John Gower

“The Tale of Terius”
from the Confessio Amanits

  • Ther was a real noble king,
  • And riche of alle worldee thing,
  • Which of his propre enheritance
  • Athenes hadde in governance,
  • And who so thenke therupon,
  • His name was King Pandion.
  • Tuo douhtres hadde he be his wif,
  • The whiche he lovede as his lif.
  • The ferste douhter Progné hihte,
    was called Procne
  • And the secounde, as sche wel mihte,
  • Was cleped faire Philomene,
  • To whom fell after mochel tene.
  • The fader of his pourveance
  • His doughter Progné wolde avance,
  • And gaf hire unto mariage
  • A worthi king of hih lignage,
  • A noble kniht eke of his hond,
  • So was he kid in every lond,
  • Of Trace he hihte Tereus;
    was called
  • The clerk Ovide telleth thus.
  • This Tereus his wif hom ladde;
  • A lusti lif with hire he hadde,
  • Til it befell upon a tyde,
  • This Progné, as sche lay him besyde,
  • Bethoughte hir hou it mihte be
  • That sche hir soster myhte se,
  • And to hir lord hir will sche seide
  • With goodly wordes, and him preide
  • That sche to hire mihte go,
  • And if it liked him noght so,
    did not please him
  • That thanne he wolde himselve wende,
  • Or elles be som other sende,
    someone else
  • Which mihte hire diere soster griete,
  • And schape hou that thei mihten miete.
    figure out houw;meet
  • Hir lord anon to that he herde
    at once to what he heard
  • Gaf his acord, and thus ansuerde:
  • ‘I wole,’ he seide, ‘for thi sake
  • The weie after thi soster take
  • Miself, and bringe hire, if I may.’
  • And sche with that, there as he lay,
  • Began him in hire armes clippe
  • And kist him with hir softe lippe,
  • And seide, ‘Sire, grant mercy.’
  • And he sone after was redy,
  • And tok his leve for to go;
  • In sori time dede he so.
  • This Tereus goth forth to schipe
  • With him and with his felaschipe.
  • Be see the rihte cours he nam,
  • Into the contré til he cam
  • Wher Philomene was duellinge,
  • And of hir soster the tidinge
  • He tolde, and tho thei weren glade,
  • And mochel joie of him thei made.
  • The fader and the moder bothe
  • To leve here douhter weren lothe,
    leave their
  • Bot if thei weren in presence.
    Unless;were in attendance
  • And natheles at reverence
    out of respect
  • Of him, that wolde himself travaile,
    For;carry out the mission
  • Thei wolden noght he scholde faile
  • Of that he preide, and give hire leve.
    asked;their permission
  • And sche, that wolde noght beleve,
    be left behind
  • In alle haste made hire yare
    made herself ready
  • Toward hir soster for to fare
  • With Tereus, and forth sche wente.
  • And he, with al his hole entente
  • Whan sche was fro hir frendes go
  • Assoteth of hire love so,
    Became so besotted with love of her
  • His yhe myhte he noght withholde,
    [That] his eye
  • That he ne moste on hir beholde.
  • And with the sihte he gan desire
  • And sette his oghne herte on fyre.
  • And fyr, whan it to tow aprocheth,
  • To him anon the strengthe acrocheth,
    To itself at once gathers
  • Til with his hete it be devoured;
    its heat
  • The tow ne mai noght be socoured.
  • And so that tirant raviner,
    tyrannical ravager
  • Whan that sche was in his pouer
  • And he therto sawh time and place,
  • As he that lost hath alle grace
  • Forgat he was a wedded man,
  • And in a rage on hire he ran,
  • Riht as a wolf which takth his preie.
  • And sche began to crie and preie,
  • ‘O fader, o mi moder diere,
  • Nou help!’ Bot thei ne mihte it hiere,
  • And sche was of to litel myht
  • Defense agein so ruide a knyht
  • To make, whanne he was so wod
  • That he no reson understod,
  • Bot hield hire under in such wise
  • That sche ne myhte noght arise,
  • Bot lay oppressed and desesed
  • As if a goshauk hadde sesed
  • A brid, which dorste noght for fere
    who dared not;fear
  • Remue: and thus this tirant there
  • Beraft hire such thing as men sein
  • Mai neveremor be yolde agein,
  • And that was the virginité:
  • Of such Ravine it was pité.
