859 Whilom, as olde stories tellen us,
860 Ther was a duc that highte Theseus;
861 Of Atthenes he was lord and governour,
862 And in his tyme swich a conquerour
863 That gretter was ther noon under the sonne.
864 Ful many a riche contree hadde he wonne;
865 What with his wysdom and his chivalrie,
866 He conquered al the regne of Femenye,
867 That whilom was ycleped Scithia,
868 And weddede the queene Ypolita,
869 And broghte hire hoom with hym in his contree
870 With muchel glorie and greet solempnytee,
871 And eek hir yonge suster Emelye.
872 And thus with victorie and with melodye
873 Lete I this noble duc to Atthenes ryde,
874 And al his hoost in armes hym bisyde.
875 And certes, if it nere to long to heere,
876 I wolde have toold yow fully the manere
877 How wonnen was the regne of Femenye
878 By Theseus and by his chivalrye;
879 And of the grete bataille for the nones
880 Bitwixen Atthenes and Amazones;
881 And how asseged was Ypolita,
882 The faire, hardy queene of Scithia;
883 And of the feste that was at hir weddynge,
884 And of the tempest at hir hoom-comynge;
885 But al that thyng I moot as now forbere.
886 I have, God woot, a large feeld to ere,
887 And wayke been the oxen in my plough.
888 The remenant of the tale is long ynough.
889 I wol nat letten eek noon of this route;
890 Lat every felawe telle his tale aboute,
891 And lat se now who shal the soper wynne;
892 And ther I lefte, I wol ayeyn bigynne.
893 This duc, of whom I make mencioun,
894 Whan he was come almoost unto the toun,
895 In al his wele and in his mooste pride,
896 He was war, as he caste his eye aside,
897 Where that ther kneled in the heighe weye
898 A compaignye of ladyes, tweye and tweye,
899 Ech after oother clad in clothes blake;
900 But swich a cry and swich a wo they make
901 That in this world nys creature lyvynge
902 That herde swich another waymentynge;
903 And of this cry they nolde nevere stenten
904 Til they the reynes of his brydel henten.
905 “What folk been ye, that at myn hom-comynge
906 Perturben so my feste with criynge?”
907 Quod Theseus. “Have ye so greet envye
908 Of myn honour, that thus compleyne and crye?
909 Or who hath yow mysboden or offended?
910 And telleth me if it may been amended,
911 And why that ye been clothed thus in blak.”
912 The eldeste lady of hem alle spak,
913 Whan she hadde swowned with a deedly cheere,
914 That it was routhe for to seen and heere;
915 She seyde, “Lord, to whom Fortune hath yiven
916 Victorie, and as a conqueror to lyven,
917 Nat greveth us youre glorie and youre honour,
918 But we biseken mercy and socour.
919 Have mercy on oure wo and oure distresse!
920 Som drope of pitee, thurgh thy gentillesse,
921 Upon us wrecched wommen lat thou falle,
922 For, certes, lord, ther is noon of us alle
923 That she ne hath been a duchesse or a queene.
924 Now be we caytyves, as it is wel seene,
925 Thanked be Fortune and hire false wheel,
926 That noon estaat assureth to be weel.
927 And certes, lord, to abyden youre presence,
928 Heere in this temple of the goddesse Clemence
929 We han ben waitynge al this fourtenyght.
930 Now help us, lord, sith it is in thy myght.
931 “I, wrecche, which that wepe and wayle thus,
932 Was whilom wyf to kyng Cappaneus,
933 That starf at Thebes — cursed be that day! —
934 And alle we that been in this array
935 And maken al this lamentacioun,
936 We losten alle oure housbondes at that toun,
937 Whil that the seege theraboute lay.
938 And yet now the olde Creon — weylaway! —
939 That lord is now of Thebes the citee,
940 Fulfild of ire and of iniquitee,
941 He, for despit and for his tirannye,
942 To do the dede bodyes vileynye
943 Of alle oure lordes whiche that been yslawe,
944 Hath alle the bodyes on an heep ydrawe,
945 And wol nat suffren hem, by noon assent,
946 Neither to been yburyed nor ybrent,
947 But maketh houndes ete hem in despit.”
948 And with that word, withouten moore respit,
949 They fillen gruf and criden pitously,
