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- The Canterbury Tales - 180/183 -


Certes if any comfort in us be, That cometh of thee, Christe's mother dear! We have none other melody nor glee,* *pleasure Us to rejoice in our adversity; Nor advocate, that will and dare so pray For us, and for as little hire as ye, That helpe for an Ave-Mary or tway.

O.

O very light of eyen that be blind! O very lust* of labour and distress! *relief, pleasure O treasurer of bounty to mankind! The whom God chose to mother for humbless! From his ancill* <6> he made thee mistress *handmaid Of heav'n and earth, our *billes up to bede;* *offer up our petitions* This world awaiteth ever on thy goodness; For thou ne failedst never wight at need.

P.

Purpose I have sometime for to enquere Wherefore and why the Holy Ghost thee sought, When Gabrielis voice came to thine ear; He not to war* us such a wonder wrought, *afflict But for to save us, that sithens us bought: Then needeth us no weapon us to save, But only, where we did not as we ought, Do penitence, and mercy ask and have.

Q.

Queen of comfort, right when I me bethink That I aguilt* have bothe Him and thee, *offended And that my soul is worthy for to sink, Alas! I, caitiff, whither shall I flee? Who shall unto thy Son my meane* be? *medium of approach Who, but thyself, that art of pity well?* *fountain Thou hast more ruth on our adversity Than in this world might any tongue tell!

R.

Redress me, Mother, and eke me chastise! For certainly my Father's chastising I dare not abiden in no wise, So hideous is his full reckoning. Mother! of whom our joy began to spring, Be ye my judge, and eke my soule's leach;* *physician For ay in you is pity abounding To each that will of pity you beseech.

S.

Sooth is it that He granteth no pity Withoute thee; for God of his goodness Forgiveth none, *but it like unto thee;* *unless it please He hath thee made vicar and mistress thee* Of all this world, and eke governess Of heaven; and represseth his justice After* thy will; and therefore in witness *according to He hath thee crowned in so royal wise.

T.

Temple devout! where God chose his wonning,* *abode From which, these misbeliev'd deprived be, To you my soule penitent I bring; Receive me, for I can no farther flee. With thornes venomous, O Heaven's Queen! For which the earth accursed was full yore, I am so wounded, as ye may well see, That I am lost almost, it smart so sore!

V.

Virgin! that art so noble of apparail,* *aspect That leadest us into the highe tow'r Of Paradise, thou me *wiss and counsail* *direct and counsel* How I may have thy grace and thy succour; All have I been in filth and in errour, Lady! *on that country thou me adjourn,* *take me to that place* That called is thy bench of freshe flow'r, There as that mercy ever shall sojourn.

X.

Xpe <7> thy Son, that in this world alight, Upon a cross to suffer his passioun, And suffer'd eke that Longeus his heart pight,* <8> *pierced And made his hearte-blood to run adown; And all this was for my salvatioun: And I to him am false and eke unkind, And yet he wills not my damnation; *This thank I you,* succour of all mankind! *for this I am indebted to you* Y.

Ysaac was figure of His death certain, That so farforth his father would obey, That him *ne raughte* nothing to be slain; *he cared not* Right so thy Son list as a lamb to dey:* *die Now, Lady full of mercy! I you pray, Since he his mercy 'sured me so large, Be ye not scant, for all we sing and say, That ye be from vengeance alway our targe.* *shield, defence

Z.

Zachary you calleth the open well <9> That washed sinful soul out of his guilt; Therefore this lesson out I will to tell, That, n'ere* thy tender hearte, we were spilt.** *were it not for Now, Lady brighte! since thou canst and wilt, *destroyed, undone* Be to the seed of Adam merciable;* *merciful Bring us unto that palace that is built To penitents that be *to mercy able!* *fit to receive mercy*

Explicit.* *The end

Notes to Chaucer's A. B. C.

1. Chaucer's A. B. C. -- a prayer to the Virgin, in twenty three verses, beginning with the letters of the alphabet in their order -- is said to have been written "at the request of Blanche, Duchess of Lancaster, as a prayer for her private use, being a woman in her religion very devout." It was first printed in Speght's edition of 1597.

2. La Priere De Nostre Dame: French, "The Prayer of Our Lady."

3. Thieves seven: i.e. the seven deadly sins

4. Mary's name recalls the waters of "Marah" or bitterness (Exod. xv. 23), or the prayer of Naomi in her grief that she might be called not Naomi, but "Mara" (Ruth i. 20). Mary, however, is understood to mean "exalted."

5. A typical representation. See The Prioress's Tale, third stanza.

6. The reference evidently is to Luke i. 38 -- "Ecce ancilla Domini," ("Behold the handmaid of the Lord") the Virgin's humble answer to Gabriel at the Annunciation.

7. "Xpe" represents the Greek letters chi rho epsilon, and is a contraction for "Christe."

8. According to tradition, the soldier who struck the Saviour to the heart with his spear was named Longeus, and was blind; but, touching his eyes by chance with the mingled blood and water that flowed down the shaft upon his hands, he was instantly restored to sight.

9. "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness" (Zech. xiii. 1).

A GOODLY BALLAD OF CHAUCER.<1>

MOTHER of nurture, best belov'd of all, And freshe flow'r, to whom good thrift God send Your child, if it lust* you me so to call, *please *All be I* unable myself so to pretend, *although I be To your discretion I recommend My heart and all, with ev'ry circumstance, All wholly to be under your governance.

Most desire I, and have and ever shall, Thinge which might your hearte's ease amend Have me excus'd, my power is but small; Nathless, of right, ye oughte to commend My goode will, which fame would entend* *attend, strive To do you service; for my suffisance* *contentment Is wholly to be under your governance.

Mieux un in heart which never shall apall, <2> Ay fresh and new, and right glad to dispend My time in your service, what so befall, Beseeching your excellence to defend My simpleness, if ignorance offend In any wise; since that mine affiance Is wholly to be under your governance.

Daisy of light, very ground of comfort, The sunne's daughter ye light, as I read; For when he west'reth, farewell your disport! By your nature alone, right for pure dread Of the rude night, that with his *boistous weed* *rude garment* Of darkness shadoweth our hemisphere, Then close ye, my life's lady dear!

Dawneth the day unto his kind resort, And Phoebus your father, with his streames red,


The Canterbury Tales - 180/183

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