Gascoigne, The Adventures of Master F.J. (Page 7)
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Well, thus these two Lovers passed many days in exceeding contentation & more than speakable pleasures, in which time F. J. did compile very many verses according to sundry occasions proffered, whereof I have not obtained the most at his hands. And the reason that he denied me the same was that (as he alleged) they were for the most part sauced with a taste of glory, as you know that in such cases, a lover being charged with inexprimable joys, and therewith enjoined both by duty and discretion to keep the same covert, can by no means devise a greater consolation than to commit it into some ciphered words and figured speeches in verse, whereby he feeleth his heart half (or more than half) eased of swelling. For as sighs are some present ease to the pensive mind, even so we find by experience that such secret entercomoning of joys doth increase delight. I would not have you conster my words to this effect, that I think a man cannot sufficiently rejoice in the lucky lots of love unless he impart the same to others. God forbid that ever I should enter into such an heresy, for I have always been of this opinion, that as to be fortunate in love is one of the most inward contentatious to man's mind of all earthly joys: even so, if he do but once bewray the same to any living creature, immediately either dread of discovering doth bruise his breast with an intolerable burden, or else he leeseth the principal virtue which gave effect to his gladness, not unlike to a 'pothecaries pot which, being filled with sweet ointments or perfumes, doth retain in itself some scent of the same, and being poured out doth return to the former state, hard, harsh, and of small savour. So the mind being fraught with delights, as long as it can keep them secretly enclosed, may continually feed upon the pleasant record thereof, as the well willing and ready horse biteth on the bridle, but having once disclosed them to any other, straightway we lose the hidden treasure of the same and are oppressed with sundry doubtful opinions and dreadful conceits. And yet for a man to record unto himself in the inward contemplation of his mind the often remembrance of his late received joys doth, as it were, ease the heart of burden and add unto the mind a fresh supply of delight, yea, and in verse principally (as I conceive), a man may best contrive this way of comfort in himself.
Therefore, as I have said, F. J. swimming now in delights did nothing but write such verse as might accumulate his joys to the extremity of pleasure, the which for that purpose he kept from me, as one more desirous to seem obscure and defective than overmuch to glory in his adventures, especially for that in the end his hap was as heavy as hitherto he had been fortunate.
Amongst other, I remembered one happened upon this occasion: The husband of the Lady Eleanor, being all this while absent from her, gan now return, & kept Cut at home, with whom F. J. found means so to insinuate himself that familiarity took deep root between them and seldom but by stealth you could find the one out of the other's company. On a time, the knight riding on hunting, desired F. J. to accompany him, the which he could not refuse to do, but like a lusty younker, ready at all assays, apparelled himself in green, and about his neck a Bugle, pricking & galloping amongst the foremost according to the manner of that country. And it chanced that the married Knight thus galloping lost his horn, which some divines might have interpreted to be but molting, & that by Gods grace, he might have a new come up again shortly in stead of that.
Well, he came to F. J., requiring him to lend him his Bugle, for (said the Knight) "I heard you not blow this day, and I would fain encourage the hounds, if I had a horn."
Quoth F. J., "Although I have not been over lavish of my coming hitherto, I would you should not doubt but that I can tell how to use a horn well enough, and yet I may little do if I may not lend you a horn," and therewithal took his Bugle from his neck and lent it to the Knight, who making in unto the hounds, gan assay to rechat: but the horn was too hard for him to wind, whereat F. J. took pleasure and said to himself, "Blow till thou break that: I made thee one within these few days that thou wilt never crack whiles thou livest." And hereupon (before the fall of the Buck) devised this Sonnet following, which at his homecoming he presented unto his Mistress.
As some men say there is a kind of seed
Will grow to horns if it be sowed thick,
Wherewith I thought to try if I could breed
A brood of buds well sharped on the prick:
And by good proof of learned skill I found,
As on some special soil all seeds best frame,
So jealous brains do breed the battleground,
That best of all might serve to bear the same.
Then sought I forth to find such supple soil,
And call'd to mind thy husband had a brain,
So that percase by travail and by toil
His fruitful front might turn my seed to gain:
And as I groped in that ground to sow it,
Start up a horn, thy husband could not blow it.
