Synopsis

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Synopsis

 

Principal characters

I, the narrator

A MAID, abandoned by her lover

AN OLDER MAN, audience of her complaint

A YOUNG MAN, the seducer

 The narrator lies down unseen to listen to a story being told by a pale woman who is tearing love letters and breaking rings. Though she at first appears to have lost all her beauty, vestiges remain. From a wicker basket she removes love tokens, which she tosses into the nearby stream.

 An older man, once a city dweller, is grazing his cattle nearby. He sits down a proper distance from the woman and asks what troubles her. She replies that she would still appear young and beautiful if she had not yielded to the importunities of a handsome young man, as well-spoken as he was good-looking. He rode skillfully and dressed fashionably. Many women admired him, falling in love even with him telling the story knew that he had been unfaithful to others. For a long time she had resisted him-until he began to woo her. He acknowledged that he L seduced others, but he claimed that the others sought their fate. Moreover he had loved none of these women. They gave him jewels and locks of hair and sonnets to signify their love, all of which he offered to the woman, including a favor given him he said, by a nun. He referred to this particular conquest perhaps to suggest that the lady was being too hesitant to return his affection when even a nun yielded at first sight. In his final argument he told the woman that "He who had conquered so many was now himself defeated by her. Since the hearts of the seduced women depended on him for their happiness, and since he now depended on her for his, all relied on her to relieve their pain. His final word was troth, implying fidelity and even marriage. Then he wept and she yielded to him.  The lady ends her complaint by stating that no woman could resist this man because women are good-natured, generous, and compliant. She herself, if he wooed her again, would yield once more even though she has reformed.

 

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Poems Main Page      Venus and Adonis     The Rape of Lucrece      A Lover's Complaint     The Phoenix and the Turtle

 

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