1 Ther was, as telleth Titus Livius,
There was, as Titus Livius tells,
2 A knyght that called was Virginius,
A knight who was called Virginius,
3 Fulfild of honour and of worthynesse,
Filled with honor and with worthiness,
4 And strong of freendes, and of greet richesse.
And having powerful friends, and great wealth.
5 This knyght a doghter hadde by his wyf;
This knight had a daughter by his wife;
6 No children hadde he mo in al his lyf.
No more children had he in all his life.
7 Fair was this mayde in excellent beautee
Fair was this maid in excellent beauty
8 Aboven every wight that man may see;
Above every person that one may see;
9 For Nature hath with sovereyn diligence
For Nature has with her greatest diligence
10 Yformed hire in so greet excellence,
Formed her in such great excellence,
11 As though she wolde seyn, "Lo! I, Nature,
As though she would say, "Lo! I, Nature,
12 Thus kan I forme and peynte a creature,
Thus can I form and paint a creature,
13 Whan that me list; who kan me countrefete?
When I wish; who can counterfeit my work?
14 Pigmalion noght, though he ay forge and bete,
Not Pygmalion, though he always forge and beat,
15 Or grave, or peynte; for I dar wel seyn
Or carve, or paint; for I dare well say
16 Apelles, Zanzis, sholde werche in veyn
Apelles or Zeuxis, should work in vain
17 Outher to grave, or peynte, or forge, or bete,
Either to carve, or paint, or forge, or beat,
18 If they presumed me to countrefete.
If they presumed to imitate me.
19 For He that is the formere principal
For He who is the principal creator
20 Hath maked me his vicaire general,
Has appointed me his Chief Deputy,
21 To forme and peynten erthely creaturis
To form and paint earthly creatures
22 Right as me list, and ech thyng in my cure is
Right as I wish, and in my control is each thing
23 Under the moone, that may wane and waxe,
Under the moon, which may grow less or grow larger,
24 And for my werk right no thyng wol I axe;
And nothing at all will I ask for my work;
25 My lord and I been ful of oon accord.
My lord and I are fully in agreement.
26 I made hire to the worshipe of my lord;
I made her to the worship of my lord;
27 So do I alle myne othere creatures,
So do I all my other creatures,
28 What colour that they han or what figures."
Whatever complexion they have or whatever shapes."
29 Thus semeth me that Nature wolde seye.
It seems to me that Nature would say thus.
30 This mayde of age twelve yeer was and tweye,
This maid was twelve years of age and two,
31 In which that Nature hadde swich delit.
In whom Nature had such delight.
32 For right as she kan peynte a lilie whit,
For just as she can paint a lily white,
33 And reed a rose, right with swich peynture
And a rose red, just so with such pigments
34 She peynted hath this noble creature,
Has she painted this noble creature,
35 Er she were born, upon hir lymes fre,
Before she was born, upon her noble limbs,
36 Where as by right swiche colours sholde be;
Where such colors should rightly be;
37 And Phebus dyed hath hire tresses grete
And Phebus has dyed her great tresses
38 Lyk to the stremes of his burned heete.
Resembling the rays of his burnished sunbeams.
39 And if that excellent was hire beautee,
And if her beauty was excellent,
40 A thousand foold moore vertuous was she.
A thousand times more virtuous was she.
41 In hire ne lakked no condicioun
In her there lacked no characteristic
42 That is to preyse, as by discrecioun.
That is to be praised by (one with) sound moral judgement.
43 As wel in goost as body chast was she,
As well in spirit as in body chaste was she,
44 For which she floured in virginitee
For which she flourished in virginity
45 With alle humylitee and abstinence,
With all humility and abstinence,
46 With alle attemperaunce and pacience,
With all temperance and patience,
47 With mesure eek of beryng and array.
With moderation also in demeanor and dress.
48 Discreet she was in answeryng alway;
She was always discreet in conversation;
49 Though she were wis as Pallas, dar I seyn,
Though she was wise as Pallas, I dare say,
50 Hir facound eek ful wommanly and pleyn,
Her manner of speaking was also very womanly and plain,
51 No countrefeted termes hadde she
No pretentious terms had she
52 To seme wys, but after hir degree
To seem wise, but in accordance with her rank in life
53 She spak, and alle hire wordes, moore and lesse,
She spoke, and all her words, long speeches and brief,
54 Sownynge in vertu and in gentillesse.
In accord with virtue and nobility.
55 Shamefast she was in maydens shamefastnesse,
Modest she was in maidenly modesty,
56 Constant in herte, and evere in bisynesse
Constant in heart, and ever diligent
57 To dryve hire out of ydel slogardye.
To keep herself away from idle sluggishness.
58 Bacus hadde of hir mouth right no maistrie;
Bacchus had no mastery of her mouth at all;
59 For wyn and youthe dooth Venus encresse,
For wine and youth does increase (the power of) Venus,
60 As men in fyr wol casten oille or greesse.
As if men would cast oil or grease into a fire.
61 And of hir owene vertu, unconstreyned,
And of her own moral strength, of her own free choice,
62 She hath ful ofte tyme syk hire feyned,
She has very often pretended to be ill,
63 For that she wolde fleen the compaignye
Because she wanted to flee the company
64 Where likly was to treten of folye,
Where there was likely to be talk of folly,
65 As is at feestes, revels, and at daunces,
As is at feasts, revels, and at dances,
66 That been occasions of daliaunces.
That provide opportunities for flirtations.
67 Swich thynges maken children for to be
Such things make children to be
68 To soone rype and boold, as men may se,
Too soon ripe and bold, as anyone can see,
69 Which is ful perilous and hath been yoore.
Which is very perilous and has been since long ago,
70 For al to soone may she lerne loore
For all too soon may she learn the lore
71 Of booldnesse, whan she woxen is a wyf.
Of boldness, when she is grown to be a wife.
72 And ye maistresses, in youre olde lyf,
And you mistresses, in your old age,
73 That lordes doghtres han in governaunce,
Who have lords' daughters in governance,
74 Ne taketh of my wordes no displesaunce.
Do not take of my words any displeasure.
75 Thenketh that ye been set in governynges
Think that you are set in charge
76 Of lordes doghtres oonly for two thynges:
Of lords' daughters only for two things:
77 Outher for ye han kept youre honestee,
Either because you have kept your chastity,
78 Or elles ye han falle in freletee,
Or else you have fallen into frailty,
79 And knowen wel ynough the olde daunce,
And know very well the tricks of the trade,
80 And han forsaken fully swich meschaunce
And have fully renounced such misconduct
81 For everemo; therfore, for Cristes sake,
For evermore; therefore, for Christ's sake,
82 To teche hem vertu looke that ye ne slake.
Look that you do not desisit from teaching them virtue.
83 A theef of venysoun, that hath forlaft
A thief of venison, who has abandoned
84 His likerousnesse and al his olde craft,
His greedy appetite and all his old craft,
85 Kan kepe a forest best of any man.
Can guard a forest better than any other man.
86 Now kepeth wel, for if ye wole, ye kan.
Now guard well, for if you want (to do it), you can.
87 Looke wel that ye unto no vice assente,
Take good care that you assent unto no vice,
88 Lest ye be dampned for youre wikke entente;
Lest you be damned for your wicked intent;
89 For whoso dooth, a traitour is, certeyn.
For whoever does so, is a traitor, certainly.
90 And taketh kep of that that I shal seyn:
And pay attention to what I shall say:
91 Of alle tresons sovereyn pestilence
Of all betrayals the supreme wickedness