The Knight's Tale, Part I

An Interlinear Translation (lines 859-1354)



Heere bigynneth the Knyghtes Tale.


Iamque domos patrias, Sithice post
aspera gentis prelia,laurigero, etc.

And now (Theseus drawing nigh his) native land in
laurelled car after battling with the Scithian folk, etc.


859        Whilom, as olde stories tellen us,
               Once, as old histories tell us,
860        Ther was a duc that highte Theseus;
               There was a duke who was called Theseus;
861        Of Atthenes he was lord and governour,
               He was lord and governor of Athens,
862        And in his tyme swich a conquerour
               And in his time such a conqueror
863        That gretter was ther noon under the sonne.
               That there was no one greater under the sun.
864        Ful many a riche contree hadde he wonne;
               Very many a powerful country had he won;
865        What with his wysdom and his chivalrie,
               What with his wisdom and his chivalry,
866        He conquered al the regne of Femenye,
               He conquered all the land of the Amazons,
867        That whilom was ycleped Scithia,
               That once was called Scithia,
868        And weddede the queene Ypolita,
               And wedded the queen Ypolita,
869        And broghte hire hoom with hym in his contree
               And brought her home with him into his country
870        With muchel glorie and greet solempnytee,
               With much glory and great ceremony,
871        And eek hir yonge suster Emelye.
               And also her young sister Emelye.
872        And thus with victorie and with melodye
               And thus with victory and with festivity
873        Lete I this noble duc to Atthenes ryde,
               I leave this noble duke riding to Athens,
874        And al his hoost in armes hym bisyde.
               And all his host in arms beside him.
875        And certes, if it nere to long to heere,
               And certainly, if it were not too long to hear,
876        I wolde have toold yow fully the manere
               I would have told you fully the manner
877        How wonnen was the regne of Femenye
               How the reign of Femenye was won
878        By Theseus and by his chivalrye;
               By Theseus and by his chivalry;
879        And of the grete bataille for the nones
               And of the great battle at that time
880        Bitwixen Atthenes and Amazones;
               Between Athenians and Amazons;
881        And how asseged was Ypolita,
               And how Ypolita was besieged,
882        The faire, hardy queene of Scithia;
               The fair, bold queen of Scithia;
883        And of the feste that was at hir weddynge,
               And of the festivity that was at their wedding,
884        And of the tempest at hir hoom-comynge;
               And of the storm at her home-coming;
885        But al that thyng I moot as now forbere.
               But all that matter I must now forgo.
886        I have, God woot, a large feeld to ere,
               I have, God knows, a large field to till,
887        And wayke been the oxen in my plough.
               And the oxen in my plow are weak.
888        The remenant of the tale is long ynough.
               The remnant of the tale is long enough.
889        I wol nat letten eek noon of this route;
               Also I will not hinder any one of this company;
890        Lat every felawe telle his tale aboute,
               Let every fellow tell his tale in turn,
891        And lat se now who shal the soper wynne;
               And let's see now who shall win the supper;
892        And ther I lefte, I wol ayeyn bigynne.
               And where I left off, I will again begin.

893        This duc, of whom I make mencioun,
               This duke, of whom I make mention,
894        Whan he was come almoost unto the toun,
               When he was come almost unto the town,
895        In al his wele and in his mooste pride,
               In all his prosperity and in his most pride,
896        He was war, as he caste his eye aside,
               He was aware, as he cast his eye aside,
897        Where that ther kneled in the heighe weye
               Where there kneeled in the high way
898        A compaignye of ladyes, tweye and tweye,
               A company of ladies, two by two,
899        Ech after oother clad in clothes blake;
               Each after another, clad in black clothes;
900        But swich a cry and swich a wo they make
               But such a cry and such a woeful (lament) they make
901        That in this world nys creature lyvynge
               That in this world is no living creature
902        That herde swich another waymentynge;
               That (ever) heard lamentation such as this;
903        And of this cry they nolde nevere stenten
               And of this cry they would not ever stop
904        Til they the reynes of his brydel henten.
               Until they seized the reins of his bridle.

905        "What folk been ye, that at myn hom-comynge
               "What folk are you, who at my homecoming
906        Perturben so my feste with criynge?"
               So disturb my festival with crying?"
907        Quod Theseus. "Have ye so greet envye
               Said Theseus. "Have you such great envy
908        Of myn honour, that thus compleyne and crye?
               Of my honor, (you) who thus lament and cry?
909        Or who hath yow mysboden or offended?
               Or who has injured or offended you?
910        And telleth me if it may been amended,
               And tell me if it may be remedied,
911        And why that ye been clothed thus in blak."
               And why you are clothed thus in black."

912        The eldeste lady of them alle spak,
               The eldest lady of them all spoke,
913        Whan she hadde swowned with a deedly cheere,
               After she had swooned with (so) deadly a countenance,
914        That it was routhe for to seen and heere;
               That it was pitiful to see and hear;
915        She seyde, "Lord, to whom Fortune hath yiven
               She said, "Lord, to whom Fortune has given
916        Victorie, and as a conqueror to lyven,
               Victory, and (allowed) to live as a conqueror,
917        Nat greveth us youre glorie and youre honour,
               Your glory and your honor does not grieve us,
918        But we biseken mercy and socour.
               But we beseech (you for) mercy and succor.
919        Have mercy on oure wo and oure distresse!
               Have mercy on our woe and our distress!
920        Som drope of pitee, thurgh thy gentillesse,
               Some drop of pity, because of thy nobility,
921        Upon us wrecched wommen lat thou falle,
               Let thou fall upon us wretched women,
922        For, certes, lord, ther is noon of us alle
               For, certainly, lord, there is not one of us all
923        That she ne hath been a duchesse or a queene.
               Who has not been a duchesse or a queen.
924        Now be we caytyves, as it is wel seene,
               Now we are miserable wretches, as it is easily seen,
925        Thanked be Fortune and hire false wheel,
               Thanks be to Fortune and her false wheel,
926        That noon estaat assureth to be weel.
               Who assures no estate (will continue) to be well.
927        And certes, lord, to abyden youre presence,
               And certainly, lord, to await your presence,
928        Heere in this temple of the goddesse Clemence
               Here in this temple of the goddess Clemency
929        We han ben waitynge al this fourtenyght.
               We have been waiting all this fortnight.
930        Now help us, lord, sith it is in thy myght.
               Now help us, lord, since it is in thy power.

