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THE HOUSE OF FAM E.
WRITTEN in three Books; but I number the lines consecutively throughout, for convenience; at the same time giving the separate numbering (of Books II. and III.) within marks of parenthesis. The title of the poem is expressly given at l. 663. The author gives his name as Geffrey; 1. 729.
Lydgate's Temple of Glass is partly imitated from the House of Fame; Warton, Hist. E. Poetry, 1871, iii. 61. The same is true of the Palice of Honour, by Gawain Douglas. For further remarks, see the Introduction.
As the poem is not quite easy to follow, I here subjoin a brief Argument of its contents.
Book I. A discussion on dreams. I will tell you my dream on the 1oth of December. But first let me invoke Morpheus. May those who gladly hear me have joy; but may those who dislike my words have as evil a fate as Croesus, King of Lydia' (I–IIo).
I slept, and dreamt I was in a temple of glass, dedicated to Venus. On a table of brass I found the opening words of Vergil's AEneid; after which I saw the destruction of Troy, the death of Priam, the flight of AEneas, the loss of Creusa, the voyage of AEneas to Italy, the storm at sea sent by Juno, the arrival of AEneas at Carthage, how kindly Dido received him, and how AEneas betrayed and left her, causing Dido's lament and suicide. Similar falsehood was seen in Demophon, Achilles, Paris, Jason, Hercules, and Theseus. Next, AEneas sailed to Italy, and lost Palinurus; he visited the lower regions, where he saw Anchises, Palinurus, Dido, and Deiphobus. Afterwards he warred in Italy, slew Turnus, and won Lavinia (II I-467).
After this I went out of the temple, and found a large plain. Looking up, I saw an eagle above me, of enormous size and having golden feathers (468–508). Book II. Such a strange vision as mine never appeared to Scipio, Nebuchadnezzar, Pharaoh, or Turnus. O Venus and Muses, help me to tell it ! The great eagle swooped down upon me, seized me, and bore me aloft, and told me (in a man's voice) not to be afraid. I thought I was being borne up to the stars, like Enoch or Ganymede. The eagle then addressed me, and told me some events of my own life, and said that he would bear me to the House of Fame, where I should hear many wonderful things (509–710). The House stood in the midst, between heaven, earth, and sea; and all sounds travelled thither, “Geoffrey,” said he, “you know how all things tend to seek their own proper place ; a stone sinks down, while smoke flies up. Sound is merely broken air, and if you would know how all sounds come to Fame's House, observe how, when a stone is thrown into water, the rings made by the ripples extend from the spot where it fell till they reach the shore. Just so all earthly sounds travel till they reach Fame's House.’ He then bade me look below me, and asked what I saw. I saw fields, hills, rivers, towns, and sea; but soon he had soared so high that the earth dwindled to a point. I was higher up (I said) than ever was Alexander, Scipio, or Daedalus. He then bade me look upward; I saw the zodiac, the milky way, and clouds, snows, and rain beneath me. Then I thought of the descriptions of heaven in Boethius and Marcian. The eagle would have taught me the names of the stars ; I refused to learn. He then asked if I could now hear the sounds that murmured in the House of Fame. I said they sounded like the beating of the sea on rocks (711–1045). Then he set me down upon my feet in a way that led to the House, and bade me go forward ; observing that I should find that the words that flew about in Fame's House assumed the outward forms of the men upon earth who uttered them (1046–90). BOOK III. Apollo, aid me to write this last book! My rime is artless; I aim at expressing my thoughts only (1091–1 Io9). The House of Fame stood high upon a lofty rock, which I climbed laboriously. The rock was formed of ice. On the southern side it was covered with names, many of the letters of which were melted away. On the northern side, it was likewise covered with names, which remained unmelted and legible. On the top of the mountain I found a beautiful House, which I cannot describe though I remember it. It was all of beryl, and full of windows. In niches round about were harpers and minstrels, such as Orpheus, Arion, Chiron, and Glasgerion. Far from these, by themselves, was a vast crowd of musicians. There were Marsyas, Misenus, Joab, and others. In other seats were jugglers, sorcerers, and magicians; Medea, Circe, Hermes, and Coll Tregetour. I next beheld the golden gates. Then I heard the cries of those that were heralds to the goddess Fame. How shall I describe the great hall, that was plated with gold, and set with gems ? High on a throne of ruby sat the goddess, who at first seemed but a dwarf, but presently grew so that she reached from earth to heaven. Her hair was golden, and she was covered with innumerable ears and tongues. Her shoulders sustained the names of famous men, such as Alexander and Hercules. On either side of the hall were huge pillars of metal. On the first of these, composed of lead and iron, was the Jew Josephus; the iron was the metal of Mercury, and the lead of Saturn. Next, on an iron pillar, was Statius; and on other iron pillars were Homer, Dares, Dictys, Guido, and the English Geoffrey, who upbore the fame of Troy. On a pillar of iron, but covered over with tin, was Vergil; and beside him Ovid and Lucan. On a pillar of sulphur stood Claudian (II IO-1512). Next I saw a vast company, all worshipping Fame. These she rejected, but would say of them neither good nor bad. She then sent a messenger to fetch AEolus, the god of wind, who should bring with him two trumpets, namely of Praise and Slander. AEolus, with his man Triton, came to Fame. And when many undeserving suppliants approached her, she bade AEolus blow his black trump of Slander. He did so, and from it there issued a stinking smoke; and so this second company got renown, but it was evil. A third company sued to her, and she bade AEolus blow his golden trump of Praise. Straightway he did so, and the blast had a perfume like that of balm and roses. A fourth company, a very small one, asked for no fame at all, and their request was granted. A fifth company modestly asked for no fame, though they had done great things; but Fame bade AEolus blow his golden trumpet, till their praise resounded everywhere. A sixth company of idle men, who had done no good, asked for fame; and their request was granted. A seventh company made the same request; but Fame reviled them; AEolus blew his black trump, and all men laughed at them. An eighth company, of wicked men, prayed for good fame; but their request was refused. A ninth company, also of wicked men, prayed for a famous but evil name, and their request was granted. Among them was the wretch who set on fire the temple at Athens (1513–1867). Then some man perceived me, and began to question me. I explained that I had come to learn strange things, and not to gain fame. He led me out of the castle and into a valley, where stood the house of Daedalus (i.e. the house of Rumour). This strange house was made of basket-work, and was full of holes, and all the doors stood wide open. All sorts of rumours entered there, and it was sixty miles long. On a rock beside it I saw my eagle perched, who again seized me, and bore me into it through a window. It swarmed with people, all of whom were engaged in telling news; and often their stories would fly out of a window. Sometimes a truth and a lie would try to fly out together, and became commingled before they could get away. Every piece of news then flew to Fame, who did as she pleased with