This Sonnet treateth of a strange seed, but it tasteth most of Rye, which is more common amongst men nowadays. Well, let it pass amongst the rest, & he that liketh it not, turn over the leaf to another; I doubt not but in this register he may find some to content him, unless he be too curious. And here I will surcease to rehearse any more of his verses until I have expressed how that his joys, being now exalted to the highest degree, began to bend towards declination.
For now the unhappy Secretary, whom I have before remembered, was returned from London, on who F. J. had no sooner cast his eyes but immediately he fell into a great passion of mind which might be compared unto a fever. This fruit grew of the good instructions that his Hope had planted in his mind, whereby I might take just occasion to forewarn every lover how they suffer this venomous serpent jealousy to creep into their conceits: for surely, of all other diseases in love, I suppose that to be uncurable, and would hold longer discourse therein, were it not that both this tale and the verses of F. J. himself hereafter to be recited shall be sufficient to speak for me in this behalf.
The lover (as I say, upon the sudden) was droven into such a malady as no meat might nourish his body, no delights please his mind, no remembrance of joys forepassed content him, nor any hope of the like to come might recomfort him: hereat, some unto whom I have imparted this tale have take occasion to discommend his fainting heart. Yet surely, the cause inwardly & deeply considered, I cannot so lightly condemn him, for an old saying is that every man can give counsel better than follow it: and needs must the conflicts of his thoughts be strange, between the remembrance of his forepassed pleasure and the present sight of this monster whom before (for lack of like instruction) he had not so thoroughly marked and beheld. Well, such was the grief unto him that he became sickly and kept his chamber.
The Ladies having received the news thereof, gan all at once lament his misfortune, and of common consent agreed to visit him. They marched thither in good equipage, I warrant you, and found F. J. lying upon his bed languishing, who they all saluted generally, and sought to recomfort, but especially his Mistress, having in her hand a branch of willow wherewith she defended her from the hot air, gan thus say unto him: "Servant," quoth she, "for that I suppose your malady to proceed of none other cause but only slothfulness, I have brought this pretty rod to beat you a little; nothing doubting but when you feel the smart of a twig or twain, you will like a tractable young scholar pluck up your quickened spirits & cast this drowsiness apart."
F. J. with a great sigh answered: "Alas, good Mistress," quoth he, "if any like chastisement might quicken me, how much more might the presence of all you lovely Dames recomfort my dulled mind? whom to behold were sufficient to revive an eye now dazzled with the dread of death, and that not only for the heavenly aspects which you represent, but also much the more for your exceeding courtesy in that you have deigned to visit me so unworthy a servant. But good Mistress," quoth he, "as it were shame for me to confess that ever my heart could yield for fear, so I assure you that my mind cannot be content to induce infirmity by sluggish conceit. But in truth, Mistress, I am sick," quoth he, and therewithal the trembling of his heart had sent up such throbbing into his throat as that his voice (now deprived of breath) commanded the tongue to be still.
When Dame Eleanor, for compassion, distilled into tears and drew towards the window, leaving the other Gentlewomen about his bed, who being no less sorry for his grief, yet for that they were none of them so touched in their secret thoughts, they had bolder sprits and freer speech to recomfort him.
Amongst the rest, the Lady Frances (who indeed loved him deeply and could best conjecture the cause of his conceits) said unto him: "Good Trust," quoth she, "if any help of Physic may cure your malady, I would not have you hurt yourself with these doubts which you seem to retain. If choice of Diet may help, behold us here (your cooks) ready to minister all things needful. If company may drive away your annoy, we mean not to leave you solitary. If grief of mind be cause of your infirmity, we all here will offer our devoir to turn it into joy. If mishap have given you cause to fear or dread any thing, remember Hope, which never faileth to recomfort an afflicted mind. And good Trust," quoth she, distraining his hand right heartily, "let this simple proof of our poor good wills be so accepted of you as that it may work thereby the effect of our desires."
