Richard Brodie's modern English translation
The Knight's Tale
from Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales
Also completed: General Prologue, Miller, Reeve, Cook, Man of Law, Prioress
© Copyright 2003 Richard Brodie
|Whilom, as olde stories tellen us,
Ther was a duc that highte theseus;
Of atthenes he was lord and governour,
And in his tyme swich a conquerour,
That gretter was ther noon under the sonne.
Ful many a riche contree hadde he wonne;
What with his wysdom and his chivalrie,
He conquered al the regne of femenye,
That whilom was ycleped scithia,
And weddede the queene ypolita,
And broghte hire hoom with hym in his contree
With muchel glorie and greet solempnytee,
And eek hir yonge suster emelye.
And thus with victorie and with melodye
Lete I this noble duc to atthenes ryde,
And al his hoost in armes hym bisyde.
And certes, if it nere to long to heere,
I wolde have toold yow fully the manere
How wonnen was the regne of femenye
By theseus and by his chivalrye;
And of the grete bataille for the nones
Bitwixen atthenes and amazones;
And how asseged was ypolita,
The faire, hardy queene of scithia;
And of the feste that was at hir weddynge,
And of the tempest at hir hoom-comynge;
But al that thyng I moot as now forbere.
I have, God woot, a large feeld to ere,
And wayke been the oxen in my plough.
The remenant of the tale is long ynough.
I wol nat letten eek noon of this route;
Lat every felawe telle his tale aboute,
And lat se now who shal the soper wynne;
And ther I lefte, I wol ayeyn bigynne.
This duc, of whom I make mencioun,
Whan he was come almoost unto the toun,
In al his wele and in his mooste pride,
He was war, as he caste his eye aside,
Where that ther kneled in the heighe weye
A compaignye of ladyes, tweye and tweye,
899: Ech after oother, clad in clothes blake;
But swich a cry and swich a wo they make
That in this world nys creature lyvynge
That herde swich another waymentynge;
And of this cry they nolde nevere stenten
Til they the reynes of his brydel henten.
What fold been ye, that at myn homcomynge
Perturben so my feste with criynge?
Quod theseus. Have ye so greet envye
Of myn honour, that thus compleyne and crye?
Or who hath yow mysboden or offended?
And telleth me if it may been amended,
And why that ye been clothed thus in blak.
The eldeste lady of hem alle spak,
Whan she hadde swowned with a deedly cheere,
That it was routhe for to seen and heere.
She seyde lord, to whom fortune hath yiven
Victorie, and as a conqueror to lyven,
Nat greveth us youre glorie and youre honour,
But we biseken mercy and socour.
Have mercy on oure wo and oure distresse!
Som drope of pitee, thurgh thy gentillesse,
Upon us wrecched wommen lat thou falle.
For, certes, lord, ther is noon of us alle,
That she ne hath been a duchesse or a queene.
Now be we caytyves, as it is wel seene,
Thanked be fortune and hire false wheel,
That noon estaat assureth to be weel.
And certes, lord, to abyden youre presence,
Heere in this temple of the goddesse clemence
We han ben waitynge al this fourtenyght.
Now help us, lord, sith it is in thy myght.
I, wrecche, which that wepe and wayle thus,
Was whilom wyf to kyng cappaneus,
That starf at thebes -- cursed be that day! --
And alle we that been in this array
And maken al this lamentacioun,
We losten alle oure housbondes at that toun,
Whil that the seege theraboute lay.
And yet now the olde creon, weylaway!
That lord is now of thebes the citee,
Fulfild of ire and of iniquitee,
He, for despit and for his tirannye,
To do the dede bodyes vileynye
Of alle oure lordes whiche that been yslawe,
Hath alle the bodyes on an heep ydrawe,
And wol nat suffren hem, by noon assent,
Neither to been yburyed nor ybrent,
But maketh houndes ete hem in despit.
And with that word, withouten moore respit,
They fillen gruf and criden pitously,
Have on us wrecched wommen som mercy,
And lat oure sorwe synken in thyn herte.
This gentil duc doun from his courser sterte
With herte pitous, whan he herde hem speke.
Hym thoughte that his herte wolde breke,
Whan he saugh hem so pitous and so maat,
That whilom weren of so greet estaat;
And in his armes he hem alle up hente,
And hem conforteth in ful good entente,
And swoor his ooth, as he was trewe knyght,
He wolde doon so ferforthly his myght
Upon the tiraunt creon hem to wreke,
That al the peple of grece sholde speke
How creon was of theseus yserved
As he that hadde his deeth ful wel deserved.
And right anoon, withouten moore abood,
His baner he desplayeth, and forth rood
To thebes-ward, and al his hoost biside.
No neer atthenes wolde he go ne ride,
Ne take his ese fully half a day,
But onward on his wey that nyght he lay,
And sente anon ypolita the queene,
And emelye, hir yonge suster sheene,
Unto the toun of atthenes to dwelle,
And forth he rit; ther is namoore to telle.
The rede statue of mars, with spere and targe,
So shyneth in his white baner large,
That alle the feeldes glyteren up and doun;
And by his baner born is his penoun
Of gold ful riche, in which ther was ybete
The mynotaur, which that he slough in crete.
Thus rit this duc, thus rit this conquerour,
And in his hoost of chivalrie the flour,
Til that he cam to thebes and alighte
Faire in a feeld, ther as he thoughte to fighte.
But shortly for to speken of this thyng,
With creon, which that was of thebes kyng,
He faught, and slough hym manly as a knyght
In pleyn bataille, and putte the folk to flyght;
And by assaut he wan the citee after,
And rente adoun bothe wall and sparre and rafter;
And to the ladyes he restored agayn
The bones of hir housbondes that were slayn,
To doon obsequies, as was tho the gyse.
But it were al to longe for to devyse
The grete clamour and the waymentynge
That the ladyes made at the brennynge
Of the bodies, and the grete honour
That Theseus, the noble conquerour,
Dooth to the ladyes, whan they from hym wente;
But shortly for to telle is myn entente.
Whan that this worthy duc, this theseus,
Hath creon slayn, and wonne thebes thus,
Stille in that feeld he took al nyght his reste,
And dide with al the contree as hym leste.
To ransake in the taas of bodyes dede,
Hem for to strepe of harneys and of wede,
The pilours diden bisynesse and cure
After the bataille and disconfiture.
And so bifel that in the taas they founde,
Thurgh-girt with many a grevous blody wounde,
Two yonge knyghtes liggynge by and by,
Bothe in oon armes, wroght ful richely,
Of whiche two arcita highte that oon,
And that oother knyght highte palamon.
Nat fully quyke, ne fully dede they were,
But by hir cote-armures and by hir gere
The heraudes knewe hem best in special
As they that weren of the blood roial
Of thebes, and of sustren two yborn.
Out of the taas the pilours han hem torn,
And han hem caried softe unto the tente
Of theseus; and he ful soone hem sente
To atthenes, to dwellen in prisoun
Perpetuelly, -- he nolde no raunsoun.
And whan this worthy duc hath thus ydon,
He took his hoost, and hoom he rit anon
With laurer crowned as a conquerour;
And ther he lyveth in joye and in honour
Terme of his lyf; what nedeth wordes mo?
And in a tour, in angwissh and in wo,
This Palamon and his felawe Arcite
For everemoore; ther may no gold hem quite.
This passeth yeer by yeer and day by day,
Till it fil ones, in a morwe of May,
That Emelye, that fairer was to sene
Than is the lylie upon his stalke grene,
And fressher than the May with floures newe --
For with the rose colour stroof hire hewe,
I noot which was the fyner of hem two --
Er it were day, as was hir wone to do,
She was arisen and al redy dight,
For May wole have no slogardie anyght.
The sesoun priketh every gentil herte,
And maketh it out of his slep to sterte,
And seith "Arys, and do thyn observaunce."
This maked Emelye have remembraunce
To doon honour to May, and for to ryse.
Yclothed was she fressh, for to devyse:
Hir yelow heer was broyded in a tresse
Bihynde hir bak, a yerde long, I gesse.
And in the gardyn, at the sonne upriste,
She walketh up and doun, and as hire liste
She gadereth floures, party white and rede,
To make a subtil gerland for hire hede;
And as an aungel hevenysshly she soong.
The grete tour, that was so thikke and stroong,
Which of the castel was the chief dongeoun
(Ther as the knyghtes weren in prisoun
Of which I tolde yow and tellen shal),
Was evene joynant to the gardyn wal
Ther as this Emelye hadde hir pleyynge.
Bright was the sonne and cleer that morwenynge,
And Palamoun, this woful prisoner,
As was his wone, by leve of his gayler,
Was risen and romed in a chambre an heigh,
In which he al the noble citee seigh,
And eek the gardyn, ful of braunches grene,
Ther as this fresshe Emelye the shene
Was in hire walk, and romed up and doun.
This sorweful prisoner, this Palamoun,
Goth in the chambre romynge to and fro
And to hymself compleynynge of his wo.
That he was born, ful ofte he seyde, "allas!"
And so bifel, by aventure or cas,
That thurgh a wyndow, thikke of many a barre
Of iren greet and square as any sparre,
He cast his eye upon Emelya,
And therwithal he bleynte and cride, "A!"
As though he stongen were unto the herte.
And with that cry Arcite anon up sterte
And seyde, "Cosyn myn, what eyleth thee,
That art so pale and deedly on to see?
Why cridestow? Who hath thee doon offence?
For Goddes love, taak al in pacience
Oure prisoun, for it may noon oother be.
Fortune hath yeven us this adversitee.
Som wikke aspect or disposicioun
Of Saturne, by som constellacioun,
Hath yeven us this, although we hadde it sworn;
So stood the hevene whan that we were born.
We moste endure it; this is the short and playn."
This Palamon answerde and seyde agayn,
"Cosyn, for sothe, of this opinioun
Thow hast a veyn ymaginacioun.
This prison caused me nat for to crye,
But I was hurt right now thurghout myn ye
Into myn herte, that wol my bane be.
The fairnesse of that lady that I see
Yond in the gardyn romen to and fro
Is cause of al my criyng and my wo.
I noot wher she be womman or goddesse,
But Venus is it soothly, as I gesse."
And therwithal on knees doun he fil,
And seyde, "Venus, if it be thy wil
Yow in this gardyn thus to transfigure
Bifore me, sorweful, wrecched creature,
Out of this prisoun help that we may scapen.
And if so be my destynee be shapen
By eterne word to dyen in prisoun,
Of oure lynage have som compassioun,
That is so lowe ybroght by tirannye."
And with that word Arcite gan espye
Wher as this lady romed to and fro,
And with that sighte hir beautee hurte hym so,
That, if that Palamon was wounded sore,
Arcite is hurt as muche as he, or moore.
And with a sigh he seyde pitously,
"The fresshe beautee sleeth me sodeynly
Of hire that rometh in the yonder place;
And but I have hir mercy and hir grace,
That I may seen hire atte leeste weye,
I nam but deed; ther nis namoore to seye."
This Palamon, whan he tho wordes herde,
Dispitously he looked and answerde,
"Wheither seistow this in ernest or in pley?"
"Nay," quod Arcite, "in ernest, by my fey!
God helpe me so, me list ful yvele pleye."
This Palamon gan knytte his browes tweye.
"It nere," quod he, "to thee no greet honour
For to be fals, ne for to be traitour
To me, that am thy cosyn and thy brother
Ysworn ful depe, and ech of us til oother,
That nevere, for to dyen in the peyne,
Til that the deeth departe shal us tweyne,
Neither of us in love to hyndre oother,
Ne in noon oother cas, my leeve brother,
But that thou sholdest trewely forthren me
In every cas, as I shal forthren thee --
This was thyn ooth, and myn also, certeyn;
I woot right wel, thou darst it nat withseyn.
Thus artow of my conseil, out of doute,
And now thow woldest falsly been about
To love my lady, whom I love and serve,
And evere shal til that myn herte sterve.
Nay, certes, false Arcite, thow shalt nat so.
I loved hire first, and tolde thee my wo
As to my conseil and my brother sworn
To forthre me, as I have toold biforn.
For which thou art ybounden as a knyght
To helpen me, if it lay in thy myght,
Or elles artow fals, I dar wel seyn."
This Arcite ful proudly spak ageyn:
"Thow shalt," quod he, "be rather fals than I;
And thou art fals, I telle thee outrely,
For paramour I loved hire first er thow.
What wiltow seyen? Thou woost nat yet now
Wheither she be a womman or goddesse!
Thyn is affeccioun of hoolynesse,
And myn is love as to a creature;
For which I tolde thee myn aventure
As to my cosyn and my brother sworn.
I pose that thow lovedest hire biforn;
Wostow nat wel the olde clerkes sawe,
That `who shal yeve a lovere any lawe?'
Love is a gretter lawe, by my pan,
Than may be yeve to any erthely man;
And therfore positif lawe and swich decree
Is broken al day for love in ech degree.
A man moot nedes love, maugree his heed;
He may nat fleen it, thogh he sholde be deed,
Al be she mayde, or wydwe, or elles wyf.
And eek it is nat likly al thy lyf
To stonden in hir grace; namoore shal I;
For wel thou woost thyselven, verraily,
That thou and I be dampned to prisoun
Perpetuelly; us gayneth no raunsoun.
We stryve as dide the houndes for the boon;
They foughte al day, and yet hir part was noon.
Ther cam a kyte, whil that they were so wrothe,
And baar awey the boon bitwixe hem bothe.
And therfore, at the kynges court, my brother,
Ech man for hymself, ther is noon oother.
Love, if thee list, for I love and ay shal;
And soothly, leeve brother, this is al.
Heere in this prisoun moote we endure,
And everich of us take his aventure."
Greet was the strif and long bitwix hem tweye,
If that I hadde leyser for to seye;
But to th'effect. It happed on a day,
To telle it yow as shortly as I may,
A worthy duc that highte Perotheus,
That felawe was unto duc Theseus
Syn thilke day that they were children lite,
Was come to Atthenes his felawe to visite,
And for to pleye as he was wont to do;
For in this world he loved no man so,
And he loved hym als tendrely agayn.
So wel they lovede, as olde bookes sayn,
That whan that oon was deed, soothly to telle,
His felawe wente and soughte hym doun in helle --
But of that storie list me nat to write.
Duc Perotheus loved wel Arcite,
And hadde hym knowe at Thebes yeer by yere,
And finally at requeste and preyere
Of Perotheus, withouten any raunsoun,
Duc Theseus hym leet out of prisoun
Frely to goon wher that hym liste over al,
In swich a gyse as I you tellen shal.
This was the forward, pleynly for t'endite,
Bitwixen Theseus and hym Arcite:
That if so were that Arcite were yfounde
Evere in his lif, by day or nyght, oo stounde
In any contree of this Theseus,
And he were caught, it was acorded thus,
That with a swerd he sholde lese his heed.
Ther nas noon oother remedie ne reed;
But taketh his leve, and homward he him spedde.
Lat hym be war! His nekke lith to wedde.
How greet a sorwe suffreth now Arcite!
The deeth he feeleth thurgh his herte smyte;
He wepeth, wayleth, crieth pitously;
To sleen hymself he waiteth prively.
He seyde, "Allas that day that I was born!
Now is my prisoun worse than biforn;
Now is me shape eternally to dwelle
Noght in purgatorie, but in helle.
Allas, that evere knew I Perotheus!
For elles hadde I dwelled with Theseus,
Yfetered in his prisoun everemo.
Thanne hadde I been in blisse and nat in wo.
Oonly the sighte of hire whom that I serve,
Though that I nevere hir grace may deserve,
Wolde han suffised right ynough for me.
O deere cosyn Palamon," quod he,
"Thyn is the victorie of this aventure.
Ful blisfully in prison maistow dure --
In prison? Certes nay, but in paradys!
Wel hath Fortune yturned thee the dys,
That hast the sighte of hire, and I th'absence.
For possible is, syn thou hast hire presence,
And art a knyght, a worthy and an able,
That by som cas, syn Fortune is chaungeable,
Thow maist to thy desir somtyme atteyne.
But I, that am exiled and bareyne
Of alle grace, and in so greet dispeir
That ther nys erthe, water, fir, ne eir,
Ne creature that of hem maked is,
That may me helpe or doon confort in this,
Wel oughte I sterve in wanhope and distresse.
Farwel my lif, my lust, and my gladnesse!
"Allas, why pleynen folk so in commune
On purveiaunce of God, or of Fortune,
That yeveth hem ful ofte in many a gyse
Wel bettre than they kan hemself devyse?
Som man desireth for to han richesse,
That cause is of his mordre or greet siknesse;
And som man wolde out of his prisoun fayn,
That in his hous is of his meynee slayn.
Infinite harmes been in this mateere.
We witen nat what thing we preyen heere;
We faren as he that dronke is as a mous.
A dronke man woot wel he hath an hous,
But he noot which the righte wey is thider,
And to a dronke man the wey is slider.
And certes, in this world so faren we;
We seken faste after felicitee,
But we goon wrong ful often, trewely.
Thus may we seyen alle, and namely I,
That wende and hadde a greet opinioun
That if I myghte escapen from prisoun,
Thanne hadde I been in joye and parfit heele,
Ther now I am exiled fro my wele.
Syn that I may nat seen you, Emelye,
I nam but deed; ther nys no remedye."
Upon that oother syde Palamon,
Whan that he wiste Arcite was agon,
Swich sorwe he maketh that the grete tour
Resouneth of his youlyng and clamour.
The pure fettres on his shynes grete
Weren of his bittre, salte teeres wete.
"Allas," quod he, "Arcita, cosyn myn,
Of al oure strif, God woot, the fruyt is thyn.
Thow walkest now in Thebes at thy large,
And of my wo thow yevest litel charge.
Thou mayst, syn thou hast wisdom and manhede,
Assemblen alle the folk of oure kynrede,
And make a werre so sharp on this citee
That by som aventure or some tretee
Thow mayst have hire to lady and to wyf
For whom that I moste nedes lese my lyf.
For, as by wey of possibilitee,
Sith thou art at thy large, of prisoun free,
And art a lord, greet is thyn avauntage
Moore than is myn, that sterve here in a cage.
For I moot wepe and wayle, whil I lyve,
With al the wo that prison may me yive,
And eek with peyne that love me yeveth also,
That doubleth al my torment and my wo."
Therwith the fyr of jalousie up sterte
Withinne his brest, and hente him by the herte
So woodly that he lyk was to biholde
The boxtree or the asshen dede and colde.
Thanne seyde he, "O crueel goddes that governe
This world with byndyng of youre word eterne,
And writen in the table of atthamaunt
Youre parlement and youre eterne graunt,
What is mankynde moore unto you holde
Than is the sheep that rouketh in the folde?
For slayn is man right as another beest,
And dwelleth eek in prison and arreest,
And hath siknesse and greet adversitee,
And ofte tymes giltelees, pardee.
"What governance is in this prescience,
That giltelees tormenteth innocence?
And yet encresseth this al my penaunce,
That man is bounden to his observaunce,
For Goddes sake, to letten of his wille,
Ther as a beest may al his lust fulfille.
And whan a beest is deed he hath no peyne;
But man after his deeth moot wepe and pleyne,
Though in this world he have care and wo.
Withouten doute it may stonden so.
The answere of this lete I to dyvynys,
But wel I woot that in this world greet pyne ys.
Allas, I se a serpent or a theef,
That many a trewe man hath doon mescheef,
Goon at his large, and where hym list may turne.
But I moot been in prisoun thurgh Saturne,
And eek thurgh Juno, jalous and eek wood,
That hath destroyed wel ny al the blood
Of Thebes with his waste walles wyde;
And Venus sleeth me on that oother syde
For jalousie and fere of hym Arcite."
Now wol I stynte of Palamon a lite,
And lete hym in his prisoun stille dwelle,
And of Arcita forth I wol yow telle.
The somer passeth, and the nyghtes longe
Encressen double wise the peynes stronge
Bothe of the lovere and the prisoner.
I noot which hath the wofuller mester.
For, shortly for to seyn, this Palamoun
Perpetuelly is dampned to prisoun,
In cheynes and in fettres to been deed;
And Arcite is exiled upon his heed
For everemo, as out of that contree,
Ne nevere mo ne shal his lady see.
Yow loveres axe I now this questioun:
Who hath the worse, Arcite or Palamoun?
That oon may seen his lady day by day,
But in prison he moot dwelle alway;
That oother wher hym list may ride or go,
But seen his lady shal he nevere mo.
Now demeth as yow liste, ye that kan,
For I wol telle forth as I bigan.
|As ancient stories tell us, once there reigned
A duke named Theseus, who’d in Athens gained
The office of a governing magistrate,
Who, as a conquering general, did rate
As more renowned than any neath the sun.
Rich countries by the dozens had he won;
And in particular the region of
The Amazons, he’d won with wit and love;
An area as Scythia once known.
Hippolyta, the queen upon its throne
He wedded, and with pomp and glory led
This lovely monarch home to share his bed,
And Emily, her younger sister, too.
And so, in festive victory, adieu
I say unto this noble duke, who rides
To Athens with his armed host on both sides.
And if it were not much to long a tale,
I would relate to you in more detail
Just how the reign of Femininity
Was won by Theseus with his chivalry;
And of the raging battle that went on
With these Athenians in Amazon.
And how they did besiege Hippolyta,
The fair and hardy queen of Scythia;
The celebrations on their wedding day;
Their welcome when they came home from the fray;
But all of that I must dispense with now,
For a large field, God knows, I have to plow,
With oxen in my plow that are not strong.
And the remainder of my tale is long.
In deference to others, my concern
Is that each one should tell his tale in turn,
That we might see who will the supper win.
Where I left off, then, let me now begin.
This duke, whose further deeds I shall relate,
When he was nearly at the city gate,
Arrayed in all his pomp and circumstance,
Became aware, as round him he did glance,
There was beside the highway, kneeling there,
A company of ladies, pair by pair.
Each one of them in clothes of black were dressed;
Their woeful cry meant they were so distressed
As that no creature on this earth was found
That could make such a piteous, woeful sound;
And of their grief they could not be appeased,
Until at length his bridle’s reigns they seized
“What kind of people are you, that disturb
My festival? Your loud commotion curb.”