  • Bot whan sche to hirselven com,
  • And of hir meschief hiede nom,
    took heed
  • And knew hou that sche was no maide,
  • With wofull herte thus sche saide:
  • ‘O thou of alle men the worste,
  • Wher was ther evere man that dorste
  • Do such a dede as thou hast do?
    What you have done;force
  • That dai schal falle, I hope so,
  • That I schal telle out al mi fille,
  • And with mi speche I schal fulfille
  • The wyde world in brede and lengthe.
  • That thou hast do to me be strengthe,
  • If I among the poeple duelle,
  • Unto the poeple I schal it telle;
  • And if I be withinne wall
  • Of stones closed, thanne I schal
  • Unto the stones clepe and crie,
  • And tellen hem thi felonie;
  • And if I to the wodes wende,
  • Ther schal I tellen tale and ende,
  • And crie it to the briddes oute,
  • That thei schul hiere it al aboute.
  • For I so loude it schal reherce,
  • That my vois schal the hevene perce,
  • That it schal soune in Goddes ere.
  • Ha, false man, where is thi fere?
  • O mor cruel than eny beste,
  • Hou hast thou holden thi beheste
  • Which thou unto my soster madest?
  • O thou, which alle love ungladest,
  • And art ensample of alle untrewe,
  • Nou wolde God mi soster knewe,
  • Of thin untrouthe, hou that it stod!’
  • And he thanne as a lyon wod
  • With hise unhappi handes stronge
  • Hire cauhte be the tresses longe,
  • With whiche he bond ther bothe hire armes –
  • That was a fieble dede of armes –
  • And to the grounde anon hire caste,
  • And out he clippeth also faste
  • Hire tunge with a peire scheres.
  • So what with blod and what with teres
  • Out of hire yhe and of hir mouth,
  • He made hire faire face uncouth.
  • Sche lay swounende unto the deth,
  • Ther was unethes eny breth.
  • Bot yit whan he hire tunge refte,
  • A litel part therof belefte,
    was left
  • Bot sche with al no word mai soune,
  • Bot chitre and as a brid jargoune.
  • And natheles that wode hound
    insane friend
  • Hir bodi hent up fro the ground,
  • And sente hir there as be his wille
    [to a place] where
  • Sche scholde abyde in prison stille
  • Foreveremo. Bot nou tak hiede
  • What after fell of this misdede.
  • Whanne al this meschief was befalle,
  • This Tereus – that foule him falle! –
    who may evile befall
  • Unto his contré hom he tyh;
  • And whan he com his paleis nyh,
  • His wif al redi there him kepte.
  • Whan he hir sih, anon he wepte,
  • And that he dede for deceite.
  • For sche began to axe him streite,
  • ‘Wher is mi soster?’ And he seide
  • That sche was ded; and Progné abreide,
  • As sche that was a wofull wif,
  • And stod betuen hire deth and lif,
  • Of that sche herde such tidinge.
  • Bot for sche sih hire lord wepinge,
  • Sche wende noght bot alle trouthe,
  • And hadde wel the more routhe.
  • The perles weren tho forsake
  • To hire, and blake clothes take;
  • As sche that was gentil and kinde,
  • In worschipe of hir sostres mynde
  • Sche made a riche enterement,
  • For sche fond non amendement
  • To syghen or to sobbe more:
  • So was ther guile under the gore.
  • Nou leve we this king and queene,
  • And torne agein to Philomene,
  • As I began to tellen erst.
  • Whan sche cam into prison ferst,
  • It thoghte a kinges douhter strange
  • To maken so soudein a change
  • Fro welthe unto so grete a wo;
  • And sche began to thenke tho,
  • Thogh sche be mouthe nothing preide,
  • Withinne hir herte thus sche seide:
  • ‘O thou, almyhty Jupiter,
  • That hihe sist and lokest fer,
  • Thou soffrest many a wrong doinge,
  • And yit it is noght thi willinge.
  • To thee ther mai nothing ben hid,
  • Thou wost hou it is me betid.