931        "I, wrecche, which that wepe and wayle thus,
               "I, wretch, who weep and wail thus,
932        Was whilom wyf to kyng Cappaneus,
               Was once wife to king Cappaneus,
933        That starf at Thebes -- cursed be that day! --
               Who died at Thebes -- cursed be that day! --
934        And alle we that been in this array
               And all of us who are in this condition
935        And maken al this lamentacioun,
               And make all this lamentation,
936        We losten alle oure housbondes at that toun,
               We lost all our husbands at that town,
937        Whil that the seege theraboute lay.
               While the siege lay around it.
938        And yet now the olde Creon -- weylaway! --
               And yet now the old Creon -- woe oh woe! --
939        That lord is now of Thebes the citee,
               Who is now lord of the city of Thebes,
940        Fulfild of ire and of iniquitee,
               Filled with anger and with iniquity,
941        He, for despit and for his tirannye,
               He, for spite and for his tyranny,
942        To do the dede bodyes vileynye
               To do dishonor to the dead bodies
943        Of alle oure lordes whiche that been yslawe,
               Of all our lords who are slain,
944        Hath alle the bodyes on an heep ydrawe,
               Has dragged all the bodies in a heap,
945        And wol nat suffren hem, by noon assent,
               And will not allow them, not at all,
946        Neither to been yburyed nor ybrent,
               Neither to be buried nor burned,
947        But maketh houndes ete them in despit."
               But makes hounds eat them as an insult."

948        And with that word, withouten moore respit,
               And with that word, without more delay,
949        They fillen gruf and criden pitously,
               They fell face down and cried piteously,
950        "Have on us wrecched wommen som mercy,
               "Have some mercy on us wretched women,
951        And lat oure sorwe synken in thyn herte."
               And let our sorrow sink in thy heart."

952        This gentil duc doun from his courser sterte
               This gentle duke leaped down from his war horse
953        With herte pitous, whan he herde them speke.
               With compassionate heart, when he heard them speak.
954        Hym thoughte that his herte wolde breke,
               It seemed to him that his heart would break,
955        Whan he saugh hem so pitous and so maat,
               When he saw them so pitiful and so dejected,
956        That whilom weren of so greet estaat;
               That once were of such high rank;
957        And in his armes he hem alle up hente,
               And in his arms he caught up them all,
958        And hem conforteth in ful good entente,
               And comforts them with very good will,
959        And swoor his ooth, as he was trewe knyght,
               And swore his oath, as he was true knight,
960        He wolde doon so ferforthly his myght
               (That) he would do his might so completely
961        Upon the tiraunt Creon hem to wreke
               To avenge them upon the tyrant Creon
962        That al the peple of Grece sholde speke
               That all the people of Greece should speak (about)
963        How Creon was of Theseus yserved
               How Creon was treated by Theseus
964        As he that hadde his deeth ful wel deserved.
               As one who had very well deserved his death.
965        And right anoon, withouten moore abood,
               And right away, without more delay,
966        His baner he desplayeth, and forth rood
               He displays his banner, and rode forth
967        To Thebes-ward, and al his hoost biside.
               Toward Thebes, and all his army beside (him).
968        No neer Atthenes wolde he go ne ride,
               He would not walk nor ride any nearer to Athens,
969        Ne take his ese fully half a day,
               Nor take his ease fully half a day,
970        But onward on his wey that nyght he lay,
               But that night he lay (camped) on his way,
971        And sente anon Ypolita the queene,
               And sent straightway Ypolita the queen,
972        And Emelye, hir yonge suster sheene,
               And Emelye, her beautiful young sister,
973        Unto the toun of Atthenes to dwelle,
               Unto the town of Athens to dwell,
974        And forth he rit; ther is namoore to telle.
               And forth he rides; there is no more to tell.