950 “Have on us wrecched wommen som mercy,
951 And lat oure sorwe synken in thyn herte.”
952 This gentil duc doun from his courser sterte
953 With herte pitous, whan he herde hem speke.
954 Hym thoughte that his herte wolde breke,
955 Whan he saugh hem so pitous and so maat,
956 That whilom weren of so greet estaat;
957 And in his armes he hem alle up hente,
958 And hem conforteth in ful good entente,
959 And swoor his ooth, as he was trewe knyght,
960 He wolde doon so ferforthly his myght
961 Upon the tiraunt Creon hem to wreke
962 That al the peple of Grece sholde speke
963 How Creon was of Theseus yserved
964 As he that hadde his deeth ful wel deserved.
965 And right anoon, withouten moore abood,
966 His baner he desplayeth, and forth rood
967 To Thebes-ward, and al his hoost biside.
968 No neer Atthenes wolde he go ne ride,
969 Ne take his ese fully half a day,
970 But onward on his wey that nyght he lay,
971 And sente anon Ypolita the queene,
972 And Emelye, hir yonge suster sheene,
973 Unto the toun of Atthenes to dwelle,
974 And forth he rit; ther is namoore to telle.
975 The rede statue of Mars, with spere and targe,
976 So shyneth in his white baner large
977 That alle the feeldes glyteren up and doun;
978 And by his baner born is his penoun
979 Of gold ful riche, in which ther was ybete
980 The Mynotaur, which that he wan in Crete.
981 Thus rit this duc, thus rit this conquerour,
982 And in his hoost of chivalrie the flour,
983 Til that he cam to Thebes and alighte
984 Faire in a feeld, ther as he thoughte to fighte.
985 But shortly for to speken of this thyng,
986 With Creon, which that was of Thebes kyng,
987 He faught, and slough hym manly as a knyght
988 In pleyn bataille, and putte the folk to flyght;
989 And by assaut he wan the citee after,
990 And rente adoun bothe wall and sparre and rafter;
991 And to the ladyes he restored agayn
992 The bones of hir freendes that were slayn,
993 To doon obsequies, as was tho the gyse.
994 But it were al to longe for to devyse
995 The grete clamour and the waymentynge
996 That the ladyes made at the brennynge
997 Of the bodies, and the grete honour
998 That Theseus, the noble conquerour,
999 Dooth to the ladyes, whan they from hym wente;
1000 But shortly for to telle is myn entente.
1001 Whan that this worthy duc, this Theseus,
1002 Hath Creon slayn and wonne Thebes thus,
1003 Stille in that feeld he took al nyght his reste,
1004 And dide with al the contree as hym leste.
1005 To ransake in the taas of bodyes dede,
1006 Hem for to strepe of harneys and of wede,
1007 The pilours diden bisynesse and cure
1008 After the bataille and disconfiture.
1009 And so bifel that in the taas they founde,
1010 Thurgh-girt with many a grevous blody wounde,
1011 Two yonge knyghtes liggynge by and by,
1012 Bothe in oon armes, wroght ful richely,
1013 Of whiche two Arcita highte that oon,
1014 And that oother knyght highte Palamon.
1015 Nat fully quyke, ne fully dede they were,
1016 But by hir cote-armures and by hir gere
1017 The heraudes knewe hem best in special
1018 As they that weren of the blood roial
1019 Of Thebes, and of sustren two yborn.
1020 Out of the taas the pilours han hem torn,
1021 And han hem caried softe unto the tente
1022 Of Theseus; and he ful soone hem sente
1023 To Atthenes, to dwellen in prisoun
1024 Perpetuelly — he nolde no raunsoun.
1025 And whan this worthy duc hath thus ydon,
1026 He took his hoost, and hoom he rit anon
1027 With laurer crowned as a conquerour;
1028 And ther he lyveth in joye and in honour
1029 Terme of his lyf; what nedeth wordes mo?
1030 And in a tour, in angwissh and in wo,
1031 This Palamon and his felawe Arcite
1032 For everemoore; ther may no gold hem quite.
1033 This passeth yeer by yeer and day by day,
1034 Till it fil ones, in a morwe of May,
1035 That Emelye, that fairer was to sene
1036 Than is the lylie upon his stalke grene,
1037 And fressher than the May with floures newe —