F. J. (as one in a trance) had marked very little of her courteous talk, and yet gave her thanks, and so held his peace. Whereat the Ladies being all amazed, there became a silence in the chamber on all sides. Dame Eleanor, fearing thereby that she might the more easily be espied, and having now dried up her tears, returned to F. J., recomforting him by all possible means of common courtesy, promising that since in her sickness he had not only stanched her bleeding, but also by his gentle company and sundry devices of honest pastime had driven away the pensiveness of her mind, she thought herself bound with like willingness to do her best in any thing that might restore his health; and taking him by the hand, said further: "Good servant, if thou bear indeed any true affection to thy poor Mistress, start upon thy feet again and let her enjoy thine accustomed service to her comfort; for sure," quoth she, "I will never leave to visit this chamber once in a day until I may have thee down with me."
F. J., hearing the hearty words of his Mistress and perceiving the earnest manner of her pronunciation, began to receive unspeakable comfort in the same, and said, "Mistress, your exceeding courtesy were able to revive a man half dead, and to me it is both great comfort and it doth also gald my remembrance with a continual smart of mine own unworthiness: but as I would desire no longer life than till I might be able to deserve some part of your bounty, so I will endeavor myself to live, were it but only unto that end that I might merit some part of your favor with acceptable service, and requite some deal the courtesy of all these other fair Ladies, who have so far above my deserts deigned to do me good."
Thus said, the Ladies tarried not long before they were called to Evensong, when his Mistress taking his hand, kissed it saying: "Farewell, good servant, and I pray thee suffer not the malice of thy sickness to overcome the gentleness of thy good heart."
F. J., ravished with joy, suffered them all to depart and was not able to pronounce one word. After their departure, he gan cast in his mind the exceeding courtesy used towards him by them all: but above all other the bounty of his Mistress, and therewithal took a sound and firm opinion that it was not possible for her to counterfeit so deeply (as indeed I believe that she then did not). Whereby he suddenly felt his heart greatly eased, and began in himself thus to reason: "Was ever man of so wretched a heart? I am the most bounden to love," quoth he, "of all them that ever professed his service, I enjoy one the fairest that ever was found, and I find her the kindest that ever was heard of: yet in mine own wicked heart I could villainously conceive that of her, which being compared with the rest of her virtues is not possible to harbor in so noble a mind. Hereby I have brought my self without cause into this feebleness, and good reason that for so high an offence I should be punished with great infirmity. What shall I then do? yield to the same? No, but according to my late protestation I will recomfort this languishing mind of mine, to the end I may live but only to do penance for this so notable a crime so rashly committed."
And thus saying, he start from his bed, and gan to walk towards the window: but the venomous serpent which (as before I rehearsed) had stung him could not be content that these medicines applied by the mouth of his gentle Mistress should so soon restore him to guerison. And although in deed they were such Mithridate to F. J. as that they had now expelled the rancor of the poison, yet that ugly hellish monster had left behind her in the most secret of his bosom (even between the mind and the man) one of her familiars named Suspect, which gan work in the weak spirits of F. J. effects of no less peril than before he had conceived: his head swelling with these troublesome toys and his heart swimming in the tempests of tossing fantasy: he felt his legs so feeble, that he was constrained to lie down on his bed again, and repeating in his own remembrance every word that his Mistress had spoken unto him, he gan to dread that she had brought the willow branch to beat him with in token that he was of her forsaken: for so lovers do most commonly expound the willow garland. And this to think, did cut his heart in twain.
A wonderful change: and here a little to stay you, I will describe (for I think you have not read it in Ariosto) the beginning, the fall, the return, and the being of this hellish bird, who indeed may well be counted a very limb of the Devil. Many years since, one of the most dreadful dastards in the world, and one of them that first devised to wear his beard at length -- lest the barber might do him a good turn sooner than he looked for it, and yet not so soon as he deserved -- had builded for his security a pile on the highest and most inaccessible mount of all his Territories. The which, being fortified with strong walls and environed with deep ditches, had no place of entry but one only door so straight and narrow as might by any possibility receive the body of one living man, from which he ascended up a ladder & so creeping thorough a marvelous straight hole attained to his lodging, the which was so dark & obscure as scarcely either sun or air could enter into it. Thus he devised to lodge in safety, and for the more surety gan trust none other letting down this ladder but only his wife, and at the foot thereof kept always by daylight a fierce mastiff close enkenneled which never saw nor heard the face or voice of any other creature but only of them two; him by night he trusted with the scout of this pretty passage, having nevertheless between him and this dog a double door with treble locks, quadruple bars: and before all a portcullis of Iron. Neither yet could he be so hardy as to sleep until he had caused a guard of servants (whom he kept abroad for that purpose) to search all the corners adjoining to his fortress, and then between fearful sweat and shivering cold, with one eye open and the other closed, he stole sometimes a broken sleep divided with many terrible dreams.