  • I wolde I hadde noght be bore,
  • For thanne I hadde noght forlore
  • Mi speche and mi virginité.
  • Bot, goode lord, al is in thee,
  • Whan thou therof wolt do vengance
  • And schape mi deliverance.’
  • And evere among this ladi wepte,
  • And thoghte that sche nevere kepte
  • To ben a worldes womman more,
  • And that sche wissheth everemore.
  • Bot ofte unto hir soster diere
  • Hire herte spekth in this manere,
  • And seide, ‘Ha, soster, if ye knewe
  • Of myn astat, ye wolde rewe,
  • I trowe, and my deliverance
  • Ye wolde schape, and do vengance
  • On him that is so fals a man.
  • And natheles, so as I can,
  • I wol you sende som tokninge,
  • Wherof ye schul have knowlechinge
  • Of thing I wot, that schal you lothe,
  • The which you toucheth and me bothe.’
  • And tho withinne a whyle als tyt
  • Sche waf a cloth of selk al whyt
  • With lettres and ymagerie,
  • In which was al the felonie
  • Which Tereus to hire hath do;
  • And lappede it togedre tho
  • And sette hir signet therupon
  • And sende it unto Progné anon.
  • The messager which forth it bar,
  • What it amonteth is noght war;
  • And natheles to Progné he goth
  • And prively takth hire the cloth,
  • And wente agein riht as he cam.
  • The court of him non hiede nam.
  • Whan Progné of Philomene herde,
  • Sche wolde knowe hou that it ferde,
  • And opneth that the man hath broght,
  • And wot therby what hath be wroght
  • And what meschief ther is befalle.
  • In swoune tho sche gan doun falle,
  • And efte aros and gan to stonde,
  • And eft sche takth the cloth on honde,
  • Behield the lettres and th’ymages.
  • Bot ate laste, ‘Of suche oultrages,’
  • Sche seith, ‘wepinge is noght the bote,’
  • And swerth, if that sche live mote,
  • It schal be venged otherwise.
  • And with that sche gan hire avise
  • Hou ferst sche mihte unto hire winne
  • Hir soster, that no man withinne,
  • Bot only thei that were suore,
  • It scholde knowe, and schop therfore
  • That Tereus nothing it wiste;
  • And yit riht as hirselven liste,
  • Hir soster was delivered sone
  • Out of prison, and be the mone
  • To Progné sche was broght be nyhte.
  • Whan ech of other hadde a sihte,
  • In chambre, ther thei were alone,
  • Thei maden many a pitous mone;
  • Bot Progné most of sorwe made,
  • Which sihe hir soster pale and fade
  • And specheles and deshonoured,
  • Of that sche hadde be defloured;
  • And ek upon hir lord sche thoghte,
  • Of that he so untreuly wroghte
  • And hadde his espousaile broke.
  • Sche makth a vou it schal be wroke,
  • And with that word sche kneleth doun
  • Wepinge in gret devocioun.
  • Unto Cupide and to Venus
  • Sche preide and seide thanne thus:
  • ‘O ye, to whom nothing asterte
  • Of love mai, for every herte
  • Ye knowe, as ye that ben above
  • The god and the goddesse of love:
  • Ye witen wel that evere yit
  • With al mi will and al my wit,
  • Sith ferst ye schopen me to wedde,
  • That I lay with mi lord abedde,
  • I have be trewe in mi degré,
  • And evere thoghte for to be,
  • And nevere love in other place,
  • Bot al only the king of Trace,
  • Which is mi lord and I his wif.
  • Bot nou allas this wofull strif!
  • That I him thus ageinward finde
  • The most untrewe and most unkinde
  • That evere in ladi armes lay.
  • And wel I wot that he ne may
  • Amende his wrong, it is so gret;
  • For he to lytel of me let,
  • Whan he myn oughne soster tok,
  • And me that am his wif forsok.’
  • Lo, thus to Venus and Cupide
  • Sche preide, and furthermor sche cride
  • Unto Appollo the hiheste,
  • And seide, ‘O myhti god of reste,
  • Thou do vengance of this debat.
  • Mi soster and al hire astat
  • Thou wost, and hou sche hath forlore
  • Hir maidenhod, and I therfore
  • In al the world schal bere a blame
  • Of that mi soster hath a schame,
  • That Tereus to hire I sente.
