Mercoledi Musicale

Trouthe – Geoffrey Chaucer

Chaucer-1600s
Geoffrey Chaucer (c1343-1400) An anonymous painting from the early 17th century.

Yesterday’s final entry on the Golden Age of Mardi Gras included a reference to a short poem by Geoffrey Chaucer. It is one of his minor works and appears to have been sent to Sir Philip de la Vache, the son of a friend of his. Sir Philip was a well-placed and influential courtier during the reign of Richard II.  For a brief period between 1386 and 1389 he was out of favour and had lost his positions at court. It is thought that Chaucer wrote this homiletic ballad to encourage and comfort him.

And Trouthe shal delivere, it is no drede

It follows the seven-line ballade tradition six lines  with a refrain and includes an “Envoi” or address to the receiver – in this case Sir Philip.  Unusually the rhyme scheme is ABABBCC. There are several versions of the ballad including earlier ones without the “Envoi” stanza.

I had thought to post it in the original Middle English however that would be too pedantic even for me. So here it is in a translation by A. S. Kline from Poetry in Translation (PIT).

Truth
a ballad of good counsel
to Sir Philip de la Vache

Flee from the crowd, and dwell with truthfulness,
Let your thing suffice, though it be small;
Hoarding brings hatred, climbing fickleness,
Praise brings envy, and wealth blinds overall;
Savour no more than ‘tis good that you recall;
Rule well yourself, who others advise here;
And truth shall deliver you, have no fear.

Trouble you not the crooked to redress,
Trusting in her who wobbles like a ball.
Well-being rests on scorning busyness;
Beware therefore of kicking at an awl;
Strive not like the crockery with the wall.
Control yourself, who would control your peer;
And truth shall deliver you, have no fear.

That which is sent, receive in humbleness,
Wrestling for this world asks but a fall.
Here’s not your home, here is but wilderness.
Forth, pilgrim, forth! Forth, beast, out of your stall!
Know your country: look up, thank God for all;
Hold the high way, and let your spirit steer,
And truth shall deliver you, have no fear.

Envoi

Therefore, La Vache, cease your old wretchedness;
To the world cease now to be in thrall;
Cry Him mercy, that out of his high goodness
Made thee from naught, on Him especially call,
Draw unto Him, and pray in general
For yourself, and others, for heavenly cheer;
And truth shall deliver you, have no fear.

But given this is Mercoledi (Wednesday) and I normally post something musical I thought the music of Chaucer’s language would suffice.

On this day in 1852: Great Ormond St Hospital for Sick Children, the first hospital in England to provide in-patient beds specifically for children, is founded in London.