The Canterbury tales
Geoffrey Chaucer
F.N. Robinson

Sequitur pars secunda.

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;
His 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 his 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 his 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, hou 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. Page  31
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 servaunt 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 long 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 excercise.
And thus withinne a while his name is spronge,
Bothe of his 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, of 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 hadde 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 palamon.
For, shortly, this was his opinion,
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 him 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 bright
That al the orient laugheth of the light,
And with his stremes dryeth in the greves
The silver dropes hangynge on the leves.
And arcita, that in the court roial
With theseus is squier principal,
Is risen and looketh on the myrie day.
And for to doon his observaunce to may,
Remembrynge on the poynt of his desir,
He on a courser, startlynge as the fir,
Is riden into the feeldes hym to pleye, Page  32
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 the 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 sodeynly,
As doon thise loveres in hir queynte geres,
Now in the crope, 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 ther as 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 up sterte.
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 have told 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 leon 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 hire maugree al thy myght! Page  33
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, his 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 the harneys hym biforn.
And in the grove, at tyme and place yset,
This arcite and this palamon ben met.
Tho 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 leon or the bere,
And hereth hym come russhyyng 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 palamon
In his fightyng were a wood leon,
And as a crueel tigre was arcite;
As wilde bores gonne they to smyte,
That frothen whit 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 over al
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 yeer.
For certeinly, oure appetites heer,
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 queene,
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 on 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, no thyng 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 Page  34
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 rightful lord and juge,
Ne yif 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 answerde anon agayn,
And seyde, this is a short conclusioun.
Youre owene mouth, by youre 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, bothe 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 hymself 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 mayntene 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,
Broght hem hyder bothe for to dye.
Now looketh, is nat that an heigh folye?
Who may been a fool, 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 hou soore it kan a man distreyne,
As he that hath ben caught ofte in his laas,
I yow foryeve al hoolly this trespaas, Page  35
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 all that ye may.
I yow foryeve this trespas every deel.
And they hym sworen his axyng faire and weel,
And hym of lordshipe 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 youre 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.
The 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 telle, or who kouthe it 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 thonked 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 his olde walles wyde.
Explicit secunda pars.