“My blissful one, may this be true.
Pardon if I speak ill,” I prayed:
“Art thou the queen o’ the heaven’s blue,
To whom earth’s honour shall be paid?
We believe in Mary, of grace who grew,
A mother, yet a blameless maid;
To wear her crown were only due
To one who purer worth displayed.
For perfectness by none gainsaid,
We call her the Phoenix of Araby,
That flies in faultless charm arrayed,
Like to the Queen of courtesy.”
“Courteous Queen,” that bright one said,
And, kneeling, lifted up her face:
“Matchless Mother and merriest Maid,
Blessed Beginner of every grace.”
Then she arose, and softly stayed,
And spoke to me across that space:
“Sir, many seek gain here, and are paid,
But defrauders are none within this place;
That Empress may all heaven embrace,
And earth and hell in her empery;
Her from her heritage none will chase,
For she is Queen of courtesy.”
“The court of the kingdom of God doth thrive
Only because of this wondrous thing:
Each one who therein may arrive,
Of the realm is either queen or king;
And no one the other doth deprive,
But is fain of his fellow’s guerdoning,
And would wish each crown might be worth five,
If possible were their bettering.
But my Lady, from whom our Lord did spring,
Rules over all our company,
And for that we all rejoice and sing,
Since she is Queen of courtesy.”
“Of courtesy, as says St. Paul,
Members of Christ we may be seen.
As head and arm and leg, and all,
Bound to the body close have been,
Each Christian soul himself may call
A living limb of his Lord, I ween.
And see how neither hate nor gall
’Twixt limb and limb may intervene;
The head shows neither spite nor spleen,
Though arm and finger jewelled be,
So fare we all in love serene,
As kings and queens by courtesy.”
“Courtesy flowers thy folk among,
And charity, I well believe.
If foolish words flow from my tongue,
Let not my speech thy spirit grieve.
A queen in heaven while yet so young,
Too high thou dost thyself upheave.
Then what reward from strife were wrung?
What worship more might he achieve
Who lived in penance morn and eve,
Through bodily pain in bliss to be?
Honour more high might he receive,
Than be crowned king by courtesy?”
“That courtesy rewards no deed
If all be true that thou dost say;
Our life not two years didst thou lead
Nor learned to please God, nor to pray,
No Paternoster knew nor creed,
And made a queen on the first day!
I may not think, so God me speed!
That God from right would swerve away;
As a countess, damsel, by my fay!
To live in heaven were a fair boon,
Or like a lady of less array,
But a queen! Ah, no! it is too soon.”