1038 For with the rose colour stroof hire hewe,
1039 I noot which was the fyner of hem two —
1040 Er it were day, as was hir wone to do,
1041 She was arisen and al redy dight,
1042 For May wole have no slogardie anyght.
1043 The sesoun priketh every gentil herte,
1044 And maketh it out of his slep to sterte,
1045 And seith ” Arys, and do thyn observaunce.”
1046 This maked Emelye have remembraunce
1047 To doon honour to May, and for to ryse.
1048 Yclothed was she fressh, for to devyse:
1049 Hir yelow heer was broyded in a tresse
1050 Bihynde hir bak, a yerde long, I gesse.
1051 And in the gardyn, at the sonne upriste,
1052 She walketh up and doun, and as hire liste
1053 She gadereth floures, party white and rede,
1054 To make a subtil gerland for hire hede;
1055 And as an aungel hevenysshly she soong.
1056 The grete tour, that was so thikke and stroong,
1057 Which of the castel was the chief dongeoun
1058 (Ther as the knyghtes weren in prisoun
1059 Of which I tolde yow and tellen shal),
1060 Was evene joynant to the gardyn wal
1061 Ther as this Emelye hadde hir pleyynge.
1062 Bright was the sonne and cleer that morwenynge,
1063 And Palamoun, this woful prisoner,
1064 As was his wone, by leve of his gayler,
1065 Was risen and romed in a chambre an heigh,
1066 In which he al the noble citee seigh,
1067 And eek the gardyn, ful of braunches grene,
1068 Ther as this fresshe Emelye the shene
1069 Was in hire walk, and romed up and doun.
1070 This sorweful prisoner, this Palamoun,
1071 Goth in the chambre romynge to and fro
1072 And to hymself compleynynge of his wo.
1073 That he was born, ful ofte he seyde, “allas!”
1074 And so bifel, by aventure or cas,
1075 That thurgh a wyndow, thikke of many a barre
1076 Of iren greet and square as any sparre,
1077 He cast his eye upon Emelya,
1078 And therwithal he bleynte and cride, ” A!”
1079 As though he stongen were unto the herte.
1080 And with that cry Arcite anon up sterte
1081 And seyde, “Cosyn myn, what eyleth thee,
1082 That art so pale and deedly on to see?
1083 Why cridestow? Who hath thee doon offence?
1084 For Goddes love, taak al in pacience
1085 Oure prisoun, for it may noon oother be.
1086 Fortune hath yeven us this adversitee.
1087 Som wikke aspect or disposicioun
1088 Of Saturne, by som constellacioun,
1089 Hath yeven us this, although we hadde it sworn;
1090 So stood the hevene whan that we were born.
1091 We moste endure it; this is the short and playn.”
1092 This Palamon answerde and seyde agayn,
1093 “Cosyn, for sothe, of this opinioun
1094 Thow hast a veyn ymaginacioun.
1095 This prison caused me nat for to crye,
1096 But I was hurt right now thurghout myn ye
1097 Into myn herte, that wol my bane be.
1098 The fairnesse of that lady that I see
1099 Yond in the gardyn romen to and fro
1100 Is cause of al my criyng and my wo.
1101 I noot wher she be womman or goddesse,
1102 But Venus is it soothly, as I gesse.”
1103 And therwithal on knees doun he fil,
1104 And seyde, “Venus, if it be thy wil
1105 Yow in this gardyn thus to transfigure
1106 Bifore me, sorweful, wrecched creature,
1107 Out of this prisoun help that we may scapen.
1108 And if so be my destynee be shapen
1109 By eterne word to dyen in prisoun,
1110 Of oure lynage have som compassioun,
1111 That is so lowe ybroght by tirannye.”
1112 And with that word Arcite gan espye
1113 Wher as this lady romed to and fro,
1114 And with that sighte hir beautee hurte hym so,
1115 That, if that Palamon was wounded sore,
1116 Arcite is hurt as muche as he, or moore.
1117 And with a sigh he seyde pitously,
1118 “The fresshe beautee sleeth me sodeynly
1119 Of hire that rometh in the yonder place;
1120 And but I have hir mercy and hir grace,
1121 That I may seen hire atte leeste weye,
1122 I nam but deed; ther nis namoore to seye.”
1123 This Palamon, whan he tho wordes herde,
1124 Dispitously he looked and answerde,
1125 “Wheither seistow this in ernest or in pley?”
1126 “Nay,” quod Arcite, “in ernest, by my fey!
