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Geoffrey Chaucer >> The Canterbury Tales (page 6)


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 highe 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 grighte,
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 gentilmen 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 hym-self 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 hym-self he seyde, "Fy
Upon a lord that wol have no mercy,
But been a leoun, 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 hise 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.

Explicit secunda pars

Sequitur pars tercia

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,

Title: The Canterbury Tales
Author: Geoffrey Chaucer
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