Said Theseus, “Do you so envy me
That ye do show this great discourtesy?
Or is it that someone has injured you?
And if so, let me know what I can do;
And tell me why in black you all are dressed.”
The eldest lady of them all confessed,
When she had swooned, so sad and so distressed
As to arouse his pity unrepressed;
As follows, “We see, lord, thou hast been blessed
With victory, in Fortune’s arms caressed.
Your glory and your honor grieves us not;
We’d see if mercy of thee might be sought.
Have mercy on our woe, ere you depart!
Some drop of pity, from thy noble heart,
Upon us wretched women let thou fall;
For know this, lord, there’s not one of us all
That has not been a duchess or a queen.
Now we are wretches, as can well be seen,
Thanks be to Fortune and her wheel from hell,
Who makes sure no estate continues well.
Here for your presence in the temple of
The goddesses of Clemency and Love,
We’ve waited patiently all this fortnight.
Now help us, lord, if it’s within thy might.
I, wretched woman, ye see weeping thus,
Was once the wife of king Cappaneus,
Who died at Thebes – oh, cursÚd be that day! –
And all of us in this forsaken way
This lamentation make; in tears we drown,
For we all lost our husbands in that town,
While all around besieging hosts amass.
And yet now that old Creon, who – alas! –
In Thebes is now the city’s magistrate;
Full of iniquity and ire and hate,
This tyrant, out of spite and anger great,
The bodies of the dead to desecrate,
Of all our lords who slain were lying there,
Dragged in a heap all their dead bodies, where
He would no one allow, who was concerned
To see that they were buried, or were burned,
But as an insult makes dogs eat them all.”
And with that word, all of them face down fall,
And with grief overflowing, weep and cry,
“Have mercy on us wretched women, try
And let our sorrow in thine heart sink deep.”
Down from his horse this gentle duke doth leap
With piteous heart, when unto him they spake.
He felt as though his heart would nearly break,
When he saw them so low and so disgraced,
That in their state were once so highly placed;
So in his arms he all of them embraced,
And comforts them, intending with all haste,
By his sworn oath, he being a true knight,
To march to Thebes, and there with all his might
Upon the tyrant Creon vengeance wreak,
That of his mighty deeds all Greece should speak:
How Creon was by Theseus unthroned;
How in the throes of death he justly groaned.
So right away, and with no more delay,
He rides forth, with his banner on display,
Toward Thebes, with all his army by his side.
No nearer Athens would he walk or ride,
Nor slack his pace, nor rest, for half a day,
But that night he encamped upon his way,
And queen Hippolyta straightway sent he,
With her young sister, lovely Emily,
Unto the town of Athens, there to dwell,
And forth he rides – there is no more to tell.
Red Mars, with spear and shield, upon his white,
Enormous, brilliant banner, shines so bright,
That all the fields do glitter ere the fight;
His banner and his pennant catch the light,
Whereon embroidered, with rich gold replete,
Is seen the Minotaur he killed in Crete.
Thus rides this duke to conquer once again,
And in the flow’r of chivalry his men,
At length come unto Thebes; there he dismounts
Intending fairly on his foe to pounce.
But only briefly of this thing to speak,
Upon this Creon, king of Thebes, to wreak
Revenge, he boldly slays him as a knight,
In combat fair, and puts his host to flight;
And by assault he then the city won,
And tore the walls and beams down, one by one;
And to the ladies he again restored
The bones of every husband, liege, and lord,
To pay respects, as custom doth dictate.
But it would take far too long to relate
The lamentation and the clamor great
Which, while the bodies burned, did not abate,
And the great honor Theseus did show
Unto these ladies, as away they go
From this most noble knight, to salve their grief.
But it is my intent to keep it brief.
So when this worthy duke, this Theseus,
Had Creon slain, and Thebes had conquered thus,
He rested in the field, his labors eased,
And did with all the country as he pleased.
Among the bodies piled in heaps he goes,
To strip them of their armor and their clothes;
The scavengers worked hard and took great pains
To sift through all the bloody war’s remains.
And in the heap were spotted by one crew,
With many a grievous, bloody wound pierced through,
Two youthful knights reclining side by side,
Where in rich arms identical they’d died.
Of which two, one of them was called Arcite,
And Palamon, was named the other knight.
Not fully living, and not fully dead,
But by their coats of arms, by heralds read,
Who knew how to decipher best, the same
Could tell that they of royal blood both came
From Thebes, and of two sisters they were born.
Out of the heap the scavengers have torn
Their bodies, which they carried to the tent
Of Thesesus, who very soon them sent
To Athens, there in prison to be kept
Forever; he no ransom would accept.
And when this worthy duke did all these things,
Back home he rides, and all his army brings;
A conqueror, with laurels he is crowned;
And there in joy and honor lives renowned
For all his life; what more words need be said?
Chained in a tower, wishing they were dead,
Arcite and Palamon their pain endure;
No gold can ever their release secure.
Time passes day by day, and year by year,
Till one May morning, filled with springtime’s cheer,
Fair Emily, much fairer to behold
Than lilies, daisies, or the marigold,
Or any flow’r that in the springtime grows –
For all the ruby color of the rose,
The hue of her complexion doth outglow –
Ere it was light, prepared outdoors to go,
For there’s no lazy sleeping in with May;
She bids all to arise and greet the day.
The season doth awaken out of sleep
All gentle hearts, and says to them, “Now keep
Thy ritual observances of Spring.”
So Emily remembers every thing,
And rose to do all honor unto May.
Clothed gaily was she, in a fitting way
Her yellow hair hung braided in a tress
Down to her waist, a whole yard long, I’d guess.
And in the garden she, at break of day,
Walks blithely with a step that’s light and gay.
She gathers flowers, some white and some red,
To make a fancy garland for her head;
And like an angel, sings a heavenly song.
The tower high, that was so thick and strong,
Which was the castle’s dungeon, where these two
Young knights from Thebes, of whom I unto you
Have spoken heretofore, in chains were bound,
Was right next to the wall that went around
The garden wherein Emily did play,
And where the bright sun cast his morning ray.
This woeful captive Palamon arose,
And by permission, neath the jailer’s nose,
Round in his little chamber high doth go,
From which he sees the city spread below.
He see the garden too, with all its trees,
And therein Emily he clearly sees;
With sprightly step she walks upon the lawn.
This woeful prisoner, this Palamon,
Frets in his chamber roaming to and fro,
Unto himself lamenting of his woe.
That he was born , “alas!” he’d often say,
But it by chance did happen on this day,
That through a window, set with many bars
Of steel, he looked and, bless his lucky stars,
His eyes did come to rest on Emily,
Which made him turn all pale; he cries out, “Gee!”
As through his heart had passed an arrow long.
At which Arcite leaped up and said, “What’s wrong,
My cousin? What is it that thee doth ail?
What makes you look so ill, and ghostly pale?
Who has offended you? Why did you cry?
Please, for the love of God be patient. Why?
To be imprisoned is the fate we’ve got;
And so I say to Fortune, ‘Thanks a lot!’
That we should have to live behind these bars
Must be ordained by our unlucky stars.
Much as we wish it would not be for us,
When we were born it was determined thus.
We have no choice but to endure the pain.”
Then Palamon replied, with great disdain,
“Dear cousin, your opinion’s way off base;
Now I shall throw it back into your face.
This prison’s not the reason that I cried;
Through my eyes was I hurt down deep inside,
With pain that yet may be the death of me.
It is the fairness of her, whom I see
In yonder garden roaming to and fro,
That makes me cry and causes all my woe.
A goddess or a woman? Heaven knows!
It must be Venus; that’s what I suppose.”
And with that he did fall down on his knees,
And cried out, “Venus, if it thee doth please
Thyself here in this garden to appear
Before me, sorrowful and wretched here,
Then let us of these fetters now be free.
And if it so be, by divine decree,
That death in prison is my destiny,
Have some compassion on our family tree
Which has been brought so low by tyranny.”
And with that word Arcite did also see
This goddess woman roaming to and fro,
And at that sight her beauty hurt him so,
That if his cousin had been wounded sore,
Arcite is hurt as much as he, or more.
And with a sigh this is his sad refrain:
“By that great beauty suddenly I’m slain,
Of her that roams around in yonder place;
Unless I have her mercy and her grace
That I her face can look upon, I may
As well be dead; there is no more to say.”
When Palamon this speech of his did hear,
He answered angrily, “My cousin dear,
I surely hope you’re kidding me, in jest.”
“Nay”, said Arcite, “I’m serious; you’d best
Believe me, I do not make light of it.”
Then Palamon, his brows in anger knit,
Says, “It would be no honor unto thee
To be a traitor, or be false to me,
That am your cousin, your blood brother too.
We’re sworn each to the other to be true,
That although death by torture we must die,
Till death shall nothing come twixt you and I.
In love we’ll not get in each other’s way,
Nor shall we interfere, dear brother; nay,
But rather you should help me as a friend
In every case, as I shall thee defend.
This was the oath, most surely, that was thine;
Do not deny it; it was also mine.
Thus you my true advisor ought to be,
And now would you my lady falsely see
And fall in love with, whom I love and serve?
I tell you, you sure have a lot of nerve!
Nay, false Arcite, you’d better back off now,
Else, mark my word, right in your kisser, pow!
You are my confidant and brother, bound
To help me, and if not I shall thee pound.
For as a knight you obligated are
To help me, not my happiness to mar,
Or else you are a phony, I surmise.”
Intimidated not, Arcite replies:
“You are,” he says, “the false one, in my eyes;
And without mincing words, I claim I did
Her as a mistress love before you, kid!
To hear you talk, you can’t make up your mind
If she’s a goddess or of womankind.
Thine is a love platonic, mine’s for real;
It’s for a human being that I feel,
The mortal object of my ardent zeal.
As to that oath, let’s say things were reversed,
And just assume that you did love her first;
There’s an old saying pointing up your flaw.
It’s: ‘Who shall give a lover any law?’
Love’s law, my intuition tells me, trumps
All earthly laws, and lovers take their lumps
In spite of claims they stake, in every way,
As all such laws are broken every day.
A man must go where e’er his heart may lead,
Though that may mean he makes another’s bleed,
Although she may be widow, maid, or wife.
For it’s not likely that, for all your life,
She’ll love you, any more than she would me;
And very well you realize that we
Are in this prison here condemned to be
Forever; for no ransom sets us free.
We’re like two stallions fighting for one mare;
Both winding up with nothing for our share.
Another stud came, and the prize did snatch,
While we were busy with our fighting match.
And therefore, brother, at the royal ball
It’s each man for himself – a free for all.
Love as you wish, and I shall do the same;
For brother, all is just in love’s fair game.
The most of our confinement we must make,
And each one of us his own chances take.”
All of their strife, that was both long and great,
I wish I had the leisure to relate;
But something put a stop to it one day,
Which I will briefly now before you lay:
A worthy duke, Perotheus by name,
Unto duke Theseus in friendship came;
For they as little children once had played,
And as they grew up, very close they’d stayed
For some amusement he had come to see
This man he loved, who filled his heart with glee,
And who his tender feelings did return.
So well they loved, as from old books we learn,
When one of them did die, his grief to quell
The other went to seek him out in hell.
But of that story right now I’ll not write.
Duke Perotheus was fond of Arcite.
For many years at Thebes he’d known him well,
And when of this, duke Theseus he did tell,
He was released out of his prison cell
So that now as a free man he could dwell,
And move around wherever he desired,
And for all this no ransom was required.
There was one little stipulation though,
Concerning where he was allowed to go:
For Theseus insisted that he not
Allow himself in Athens to be caught,
Or any land that Theseus controlled;
And if to break this rule he’s ever bold,
Then with a sword his head will be removed,
No trial requiring that his guilt be proved.
And so he homeward speeds, o’er field and hedge.
Let hem beware. His neck lies as a pledge.
And now how great the grief of poor Arcite!
The gloom of death his aching heart doth smite;
His weeping and his wailing ne’er abate;
To slay himself he’d even contemplate.
“Alas, that day that I was born!” he cries,
“No greater prison could foul Fate devise;
For now I’m destined to forever dwell
Not just in purgatory, but in hell.
I wish I’d never known Perotheus!
For otherwise I had, with Theseus,
Stayed fettered in his prison as his foe.
Then I’d have been in bliss and not in woe.
Then Emily’s angelic face to see,
Though to embrace we never would be free,
Would have some consolation been for me.
O my dear cousin Palamon,” said he
Of this adventure you’ve the victory;
For you remain in prison blissfully.
In prison? Rather you’re in paradise!
Now Fortune has for thee well rolled the dice.
For you can look upon her, while I’m gone.
And it is possible you, Palamon,
The worthy and accomplished knight you are,
Since Fortune’s fickle, just might go so far
As to attain your wish sometime, by chance.
But I, in my unlucky circumstance,
Deprived of grace am, and in such despair
That there is not earth, water, fire, nor air,
Nor any creature of all these composed
That can me comfort. I’m completely hosed!
I’ll die in misery and in distress.
Farewell to life, desire, and happiness!
“Alas, why do folks carry on so much
About the providence of God, who such
Of fortune or disfavor gives, than which
No better could they do, who whine and bitch?
One man’s desire is to be filthy rich,
Which might cause death or sickness – that’s the hitch;
Another out of prison would be placed,
Then by his family he is erased.
To injuries like this there is no end;
We don’t know what we’re asking God to send.
Like one who’s had too much to drink, we fare.
A drunk man knows he has a house, somewhere;
But how to get there he’s without a clue,
And what’s more, he walks with a slippery shoe.
On earth, the way things go for us is this:
We’re always seeking eagerly for bliss,
But oft, nay usually, the mark we miss.
A case in point is my predicament.
I was quite sure that I would be content
If out of prison, off scot free I went,
For then, well off in joy I would have been.
But now it’s woe and misery I’m in,
Since now I can’t see Emily.” He said,
“There is no hope. I might as well be dead.”
Meanwhile, back in the prison, Palamon,
As soon as he knew that Arcite was gone,
Made such a racket that throughout the tower
The halls resounded with his howling dour.
The chains, that were around his ankles yoked,
Were with his bitter, salty teardrops soaked.
“My cousin, Arcite, I’m the one who cries;
For all our fighting, you now take the prize.
In Thebes you are free now, around to go;
And you don’t care one whit about my woe.
Now with your reputation you could raise,
Within a matter of a few short days,
An army that could come, and Athens raze,
With exploits that would Emily amaze,
And so impress, she’d want to be your wife;
Then I might just as well forfeit my life.
For, as by way of possibility,
Since you at large are, out of prison, free,
Much greater is your opportunity
Than he who in a cage rots – namely, me!
As long as I shall live I’ll weep and wail
With all my misery, stuck in this jail.
And added to my love, that is in vain,
That doubles all my torment and my pain.”
Then fires of jealous rage into him came,
Which did ignite, and set his heart aflame.
So wildly and so uncontrolled they burned,
To ashes, dead and cold, it seemed he turned.
Then said he, “All ye gods that are so cruel,
That by your binding words this world do rule,
Which, cast in concrete, cannot altered be –
Your law eternal and your firm decree –
Why should we your command try more to keep
Than cows, or oxen, horses, pigs, or sheep.
For just like any beast, a man is killed,
With men who’re innocent the jails are filled.
Those least deserving are, it seems to me,
The ones most often in adversity.
“Where is the wisdom in this governance;
One that pure guiltless innocence torments?
By this is all my suffering increased,
That man is bound to do, unlike a beast,
His duty, for God’s sake; from his desire
Refrain, though he’s consumed with passion’s fire.
And when a beast is dead, his pain is o’er,
But after death, a man must suffer more,
Though he may have had more than his fair share,
Upon this earth, of misery and care.
The answer, I’m afraid, I’ll have to leave
To theologians – why the guiltless grieve.
Alas, sometimes I see a slimy thief,
That unto honest men has brought much grief,
Who gets away with murder, and goes free.
But now just take one good hard look at me,
Imprisoned here, though I no law did break;
Then do the gods, their thirst for blood to slake,
Upon the city Thebes their vengeance take.
And Venus doth me miserable make
For fear of Arcite, and for jealousy.”
Now as for Palamon, we’ll let him be,
Still languishing within his prison cell,
And somewhat more of Arcite I shall tell.
As summer passes, its extended nights
Increase the pain of both these lovers’ plights
To double their intensity before.
Which of their heavy burdens is the more
Intense, it’s hard to say; for Palamon
Is doomed to prison, with his hope all gone,
To live in chains and fetters till he’s dead;
And, on the threat that he might lose his head,
Arcite is exiled from that country where
He only could look on his lady fair.
Now unto all ye lovers I would ask:
Which of these men has the most woeful task?
One who can see his lady every day,
But knows he must in chains forever stay;
Or one who walks free out the prison door,
But who shall see his lady nevermore.
Judge if you can which one has got it worse,
As I this tale continue to rehearse.
|Whan that Arcite to Thebes comen was,
Ful ofte a day he swelte and seyde `Allas,'
For seen his lady shal he nevere mo;
And shortly to concluden al his wo,
So muche sorwe hadde nevere creature,
That is, or shal whil that the world may dure.
His slep, his mete, his drynke is hym biraft,
That lene he wex and drye as is a shaft.
Hise eyen holwe and grisly to biholde,
His hewe falow and pale as asshen colde;
And solitarie he was and evere allone
And waillynge al the nyght, makynge his mone.
And if he herde song or instrument,
Thanne wolde he wepe, he myghte nat be stent.
So feble eek were hise spiritz, and so lowe,
And chaunged so, that no man koude knowe
His speche nor his voys, though men it herde.
And in his geere for al the world he ferde
Nat oonly lik the loveris maladye
Of Hereos, but rather lyk manye
Engendred of humour malencolik
Biforen in his celle fantastik,
And shortly turned was al up so doun
Bothe habit and eek disposicioun
Of hym, this woful lovere daun Arcite.
What sholde I al day of his wo endite?
Whan he endured hadde a yeer or two
This crueel torment, and this peyne and wo,
At Thebes in his contree, as I seyde,
Upon a nyght in sleep as he hym leyde,
Hym thoughte how that the wynged god Mercurie
Biforn hym stood, and bad hym to be murie.
His slepy yerde in hond he bar uprighte,
An hat he werede upon hise heris brighte.
Arrayed was this god, as he took keep,
As he was whan that Argus took his sleep;
And seyde hym thus, "To Atthenes shaltou wende,
Ther is thee shapen of thy wo an ende."
And with that word Arcite wook and sterte.
"Now trewely, how soore that me smerte,"
Quod he, "to Atthenes right now wol I fare,
Ne for the drede of deeth shal I nat spare
To se my lady that I love and serve,
In hire presence I recche nat to sterve."
And with that word he caughte a greet mirour,
And saugh that chaunged was al his colour,
And saugh his visage al in another kynde.
And right anon it ran hym in his mynde,
That sith his face was so disfigured
Of maladye, the which he hadde endured,
He myghte wel, if that he bar hym lowe,
Lyve in Atthenes, everemoore unknowe,
And seen his lady wel ny day by day.
And right anon he chaunged his array,
And cladde hym as a povre laborer,
And al allone, save oonly a squier
That knew his privetee and al his cas,
Which was disgised povrely, as he was,
To Atthenes is he goon, the nexte way.
And to the court he wente, upon a day,
And at the gate he profreth his servyse,
To drugge and drawe, what so men wol devyse.
And shortly of this matere for to seyn,
He fil in office with a chamberleyn,
The which that dwellynge was with Emelye,
For he was wys and koude soone espye
Of every servant which that serveth here.
Wel koude he hewen wode, and water bere,
For he was yong and myghty for the nones,
And therto he was strong and big of bones
To doon that any wight kan hym devyse.
A yeer or two he was in this servyse
Page of the chambre of Emelye the brighte;
And Philostrate he seyde that he highte.
But half so wel biloved a man as he
Ne was ther nevere in court, of his degree;
He was so gentil of condicioun
That thurghout al the court was his renoun.
They seyden, that it were a charitee,
That Theseus wolde enhauncen his degree,
And putten hym in worshipful servyse
Ther as he myghte his vertu exercise.
And thus withinne a while his name is spronge
Bothe of hise dedes and his goode tonge,
That Theseus hath taken hym so neer,
That of his chambre he made hym a squier,
And gaf hym gold to mayntene his degree.
And eek men broghte hym out of his contree
From yeer to yeer, ful pryvely, his rente.
But honestly and slyly he it spente,
That no man wondred how that he it hadde.
And thre yeer in this wise his lif he ladde,
And bar hym so in pees, and eek in werre,
Ther was no man that Theseus hath derre.
And in this blisse lete I now Arcite,
And speke I wole of Palamon a lite.
In derknesse and horrible and strong prisoun
Thise seven yeer hath seten Palamoun,
Forpyned, what for wo and for distresse.
Who feeleth double soor and hevynesse
But Palamon, that love destreyneth so,
That wood out of his wit he goth for wo?
And eek therto he is a prisoner,
Perpetuelly, noght oonly for a yer.
Who koude ryme in Englyssh proprely
His martirdom? For sothe it am nat I,
Therfore I passe as lightly as I may.
It fel that in the seventhe yer, in May,
The thridde nyght, (as olde bookes seyn,
That al this storie tellen moore pleyn)
Were it by aventure or destynee -
As, whan a thyng is shapen, it shal be -
That soone after the mydnyght Palamoun
By helpyng of a freend, brak his prisoun
And fleeth the citee faste as he may go;
For he hade yeve his gayler drynke so
Of a clarree maad of a certeyn wyn,
With nercotikes and opie of Thebes fyn,
That al that nyght, thogh that men wolde him shake,
The gayler sleep, he myghte nat awake.
And thus he fleeth as faste as evere he may;
The nyght was short and faste by the day,
That nedes-cost he moot hymselven hyde;
And til a grove, faste ther bisyde,
With dredeful foot thanne stalketh Palamoun.
For shortly, this was his opinioun,
That in that grove he wolde hym hyde al day,
And in the nyght thanne wolde he take his way
To Thebes-ward, his freendes for to preye
On Theseus to helpe hym to werreye;
And shortly, outher he wolde lese his lif,
Or wynnen Emelye unto his wyf;
This is th'effect and his entente pleyn.