975        The rede statue of Mars, with spere and targe,
               The red statue of Mars, with spear and shield,
976        So shyneth in his white baner large
               So shines in his large white banner
977        That alle the feeldes glyteren up and doun;
               That all the fields glitter all around;
978        And by his baner born is his penoun
               And by his banner is carried his pennon
979        Of gold ful riche, in which ther was ybete
               Of very rich gold, in which there was embroidered
980        The Mynotaur, which that he wan in Crete.
               The Minotaur, which he defeated in Crete.
981        Thus rit this duc, thus rit this conquerour,
               Thus rides this duke, thus rides this conqueror,
982        And in his hoost of chivalrie the flour,
               And in his army the flower of chivalry,
983        Til that he cam to Thebes and alighte
               Until he came to Thebes and dismounted
984        Faire in a feeld, ther as he thoughte to fighte.
               Graciously in a field, where he intended to fight.
985        But shortly for to speken of this thyng,
               But briefly to speak of this thing,
986        With Creon, which that was of Thebes kyng,
               With Creon, who was king of Thebes,
987        He faught, and slough hym manly as a knyght
               He fought, and slew him boldly as a knight
988        In pleyn bataille, and putte the folk to flyght;
               In open battle, and put the army to flight;
989        And by assaut he wan the citee after,
               And by assault he won the city afterwards,
990        And rente adoun bothe wall and sparre and rafter;
               And tore down both wall and beam and rafter;
991        And to the ladyes he restored agayn
               And he gave back to the ladies
992        The bones of hir freendes that were slayn,
               The bones of their husbands who were slain,
993        To doon obsequies, as was tho the gyse.
               To do obsequies, as was then the custom.
994        But it were al to longe for to devyse
               But it would be all too long to describe
995        The grete clamour and the waymentynge
               The great clamor and the lamentation
996        That the ladyes made at the brennynge
               That the ladies made at the burning
997        Of the bodies, and the grete honour
               Of the bodies, and the great honor
998        That Theseus, the noble conquerour,
               That Theseus, the noble conqueror,
999        Dooth to the ladyes, whan they from hym wente;
               Does to the ladies, when they went from him;
1000        But shortly for to telle is myn entente.
                 But briefly to tell is my intent.

1001        Whan that this worthy duc, this Theseus,
                 When this worthy duke, this Theseus,
1002        Hath Creon slayn and wonne Thebes thus,
                   Has slain Creon and thus won Thebes,
1003         Stille in that feeld he took al nyght his reste,
                   Still in that field he took all night his rest,
1004          And dide with al the contree as hym leste.
                   And did with all the country as he pleased.

1005          To ransake in the taas of bodyes dede,
                   To search in the heap of dead bodies,
1006          Hem for to strepe of harneys and of wede,
                   To strip them of armor and of clothing,
1007          The pilours diden bisynesse and cure
                   The scavengers took great pains and worked hard
1008          After the bataille and disconfiture.
                   After the battle and defeat.
1009          And so bifel that in the taas they founde,
                   And (it) so befell that in the heap they found,
1010          Thurgh-girt with many a grevous blody wounde,
                   Pierced through with many a grievous bloody wound,
1011          Two yonge knyghtes liggynge by and by,
                   Two young knights lying side by side,
1012          Bothe in oon armes, wroght ful richely,
                   Both with the same coat of arms, very richly wrought,
1013          Of whiche two Arcita highte that oon,
                   Of which two one was called Arcite,
1014          And that oother knyght highte Palamon.
                   And that other knight was called Palamon.
1015          Nat fully quyke, ne fully dede they were,
                   They were not fully alive, nor fully dead,
1016          But by hir cote-armures and by hir gere
                   But by their coats of arms and by their equipment
1017          The heraudes knewe hem best in special
                   The heralds best knew them in particular
1018          As they that weren of the blood roial
                   As they that were of the royal blood
1019          Of Thebes, and of sustren two yborn.
                   Of Thebes, and born of two sisters.
1020          Out of the taas the pilours han hem torn,
                   The scavengers have pulled them out of the heap,
1021          And han hem caried softe unto the tente
                   And have carried them softy unto the tent
1022          Of Theseus; and he ful soone hem sente
                   Of Theseus; and he very soon sent them
1023          To Atthenes, to dwellen in prisoun
                   To Athens, to dwell in prison
1024          Perpetuelly -- he nolde no raunsoun.
                   Perpetually -- he would not (accept) any ransom.

1025          And whan this worthy duc hath thus ydon,
                   And when this worthy duke has thus done,
1026          He took his hoost, and hoom he rit anon
                   He took his army, and home he rides straightway
1027          With laurer crowned as a conquerour;
                   As a conqueror crowned with laurel;
1028          And ther he lyveth in joye and in honour
                   And there he lives in joy and in honor
1029          Terme of his lyf; what nedeth wordes mo?
                   For the duration of his life; what more words are needed?
1030          And in a tour, in angwissh and in wo,
                   And in a tower, in anguish and in woe,
1031          This Palamon and his felawe Arcite
                   This Palamon and his fellow Arcite
1032          For everemoore; ther may no gold hem quite.
                   For evermore (remain); no gold can ransom them.

