been merry ere today,
And now farewell to love; yet must I stay
Perforce, as but his handmaid by his side
And through all things my Lady’s lover guide.”

And now the day of trist came at last
She brought him horse and arms, and so being clad
In steel again, into the streets they passed
All filled with gay dressed folk and lovers glad.
Smiling she was and flushed, and that day had
Upon her body silken flowered weed
And going afoot the good knight forth did lead

[f. 32v] [caption] (10) Knights led down the streets by ladies

[f. 33] But he unhelmed, upon his horse did sit,
Pale and distraught, and if on any thing
He set his eyes, he took no note of it.
On whose shield, was there wrought bent in a ring
Serpent round about an eagle’s wing;
And on his head a red-rose wreath he had
And in the fairest golden arms was clad.

And down the street rode other knights with them
All armed most richly, led by damsels fair,
With gowns gold-wrought in every seam and hew,
And crowns and garlands set upon their hair;
And gaxed the laughing people at them there,
And in the silk hung windows up above
Was many a lady sitting with her love.

And so the town at last being left behind,
Unto fair lists they came, all set around
With lodges whose carved pillars were entwined
With woodbine and red roses, and the ground
Strewn too with roses: there a place they found
Whereon Sir Amyots bearing of that day,
Was set, and thitherward they took their way

[f. 33v] [caption] (11) Venus on a throne naked, girls singing from -------

[f. 34]

[f. 35] Wherefrom the incense floated in a cloud
Far up into the blue and windless sky.
Then soon there came into the lists a crowd
Of girls rose wreathed, about whose heads did fly
Unnumbered doves, and hushed was every cry,
For in their midst upon a car of green
Was borne the unmatched body of the Queen.

So when these came over against the throne,
The car was stayed, and from it the sweet thing
Stepped down, and twixt her damsels went alone
Amid the cloud of incense vanishing
Whereon the damsels straight began to sing,
With swinging of their censers keeping time
Unto the measured lapsing of the rhyme.

Before our Lady came on earth,
Little there was of joy and mirth;
About the borders of the sea
The folk would wander heavily;
About the wintry riverside
The dreamy folk would still abide.

[f. 35v] seemed foolish things that waited death
As hopeless as the flowers beneath
weariness of unkissed feet
Ah why did all the wor[l]d go by
So long without felicity

[f. 36] Alone within the weaving room
The girls would sit before the loom,
And sing no song, and play no play:
Alone from dawn to hot midday,
From midday into evening,
The men afield would work, nor sing,
Nor pour out wine to any God.

Alone the weary traveler trod
At evening on the darkling way,
And lonely in the braken lay,
When night came, and the town was far.

Unkissed the knights went to war,
Unkissed the mariner came home
Unkissed the minstrels --- did roam.

And by the streams the damsels fair/maids would stare
Nor know why they were made so fair
Unnoted made there [sic] bodies bare,
Their yellow locks, and bosoms white,
Their limbs well wrought for all delight,
Yea, howso fair that they might be
From head to foot made faultlessly

[f. 37v] Well may we praise the [coursing] foam
Amidst the women thy feet did bloom
Flowers of the gods—the yellow sand
They first kissed twixt the sea & land
The bee-beset and seeded grass
Through which thy tired limbs first did pass
The purple suited [?] butterfly
First flown against the quivering thigh
The first red rose that touched thy side
And over blown and fainting died.

[f. 38] No circlet was there upon arm or wrist
Nor on her fingers had she any ring.
Upon the ground the chain lay, that had kissed
Her bosom, and the girdle used to cling
About her loins, neither did any thing
If be [?] ___ ought of her fair loins upon that day,
And nigh her feet her jewelled sandals laly.

Then at the sight of her, a mighty cry
Rent the warm summer air, but Amyot
Stood with brain whirling round deliriously,
And beating heart and cheeks all flushed and hot,
And said his damsel, fair knight loiter not,
But boldly go up to the golden throne,
That she may see thee standing there alone.

And take these grains of incense in thine hand,
And when thou comest nigh to thy desire
A moment by the altar shalt thou stand,
And cast them quickly in the cedar fire;
Then after to the queen mayest thou draw nigher,
And kneeling down her fair feet mayst thou kiss.
Nor quite forget me, when thou comest to bliss.