Now wol I turne to Arcite ageyn,
That litel wiste how ny that was his care,
Til that Fortune had broght him in the snare.
The bisy larke, messager of day,
Salueth in hir song the morwe gray,
And firy Phebus riseth up so brighte
That al the orient laugheth of the light,
And with hise stremes dryeth in the greves
The silver dropes hangynge on the leves.
And Arcita, that is in the court roial
With Theseus, his squier principal,
Is risen, and looketh on the myrie day.
And for to doon his observaunce of May,
Remembrynge on the poynt of his desir
He on a courser startlynge as the fir
Is riden into the feeldes, hym to pleye,
Out of the court, were it a myle or tweye.
And to the grove of which that I yow tolde
By aventure his wey he gan to holde,
To maken hym a gerland of the greves,
Were it of wodebynde or hawethorn leves.
And loude he song ayeyn the sonne shene,
"May, with alle thy floures and thy grene,
Welcome be thou, faire fresshe May,
In hope that I som grene gete may."
And from his courser, with a lusty herte,
Into a grove ful hastily he sterte,
And in a path he rometh up and doun
Ther as by aventure this Palamoun
Was in a bussh, that no man myghte hym se;
For soore afered of his deeth was he.
No thyng ne knew he that it was Arcite,
God woot, he wolde have trowed it ful lite.
But sooth is seyd, go sithen many yeres,
That "feeld hath eyen and the wode hath eres."
It is ful fair a man to bere hym evene,
For al day meeteth men at unset stevene.
Ful litel woot Arcite of his felawe,
That was so ny to herknen al his sawe,
For in the bussh he sitteth now ful stille.
Whan that Arcite hadde romed al his fille
And songen al the roundel lustily,
Into a studie he fil al sodeynly,
As doon thise loveres in hir queynte geres,
Now in the croppe, now doun in the breres,
Now up, now doun as boket in a welle.
Right as the Friday, soothly for to telle,
Now it shyneth, now it reyneth faste,
Right so kan geery Venus overcaste
The hertes of hir folk; right as hir day
Is gereful, right so chaungeth she array.
Selde is the Friday al the wowke ylike.
Whan that Arcite had songe, he gan to sike,
And sette hym doun withouten any moore;
"Allas," quod he, "that day that I was bore!
How longe, Juno, thurgh thy crueltee
Woltow werreyen Thebes the Citee?
Allas, ybroght is to confusioun
The blood roial of Cadme and Amphioun, -
Of Cadmus, which that was the firste man
That Thebes bulte, or first the toun bigan,
And of the citee first was crouned kyng,
Of his lynage am I, and his ofspryng,
By verray ligne, as of the stok roial,
And now I am so caytyf and so thral
That he that is my mortal enemy
I serve hym as his squier povrely.
And yet dooth Juno me wel moore shame,
For I dar noght biknowe myn owene name,
But theras I was wont to highte Arcite,
Now highte I Philostrate, noght worth a myte.
Allas, thou felle Mars! allas, Juno!
Thus hath youre ire oure lynage al fordo,
Save oonly me, and wrecched Palamoun
That Theseus martireth in prisoun.
And over al this, to sleen me outrely,
Love hath his firy dart so brennyngly
Ystiked thurgh my trewe careful herte,
That shapen was my deeth erst than my sherte.
Ye sleen me with youre eyen, Emelye!
Ye been the cause wherfore that I dye.
Of al the remenant of myn oother care
Ne sette I nat the montance of a tare,
So that I koude doon aught to youre plesaunce."
And with that word he fil doun in a traunce
A longe tyme, and after he upsterte.
This Palamoun, that thoughte that thurgh his herte
He felte a coold swerd sodeynliche glyde,
For ire he quook, no lenger wolde he byde.
And whan that he had herd Arcites tale,
As he were wood, with face deed and pale,
He stirte hym up out of the buskes thikke,
And seide, "Arcite, false traytour wikke!
Now artow hent that lovest my lady so,
For whom that I have al this peyne and wo,
And art my blood, and to my conseil sworn,
As I ful ofte ofte have seyd thee heerbiforn,
And hast byjaped heere duc Theseus,
And falsly chaunged hast thy name thus.
I wol be deed, or elles thou shalt dye;
Thou shalt nat love my lady Emelye,
But I wol love hire oonly, and namo,
For I am Palamon, thy mortal foo!
And though that I no wepene have in this place,
But out of prison am astert by grace,
I drede noght that outher thow shalt dye,
Or thow ne shalt nat loven Emelye.
Chees which thou wolt, for thou shalt nat asterte!"
This Arcite, with ful despitous herte,
Whan he hym knew, and hadde his tale herd,
As fiers as leoun pulled out his swerd,
And seyde thus: "By God that sit above,
Nere it that thou art sik and wood for love,
And eek that thow no wepne hast in this place,
Thou sholdest nevere out of this grove pace,
That thou ne sholdest dyen of myn hond.
For I defye the seurete and the bond
Which that thou seist that I have maad to thee.
What, verray fool, thynk wel that love is free,
And I wol love hir, maugree al thy myght!
But for as muche thou art a worthy knyght,
And wilnest to darreyne hire by bataille,
Have heer my trouthe; tomorwe I wol nat faille
Withoute wityng of any oother wight
That heere I wol be founden as a knyght,
And bryngen harneys right ynough for thee,
And ches the beste, and leef the worste for me.
And mete and drynke this nyght wol I brynge
Ynough for thee, and clothes for thy beddynge;
And if so be that thou my lady wynne,
And sle me in this wode ther I am inne,
Thow mayst wel have thy lady as for me."
This Palamon answerde, "I graunte it thee."
And thus they been departed til amorwe,
Whan ech of hem had leyd his feith to borwe.
O Cupide, out of alle charitee!
O regne, that wolt no felawe have with thee!
Ful sooth is seyd that love ne lordshipe
Wol noght, hir thankes, have no felaweshipe.
Wel fynden that Arcite and Palamoun.
Arcite is riden anon unto the toun,
And on the morwe, er it were dayes light,
Ful prively two harneys hath he dight,
Bothe suffisaunt and mete to darreyne
The bataille in the feeld bitwix hem tweyne.
And on his hors, allone as he was born,
He carieth al this harneys hym biforn,
And in the grove, at tyme and place yset,
This Arcite and this Palamon ben met.
To chaungen gan the colour in hir face
Right as the hunters in the regne of Trace,
That stondeth at the gappe with a spere,
Whan hunted is the leoun and the bere,
And hereth hym come russhyng in the greves,
And breketh bothe bowes and the leves,
And thynketh, "Heere cometh my mortal enemy,
Withoute faille he moot be deed or I,
For outher I moot sleen hym at the gappe,
Or he moot sleen me, if that me myshappe"-
So ferden they in chaungyng of hir hewe,
As fer as everich of hem oother knewe.
Ther nas no good day ne no saluyng,
But streight, withouten word or rehersyng,
Everich of hem heelp for to armen oother,
As freendly as he were his owene brother.
And after that with sharpe speres stronge
They foynen ech at oother wonder longe.
Thou myghtest wene that this Palamoun
In his fightyng were a wood leon,
And as a crueel tigre was Arcite.
As wilde bores gonne they to smyte,
That frothen white as foom for ire wood.
Up to the ancle foghte they in hir blood.
And in this wise I lete hem fightyng dwelle,
And forth I wole of Theseus yow telle.
The destinee, ministre general,
That executeth in the world overal
The purveiaunce that God hath seyn biforn,
So strong it is, that though the world had sworn
The contrarie of a thyng, by ye or nay,
Yet somtyme it shal fallen on a day
That falleth nat eft withinne a thousand yeere.
For certeinly, oure appetites heere,
Be it of werre, or pees, or hate, or love,
Al is this reuled by the sighte above.
This mene I now by myghty Theseus,
That for to hunten is so desirus
And namely at the grete hert in May,
That in his bed ther daweth hym no day
That he nys clad, and redy for to ryde
With hunte and horn, and houndes hym bisyde
For in his huntyng hath he swich delit
That it is al his joye and appetit
To been hymself the grete hertes bane-
For after Mars he serveth now Dyane.
Cleer was the day, as I have toold er this,
And Theseus, with alle joye and blis,
With his Ypolita, the faire quene,
And Emelye, clothed al in grene,
On huntyng be they riden roially,
And to the grove, that stood ful faste by,
In which ther was an hert, as men hym tolde,
Duc Theseus the streighte wey hath holde,
And to the launde he rideth hym ful right,
For thider was the hert wont have his flight,
And over a brook, and so forth in his weye.
This duc wol han a cours at hym, or tweye,
With houndes swiche as that hym list comaunde.
And whan this duc was come unto the launde,
Under the sonne he looketh, and anon
He was war of Arcite and Palamon,
That foughten breme, as it were bores two;
The brighte swerdes wenten to and fro
So hidously, that with the leeste strook
It semed as it wolde felle an ook;
But what they were, nothyng he ne woot.
This duc his courser with his spores smoot,
And at a stert he was bitwix hem two,
And pulled out a swerd, and cride, "Hoo!
Namoore, up peyne of lesynge of youre heed!
By myghty Mars, he shal anon be deed
That smyteth any strook, that I may seen.
But telleth me what myster men ye been,
That been so hardy for to fighten heere
Withouten juge or oother officere,
As it were in a lystes roially?"
This Palamon answerde hastily,
And seyde, "Sire, what nedeth wordes mo?
We have the deeth disserved, bothe two.
Two woful wrecches been we, two caytyves,
That been encombred of oure owene lyves,
And as thou art a fightful lord and juge,
Ne yeve us neither mercy ne refuge,
But sle me first for seinte charitee!
But sle my felawe eek as wel as me-
Or sle hym first, for, though thow knowest it lite,
This is thy mortal foo, this is Arcite,
That fro thy lond is banysshed on his heed,
For which he hath deserved to be deed.
For this is he, that cam unto thy gate,
And seyde that he highte Philostrate.
Thus hath he japed thee ful many a yer,
And thou hast maked hym thy chief Squier,
And this is he that loveth Emelye.
For sith the day is come that I shal dye,
I make pleynly my confessioun
That I am thilke woful Palamoun,
That hath thy prisoun broken wikkedly.
I am thy mortal foo, and it am I
That loveth so hoote Emelye the brighte,
That I wol dye present in hir sighte;
Wherfore I axe deeth and my juwise-
But sle my felawe in the same wise
For bothe han we deserved to be slayn."
This worthy duc answered anon agayn,
And seyde, "This is a short conclusioun,
Youre owene mouth, by your confessioun,
Hath dampned yow, and I wol it recorde.
It nedeth noght to pyne yow with the corde,
Ye shal be deed, by myghty Mars the rede!"
The queene anon, for verray wommanhede,
Gan for to wepe, and so dide Emelye,
And alle the ladyes in the compaignye.
Greet pitee was it, as it thoughte hem alle,
That evere swich a chaunce sholde falle.
For gentil men they were of greet estaat,
And no thyng but for love was this debaat,
And saugh hir blody woundes wyde and soore,
And alle crieden, both lasse and moore,
"Have mercy, lord, upon us wommen alle!"
And on hir bare knees adoun they falle,
And wolde have kist his feet ther as he stood;
Til at the laste aslaked was his mood,
For pitee renneth soone in gentil herte.
And though he first for ire quook and sterte,
He hath considered shortly in a clause
The trespas of hem bothe, and eek the cause,
And although that his ire hir gilt accused,
Yet in his resoun he hem bothe excused.
As thus: he thoghte wel, that every man
Wol helpe hymself in love, if that he kan,
And eek delivere hym-self out of prisoun;
And eek his herte hadde compassioun
Of wommen, for they wepen evere in oon.
And in his gentil herte he thoughte anon,
And softe unto hymself he seyde, "Fy
Upon a lord that wol have no mercy,
But been a leon, bothe in word and dede,
To hem that been in repentaunce and drede,
As wel as to a proud despitous man,
That wol maynteyne that he first bigan.
That lord hath litel of discrecioun
That in swich cas kan no divisioun,
But weyeth pride and humblesse after oon."
And shortly, whan his ire is thus agoon,
He gan to looken up with eyen lighte,
And spak thise same wordes al on highte:
"The God of love, a benedicite!
How myghty and how greet a lord is he!
Ayeyns his myght ther gayneth none obstacles,
He may be cleped a god for his myracles,
For he kan maken at his owene gyse
Of everich herte as that hym list divyse.
Lo heere, this Arcite and this Palamoun
That quitly weren out of my prisoun,
And myghte han lyved in Thebes roially,
And witen I am hir mortal enemy,
And that hir deth lith in my myght also;
And yet hath love, maugree hir eyen two,
Ybroght hem hyder bothe for to dye.
Now looketh, is nat that an heigh folye?
Who may been a fole, but if he love?
Bihoold, for Goddes sake that sit above,
Se how they blede! Be they noght wel arrayed?
Thus hath hir lord, the God of Love, ypayed
Hir wages and hir fees for hir servyse!
And yet they wenen for to been ful wyse,
That serven love, for aught that may bifalle!
But this is yet the beste game of alle,
That she, for whom they han this jolitee,
Kan hem therfore as muche thank, as me!
She woot namoore of al this hoote fare,
By God, than woot a cokkow or an hare!
But all moot ben assayed, hoot and coold;
A man moot ben a fool, or yong or oold;
I woot it by myself ful yore agon,
For in my tyme a servant was I oon.
And therfore, syn I knowe of loves peyne,
And woot how soore it kan a man distreyne,
As he that hath ben caught ofte in his laas,
I yow foryeve al hoolly this trespaas,
At requeste of the queene that kneleth heere,
And eek of Emelye, my suster deere.
And ye shul bothe anon unto me swere,
That nevere mo ye shal my contree dere,
Ne make werre upon me, nyght ne day,
But been my freendes in al that ye may,
I yow foryeve this trespas, every deel."
And they hym sworen his axyng, faire and weel,
And hym of lordship and of mercy preyde,
And he hem graunteth grace, and thus he seyde:
"To speke of roial lynage and richesse,
Though that she were a queene or a princesse,
Ech of you bothe is worthy doutelees
To wedden whan tyme is, but nathelees
I speke as for my suster Emelye,
For whom ye have this strif and jalousye:
Ye woot yourself, she may nat wedden two
Atones, though ye fighten everemo.
That oon of you, al be hym looth or lief,
He moot go pipen in an yvy leef-
This is to seyn, she may nat now han bothe,
Al be ye never so jalouse, ne so wrothe.
And forthy, I yow putte in this degree;
That ech of yow shal have his destynee
As hym is shape, and herkneth in what wyse;
Lo, heere your ende of that I shal devyse.
My wyl is this, for plat conclusioun,
Withouten any repplicacioun, -
If that you liketh, take it for the beste,
That everich of you shal goon where hym leste,
Frely, withouten raunson, or daunger,
And this day fifty wykes fer ne ner,
Everich of you shal brynge an hundred knyghtes
Armed for lystes up at alle rightes,
Al redy to darreyne hire by bataille.
And this bihote I yow withouten faille,
Upon my trouthe, and as I am a knyght,
That wheither of yow bothe that hath myght,
This is to seyn, that wheither he, or thow
May with his hundred, as I spak of now,
Sleen his contrarie, or out of lystes dryve,
Thanne shal I yeve Emelya to wyve
To whom that Fortune yeveth so fair a grace.
Tho lystes shal I maken in this place,
And God so wisly on my soule rewe,
As I shal evene juge been, and trewe.
Ye shul noon oother ende with me maken,
That oon of yow ne shal be deed or taken.
And if yow thynketh this is weel ysayd,
Seyeth youre avys and holdeth you apayd;
This is youre ende and youre conclusioun."
Who looketh lightly now but Palamoun?
Who spryngeth up for joye but Arcite?
Who kouthe tellen, or who kouthe endite
The joye that is maked in the place,
Whan Theseus hath doon so fair a grace?
But doun on knees wente every maner wight,
And thonken hym with al hir herte and myght,
And namely the Thebans, often sithe.
And thus with good hope and with herte blithe
They taken hir leve, and homward gonne they ride
To Thebes with hise olde walles wyde.
|When Arcite went to Thebes, oft times he’d faint;
Throughout the day; “Alas!” was his complaint,
For of his lady’s sight he was bereft.
So briefly, of his story here’s what’s left:
Such grief has never any creature faced
Who ever has upon this earth been placed.
Of sleep and nourishment so much he’s taxed.
Just like a stick, dried out and thin, he waxed,
With sunken eyes, a sorry sight to see;
With sickly yellow hue, all pale was he.
He kept unto himself, and all alone
Throughout the night he’d weep, and wail, and moan;
And if he heard an instrument or song,
That would his bitter weeping just prolong.
So feeble were his spirits, and his guise
So changed that none could know nor recognize
His voice nor speech, though they should hear him talk.
His conduct did his true self strangely mock.
It wasn’t only that he lovesick was,
But rather, to be blunt, it was because
His mind was by delirium enslaved;
He like a raving lunatic behaved!
Before long everything was upside down;
Upon his face he wore a constant frown
Affecting both his body and his brain.
I could, the whole day long his woe explain.
For two whole years he’d been in constant pain;
In torment all night long awake he’d lain,
Which both his spirits and his health did drain.
One night as he lay musing on these things
He dreamt that Mercury, the god with wings,
Appeared before him, saying “Be consoled.”
That wand to make one sleep his hand did hold,
And with a winged hat on his hair of gold.
This god was dressed as in the story told
Of Argus, whom he put to sleep one day;
He said, “To Athens you shall wend your way;
There shall be emptied all your bitter cup.”
And with that Arcite suddenly woke up.
“Now howsoever sorely it may smart,”
Said he, “to Athens right now off I’ll start,
Nor shall I hesitate for fear I’ll die;
To go and see my lady I will try.
Of death I’m not afraid, if she is nigh.”
And with that word a mirror he did grab,
And saw his color changed, all pale and drab.
He noticed, all his features altered were,
And suddenly it did to him occur
That since the great ordeal through which he’d gone
Had left his face disfigured, pale, and wan,
With unassuming aspect he might well
Be able to, unknown, in Athens dwell,
And see his lady almost every day.
So he did change his outfit right away,
And dressed up as a low-class working man,
And with a single person in his van,
A friend who of his situation knew,
And who as a poor worker dressed up too,
To Athens went he, by the shortest route,
And one day there unto the court went out,
For menial employment there to look,
Some miscellaneous odd jobs to book,
Like handyman, or gardener, or cook.
He with a chamberlain an offer took,
The same who handled things for Emily,
For he was smart, and able well to see,
Of every servant, whom they served and where.
Well built he was, with energy to spare,
For he was young and was quite strong enough
For chopping wood, and lifting heavy stuff.
Whatever was required, that he could do.
So he continued there a year or two,
To work in the employ of Emily,
Where known as Philostrate by her was he.
No one was half so highly valued there,
For none could to his caliber compare;
He was so even-tempered and well-bred
That through the court his reputation spread.
If Theseus could see the way he served
He’d give him the promotion he deserved,
All said, and raise him to an honored place
Where he could better use his skills and grace.
Up from obscurity his fame unsung
Did soar, both of his deeds and his good tongue;
Thus Theseus decided he would hire
This Philostrate, that he might be his squire,
And gave him cash so that he could attire
Himself in clothes his new job would require.
His rent from Thebes men secretly did send,
Which he most surreptitiously did spend;
So, as to how he got it, none did give
A thought; Three years in this wise did he live.
Of all his servants, both in peace and war,
He is to Theseus the best by far.
Now in this happy state, Arcite we leave,
And speak of how poor Palamon doth grieve.
Within an awful cell where light is veiled
These seven years has Palamon been jailed.
By woe, distress, and suffering he’s drained,
And with his sadness, feeling doubly pained.
Will Palamon, who is from love half blind
Go clean out of his wits, and lose his mind?
He is a prisoner of love, I fear,
Forever, not for just a single year.
Who could, in English rhyme, do justice to
His martyrdom? It’s something I can’t do.
And so let’s move right on, if that’s OK.
It happened in the seventh year, in May,
That on the third night (as the old books say,
Which more attention unto detail pay),
Whether it was by chance or destiny –
As something happens, if its meant to be –
Soon after midnight from captivity,
With friends to help him, Palamon breaks free,
And in a hurry out of town he skipped.
For in a glass of wine the jailer sipped,
A pretty strong narcotic he had slipped,
Which with fine opium from Thebes was laced,
So that the whole night long way out he spaced,
And he would not come to, though he were maced!
So he makes tracks, and very soon he’s gone,
For it was late, and getting close to dawn.
And so, while looking for a place to hide,
He spots a little stand of trees beside
The road, and ventures cautiously inside.
For, briefly, this is what he did decide:
That in this grove all day his time he’d bide,
Then on to Thebes he’d go, there to implore
His faithful friends to form a fighting corps,
So that on Theseus he might wage war.
And shortly either he would lose his life
Or Emily he’d win to be his wife –
That was his plan and purpose, anyway.
Now I shall turn to Arcite, if I may.
He of his woes to come was unaware;
Him Fortune had positioned in her snare.
The busy lark, that messenger of day,
Salutes with melodies the morning gray,
And fiery Phoebus rises up so bright,
That all the orient laughs to see the light,
And dries the silver drops up, with his beam,
That hanging on the leaves in groves do gleam.
Arcite, who by the throne of Theseus
Is squire, as we did earlier discuss,
Wakes up and looks upon the merry day.
And he, to pay his homage unto May,
And on his heart’s desire to meditate,
Leaps on his horse and with a jaunty gait,
Rides out into the fields to have some fun,
Two miles from court, or maybe only one.
Into the grove of which I spoke before,
He ventured, by some chance, there to explore
And gather up a garland; from the limbs
Of many kinds of trees the leaves he trims.
And loudly sang he in the sunshine bright,
In hopes that he might gain some gay delight:
“O May, with all thy greenery and flowers,
I welcome thee, fair child of April’s showers.”
Down from his horse, with lusty heart, he leaps,
And in the grove a verdant harvest reaps,
As in its paths he wanders all around.
By chance this Palamon lay on the ground,
Behind a bush so no one him could spot,
For he was terrified of being caught.
