Front Page Titles (by Subject) XVIII.: THE COMPLEYNT OF VENUS. - The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, vol. 1 (Romaunt of the Rose, Minor Poems)
Return to Title Page for The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, vol. 1 (Romaunt of the Rose, Minor Poems)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
XVIII.: THE COMPLEYNT OF VENUS. - Geoffrey Chaucer, The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, vol. 1 (Romaunt of the Rose, Minor Poems) 
The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, edited from numerous manuscripts by the Rev. Walter W. Skeat (2nd ed.) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1899). 7 vols.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
THE COMPLEYNT OF VENUS.
[1. ]F. high; T. A. hye (hy is better).
[2. ]F. When; eny.
[4. ]F. manhod; the rest have final e.
[5. ]F. stidfastnesse.
[6. ]F. whiles; A. whilest; rest while.
[7. ]F. oght; Tn. oghte to.
[9. ]F. ys bounte. F. T. A. Th. insert and after wisdom; but the rest omit it.
[10. ]F. eny manes witte.
[11. ]F. wolde (wrongly); Ff. wold. F. ferforthe.
[12. ]F. parfite.
[14. ]F. well.
[16. ]F. preysith.
[18. ]F. hert; grete.
[19. ]F. werk.
[21. ]F. sikirnesse.
[22. ]F. oght.
[25. ]F. certis.
[26. ]T. A. Tn. Th. thy; F. Ff. the.
[27. ]F. a-bed; T. A. a-bedde.
[28. ]F. Wepinge; laugh; sing; compleynynge.
[29. ]F. cast; the rest caste. F. lokynge.
[30. ]F. chaunge visage (wrongly); change hewe in MS. Arch. Selden, B. 24; T. A. chaunge huwe.
[31. ]MSS. Pley, Pleye; read Pleyne (F. Plaindre). F. dreme; T. Tn. Ff. Th. dremen.
[32. ]F. reuerse; eny.
[33. ]Ff. T. Ialousye; F. Ielosie. Ff. P. be; F. Th. he (!). Ialousye be] T. þaughe Ialousye wer. T. Tn. Th. by; F. be; Ff. with.
[34. ]F. wold; thro; espyinge.
[35. ]F. dothe.
[36. ]F. nys harme; ymagenynge.
[37. ]F. yevynge.
[38. ]F. yifeth. Ff. withouten; rest withoute.
[40. ]F. reuerse; felynge.
[42. ]T. Ff. encomberous; F. encombrouse. F. vsynge.
[43. ]Tn. sotell; F. subtil. F. Ielosie.
[44. ]T. destourbing; F. derturbynge (sic).
[45. ]F. suffrynge; P. sufferyng; T. souffering.
[46. ]F. Ff. noun-certeyn; T. noun-certaine; A. nouncerteine. F. langvisshen.
[47. ]F. harde. F. wrongly repeats penaunce; T. A. meschaunce.
[48. ]F. reuerse; ony; felynge.
[49. ]F. certys; not.
[50. ]F. youre; ment.
[51. ]F. be; the rest ben or been.
[52. ]F. wil; T. A. Ff. wol. F. assent.
[53. ]F. fors; turment.
[55. ]F. certys.
[56. ]F. om. ne, which T. A. P. insert; Ar. has that. Tn. inserts me before never.
[57. ]F. certis; when.
[58. ]F. eny estate; represent.
[59. ]F. Tn. Then; rest Than, Thanne, Thane. T. Ff. P. maked; rest made. F. thro.
[60. ]F. went.
[61. ]F. hert; loke; stent.
[62. ]P. Ielous; A. Ialous; T. Ialouse; F. Ielousie. A. putte; F. put.
[63. ]F. peyn wille I not.
[64. ]F. yow (for him); T. A. Tn. Ar. him (see l. 56).
[65. ]F. Hert; the; ought ynogh.
[66. ]F. highe; T. A. hye. T. A. Ff. Ar. thee; F. yow; Tn. you. F. sent.
[67. ]F. al.
[68. ]F. entent.
[69. ]F. went.
[70. ]F. Sithe. F. Tn. ye (for I); rest I.
[71. ]All but Ju. (Julian Notary’s edition) repeat this before lay.
[73. ]T. A. Pryncesse; rest Princes. F. resseyueth.
[74. ]F. excelent benignite.
[75. ]F. Directe aftir.
[76. ]F. elde.
[77. ]Tn. soteltee; F. subtilite.
[78. ]F. nighe.
[79. ]F. eke; grete.
[80. ]F. ryme; englissh hat (sic) such skarsete.
