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Excerpt 10: Dialogue between Nature and Genius1

Folio 151va

'Mars et Venus qui ia pris furent

Ansamble ou lit ou il se iurent,
S'il ainz que seur le lit montassent,
En tex mirouers se mirassent
Mes que leurs mirouers tenissent
Si que le lit dedanz veïssent
Ja ne fussent pris ne liez
Es laz soutilz et deliez
'If Mars and Venus, who were captured in bed where they were, had looked at themselves in such a mirror before they got into bed, provided that they held their mirror so that they could see the bed in it, they would never have been taken or bound in the fine, thin nets
Folio 151vb
Que Vulcanus mis i avoit,
De quoi nus d'aus riens ne savoit;
Car s'il les eúst fez d'ouvraigne
Plus soutille que fil d'iraigne,
Eüssent il les laz veüz:
Si fust Vulcanus deceüz,
Car il n'i fussent pas antré,
Car chascuns laz plus d'un grant tré,
Leur parust estre gros et lons,
Si que Vulcanus li felons
Ardanz de ialousie et d'ire
Ja ne prouvast leur avoultire.
Ne ia li dieu riens n'en seüssent
Se cil tex mirouers eüssent,
Car de la place s'en foïssent
Quant les laz tenduz i veïssent
Et corussent ailleurs gesir,
Ou mieuz celassent leur desir,
Ou feïssent quelque chevance
Pour eschever leur mescheance
Sanz estre honiz ne grevez.
Di ie voir, foi que me devez,
De ce que vous avez oï?'
'Certes,' dist li prestres, 'oï!
Cist mirouer, cest chose voire,
Leur fussent lors plus necessaire,
Car ailleurs assambler peüssent
Quant le peril i conneüissent;
Ou a l'espee qui bien taille,
Espoir, Mars, li dex de bataille,
that Vulcan had put there and that neither of them knew anything about. For even if he had made the nets finer than spider web, they would have seen them and Vulcan would have been deceived. For they would not have entered into the trap because every net would have appeared to them thicker and longer than a large beam, and Vulcan, the felon, burning with jealousy and anger, would never have proved their adultery. The gods would never have known anything about it, if they had had such a mirror, for they would have fled from there when they saw the nets stretched out there and run to lie elsewhere, where they might better hide their desire. Or they would have found some solution to avoid their misfortune without being shamed or troubled.  
Do I tell the truth, by the faith you owe me, in what you have heard?'  
'Yes, certainly,' the priest said. 'It is true, these mirrors were of the utmost necessity to them then, for they could have come together elsewhere had they known the danger. Or perhaps Mars, the god of battle,
Folio 152ra
Se fust si du ialous vanchiez
Que ses laz eüst detranchiez.
Lors li peüst an bon eür
Rafetier sa fame asseür
Ou lit, sanz autre place querre,
Ou pres dou lit, neïs a terre.
Et se par aucune avanture
Qui moult fust felonesse et dure,
Danz Vulcanus i seur venist
Lors neïs quant Mars la tenist,
Venus, qui moult est sage dame
Car trop a de barast en fame
Se que quant l'uis oïst ouvrir,
Peüst atans ses rains couvrir,
Bien eüst excusacions
Par quelques cavillacions,
Et controuvast autre acheson
Pour quoi Mars vint en sa mason,
Et iurast quan que l'an vossist,
Tant que ses preuves li tossist
Et li feist a force a croire
C'onques la chose ne fu voire:
Tout l'eüst il neïs veüe,
Deïst ele que la veüe
Li fust occurcie et troublee,
Tant eüst la langue doublee
En diverses plicacions
A trouver excusacions
Car riens ne jure ne ne ment
De fame plus hardiement
would have taken revenge on jealous Vulcan by cutting the nets with his sword that cuts so well. Then he could have satisfied his woman at his ease in bed, without seeking any other place, or near the bed, even on the floor. And if by any chance - and it would have been a cruel, hard one - Dan Vulcan had come upon them there, even when Mars held her, then Venus, a very wise lady - for there is a great deal of fraud in women - if she could have had enough time to cover her loins when she heard the door open, certainly would have had excuses, through some pleasantry, and would have made up some other reason for Mars's presence in the house. And she would have sworn whatever he had liked until she had robbed him of his proofs, and she would have forced him to believe that the thing was never true. Even if he had seen it, she would have said that his sight had been dark and confused. Thus would she have used double talk in different convolutions to find excuses, for nothing swears or lies more boldly than a woman,
Folio 152rb
Si que Mars s'an alast touz quiter.'
'Certes, sire prestres, bien dites sages:
Comme preuz et courtois et sage:
Trop ont fames en leur courages
Et soutilletez et malices
Qui ce ne fet, fos est et nices
N'onc de ce ne les escusom.
Plus hardiemant que nus hom
Certainement jurent et mantent:
Meesmement quant el se santent
De quexque forfez ancourpees.
Ja si ne seront atrapees,
En cest cas especiaument.
Dont bien puis die leaument,
Qui queur de fame apercevoit,
James fier ne s'i devroit.
Non feroit il certainement.
Qu'il l'an mescheroit autrement'
Ainsi s'acordent, ce me samble,
Nature et Genyus ansamble.
Si dist Salemon toutevois,
Puis que par la verité vois,
Que beneüirez hom seroit
Qui bone fame trouveroit.
and Mars would have been acquitted completely.'  
'Certainly you speak well, sir priest, like a worthy, courteous, wise man. Women have too many devious and malicious ways in their hearts, and he who does not know that is a stupid fool. However, we do not excuse women for their ways. Certainly they swear and lie more boldly than any man, particularly when they feel themselves guilty of some misdeed, and they will be especially careful never to get caught in such a deed. Thus I can truthfully say that anyone who sees a woman's heart should never be proud of it. He would not do so safely, since some misfortune would happen to him.'  
Thus, it seemed to me, Nature and Genius agreed with each other. Still, since I want to see the truth, Solomon says that a man who found a good woman would be blessed.


1This passage corresponds to lines 18065 to 18156 in Armand Strubel's edition and in Vol. III, lines 18031 to 18122 in Félix Lecoy's edition.