That it was Arcite he had not a clue;
He wouldn’t have believed it could be true.
But truly it’s been said for many years,
That fields have eyes, and that the woods have ears.
A man is well-advised serene to stay,
For unexpectedly men meet each day.
Arcite knew nothing of his cousin here,
Who all he said could hear, he was so near.
For he sat still now in the underbrush.
When Arcite finished, in the forest lush,
His roaming, and had sung a lusty song,
He suddenly put on a face quite long;
As lovers unpredictably will do,
First he exults, and then doth fret and stew;
Up, down, up, like a bucket in a well,
Like sometimes Friday’s nasty, sometimes swell;
One time it shines, one time through rain we wade,
Just so can Venus rain or your parade,
And make a lover’s heart turn sad and blue,
Just like a dismal, cloudy day can do;
“Thank God it’s Friday”, we can’t always say!
When Arcite sung his cheerful roundelay,
He sighed, sat down, and was no more so gay.
“I rue,” said he, “the day that I was born!
How long, through Fortune’s cruelty, must I mourn,
And at Thebes’ fallen glory be forlorn?
Alas, the royal blood of Amphion
Is brought to ruin, and the glory gone
Of Cadmus, who the city first did found,
And built up all it’s glory from the ground,
And who was as the king of Thebes first crowned.
I am descended of his lineage proud,
Of royal stock by birth am I endowed,
And now I am so wretched and unfree
That he who is my mortal enemy
I have to serve as squire on bended knee.
And yet does Juno cause me much more shame,
I can’t acknowledge even my own name,
For whereas I was called Arcite one time,
Now I’m called Philostrate, not worth a dime.
Alas, have you unfeeling gods enjoyed
Observing our once proud line be destroyed?
Now there’s just me, and wretched Palamon
Confined in prison; all the rest are gone.
On top of this, love had to do its part,
By shooting at me with a fiery dart
That pierced clear through my true and careworn heart;
My fate was sealed before my life did start.
Dear Emily, you slay me with your gaze!
You are the cause Fate shortens all my days.
But be assured, compared to this travail,
All of my other cares and troubles pale.
To give you joy, I’d love to have the chance.”
And with those words he fell down in a trance
For a long time, then jumps up with a start.
Then Palamon felt, through his pounding heart,
As though a cold sword suddenly did glide.
With ire he quaked; no longer would he hide.
So when he had considered Arcite’s tale.
He, like a madman, face all dead and pale,
Jumped out, as from a hidden forest grave
And said: “Arcite, thou false and sneaky knave,
Now you shall pay, who loves my lady so,
For whom I’ve suffered all this pain and woe.
Yes, you, who should have been my loyal pal,
And as a brother, boosted my morale.
Look how you’ve tricked duke Theseus – for shame!
You’ve even gone and falsely changed your name.
Now it’s come down to this: it’s you or me.
Thou shalt not love my lady Emily.
Shall I her love? Yes! Shall you love her? No!
For I am Palamon, thy mortal foe.
And though I have no saber, sword, or lance,
Since out of jail I am escaped by chance,
Doubt not that I’ll make certain you are dead
If you think you my Emily will wed.
So name your poison – you’ll not get away.”
When Arcite heard all that he had to say,
Disdaining every word his heart deplored,
With bold ferocity he pulled his sword,
And said thus: “By that God who sits above,
If you weren’t raving mad and sick for love,
And had no weapons with which to survive,
You’d never get out of this grove alive,
But rather by my hand you’d surely die.
That pledge and obligation I defy,
Which you are claiming that I made to thee.
Thou fool! Do you not know that love is free?
Her I shall love in spite of your rebuke!
But since someday you’d be a worthy duke,
The right to her by combat we’ll decide.
You mark my word, tomorrow here I’ll ride,
To any others unbeknownst, and fight
With thee, in the tradition of a knight,
By bringing extra arms, enough for thee;
You choose the best, and leave the worst for me.
Tonight some food and drink I’ll also bring,
And for a night’s rest every needed thing.
And if it turns out that you slay me here
Within these woods, then you my lady dear
Can have to love, as far as I’m concerned.
This answer Palamon to him returned:
“You’ve got yourself a deal.” Arcite departs
Until the next day, when their contest starts.
O Cupid, selfish, solitary one!
You will accept how many partners? None!
For neither love nor lordship will, it’s true,
With partnership have anything to do.
With Palamon and Arcite, that’s the case.
So Arcite rides to town with rapid pace,
And secretly, ere Sol down on earth stares,
An extra suit of armor he prepares,
Both adequate and proper, which will do
The battle to decide between these two.
And after he this load of armor throws
Upon his horse, off quietly he goes,
And at the time and place set, in the grove
They met, where they in mortal combat strove.
Their faces changed, in color not the same,
Like Thracian hunters chasing after game,
Who hunting boars or lions, spears in hand,
Awaiting at the pass their prey, do stand,
And hear it as toward them it doth rush,
Breaking the boughs within the underbrush,
And think, “Here comes my mortal enemy!
Now he or I shall leave mortality,
For either I must kill him at the pass,
Or certainly he’ll take my life, alas.”
So turns the color of their face and eyes,
When they each other see and recognize.
There was no greeting, and no angry spat,
But straightway, without any idle chat,
Each kindly helped the other dress to fight,
More like a brother, than some other knight.
Then after that, with swords drawn, sharp and strong,
They fought each other heatedly and long.
As he was fighting, Palamon did seem
Like some fierce lion, wild in the extreme,
And Arcite like a savage tiger feared;
As wild boars going at it they appeared,
With froth from crazed ire covering their lips.
Up to their ankles, from their wounds, blood drips.
I’ll leave you hanging here, if you don’t mind,
For more to tell of Theseus I’m inclined.
That destiny that seems all things to shape,
From which none can, upon this world, escape,
The providence divine that God ordains,
So strong is that, though all the world complains,
And mightily against His will campaigns,
Yet something one sees once in a blue moon
Will happen to us, one fine afternoon.
Regardless of what we might want to see,
Of love or hate, however fervently,
What Fortune has in store – that’s what will be.
To mighty Theseus all this relates:
That venison might be served on his plates,
He so desires to hunt the great May deer
That no day dawns for him that in his gear
He does not saddle up, prepared to ride,
With huntsman, horn, and hounds close at his side.
For he takes such great pleasure in the chase
That he can hardly wait his prey to face,
And slay, himself, the great hart if he can.
For now, right after Mars, he serves Diane.
As I have said before, the day was fine,
And Theseus’ face with joy and bliss did shine,
As he, Hippolyta his lovely queen,
And Emily, all clothed in verdant green,
Out hunting with the royal party ride
Unto the nearby grove, for there inside
There roamed about a dear, as claimed by some;
At first the duke straight toward the glade did come,
Then sharply he did veer off to the right,
For that was where this deer oft took his flight.
Across a brook, then round again, he flew;
This duke will have a round at him, or two,
With all his hounds to pick up on the scent.
But when in to the glade this hunter went,
He looked towards the sun and was, anon,
Aware of Arcite and of Palamon,
Who like two wild boars savagely did fight.
They parried, with their shining sabers bright,
So mightily it seemed the weakest stroke
Would be enough to fell a mighty oak.
He smites his horse’s side with spur clad shoe,
And suddenly he was between the two,
But their identities, he did not know.
Then he pulls out his sword and cries out: “Whoa!
No more, unless you want to lose your head;
By mighty Mars, he shall at once be dead
Who dares to thrust his sabre once again.
But I would like to know what sort of men
Ye are, who fight to settle here a grudge
Without some officer to be your judge,
As in a duel conducted properly.
To this did Palamon reply, as he
Did say “Sir what more words here need be said?
We both, for our offenses, should be dead.
For miserable wretches both we are,
That on each other in these woods wage war.
And since you are a righteous judge and lord,
To us no mercy, no refuge afford.
But slay me first, if you would be so kind,
And let this guy’s death be not far behind;
Or slay him first, for him whom I do fight,
This is thy mortal foe, this is Arcite,
Exiled on pain of cutting off his head,
For which unto the block he should be led.
Yes, this is he who came unto your gate
And, claiming that his name was Philostrate,
Has made a jackass of you all this time,
As up to be your chief squire he did climb;
And he’d like Emily to be his wife.
Well, since this is the last day of my life,
I plainly do admit, before I die,
That that most woeful Palamon am I,
Who from thy prison wickedly broke out.
I am thy mortal foe; and there’s no doubt
That I love Emily the fair, so fine,
I welcome death if she cannot be mine.
Wherefore I pray you, sentence me to death;
And let Arcite here, too, take his last breath.
For both of us have earned this penalty.”
This worthy duke replied to him; said he,
“You've sure made this an easy choice for me;
Your own mouth has your condemnation sealed,
Which I pronounce – it cannot be repealed.
No need to string you up here by your head,
But by the mighty Mars, you shall be dead!”
The queen, since her soft heart with pity bled,
Began to cry, and so did Emily,
And all the ladies in the company.
For it was such a great shame, they all thought;
That such a horrid fate for them should not
Occur, for they were men of high estate,
And over naught but love was this debate.
And when they saw their wounds, all bloody, sore,
That set them crying all the more. They swore:
“Have mercy, lord, upon us ladies all!”
And at this, on their bare knees down they fall,
And where he stood they would have kissed his feet;
At length their tears did cool his anger’s heat,
For soon comes pity to a gentle heart.
Though he at first with anger shook, he’d start
Now to reflect more calmly on their case,
So he rethinks the punishment they face,
And though in ire, of guilt he them accused,
Yet now in reason he them both excused,
For thus he thought: that well might any man
Defend himself in loving, if he can,
And free himself from prison if confined.
Thoughts of compassion came into his mind;
As he did contemplate these women’s tears,
His gentle heart away from anger veers,
And softly to himself his utters, “Fie
Upon a lord who mercy would deny,
And be a lion, both in word and deed,
To those who of forgiveness were in need;
Who holds to proud opinions much too long,
And never can admit he might be wrong.
Sound judgment's sorely lacking in such lords;
The selfsame moral status he accords
To true humility, as to false pride.”
And shortly, when his ire did thus subside,
He looked up with a more good-natured face
And spoke these words of charity and grace:
“Here’s to the god of love, ah, bless my soul!
All the affairs of heart he doth control.
No obstacles can stand against his strength;
His magic overcomes them all, at length,
For he can mold the hearts of humankind
In whatsoever way that he’s inclined.
Just look how Palamon, and Arcite too,
Who from my dreadful prison freedom knew,
And might in Thebes have lived the good life, though
They knew that I’m, in Athens here, their foe,
And that their death lies in my power too,
Still love, despite whatever they could do,
Impels them to come hither, here to die.
Does that not reason’s dictates all defy?
And does not love make fools out of us all?
Just take a look, for God’s sake, how they brawl,
And bleed! Aren’t they a fine sight to behold!
Thus hath the god of love unto them doled
Their wages out, for services performed!
To wisdom is stupidity transformed
Within the minds of those who this god serve.
The joke is on them, who are thrown this curve:
That she for whom they knock their brains all out,
Whom they imagine is their slave devout,
Knows not of their obsessive love for her
And does, most likely, someone else prefer!
All men she samples, for their passion’s fire,
Their foolishness her yardstick of desire.
Of Cupid’s mischief I have learned myself,
For I once served that fickle little elf.
And therefore since of love’s pain I’m aware,
I know how men get caught up in her snare,
For I have been there, done that, many times,
And so I must absolve thee of love’s crimes,
For thus desires my queen, on bended knee,
And also my dear sister, Emily.
But you must promise me that you will both
Refrain from harming Athens, on your oath,
And that you never will make war on us,
But ever be the friends of Theseus.
You’re now forgiven of each wrongful deed.”
And so they swore that his request they’d heed,
And prayed he’d be their lord. For mercy’s sake
He grants them their desire, and thus he spake:
“Based on your royal lineage, in your land,
And on her royal status, you both stand,
I do not doubt, as worthy of her hand
In marriage when the time is proper; and
So for my sister Emily I speak,
For whom your jealous anger you do pique,
You know yourselves, that she can’t marry two,
So though you fight forever, one of you,
No matter whether it seems wrong or right,
Must be content to go and fly a kite.
She can’t have both of you, regardless of
How jealously you are each one in love.
And therefore I now have a plan in mind
To help you both that destiny to find
That is for each ordained; so listen up,
And learn how fate intends to fill your cup.
My will is cast in concrete; this is it –
And I’ll not any compromise admit –
Take it for good or bad, for what it’s worth:
That you may wander freely on this earth,
In perfect liberty, and ransom free,
And then, in fifty weeks from now, we’ll see
If each of you can bring a hundred knights,
Armed to the teeth to fight a hundred fights,
To see by battle who the girl will take.
And this sure promise unto you I make,
On my word as a knight you may depend,
That which of you prevails most at the end –
That is to say, that one who with his band,
Those hundred gathered from throughout the land,
Can his opponent make retire, or slay, --
To him I shall give Emily away.
And he whom Fortune smiles upon I’ll call
The champion, most honored of them all.
May God have pity on me if I should
Not judge as an impartial witness would.
Conclude but this one pact with me: you must
Agree that one of you will bite the dust.
If you can to this covenant commit,
Just say so, and then let’s get on with it.
By this means your dispute we shall decide.”
Who else but Palamon smiles, oh so wide?
Who else but Arcite jumps, with joyful face?
Who could on paper all the pleasure trace
That all the people felt here in this place,
When Theseus conferred so fair a grace?
But everyone went down on bended knee
And thanked the duke for his fair, sage decree,
Especially those who from Thebes did hail,
Who recently had languished in his jail.
With happy hearts they take their leave and ride
To Thebes, that city with the walls so wide.
|I trowe men wolde deme it necligence,
If I foryete to tellen the dispence
Of Theseus, that gooth so bisily
To maken up the lystes roially;
That swich a noble theatre as it was,
I dar wel seyen, in this world ther nas.
The circuit a myle was aboute,
Walled of stoon, and dyched al withoute.
Round was the shap, in manere of compas,
Ful of degrees the heighte os sixty pas,
That whan a man was set on o degree,
He lette nat his felawe for to see.
Estward ther stood a gate of marbul whit,
Westward, right swich another in the opposit;
And shortly to concluden, swich a place
Was noon in erthe, as in so litel space.
For in the lond ther was no crafty man
That geometrie or ars-metrik kan,
Ne portreitour, ne kervere of ymages,
That Theseus ne yaf him mete and wages
The theatre for to maken and devyse.
And for to doon his ryte and sacrifise
He estward hath upon the gate above,
In worship of Venus, goddesse of love,
Doon make an auter and an oratorie.
And on the gate westward, in memorie
Of Mars, he maked hath right swich another,
That coste largely of gold a fother.
And northward, in a touret on the wal
Of alabastre whit, and reed coral,
An oratorie, riche for to see,
In worship of Dyane, of chastitee,
Hath Theseus doon wroght in noble wyse.
But yet hadde I foryeten to devyse
The noble kervyng and the portreitures,
The shap, the contenaunce, and the figures,
That weren in thise oratories thre.
First in the temple of Venus maystow se
Wroght on the wal, ful pitous to biholde,
The broken slepes and the sikes colde,
The sacred teeris and the waymentynge,
The firy strokes, and the desirynge
That loves servauntz in this lyf enduren;
The othes that her covenantz assuren;
Plesaunce and Hope, Desir, Foolhardynesse,
Beautee and Youthe, Bauderie, Richesse,
Charmes and Force, Lesynges, Flaterye,
Despense, Bisynesse, and Jalousye,
That wered of yelewe gooldes a gerland,
And a cokkow sittynge on hir hand;
Festes, instrumentz, caroles, daunces,
Lust and array, and alle the circumstaunces
Of love, whiche that I rekned, and rekne shal,
By ordre weren peynted on the wal,
And mo than I kan make of mencioun;
For soothly, al the mount of Citheroun,
Ther Venus hath hir principal dwellynge,
Was shewed on the wal in portreyynge,
With al the gardyn and the lustynesse.
Nat was foryeten the Porter Ydelnesse,
Ne Narcisus the faire, of yore agon,
Ne yet the folye of kyng Salamon,
And eek the grete strengthe of Ercules,
Thenchauntementz of Medea and Circes,
Ne of Turnus, with the hardy fiers corage,
The riche Cresus, kaytyf in servage;
Thus may ye seen, that wysdom ne richesse,
Beautee ne sleighte, strengthe, hardynesse,
Ne may with Venus holde champartie,
For as hir list, the world than may she gye.
Lo, alle thise folk so caught were in hir las,
Til they for wo ful ofte seyde `allas!'
Suffiseth heere ensamples oon or two-
And, though, I koude rekene a thousand mo.
The statue of Venus, glorious for to se,
Was naked, fletynge in the large see,
And fro the navele doun al covered was
With wawes grene, and brighte as any glas.
A citole in hir right hand hadde she,
And on hir heed, ful semely for to se,
A rose gerland, fressh and wel smellynge;
Above hir heed hir dowves flikerynge.
Biforn hir stood hir sone, Cupido,
Upon his shuldres wynges hadde he two,
And blynd he was, as it was often seene.
A bowe he bar, and arwes brighte and kene.
Why sholde I noght as wel eek telle yow al
The portreiture, that was upon the wal
Withinne the temple of myghty Mars the rede?
Al peynted was the wal in lengthe and brede
Lyk to the estres of the grisly place
That highte the grete temple of Mars in Trace,
In thilke colde frosty regioun
Ther as Mars hath his sovereyn mansioun.
First on the wal was peynted a forest
In which ther dwelleth neither man ne best,
With knotty knarry bareyne trees olde,
Of stubbes sharpe and hidouse to biholde,
In which ther ran a rumbel and a swough
As though a storm sholde bresten every bough.
And dounward from an hille, under a bente,
Ther stood the temple of Mars Armypotente,
Wroght al of burned steel, of which the entree
Was long and streit, and gastly for to see,
And therout came a rage and suche a veze,
That it made al the gate for to rese.
The northren lyght in at the dores shoon,
For wyndowe on the wal ne was ther noon,
Thurgh which men myghten any light discerne.
The dore was al of adamant eterne,
Yclenched overthwart and endelong
With iren tough, and for to make it strong
Every pyler, the temple to sustene,
Was tonne-greet of iren bright and shene.
Ther saugh I first the dirke ymaginyng
Of felonye, and al the compassyng,
The crueel ire, reed as any gleede,
The pykepurs, and eek the pale drede,
The smyler with the knyfe under the cloke,
The shepne brennynge with the blake smoke,
The tresoun of the mordrynge in the bedde,
The open werre, with woundes al bibledde,
Contek, with blody knyf and sharp manace,
Al ful of chirkyng was that sory place.
The sleer of hymself yet saugh I ther,
His herte-blood hath bathed al his heer;
The nayl ydryven in the shode a nyght,
The colde deeth, with mouth gapyng upright.
Amyddes of the temple sat Meschaunce,
With Disconfort and Sory Contenaunce.
Yet saugh I Woodnesse laughynge in his rage,
Armed Compleint, Outhees, and fiers Outrage;
The careyne in the busk with throte ycorve,
A thousand slayn, and nat of qualm ystorve,
The tiraunt with the pray by force yraft,
The toun destroyed, ther was nothyng laft.
Yet saugh I brent the shippes hoppesteres,
The hunte strangled with the wilde beres,
The sowe freten the child right in the cradel,
The cook yscalded, for al his longe ladel.
Noght was foryeten by the infortune of Marte,
The cartere over-ryden with his carte,
Under the wheel ful lowe he lay adoun.
Ther were also, of Martes divisioun,
The barbour, and the bocher, and the smyth
That forgeth sharpe swerdes on his styth.
And al above, depeynted in a tour,
Saugh I Conquest sittynge in greet honour,
With the sharpe swerd over his heed
Hangynge by a soutil twyned threed.
Depeynted was the slaughtre of Julius,
Of grete Nero, and of Antonius;
Al be that thilke tyme they were unborn,
Yet was hir deth depeynted therbiforn
By manasynge of Mars, right by figure;
So was it shewed in that portreiture,
As is depeynted in the sterres above
Who shal be slayn or elles deed for love.
Suggiseth oon ensample in stories olde,
I may nat rekene hem alle though I wolde.
The statue of Mars upon a carte stood
Armed, and looked grym as he were wood,
And over his heed ther shynen two figures
Of sterres, that been cleped in scriptures
That oon Puella, that oother Rubeus.
This god of armes was arrayed thus:
A wolf ther stood biforn hym at his feet,
With eyen rede, and of a man he eet.
With soutil pencel was depeynt this storie,
In redoutynge of Mars and of his glorie.
Now to the temple of Dyane the chaste
As shortly as I kan I wol me haste,
To telle yow al the descripsioun.
Depeynted been the walles up and doun
Of huntyng and of shamefast chastitee.
Ther saugh I, how woful Calistopee
Whan that Diane agreved was with here,
Was turned from a womman til a bere,
And after was she maad the loode-sterre;-
Thus was it peynted, I kan sey yow no ferre-
Hir sone is eek a sterre, as men may see.
Ther saugh I Dane, yturned til a tree,
I mene nat the goddesse Diane,
But Penneus doughter which that highte Dane.
Ther saugh I Attheon an hert ymaked,
For vengeaunce that he saugh Diane al naked.
I saugh how that hise houndes have hym caught
And freeten hym, for that they knewe hym naught.
Yet peynted was a litel forthermoor
How Atthalante hunted the wilde boor,
And Meleagree, and many another mo,
For which Dyane wroghte hym care and wo.
Ther saugh I many another wonder storie,
The whiche me list nat drawen to memorie.
This goddesse on an hert ful hye seet,
With smale houndes al aboute hir feet;
And undernethe hir feet she hadde a moone,
Wexynge it was, and sholde wanye soone.
In gaude grene hir statue clothed was,
With bowe in honde, and arwes in a cas.
Hir eyen caste she ful lowe adoun,
Ther Pluto hath his derke regioun.
A womman travaillynge was hir biforn;
But for hir child so longe was unborn
Ful pitously Lucyna gan she calle,
And seyde, "Help, for thou mayst best of alle!"