1033          This passeth yeer by yeer and day by day,
                   This passes year by year and day by day,
1034          Till it fil ones, in a morwe of May,
                   Until it befell once, in a morning of May,
1035          That Emelye, that fairer was to sene
                   That Emelye, who was fairer to be seen
1036          Than is the lylie upon his stalke grene,
                   Than is the lily upon its green stalk,
1037          And fressher than the May with floures newe --
                   And fresher than the May with new flowers --
1038          For with the rose colour stroof hire hewe,
                   For her hue vied with color of the rose,
1039          I noot which was the fyner of hem two --
                   I do not know which was the finer of them two --
1040          Er it were day, as was hir wone to do,
                   Before it was day, as was her custom to do,
1041          She was arisen and al redy dight,
                   She was arisen and all ready prepared,
1042          For May wole have no slogardie anyght.
                   For May will have no laziness at night.
1043          The sesoun priketh every gentil herte,
                   The season urges on every gentle heart,
1044          And maketh it out of his slep to sterte,
                   And makes it out of its sleep to awake suddenly,
1045          And seith "Arys, and do thyn observaunce."
                   And says "Arise, and do thy observance."
1046          This maked Emelye have remembraunce
                   This made Emelye remember
1047          To doon honour to May, and for to ryse.
                   To do honor to May, and to rise.
1048          Yclothed was she fressh, for to devyse:
                   She was gaily clothed, so to say:
1049          Hir yelow heer was broyded in a tresse
                   Her yellow hair was braided in a tress
1050          Bihynde hir bak, a yerde long, I gesse.
                   Behind her back, a yard long, I guess.
1051          And in the gardyn, at the sonne upriste,
                   And in the garden, at the rising of the sun,
1052          She walketh up and doun, and as hire liste
                   She walks up and down, and as she pleases
1053          She gadereth floures, party white and rede,
                   She gathers flowers, mixed white and red,
1054          To make a subtil gerland for hire hede;
                   To make an intricate garland for her head;
1055          And as an aungel hevenysshly she soong.
                   And she sang (as) heavenly as an angel.
1056          The grete tour, that was so thikke and stroong,
                   The great tower, that was so thick and strong,
1057          Which of the castel was the chief dongeoun
                   Which was the main fortification of the castle
1058          (Ther as the knyghtes weren in prisoun
                   (Where the knights were in prison
1059          Of which I tolde yow and tellen shal),
                   Of which I told yow and shall tell),
1060          Was evene joynant to the gardyn wal
                   Was just next to the garden wall
1061          Ther as this Emelye hadde hir pleyynge.
                   Where this Emelye took her pleasure.
1062          Bright was the sonne and cleer that morwenynge,
                   The sun was bright and clear that morning,
1063          And Palamoun, this woful prisoner,
                   And Palamon, this woeful prisoner,
1064          As was his wone, by leve of his gayler,
                   As was his custom, by permission of his jailer,
1065          Was risen and romed in a chambre an heigh,
                   Had risen and roamed in a chamber on high,
1066          In which he al the noble citee seigh,
                   In which he saw all the noble city,
1067          And eek the gardyn, ful of braunches grene,
                   And also the garden, full of green branches,
1068          Ther as this fresshe Emelye the shene
                   Where this fresh Emelye the bright
1069          Was in hire walk, and romed up and doun.
                   Was in her walk, and roamed up and down.
1070          This sorweful prisoner, this Palamoun,
                   This sorrowful prisoner, this Palamon,
1071          Goth in the chambre romynge to and fro
                   Goes in the chamber roaming to and fro
1072          And to hymself compleynynge of his wo.
                   And to himself lamenting his woe.
1073          That he was born, ful ofte he seyde, "allas!"
                   That he was born, full often he said, "alas!"
1074          And so bifel, by aventure or cas,
                   And so it happened, by chance or accident,
1075          That thurgh a wyndow, thikke of many a barre
                   That through a window, thickly set with many a bar
1076          Of iren greet and square as any sparre,
                   Of iron, great and square as any beam,
1077          He cast his eye upon Emelya,
                   He cast his eye upon Emelye,
1078          And therwithal he bleynte and cride, "A!"
                   And with that he turned pale and cried, "A!"
1079          As though he stongen were unto the herte.
                   As though he were stabbed unto the heart.
1080          And with that cry Arcite anon up sterte
                   And with that cry Arcite immediately leaped up
1081          And seyde, "Cosyn myn, what eyleth thee,
                   And said, "My cousin, what ails thee,
1082          That art so pale and deedly on to see?
                   Who art so pale and deadly to look upon?
1083          Why cridestow? Who hath thee doon offence?
                   Why didst thou cry out? Who has done thee offence?
1084          For Goddes love, taak al in pacience
                   For the love of God, take all in patience
1085          Oure prisoun, for it may noon oother be.
                   Our imprisonment, for it may not be otherwise.
1086          Fortune hath yeven us this adversitee.
                   Fortune has given us this adversity.
1087          Som wikke aspect or disposicioun
                   Some wicked aspect or disposition
1088          Of Saturne, by som constellacioun,
                   Of Saturn, by some arrangement of the heavenly bodies,
1089          Hath yeven us this, although we hadde it sworn;
                   Has given us this, although we had sworn it would not be;
1090          So stood the hevene whan that we were born.
                   So stood the heavens when we were born.
1091          We moste endure it; this is the short and playn."
                   We must endure it; this is the short and plain."

1092          This Palamon answerde and seyde agayn,
                   This Palamon answered and said in reply,
1093          "Cosyn, for sothe, of this opinioun
                   "Cousin, truly, concerning this opinion
1094          Thow hast a veyn ymaginacioun.
                   Thou hast a foolish conception.
1095          This prison caused me nat for to crye,
                   This prison did not cause me to cry out,
1096          But I was hurt right now thurghout myn ye
                   But I was hurt right now through my eye
1097          Into myn herte, that wol my bane be.
                   Into my heart, so that it will be the death of me.
1098          The fairnesse of that lady that I see
                   The fairness of that lady whom I see
1099          Yond in the gardyn romen to and fro
                   Yonder in the garden roaming to and fro
1100          Is cause of al my criyng and my wo.
                   Is cause of all my crying and my woe.
1101          I noot wher she be womman or goddesse,
                   I know not whether she is woman or goddess,
1102          But Venus is it soothly, as I gesse."
                   But truly it is Venus, as I suppose."
1103          And therwithal on knees doun he fil,
                   And with that he fell down on his knees,
1104          And seyde, "Venus, if it be thy wil
                   And said, "Venus, if it be thy will
1105          Yow in this gardyn thus to transfigure
                   Thus to transfigure yourself in this garden
1106          Bifore me, sorweful, wrecched creature,
                   Before me, sorrowful, wretched creature,
1107          Out of this prisoun help that we may scapen.
                   Help that we may escape out of this prison.
1108          And if so be my destynee be shapen
                   And if it be so that my destiny is shaped
1109          By eterne word to dyen in prisoun,
                   By eternal decree to die in prison,
1110          Of oure lynage have som compassioun,
                   Have some compassion on our (noble) lineage
1111          That is so lowe ybroght by tirannye."
                   Which is brought so low by tyranny."
1112          And with that word Arcite gan espye
                   And with that word Arcite did see
1113          Wher as this lady romed to and fro,
                   Where this lady roamed to and fro,
1114          And with that sighte hir beautee hurte hym so,
                   And with that sight her beauty hurt him so,
1115          That, if that Palamon was wounded sore,
                   That, if Palamon was sorely wounded,
1116          Arcite is hurt as muche as he, or moore.
                   Arcite is hurt as much as he, or more.
1117          And with a sigh he seyde pitously,
                   And with a sigh he said piteously,
1118          "The fresshe beautee sleeth me sodeynly
                   "The fresh beauty slays me suddenly
1119          Of hire that rometh in the yonder place;
                   Of her who roams in the yonder place;
1120          And but I have hir mercy and hir grace,
                   And unless I have her mercy and her grace,
1121          That I may seen hire atte leeste weye,
                   So that I can at least see her,
1122          I nam but deed; ther nis namoore to seye."
                   I am as good as dead; there is no more to say."