In this sort the wretch lived all too long, until at last his wife, being not able any longer to support this hellish life, grew so hardy as with his own knife to dispatch his carcass out of this earthly purgatory. The which being done his soul (and good reason) was quickly conveyed by Charon unto hell. There, Radamanthus, judge of that bench, commanded him quickly to be thrust into a boiling pool. And being therein plunged very often, he never shrieked or cried, "I scald," as his other companions there cried, but seemed so lightly to esteem it that the judge thought meet to condemn him unto the most terrible place, where are such torments as neither pen can write, tongue express, or thought conceive. But the miser even there seemed to smile and to make small account of his punishment.
Radamanthus, hereof informed, sent for him and demanded the cause why he made so light of his durance. He answered that whiles he lived on earth he was so continually afflicted and oppressed with suspicion as that now only to think that he was out of those meditations was sufficient armor to defend him from all other torments.
Radamanthus astonied hereat, gan call together the Senators of that kingdom, and propounded this question: how & by what punishment they might devise to touch him according to his deserts? And hereupon fell great disputation. At last -- being considered that he had already been plunged in the most unspeakable torments & thereat little or nothing had changed countenance, therewithal that no soul was sent unto them to be relieved of his smart but rather to be punished for his former delights -- it was concluded by the general council that he should be eftsoons sent into the world & restored to the same body wherein he first had his residence, so to remain for perpetuity and never to depart nor to perish.
Thus this body and soul being once again united, and now eftsoons with the same pestilence infected, he became of a suspicious man Suspicion itself. And now the wretch, remembering the treason of his wife who had so willingly dispatched him once before, gan utterly abhor her and fled her company, searching in all countries some place of better assurance. And when he had in vain trod on the most part of the earth, he embarked himself to find some unknown Island wherein he might frame some new habitation, and finding none so commodious as he desired, he fortuned (sailing along by the shore) to espy a rock more than six hundred Cubits high, which hung so suspiciously over the seas as though it would threaten to fall at every little blast. This did Suspicion Imagine to be a fit foundation whereon he might build his second Bower. He forsook his boat and traveled by land to espy what entry or access might be made unto the same, and found from land no manner of entry or access unless it were that some courteous bird of the air would be Ambassador, or convey some Engines as whilom the Eagle did carry Ganymedes into heaven. He then returned to Seas, and approaching near to his rock, found a small stream of fresh water issuing out of the same into the Seas -- the which, although it were so little and so straight as might unethes receive a boat of bigness to carry one living creature at once, yet in his conceit he thought it more large and spacious than that broad way called of our forefathers Via appia, or than that other named Flaminia.
He abandoned his bark and, putting off his clothes, adventured (for he was now assured not to drown) to wade and swim against the stream of this unknown brook, the which (a wondrous thing to tell, and scarcely to be believed) came down from the very top and height of this rock. And by the way he found six straight & dangerous places where the water seemed to stay his course, passing under six straight and low bridges, and hard by every of those places a pile raised up in manner of a Bulwark, the which were hollow in such sort as lodgings and other places necessary might in them commodiously be devised by such one as could endure the hellishness of the place. Passing by these, he attained with much pain unto the top of the Rock, the which he found hollowed as the rest, and far more fit for his security than otherwise apt for any commodity. There gan Suspicion determine to nestle him self, and having now placed six chosen porters, (to wit, Dread, Mistrust, Wrath, Desperation, Frenzy, and Fury) at these six strange Bulwarks, he lodged himself in the vii. all alone, for he trusted no company, but ever mistrusting that his wife should eftsoons find him out, therein he shrieketh continually like to a screech owl to keep the watch waking, never content to sleep by day or by night, but, to be sure that he should not oversleep himself, gan stuff his couch with Porcupines quills to the end that when heavy sleep overcame him and he thereby should be constrained to charge his pallet with more heavy burden, those plumes might then prick through and so awake him.