Wel koude he peynten lyfly, that it wroghte,
With many a floryn he the hewes boghte.
Now been thise listes maad, and Theseus,
That at his grete cost arrayed thus
The temples, and the theatre every deel,
Whan it was doon, hym lyked wonder weel.-
But stynte I wole of Theseus a lite,
And speke of Palamon and of Arcite.
The day approcheth of hir retournynge,
That everich sholde an hundred knyghtes brynge
The bataille to darreyne, as I yow tolde.
And til Atthenes, hir covenantz for to holde,
Hath everich of hem broght an hundred knyghtes,
Wel armed for the werre at alle rightes.
And sikerly, ther trowed many a man,
That nevere sithen that the world bigan,
As for to speke of knyghthod of hir hond,
As fer as God hath maked see or lond,
Nas of so fewe so noble a compaignye.
For every wight that lovede chivalrye,
And wolde, his thankes, han a passant name,
Hath preyed that he myghte been of that game;
And wel was hym that therto chosen was.
For if ther fille tomorwe swich a cas
Ye knowen wel, that every lusty knyght
That loveth paramours, and hath his myght,
Were it in Engelond or elles where,
They wolde, hir thankes, wilnen to be there,
To fighte for a lady, benedicitee!
It were a lusty sighte for to see.
And right so ferden they with Palamon,
With hym ther wenten knyghtes many on.
Som wol ben armed in an haubergeoun,
In a bristplate, and in a light gypoun,
And somme woln have a paire plates large,
And somme woln have a Pruce sheeld, or a targe,
Somme woln ben armed on hir legges weel,
And have an ax, and somme a mace of steel.
Ther is no newe gyse, that it nas old;
Armed were they, as I have yow told,
Everych after his opinioun.
Ther maistow seen comyng with Palamoun
Lygurge hym-self, the grete kyng of Trace.
Blak was his berd, and manly was his face,
The cercles of hise eyen in his heed,
They gloweden bitwyxen yelow and reed,
And lik a griff on looked he aboute,
With kempe heeris on hise browes stoute,
Hise lymes grete, hise brawnes harde and stronge,
Hise shuldres brode, hise armes rounde and longe;
And as the gyse was in his contree,
Ful hye upon a chaar of gold stood he,
With foure white boles in the trays.
In stede of cote-armure, over his harnays
With nayles yelewe and brighte as any gold
He hadde a beres skyn, colblak, for-old;
His longe heer was kembd bihynde his bak,
As any ravenes fethere it shoon for-blak.
A wrethe of gold arm-greet, of huge wighte,
Upon his heed, set ful of stones brighte,
Of fyne rubyes and of dyamauntz.
Aboute his chaar ther wenten white alauntz,
Twenty and mo, as grete as any steer,
To hunten at the leoun or the deer,
And folwed hym, with mosel faste ybounde,
Colored of gold, and tourettes fyled rounde.
An hundred lordes hadde he in his route,
Armed ful wel, with hertes stierne and stoute.
With Arcita, in stories as men fynde,
The grete Emetreus, the kyng of Inde,
Upon a steede bay, trapped in steel,
Covered in clooth of gold dyapred weel,
Cam ridynge lyk the god of armes, Mars.
His cote-armure was of clooth of Tars,
Couched with perles white and rounde and grete.
His sadel was of brend gold newe ybete;
A mantelet upon his shuldre hangynge
Bret-ful of rubyes rede, as fyr sparklynge.
His crispe heer lyk rynges was yronne,
And that was yelow, and glytered as the sonne.
His nose was heigh, hise eyen bright citryn,
Hise lippes rounde, his colour was sangwyn;
A fewe frakenes in his face yspreynd,
Bitwixen yelow and somdel blak ymeynd,
And as a leoun he his looking caste.
Of fyve and twenty yeer his age I caste;
His berd was wel bigonne for to sprynge,
His voys was as a trompe thonderynge.
Upon his heed he wered of laurer grene
A gerland, fressh and lusty for to sene.
Upon his hand he bar for his deduyt
An egle tame, as any lilye whyt.
An hundred lordes hadde he with hym there,
Al armed, save hir heddes, in al hir gere,
Ful richely in alle maner thynges.
For trusteth wel, that dukes, erles, kynges,
Were gadered in this noble compaignye,
For love, and for encrees of chivalrye.
Aboute this kyng ther ran on every part
Ful many a tame leoun and leopard,
And in this wise thise lordes alle and some
Been on the sonday to the citee come,
Aboute pryme, and in the toun alight.
This Theseus, this duc, this worthy knyght,
Whan he had broght hem into his citee,
And inned hem, everich in his degree,
He festeth hem, and dooth so greet labour
To esen hem and doon hem al honour,
That yet men weneth that no maner wit
Of noon estaat ne koude amenden it.
The mynstralcye, the service at the feeste,
The grete yiftes to the mooste and leeste,
The riche array of Theseus paleys,
Ne who sat first ne last upon the deys,
What ladyes fairest been, or best daunsynge,
Or which of hem kan dauncen best and synge,
Ne who moost felyngly speketh of love,
What haukes sitten on the perche above,
What houndes liggen in the floor adoun-
Of al this make I now no mencioun;
But, al theffect, that thynketh me the beste,
Now cometh the point, and herkneth if yow leste.
The sonday nyght, er day bigan to sprynge,
Whan Palamon the lsrke herde synge,
Al though it nere nat day by houres two,
Yet song the larke, and Palamon also.
With hooly herte and with an heigh corage
He roos, to wenden on his pilgrymage,
Unto the blisful Citherea benigne,
I mene Venus, honurable and digne.
And in hir houre he walketh forth a pas
Unto the lystes, ther hire temple was,
And doun he kneleth, with ful humble cheer,
And herte soor, and seyde in this manere.
"Faireste of faire, O lady myn, Venus,
Doughter to Jove, and spouse of Vulcanus,
Thow glader of the Mount of Citheron,
For thilke love thow haddest to Adoon,
Have pitee of my bittre teeris smerte,
And taak myn humble preyere at thyn herte.
Allas, I ne have no langage to telle
Theffectes, ne the tormentz of myn helle!
Myn herte may myne harmes nat biwreye,
I am so confus that I kan noght seye.
But mercy, lady bright! that knowest weele
My thought, and seest what harmes that I feele.
Considere al this, and rewe upon my soore,
As wisly, as I shal for everemoore,
Emforth my myght, thy trewe servant be,
And holden werre alwey with chastitee.
That make I myn avow, so ye me helpe.
I kepe noght of armes for to yelpe,
Ne I ne axe nat tomorwe to have victorie,
Ne renoun in this cas, ne veyne glorie
Of pris of armes blowen up and doun,
But I wolde have fully possessioun
Of Emelye, and dye in thy servyse.
Fynd thow the manere how, and in what wyse-
I recche nat, but it may bettre be
To have victorie of hem, or they of me-
So that I have my lady in myne armes.
For though so be, that Mars is god of armes,
Youre vertu is so greet in hevene above
That if yow list, I shal wel have my love.
Thy temple wol I worshipe everemo,
And on thyn auter, where I ride or go,
I wol doon sacrifice and fires beete.
And if ye wol nat so, my lady sweete,
Thanne preye I thee, tomorwe with a spere
That Arcita me thurgh the herte bere.
Thanne rekke I noght, whan I have lost my lyf,
Though that Arcita wynne hir to his wyf.
This is theffect and ende of my preyere,
Yif me my love, thow blisful lady deere!"
Whan the orison was doon of Palamon,
His sacrifice he dide, and that anon,
Ful pitously with alle circumstaunce;
Al telle I noght as now his observaunce.
But atte laste, the statue of Venus shook,
And made a signe wherby that he took
That his preyere accepted was that day.
For thogh the signe shewed a delay,
Yet wiste he wel that graunted was his boone,
And with glad herte he wente hym hoom ful soone.
The thridde houre inequal, that Palamon
Bigan to Venus temple for to gon,
Up roos the sonne, and up roos Emelye,
And to the temple of Dyane gan hye.
Hir maydens that she thider with hir ladde,
Ful redily with hem the fyr they ladde,
Thencens, the clothes, and the remenant al
That to the sacrifice longen shal.
The hornes fulle of meeth, as was the gyse,
Ther lakked noght to doon hir sacrifise,
Smokynge the temple, ful of clothes faire.
This Emelye, with herte debonaire,
Hir body wessh with water of a welle-
But how she dide hir ryte I dar nat telle,
But it be any thing in general;
And yet it were a game to heeren al,
To hym that meneth wel it were no charge,
But it is good a man been at his large.-
Hir brighte heer was kempt untressed al,
A coroune of a grene ook cerial
Upon hir heed was set, ful fair and meete.
Two fyres on the suter gan she beete,
And dide hir thynges as men may biholde
In Stace of Thebes, and thise bookes olde.
Whan kyndled was the fyr, with pitous cheere
Unto Dyane she spak as ye may heere.
"O chaste goddesse of the wodes grene,
To whom bothe hevene and erthe and see is sene,
Queene of the regne of Pluto derk and lowe,
Goddesse of maydens, that myn herte hast knowe
Ful many a yeer, and woost what I desire,
As keep me fro thy vengeaunce and thyn ire,
That Attheon aboughte cruelly.
Chaste goddesse, wel wostow that I
Desire to ben a mayden al my lyf,
Ne nevere wol I be no love ne wyf.
I am, thow woost, yet of thy compaignye,
A mayde, and love huntynge and venerye,
And for to walken in the wodes wilde,
And noght to ben a wyf, and be with childe.
Noght wol I knowe the compaignye of man;
Now helpe me, lady, sith ye may and kan,
For tho thre formes that thou hast in thee.
And Palamon, that hath swich love to me,
And eek Arcite, that loveth me so sore,
This grace I preye thee, withoute moore,
As sende love and pees bitwixe hem two,
And fro me turne awey hir hertes so,
That al hir hoote love and hir desir,
And al hir bisy torment and hir fir,
Be queynt, or turned in another place.
And if so be thou wolt do me no grace,
And if my destynee be shapen so
That I shal nedes have oon of hem two,
As sende me hym that moost desireth me.
Bihoold, goddesse, of clene chastitee,
The bittre teeris that on my chekes falle.
Syn thou art mayde and kepere of us alle,
My maydenhede thou kepe and wel conserve,
And whil I lyve a mayde, I wol thee serve."
The fires brenne upon the auter cleere,
Whil Emelye was thus in hir preyere;
But sodeynly she saugh a sighte queynte,
For right anon oon of the fyres queynte,
And quyked agayn, and after that anon
That oother fyr was queynt and al agon.
And as it queynte, it made a whistelynge
As doon thise wete brondes in hir brennynge;
And at the brondes ende out ran anon
As it were blody dropes many oon;
For which so soore agast was Emelye
That she was wel ny mad, and gan to crye;
For she ne wiste what it signyfied.
But oonly for the feere thus hath she cried,
And weep that it was pitee for to heere;
And therwithal Dyane gan appeere,
With bowe in honde, right as an hunteresse,
And seyde, "Doghter, stynt thyn hevynesse.
Among the goddes hye it is affermed,
And by eterne word writen and confermed,
Thou shalt ben wedded unto oon of tho
That han for thee so muchel care and wo.
But unto which of hem I may nat telle,
Farwel, for I ne may no lenger dwelle.
The fires whiche that on myn auter brenne
Shule thee declaren, er that thou go henne,
Thyn aventure of love, as in this cas."
And with that word, the arwes in the caas
Of the goddesse clateren faste and rynge,
And forth she wente, and made a vanysshynge,
For which this Emelye astoned was,
And seyde, "What amounteth this, allas!
I putte me in thy proteccioun,
Dyane, and in thy disposicioun!"
And hoom she goth anon the nexte weye.
This is theffect, ther is namoore to seye.
The nexte houre of Mars folwynge this
Arcite unto the temple walked is
Of fierse Mars, to doon his sacrifise
With alle the rytes of his payen wyse.
With pitous herte and heigh devocioun
Right thus to Mars he seyde his orisoun.
"O stronge god, that in the regnes colde
Of Trace honoured art and lord yholde,
And hast in every regne and every lond
Of armes al the brydel in thyn hond,
And hem fortunest as thee lyst devyse,
Accepte of me my pitous sacrifise.
If so be that my youthe may deserve,
And that my myght be worthy for to serve
Thy godhede, that I may been oon of thyne,
Thanne preye I thee to rewe upon my pyne.
For thilke peyne, and thilke hoote fir,
In which thou whilom brendest for desir
Whan that thow usedest the greet beautee
Of faire yonge fresshe Venus free,
And haddest hir in armes at thy wille-
Al though thee ones on a tyme mysfille
Whan Vulcanus hadde caught thee in his las,
And foond thee liggynge by his wyf, allas!-
For thilke sorwe that was in thyn herte
Have routhe as wel, upon my peynes smerte!
I am yong and unkonnynge as thow woost,
And, as I trowe, with love offended moost
That evere was any lyves creature;
For she that dooth me al this wo endure,
Ne reccheth nevere wher I synke or fleete.
And wel I woot, er she me mercy heete,
I moot with strengthe wynne hir in the place.
And wel I woot, withouten help or grace
Of thee, ne may my strengthe noght availle.
Thanne help me, lord, tomorwe in my bataille
For thilke fyr that whilom brente thee,
As wel as thilke fyr now brenneth me!
And do that I tomorwe have victorie,
Myn be the travaille and thyn be the glorie.
Thy sovereyn temple wol I moost honouren
Of any place, and alwey moost labouren
In thy plesaunce, and in thy craftes stronge,
And in thy temple I wol my baner honge,
And alle the armes of my compaignye;
And evere-mo, unto that day I dye,
Eterne fir I wol biforn thee fynde.
And eek to this avow I wol me bynde;
My beerd, myn heer, that hongeth long adoun,
That nevere yet ne felte offensioun
Of rasour, nor of shere, I wol thee yeve,
And ben thy trewe servant whil I lyve.
Now lord, have routhe upon my sorwes soore;
Yif me the victorie, I aske thee namoore!"
The preyere stynt of Arcita the stronge;
The rynges on the temple dore that honge,
And eek the dores clatereden ful faste,
Of which Arcita somwhat hym agaste.
The fyres brenden upon the auter brighte,
That it gan al the temple for to lighte,
And sweete smel the ground anon upyaf,
And Arcita anon his hand uphaf,
And moore encens into the fyr he caste,
With othere rytes mo, and atte laste
The statue of Mars bigan his hauberk rynge,
And with that soun he herde a murmurynge,
Ful lowe and dym, and seyde thus, `Victorie!'
For which he yaf to Mars honour and glorie;
And thus with joye and hope wel to fare,
Arcite anon unto his in is fare,
As fayn as fowel is of the brighte sonne.
And right anon swich strif ther is bigonne
For thilke grauntyng in the hevene above
Bitwixe Venus, the Goddesse of Love,
And Mars the stierne God armypotente,
That Jupiter was bisy it to stente;
Til that the pale Saturnus the colde,
That knew so manye of aventures olde,
Foond in his olde experience an art
That he ful soone hath plesed every part.
As sooth is seyd, elde hath greet avantage;
In elde is bothe wysdom and usage;
Men may the olde atrenne, and noght atrede.
Saturne anon, to stynten strif and drede,
Al be it that it is agayn his kynde,
Of al this strif he gan remedie fynde.
"My deere doghter Venus," quod Saturne,
"My cours, that hath so wyde for to turne,
Hath moore power than woot any man.
Myn is the drenchyng in the see so wan,
Myn is the prison in the derke cote,
Myn is the stranglyng and hangyng by the throte,
The murmure, and the cherles rebellyng,
The groynynge, and the pryvee empoysonyng.
I do vengeance and pleyn correccioun,
Whil I dwelle in the signe of the leoun.
Myn is the ruyne of the hye halles,
The fallynge of the toures and of the walles
Upon the mynour, or the carpenter.
I slow Sampsoun shakynge the piler,
And myne be the maladyes colde,
The derke tresons, and the castes olde;
My lookyng is the fader of pestilence.
Now weep namoore, I shal doon diligence
That Palamon, that is thyn owene knyght,
Shal have his lady, as thou hast him hight.
Though Mars shal helpe his knyght, yet nathelees
Bitwixe yow ther moot be somtyme pees,
Al be ye noght of o compleccioun-
That causeth al day swich divisioun.
I am thyn aiel, redy at thy wille,
Weep now namoore, I wol thy lust fulfille."
Now wol I stynten of the goddes above,
Of Mars and of Venus, goddesse of Love,
And telle yow, as pleynly as I kan,
The grete effect for which that I bygan.
|I guess I’d be remiss if I did not
Tell all the things that Theseus had bought
To build a great arena in this town,
With palisades, and bleachers for the crown.
A theater so great was never known,
Nor was by any in this world outshone.
In size a mile around, and too, of note,
With stone walls all surrounded by a moat;
Round was the shape, just like a circle true,
With terraced bleachers, for a better view.
Wherever you might choose to sit, you knew
The person right behind could see well too.
Eastward there stood a grand white marble gate,
And on the west side stood its marble mate.
Nowhere in this whole world is such a place
That has been built at such a breakneck pace;
For every craftsman that the country hath,
Who’s skilled in measurement, or good at math,
And artisans, he pays with many a perk,
That they may come and on this project work,
His grandiose colosseum to create.
And that he might the deities placate,
He orders built, above the eastern gate,
A chapel, that to Love he’ll dedicate,
For Venus, matron of all those who mate.
Another one he dedicates to Wars,
Upon the western gate, to honor Mars.
For this, gold by the cartloads he did haul.
And in a turret on the northern wall,
Of coral red and alabaster white,
A chapel that was quite a lavish sight,
To Diane, who in virgins doth delight,
He had constructed in a noble style.
But I have yet a full list to compile
Of all the portraits and the sculptures fine,
The shapes of all the figures that did line
The walls within these wondrous chapels three.
First in the shrine to Venus we can see
Wrought on the wall, a piteous tableau
Of fretful sleeps, the wintry sighs of woe,
The searing tears that fall from passion’s fire,
The burning pangs of unfulfilled desire,
That slaves to love, while in this life, endure;
The oaths that do their covenants assure;
Desire and Pleasure, Foolishness and Truth,
Good Fortune, Merriment, Good Looks and Youth,
And Charms, and Force, and Lies, and Flattery,
Expense, Adoring Eyes, and Jealousy,
That yellow marigolds wore in a band,
And with a cuckoo sitting on her hand;
And feasts, and minstrelsy, and song, and dance,
And all the celebrations of romance
I talked about, which lovers do befall,
Were painted in a mural on the wall.
All those and more I can make mention of;
For truly Cithaeron, the mount of love,
Where Venus has her principal abode,
Upon the wall these painted portraits showed,
With all the garden of lusts keen allure,
With Idleness, the porter, to be sure,
And too, Narcissus, with his handsome face,
And Solomon, the king who fell from grace,
And Hercules, the man with mighty arms,
And Medea and Circes, with their charms,
And Turnus of courageous heart, and brave,
And wealthy Cresus, as a wretched slave.
Thus we can see that neither health nor wealth,
Nor beauty, honesty, deceit, nor stealth
Can power share with Venus; she can force
Events on earth to take her chosen course.
Lo all these characters were, in her snare,
So trapped “alas!” they oft said in despair.
Just one or two examples we’ve explored,
Although I could a thousand more record.
The glorious statue of this goddess glows
Upon a vast sea, all devoid of clothes,
Below the waist concealed with waves of green –
As smooth as any polished glass their sheen.
A zither in her right hand carried she,
And on her head she wore, for all to see,
A garland made of roses smelling sweet;
And, flying round above her, dove’s wings beat.
Before her Cupid stood, her baby who
Was blind, and had two wings with which he flew;
He had with him a bow and arrows too
Which from his quiver for true hearts he drew.
Now to describe the scenes which were upon
The Martian temple on the west side drawn,
Depicting mighty Mars, red as the dawn.
All covered from the ceiling to the floor
It was, with paintings filled with grisly gore,
Just like his temple in the state of Thrace,
That same forbidding frosty open space
Where Mars resides – a splendid royal place.
A forest first upon the wall one sees,
Devoid of man and beast, with only trees
All knotty, gnarled, and old, without a leaf,
And sharp stumps, hideous beyond belief.
Through which a loud wind ran; it seemed as how
A roaring storm would break off every bough.
And at the bottom of some barren fields
A temple unto Mars, walls made of shields
Wrought out of steel, a narrow entry dim
And long, a sight most frightening and grim;
And out of it a rushing wind did make
So strong a blast that all the gates did shake.
In through the doors shined a cold northern sun;
The walls were windowless - there was not one;
So through those walls no ray of sunlight shone.
The doors were made of adamantine stone,
Bound top to bottom, and from side to side,
With strong steel, on their hinges do they ride;
And every pillar made with iron tough;
To last forever they were strong enough.
Then Felony I first saw scheming there
Maliciously; and lying in his lair
Cruel Ire, just like a coal all glowing, red;
The petty thief; and then pale, trembling Dread;
The smiler with a dagger neath his cloak;
The arson danced midst flames and thick black smoke;
The traitor with his victim slain in bed;
The bloody war, with open wounds that bled;
And Strife, with sharpened blade and bloody mace –
All full of creaking was that sorry place.
The slayer of himself I yet saw there;
In his heart’s blood was bathed all of his hair
From where, in his own head, he drove the nail;
And icy Death, mouth gaping open, pale;
Amidst the temple sat Misfortune, sad –
Such grief, such sorry countenance he had.
Yet saw I madness, laughing arm in arm
With Outrage fierce, Armed Discontent, Alarm;
The corpse with throat slashed, lying on the plain,
Not dead by plague; ten thousand soldiers slain;
The tyrant, with his prey by force acquired;
The town destroyed, where massacres transpired.
And torched ships that on stormy seas were tossed;
The hunter killed when wild bears’ paths he crossed;
The cradled child devoured by wild boars strong;
The cook who’s scalded, though his ladle’s long.
Naught was left out caused by the might of Mars,
The wagon driver hit, and seeing stars,
As neath the wheels he nurses future scars.