  • And wel thou wost that myn entente
  • Was al for worschipe and for goode.
  • O lord, that gifst the lives fode
  • To every wyht, I prei thee hiere
  • Thes wofull sostres that ben hiere,
  • And let ous noght to thee ben lothe;
  • We ben thin oghne wommen bothe.’
  • Thus pleigneth Progné and axeth wreche,
  • As, thogh hire soster lacke speche,
  • To him that alle thinges wot
  • Hire sorwe is noght the lasse hot.
  • Bot he that thanne had herd hem tuo,
  • Him oughte have sorwed everemo
  • For sorwe which was hem betuene.
  • With signes pleigneth Philomene,
  • And Progné seith, ‘It schal be wreke,
  • That al the world therof schal speke.’
  • And Progné tho seknesse feigneth,
  • Wherof unto hir lord sche pleigneth,
  • And preith sche moste hire chambres kepe,
  • And as hir liketh wake and slepe.
  • And he hire granteth to be so;
  • And thus togedre ben thei tuo,
  • That wolde him bot a litel good.
  • Nou herk hierafter hou it stod
  • Of wofull auntres that befelle:
  • Thes sostres, that ben bothe felle
  • (And that was noght on hem along,
  • Bot onliche on the grete wrong
  • Which Tereus hem hadde do),
  • Thei schopen for to venge hem tho.
  • This Tereus be Progné his wif
  • A sone hath, which as his lif
  • He loveth, and Ithis he hihte:
  • His moder wiste wel sche mihte
  • Do Tereus no more grief
  • Than sle this child, which was so lief.
  • Thus sche, that was, as who seith, mad
  • Of wo, which hath hir overlad,
  • Withoute insihte of moderhede
  • Forgat pité and loste drede,
  • And in hir chambre prively
  • This child withouten noise or cry
  • Sche slou, and hieu him al to pieces.
  • And after with diverse spieces
  • The fleissh, whan it was so toheewe,
  • Sche takth, and makth therof a sewe,
  • With which the fader at his mete
  • Was served, til he hadde him ete;
  • That he ne wiste hou that it stod,
  • Bot thus his oughne fleissh and blod
  • Himself devoureth agein kinde,
  • As he that was tofore unkinde.
  • And thanne, er that he were arise,
  • For that he scholde ben agrise,
  • To schewen him the child was ded,
  • This Philomene tok the hed
  • Betwen tuo disshes, and al wrothe
  • Tho comen forth the sostres bothe,
  • And setten it upon the bord.
  • And Progné tho began the word,
  • And seide, ‘O werste of alle wicke,
  • Of conscience whom no pricke
  • Mai stere, lo, what thou hast do!
  • Lo, hier be nou we sostres tuo;
  • O raviner, lo hier thi preie,
  • With whom so falsliche on the weie
  • Thou hast thi tirannye wroght.
  • Lo, nou it is somdel aboght,
  • And bet it schal, for of thi dede
  • The world schal evere singe and rede
  • In remembrance of thi defame.
  • For thou to love hast do such schame,
  • That it schal nevere be forgete.’
  • With that he sterte up fro the mete,
  • And schof the bord unto the flor,
  • And cauhte a swerd anon and suor
  • That thei scholde of his hondes dye
  • And thei unto the goddes crie
  • Begunne with so loude a stevene,
  • That thei were herd unto the hevene;
  • And in a twinclinge of an yhe
  • The goddes, that the meschief syhe,
  • Here formes changen alle thre.
  • Ech on of hem in his degré
  • Was torned into briddes kinde;
  • Diverseliche, as men mai finde,
  • After th’astat that thei were inne,
  • Here formes were set atwinne.
  • And as it telleth in the tale,
  • The ferst into a nyhtingale
  • Was schape, and that was Philomene,
  • Which in the wynter is noght sene,
  • For thanne ben the leves falle
  • And naked ben the buisshes alle.
  • For after that sche was a brid,
  • Hir will was evere to ben hid,
  • And for to duelle in privé place,
  • That no man scholde sen hir face
  • For schame, which mai noght be lassed,
  • Of thing that was tofore passed,
  • Whan that sche loste hir maidenhiede.