1127 God helpe me so, me list ful yvele pleye.”
1128 This Palamon gan knytte his browes tweye.
1129 “It nere,” quod he, “to thee no greet honour
1130 For to be fals, ne for to be traitour
1131 To me, that am thy cosyn and thy brother
1132 Ysworn ful depe, and ech of us til oother,
1133 That nevere, for to dyen in the peyne,
1134 Til that the deeth departe shal us tweyne,
1135 Neither of us in love to hyndre oother,
1136 Ne in noon oother cas, my leeve brother,
1137 But that thou sholdest trewely forthren me
1138 In every cas, as I shal forthren thee —
1139 This was thyn ooth, and myn also, certeyn;
1140 I woot right wel, thou darst it nat withseyn.
1141 Thus artow of my conseil, out of doute,
1142 And now thow woldest falsly been aboute
1143 To love my lady, whom I love and serve,
1144 And evere shal til that myn herte sterve.
1145 Nay, certes, false Arcite, thow shalt nat so.
1146 I loved hire first, and tolde thee my wo
1147 As to my conseil and my brother sworn
1148 To forthre me, as I have toold biforn.
1149 For which thou art ybounden as a knyght
1150 To helpen me, if it lay in thy myght,
1151 Or elles artow fals, I dar wel seyn.”
1152 This Arcite ful proudly spak ageyn:
1153 “Thow shalt,” quod he, “be rather fals than I;
1154 And thou art fals, I telle thee outrely,
1155 For paramour I loved hire first er thow.
1156 What wiltow seyen? Thou woost nat yet now
1157 Wheither she be a womman or goddesse!
1158 Thyn is affeccioun of hoolynesse,
1159 And myn is love as to a creature;
1160 For which I tolde thee myn aventure
1161 As to my cosyn and my brother sworn.
1162 I pose that thow lovedest hire biforn;
1163 Wostow nat wel the olde clerkes sawe,
1164 That ‘who shal yeve a lovere any lawe?’
1165 Love is a gretter lawe, by my pan,
1166 Than may be yeve to any erthely man;
1167 And therfore positif lawe and swich decree
1168 Is broken al day for love in ech degree.
1169 A man moot nedes love, maugree his heed;
1170 He may nat fleen it, thogh he sholde be deed,
1171 Al be she mayde, or wydwe, or elles wyf.
1172 And eek it is nat likly al thy lyf
1173 To stonden in hir grace; namoore shal I;
1174 For wel thou woost thyselven, verraily,
1175 That thou and I be dampned to prisoun
1176 Perpetuelly; us gayneth no raunsoun.
1177 We stryve as dide the houndes for the boon;
1178 They foughte al day, and yet hir part was noon.
1179 Ther cam a kyte, whil that they were so wrothe,
1180 And baar awey the boon bitwixe hem bothe.
1181 And therfore, at the kynges court, my brother,
1182 Ech man for hymself, ther is noon oother.
1183 Love, if thee list, for I love and ay shal;
1184 And soothly, leeve brother, this is al.
1185 Heere in this prisoun moote we endure,
1186 And everich of us take his aventure.”
1187 Greet was the strif and long bitwix hem tweye,
1188 If that I hadde leyser for to seye;
1189 But to th’ effect. It happed on a day,
1190 To telle it yow as shortly as I may,
1191 A worthy duc that highte Perotheus,
1192 That felawe was unto duc Theseus
1193 Syn thilke day that they were children lite,
1194 Was come to Atthenes his felawe to visite,
1195 And for to pleye as he was wont to do;
1196 For in this world he loved no man so,
1197 And he loved hym als tendrely agayn.
1198 So wel they lovede, as olde bookes sayn,
1199 That whan that oon was deed, soothly to telle,
1200 His felawe wente and soughte hym doun in helle —
1201 But of that storie list me nat to write.
1202 Duc Perotheus loved wel Arcite,
1203 And hadde hym knowe at Thebes yeer by yere,
1204 And finally at requeste and preyere
1205 Of Perotheus, withouten any raunsoun,
1206 Duc Theseus hym leet out of prisoun
1207 Frely to goon wher that hym liste over al,
1208 In swich a gyse as I you tellen shal.
1209 This was the forward, pleynly for t’ endite,
1210 Bitwixen Theseus and hym Arcite:
1211 That if so were that Arcite were yfounde
1212 Evere in his lif, by day or nyght, oo stounde
1213 In any contree of this Theseus,
1214 And he were caught, it was acorded thus,
1215 That with a swerd he sholde lese his heed.
1216 Ther nas noon oother remedie ne reed;
1217 But taketh his leve, and homward he him spedde.
1218 Lat hym be war! His nekke lith to wedde.
1219 How greet a sorwe suffreth now Arcite!
1220 The deeth he feeleth thurgh his herte smyte;
1221 He wepeth, wayleth, crieth pitously;
1222 To sleen hymself he waiteth prively.
1223 He seyde, ” Allas that day that I was born!
1224 Now is my prisoun worse than biforn;
1225 Now is me shape eternally to dwelle
1226 Noght in purgatorie, but in helle.
1227 Allas, that evere knew I Perotheus!
1228 For elles hadde I dwelled with Theseus,
1229 Yfetered in his prisoun everemo.
1230 Thanne hadde I been in blisse and nat in wo.
1231 Oonly the sighte of hire whom that I serve,
1232 Though that I nevere hir grace may deserve,
1233 Wolde han suffised right ynough for me.
1234 O deere cosyn Palamon,” quod he,
1235 “Thyn is the victorie of this aventure.