Of those who came beneath his evil spell,
The blacksmith with his anvil, I will tell,
Who forges swords that conquerors empower;
For high above was painted, in a tower,
Proud Conquest sitting honored on his chair;
Above his head, suspended in the air,
A sword was hanging by a single hair.
And many slaughters were depicted there,
Of Julius, and of grand Nero too;
Yes, they had not been born yet, it is true,
Yet Mars their fate beforehand could construe,
As by the stars their destinies he knew;
And thus these portraitures their fates preview;
For we may know, by all the stars o’erhead
Who shall be slain or else for love be dead.
Just one old tale is all that is required;
I could not tell them all if I desired.
Upon a cart Mars stood, from marble hewn,
Armed, and from kindliness he seemed immune.
Down from above two shining figures look,
Each one symbolic of a certain book.
Puella told of love, but Rubeus,
This sanguine god of arms, was pictured thus:
A wolf stands there before him, eyes all red,
And makes a meal out of a man who’s dead;
A subtle brush did paint this gory scene,
That Mars in his red glory might be seen.
Now of the Temple of the chaste Diane –
I’d like to speak, as briefly as I can,
To tell you what’s within its sacred halls.
Scenes had been painted, covering the walls,
Of hunting and of modest chastity.
There sad Callisto’s story we can see,
When Diane was upset with her, and where
In anger she was turned into a bear,
Then as the North Star in the heavens placed.
Now of the rest, to give you just a taste:
Turned to a star, her son we also see.
There we see Daphne too, turned to a tree,
Not Diane (though they both start with a “D”);
It’s Penneus’ daughter who’s depicted here.
Next Acteon we see, changed to a deer,
Because Diane he noticed, in the nude;
By his hounds killed, who on his carcass chewed,
Because him they did fail to recognize.
A little further on we feast our eyes
On Atalanta, who the wild bear chased,
And Meleager, whom Diane did waste
With such a heavy weight of care and woe.
There are a lot of other wondrous tales
Which I would tell you, but my memory fails.
Upon a nimble deer this goddess jogs,
About her feet a bunch of little dogs;
A moon beneath her feet, this scene contained;
At first it waxed, but all too soon it waned.
A gaudy yellow-green her statue stained,
With arrows in her quiver, and a bow.
And unto Pluto’s dark domain below,
With countenance serene her eyes did stray.
A woman giving birth, before her lay,
And since she was in labor many a day,
With pity to Lucina she did say,
“Help, for you would be sure to know the way!”
This life-like painter sure did know his stuff,
And for his paints he sure did pay enough!
Now Theseus, his great work all prepared,
With temples on which no expense was spared,
Completed to the very last detail,
When all was done, down to the final nail,
It greatly pleased him. But now let’s move on,
And speak of Arcite and of Palamon.
The day of their return approaching fast,
They’d rounded up their hundred knights at last,
The battle, as I told you, to decide.
To keep their promise they to Athens ride,
And every one of these two hundred knights
Was armed for war. It was one of those sights
That surely in the minds of many a man,
There never had been, since the world began,
At least as far as deeds of knighthood go.
As far as God the sea and land made, lo,
So noble and elite a company
Had ne’er before been seen in chivalry.
All those who in these circles had great fame
Had prayed they’d be selected for that game;
Those chosen were an enviable throng,
For if another chance should come along,
You know darn well that every lusty knight
Who loves the women, and who loves to fight,
Be it in England or some other land,
Would eagerly desire to be on hand
To battle for a lady, glory be!
That sure would be a pleasing sight to see.
Those who with Palamon were please to come
Had many varied arms and outfits; some
Had coast of mail that were all fitted tight,
And carried breastplates, wearing tunics light;
Some wore a pair of heavy metal plates;
Some carried shields from distant warring states;
Some very well-armed were from waist to heel;
Some had an ax; some had a mace of steel;
Here’s nothing new that’s not been seen before;
They all were armed, for that which lay in store,
Each one decked out according to his whim.
In Palamon’s brigade rides next to him
Lycurgus, as the king of Thrace revered.
His face was manly, and jet black his beard;
The circles in his head where eyeballs go
Did eerily twixt red and yellow glow.
And like a griffon round about he stares
With heavy brows with lots of unkempt hairs;
His limbs were large, with muscles hard and strong,
His shoulders very broad, arms round and long;
As in his country was a custom old,
He stood high on a chariot of gold,
With four white bulls in place of horses yoked,
A coat of arms his suit of armor cloaked,
With yellow rivets fashioned, bright as gold,
He had a coal black bearskin, very old.
And his long hair was combed behind his back;
Like feathers on a raven, shiny black;
A gold wreath heavy sat upon on his head,
Which was with shiny gemstones overspread,
Fine diamonds, and rubies rich and bright.
About his chariot bounded wolfhounds white.
Twenty or more, as big as any steer,
To hunt the lion, or to hunt the deer,
They tagged along with muzzles tightly bound,
Gold collars on, with rings for leashes round.
And in his entourage a hundred lords,
Whose brave deeds oft subdued barbaric hordes.
With Arcite, as old stories tell to us,
The king of India, Emetreus,
Upon a red-brown steed, with cloth of gold
Adorned, with geometric patterns bold
Came riding, as Mars would were he a man,
His coat of arms of cloth from Turkestan,
Adorned with large round pearls of polished white;
His pure gold saddle was a wondrous sight;
A short cloak on his shoulders all admire,
Brimful of rubies red as sparkling fire;
Up into curly rings his hair was done,
Which glittered yellow, like the golden sun.
His eyes bright lemon yellow, nose set high,
Hi lips were round, his red complexion by
Some freckles spotted, sprinkled o’er his face,
That mostly yellow were, but with a trace
Of black, and like a lion looks to gauge
His prey. At twenty-five I’d guess his age.
His yellow beard had just begun to sprout;
His voice, like some loud trumpet thundered out.
Upon his head he wears a laurel green,
A garland fresh, most pleasing to be seen.
And on his arm there was, for his delight,
An eagle tame and, like a lily, white.
A hundred of his lords bring up the rear,
All armed, except their heads, in all their gear;
They also were adorned with gold and pearls,
For trust me when I say dukes, kings, and earls
Did in this noble company all ride.
“Hurrah for chivalry and love!” they cried.
Around this king their ran, on every side,
Tame lions, from which people need not hide.
To be on time in Athens they did strive;
On Sunday at the city they arrive
In early morn, and from their steeds dismount.
This Theseus, this knight, this worthy count,
When he had brought them all into his town,
He had them by their rank all bedded down;
As host, he really goes out of his way
To feast and entertain them, that their stay
Would do them honor, so that men are moved
To say, “There’s nothing that could be improved.”
The service at the feats, the music played,
The gifts for all, that were before them laid,
The decorations rich that were in place,
Who sat first, and who last, upon the dais,
Which ladies sing the best, who is most fair,
Who kicks their heels up with the greatest flair.
Who for romance most ardently doth search,
What hawks sit overhead upon the perch,
What hounds lay resting down upon the floor –
I won’t go into all of this, but more
Substantial, weighty matters let us seek.
So listen please, for of such things I speak.
That Sunday night, before the day did dawn,
The lark’s enchanting song heard Palamon,
(Though sunrise was yet two whole hours away
Yet sang the lark) and he without delay,
With noble spirit and a pious heart,
Arose, upon his pilgrimage to start
Unto Citherea, I mean of course,
The shrine of Venus, who of love’s the source.
He pays a call while she’s still in the sky,
On her great temple, o’er the gate set high.
He kneels down, and with humble countenance
And prayerful heart, he speaks thus of romance:
“Venus, who lights the flame neath passion’s pyre,
Jove’s daughter, married to the god of fire,
Kindler of joy upon mount Citheron,
As thou Adonis loved, do look thou on,
And pity take upon my smarting tears,
For lovers’ prayers thou art the one who hears.
Alas! there is no language that conveys
My hellish nights, nor my tormented days;
My burning pain my heart will not betray;
I’m so confused, there’s nothing I can say
But ‘Mercy, lady fair, for you can see
My tortured thoughts, and my heart’s misery!”
Consider this, and pity me my pain,
And thy true servant ever I’ll remain;
With all my might unto thy will I’ll bend;
Forever I’ll with chastity contend.
I’ll make that vow, if you will be my friend!
The weapons for this war I have are weak,
Nor do I victory tomorrow seek,
Nor glory vain, nor fame, nor great renown,
With word of conquests spread all over town;
I would but fully take possession of,
And ever serve sweet Emily, my love.
It really doesn’t matter much to me
Just how you make it possible to be
That I my true love Emily might see,
As long as I can have her for my wife.
Though it be true, Mars is the god of strife,
In heav’n above, your pow’r is yet so strong
That if you please, I’ll have my love ere long.
Thy temple ever more I’ll worship at,
And on thy altar I assure you that
I will do sacrifice and kindle fire.
But if you’ll not my lady so inspire,
I pray tomorrow Arcite, through my heart,
A spear may thrust, that I may thus depart
This life, for I no longer care to live
If unto Arcite they my lady give.
So in a word, my prayer boiled down to this:
Give me my love, thou goddess of love’s bliss.”
When finished was the prayer of Palamon,
Then he his sacrifices made, anon.
With somber face her rites he goes about;
But all the details we can do without.
When done, the statue of this goddess shook,
Which as a favorable sign he took
That she would grant him that for which he prayed.
For though the omen was somewhat delayed,
Still he knew his petition was approved.,
So he went home, his glad heart greatly moved.
The third hour after Palamon starts out
Upon his early pilgrimage devout,
The sun came up, and Emily arose,
And to the temple of Diane she goes.
She brought along with her some virgin dames,
Who carried with them lamps with burning flames,
The incense, robes, and all of the attire
That sacred rites of sacrifice require;
As was the custom, horns of honeywine;
All things for sacrificing at the shrine.
The temple was with incense smoke perfumed;
Fair Emily was debonairly groomed,
Her body washed in water from a well;
How she performed her rites, I dare not tell,
Except in a most superficial style,
Though hearing all, would everyone beguile,
To people of good-will it’s no big deal
That they their secret rituals conceal.
All loosely combed was her bright hair of gold;
A crown of green oak round her head was rolled;
She was a pretty picture to behold.
Upon the alter she two fires did light,
And did her duties while they both burned bright,
As we can read about in olden books.
The fire was lit, then she with somber looks,
Unto Diane spoke thus: “O virgin queen,
“O thou chaste goddess of the woodlands green,
To whom all parts of heav’n and earth are seen;
Queen of the realm of Pluto dark and drear,
Goddess of maidens, who for many a year
My heart has known, you know what I desire.
So keep me from thy vengeance and thine ire,
For which the likes of Acteon dearly paid.
Thou knowest well that I, thy faithful maid,
Virginity prefer, my whole life long;
For me to be a wife would be all wrong.
I’m fully dedicated, as you know,
To you; a-hunting I desire to go,
And walking in the woods, as your law bids,
And not be married, with a bunch of kids.
To be a toy for men is not my thing.
Unto my plight you can an answer bring;
So help me, as I know that you can do.
For Palamon, whose love for me is true,
And Arcite, who’s enamored of me too,
I pray this only of thee, then I’m through:
Let them once more their noble friendship know,
And from me turn away their passion, so
That all their hot love, and all their desire,
And their consuming and tormented fire
Will all be quenched, or turned some other place.
But if thou choosest not to do me grace,
Or if for me that isn’t in the cards,
And I to one of them the king awards,
Then send the one who’s most in love with me.
Thou goddess of unspotted chastity,
Behold, the bitter tears fall down my cheeks.
Since you will guard one who thy favor seeks,
My maidenhood protect and well preserve,
And while I still have breath, I will thee serve.”
The fires upon the altar brightly burned,
While Emily to supplication turned.
But something quite peculiar then transpires,
For suddenly out went one of the fires,
But it rekindled very quickly, then
The other went out, ne’er to shine again.
And as it quenched, a whistling noise is heard
From these wet cinders, like some gasping bird,
And at the end of them some drops of red
Dripped out, as if in agony they bled;
And when she saw this bloody serum seep,
It frightened her, so she began to weep,
For what it signified she did not know;
‘Twas out of fear her flood of tears did flow,
A crying that was pitiful to hear.
It was right then that Diane did appear
Just like a huntress, in her hand a bow,
And said, “Cease all thy sadness, daughter. Know
The gods above in council have agreed,
And in Fate’s book it firmly is decreed,
With one of these you’ll to the altar go,
Who for the love of thee has suffered so.
But which of them it is I cannot say.
Farewell, for now, I can no longer stay.
The fires that now upon my altar burn
Shall tell thee, ere thou unto home return,
What kind of turn thy destiny shall take.”
The arrows in her quiver, as she spake,
Began to clatter fast, and ring, and shake.
Then Diane vanished right before her eyes,
Which, as you can imagine, caused surprise,
And made her say, “Alas, what does this mean?
On your protection, Diane, I shall lean,
And for thy guidance ever shall I pray.”
To home she then returns without delay.
That’s pretty much all that there is to say.
The hour of Mars next follows in the sky,
So Arcite to the western gate comes nigh;
His prayer unto fierce Mars he there recites,
And worships him with all his pagan rites.
With sacrifices his respect he pays,
And thus, with somber voice, to Mars he prays:
“O mighty god, that in the land of Thrace
As lord art honored by a warrior race,
And holds the reins of conflict in thy hand,
Of all the bridled arms in every land,
Dispensing battles’ fortunes at thy will,
Accept of me my sacrificial kill.
If I, by virtue of my youthful pride,
To serve thee with my might am qualified,
Then I will serve thee well, if thou wilt deign
To look with eyes of pity on my pain.
For it is that same pain, that same hot fire,
That you did feel; that burning of desire,
When once you had the pleasure to enjoy
The beauty of young Venus, fresh and coy,
And had her whensoever you desired –
Though things went wrong and suddenly backfired
That time it came near costing you your life,
When Vulcan caught you messing with his wife;
For that same grief that in your heart you felt,
For my heart’s pain let pity your heart melt.
I’m young, and quite na´ve, as well you know,
And have, I’m sure, experienced more woe
In love, than any that who in this world lives,
For she, who all this grief unto me gives,
Could care less if I fly or crash and burn.
I know to win her heart, for whom I yearn,
I must in this arena here prevail,
And well I know that I will surely fail
Without thy help; my strength may not avail.
So help me, lord, tomorrow in the fight,
For that same fire that once in thee burned bright,
Is that which even now within me burns.
Make certain that the victory to me turns.
Mine be the labor; thine be all the fame!
Within thy temple I will praise thy name
Above all others; thee I’ll always serve,
And ever all thy stringent laws observe,
And in thy temple shall my banner be,
Along with all those of my company,
And evermore, until my dying day,
Eternal fire before thee I will lay.
Unto this vow I always will hold strong,
That all my beard, and hair that hangs down long,
That never yet has felt the sharpened edge
Of razor or of shears, I’ll to thee pledge,
And for my whole life be thy servant true.
Lord, show some pity for my pain, and too,
Let me prevail, if nothing else you do.”
The prayer of strong Arcite did finally cease,
Then rings that hung upon the doors in peace,
And too, the doors themselves did clatter fast,
Which caused Arcite to be somewhat aghast.
The fires burned brighter, they would not abate,
Till all the temple they illuminate;
A sweet aroma from the ground arose,
As up into the air his hands he throws;
And as he, in the midst of other things
Into the glowing fires more incense flings,
The coat of mail upon Mars’ statue rings,
And with that sound a subtle voice he hears
That whispers “Victory!” into his ears
For which great honor he gives unto Mars;
And thus, with hope he’ll fare well in the wars,
Arcite goes home as happy as a lark
When the bright sunlight banishes the dark.
And now we see the strife in heaven start,
Because of that same promise on the part
Of Venus, given unto Palamon,
And Mars to Arcite, so that Jove, anon,
Was hard put this contention to resolve,
Until on Saturn pale it did devolve,
Upon his vast experience to call,
And make a wise plan that should work for all.
He soon devised a plan that pleased both sides,
For wisdom, it is truly said, resides
In old age, and there is some truth to it;
The old, one can outrun but not outwit.
Saturn, to banish this contentious bane,
Although it really goes against his grain,
Did find a remedy for all the pain.
“Ah, my dear daughter Venus,” Saturn said,
My orbit that o’er space so vast is spread –
Such powers within that heavenly arc there be!
Mine is the drowning in the cold dark sea;
Mine is confinement in dark gloomy cells;
Mine is the hanging by the throat that swells;
The murmuring of vicious malcontents;
The poisoning; the death from pestilence.
But always I exact stern punishments,
For in the sign of Leo I am found.
Mine is the crumbling of a mighty wall,
The caving in of tunnels where men crawl
Upon the hapless buried miner; yea,
Great pillar shaking Sampson did I slay;
Mine deadly maladies, and famines stark;
The ancient scheming, and the reasons dark;
My aspect is the father of the plague.
So weep no more, for I shall shake a leg,
To make sure Palamon has all he’ll need
To win his lady, like you guaranteed.
Though Mars shall help his knight, you two at odds
I hate to see, for peace befits the gods;
In spite of your divergent temperaments,
Which cause such acrimonious dissents,
I’ll grant thy wish for I am thy grandsire,
Ever solicitous of thy desire.”
Now of the gods above I’ll say no more,
Of Venus, and of Mars, the god of war,
And tell you, just a straight out as I can,
The moral of the tale that I began.
|Greet was the feeste in Atthenes that day,
And eek the lusty seson of that May
Made every wight to been in such plesaunce
That al that Monday justen they and daunce,
And spenten it in Venus heigh servyse.
And by the cause that they sholde ryse
Eerly for to seen the grete fight,
Unto hir rest wenten they at nyght.
And on the morwe, whan that day gan sprynge,
Of hors and harneys, noyse and claterynge
Ther was in hostelryes al aboute.
And to the paleys rood ther many a route
Of lordes, upon steedes and palfreys.
Ther maystow seen divisynge of harneys
So unkouth and so riche, and wroght so weel,
Of goldsmythrye, of browdynge, and of steel;
The sheeldes brighte, testeres, and trappures;
Gold-hewen helmes, hauberkes, cote-armures;
Lordes in parementz on hir courseres,
Knyghtes of retenue and eek squieres,
Nailynge the speres, and helmes bokelynge,
Giggynge of sheeldes, with layneres lacynge.
There as nede is, they weren nothyng ydel.
The fomy steedes on the golden brydel
Gnawynge, and faste the armurers also
With fyle and hamer prikynge to and fro;
Yemen on foote and communes many oon,
With shorte staves thikke as they may goon,
Pypes, trompes, nakerers, clariounes,
That in the bataille blowen blody sounes;
The paleys ful of peples up and doun,
Heere thre, ther ten, holdynge hir questioun,
Dyvynynge of thise Thebane knyghtes two.
Somme seyden thus, somme seyde it shal be so,
Somme helden with hym with the blake berd,
Somme with the balled, somme with the thikke-herd,
Somme seyde he looked grymme, and he wolde fighte,
He hath a sparth of twenty pound of wighte,
Thus was the halle ful of divynynge
Longe after that the sonne gan to sprynge.
The grete Theseus, that of his sleep awaked
With mynstralcie and noyse that was maked,
Heeld yet the chambre of his paleys riche,
Til that the Thebane knyghtes, bothe yliche
Honured, were into the paleys fet.
Due Theseus was at a wyndow set,
Arrayed, right as he were a god in trone.
The peple preesseth thiderward ful soone,
Hym for to seen and doon heigh reverence.
And eek to herkne his heste and his sentence.
An heraud on a scaffold made an "Oo!"
Til al the noyse of peple was ydo,
And whan he saugh the peple of noyse al stille,
Tho shewed he the myghty dukes wille.
"The lord hath of his heigh discrecioun
Considered, that it were destruccioun
To gentil blood, to fighten in the gyse
Of mortal bataille, now in this emprise;
Wherfore, to shapen that they shal nat dye,
He wolde his firste purpos modifye.
No man therfore, up peyne of los of lyf,
No maner shot, ne polax, ne short knyf
Into the lystes sende, ne thider brynge.
Ne short swerd for to stoke, with poynt bitynge,
No man ne drawe, ne bere by his syde;
Ne no man shal unto his felawe ryde
But o cours, with a sharpe ygrounde spere.
Foyne if hym list on foote, hym-self to were;
And he that is at meschief shal be take,
And noght slayn, but be broght unto the stake
That shal ben ordeyned on either syde,
But thider he shal by force, and there abyde.
And if so be the chevetayn be take
On outher syde, or elles sleen his make,
No lenger shal the turneiynge laste.
God spede you, gooth forth, and ley on faste!
With long swerd and with maces fight youre fille;
Gooth now youre wey, this is the lordes wille."
The voys of peple touchede the hevene,
So loude cride they with murie stevene,
"God save swich a lord, that is so good
He wilneth no destruccion of blood."
Up goon the trompes and the melodye,
And to the lystes rit the compaignye,
By ordinance, thurgh-out the citee large
Hanged with clooth of gold, and nat with sarge.
Ful lik a lord this noble duc gan ryde,
Thise two Thebanes upon either syde,
And after rood the queene and Emelye,
And after that another compaignye,
Of oon and oother, after hir degre;
And thus they passen thurgh-out the citee
And to the lystes come they by tyme.
It nas nat of the day yet fully pryme
Whan set was Theseus ful riche and hye,
Ypolita the queene, and Emelye,
And othere ladys in degrees aboute.
Unto the seettes preesseth al the route,
And westward thurgh the gates under Marte,
Arcite, and eek the hondred of his parte,
With baner reed is entred right anon.
And in that selve moment Palamon
Is under Venus estward in the place,
With baner whyt, and hardy chiere and face.
In al the world to seken up and doun
So evene withouten variacioun
Ther nere swiche compaignyes tweye!
For ther was noon so wys, that koude seye
That any hadde of oother avauntage,
Of worthynesse ne of estaat ne age,
So evene were they chosen, for to gesse.
And in two renges faire they hem dresse,
Whan that hir names rad were everichon,
That in hir nombre gyle were ther noon.
Tho were the gates shet and cried was loude,
"Do now youre devoir, yonge knyghtes proude!"
The heraudes lefte hir prikyng up and doun;
Now ryngen trompes loude and clarioun.