His garments were steel upon Iron, and that Iron upon Iron, and Iron again, and the more he was armed, the less he trusted to be out of danger. He chopped and changed continually now this, now that, new keys, new locks, ditches new scoured, and walls newly fortified, and thus always uncontented liveth this wretched hellhound Suspicion in this hellish dungeon of habitation, from whence he never removeth his foot but only in the dead & silent nights when he may be assured that all creatures (but himself) are whelmed in sound sleep. And then with stealing steps he stalketh about the earth, infecting, tormenting, and vexing all kinds of people with some part of his afflictions, but especially such as either do sit in chair of greatest dignity and estimation, or else such as have achieved some dear and rare emprise. Those above all others he continually galdeth with fresh wounds of dread, lest they might lose and forgo the rooms whereunto with such long travail and good haps they had attained.
And by this means percase he had crept into the bosom of F. J. who (as is before declared) did erst swim in the deepest seas of earthly delights. Now then, I must think it high time to return unto him, who being now through feebleness eftsoons cast down upon his bed, gan cast in his inward meditations all things passed and, as one thoroughly puffed up and filled with one peevish conceit, could think upon nothing else, and yet accusing his own guilty conscience to be infected with jealousy, did compile this translation of Ariosto's xxxi. song as followeth.
What state to man so sweet and peasant were,
As to be tied in links of worthy love?
What life so bliss'd and happy might appear
As for to serve Cupid, that God above?
If that our minds were not sometimes infect
With dread, with fear, with care, with cold suspect,
With deep despair, with furious frenzy,
Handmaids to her whom we call jealousy.
For ev'ry other sop of sour chance
Which lovers taste amid their sweet delight
Increaseth joy and doth their love advance,
In pleasures place to have more perfect plight.
The thirsty mouth thinks water hath good taste,
The hungry jaws are pleas'd, with each repast:
Who hath not prov'd what dearth by wars doth grow
Cannot of peace the pleasant plenties know.
And though with eye we see not ev'ry joy,
Yet may the mind full well support the same.
An absent life long led in great annoy
When presence comes doth turn from grief to game.
To serve without reward is thought great pain,
But if despair do not therewith remain,
It may be borne, for right rewards at last
Follow true service though they come not fast.
Disdains, repulses, finally each ill,
Each smart, each pain, of love each bitter taste,
To think on them gan frame the lovers will
To like each joy, the more that comes at last:
But this infernal plague, if once it touch
Or venom once the lovers mind with grouch,
All feasts and joys that afterwards befall,
The lover counts them light or nought at all.
This is that sore, this is that poisoned wound,
The which to heal nor salve nor ointments serve,
Nor charm of words, nor Image can be found,
Nor observance of stars can it preserve,
Nor all the art of Magic can prevail,
Which Zoroastes found for our avail.
Oh, cruel plague, above all sorrows smart,
With desperate death thou slay'st the lover's heart.
And me, even now, thy gall hath so infect
As all the joys which ever lover found
And all good haps that ever Troilus' sect
Achieved yet above the luckless ground:
Can never sweeten once my mouth with mel,
Nor bring my thoughts again in rest to dwell.
Of thy mad moods and of naught else I think,
In such like seas, fair Bradamant did sink.
This is the translation of Ariosto his xxxi. song, all but the last staff, which seemeth as an allegory applied to the rest. It will please none but learned ears, he was tied to the invention, troubled in mind &c. So I leave it to your judgment, and return to F. J., who continued on his bed until his bountiful Mistress with the company of the other courteous dames returned after supper to his chamber.
At their first entry: "Why how now, servant," quoth dame Eleanor, "we hoped to have found you on foot?"
"Mistress," quoth F. J., "I have assayed my feet since your departure, but I find them yet unable to support my heavy body, and therefore am constrained as you see to acquaint myself with these pillows."