1123          This Palamon, whan he tho wordes herde,
                   This Palamon, when he heard those words,
1124          Dispitously he looked and answerde,
                   Angrily he looked and answered,
1125          "Wheither seistow this in ernest or in pley?"
                   "Sayest thou this in earnest or in play?"

1126          "Nay," quod Arcite, "in ernest, by my fey!
                   "Nay," said Arcite, "in earnest, by my faith!
1127          God helpe me so, me list ful yvele pleye."
                   So help me God, I have no desire to play."

1128          This Palamon gan knytte his browes tweye.
                   This Palamon did knit his two brows.
1129          "It nere," quod he, "to thee no greet honour
                   "It would not be," said he, "any great honor to thee
1130          For to be fals, ne for to be traitour
                   To be false, nor to be traitor
1131          To me, that am thy cosyn and thy brother
                   To me, who am thy cousin and thy brother
1132          Ysworn ful depe, and ech of us til oother,
                   Sworn very sincerely, and each of us to the other,
1133          That nevere, for to dyen in the peyne,
                   That never, though we had to die by torture,
1134          Til that the deeth departe shal us tweyne,
                   Until death shall part us two,
1135          Neither of us in love to hyndre oother,
                   Neither of us in love (is) to hinder the other,
1136          Ne in noon oother cas, my leeve brother,
                   Nor in any other case, my dear brother,
1137          But that thou sholdest trewely forthren me
                   But rather thou shouldest truly help me
1138          In every cas, as I shal forthren thee --
                   In every case, as I shall help thee --
1139          This was thyn ooth, and myn also, certeyn;
                   This was thy oath, and mine also, certainly;
1140          I woot right wel, thou darst it nat withseyn.
                   I know right well, thou darest not deny it.
1141          Thus artow of my conseil, out of doute,
                   Thus thou art my trusted confidant, without doubt,
1142          And now thow woldest falsly been aboute
                   And now thou wouldest falsely be busy preparing
1143          To love my lady, whom I love and serve,
                   To love my lady, whom I love and serve,
1144          And evere shal til that myn herte sterve.
                   And ever shall until my heart dies.
1145          Nay, certes, false Arcite, thow shalt nat so.
                   Nay, certainly, false Arcite, thou shalt not (do) so.
1146          I loved hire first, and tolde thee my wo
                   I loved hire first, and told thee my woe
1147          As to my conseil and my brother sworn
                   As to my confidant and my sworn brother
1148          To forthre me, as I have toold biforn.
                   To further me, as I have told before.
1149          For which thou art ybounden as a knyght
                   For which thou art bound as a knight
1150          To helpen me, if it lay in thy myght,
                   To help me, if it lay in thy power,
1151          Or elles artow fals, I dar wel seyn."
                   Or else thou art false, I dare well say."

1152          This Arcite ful proudly spak ageyn:
                   This Arcite full proudly spoke in return:
1153          "Thow shalt," quod he, "be rather fals than I;
                   "Thou shalt," said he, "be rather false than I;
1154          And thou art fals, I telle thee outrely,
                   And thou art false, I tell thee flatly,
1155          For paramour I loved hire first er thow.
                   As a mistress I loved her first before thou.
1156          What wiltow seyen? Thou woost nat yet now
                   What wilt thou say? Thou knowest not yet now
1157          Wheither she be a womman or goddesse!
                   Whether she is a woman or goddess!
1158          Thyn is affeccioun of hoolynesse,
                   Thine is a feeling of holiness,
1159          And myn is love as to a creature;
                   And mine is love as to a creature;
1160          For which I tolde thee myn aventure
                   For which I told thee my circumstance
1161          As to my cosyn and my brother sworn.
                   As to my cousin and my sworn brother.
1162          I pose that thow lovedest hire biforn;
                   I posit (this assumption): that thou lovedest her first;
1163          Wostow nat wel the olde clerkes sawe,
                   Knowest thou not well the old clerks' saying,
1164          That `who shal yeve a lovere any lawe?'
                   That `who shall give a lover any law?'
1165          Love is a gretter lawe, by my pan,
                   Love is a greater law, by my skull,
1166          Than may be yeve to any erthely man;
                   Than may be given to any earthly man;
1167          And therfore positif lawe and swich decree
                   And therefore positive (man-made) law and such decree
1168          Is broken al day for love in ech degree.
                   Is broken every day for love in every way.
1169          A man moot nedes love, maugree his heed;
                   A man must of necessity love, in spite of all he can do;
1170          He may nat fleen it, thogh he sholde be deed,
                   He can not flee (from) it, though he should be dead,
1171          Al be she mayde, or wydwe, or elles wyf.
                   Whether she be maid, or widow, or else wife.
1172          And eek it is nat likly al thy lyf
                   And also it is not likely all thy life
1173          To stonden in hir grace; namoore shal I;
                   To stand in her good graces; no more shall I;
1174          For wel thou woost thyselven, verraily,
                   For well thou thyself knowest, truly,
1175          That thou and I be dampned to prisoun
                   That thou and I are condemned to prison
1176          Perpetuelly; us gayneth no raunsoun.
                   Perpetually; no ransom can help us.
1177          We stryve as dide the houndes for the boon;
                   We strive as the hounds did for the bone;
1178          They foughte al day, and yet hir part was noon.
                   They fought all day, and yet their share was nothing.
1179          Ther cam a kyte, whil that they were so wrothe,
                   There came a kite, while they were so angry,
1180          And baar awey the boon bitwixe hem bothe.
                   And carried away the bone between them both.
1181          And therfore, at the kynges court, my brother,
                   And therefore, at the king's court, my brother,
1182          Ech man for hymself, ther is noon oother.
                   Each man for himself, there is no other (way).
1183          Love, if thee list, for I love and ay shal;
                   Love, if it please thee, for I love and always shall;
1184          And soothly, leeve brother, this is al.
                   And truly, dear brother, this is all.
1185          Heere in this prisoun moote we endure,
                   Here in this prison we must endure,
1186          And everich of us take his aventure."
                   And each one of us take his chance."

