Guystarde and Sygysmonde on Idleness

ChaucersIllustration of the Fifth Treatise: women engaged in laundry by a stream; borders decorated with birds and flowers. Image taken from Splendor Solis. Originally published/produced in Germany, 1582.

Here foloweth the amorous history of Guystarde and Sygysmonde was published in 1532. It is a translation of day 4 of Boccaccio's Decameron, and tells the tragic tale of the love between Guystarde and Sygysmonde. It is a conventional piece of Tudor chivalric poetry, particularly as regards its rehearsal of standard courtly love motifs. Robert Copland’s preface to the translator is noticeable because rather then emphasise the courtly aspect of Guystarde and Sygysmonde he instead presents the poem as a moral tale that warns against the dangers of idleness.


The inflammate desire / of your good intent  
Newes to compile / eschewing idleness  
Cometh of grace / and of wisdom excellent  
To occupy such / as haue no business  
Whiche unto of doing / much harm doth oppress  
For surely idleness / is portresse of all synne  
Every vice / ready to let in  

The wretched life / of osyosyte  
Engendreth sloth / poverty and payne  
It is nourish / of voluptuosyte  
And setteth the mynde on all things vaine  
It sleeth the body / and troubleth the brain  
Vnstedyeth the wit / and wasteth good deed  
And letteth virtue / and goodness to proceed  

Example plain / of idle Sygysmonde  
Fed daintily / no maner work to use  
Whiche caused idleness / for to habonde  
And unto pleasure / set only for to muse  
Dance / song / and play / she did not refuse  
Whiche things assembled / engendered delight  
Of natural lust / to do her appetite  

Here lacketh business / and good pastime  
Grace of good doing / was from her exiled  
Caught as a bird / tangled with lime  
First by one feather / and than with all beguiled  
Right so who with this vice is fyled  
Take with one synne / all other do then ensue  
Er go / good business / is gate of virtue

Thus endeth the prologue.


Guystarde and Sygysmonde. Here foloweth the amerous hystory of Guystarde and Sygysmonde / and of theyr dolorous deth by her father / newly translated out of laten into engysshe by Wyllymn Walter (London, 1532) sig. A2r.