[81. ]F. worde by worde; curiosite.
[82. ]F. floure; maken.
[1.]We must suppose Venus, i. e. the lady, to be the speaker. Hence the subject of the first Ballad is the worthiness of the lover of Venus, in another word, of Mars; indeed, in Julian Notary’s edition, the poem is headed ‘The Compleint of Venus for Mars.’ But Mars is merely to be taken as a general type of true knighthood.
[9.]This portrait of a worthy knight should be placed side by side with that of a worthy lady, viz. Constance. See Man of Law’s Tale, B 162-8.
[11.]Wold, willed. The later E. would is dead, as a past participle, and only survives as a past tense. It is scarce even in Middle English, but occurs in P. Plowman, B. xv. 258—‘if God hadde wolde [better wold] hym-selue.’ See also Leg. Good Women, 1209, and note.
[22.]Aventure, luck; in this case, good luck.
[23.]Here is certainly a false rime; Chaucer nowhere else rimes -oure with -ure. But the conditions under which the poem was written were quite exceptional (see note to l. 79); so that this is no proof that the poem is spurious. There is a false rime in Sir Topas, Group B, l. 2092 (see my note).
[25.]In this second Ballad or Movement, an element of disturbance is introduced; jealous suspicions arise, but are put aside. Like the third Ballad, it is addressed to Love, which occurs, in the vocative case, in ll. 25, 49, and 57.
[26.]Men, one; the impersonal pronoun; quite as applicable to a woman as to a man. Cf. F. on.
[31.]The French text shews that we must read Pleyne, not Pleye; besides, it makes better sense. This correction is due to Mr. Paget Toynbee; see his Specimens of Old French, p. 492.
[33.]‘May Jealousy be hanged, for she is so inquisitive that she would like to know everything. She suspects everything, however innocent.’ Such is the general sense.
[37.]The final e in lov-e is sounded, being preserved from elision by the cæsura. The sense is—‘so dearly is love purchased in (return for) what he gives; he often gives inordinately, but bestows more sorrow than pleasure.’
[46.]Nouncerteyn, uncertainty; as in Troilus, i. 337. A parallel formation to nounpower, impotence, which occurs in Chaucer’s tr. of Boethius, bk. iii. pr. 5, l. 14.
[49.]In this third Ballad, Venus says she is glad to continue in her love, and contemns jealousy. She is thankful for her good fortune, and will never repent her choice.
[50.]Lace, snare, entanglement. Chaucer speaks of the lace of love, and the lace of Venus; Kn. Tale, 959, 1093 (A 1817, 1951).
[52.]To lete of, to leave off, desist.
[56.]All the MSS. read never; yet I believe it should be nat (not).
[62.]‘Let the jealous (i. e. Jealousy) put it to the test, (and so prove) that I will never, for any woe, change my mind.’
[69.]Wey, highroad. Wente, footpath.
[70.]The reading ye, for I, is out of the question; for herte is addressed as thou. So in l. 66, we must needs read thee, not you.
[73.]Princess. As the MSS. vary between Princesse and Princes, it is difficult to know whether the Envoy is addressed to a princess or to princes. It is true that Fortune seems to be addressed to three princes collectively, but this is unusual, and due to the peculiar form of that Envoy, which is supposed to be spoken by Fortune, not by the author. Moreover, the MSS. of Fortune have only the readings Princes and Princis; not one of them has Princesse.
[76.]Eld, old age. See a similar allusion in Lenvoy to Scogan, 35, 38.
[79.]Penaunce, great trouble. The great trouble was caused, not by Chaucer’s having any difficulty in finding rimes (witness his other Ballads), but in having to find rimes, to translate somewhat closely, and yet to adapt the poem in a way acceptable to the ‘princess,’ all at once. See further in the Introduction.
[81.]Curiositee, i. e. intricacy of metre. The line is too long. I would read To folwe in word the curiositee; and thus get rid of the puzzling phrase word by word, which looks like a gloss.
[82.]Graunson. He is here called the flower of the poets of France. He was, accordingly, not an Englishman. According to Shirley, he was a knight of Savoy, which is correct. Sir Oto de Graunson received an annuity of £126 13s. 4d. from Richard II., in November, 1393, for services rendered; see the mention of him in the Patent Rolls, 17 Rich. II., p. 1, no. 339, sixth skin; printed in Furnivall’s Trial Forewords, p. 123. It is there expressly said that his sovereign seigneur was the Count of Savoy, but he had taken an oath of allegiance to the king of England. The same Graunson received a payment from Richard in 1372, and at other times. See the article by Dr. Piaget referred to in the Introduction.