Cenobia, of palymerie queene,
As writen persiens of hir noblesse,
So worthy was in armes and so keene,
That no wight passed hire in hardynesse,
Ne in lynage, ne in oother gentillesse.
Of kynges blood of perce is she descended.
I seye nat that she hadde moost fairnesse,
But of his shap she myghte nat been amended.
From hire childhede I fynde that she fledde
Office of wommen, and to wode she wente,
And many a wolde hertes blood she shedde
With arwes brode that she to hem sente.
She was so swift that she anon hem hente;
And whan that she was elder, she wolde
Leouns, leopardes, and beres al torente,
And in hire armes weelde hem at hir wille.
She dorste wilde beestes dennes seke,
And rennen in the montaignes al the nyght,
And slepen under a bussh, and she koude eke
Wrastlen, by verray force and varray myght,
With any yong man, were he never so wight.
Ther myghte no thyng in hir armes stonde.
She kepte hir maydenhod from every wight;
To no man deigned hire for to be bonde.
But atte laste hir freendes han hire maried
To odenake, a prynce of that contree,
Al were it so that she hem longe taried.
And ye shul understonde how that he
Hadde swiche fantasies as hadde she.
But natheless, whan they were knyt in-feere,
They lyved in joye and in felicitee;
For ech of hem hadde oother lief and deere.
Save o thyng, that she wolde nevere assente,
By no wey, that he sholde by hire lye
But ones, for it was hire pleyn entente
To have a child, the world to multiplye;
And also soone as that she myghte espye
That she was nat with childe with that dede
Thanne wolde she suffre hym doon his fantasye
Eft-soone, and nat but oones, out of drede. Page 193
And if she were with childe at thilke cast,
Namoore sholde he pleyen thilke game
Til fully fourty wikes weren past;
Thanne wolde she ones suffre hym do the same.
Al were this odenake wolde or tame,
He gat namoore of hire, for thus she seyde,
It was to wyves lecherie and shame,
In oother caas, if that men with hem pleyde.
Two sones by this odenake hadde she,
The whiche she kepte in verty and lettrure;
But now unto oure tale turne we.
I seye, so worshipful a creature,
And wys therwith, and large with mesure,
So penyble in the werre, and curteis eke,
Ne moore laboure myghte in werre endure,
Was noon, though al this world men sholde seke.
Hir riche array ne myghte nat be told,
As wel in vessel as in hire clothyng.
She was al clad in perree and in gold,
And eek she lafte noght, for noon huntyng,
To have of sondry tonges ful knowyng,
Whan that she leyser hadde; and for to entende
To lerne bookes was al hire likyng,
How she in vertu myghte hir lyf dispende.
And shortly of this storie for to trete,
So doghty was hir housbonde and eek she,
That they conquered manye regnes grete
In the orient, with many a fair citee
Apertanaunt unto the magestee
Of rome, and with strong hond held hem ful faste,
Ne nevere myghte hir foomen doon hem flee,
Ay whil that odenakes dayes laste.
Hir batailles, whoso list hem for to rede,
Agayn spor the kyng and othere mo,
And how that al this proces fil in dede,
Why she conquered, and what title had therto,
And after, of hir meschief and hire wo,
How that she was biseged and ytake, --
Lat hym unto my maister petrak go,
That writ ynough of this, I undertake.
Whan odenake was deed, she myghtily
The regnes heeld, and with hire propre hond
Agayn hir foos she faught so cruelly
That ther nas kyng ne prynce in al that lond
That he nas glad, if he that grace fond,
That she ne wolde upon his lond werreye.
With hire they maden alliance by bond
To been in pees, and lete hire ride and pleye.
The emperour of rome, claudius
Ne hym bifore, the romayn galien,
Ne dorste nevere been so corageus,
Ne noon ermyn, ne noon egipcien,
Ne surrien, ne noon arabyen,
Withinne the feeld that dorste with hire fighte,
Lest that she wolde hem with hir handes slen,
Or with hir meignee putten hem to flighte.
In kynges habit wente hir sones two,
As heires of hir fadres regnes alle,
And hermanno and thymalao
Hir names were, as persiens hem calle.
But ay fortune hath in hire hony galle;
This myghty queene may no while endure.
Fortune out of hir regne made hire falle
To wrecchednesse and to mysaventure.
Aurelian, whan that the governaunce
Of rome cam into his handes tweye,
He shoop upon this queene to doon vengeaunce.
And with his legions he took his weye
Toward cenobie, and shortly for to seye,
He made hire flee, and atte laste hire hente,
And fettred hire, and eek hire children tweye,
And wan the land, and hoom to rome he wente.
Amonges othere thynges that he wan,
Hir chaar, that was with gold wroght and perree,
This grete romayn, this aurelian,
Hath with hym lad, for that men sholde it see.
Biforen his triumphe walketh shee,
With gilte cheynes on hire nekke hangynge.
Coroned was she, as after hir degree,
And ful of perree charged hire clothynge.
Allas, fortune! she that whilom was
Dredeful to kynges and to emperoures,
Now gaureth al the peple on hire, allas!
And she that helmed was in starke stoures,
And wan by force townes stronge and toures,
Shal on hir heed now were a vitremyte;
And she that bar the ceptre ful of floures
Shal bere a distaf, hire cost for to quyte