1187          Greet was the strif and long bitwix hem tweye,
                   Great and long was the strife between them two,
1188          If that I hadde leyser for to seye;
                   If I had leisure to tell (it);
1189          But to th'effect. It happed on a day,
                   But to the point. It happened on a day,
1190          To telle it yow as shortly as I may,
                   To tell it to you as briefly as I can,
1191          A worthy duc that highte Perotheus,
                   A worthy duke that was called Perotheus,
1192          That felawe was unto duc Theseus
                   Who was a friend to duke Theseus
1193          Syn thilke day that they were children lite,
                   Since that same time that they were little children,
1194          Was come to Atthenes his felawe to visite,
                   Had come to Athens to visit his friend,
1195          And for to pleye as he was wont to do;
                   And to amuse himself as he was accustomed to do;
1196          For in this world he loved no man so,
                   For in this world he loved no man so (much),
1197          And he loved hym als tendrely agayn.
                   And he (Theseus) loved him as tenderly in turn.
1198          So wel they lovede, as olde bookes sayn,
                   So well they loved, as old books say,
1199          That whan that oon was deed, soothly to telle,
                   That when one was dead, truly to tell,
1200          His felawe wente and soughte hym doun in helle --
                   His friend went and sought him down in hell --
1201          But of that storie list me nat to write.
                   But of that story I do not desire to write.
1202          Duc Perotheus loved wel Arcite,
                   Duke Perotheus loved well Arcite,
1203          And hadde hym knowe at Thebes yeer by yere,
                   And had known him at Thebes year after year,
1204          And finally at requeste and preyere
                   And finally at request and prayer
1205          Of Perotheus, withouten any raunsoun,
                   Of Perotheus, without any ransom,
1206          Duc Theseus hym leet out of prisoun
                   Duke Theseus let him out of prison
1207          Frely to goon wher that hym liste over al,
                   Freely to go all over, wherever he wishes,
1208          In swich a gyse as I you tellen shal.
                   In such a manner as shall I tell you.

1209          This was the forward, pleynly for t'endite,
                   This was the agreement, plainly to write,
1210          Bitwixen Theseus and hym Arcite:
                   Between Theseus and this Arcite:
1211          That if so were that Arcite were yfounde
                   That if it so were that Arcite were found
1212          Evere in his lif, by day or nyght, oo stounde
                   Ever in his life, by day or night, at any moment
1213          In any contree of this Theseus,
                   In any country of this Theseus,
1214          And he were caught, it was acorded thus,
                   And if he were caught, it was agreed thus,
1215          That with a swerd he sholde lese his heed.
                   That with a sword he should lose his head.
1216          Ther nas noon oother remedie ne reed;
                   There was no other remedy nor course of action;
1217          But taketh his leve, and homward he him spedde.
                   But (he) takes his leave, and homeward he sped.
1218          Lat hym be war! His nekke lith to wedde.
                   Let him be ware! His neck lies as a pledge.