  • Forevere upon hir wommanhiede,
  • Thogh that the goddes wolde hire change,
  • Sche thenkth, and is the more strange,
  • And halt hir clos the wyntres day.
  • Bot whan the wynter goth away,
  • And that Nature the goddesse
  • Wole of hir oughne fre largesse
  • With herbes and with floures bothe
  • The feldes and the medwes clothe,
  • And ek the wodes and the greves
  • Ben heled al with grene leves,
  • So that a brid hire hyde mai,
  • Betwen Averil and March and Maii,
  • Sche that the wynter hield hir clos,
  • For pure schame and noght aros,
  • Whan that sche seth the bowes thikke,
  • And that ther is no bare sticke,
  • Bot al is hid with leves grene,
  • To wode comth this Philomene
  • And makth hir ferste yeres flyht;
  • Wher as sche singeth day and nyht,
  • And in hir song al openly
  • Sche makth hir pleignte and seith, ‘O why,
  • O why ne were I yit a maide?’
  • For so these olde wise saide,
  • Which understoden what sche mente,
  • Hire notes ben of such entente.
  • And ek thei seide hou in hir song
  • Sche makth gret joie and merthe among,
  • And seith, ‘Ha, nou I am a brid,
  • Ha, nou mi face mai ben hid.
  • Thogh I have lost mi maidenhede,
  • Schal no man se my chekes rede.’
  • Thus medleth sche with joie wo
  • And with hir sorwe merthe also,
  • So that of loves maladie
  • Sche makth diverse melodie,
  • And seith love is a wofull blisse,
  • A wisdom which can no man wisse,
  • A lusti fievere, a wounde softe:
  • This note sche reherceth ofte
  • To hem whiche understonde hir tale.
  • Nou have I of this nyhtingale,
  • Which erst was cleped Philomene,
  • Told al that evere I wolde mene,
  • Bothe of hir forme and of hir note,
  • Wherof men mai the storie note.
  • And of hir soster Progné I finde,
  • Hou sche was torned out of kinde
  • Into a swalwe swift of winge,
  • Which ek in wynter lith swounynge,
  • Ther as sche mai nothing be sene.
  • Bot whan the world is woxe grene
  • And comen is the somertide,
  • Than fleth sche forth and ginth to chide,
  • And chitreth out in hir langage
  • What falshod is in mariage,
  • And telleth in a maner speche
  • Of Tereus the spousebreche.
  • Sche wol noght in the wodes duelle,
  • For sche wolde openliche telle;
  • And ek for that sche was a spouse,
  • Among the folk sche comth to house,
  • To do thes wyves understonde
  • The falshod of here housebonde,
  • That thei of hem be war also,
  • For ther ben manye untrewe of tho.
  • Thus ben the sostres briddes bothe,
  • And ben toward the men so lothe,
  • That thei ne wole of pure schame
  • Unto no mannes hand be tame.
  • Forevere it duelleth in here mynde
  • Of that thei founde a man unkinde,
  • And that was false Tereus.
  • If such on be amonges ous
  • I not, bot his condicion
  • Men sein in every region
  • Withinne toune and ek withoute
  • Nou regneth comunliche aboute.
  • And natheles in remembrance
  • I wol declare what vengance
  • The goddes hadden him ordeined,
  • Of that the sostres hadden pleigned.
  • For anon after he was changed
  • And from his oghne kinde stranged,
  • A lappewincke mad he was,
  • And thus he hoppeth on the gras,
  • And on his hed ther stant upriht
  • A creste in tokne he was a kniht;
  • And yit unto this dai men seith,
  • A lappewincke hath lore his feith
  • And is the brid falseste of alle.
  • [Confessor] Bewar, mi sone, er thee so falle;
  • For if thou be of such covine,
  • To gete of love be Ravine
  • Thi lust, it mai thee falle thus,
  • As it befell of Tereus.”
  • [Amans]”Mi fader, goddes forebode!
  • Me were levere be fortrode
  • With wilde hors and be todrawe,
  • Er I agein love and his lawe
  • Dede eny thing or loude or stille,
  • Which were noght mi ladi wille.
