ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Truth by Geoffrey Chaucer: An Analysis of The Poem

Updated on May 2, 2019
Dean Traylor profile image

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes about various subjects including education and creative writing.

Flee fro the prees and dwell with sothfastnesse (Flee from the crowd, and dwell with truthfulness)…”

— Geoffrey Chaucer, from Truth
Originally found on
Originally found on

Written nearly 700 years ago --and dedicated to one person, Sir Phillip de La Vache -- Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem “Truth” has become an inspirational poem for those who have dealt with failures and setbacks.

Truth” or “Ballade de bon conseyl" (translated into modern English as Ballade of Good Counsel) reads like an advice column. The author was essentially giving his long-time friend some support and inspiration to help him get through a tough time.

Still, the poem goes beyond an audience of one, and propels its advice to future generations to come. Nearly anyone reading this poem can relate to la Vache's travails, and be inspired by the kind words Chaucer gives.

A Rarity For Chaucer

The poem is unique when compared to other works by Chaucer. He is best known for the first great English language classic The Canterbury Tales, a collection of oral folktales and stories retold and recorded in written verses. Although he had written several collections of long and short poems, few of them are as philosophical, personal and inspirational (in terms of building a particular person’s self-esteem) as “Truth” is.

The intended audience was one person. It is believed to be Sir Phillip de la Vache (some scholars suggest it was his father, Sir Richard), a well-to-do aristocrat, knight, landowner, and onetime member of 14th century British Parliament who was described as being a “country gentleman with a reputation for lavish hospitality (la Vache, 2012).”

Although la Vache may have been the influence in other works by Chaucer - including the Franklin in the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales- the poem “Truth” is the only one to name him and speak to him directly.

The Coat of Arms of the la Vache Family
The Coat of Arms of the la Vache Family | Source

The Chaucer -la Vache Connection

According to several sources, Chaucer’s family members were life-long friends with the la Vache family. Chaucer came from a successful family of merchants while la Vache had close personal and political ties to royalty. The two came from the same socio-economic circle and were often in each other's company.

A Little Helpful Advice from a Friend

The poem touches on this relationship. It also reflects a personal crisis existing in Sir Phillip’s life at the time of the writing. In the line directly naming the aristocrat knight, Chaucer wrote:

“Therefore, thou Vache, leve thine old wrechednesse; Unto the world leve now to be thral (Therefore, La Vache, cease your old wretchedness; To the world cease now to be in thrall...)”

It is believed this line refers to a time (1386-1388) in which Sir Philip fell out of favor with the royal court and lost his position.

Throughout the poem, Chaucer seemingly tells Sir Philip not to worry about this tribulation, and that it would eventually go away. He uses the term “truth” as if to say that the truth of his nobility, stature, and character would eventually bring him through the trying times.

This is evident in a line repeated at the end of each stanza:

“And trouthe thee shal delivere, it is no dede (And truth shall deliver you, have no fear).”

Here, Chaucer gives his support to his friend and tells him not worry and be brave, for he’ll win back the reputation he lost.

This “pep-talk” seemingly worked. Sir Philip’s reputation was restored, and he would be appointed captain of the castle of Calais on May 15, 1388. He would play a key role in negotiating a truce with the King of France; the Count of Flanders; and the cities of Ghent, Bruges, and Ypres in 1390. Also, he’d return to Parliament in 1397 as one of the pledges for the prosecution of the Duke of Gloucester.

Finally, he would assume the noble title of Knight of the Garter in 1399 during the reign of Richard II.


The Appeal to Modern Readers

While the poem is dedicated – and directed – at a particular person, it still appeals to a wide audience. The repetitive lines, as well as the word “truth”, instills a belief that failures in life are temporary; that is, if one is true (or strong) in their actions and deeds. Most importantly, once these failures happen, it is better to withstand it rather than to give up.

Despite his brief fallout and loss, la Vache eventually became a productive and influential member of his time. Chaucer, being the good friend that he was, may have helped him find his way. Maybe there’s something right about Chaucer’s “Truth.”

Audio Reading of Truth

A Note: Middle English

When you listens or read portions of "Truth" in the article, you will noticed that this very English poem sounds like French or German. And, of the words you do recognize, they are spelled differently than their modern translation.

A big reason for this is that Chaucer was writing at a time when the English language was making a come back, of sorts. After the Norman Conquest of 1066, the Germanic English language of the time (best known as Old English or Anglo-Saxon language, in modern times) fell out of favor in the country. Instead, many people adopted the type of French spoken by the Norman invaders.

Several hundred years later, the English language slowly resurfaced. However, the English that was increasingly being spoken was infused with French. Also, the spelling came to reflect the dialect and accent of the speaker.

Today, we barely understand Middle English. In part, the language has evolved as it has always done of the years. Still, if you listen closely to the YouTube video, and read the poem, you will be able to identify familiar words and phrases.

The Canterbury Tales, paperback edition

© 2015 Dean Traylor


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Rakim Cheeks profile image

      Rakim Cheeks 

      5 years ago

      Very interesting hub! Great job


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)