[f. 38v] [caption] (12) Venus receiving the knight

[f. 38* (39?)]
Then forth he sprang, and ran quickly and came
Unto the altar, where he stood awhile
And cast the incense in, and a green flame
Sprang quickly thereon the cedar pile,
Then looking up he saw fair Venus smile
And fell upon his knees before her feet
And soon his eager lips her flesh did meet.

Well might he shudder, for those feet so fair
Upon the roses mow, so fresh and soft,
Have led on men to many a darksome lair
Of evil death and been made red full oft,
For thence [?] hath many a city blazed aloft,
And many a king by these has lost his crown
And many a weary heart been trodden down.

But he all things but her did well forget,
And for mere love indeed he trembled there,
And long he lingered o’er her body fair.
Bending towards him till her golden hair
Again fell forward and in her eyes clear

A tender smile, there shot a pang of fear

[f. 40] And he heard shouts, and silvery voices clear,
Crying his name, as he went to his place;
Nor on that day could any sword or spear
Do harm to him, and no man saw his face
Unhelmed in fight, till in a little space,
Throughout the lists by ladies was he led,
With victor[']s crown of bay up on his head

But even in the flush of victory,
And mist bewildering hopes of great delight,
Wonder seized on him how all this might be,
That he upon that day in fate’s despite
Though little proved, nor overwise in fight
Had put so many warriors to the worse.
Therewith the sky seemed darkened with a curse,

And in his mind again the ill thought came
That all those things he saw, were but shadows,
Set around him but to keep his heart aflame.
The smiling folk, the graceful girls in rows,
His damsel, and the bodies of his foes,
All were but deadly meshes of her het,
About his fluttering soul in order set.

[f. 40v] [caption] (12)

[f. 41] But how shall the doomed soul escape her now,
Who by fair hands before the throne was brought,
Whence Venus stooping kissed him on the brow,
And all his lingering terrors fell to nought,
And he grew happy past all hope or thought,
As from the golden place she did descend,
And smiling on him, said, “O gentle friend,

Too many eyes are looking on us here
Nor far away my pleasance is from this,
Where, for that you are grown to be so dear,
I long to bring you unto perfect bliss.
But on me, sweet friend, such a law there is
That thither all alone still must I go;
Where soon the merry damsel that you know

Shall bring you, nor a longtime shall you wait
And pine to see me, coming thither, turn
Into a little garden nigh the gate,
Where mid the flowers shall thou will disarm
A temple, where a fire still doth burn
Before mine image; there I wait for thee,
There shalt thou know how happy man may be.

[f. 42] So then was brought anigh her royal wain
And speechless and amazed did Amyot feel
Upon his face her loving lips again
And turning he beheld her rosy heel
Just vanish as the bells rang out their peal,
The trumpets blew, the censers swung and she
From out the lists was borne triumphantly.

But as with streaming eye he there did stand
There came again to him the damsel bright;
Who said, as soft she took him by the hand,
Come now without any delay to thy delight.
Ah well I know before thou comest tonight
Thou wilt forget that I have ever been
Now that my lady’s body thou has seen

So thence they went afoot a gentle pace,
And turning from the dusty, thronged highway
Through field and lanes, they came unto a place
Where a thick wood that nigh shut out the day
From hill to hill in a long valley lay
And midst of this a small clear space they found
Wherein a house stood, well walled all around

[f. 42v] Since I have been thy leader in all this

[f. 43] And through the walls a little river flowed
While from inside bird sung melodiously
And o’er the wall-tops creeping flowers showed,
And whatso of the house they thence could see
With gold and gems was wrought so cunningly,
It seemed to almost like unto a shrine
That over some great martyrs bones doth shine.

