The Book of the Duchess, ll. 1-43

Read by Susan Yager
as edited by Larry Benson
The Riverside Chaucer, Third Edition
Houghton Mifflin, 2000
(text reproduced below with permission)

Book of the Duchess in MP3 format

I have gret wonder, be this lyght
How that I lyve, for day ne nyght
I may nat slepe wel nygh noght,
I have so many an ydel thoght
Purely for defaute of slep
That, by my trouthe, I take no kep
Of nothing, how hyt cometh or gooth,
Ne me nys nothyng leef nor looth,
Al is ylyche good to me – -
Joye or sorowe, wherso hyt be –
For I have felynge in nothyng,
But as yt were a mased thyng,
Alway in poynt to falle a-doun;
For sorwful ymagynacioun
Ys alway hooly in my mynde.

And wel ye woot, agaynes kynde
Hyt were to lyven in thys wyse,
For nature wolde nat suffyse
To noon erthly creature
Nat longe tyme to endure
Withoute slep and be in sorwe.
And I ne may, ne nyght ne morwe,
Slepe; and thus melancolye
And drede I have for to dye.
Defaute of slep and hevynesse
Hath sleyn my spirit of quyknesse
That I have lost al lustyhede.
Suche fantasies ben in myn hede
So I not what is best to doo.

But men myght axe me why soo
I may not slepe and what me is.
But natheles, who aske this
Leseth his asking trewely.
Myselven can not telle why
The sothe; but trewly, as I gesse,
I holde hit be a sicknesse
That I have suffred this eight yeer;
And yet my boote is never the ner,
For there is phisicien but oon
That may me hele; but that is don.
Passe we over untill eft;
That wil not be mot nede be left;
Our first mater is good to kepe.