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Geoffrey Chaucer >> The Canterbury Tales (page 4)


t 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 hir hewe,
I noot which was the fairer 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 slogardrie a-nyght;
The sesoun priketh every gentil herte,
And maketh hym out of his slepe 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 hir liste
She gadereth floures, party white and rede,
To make a subtil gerland for hir 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 whiche 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 on 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 hym-self 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 cryede "A!"
As though he stongen were unto the herte.
And with that cry Arcite anon upsterte

And seyde, "Cosyn myn, what eyleth thee,
That art so pale and deedly on to see?
Why cridestow? who hath thee doon offence?
For Goddess 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 sum constellacioun
Hath yeven us this, al though we hadde it sworn.
So stood the hevene, whan that we were born.

We moste endure it, this 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 thurgh-out myn eye
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 wrecche creature,
Out of this prisoun helpe 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 moche as he, or moore.
And with a sigh he seyde pitously,
"The fresshe beautee sleeth me sodeynly
Of hir, that rometh in the yonder place!
And but I have hir mercy and hir grace

That I may seen hir atte leeste weye,
I nam but deed, ther is 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 other,

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 thou woldest falsly been aboute
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 hir first, and tolde thee my wo
As to my conseil, and to 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.
But thou art fals, I telle thee outrely,
For paramour I loved hir first er thow.

What, wiltow seyn thou wistest 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 hir 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 of 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 faunsoun.
We stryven as dide the houndes for the boon,
They foughte al day, and yet hir part was noon.
Ther cam a kyte, whil they weren 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 theffect; 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 overal,
In swich a gyse as I you tellen shal.
This was the forward, pleynly for tendite,
Bitwixen Theseus and hym Arcite,

That if so were that Arcite were yfounde
Evere in his lif, by day or nyght or 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 he was born!
Now is my prisoun worse than biforn;
Now is me shape eternally to dwelle

Nat in purgatorie but in helle.
Allas, that evere knew I Perotheus!
For elles hadde I dwelled with Theseus,
Yfetered in his prisoun evermo;
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 prisoun? certes, nay, but in Paradys!
Wel hath Fortune yturned thee the dys,
That hast the sighte of hir, and I thabsence;
For possible is, syn thou hast hir presence,

And art a knyght, a worthy and an able,
That by som cas, syn Fortune is chaungeable,
Thow maist to thy desir som tyme 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 heelp, or doon confort in this,
Wel oughte I sterve in wanhope and distresse,
Farwel, my lif, my lust, and my galdnesse!

Allas, why pleynen folk so in commune
On purveyaunce of God or of Fortune,
That yeveth hem ful ofte in many a gyse
Wel bettre than they kan hem-self devyse?
Som man desireth for to han richesse,

That cause is of his moerdre of greet siknesse.
And som man wolde out of his prisoun fayn,
That in his hous is of his meynee slayn.
Infinite harmes been in thai mateere,
We witen nat what thing we preyen here.

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 perfit 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, "Arcite, 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 wysdom and manhede,

Assemblen alle the folk of oure kynrede,
And make a werre so sharp on this citee,
That by som aventure, or som tretee,
Thow mayst have hir 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 yeve,
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 cruel 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 beeste,
And dwelleth eek in prison and arreeste,

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 well 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 hise 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 evere mo as out of that contree,

Ne nevere mo he 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

Title: The Canterbury Tales
Author: Geoffrey Chaucer
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