So to a gateway in the wall being past,
The damsel said, “take up this horn and blow,
That all they hopes may be fulfilled at last;
For now the height of love thou shalt know;
But since away from the I need must go
I pray thee first to give me one more kiss

And though thou art now full of happiness
And wilt forget all this I say to thee
I know full well; yet hearken nonetheless;
If thou should chance, outcast from hence to be,
Despair not therefore but remember me
Nor brood alone, wrapt up in cold disdain
Who once have given thee joy and may again,

[f. 43v] [caption]  (13) Knight brought to [summer] palace girl going away through the trees

[f. 44] And little heed in sooth he gave her words
Though in his ears they sounded pleasantly,
As in the summer morn the song of birds
To one who dozing in his bed doth lie;
So then she dropped his hand, and with a sigh,
Lifted her face for him to kiss, and he
Kissed the red lips and turned round dreamily.

So, hardly noted from his face she went;
But ere she vanished wholly mid the trees,
A mighty blast throughout the town she sent,
And in the door straight heard the sound of keys,
Which opened to him and three fair ladies
Gave him good welcome as he entered
And to the garden straightly was he led.

And there they left him, who with heart aflame
Went through the gate, and mid the flowers did see,
That pleasant stream, going whereby he came
Unto a lawn skimmed by the bee
Dotted about with many a little tree,
Through which the stream ran lined with marble white
Bridged by two little golden bridges bright

[f. 44v] [caption] (14) Knight coming into garden finding Venus outside garden

[f. 45] And by the side of it a temple stood
Whose roof was borne by pillars tall and thin
Half snowy white and half as red as blood,
And her fair image was set there within,
Carved just as when the apple she did win
And gave the fatal gift of that fair may
By whom it came that Troy town past away.

And by her moveless feet a little flame
Burnt on a little altar night and day.
Therefore he knew the place, and nigher came
And saw how on the grass that body lay
The marble mocked in such a wondrous way,
Naked no more, for now upon her head
Great pearls she had, and was appareled,

In ancient fashion, for a golden gown,
Girt 'neath the breasts and round the loins, she had
That from her shoulders often slipped adown,
Making the heart of the beholder glad,
And in such amorous raiment was she clad
Bringing delight into her lovers eyes.

[f. 46] Yea as upon the green grass she was laid
You might have chanced to see her balmy [?] side,
Because the clasps of emerald fairly made
From arm to thigh set loosely, far and wide,
Her gown was fastened. On her feet were tied
Thin sandals with rich jewelled silken strings
And on her arms were dainty golden things.

So seeing Amyot she rose up to him
But stood still, blushing red for very love,
Setting the light wind push from arm and limb
The golden raiment, but scarce more did move
Than moved her image, one arm laid above
The hidden glories of her heaving breast
Upon the rich clasp of her gown did rest:

The other on her jewelled belt was laid,
As though she would her raiment straight undo
Yet moved she not, and Amyot, afraid
Stopped and turned pale, and doubted what to do
For he had hoped that with some word or two
Such as she spoke to him that other tide
She would have gently called him to her side

[f. 47] But seeing she moved not and turned pale also
And spoke no word, he soon forgot his fear
And crossed the bridge, and toward her gan to go;
Therewith she lifted up her grey eyes clear,
And smiled on him, and as he drew anear,
She opened wide her arms, while shamefast red
Over her face and neck and bosom spread.

Then did he fall before her with a cry,
And clasped her knees, and passionate kisses sweet
He rained upon her limbs from foot to thigh,
Until she drew him up upon his feet,
And lip to lip the goddess he did meet,
And sighing in a low soft voice she said
“Come sweet with me, and be no more afraid;

For from my temple all are gone away
And dainty things have I bid them set there,
And there no more shall we know night from day
For in my temple all is bright and clear
Though in despite of him who bow doth bear
And that white Goddess of the ___-laced shoon
No hot sun is there, and no maddening noon.

[f. 47v] [caption]  (15) leading  into temple,

[f. 47b, unnumbered page?] Come then, and still in going have no fear
To lay your hand upon my shoulder, sweet,”
So did she bring her tender hand anear
His face, and his half-timid hand did meet
Her golden clasp, and threw it to her feet
And she nought loth and smiling, down her side
Unto her waist let the soft raiment glide.

Then, loving, up the temple steps they went
But or the inmost place they entered there,
She stopped, and whispered to him, and he bent
And set his hand unto the jewel rare
That clasped her belt, and soon her body fair
Naked within his arms did Amyot hold
Therewith they vanished through the gates of gold.

                        Part 4.