"Servant," said she, "I am right sorry thereof, but since it is of necessity to bear sickness, I will employ my devoir to allay some part of your pains and to refresh your weary limbs with some comfortable matter." And therewithal, calling her handmaid, delivered unto her a bunch of pretty little keys, and whispering in her ear dispatched her towards her chamber.
The maid tarried not long but returned with a little Casket, the which her Mistress took, opened, and drew out of the same much fine linen, amongst the which she took a pillowbere very fine and sweet, which although it were of itself as sweet as might be, being of long time kept in that odoriferous chest, yet did she with damask water (and that the best that might be, I warrant you) all to sprinkle it with her own hands, which in my conceit might much amend the matter. Then, calling for a fresh pillow, sent her maid to air the same, and at her return put on this thus perfumed pillowbere.
In mean time also she had with her own hands attired her servant's head in a fair wrought kerchief taken out of the same Casket, then laid him down upon this fresh and pleasant place, and prettily as it were in sport, bedewed his temples with sweet water which she had ready in a casting bottle of Gold, kissing his cheek and saying: "Good servant be whole, for I might not long endure thus to attend thee, and yet the love that I bear towards thee cannot be content to see thee languish."
"Mistress," said F. J. (and that with a trembling voice), "assure yourself that if there remain in me any spark of life or possibility of recovery, then may this excellent bounty of yours be sufficient to revive me without any further travail or pain unto your person, for whom I am highly to blame in that I do not spare to put you unto this trouble: and better it were that such a wretch as I had died unknown than that by your exceeding courtesy you should fall into any malady, either by resorting unto me or by these your pains taken about me."
"Servant," quoth she, "all pleasures seem painful to them that take no delight therein, and likewise all toil seemeth pleasant to such as set their felicity in the same, but for me, be you sure, I do it with so good a will that I can take no hurt thereby unless I shall perceive that it be rejected or neglected as unprofitable or uncomfortable unto you."
"To me, Mistress," quoth F. J., "it is such pleasure as neither my feeble tongue can express nor my troubled mind conceive."
"Why? are you troubled in mind then, servant?" quoth dame Eleanor.
F. J., now blushing, answered, "But even as all sick men be, Mistress."
Herewith they stayed their talk a while, and the first that brake silence was the Lady Frances, who said: "And to drive away the troubles of your mind, good Trust, I would be glad if we could devise some pastime amongst us to keep you company, for I remember that with such devices you did greatly recomfort this fair Lady when she languished in like sort."
"She languished indeed, gentle Hope," quoth F. J., "but God forbid that she had languished in like sort."
"Every body thinketh their grief greatest," quoth dame Eleanor, "but indeed whether my grief were the more or the less, I am right sorry that yours is such as it is. And to assay whither our passions proceeded of like cause or not, I would we could (according to this Lady's saying) devise some like pastimes to try if your malady would be cured with like medicines."
A gentlewoman of the company whom I have not hitherto named, and that for good respects, lest her name might altogether disclose the rest, gan thus propound. "We have accustomed," quoth she, "heretofore in most of our games to choose a King or Queen, and he or she during their government have charged every of us either with commandments or questions as best seemed to their majesty: wherein to speak mine opinion we have given over large a scope, neither seemeth it reasonable that one should have the power to discover the thoughts, or at least to bridle the affects, of all the rest. And though indeed in questioning (which doth of the twain more nearly touch the mind), everyone is at free liberty to answer what they list: yet oft have I heard a question demanded in such sort and upon such sudden that it hath been hardly answered without moving matter of contention. And in commands also sometimes it happeneth one to be commanded unto such service as either they are unfit to accomplish (and then the party's weakness is thereby detected) or else to do something that they would not, whereof ensueth more grouch then game. Wherefore, in mine opinion, we shall do well to choose by lot amongst us a governor who, for that it shall be sufficient preeminence to use the chair of majesty, shall be bound to give sentence upon all such arguments and questions as we shall orderly propound unto them, and from him or her (as from an oracle) we will receive answer, and deciding of our litigious causes."