  • Men sein that every love hath drede;
  • So folweth it that I hire drede,
  • For I hire love, and who so dredeth,
  • To plese his love and serve him nedeth.
  • Thus mai ye knowen be this skile
  • That no Ravine don I wile
  • Agein hir will be such a weie.
  • Bot while I live, I wol obeie
  • Abidinge on hire courtesie,
  • If eny merci wolde hir plie.
  • Forthi, mi fader, as of this
  • I wot noght I have don amis.
  • Bot furthermore I you beseche,
  • Som other point that ye me teche,
  • And axeth forth, if ther be auht,
  • That I mai be the betre tauht.”
  • [Robbery]
  • Uiuat vt ex spoliis grandi quamsepe tumultu,
  • Quo graditur populus, latro perurget iter.
  • Sic amor, ex casu poterit quo carpere predam,
  • Si locus est aptus, cetera nulla timet.11
  • [Confessor]”Whan Covoitise in povere astat
  • Stant with himself upon debat
  • Thurgh lacke of his misgovernance,
  • That he unto his sustienance
  • Ne can non other weie finde
  • To gete him good, thanne as the blinde,
    the blind man
  • Which seth noght what schal after falle,
    Who sees
  • That ilke vice which men calle
  • Of Robberie, he takth on honde;
  • Wherof be water and be londe
  • Of thing which othre men beswinke
    produce by labor
  • He get him cloth and mete and drinke.
  • Him reccheth noght what he beginne,
    it does not concern himn
  • Thurgh thefte so that he mai winne.
  • Forthi to maken his pourchas
  • He lith awaitende on the pas,
  • And what thing that he seth ther passe,
  • He takth his part, or more or lasse,
  • If it be worthi to be take.
  • He can the packes wel ransake,
  • So prively berth non aboute
  • His gold, that he ne fint it oute,
    may not discover it
  • Or other juel, what it be;
  • He takth it as his propreté.
  • In wodes and in feldes eke
  • Thus Robberie goth to seke,
  • Wher as he mai his pourpos finde.
  • And riht so in the same kinde,
  • Mi goode sone, as thou miht hiere,
  • To speke of love in the matiere
  • And make a verrai resemblance,
  • Riht as a thief makth his chevance
  • And robbeth mennes good aboute
  • In wode and field, wher he goth oute,
  • So be ther of these lovers some,
  • In wylde stedes wher thei come
  • And finden there a womman able,
  • And therto place covenable,
  • Withoute leve, er that thei fare,
  • Thei take a part of that chaffare:
  • Yee, though sche were a scheperdesse,
  • Yit wol the lord of wantounesse
  • Assaie, althogh sche be unmete,
  • For other mennes good is swete.
  • Bot therof wot nothing the wif
  • At hom, which loveth as hir lif
  • Hir lord, and sitt alday wisshinge
  • After hir lordes hom comynge.
  • Bot whan that he comth hom at eve,
  • Anon he makth his wif beleve,
  • For sche noght elles scholde knowe.
  • He telth hire hou his hunte hath blowe,
  • And hou his houndes have wel runne,
  • And hou ther schon a merye sunne,
  • And hou his haukes flowen wel;
  • Bot he wol telle hire nevere a diel
  • Hou he to love untrewe was,
  • Of that he robbede in the pas,
  • And tok his lust under the schawe
  • Agein love and agein his lawe.
    Against its law
  • [Confessor]Which thing, mi sone, I thee forbede,
  • For it is an ungoodly dede.
  • For who that takth be Robberie
  • His love, he mai noght justefie
  • His cause, and so fulofte sithe
  • For ones that he hath be blithe
  • He schal ben after sory thries.
  • Ensample of suche Robberies
  • I finde write, as thou schalt hiere,
  • Acordende unto this matiere.
  • Source:

    Gower, John. “Tale of Tereus, Procne, and Philomena.” Confessio Amantis. Ed. Russell A. Peck. Trans. Andrew Galloway. Vol. 3. Michigan: Medieval Institute, 2004. University of Rochester. Web. 12 Apr. 2016. <>



    Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

    Anthology of Medieval Literature Copyright © 2021 by Christian Beck is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

    Share This Book