The Assemble of goddes

John Lydgate
John Lydgate

The 'Assemble of the goddes' was attributed to John Lydgate c.1500, although more recent scholarship, such as that of Jane Chance, has cast doubt on his authorship and dates the poem c.1478-83. Near the beginning of this lengthy dream-vision allegory, a parliament of Roman gods is convened by Pluto to debate the punishment of Eolus for his destruction of Diana's and Neptune's territories with his winds. The passage is uncannily reminiscent of the heavenly discord described by Jupiter at the opening of The Play of the Weather, as well as some of the themes of due process and impartiality of judgment which the play considers.

Then was there made a proclamation
In Pluto's name commanded silence,
Upon the pain of straight correction,
That Diana and Neptunus might have audience
To declare her grief of the great offence
To them done by Eolus, wheron they complained
And to begin Diana was constrained

Which thus began, as ye shall here,
Saying in this wise "O thou, lord Pluto,
With thy judge Minos sitting with thee in fear,
Execute your fury upon Eolus so,
According to the offence that he to me hath do,
That I have no cause further to appeal,
Which if I do shall not be for your weal.

"Remember first how I a goddess pure
Over all deserts, forests, and chases
Have take the guiding. And under my cure
This traitor Eolus hath many of my places
Destroyed with his blasts, and daily me menaces.
Where any wood is, he shall make it plain
If he to his liberty may resort again.

"The greatest trees that any man may find
In forest to shade the deer for her comfort,
He breaketh them asunder, or rendeth them, root and rind,
Out of the earth. This is his disport,
So that the deer shall have no resort
Within short time, to no manner shade.
Wherethrough, the game is likely to fade.

"Which to my name a reproach singular
Should be for ever while the world last,
And to all the gods an high displeasure,
To see the game so destroyed by his blast.
Wherefore a remedy purvey in haste,
And let him be punished after his offence
Consider the crime and give your sentence."

And when thus Diana had made her complaint
To Minos the judge in Pluto's presence,
Came forth Neptunus, with visage pale and faint
Desiring of favour to have audience
Saying thus "Pluto to thy magnificence
I shall rehearse what this creature
Eolus hath done to me out of measure.

"Thou knowest well that I have the charge
Over all the sea and thereof god I am.
No ship may sail, caravel, boat nor barge,
Great carack, nor hulk, with any living man,
But if he have my safe conduct then.
Who me offendeth within my jurisdiction
Oweth to submit him to my correction.

"But in as mickle as it is now so,
That ye him here have as your prisoner,
I shall you show my complaint, lo.
Wherefore I pray you that ye will it hear
And let him not escape out of your danger
Till he have made full seethe and recompense,
For hurt of my name, through this great offence.

"First to begin, this Eolus hath oft
Made me to return my course again nature
With his great blasts when he hath be aloft,
And charged me to labour, far out of measure,
That it was great marvel how I might endure.
The foam of my sweet will it testify
That on the sea banks lythe beaten full high.

"Secondly whereas my nature is
Both to ebb and flow and so my course to keep,
Oft of mine intent hath he made me miss.
Whereas I should have filled dykes deep,
At a full water I might not thither creep
Before my season came to return again
And then went I faster than I would, certain!

"Thus he hath me driven against mine intent,
And contrary to my course natural
Where I should have been, he made me be absent
To my great dishonour, and in especial,
One thing he used that worst was of all,
For where as I my safeguard granted,
Always in that coast he commonly haunted

"Of very pure malice and of selfwill
Them to destroy, in despite of me,
To whom I promised both in good and ill
To be their protector in all adversity,
That to them should fall upon the sea,
And even suddenly ere they could beware
With a sudden pyry he lapped them in care.

"And full oft sith with his boisterous blast
Ere they myght be ware he drove him on the sand,
And otherwhile he break top sail and mast,
Which caused them to perish ere they came to land.
Then cursed they the time that ever they me found.
Thus among the people lost is my name
And so by his labour put I am to shame.


"Consider this matter and ponder my cause.
Tender my complaint as rigour requireth.
Show forth your sentence with a brief clause.
I may not long tarry, the time fast expireth.
The offence is great: wherefore it desireth
The more grievous pain and hasty judgement,
For offence done wilfully will none advisement."

And when the god Pluto awhile had him bethought,
He rowned with Minos to know what was to do.
Then he said openly "Look thou fail nought
Thy sentence to give without favour, so
Like as thou hast heard the causes moved thee to.
And so evenly deal 'tween these parties twain
That none of them have cause on the other complain."

Then said Minos full indifferently,
To Diane and Neptunus "Is there any more
That ye will declare against him openly?"
"Nay indeed" they said "we kepe none in store.
We have said enough to punish him sore.
If ye in this matter be not partial,
Remember your name was wont to be egall."

"Well then" said Minos "now let us hear
What this boistous Eolus for himself can say,
For here prima facie to us he doth appear
That he hath offended; no man can say nay.
Wherefore thou, Eolus, without more delay
Shape us an answer to thine accusement,
And else I most proceed upon thy judgement."

And even as Eolus was onward to have said
For his excuse, came in a messenger
From god Apollo to Pluto, and him prayed
On his behalf that he without danger
Would to him come and bring with him in fear
Diane and Neptunus on to his banquet,
And if they disdained, himself he would them fet.

Moreover he said the god, Apollo,
Desired to have respite of the judgement
Of Eolus, both of Minos and Pluto.
So Diane and Neptunus were therewith content,
And if they were disposed to assent,
That he might come unto his presence,
He it desired to know his offence.

"What sey ye hereto?" said Pluto to them twain
"Will ye both assent that it shall be thus?"
"Ye" said the goddess, "for my part certain."
"And I also" said this Neptunus
I am well pleased" quod this Eolus.
And when they had a while thus together spoke,
Pluto commanded the court to be broke.


[end of excerpt, lines 43-182]



Modernised from Wynkyn de Worde edition, Assemble of goddes (London, c.1500).