This dame had stuff in her, an old courtier, and a wily wench, whom for this discourse I will name Pergo, lest her name natural were to broad before, and might not drink of all waters. Well, this proportion of Pergo pleased them well, and by lot it happened that F. J. must be moderator of these matters and collector of these causes.
The which being so constituted, the Lady Eleanor said unto this dame Pergo, "You have devised this pastime," quoth she, "& because we think you to be most expert in the handling thereof, do you propound the first question, & we shall be both the more ready and able to follow your example."
The Lady Pergo refused not, but began on this wise. "Noble governor," quoth she, "amongst the adventures that have befallen me I remember especially this one, that in youth it was my chance to be beloved of a very courtlike young gentleman who abode near the place wherein my parents had their resiance. This gentleman, whether it were for beauty or for any other respect that he saw in me, I know not, but he was enamored of me, & that with an exceeding vehement passion. & of such force were his affects that, notwithstanding many repulses which he had received at my hands, he seemed daily to grow in the renewing of his desires. I on the other side, although I could by no means mislike of him by any good reason, considering that he was of birth no way inferior unto me, of possessions not to be disdained, of person right comely, of behavior Courtly, of manners modest, of mind liberal, and of virtuous disposition: yet such was the gaiety of my mind as that I could not be content to lend him over large thongs of my love, but always dangerously behaved myself towards him, and in such sort as he could neither take comfort of mine answers nor yet once find himself requited with one good look for all his travail. This notwithstanding, the worthy Knight continued his suit with no less vehement affection than erst he had begun it, even by the space of seven years. At the last, whether discomfited by my dealings, or tired by long travail, or that he had percase lit upon the lake that is in the forest of Ardennes and so in haste and all thirsty had drunk some drops of disdain whereby his hot flames were quenched, or that he had undertaken to serve no longer but his just term of apprenticehood, or that the teeth of time had gnawn and tired his dulled spirits in such sort as that all benumbed he was constrained to use some other artificial balm for the quickening of his senses, or by what cause moved I know not, he did not only leave his long continued suit, but (as I have since perceived) grew to hate me more deadly than before I had disdained him.
"At the first beginning of his retire, I perceived not his hatred, but imagined that being overwearied he had withdrawn himself for a time. And considering his worthiness, therewithal his constancy of long time proved, I thought that I could not in the whole world find out a fitter match to bestow myself than on so worthy a person, wherefore I did by all possible means procure that he might eftsoons use his accustomed repair unto my parents. And further, in all places where I happened to meet him I used all the courtesies towards him that might be contained within the bonds of modesty. But all was in vain, for he was now become more dangerous to be won than the haggard Falcon. Our lots being thus unluckily changed, I grew to burn in desire, and the more dangerous that he showed himself unto me, the more earnest I was by all means to procure his consent of love. At the last, I might perceive that not only he disdained me but, as me thought, boiled in hatred against me. And the time that I thus continued tormented with these thoughts was also just the space of seven years.
"Finally, when I perceived no remedy for my perplexities, I assayed by absence to wear away this malady, and therefore utterly refused to come in his presence, yea, or almost in any other company. Whereby I have consumed in lost time the flower of my youth and am become, as you see, (what with years and what with the tormenting passions of love) pale, wan, and full of wrinkles. Nevertheless, I have thereby gained thus much: that at last I have wound myself clear out of Cupid's chains and remain careless at liberty.
"Now mark to what end I tell you this: First, vii. years passed in the which I could never be content to yield unto his just desires. Next, other vii. years I spent in seeking to recover his lost love. And sithens both those vii. years, there are even now on Saint Valentines day last other vii. years passed, in the which neither I have desired to see him, nor he hath coveted to hear of me. My parents now perceiving how the crowsfoot is crept under mine eye and remembering the long suit that this gentleman had in youth spent on me, considering therewithal that green youth is well mellowed in us both, have of late sought to persuade a marriage between us, the which the Knight hath not refused to hear of, and I have not disdained to think on. By their mediation we have bin eftsoons brought to Parley, wherein over and besides the ripping up of many old griefs, this hath been chiefly rehearsed & objected between us: what wrong and injury each of us hath done to other. And hereabouts we have fallen to sharp contention: he alleged that much greater is the wrong which I have done unto him than that repulse which he hath sithens used to me: and I have affirmed the contrary. The matter yet hangeth in variance. Now, of you worthy Governor, I would be most glad to hear this question decided, remembering that there was no difference in the times between us: and surely, unless your judgment help me, I am afraid my marriage will be marred, and I may go lead Apes in hell."