Yet ended not his joyance on that day;
Within her temple, and that garden green
With many a spout they passed the time away
Or in the golden house so well beseem.
And sometimes would she no one should be seen,
And would hear nought but their own loving words,
And in the four granits ---- the simple birds.

[f. 47v] [caption]  (16) playing in garden (like ship of fools)

(17) same --- but like Romance of Rose

[f. 48, second f. 48?] And sometimes would she rather pass the time
In hearkening jest and merry mockery,
___ one would say some sweet and mournful ryme,
Upon the green grass languid would she lie
And hear the music breath melodiously
Strange thoughts past telling: or sometimes would there go
To where the stream into the sea did flow,

With many a damsel, who upon the sands
Would strip the raiment from their bodies white
And in the breakers sport with joined hands:
Or sometimes would she bring for his delight
Achilles and Hector back into his sight,
------- of Thebes, the setting forth of Greece
To bring from Cholchis back the Golden Fleece.

Unto the far off mountains would they go,
And climber to their rugged tops alone,
Whence they could see the fair meads lying low
And wonder at the rugged waste of stone;
And on the way her tired limbs would she moan,
And must he stop to wash the little feet
And bear in willing arms the body sweet

[f. 48v] [caption]  (18) in boat

[f. 49] Or she would bring him through the untilled meads
To watch the merry folk pass to and fro
Singing and careless, startling from the reeds
The mournful herons; or with footsteps slow
Through the beech woods at noontide would they go
Till in some green place mid the beech-mast brown
Moaned over by the doves would they lie down

Or down the river gently would they drop
While het the cool mist on the water lay
And as the sun rose high at some isle stop
And there with song and story pass the day,
Or in the shallow places wade and play,
Or she beneath some row of willows cool
Draw the striped perch from out the pool.

In all ways must she keep his heart aflame
For love of her, and on a merry day
It well might chance she would not think it shame
Her unclad body on the grass to lay,
Or let him with her limbs and bosom play,
Stripping her garments from her one by one,
Or she would loiter on the smooth white stone

[f. 50] To let him see her rosy feet thereon
Ere to the water cold she stepped adown;
Or sometimes rather would she set upon
Her matchless body some embroidered gown
That might have bought a great realm, field, and town,
And be arrayed like some old solemn queen
That little of her fair flesh should be seen.

Yet none the less whatever was her array
His heart upon her beauty still was set
Now was he weary of her any day,
Nor even in sleep his love could he forget
Nor for her part would Venus leave him yet,
And swiftly many a happy day went past,
And all was well indeed it might last.

Which it could do, much as the light March snow
Can bide the summer, or the apple bloom
Make no haste in the April tide to go,
Or golden sunset still bar out night[’]s gloom,
Or flushed forgetful youth eld and the tomb,
Or as the summer can for ever stay
And the red roses refuse to go away

[f. 50v]  And see the sea mist with its shifting shape [ed. note: cape to cape]

[caption]  (19) She leaving him sleeping

[f .51] For now one morn, ere dawn was fully come
She woke, and fell a longing for the sea,
And the broad yellow sands of her old home,
Where by their black boats fisher people be;
And longed to hear the wind sing nightly
With little changing song from point to point,
And in its waves her body to anoint

Swiftly she arose from off the bed
And took her gown and shoes and belt of gold
Over her arm, and round her lovely head
Her length of rippling hair she tightly rolled
And so set out into the morning cold.
And took no heed of him, who sleeping there,
Still dreamed of nought but of her body fair.

Then going through the close-set darkling wood
Into the open land came presently
And by the sandy babbling river stood,
And having bathed therein her fair body
She clad herself and passed down to the sea
And ere that day the sun was risen high
Within the grove of cypress she did lie

[f. 51v] [caption]   (20) he coming out of palace town in distance)

[f. 52] But scarcely had she gone, and yet the morn
Was scarcely begun, ere Amyot woke and found
That of his love here was he left forlorn,
So rising up and looking all around
He missed her raiment that upon the ground
Her hands the night before had lightly cast,
When toward the bed the lovely queen had passed.

And in his heart there woke a sudden dread,
For she had never left him thus before
Since to that pleasance was gently led,
And she began to teach him all her lore,
And now being gone sick grew his heart therefore
And he arose, and being clad went out
And through the wood and gardens roamed about.

Unhappy; till the sun rose, and all grey
It was, with driving clouds and small fine rain.
So towards the town he went, and on the way,
Still more and more increased on him that pain
And thick and thronging came the thoughts again
Alas! I once hoped many things,” he said,
And now when all the rest are gone and dead

[f. 53] Must this thing fail, and bring again to me
Remembrance of the things I hoped to have
Like other men; glory and victory,
A happy life on this side of the grave,
And in the other world my soul to save,
That was the heir of such great promises
What am I now without the hope of these,

Left all alone within this wicked place;
Left naked of her love, and growing old
With evil looks still growing on my face;
In mocking of god still getting bold
And gathering in my heart anguish untold,
Ignoble fear, and maddening set despair,
Hatred and scorn of all things, foul and fair.”

So mid these thoughts unto the town he came
Where first he saw those gardens, and the same
Set thick with many a merry and fair dance
And lit up by the golden morning beam
But there was no one now and all did seem
Torn by the wind, and blotted by the rain
That scarce he knew the lovely place again.

[f. 54] No one he saw at first, but as he stood
Upon the bridge, and with his eyes all dazed
With wretched tears, looked down in reckless mood,
He felt one touch him, and his head he raised,
And turning found that damsel on him gazed,
That stand by there he met that other tide:
So meaning did he turn himself aside.

But she spoke to him softly and pityingly,
Saying, “Nay nay all this must well have been;
Bethink thee of the words I spoke to thee
That day I brought thee through the forest green;
And now though surely thou has lost thy queen,
Dids’t now become a wretched man and cold?
Full many a day there is ere thou growst old.”

“Behold,” he said, “thou sayst she is lost
Doth thou not think that that being past away
For which I wrought, I think upon the cost
Which for that dainty evil I must pay:
What am I but a damned soul from this day?
O fool, thou knowest I have lost my bliss
Here and hereafter for such gift as this

[f. 55] “Nay nay,” she said Forbear such words as these,
For scarce know we their meaning in this place.
Come once again, and take me on thy knees,
And with my ruddy tresses frame my face;
Nor wilt thou find my body in worse case
When thou hast stripped my raiment off from me
Than when thou first my naked limbs didst see.

And so with me or ere thou comest to die
Mayst thou pass many, many a happy days;
And neither shalt thou grow old suddenly
For I have charms to hold grim eld at bay;
---cefully our lives shall pass away,
Not fearing ought, and if we have no hope,
At least content for no vain things to grope

In doubtful lands; O fair love come with me,
Blot out misfortune with the drifting rain,
And this today shall yet end merrily,
For deep forgetfulness of doubt and pain,
And all the all things men vex them with in vain,
Yet [?] friend, and is it love that makes the weep?
Then with a kiss the balance will I keep

[f. 56] Though my cheeks too are wet with many a tear.”
Then she brought nigh her lips unto his face,
But with his eyes full filled of deadly fear
He thrust her off, and straightway from the place
He ran toward the hill at a swift pace
And she turned sobbingly, round toward the town,
And over her breast the great tears rolled adown.

And as for him he made no stop nor stay
And when the cavern he had reached at last
Therein he plunged, nor back unto the day
Or in the valley any look he cast,
But swiftly through the winding place he past
And in the well remembered woods came soon
The glimmering with the newly rising moon.

No stay he made, but at a hurried pace
Went through the forest, neither looked ----,
Dreading to see the old familiar place,
Thick grove, and lawn, and braken covered mound
Where he of old so many joys found;
And so at last into the broad highway
He came at the beginning of the day.

[f. 56v] And he beholding it there dark and brown

[f. 57] And now needs must he pass ancient home;
That he, beholding, set there dark and brown,
Stayed there for a moment, wondering who was come
To hold his place, and then with eyes cast down
Went on his way until he reached the town,
And with the country people there did wait
Till the time came for opening of the gate.

And as he there abode he heard them say
That this year was the year of jubilee,
And many a pilgrim was upon the way
The Holy Father at Rome to see,
That from all sins they might be straight set free
Who all day long upon that Easter tide
In Peter’s Church to see them would abide.