1219          How greet a sorwe suffreth now Arcite!
                   How great a sorrow now suffers Arcite!
1220          The deeth he feeleth thurgh his herte smyte;
                   He feels the death smite through his heart;
1221          He wepeth, wayleth, crieth pitously;
                   He weeps, wails, cries piteously;
1222          To sleen hymself he waiteth prively.
                   To slay himself he secretly awaits (an opportunity).
1223          He seyde, "Allas that day that I was born!
                   He said, "Alas that day that I was born!
1224          Now is my prisoun worse than biforn;
                   Now my prison is worse than before;
1225          Now is me shape eternally to dwelle
                   Now I am destined eternally to dwell
1226          Noght in purgatorie, but in helle.
                   Not in purgatory, but in hell.
1227          Allas, that evere knew I Perotheus!
                   Alas, that ever I knew Perotheus!
1228          For elles hadde I dwelled with Theseus,
                   For else I would have remained with Theseus,
1229          Yfetered in his prisoun everemo.
                   Fettered in his prison evermore.
1230          Thanne hadde I been in blisse and nat in wo.
                   Then would I have been in bliss and not in woe.
1231          Oonly the sighte of hire whom that I serve,
                   Only the sight of her whom I serve,
1232          Though that I nevere hir grace may deserve,
                   Though I never can deserve her grace,
1233          Wolde han suffised right ynough for me.
                   Would have sufficed right enough for me.
1234          O deere cosyn Palamon," quod he,
                   O dear cousin Palamon," said he,
1235          "Thyn is the victorie of this aventure.
                   "The victory of this adventure is thine.
1236          Ful blisfully in prison maistow dure --
                   Very blissfully in prison thou can remain --
1237          In prison? Certes nay, but in paradys!
                   In prison? Certainly not, but in paradise!
1238          Wel hath Fortune yturned thee the dys,
                   Well has Fortune turned the dice for thee,
1239          That hast the sighte of hire, and I th'absence.
                   That hast the sight of her, and I the absence.
1240          For possible is, syn thou hast hire presence,
                   For it is possible, since thou hast her presence,
1241          And art a knyght, a worthy and an able,
                   And art a knight, a worthy and an able (one),
1242          That by som cas, syn Fortune is chaungeable,
                   That by some chance, since Fortune is changeable,
1243          Thow maist to thy desir somtyme atteyne.
                   Thou mayest sometime attain thy desire.
1244          But I, that am exiled and bareyne
                   But I, who am exiled and barren
1245          Of alle grace, and in so greet dispeir
                   Of all grace, and in so great despair
1246          That ther nys erthe, water, fir, ne eir,
                   That there is not earth, water, fire, nor air,
1247          Ne creature that of hem maked is,
                   Nor creature that is made of them,
1248          That may me helpe or doon confort in this,
                   That can help me or do comfort (to me) in this,
1249          Wel oughte I sterve in wanhope and distresse.
                   Well ought I to die in despair and distress.
1250          Farwel my lif, my lust, and my gladnesse!
                   Farwell my life, my desire, and my gladness!

1251          "Allas, why pleynen folk so in commune
                   "Alas, why do folk so commonly complain
1252          On purveiaunce of God, or of Fortune,
                   About the providence of God, or of Fortune,
1253          That yeveth hem ful ofte in many a gyse
                   That gives them full often in many a manner
1254          Wel bettre than they kan hemself devyse?
                   Much better than they can themselves imagine?
1255          Som man desireth for to han richesse,
                   One man desires to have riches,
1256          That cause is of his mordre or greet siknesse;
                   Which is the cause of his murder or great sickness;
1257          And som man wolde out of his prisoun fayn,
                   And one man would happily (go) out of his prison,
1258          That in his hous is of his meynee slayn.
                   Who is slain in his house by members of his household.
1259          Infinite harmes been in this mateere.
                   Infinite harms are in this matter.
1260          We witen nat what thing we preyen heere;
                   We know not what thing we pray for here;
1261          We faren as he that dronke is as a mous.
                   We act like one who is drunk as a mouse.
1262          A dronke man woot wel he hath an hous,
                   A drunk man knows well he has a house,
1263          But he noot which the righte wey is thider,
                   But he does not know which is the right way to it,
1264          And to a dronke man the wey is slider.
                   And to a drunk man the way is slippery.
1265          And certes, in this world so faren we;
                   And certainly, so we fare in this world;
1266          We seken faste after felicitee,
                   We seek eagerly after felicity,
1267          But we goon wrong ful often, trewely.
                   But we go wrong very often, truly.
1268          Thus may we seyen alle, and namely I,
                   Thus can we all say, and especially I,
1269          That wende and hadde a greet opinioun
                   Who supposed and had a firm belief
1270          That if I myghte escapen from prisoun,
                   That if I might escape from prison,
1271          Thanne hadde I been in joye and parfit heele,
                   Then I would have been in joy and perfect well-being,
1272          Ther now I am exiled fro my wele.
                   Whereas now I am exiled from my source of happiness.
1273          Syn that I may nat seen you, Emelye,
                   Since I can not see you, Emelye,
1274          I nam but deed; ther nys no remedye."
                   I am as good as dead; there is not any remedy."

1275          Upon that oother syde Palamon,
                   Upon that other side Palamon,
1276          Whan that he wiste Arcite was agon,
                   When he knew Arcite was gone,
1277          Swich sorwe he maketh that the grete tour
                   He makes such sorrow that the great tour
1278          Resouneth of his youlyng and clamour.
                   Resounds with his yowling and clamor.
1279          The pure fettres on his shynes grete
                   The great fetters themselves on his shins
1280          Weren of his bittre, salte teeres wete.
                   Were wet from his bitter, salt tears.
1281          "Allas," quod he, "Arcita, cosyn myn,
                   "Alas," said he, "Arcite, cousin mine,
1282          Of al oure strif, God woot, the fruyt is thyn.
                   Of all our strife, God knows, the profit is thine.
1283          Thow walkest now in Thebes at thy large,
                   Thou walkest freely now in Thebes,
1284          And of my wo thow yevest litel charge.
                   And thou care little about my woe.
1285          Thou mayst, syn thou hast wisdom and manhede,
                   Thou mayest, since thou hast wisdom and manhood,
1286          Assemblen alle the folk of oure kynrede,
                   Assemble all the folk of our family,
1287          And make a werre so sharp on this citee
                   And make a war so sharp on this city
1288          That by som aventure or some tretee
                   That by some chance or some treaty
1289          Thow mayst have hire to lady and to wyf
                   Thou mayest have her as lady and as wife
1290          For whom that I moste nedes lese my lyf.
                   For whom I must of necessity lose my life.
1291          For, as by wey of possibilitee,
                   For, as by way of possibility,
1292          Sith thou art at thy large, of prisoun free,
                   Since thou art at thy liberty, free of prison,
1293          And art a lord, greet is thyn avauntage
                   And art a lord, thy advantage is great,
1294          Moore than is myn, that sterve here in a cage.
                   More than is mine, who die here in a cage.
1295          For I moot wepe and wayle, whil I lyve,
                   For I must weep and wail, while I live,
1296          With al the wo that prison may me yive,
                   With all the woe that prison may give me,
1297          And eek with peyne that love me yeveth also,
                   And also with pain that love gives me also,
1298          That doubleth al my torment and my wo."
                   That doubles all my torment and my woe."
1299          Therwith the fyr of jalousie up sterte
                   With that the fire of jealousy started up
1300          Withinne his brest, and hente him by the herte
                   Within his breast, and seized him by the heart
1301          So woodly that he lyk was to biholde
                   So madly that he was to look upon like
1302          The boxtree or the asshen dede and colde.
                   The box tree or the ash dead and cold.