F. J. answered, "Good Pergo, I am sorry to hear so lamentable a discourse of your luckless love, and much the sorrier in that I must needs give sentence against you. For surely great was the wrong that either of you have done to other, and greater was the needless grief which causeless each of you hath conceived in this long time, but greatest in my judgment hath been both the wrong and the grief of the Knight, in that notwithstanding his deserts (which yourself confess) he never enjoyed any guerdon of love at your hands. And you (as you allege) did enjoy his love of long time together. So that by the reckoning it will fall out (although being blinded in your own conceit you see it not) that of the one & twenty years, you enjoyed his love vii. at the least, but that ever he enjoyed yours we cannot perceive. And much greater is the wrong that rewardeth evil for good than that which requireth tip for tap. Further, it seemeth that where as you went about in time to try him, you did altogether lose time which can never be recovered: and not only lost your own time, whereof you would seem now to lament, but also compelled him to lose his time, which he might (be it spoken without offence to you) have bestowed in some other worthy place. And therefore, as that grief is much greater which hath no kind of comfort to allay it, so much more is that wrong which altogether without cause is offered."
"And I," said Pergo, "must needs think that much easier is it for them to endure grief which never tasted of joy, and much less is that wrong which is so willingly proffered to be by recompense restored: for if this Knight will confess that he never had cause to rejoice in all the time of his service, then with better contentation might he abide grief than I who, having tasted of the delight which I did secretly conceive of his deserts, do think each grief a present death by the remembrance of those forepassed thoughts: & less wrong seemeth it to be destitute of the thing which was never obtained than to be deprived of a jewel whereof we have been already possessed. So that, under your correction, I might conclude that greater hath been my grief & injury sustained than that of the Knight."
To whom F. J. replied, "As touching delight, it may not be denied but that every lover doth take delight in the inward contemplation of his mind to think of the worthiness of his beloved, & therefore you may not allege that the Knight had never cause to rejoice unless you will altogether condemn yourself of unworthiness. Marry, if you will say that he tasted not the delights that lovers seek, then mark, who was the cause but yourself? And if you would accuse him of like ingratitude, for that he disdained you in the latter vii. years when as he might by accepting your love have recompensed himself of all former wrongs, you must remember therewithal that the cruelty by you showed towards him was such that could by no means perceive that your change proceeded of good will, but rather eftsoons to hold him enchained in unknown links of subtle dealings, & therefore not without cause he doubted you: & yet without cause you rejected him. He had often sought occasion, but by your refusals he could never find him: you having occasion fast by the foretop did dally with him so long, till at last he slipped his head from you. & then catching at the bald noddle, you found yourself the cause, & yet you would accuse another. To conclude, greater is the grief that is sustained without desert and much more is the wrong that is offered without cause."
Thus F. J. decided the question propounded by Pergo & expected that some other Dame should propound another: but his mistress (having her hand on another halfpenny) gan thus say unto him. "Servant, this pastime is good, and such as I must needs like of, to drive away your pensive thoughts: but sleeping time approacheth & I fear we disquiet you, wherefore the rest of this time we will (if so like you) bestow in trimming up your bed, and tomorrow we shall meet here and renew this new begun game with Madame Pergo."
"Mistress," quoth F. J., "I must obey your will, and most humbly thank you of your great goodness and all these Ladies for their courtesy: even so, requiring you that you will no further trouble yourselves about me, but let my servant alone with conducting me to bed."
"Yes, servant," quoth she, "I will see if you can sleep any better in my sheets," and therewith commanded her handmaid to fetch a pair of clean sheets. The which being brought (marvelous fine and sweet), the Ladies Frances and Eleanor did courteously unfold them and laid them on the bed, which done, they also entreated F. J. to unclothe him and go to bed.