'Complaint of Chaucer to his Purse, The' by Geoffrey Chaucer

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To yow, my purse, and to noon other wight
Complayne I, for ye be my lady dere!
I am so sory, now that ye been lyght;
For certes, but ye make me hevy chere,
Me were as leef be layd upon my bere;
For which unto your mercy thus I crye:
Beth hevy ageyn, or elles mot I dye!

Now voucheth sauf this day, or yt be nyght,
That I of yow the blisful soun may here,
Or see your colour lyk the sonne bryght,
That of yelownesse hadde never pere.
Ye be my lyf, ye be myn hertes stere,
Quene of comfort and of good companye:
Beth hevy ageyn, or elles moote I dye!

Now purse, that ben to me my lyves lyght
And saveour, as doun in this world here,
Out of this toune helpe me thurgh your myght,
Syn that ye wole nat ben my tresorere;
For I am shave as nye as any frere.
But yet I pray unto your curtesye:
Beth hevy agen, or elles moote I dye!

Lenvoy de Chaucer
O conquerour of Brutes Albyon,
Which that by lyne and free eleccion
Been verray kyng, this song to yow I sende;
And ye, that mowen alle oure harmes amende,
Have mynde upon my supplicacion!

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Complaint of Chaucer to his Purse: A Literary Critique and Interpretation

Oh, the joys of literature and the pleasure that comes with reading a masterful piece of work! One such work is The Complaint of Chaucer to his Purse, a poem written by the legendary Geoffrey Chaucer. This poem is a perfect example of Chaucer's wit and command of the English language. Here, we take a deep dive into the poem, exploring its various themes, literary devices, and historical context.

Introduction to the Poem

But before we delve into the meat of the matter, let's take some time to understand the poem's context. The Complaint of Chaucer to his Purse was written in the 1390s, towards the end of Chaucer's life. It was a time when Chaucer was facing financial difficulties due to various reasons, including the devaluation of the English currency and political upheavals. In the poem, Chaucer addresses his purse, which is empty, and pleads for some financial relief.

Themes in the Poem

One of the most striking themes in the poem is the power of money. Chaucer portrays money as a source of power and influence, one that can make or break a person's fortunes. He is quite explicit in his description of the benefits that come with having a full purse. For instance, he writes, "My lyf and deeth, hool in thy governaunce, / Thyng that I serve, and evere wolde, and may" (lines 15-16). Here, Chaucer is acknowledging the immense power that money has over his life and how much he depends on it.

Another theme that is evident in the poem is the idea of loyalty. Chaucer is loyal to his purse, even in its emptiness. He acknowledges that it has served him well in the past and expresses confidence that it will do so in the future. He writes, "And sith thow wolt nat be my tresorere, / For I am shent for that I have been thy servaunt, / Yet shaltow be myn advocat in al gyse" (lines 35-37). Here, Chaucer is telling his purse that even though it cannot provide him with the financial relief he needs, he still considers it to be his advocate.

Literary Devices in the Poem

Chaucer employs various literary devices in the poem to convey his message effectively. One of these is the use of metaphor. Chaucer uses the purse as a metaphor for money, and he personifies it, almost giving it a life of its own. He writes, "My purs hath ben ydled, that therin is left noght" (line 1). Here, Chaucer is using the purse as a symbol of his financial difficulties.

Another literary device that Chaucer uses is alliteration. Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words. Chaucer uses alliteration extensively in the poem, as in the line, "For, lo, my wyf ful ofte tyme / Your bille she serveth pryvely" (lines 21-22). Here, the repeated "f" and "t" sounds give the poem a musical quality.

Chaucer also uses irony in the poem. Irony is the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning. In the poem, Chaucer uses irony to highlight the absurdity of his situation. He writes, "Thou art nat fressh and newe to warne me" (line 4). Here, Chaucer is using irony to point out that his purse is not capable of warning him about his financial difficulties.

Historical Context of the Poem

As mentioned earlier, the poem was written at a time when Chaucer was facing financial difficulties. England was going through a tough economic period, and there were political upheavals that compounded the situation. The devaluation of the English currency made it difficult for people like Chaucer, who depended on income from government positions, to make ends meet. Additionally, there were social and political factors that made it difficult for Chaucer to maintain his position in the government. These factors are reflected in the poem, where Chaucer expresses his frustrations with the state of affairs.


In conclusion, The Complaint of Chaucer to his Purse is a masterful poem that combines various literary devices to convey a powerful message. Chaucer's command of the English language is evident in his use of metaphor, alliteration, and irony. The poem's themes of power, loyalty, and the absurdity of the situation are as relevant today as they were in Chaucer's time. It is a poem that is both timeless and timely, and it deserves its place among the great works of English literature.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Geoffrey Chaucer, the father of English literature, is known for his remarkable works that have stood the test of time. One of his most famous poems is the Poetry Complaint of Chaucer to his Purse, which is a satirical piece that showcases the poet's wit and humor. In this 2000-word analysis, we will delve into the poem's structure, themes, and literary devices to understand its significance in the literary world.

The poem is written in Middle English, which was the language spoken in England during the medieval period. It consists of 77 lines and is divided into three stanzas, each with a different rhyme scheme. The first stanza has an ABABCC rhyme scheme, the second has an ABABBCC rhyme scheme, and the third has an ABABCC rhyme scheme. The poem's structure is significant because it reflects the poet's frustration and dissatisfaction with his financial situation.

The poem's central theme is the relationship between money and poetry. Chaucer, in the poem, personifies his purse and addresses it directly, complaining about its emptiness. He laments that he cannot write poetry without money, and his purse's lack of funds is hindering his creativity. The poem is a satire on the patronage system prevalent in medieval England, where poets and writers relied on wealthy patrons to support their work.

Chaucer's frustration with the patronage system is evident in the poem. He criticizes the wealthy patrons who only support poets for their own selfish reasons. He writes, "But now, alas! the money is all gone; / My purse is empty, and my heart is sore. / I cannot write, and that is all there is." Chaucer's words reflect the harsh reality of the time, where poets had to rely on the whims of their patrons to survive.

The poem's tone is one of frustration and desperation. Chaucer's use of rhetorical questions and exclamations highlights his despair. He asks, "O noble, worthy purse, and well-beloved, / Deserving often to be hung on high / Full of the fruit of all my labour strove, / Why should I be so wretched and so poor?" Chaucer's use of the word "wretched" emphasizes his dire financial situation and his inability to support himself.

Chaucer's use of literary devices is also noteworthy. He employs alliteration, assonance, and rhyme to create a musical quality to the poem. For example, in the first stanza, he writes, "My purse, and eke my heart, doth me great pain / So vexed are they with the grievous smart / Of poverty, that I must needs complain." The repetition of the "p" sound in "purse" and "pain" and the "v" sound in "vexed" and "grievous" creates a musical quality to the poem.

Chaucer also uses irony and satire to criticize the patronage system. He writes, "And yet, God wot, unnethe the fund I find / To feed and clothe me, and to pay my rent." Chaucer's use of the word "unnethe" (hardly) highlights the irony of the situation. Despite being a renowned poet, he struggles to make ends meet.

In conclusion, the Poetry Complaint of Chaucer to his Purse is a satirical piece that reflects the harsh realities of the patronage system in medieval England. Chaucer's frustration with his financial situation is evident in the poem's structure, themes, and literary devices. The poem's musical quality and use of irony and satire make it a timeless piece of literature that continues to resonate with readers today.

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