“Yea,” said they, “And whatso a man may sin
Joyful from that place shall he go away,
And pardon for his trespasses shall win
If there in sorrow he shall come that day
And penance for his sinful life shall pay.”
“Ah year” said one, and neighbour c--- thou know
That henceforth this same day the pilgrims go

[f. 58] (So now)Therewith the gate being opened they went in;
But Amyot pondered on the words they said,
And thought, Can I get pardon for my sin
Who verily would softly now be laid
By her soft side, not sorry nor afraid
If she had pleased still to abide with me.
What place ils there whereunto I can flee?

Yet forasmuch as God made her doubtless,
-------- only, and unto her gave
Such gift of strange unchanging loveliness,
And unto men a heart that still will crave,
For such as her; he yet may choose to save
My fallen soul, that nonetheless alas
From her bonds scarcely wish to pass.

So to the Holy Father will I go,
Surely all places are alike to me,
And there the worst of all I soon shall know;
And if I yet may come god’s face to see,
Purged of my sins and once for all set free,
Form this my earthly heart, that yet so longs
To be with her who works god daily wrongs.

[f. 59] Then did learn from one the time and way
Wherein the pilgrims would depart that tide,
And till the afternoon of that same day
Within a little wood did he abide
Waiting their coming by the highway-side:
Whereby at last their long train singing came,
Strong men, with women, old men sick and lame.

So from the wood he came, and there did stand
With folded hands and down-cast hanging head
Before the seeming leader of that band,
An old hoar priest, right ill appareled,
Who unto Amyot, in a mild voice said,
God save thee, son, and wouldst thou go with us,
Behold god’s mercy yet it plenteous

Although on no day men forget to sin,
Forgetting well that they shall one day die,
And moan their lot, thenceforth shall never twin
Whatso it be,” said Amyot earnestly
I love to go, and yet small hope have I
Whate’er I do to scape at last from hell.
But to the Holy Father would I tell

[f. 59v] [caption]  (22) stopping the leader of pilgrims, town and gate in distance

[f. 60] My unmatched sin, to no man else alive.”
“So be it, son,” he said, yet verily
It might be I thy burdened soul could shrine,
And from thy troubles set thee somewhat free;
For many a year have I wrought painfully
In serving God; and now behold, my son,
Ere now have I beheld full many a one

Who fain would think he has sinned worse than all
Since he may not be first in righteousness;
Such force hath pride, whereby did Adam fall
And half God’s angels lose their happiness.”
“Alas,” said Amyot, what thing have I less
This day within my heart than any pride.”
“Nay then my son with us shalt thou abide,

And thou shalt go with this good company,”
The old priest said; Then onward did they go
With faces turned to Rome full soberly
And Amyot went with them fulfilled of woe
But as time past fresh hope began to grow
Within his breast, beholding every where
The homely folk, the women fresh and fair

[f. 61] The careless children merry at their play,
And hopeful all familiar things did seem,
As here they stopped and there from day to day,
Or singing through some well known town did stream
Making those wicked days seem but a dream;
And ever as they journeyed, less and less
He thought of Venus and her loveliness.

And so at last through many a land being come
One lovely even the soft April-tide
They came into the mighty town of Rome,
Where all the ways were thronged both far and wide
With pilgrims who for Easter day did bide,
When well they hoped to purge their sins away.
And filling all the town in cloisters lay.

Then Amyot thought how but six months agone
He left the oakwood for that evil place,
And but one month since waking all alone
He found the pillow desert of her face
Yet grey his hair was growing in that space
And he felt old, and weary with his woe
As through those ancient places he did go.

[f. 62] And all the wonders there he noted nought,
Nor of the temples took he any heed
Nor of the mighty buried Caesars thought
Nor of thronging folk in their strange weed.
Yea though was almost dead in him indeed,
And like a beast he felt, driven by pain
Whereof he could not reason nor complain.

