Yowr Yen Two Woll Sle me Sodenly

Original Text: 
Magdalene College, Cambridge, Pepys Library MS 2006, fols. 390-91. Facsimile in Manuscript Pepys 2006, intro. A. S. G. Edwards, Variorum Edition of the Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, Vol. VI (Norman: Pilgrim Books); and The Minor Poems, ed. George B. Pace and Alfred David, Variorum Edition of the Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, Vol. V (Norman: Univerity of Oklahoma Press, 1982): 171-78.
2I may the beaute of them not sustene
3So wondeth it thorow out my herte kene.
4And but your word woll helen hastely
5Mi hertis wound while that it is grene
6  Your yen [two woll sle me sodenly.
7  I may the beaute of them not sustene.]
8Vpon my trouth I sey yow feithfully
9That ye ben of my liffe and deth the quene,
10For with my deth the trouth shalbe sene.
11  Your yen [two woll sle me sodenly.
12  I may the beaute of them not sustene
13  So wondeth it thorow out my herte kene.]
14So hath yowr beaute fro your herte chased
15Pitee that me nauailleth not to pleyn
16For danger halt your mercy in his cheyne.
17Giltles my deth thus han ye me purchaced,
18I sey yow soth, me nedeth not to fayn,
19  So hath your beaute [fro your herte chased
20  Pitee that me nauailleth not to pleyn.]
21Alas that nature hath in yow compased
22So grete beaute that no man may atteyn
23To mercy though he sterue for the peyn.
24  So hath your beaute [fro your herte chased
25  Pitee that me nauailleth not to pleyn
26  For danger halt your mercy in his cheyne.]
27Syn I fro loue escaped am so fat
28I neuere thenk to ben in his prison lene.
29Syn I am fre, I counte hym not a bene.
30He may answer and sey this and that.
31I do no fors, I speke ryght as I mene,
32  Syn I fro loue [escaped am so fat
33  I neuere thenk to ben in his prison lene.
34Loue hath my name istrike out of his sclat,
35And he is strike out of my bokes clene.
37  Syn I fro loue [escaped am so fat
38  I neuere thenk to ben in his prison lene.
39  Syn I am fre, I counte hym not a bene.]
Explicit

Notes

1] Attributed to Chaucer in its first printing and usually entitled "Merciles Beaute," after a 17th-century MS copy of the second, and earlier text.yen two: "two yen" in the MS, but the refrain gives this, the metrically correct reading.
Translated into modern English,
Your two eyes will slay me suddenly.
I cannot endure their beauty
So deeply does it wound my eager heart.

And unless your word will heal, without delay,
My heart's wound while it is new ...

On my oath, I tell you faithfully
That you're the queen of my life and death,
And in my dying will that truth be seen.

So has your beauty driven pity from your heart
That there's no good in me complaining,
So does disdain in his chain bind your mercy.

Just in this way you've paid for my innocent death,
I'm telling you the truth, I don't need to pretend.

Alas, how nature has drawn with compasses
In you such great beauty that no man may find
Mercy, even though he dies in pain.

Because I've escaped so plump from love,
I don't expect to be in his lean prison.
Being free, I don't give a pea for him.

He may reply and say this and that,
I don't care, I'm saying what I think.

Love has struck my name from his slate,
And he is stricken utterly from my books.
For evermore there is no other way.

Back to Line
36] ther: "this" in MS. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1886
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2002
Rhyme: 
Form: