The Testament of Cressida

Original Text: 
[Robert Henryson,] "The testament of Cresseid," in The Workes of Geffray Chaucer [edited by W. Thynne] (London: T. Godfray, 1532). STC 5068. Facs. edn. (London: A. Moring and H. Frowde, 1905). F-10 1111 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto). Also Robert Henryson, The Testament of Cresseid (Edinburgh: H. Charteris, 1593). STC 13165. Facs. edn. (Amsterdam: Da Capo Press, 1969). PR 1990 H4T4 1969 Robarts Library
475And said, "Quhy spurnis thow aganis the wall,
476To sla thyself, and mend nathing at all?
478    I counsall the mak vertew of ane neid;
483  Compellit hir to be ane rank beggair.
485      Quhilk had to chiftane worthie Troylus,
487      Knichtis of Grece in number marvellous:
488      With greit tryumphe and laude victorious
493  Said, "Worthie lordis, for Goddis lufe of hevin,
497  Quhair Cresseid sat, not witting quhat scho was.
500  That he sumtime hir face befoir had sene;
503  The sweit visage and amorous blenking
504  Of fair Cresseid, sumtyme his awin darling.
508      Sa deip imprentit in the fantasy,
509      That it deludis the wittis outwardly,
512    Ane spark of lufe than till his hart culd spring,
513      And kendlit all his bodie in ane fyre,
516      To beir his scheild his breist began to tyre;
518  And, nevertheles, not ane ane uther knew.
519    For knichtlie pietie and memoriall
520      Of fair Cresseid, ane gyrdill can he tak,
521  Ane purs of gold, and mony gay jowall,
524  Pensive in hart, quhill he come to the toun,
526    The lipper folk to Cresseid than can draw,
527      To se the equall distributioun
532  Than to us all; we knaw be his almous."
535  "Yes," (quod a lipper man), "I knaw him weill;
537      Quhen Cresseid understude that it was he,
545  And ever in hir swouning cryit scho thus:
546  "O, fals Cresseid, and trew knicht Troylus!
548      I countit small in my prosperitie;
549  Sa elevait I was in wantones,
551      All faith and lufe I promissit to the
553  O, fals Cresseid, and trew knicht Troilus!
554    "For lufe of me thow keipt gude continence,
555      Honest and chaist in conversatioun;
556  Of all wemen protectour and defence
557      Thou was, and helpit thair opinioun:
558      My mynd in fleschelie foull affectioun
559  Was inclynit to lustis lecherous:
560  Fy, fals Cresseid! O, trew knicht Troylus!
561    "Lovers, be war, and tak gude heid about
562      Quhome that ye lufe, for quhome ye suffer paine;
568    "Becaus I knaw the greit unstabilnes,
569      Brukkil as glas, into my self, I say,
570  Traisting in uther als greit unfaithfulnes,
571      Als unconstant, and als untrew of fay;
574  Nane but my self, as now, I will accuse."
575    Quhen this was said, with paper scho sat doun,
576      And on this maneir maid hir testament:
578      With wormis and with taidis to be rent;
580  And all my gold, the lipper folk sall have,
581  Quhen I am deid, to burie me in grave.
582    "This royall ring, set with this rubie reid,
586      Thus I conclude schortlie, and mak ane end;
587  My spreit I leif to Diane, quhair scho dwellis,
594  To Troylus furthwith the ring he bair,
596    Quhen he had hard hir greit infirmitie,
597      Hir legacie and lamentatioun,
598  And how scho endit in sic povertie,
601  Siching full sadlie, said, "I can no moir;
602  Scho was untrew, and wo is me thairfoir!"
603    Sum said he maid ane tomb of merbell gray,
604      And wrait hir name and superscriptioun,
605  And laid it on hir grave, quhair that scho lay,
607      "Lo, fair ladyis, Cresseid of Troyis toun,
608  Sumtyme countit the flour of womanheid,
609  Under this stane, late lipper, lyis deid!"
614      Beir in your mynd this schort conclusioun
615  Of fair Cresseid, as I have said befoir:
616  Sen scho is deid, I speik of hir no moir.


470] No early MS. copy is known (though there was once a copy in the Asloan MS., of the early sixteenth century). The poem was first printed by Thynne (in 1532) in the volume entitled The Workes of Geffray Chaucer newly printed, with dyvers wories which were never in print before, where it immediately follows Troilus and Criseyde. The author's name is not given. In 1593 it was printed in Edinburgh by Henry Charteris in a quarto edition, entitled: The Testament of Cresseid, Compylit be M. Robert Henrysone, Sculemaister in Dunfermeling. The date of composition is unknown, but was probably in the latter part of the fifteenth century. The poem is a sequel to Chaucer's Troilus and Creseyde. Henryson's Cresseid is deserted by Diomede and for a time becomes a wanton with many lovers. At length she retires to the house of her father, Calchas, and in an oratory of the temple she bewails her fate and curses Venus and Cupid. In a vision she hears them complain to the other gods, who pass judgment on her. On awakening she finds herself stricken with leprosy and takes refuge in a leper hospital, where she laments her calamity. At this point the extract begins.
chydand. Chiding. Back to Line
471] woik. Lay awake; Middle Scots for wok. Back to Line
472] dule. Dole, grief. Back to Line
473] remeid. Remedy, cure. Back to Line
474] lipper. Leper.
rais. Rose.
wend. Went. Back to Line
477] dowbillis. Doubles. Back to Line
479] leir. Learn.
clapper. Dish with movable cover, carried by lepers to hold alms and as a warning against infection. Back to Line
480] leid. People. Back to Line
481] buit. Boot, remedy.
yeid. Went. Back to Line
482] quhill. Till. Back to Line
484] garnisoun. Garrison. Back to Line
486] weir. War. Back to Line
489] raid. Rode. Back to Line
490] Where Cresseid abode with the lepers. Back to Line
491] stevin. Voice. Back to Line
492] schuik. Shook.
gude speid. At good speed, quickly, eagerly. Back to Line
494] With us lepers share some of your alms-deed, almsgiving. Back to Line
495] tuik. Took. Back to Line
496] pitie. Pity. Back to Line
498] ene. Eyes. Back to Line
499] blenk. Glance. Back to Line
501] plye. Plight. Back to Line
502] luik. Look. Back to Line
505] suppois. Although (verb used as conjunction). Back to Line
506] lo! now quhy. Lo! this is why. Back to Line
507] idole. Image.
in cace. Perchance. Back to Line
510] sa. So.
estait. Condition. Back to Line
511] figurait. Figured, imaged. Back to Line
514] hait. Hot. Back to Line
515] quhill. Till. Back to Line
517] quhyle. While. Back to Line
522] swak. Fling. Back to Line
523] raid. Rode. Back to Line
525] oft syis. Often times. Back to Line
528] almous. Alms. Back to Line
529] Each one to the other secretly did whisper. Back to Line
530] hes. Has. Back to Line
531] lazarous. Leper. Back to Line
533] yone. Yon, that.
feill. Knowledge. Back to Line
534] Hes. (Who) has. Back to Line
536] gentill and fre. Noble and generous. Back to Line
538] stert. Started.
stound. Pang. Back to Line
539] fell. (She) fell. Back to Line
540] siching. Sighing.
sair. Sore. Back to Line
541] Ochane! Och hone; Ohone, alas (Irish and Scots). Back to Line
542] hreist. Breast.
stad. Bestead. Back to Line
543] will of wane. Literally, "wild of weening", at a loss as to what to do (Skeat). Back to Line
544] swounit. Swooned.
or. Ere. Back to Line
547] lawtie. Loyalty. Back to Line
550] And climbed so high on Fortune's fickle wheel. Back to Line
552] Was in the self. Were in themselves. Back to Line
563] lat yow wit. Let you know.
thairout. Out there (in the world). Back to Line
564] traist. Trust. Back to Line
565] Preif. Try, test. Back to Line
566] reid. Advise. Back to Line
567] sad. Quiet, unmoved. Originally meant "sated", hence quiet, motionless, depressed, and later, sorrowful.
567-571. The construction is loose. With the punctuation in the text, the passage may be paraphrased as follows: "For they are as constant as a weathercock in the wind, I say, because I recognize in myself their great instability, brittle as glass; believing that there is as great unfaithfulness (as mine) in others (who are) as inconstant and as untrue of their faith".
Back to Line
572] Thocht. Though.
I wait. I wot. Back to Line
573] If anyone finds fidelity, let him praise his lady. Back to Line
577] beteiche. Bequeath. Back to Line
579] cop. Cup for drinking. Back to Line
583] drowrie. Love (Old French druerie).
in drowrie. As a love-token. Back to Line
584] leif. Leave.
deid. Dead. Back to Line
585] cairfull. Sorrowful.
deid. Death.
kend. Known. Back to Line
588] wellis. Fountains. Back to Line
589] broche. Troilus gave Criseyde a brooch on the morning of her departure from Troy (V, 1661-1665). This she gave to Diomede (V, 1040-1041 in the extracts above). Troilus ultimately found it on a coat of Diomede's which had been captured, and thus learned of Criseyde's infidelity (V, 1649-1666). Henryson remembers only Troilus's gift of the brooch, and he adds that of the belt. Back to Line
590] in takning. As a token. Back to Line
591] swelt. Died. Back to Line
592] tuik of: took off. Back to Line
593] Syne. Afterwards. Back to Line
595] can declair. Did declare. Back to Line
599] swelt. Fainted. Back to Line
600] boun. Ready. Back to Line
606] ressoun. Sentence, declaration. Back to Line
610] ballet. Ballad, in general sense of "poem". Back to Line
611] worschip. Honour. Back to Line
612] I lovingly admonish and exhort you. Back to Line
613] Ming. Mingle. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
N. J. Endicott
RPO Edition: 
2RP 1.48.