The Canterbury Tales: The Knight's Tale (Part Two)
The Knight's Tale: Part One | The Knight's Tale: Part Three
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;
500 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.
505 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,
510 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
515 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
520 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,
525 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,
530 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."
535 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,
540 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,
545 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.
550 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,
555 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,
560 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,
565 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;
570 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.
575 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
580 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
585 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,
590 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,
595 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,
600 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,
605 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
610 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,
615 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;
620 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
625 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.
630 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,
635 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
640 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
645 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,
650 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."
655 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;
660 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."
665 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.
670 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,
675 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
680 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!
685 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
690 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
695 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,
700 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.
705 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!
710 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
715 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,
720 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,
725 And art my blood, and to my conseil sworn,
As I ful 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;
730 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,
735 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,
740 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,
745 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!
750 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,
755 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,
760 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.
765 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.
770 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.
775 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
780 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,
785 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,
790 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.
795 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.
800 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.
805 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,
810 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.
815 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
820 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.
825 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,
830 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,
835 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
840 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;
845 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!
850 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,
855 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,
860 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-
865 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,
870 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,
875 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,
880 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,
885 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!"
890 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.
895 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!"
900 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,
905 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
910 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,
915 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,
920 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,
925 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,
930 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,
935 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.
940 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
945 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,
950 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;
955 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,
960 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,
965 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,
970 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
975 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,
980 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
985 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,
990 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,
995 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
1000 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,
1005 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,
1010 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
1015 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.
1020 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.