Ther is namoore to seyn, but west and est
In goon the speres ful sadly in arrest,
In gooth the sharpe spore into the syde.
Ther seen men who kan juste, and who kan ryde,
Ther shyveren shaftes upon sheeldes thikke;
He feeleth thurgh the herte-spoon the prikke.
Up spryngen speres twenty foot on highte;
Out gooth the swerdes as the silver brighte.
The helmes they tohewen and toshrede,
Out brest the blood, with stierne stremes rede,
With myghty maces the bones they tobreste.
He thurgh the thikkeste of the throng gan threste;
Ther stomblen steedes stronge, and doun gooth al;
He rolleth under foot as dooth a bal,
He foyneth on his feet with his tronchoun,
And he hym hurtleth with his hors adoun.
He thurgh the body is hurt and sithen ytake,
Maugree his heed, and broght unto the stake,
As forward was, right there he moste abyde;
Another lad is on that oother syde.
And som tyme dooth hem Theseus to reste,
Hem to refresshe, and drynken if hem leste.
Ful ofte a day han thise Thebanes two
Togydre ymet, and wroght his felawe wo.
Unhorsed hath ech oother of hem tweye,
Ther nas no tygre in the vlae of Galgopheye
Whan that hir whelp is stole, whan it is lite,
So crueel on the hunte, as is Arcite
For jelous herte upon this Palamoun;
Ne in Belmarye ther nys so fel leoun
That hunted is, or for his hunger wood,
Ne of his praye desireth so the blood,
As Palamoun to sleen his foo Arcite.
The jelous strokes on hir helmes byte,
Out renneth blood on bothe hir sydes rede.
Som tyme an ende ther is of every dede;
For er the sonne unto the reste wente,
The stronge kyng Emetreus gan hente
This Palamon, as he faught with Arcite,
And made his swerd depe in his flessh to byte.
And by the force of twenty is he take
Unyolden, and ydrawe unto the stake.
And in the rescous of this Palamoun
The stronge kyng Lygurge is born adoun,
And kyng Emetreus, for al his strengthe,
Is born out of his sadel a swerdes lengthe,
So hitte him Palamoun er he were take;
But al for noght, he was broght to the stake.
His hardy herte myghte hym helpe naught,
He moste abyde, whan that he was caught,
By force, and eek by composicioun.
Who sorweth now but woful Palamoun,
That moot namoore goon agayn to fighte?
And whan that Theseus hadde seyn this sighte
Unto the folk that foghten thus echon
He cryde, "Hoo! namoore, for it is doon.
I wol be trewe juge, and no partie;
Arcite of Thebes shal have Emelie,
That by his fortune hath hir faire ywonne!"
Anon ther is a noyse of peple bigonne
For joye of this so loude and heighe withalle
It semed that the lystes sholde falle.
What kan now faire Venus doon above?
What seith she now, what dooth this queene of Love,
But wepeth so, for wantynge of hir wille,
Til that hir teeres in the lystes fille.
She seyde, "I am ashamed, doutelees."
Saturnus seyde, "Doghter, hoold thy pees,
Mars hath his wille, his knyght hath al his boone,
And, by myn heed, thow shalt been esed soone."
The trompes with the loude mynstralcie,
The heraudes that ful loude yolle and crie,
Been in hir wele for joye of Daun Arcite.
But herkneth me, and stynteth now a lite,
Which a myracle ther bifel anon.
This fierse Arcite hath of his helm ydon,
And on a courser for to shewe his face
He priketh endelong the large place,
Lokynge upward upon this Emelye,
And she agayn hym caste a freendlich eye,
(For wommen, as to speken in commune,
They folwen al the favour of Fortune)
And she was al his chiere, as in his herte.
Out of the ground a furie infernal sterte,
From Pluto sent, at requeste of Saturne,
For which his hors for fere gan to turne,
And leep aside and foundred as he leep.
And er that Arcite may taken keep,
He pighte hym on the pomel of his heed,
That in the place he lay as he were deed,
His brest tobrosten with his sadel-bowe.
As blak he lay as any cole or crowe,
So was the blood yronnen in his face.
Anon he was yborn out of the place,
With herte soor, to Theseus paleys.
Tho was he korven out of his harneys,
And in a bed ybrought ful faire and blyve,
For he was yet in memorie and alyve,
And alwey criynge after Emelye.
Duc Theseus, with al hes compaignye,
Is comen hoom to Atthenes his citee,
With alle blisse and greet solempnitee;
Al be it that this aventure was falle,
He nolde noght disconforten hem alle.
Men seyde eek that Arcite shal nat dye,
He shal been heeled of his maladye.
And of another thyng they weren as fayn,
That of hem alle was ther noon yslayn,
Al were they soore yhurt, and namely oon,
That with a spere was thirled his brest-boon.
To othere woundes, and to broken armes,
Somme hadden salves, and somme hadden charmes,
Fermacies of herbes and eek save
They dronken, for they wolde hir lymes have.
For which this noble duc as he wel kan,
Conforteth and honoureth every man,
And made revel al the longe nyght
Unto the straunge lordes, as was right.
Ne ther was holden no disconfitynge
But as a justes or a tourneiynge,
For soothly ther was no disconfiture-
For fallyng nys nat but an aventure-
Ne to be lad by force unto the stake
Unyolden, and with twenty knyghtes take,
O persone allone, withouten mo,
And haryed forth by arme, foot, and too,
And eke his steede dryven forth with staves,
With footmen, bothe yemen and eek knaves,
It nas aretted hym no vileynye,
Ther may no man clepen it cowardye.
For which anon duc Theseus leet crye,
To stynten alle rancour and envye,
The gree, as wel of o syde as of oother,
And eyther syde ylik as ootheres brother,
And yaf hem yiftes after hir degree,
And fully heeld a feeste dayes three,
And convoyed the kynges worthily
Out of his toun a journee, largely;
And hoom wente every man, the righte way,
Ther was namoore but `fare-wel, have good day.'
Of this bataille I wol namoore endite,
But speke of Palamoun and of Arcite.
Swelleth the brest of Arcite, and the soore
Encreesseth at his herte moore and moore.
The clothered blood for any lechecraft
Corrupteth, and is in his bouk ylaft,
That neither veyne-blood, ne ventusynge,
Ne drynke of herbes may ben his helpynge.
The vertu expulsif, or animal,
Fro thilke vertu cleped natural
Ne may the venym voyden, ne expelle.
The pipes of his longes gonne to swelle,
And every lacerte in his brest adoun
Is shent with venym and corrupcioun.
Hym gayneth neither for to gete his lif
Vomyt upward, ne dounward laxatif;
Al is tobrosten thilke regioun,
Nature hath now no dominacioun.
And certeinly, ther Nature wol nat wirche,
Fare-wel phisik, go ber the man to chirche!
This al and som, that Arcita moot dye;
For which he sendeth after Emelye
And Palamon, that was his cosyn deere.
Thanne seyde he thus, as ye shal after heere:
"Naught may the woful spirit in myn herte
Declare o point of alle my sorwes smerte
To yow, my lady, that I love moost.
But I biquethe the servyce of my goost
To yow aboven every creature.
Syn that my lyf may no lenger dure,
Allas, the wo! allas, the peynes stronge
That I for yow have suffred, and so longe!
Allas, the deeth! allas, myn Emelye!
Allas, departynge of our compaignye!
Allas, myn hertes queene! allas, my wyf!
Myn hertes lady, endere of my lyf!
What is this world? what asketh men to have?
Now with his love, now in his colde grave,
Allone, withouten any compaignye.
Fare-wel, my swete foo, myn Emelye,
And softe taak me in youre armes tweye,
For love of God, and herkneth what I seye.
"I have heer with my cosyn Palamon
Had strif and rancour many a day agon,
For love of yow, and for my jalousye.
And Juppiter so wys my soule gye
To speken of a servaunt proprely,
With alle circumstances trewely,
That is to seyn, trouthe, honour, and knyghthede,
Wysdom, humblesse, estaat, and heigh kynrede,
Fredom, and al that longeth to that art,
So Juppiter have of my soule part
As in this world right now ne knowe I non
So worthy to ben loved, as Palamon
That serveth yow, and wol doon al his lyf;
And if that evere ye shul ben a wyf,
Foryet nat Palamon, the gentil man."
And with that word his speche faille gan,
And from his herte up to his brest was come
The coold of deeth, that hadde hym overcome.
And yet moreover in hise armes two
The vital strengthe is lost and al ago.
Oonly the intellect, withouten moore,
That dwelled in his herte syk and soore
Gan faillen, when the herte felte deeth.
Dusked hise eyen two, and failled breeth,
But on his lady yet caste he his eye.
His laste word was "mercy, Emelye!"
His spirit chaunged hous, and wente ther
As I cam nevere, I kan nat tellen wher,
Therfore I stynte; I nam no divinistre,
Of soules fynde I nat in this registre,
Ne me ne list thilke opinions to telle
Of hem, though that they writen wher they dwelle.
Arcite is coold, ther Mars his soule gye:
Now wol I speken forthe of Emelye.
Shrighte Emelye, and howleth Palamon,
And Theseus his suster took anon
Swownynge, and baar hir fro the corps away.
What helpeth it to tarien forth the day
To tellen how she weep bothe eve and morwe?
For in swich cas wommen have swich sorwe
Whan that hir housbond is from hem ago,
That for the moore part they sorwen so,
Or ellis fallen in swich maladye,
That at the laste certeinly they dye.
Infinite been the sorwes and the teeres
Of olde folk, and eek of tendre yeeres
In al the toun, for deeth of this Theban.
For hym ther wepeth bothe child and man;
So greet a wepyng was ther noon, certayn,
Whan Ector was ybroght al fressh yslayn
To Troye, allas, the pitee that was ther!
Cracchynge of chekes, rentynge eek of heer;
"Why soldestow be deed," thise wommen crye,
"And haddest gold ynough, and Emelye?"
No man myghte gladen Theseus,
Savynge his olde fader, Egeus,
That knew this worldes transmutacioun,
As he hadde seyn it chaungen up and doun,
Joye after wo, and wo after gladnesse,
And shewed hem ensamples and liknesse.
"Right as ther dyed nevere man," quod he,
"That he ne lyvede in erthe in som degree,
Right so ther lyvede never man," he seyde,
"In al this world that somtyme he ne deyde.
This world nys but a thurghfare ful of wo,
And we been pilgrymes passynge to and fro.
Deeth is an ende of every worldes soore."
And over al this yet seyde he muchel moore,
To this effect ful wisely to enhorte
The peple, that they sholde hem reconforte.
Duc Theseus, with al his bisy cure,
Caste now, wher that the sepulture
Of goode Arcite may best ymaked be,
And eek moost honurable in his degree.
And at the laste he took conclusioun
That ther as first Arcite and Palamoun
Hadden for love the bataille hem bitwene,
That in that selve grove swoote and grene
Ther as he hadde hise amorouse desires,
His compleynte, and for love hise hoote fires
He wolde make a fyr, in which the office
Funeral he myghte al accomplice;
And leet comande anon to hakke and hewe
The okes olde, and leye hem on a rewe
In colpons, wel arrayed for to brenne.
Hise officers with swifte feet they renne
And ryden anon at his comandement;
And after this Theseus hath ysent
After a beere, and it al over-spradde
With clooth of gold, the richeste that he hadde.
And of the same suyte he cladde Arcite,
Upon his hondes hadde he gloves white,
EEk on his heed a coroune of laurer grene,
And in his hond a swerd ful bright and kene.
He leyde hym bare the visage on the beere,
Ther-with he weep that pitee was to heere.
And for the peple sholde seen hym alle,
Whan it was day, he broghte hym to the halle,
That roreth of the criyng and the soun.
Tho cam this woful Theban, Palamoun,
With flotery berd and rugged asshy heeres,
In clothes blake, ydropped al with teeres,
And passynge othere of wepynge Emelye,
The rewefulleste of al the compaignye.
In as muche as the servyce sholde be
The moore noble and riche in his degree,
Duc Theseus leet forth thre steedes brynge
That trapped were in steel al gliterynge,
And covered with the armes of daun Arcite.
Upon thise steedes that weren grete and white
Ther sitten folk, of whiche oon baar his sheeld,
Another his spere up in his hondes heeld,
The thridde baar with hym his bowe Turkeys,
Of brend gold was the caas, and eek the harneys;
And riden forth a paas, with sorweful cheere,
Toward the grove, as ye shul after heere.
The nobleste of the Grekes that ther were
Upon hir shuldres caryeden the beere,
With slakke paas, and eyen rede and wete,
Thurghout the citee by the maister-strete,
That sprad was al with blak, and wonder hye
Right of the same is the strete ywrye.
Upon the right hond wente olde Egeus,
And on that oother syde duc Theseus,
With vessel in hir hand of gold ful fyn,
Al ful of hony, milk, and blood, and wyn.
Eek Palamon, with ful greet compaignye,
And after that cam woful Emelye,
With fyr in honde, as was that tyme the gyse,
To do the office of funeral servyse.
Heigh labour, and ful greet apparaillynge,
Was at the service and the fyr makynge,
That with his grene top the heven raughte,
And twenty fadme of brede the armes straughte;
This is to seyn, the bowes weren so brode.
Of stree first ther was leyd ful many a lode,
But how the fyr was maked upon highte,
Ne eek the names that the trees highte,
As, ook, firre, birch, aspe, alder, holm, popeler,
Wylugh, elm, plane, assh, box, chasteyn, lynde, laurer,
Mapul, thorn, bech, hasel, ew, whippeltre,
How they weren fild shal nat be toold for me,
Ne how the goddes ronnen up and doun
Disherited of hir habitacioun,
In whiche they woneden in reste and pees,
Nymphes, Fawnes, and Amadrides;
Ne how the beestes and the briddes alle
Fledden for fere, whan the wode was falle;
Ne how the ground agast was of the light,
That was nat wont to seen the sonne bright;
Ne how the fyr was couched first with stree,
And thanne with drye stokkes clovena thre,
And thanne with grene wode and spicerye,
And thanne with clooth of gold and with perrye,
And gerlandes hangynge with ful many a flour,
The mirre, thencens, with al so greet odour;
Ne how Arcite lay among al this,
Ne what richesse aboute his body is,
Ne how that Emelye, as was the gyse,
Putte in the fyr of funeral servyse;
Ne how she swowned whan men made the fyr,
Ne what she spak, ne what was hir desir,
Ne what jeweles men in the fyr caste,
Whan that the fyr was greet and brente faste;
Ne how somme caste hir sheeld, and somme hir spere,
And of hire vestimentz whiche that they were,
And coppes full of wyn, and milk, and blood,
Into the fyr, that brente as it were wood,
Ne how the Grekes, with an huge route,
Thryes riden al the place aboute,
Upon the left hand with a loud shoutynge,
And thries with hir speres claterynge,
And thries how the ladyes gonne crye,
And how that lad was homward Emelye;
Ne how Arcite is brent to asshen colde,
Ne how that lychewake was yholde
Al thilke nyght, ne how the Grekes pleye
The wakepleyes ne kepe I nat to seye,
Who wrastleth best naked, with oille enoynt,
Ne who that baar hym best in no disjoynt;
I wol nat tellen eek, how that they goon
Hoom til Atthenes, whan the pley is doon;
But shortly to the point thanne wol I wende,
And maken of my longe tale an ende.
By processe, and by lengthe of certeyn yeres,
Al stynted is the moornynge and the teres
Of Grekes, by oon general assent.
Thanne semed me ther was a parlement
At Atthenes, upon certein pointz and caas,
Among the whiche pointz yspoken was
To have with certein contrees alliaunce,
And have fully of Thebans obeisaunce,
For which this noble Theseus anon
Leet senden after gentil Palamon,
Unwist of hym what was the cause and why.
But in hise blake clothes sorwefully
He cam at his comandement in hye;
Tho sente Theseus for Emelye.
Whan they were set, and hust was al the place,
And Theseus abiden hadde a space
Er any word cam fram his wise brest,
Hise eyen sette he ther as was his lest,
And with a sad visage he siked stille,
And after that right thus he seyde his wille.
"The Firste Moevere of the cause above
Whan he first made the faire cheyne of love,
Greet was theffect, and heigh was his entente;
Wel wiste he, why, and what therof he mente,
For with that faire cheyne of love he bond
The fyr, the eyr, the water, and the lond,
In certeyn boundes that they may nat flee.
That same prince and that same moevere," quod he,
"Hath stablissed in this wrecched world adoun
Certeyne dayes and duracioun
To al that is engendred in this place,
Over the whiche day they may nat pace;
Al mowe they yet tho dayes wel abregge,
Ther nedeth noght noon auctoritee allegge,
For it is preeved by experience-
But that me list declaren my sentence.
Thanne may men by this ordre wel discerne
That thilke moevere stable is and eterne.
Wel may men knowe, but it be a fool,
That every part deryveth from his hool;
For nature hath nat taken his bigynnyng
Of no partie nor cantel of a thyng,
But of a thyng that parfit is and stable,
Descendynge so til it be corrumpable;
And therfore, of his wise purveiaunce,
He hath so wel biset his ordinaunce,
That speces of thynges and progressiouns
Shullen enduren by successiouns,
And nat eterne, withouten any lye.
This maystow understonde and seen at eye.
“Lo the ook, that hath so long a norisshynge
From tyme that it first bigynneth sprynge,
And hath so long a lif, as we may see,
Yet at the laste wasted is the tree.
“Considereth eek, how that the harde stoon
Under oure feet, on which we trede and goon,
Yit wasteth it, as it lyth by the weye.
The brode ryver somtyme wexeth dreye,
The grete toures se we wane and wende,
Thanne may ye se that al this thyng hath ende.
“Of man and womman seen we wel also,
That nedeth, in oon of thise termes two,
This is to seyn, in youthe or elles age,
He moot be deed, the kyng as shal a page.
Som in his bed, som in the depe see,
Som in the large feeld, as men may se;
Ther helpeth noght, al goth that ilke weye,
Thanne may I seyn that al this thyng moot deye.
“What maketh this, but Juppiter the kyng,
That is prince and cause of alle thyng
Convertyng al unto his propre welle
From which it is deryved, sooth to telle,
And heer agayns no creature on lyve
Of no degree availleth for to stryve.
“Thanne is it wysdom, as it thynketh me,
To maken vertu of necessitee,
And take it weel, that we may nat eschue;
And namely, that to us alle is due.
And who so gruccheth ought, he dooth folye,
And rebel is to hym that al may gye.
And certeinly, a man hath moost honour
To dyen in his excellence and flour,
Whan he is siker of his goode name,
Thanne hath he doon his freend ne hym no shame.
And galdder oghte his freend been of his deeth,
Whan with honour upyolden in his breeth,
Than whan his name apalled is for age;
For al forgeten is his vassellage.
Thanne is it best as for a worthy fame,
To dyen whan that he is best of name.
“The contrarie of al this is wilfulnesse:
Why grucchen heere his cosyn and his wyf
That goode Arcite, of chivalrie flour,
Departed is with duetee and honour
Out of this foule prisoun of this lyf?
Why grucchen heere his cosyn and his wyf
Of his welfare, that loved hem so weel?
Kan he hem thank? Nay, God woot never a deel!
That bothe his soule and eek hemself offende,
And yet they mowe hir lustes nat amende.
“What may I concluden of this longe serye,
But after wo I rede us to be merye,
And thanken Juppiter of al his grace?
And er that we departen from this place
I rede that we make, of sorwes two,
O parfit joye lastyng everemo.
And looketh now, wher moost sorwe is her inne,
Ther wol we first amenden and bigynne.
"Suster," quod he, "this is my fulle assent,
With all thavys heere of my parlement,
That gentil Palamon thyn owene kynght,
That serveth yow with wille, herte, and myght,
And evere hath doon, syn that ye first hym knewe,
That ye shul of your grace upon hym rewe,
And taken hym for housbonde and for lord.
Lene me youre hond, for this is oure accord.
Lat se now of youre wommanly pitee;
He is a kynges brother sone, pardee,
And though he were a povre bacheler,
Syn he hath served yow so many a yeer,
And had for yow so greet adversitee,
It moste been considered, leeveth me,
For gentil mercy oghte to passen right."
Thanne seyde he thus to Palamon ful right:
"I trowe ther nedeth litel sermonyng
To make yow assente to this thyng.
Com neer, and taak youre lady by the hond."
Bitwixen hem was maad anon the bond
That highte matrimoigne, or mariage,
By al the conseil and the baronage.
And thus with alle blisse and melodye
Hath Palamon ywedded Emelye;
And God, that al this wyde world hath wroght,
Sende hym his love that hath it deere aboght!
For now is Palamon in alle wele,
Lyvynge in blisse, in richesse, and in heele,
And Emelye hym loveth so tendrely,
And he hir serveth al so gentilly,
That nevere was ther no word hem bitwene,
Of jalousie, or any oother teene.
Thus endeth Palamon and Emelye,
And God save al this faire compaignye!
|‘Twas on a Monday in the month of May;
Great was the feast, in Athens all were gay,
And everyone was in the mood to say:
“Come! Let us sing and dance and joust and play,
And in the name of Venus spend the day.”
But for the cause that on the morrow they
Would need to wake up early for the fight,
Early to bed they did retire that night.
And in the morning, at the break of dawn,
The noise of carriages by horses drawn
There was, for none were in a kicked back mode,
As many a party to the palace rode,
With lords and ladies prancing all about.
We see the shops where armor’s hammered out,
So rich and wonderful, and wrought so well
By many artisans who all excel
At making body armor for defense,
With gold and other fine embellishments;
Lords riding on their steeds with lavish dress,
And knights, and also squires who spearheads press
Onto their shafts, and buckle guards in place,
And fit the shields with straps; and tie, and lace;
None slacking off wherever there are needs;
On golden bridles gnaw the frothing steeds,
And rapidly the blacksmith hammers go;
To finish they are filing to and fro;
Yeomen on foot, and many a soldier too,
In crowds so densely packed none can get through.
Pipes, trumpets, horns, and gongs, and kettle drums,
That bloody sounds make when the battle comes;
The palace full of women and of men
In heated dialogue, here three, there ten,
Conjecturing on these two Theban knights,
As to the outcome of their pending fights.