Within some porch the pilgrims lay that night;
But on the morrow morn rose up to go
Towards the great church where in the angels sight
The Pope would stand with every one laid low
And bless all those who of their sins should show
But if beyond all other was his case
Who should have come unshrived to that place

Therefore the Holy Father bade that they
Who beyond other folk were burdened sore
Should come to him and show him right humbly
Their life, both good and bad, for ever more,
Such love unto all men the good God bore
That of all sins indeed there were but few
Whereto his mercy he was loth to shew

[f. 63] So now the priest took Amyot by the hand,
And led him by the marble palaces
Till lonely by an old man he did stand,
Who in his feeble hand held Peter’s keys.
Then humbly did he fall upon his knees,
And cried, “O Holy Father grace I pray
For the most sinners in this place to day.”

“Son,” said the Pope, “be of good cheer, and tell
Whatever thou hast hidden in thy breast.
Many a great sinner is there shall scape hell,
And many a good doer on his part
When he at last from out his grave shall start,
Shall howl to find himself but damned at last
In spite of all his doings over past.”

Then began Amyot with many a tear
To tell unto the Holy man his tale
But in the midst he often stopped for fear
That nought his coming thither would avail
For speechless still abode the Pope and pale
Until at last when Amyot finished
And on the ground lay trembling with sunk head

[f. 63v] [caption]  (23)  Pope

[f. 64] From off his golden chair arose the Pope,
“O wretch,” he cried, whom no more I can tell
My son, go hence thou hast no grain of hope;
Nor on thy soul can any mercy fall.
Yea sooner now than he who died for all
Should feed thee with his precious flesh and blood
Shall flowers and fruit spring out from this dry wood

That makes my staff.” So saying hastily
He gat him thence, and Amyot left alone
Like dead upon the ground awhile did lie,
Then rising gazed upon the empty throne
With vacant eyes: muttering, “and is he gone,
And with God say no other word to me
Till his last fire shall dry up the sea.

And with what sort of things shall I wash them,
What body then for ever shall I have,
Who now am grown unheard of among men
Damned while I live whom nothing now can save:
And yet ere first I feel the fis[h]y[?] wave.
A little in that country will I dwell,
That looks like heaven it if is but hell.

[f. 65] There will I by what pleasure I can get,
And stifle thought a while before I die;
And it may be that she may find me yet
Whose fleeting love so dearly I did buy.
Alas alas! The time goes presently,
And all is as the wine they give to him
Who on the wheel is broken, limb by limb.”

So saying from the palace he passed out.
And through the crowded streets went hurriedly.
Nor heeded he the trumpets and glad shouts
As passed the Pope, nor ought his eyes could see
Except the bed where he was wont to be.
So he took horse, and rode away from Rome
But went not by the way that he had come.

So night and day he journeyed till he came
Unto the hill of Venus, and forthright
He entered there, calling upon her name.
And vanished evermore from all men[']s sight
And if Dame Venus took him for her knight
Again I know not, or what else befell
Unto him as he journeyed on to Hell.

[f. 65v] [caption]  (25)  The Rod budding. ----

[f. 66] Yet listen, Sir, one word there is to come:
It happed upon the morrow of the day
That this poor man was driven forth from Rome
As waking in the morn the old Pope lay
A clerk came hurrying in to him to say,
-------- was newly chanced a wondrous case
For when they went to take out from its place

His crutched staff, strange flowers and fruit it bore
That no man, whatsoever was his land,
Had never seen upon the earth before.
Therewith came on who bore it in his hand.
Which when the Pope saw, straight he did commend
That in his treasury it should be laid;
And many a prayer upon that day be said

Both for himself and that unhappy man:
And through the city and country round,
In search of him his well horsed people ran,
But nowhere in that land could he be found,
Nor anywhere at all above the ground,
And heavy was the Pope for that sad case
Until he too was called unto his place.

Therewith the old knight ceased, and I sat __
Thinking of all the story I had heard;
And, pondering on that unmatched dreadful __
I deemed that verily the old swineherd
Had spoken unto me a timely word:
Yet in my heart there lingered none the less
Regretful longing for that loveliness.

And thinking of the joy that I had had
To hear that tale I said, Men's miseries
May sometimes chance to make their fellows glad
And now the shadow of them in likewise
Will bring the happy tears into our eyes
Like too sweet music too soon passed away.
Therewith the minster chimes sung out midday.
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                        End of the Hill of Venus