1303          Thanne seyde he, "O crueel goddes that governe
                   Then said he, "O cruel gods that govern
1304          This world with byndyng of youre word eterne,
                   This world with binding of your eternal word,
1305          And writen in the table of atthamaunt
                   And write in the table of adamant (hardest of stones)
1306          Youre parlement and youre eterne graunt,
                   Your decision and your eternal decree,
1307          What is mankynde moore unto you holde
                   Why is mankind more obligated unto you
1308          Than is the sheep that rouketh in the folde?
                   Than is the sheep that cowers in the sheepfold?
1309          For slayn is man right as another beest,
                   For man is slain exactly like another beast,
1310          And dwelleth eek in prison and arreest,
                   And dwells also in prison and detention,
1311          And hath siknesse and greet adversitee,
                   And has sickness and great adversity,
1312          And ofte tymes giltelees, pardee.
                   And often times guiltless, indeed.

1313          "What governance is in this prescience,
                   "What (sort of) governance is in this foreknowledge,
1314          That giltelees tormenteth innocence?
                   That torments guiltless innocence?
1315          And yet encresseth this al my penaunce,
                   And yet this increases all my suffering,
1316          That man is bounden to his observaunce,
                   That man is bound to his duty,
1317          For Goddes sake, to letten of his wille,
                   For God's sake, to refrain from his desire,
1318          Ther as a beest may al his lust fulfille.
                   Whereas a beast may fulfill all his desire.
1319          And whan a beest is deed he hath no peyne;
                   And when a beast is dead he has no pain;
1320          But man after his deeth moot wepe and pleyne,
                   But man after his death must weep and lament,
1321          Though in this world he have care and wo.
                   Though in this world he may have (had) care and woe.
1322          Withouten doute it may stonden so.
                   Without doubt such is the case.
1323          The answere of this lete I to dyvynys,
                   The answer to this I leave to theologians,
1324          But wel I woot that in this world greet pyne ys.
                   But well I know that great pain is in this world.
1325          Allas, I se a serpent or a theef,
                   Alas, I see a serpent or a thief,
1326          That many a trewe man hath doon mescheef,
                   That has done mischief to many a true man,
1327          Goon at his large, and where hym list may turne.
                   Go at his liberty, and can go where he pleases.
1328          But I moot been in prisoun thurgh Saturne,
                   But I must be in prison because of Saturn,
1329          And eek thurgh Juno, jalous and eek wood,
                   And also because of Juno, jealous and also mad,
1330          That hath destroyed wel ny al the blood
                   Who has destroyed well nigh all the blood
1331          Of Thebes with his waste walles wyde;
                   Of Thebes with its wide devastated walls;
1332          And Venus sleeth me on that oother syde
                   And Venus slays me on that other side
1333          For jalousie and fere of hym Arcite."
                   For jealousy and fear of this Arcite."

1334          Now wol I stynte of Palamon a lite,
                   Now will I cease (speaking of) of Palamon for a little while,
1335          And lete hym in his prisoun stille dwelle,
                   And leave him to dwell in his prison still,
1336          And of Arcita forth I wol yow telle.
                   And of Arcite forth I will tell you.

1337          The somer passeth, and the nyghtes longe
                   The summer passes, and the long nights
1338          Encressen double wise the peynes stronge
                   Increase doubly the strong pains
1339          Bothe of the lovere and the prisoner.
                   Both of the lover and the prisoner.
1340          I noot which hath the wofuller mester.
                   I know not which has the more woeful task.
1341          For, shortly for to seyn, this Palamoun
                   For, briefly to say (it), this Palamon
1342          Perpetuelly is dampned to prisoun,
                   Is damned perpetually to prison,
1343          In cheynes and in fettres to been deed;
                   In chains and in fetters to be dead;
1344          And Arcite is exiled upon his heed
                   And Arcite is exiled on threat of losing his head
134e          For everemo, as out of that contree,
                   For evermore, out of that country,
1346          Ne nevere mo ne shal his lady see.
                   Nor nevermore shall see his lady.

1347          Yow loveres axe I now this questioun:
                   Yow lovers now I ask this question:
1348          Who hath the worse, Arcite or Palamoun?
                   Who has the worse, Arcite or Palamon?
1349          That oon may seen his lady day by day,
                   That one may see his lady every day,
1350          But in prison he moot dwelle alway;
                   But in prison he must always dwell;
1351          That oother wher hym list may ride or go,
                   That other where he pleases may ride or walk,
1352          But seen his lady shal he nevere mo.
                   But he shall see his lady nevermore.
1353          Now demeth as yow liste, ye that kan,
                   Now judge as it pleases you, you who know (of such things),
1354          For I wol telle forth as I bigan.
                   For I will tell forth as I began.


Explicit prima pars

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