Some for the bearded one did choose to cheer;
Some rooted for the long-haired cavalier:
“His looks would make a lion turn and run;
He’s got a battle axe that weighs a ton!”
Opinion filled the hall, guess, and surmise,
A long time after when the sun did rise.
Duke Theseus, awakened by the sounds
Of music playing on the palace grounds,
Remained yet in his richly furnished room
Until those Theban knights two, both of whom
He honored equally, their entrance make.
Then Theseus his honored place does take,
Upon a throne, set in a window high.
To look at him the people all press nigh;
To do him reverence they all do yearn,
And of all his decrees they hope to learn.
A herald on a scaffold loudly cried,
Till all of the commotion did subside;
And when the noisiest were still at last,
Declared unto the great throng there amassed:
“The lord has, in his judgement sound and wise,
Decided it would not be worth the prize,
To fight in such a way that blood would flow
By way of deadly mortal combat; so
To set it up in such a way none die,
He will his first plan somewhat modify.
Participants, on pain of loss of life,
No arrow, battle axe, or pocket knife,
Shall bring into the stadium to use;
No weaponry that will do more than bruise,
Shall any draw, or carry by his side.
Just once shall each at his opponent ride;
A spear ground bluntly he may only use;
To fight on foot, not horseback, he may choose.
The one sustaining the most baneful blow,
But slain not, shall unto a pillar go
That shall be set up, one on either side –
There he must go and stay till all are tried.
And should, on either side, the chieftain fall,
Or on the field his rival dead should sprawl,
The victor shall his lady surely win.
The Force be with you, let the games begin!
With sword and mace go fight until you drop,
And we shall see who will come out on top.”
The people’s voices reached unto the sky,
So loud was their elated, merry cry:
“God save a lord like this, who is so fine,
He wants to see no blood; he’s so benign!”
Up go the trumpets; hear the joyful songs;
To the arena ride the gathered throngs;
Decrees were hung in every street and lane,
Of cloth with gold embroidery, not just plain.
This duke rode in a way befitting kings;
The two from Thebes on either side he brings;
Behind him ride his daughter and the queen,
And after that some other groups are seen;
According to their rank they through the town
Did pass, until in due time they came down
To where the new arena’s gates did tower,
Arriving there at a mid-morning hour.
First Theseus was set in splendor high,
Hippolyta and Emily nearby,
Then higher lords were seated tier by tier,
Then those contingents bringing up the rear.
And through the western gate, beneath the shrine
Of Mars, Arcite, his knights all in a line,
Comes marching, holding high his banner red;
At that same moment Palamon, ahead
Of his one hundred knights, neath Venus comes,
With banner white, and elevated thumbs.
Search as you like throughout the world, and you
Will find no companies that, like these two,
Are matched so evenly in every way;
For their was none so wise that he could say
That one of them superior he’d gauge,
In worthiness, in status, nor in age,
So evenly selected; and it shows,
As they line up in two opposing rows.
When all their names were read on either side,
So that their numbers could be certified,
Then were the gates shut, and aloud was cried,
“Now do your duty, you young knights, with pride!”
The heralds stop their prancing all around;
And now the trumpets and the bugles sound.
Of this there is no more to say; from west
To east in goes each spear to its lance-rest;
The sharp spur goes into the horse’s side.
Now we’ll see who can joust and who can ride;
The shaft breaks on the heavy armor here;
There through the breast-bone stabs the sharpened spear;
Up spring long lances twenty feet in height;
Out come the shining swords, like silver bright;
Helmets they hew to pieces, arms they shred,
Out bursts the blood in streams of flowing red;
And bones are smashed to bits by maces large.
One through the thick of it begins to charge;
But mighty steeds do stumble; down go all,
And underfoot he rolls as does a ball;
He jumps up, and with broken spear-shaft blows
Brings down a horse, which off his rider throws;
He’s hurt, and so he’s taken in disgrace,
Protesting, to that designated place,
As was agreed, and there he must abide.
And then another, to the other side.
To take a break doth Theseus request
That they refresh a bit with drink and rest.
Now many times those Theban knights have clashed,
Each his opponent many times has slashed;
Each was unhorsed, and from his saddle crashed.
In India no tiger ever prowled,
That when her little whelp is stolen growled,
As mean as mighty Arcite when he hunts,
As Palamon, his jealous heart confronts;
In Africa no lion ever roamed,
That maddened by his hunger fumed and foamed,
And seeks as much the blood of his poor prey,
As hungers Palamon Arcite to slay.
Their headgear they with fervent strokes do flay;
On both sides, they are red from cuts that bleed.
Sometime there is an end of every deed.
For ere the sun unto its rest had gone,
Emetreus confronted Palamon;
As on the side of Arcite he did fight,
His sword he buried deep into this knight,
Who then by twenty men is dragged away,
Beside the pillar on his side to stay.
Lycurgus then, observing shat went wrong,
With all haste to the rescue comes along;
Emetreus, though he is mighty strong,
Is from his saddle knocked by Palamon
Ere he from the arena is withdrawn.
And so unto the pillar he was brought,
When his courageous heart could help him not;
He must remain there after being caught,
By force, and that to which he had agreed.
Now Palamon was sorrowful indeed,
Because to Arcite he must now concede.
And when duke Theseus saw how he’d been maimed,
To all of the contestants he exclaimed,
“Stop now! for I will no more fighting see;
No partisan, I shall the true judge be.
Arcite’s the one who gets fair Emily;
By his good fortune he has won the prize.”
Immediately a noise begins to rise,
A joyful sound so loud it seemed, perhaps,
That all the theater would soon collapse.
Venus, at these events, is quite put out;
For sympathy she starts to whine and pout,
Because she didn’t get to have her way;
Her tears did fall, and she was heard to say,
“This time around, I’ve really gotten stung.”
Then Saturn said, “My daughter, bite your tongue!
Mars got his wish – Arcite his goal achieved;
But mark my word, you soon will be relieved.”
The trumpeters, who make ear-piercing sound,
Heralds who yell and cry and prance around,
Are on cloud nine, rejoicing for Arcite.
But pay attention, I shall tell of quite
A miracle that happened on that day.
Arcite his helmet tossed into the air,
As on a horse he rides, with tousled hair;
From end to end along the track he spurs.
At Emily he looks, and his heart stirs;
Then she gives him that knowing look of hers
(For women. Speaking generally, we know,
With Fortune’s currents seem to want to flow);
She owns him, as his heart with rapture glows.
Then from the ground an apparition rose,
From Pluto sent, as Saturn did direct,
Which made his startled horse rear up erect,
And leap aside, then stumble; and Arcite
Unto the ground was thrown, where he did light
Directly on the crown of his bare head.
He lay there without moving, as though dead;
Beneath his saddlebow his breast was crushed;
Black was his face where all the blood had rushed,
As black as any crow or piece of coal.
They quickly him onto a stretcher roll;
He’s to the palace borne; for breath he’s starved;
Then is his armor from his body carved,
And he is gently lain upon a bed,
For he’s yet conscious, although nearly dead.
For Emily he constantly doth yearn.
To Athens now does Theseus return,
And all his company with faces stern,
Yet not devoid of any saving bliss.
Although the tournament had come to this,
He’d rather not upon misfortune dwell.
And so men say, “Arcite is still alive;
Let’s pray that he’ll be healed, and will survive.”
Of one more thing they can be glad as well,
That none were slain among those men who fell,
Though badly injured; even this one guy
Whose chest was punctured deeply, did not die.
For other wounds, for broken legs and arms,
Some medications used, and some used charms;
Medicines, made of herbs of different kinds,
One drinks, another on his sore limb binds.
For which the duke, to make their spirits light,
Comforts and honors every wounded knight.
He toasted all the foreign lords till late,
As custom and propriety dictate.
To lose was not made out to be a shame;
All things considered, it was just a game.
Defeat was not regarded with remorse,
For falling’s just an accident, of course,
Nor to the pillar to be led by force,
Not having given up, by twenty knights;
Alone, to one of two appointed sites
Dragged off, as sprawled upon the ground he lay,
And then to have his war horse chased away
With staves, by soldiers and by yeomen too –
No blame for all of this did he accrue;
To call it cowardice is not allowed
For thus said Theseus unto the crowd,
To put a stop to ire and jealousy:
“One side alone shall not the victor be,
But honor shared by both sides equally.”
According to their rank he gifts bestowed;
For three days all are in a festive mode,
Then were the kings escorted, one and all,
A full day’s journey from the city wall.
In dignity all did depart that day;
The said no more than “Farewell, and good day!”
With more of this I shall not now go on,
But speak of Arcite and of Palamon.
The breast of Arcite swells up more and more,
His painful heart’s condition very poor.
The clotted blood that doctors cannot drain
Corrupts; it’s left inside to cause great pain.
Suction, nor letting blood out at a vein,
Nor herbal remedy can give relief.
The body’s normal power to purge the grief
Of fluids that accumulate and swell,
Has failed; with poisons it cannot expel,
Each passageway within his lungs is filled,
And muscles down inside his chest are killed
By all the poison and corruption there.
It doesn’t help him to keep breathing air,
To vomit, nor a laxative to try;
All in that region has now gone bye-bye,
For Nature’s power to stabilize wont work.
And certainly, where Nature’s gone berserk,
Farewell to medicine! In church we’ll cry;
The doctor’s verdict is: “Arcite will die.”
So Emily he asks to be brought near,
And Palamon, that was his cousin dear.
Then said he thus, as all around did hear:
“All of the pain that is within my heart
Cannot declare to you the smallest part
Of all the sorrow that for you I bore;
But in my death I’ll prove I loved you more
Than any creature, with a love that’s pure,
For not much longer shall my life endure.
Alas, the woe! alas, the sorrow too!
The pain I’ve suffered for the love of you!
Alas, dear Emily! oh death, alas,
For when I die, my hope for thee will pass!
Alas, my poor heart’s queen! Alas my wife!
My lady, and the ender of my life.
What is this world that God unto us gave,
That we should love, then go down to our grave
Alone, and without any company?
Farewell to you, sweet foe, my Emily!
Now take me softly in your arms, I pray,
And for the love of God, hear what I say.
“I’ve with my cousin Palamon, of late,
Had strife and rancor, enmity and hate,
For all my love and jealousy for you.
So now may Jupiter give guidance true
Unto my soul, that one who’s pledged to love
I may speak properly and truly of –
One who is true, who honors his knighthood,
Has rank, and wisdom, character that’s good
And courage that is not afraid to dare –
As Jupiter my soul has in his care,
I know of no one, after I am gone,
As worthy to be loved as Palamon,
Who loves you, and will serve you all his life,
If you should ever choose to be his wife.
The gentle Palamon! Forget him not.”
And with that final word for breath he fought,
For from his feet up to his breast had crept
The chill of death, which through his body swept.
And from his mighty arms the vital strength
Is drained, and is completely lost at length.
His intellect is finally all that’s left,
His heart and body of all life bereft,
And even that begins to fail at last;
He looks, though darkness doth his eyes o’ercast,
One last time at his lady longingly,
He final words were, “Mercy, Emily!”
His spirit left, and went I know not where,
For I have never made the journey there;
And so I’ll stop, since I have no degree
In fields related to theology;
Nor on opinions which on souls abound,
Do I desire at this time to expound.
Arcite is cold; may Mars with his soul walk!
And now of Emily I’d like to talk.
Now cried out Emily and Palamon,
And Theseus takes her; quickly they are gone
As from the corpse he carries her away.
But what’s the use in wasting one whole day
Telling how she could not be made to hush,
For in such cases women turn to mush,
When husbands, suddenly, in death they lose;
Depressed, some to partake of food refuse;
Others, to drown their sorrows, turn to booze;
Still other ones to slit their wrists will choose.
Tears flow, as Arcite’s march of death is drummed,
From eyes of young and old, who all are bummed
About this Theban’s sudden, sad demise.
Both children and grown men have misty eyes;
Since Hector, freshly slain, was brought to Troy,
There never has been such a dearth of joy.
Alas! the lamentation that was there;
Scratching of cheeks, and tearing out of hair.
They said, “Why should he six feet under be,
When he had gold enough, and Emily?”
For comfort was duke Theseus left cold
By all but Egeus, his father old,
Who’d known all this world’s vagaries and change,
As all across the map he’s seen Fate range,
Woe after joy, and then joy after woes.
Examples and comparisons he shows.
“None in his Winter drinks a bitter cup,
Who in His Springtime didn’t live it up;
No man has disappointments in his Fall,
Who in his Summer did not have a ball.
This world is but a highway full of woe,
And we but pilgrims passing to and fro.
Death puts an end to every worldly hurt,
When we are buried six feet neath the dirt.”
These things and many more he wisely told,
That everyone who heard might be consoled.
Duke Theseus, to find a fitting place,
A hallowed plot that Arcite’s grave might grace,
Did give much careful and considered thought –
One that with fame and honor would be fraught.
So finally he did settle on a spot
Where Aricte sparred with Palamon, and fought
His feud that raged between them o’er romance,
That same grove, filled with green sweet-smelling plants,
Where he had felt his amorous desires,
Frustrations, and his love’s hot, burning fires;
There for the funeral a fire he lights,
Appropriate for Arcite’s final rites.
So he commands that mighty oaks be felled
And, where the ceremony will be held,
Chopped up and stacked around in piles to burn.
His servants, when they of his orders learn,
Make tracks; to do his sovereign will they went.
And for a bier, when this was done, he sent,
Which he did cover with a cloth of gold,
The richest that he had; and then, behold,
In that same fabric he did Arcite clad;
Upon each of his hands white gloves he had,
A crown of laurel green upon his head,
A bright sword in his hand, bejeweled in red.
He gently laid him, bare-faced, on the bier;
Therewith he wept, and shed a piteous tear.
And that he might be seen by one and all,
When it was day he brought him to the hall,
That with the sound of crying comes alive.
Then did the woeful Palamon arrive,
Beard waving, ashes sprinkled in his hair,
Tear splattered black apparel did he wear;
And Emily, who more profusely wept
Than all the other company she kept.
And to enhance the service very much,
There’s this one extra special little touch:
Duke Theseus arranged to have three steeds,
Equipped with shining steel from shining deeds,
And covered with the weapons of Arcite.
Upon these horses that were large and white,
Riders did sit, one of whom bore his shield,
And one within his hand his spear did wield,
And one of them his Turkish bow did bear;
Its golden quiver carried he with care.
With sad looks and with downcast eyes they go
Toward the grove, as later you will know.
The noblest of the Greeks, assembled here,
Did carry on their shoulders Arcite’s bier;
There eyes were moist, and slowly moved their feet,
As through the town they walked, down Center Street,
Which darkly lined was, on the left and right;
The street was covered too, as black as night.
Upon the right hand went old Egeus,
And on the other side, duke Theseus,
With golden vessels that were very fine,
All filled with honey, milk, and blood, and wine;
Next Palamon – his men in line do fall;
Then Emily came, sadly, last of all,
As was the custom then, with fire in hand,
So she could as officiator stand.
A lot of preparation it did take,
To plan the service, and the fire to make,
That with its green top reached up to the sky.
And which was just as wide as it was high,
Because so very broad was every bough.
First many loads of straw were laid. But how
The fire was made to rise so very high,
Nor too, the names the trees were all known by,
Such as the poplar, aspen, alder, fir,
Elm, laurel, chestnut, willow, oak, alder,
Birch, linden, maple, dogwood, hazel, ash –
I’ll not tell how unto the ground they crash;
Nor how in panic all the gods ran round,
Their habitations cut down to the ground,
Where in tranquility they use to dwell –
Nymphs, fawns, and fairies, but a few to tell;
Nor how the birds and beasts in fear did flee,
Whenas the woods were cut down, tree by tree;
Nor how moss-covered ground was all afraid,
As it did lose the shelter of the shade,
For it knew not the glare of sunshine bright;
Nor how the fire was primed with straw to light,
Then branches dry piled up, to pieces hacked,
And then green wood, with spices mixed, was stacked,
Then cloth of gold, with precious stones inlaid,
And garlands sweet, with many a flower made;
The myrrh, the incense, whose aroma rose
Around the place where Arcite did repose;
Nor how fair Emily did light the fire
That burned beneath this funerary pyre;
Nor how she swooned to see the flames arise;
Nor how the tears did well within her eyes;
Nor what jewels men into the fire did cast,
As in intensity it increased fast;
Nor how some threw a spear, and some a shield,
And some fine uniforms, which off they peeled;
Nor how some threw on wine and blood; Nor how
This hot inferno burned like crazy now;
Nor how around the fire thrice rode the Greeks,
As on the left hand they let out loud shrieks;
How three more trips around the fire they make,
As in their hands their spears they raise and shake;
How thrice the ladies cried out for the dead;
How Emily back to her home was led;
Nor how Arcite to ashes cold did burn;
Nor how the mourners to a wake did turn
That same night; nor how all the Greeks did play
Their funeral games; I do not care to say
Who wrestled best, in oil bathed, nakedly,
And from the worst hold managed to break free;
Nor how they all go, after all this fun,
Back home to Athens, when the games are done.
But I’ll get to the point, don’t fear my friends,
For not much longer and my long tale ends.
Time heals all grieving, sadness, and dismay;
The mourning stops, the tears are washed away;
These Greek hearts’ sorrows all away are cleaned.
It seems a parliament was then convened
In Athens, some proposals to debate;
Among them, an alliance to create
Between them and a certain northern state,
The Thebans to completely subjugate.
Immediately did Theseus command
That Palamon before him come and stand,
For which the cause, by him , should not be known;
So dressed in black and still to grieving prone
He quickly came, so he would not offend.
And then for Emily the duke did send.
When they were set, and all the place was still,
And Theseus, ere he revealed his will,
Had waited for a while without a word,
He looked straight at that which his longing stirred,
Let out a soft and wistful breath of air,
And then his will, as follows, did declare:
“When God, who over all doth rule and reign,
First fashioned out of love a flawless chain,
He knew quite well what his intention was.
The consequences were profound, because
With that fair chain of love he bound with care
The land and water, and the fire and air,
Each in its proper place to be confined.
That same Prince and creator of mankind
Established, from his home in heav’n above,
A certain span of time to live and love;
For all engendered on this wretched earth,
No longer may they live beyond their birth,
Though their appointed days they may cut short.
It is not necessary to support,
By citing an authoritative source,
This view, for it is clear, as in the course
Of life we can quite easily observe
That from this order God will never swerve.
You’d have to be a moron not to see,
Where there’s a part then there a whole must be,
For nature doesn’t ever choose to start
With just a fragment, portion, piece, or part,
But from what’s whole and pure beyond compare,
Down to corruption plummeting from there.
And so by His abundant care divine,
He has so well established his design,
That every sort of species and regime
Shall tarry, in accordance with His scheme,
For a brief moment, not eternally.
This one can understand and plainly see.
“The oak, that takes so long to grow so tall
From its inception as an acorn small,
And lives so long, as can be seen by all,
Yet in the end it will decay and fall.
“Consider, too, how that the hardest rock
Beneath our feet, upon which we do walk,
Wears down, as in the pathway it doth lie;
The broadest river sometimes will grow dry;
The greatest city fade; and by and by,
As everyone can see, all things shall die.
“Concerning men and women it is true
As well, that in time one, or in time two –
That is to say, in youth or else old age –
They’ll die, the king as well as his young page;
Some in their beds, some in the ocean deep,
Some racked in pain, some in a peaceful sleep;
It matters not; all share one destiny.
All things shall end, as everyone can see.
“What causes this but Jupiter, the king,
That prince who is the cause of everything?
Who makes all things return from whence they come?
You guessed it - yes, the answer is the same.
No matter how hard to resist you try,
You can’t escape the fact that you must die.
The wisest thing to do, it seems to me,
Is to confront one’s fate with dignity;
Accept that which inevitably we
Must all endure, with equanimity.
Complaining of one’s fortune is for fools;
It’s treason against Him who all things rules.
One does most honor to oneself, in truth,
By dying in the excellence of youth,
The time when your repute is at its peak,
When of you only good things people speak.
Your friends should be less downcast at your death,
When with esteem you draw your final breath,
Than when with age your faded name has paled,
And your great fame no longer is regaled.
It’s best, if you would wear a laurel crown,
To die when at the height of your renown.
“What good is all this grieving without grace,
This putting on a sad and pouty face,
When our good friend Arcite, while in his prime,
Fulfilled with honor his allotted time?
He’s free from this foul prison we call life,
So why do his dear cousin and his wife,
Complain of him who for them had such love?
He can’t console them now, in heaven above;
His soul and they themselves they do offend,
As long as they their grief cannot transcend.
“What are we to conclude from all of this,
But that beyond our woe there should be bliss,
And that with thanks we unto God should pray?
So I suggest, ere we depart this day,
That of two sorrows, which we now abjure,
We make one perfect joy that will endure.
Think where it is your greatest sorrow lies,
And start to wipe those teardrops from your eyes.
“Sister, there’s no more need to look so glum,
For I to a decision now have come,
That gentle Palamon, your own true knight,
Who’s served you well with all his heart and might,
And has done, since he first beheld your face,
Shall feel within him pity from your grace.
On you now wifely duties shall devolve.
Lend me your hand, for this is my resolve.
Your womanly benevolence let’s see.
His uncle is of high nobility;
But even if a poor young knight was he,
Since he’s for your had such adversity,
And has so many years now worshipped thee,
All of these factors must considered be,
For mercy over justice ought to win.”
To Palamon he then said, with a grin,
I don’t suppose it takes a sermonette
Your own agreement for this thing to get.
Come near, and by the hand your lady take.”
And so those bonds between them they now make
That we as marriage or as wedlock know,
By ceremony solemnized. Aglow
With wedded bliss, in joyful ecstasy,
Is Palamon now joined to Emily;
Their two hearts both are now together knit.
God sent him love, who dearly paid for it,
For now is Palamon one happy guy,
Living in bliss that money cannot buy.
Him Emily with tender caring treats,
And he with others never on her cheats,
So that between them no one ever hears
A jealous word, or sees unhappy tears.
May every bride and groom have such success;
And to all this fair company: God bless!