1236 Ful blisfully in prison maistow dure —
1237 In prison? Certes nay, but in paradys!
1238 Wel hath Fortune yturned thee the dys,
1239 That hast the sighte of hire, and I th’ absence.
1240 For possible is, syn thou hast hire presence,
1241 And art a knyght, a worthy and an able,
1242 That by som cas, syn Fortune is chaungeable,
1243 Thow maist to thy desir somtyme atteyne.
1244 But I, that am exiled and bareyne
1245 Of alle grace, and in so greet dispeir
1246 That ther nys erthe, water, fir, ne eir,
1247 Ne creature that of hem maked is,
1248 That may me helpe or doon confort in this,
1249 Wel oughte I sterve in wanhope and distresse.
1250 Farwel my lif, my lust, and my gladnesse!
1251 ” Allas, why pleynen folk so in commune
1252 On purveiaunce of God, or of Fortune,
1253 That yeveth hem ful ofte in many a gyse
1254 Wel bettre than they kan hemself devyse?
1255 Som man desireth for to han richesse,
1256 That cause is of his mordre or greet siknesse;
1257 And som man wolde out of his prisoun fayn,
1258 That in his hous is of his meynee slayn.
1259 Infinite harmes been in this mateere.
1260 We witen nat what thing we preyen heere;
1261 We faren as he that dronke is as a mous.
1262 A dronke man woot wel he hath an hous,
1263 But he noot which the righte wey is thider,
1264 And to a dronke man the wey is slider.
1265 And certes, in this world so faren we;
1266 We seken faste after felicitee,
1267 But we goon wrong ful often, trewely.
1268 Thus may we seyen alle, and namely I,
1269 That wende and hadde a greet opinioun
1270 That if I myghte escapen from prisoun,
1271 Thanne hadde I been in joye and parfit heele,
1272 Ther now I am exiled fro my wele.
1273 Syn that I may nat seen you, Emelye,
1274 I nam but deed; ther nys no remedye.”
1275 Upon that oother syde Palamon,
1276 Whan that he wiste Arcite was agon,
1277 Swich sorwe he maketh that the grete tour
1278 Resouneth of his youlyng and clamour.
1279 The pure fettres on his shynes grete
1280 Weren of his bittre, salte teeres wete.
1281 ” Allas,” quod he, ” Arcita, cosyn myn,
1282 Of al oure strif, God woot, the fruyt is thyn.
1283 Thow walkest now in Thebes at thy large,
1284 And of my wo thow yevest litel charge.
1285 Thou mayst, syn thou hast wisdom and manhede,
1286 Assemblen alle the folk of oure kynrede,
1287 And make a werre so sharp on this citee
1288 That by som aventure or some tretee
1289 Thow mayst have hire to lady and to wyf
1290 For whom that I moste nedes lese my lyf.
1291 For, as by wey of possibilitee,
1292 Sith thou art at thy large, of prisoun free,
1293 And art a lord, greet is thyn avauntage
1294 Moore than is myn, that sterve here in a cage.
1295 For I moot wepe and wayle, whil I lyve,
1296 With al the wo that prison may me yive,
1297 And eek with peyne that love me yeveth also,
1298 That doubleth al my torment and my wo.”
1299 Therwith the fyr of jalousie up sterte
1300 Withinne his brest, and hente him by the herte
1301 So woodly that he lyk was to biholde
1302 The boxtree or the asshen dede and colde.
1303 Thanne seyde he, “O crueel goddes that governe
1304 This world with byndyng of youre word eterne,
1305 And writen in the table of atthamaunt
1306 Youre parlement and youre eterne graunt,
1307 What is mankynde moore unto you holde
1308 Than is the sheep that rouketh in the folde?
1309 For slayn is man right as another beest,
1310 And dwelleth eek in prison and arreest,
1311 And hath siknesse and greet adversitee,
1312 And ofte tymes giltelees, pardee.
1313 “What governance is in this prescience,
1314 That giltelees tormenteth innocence?
1315 And yet encresseth this al my penaunce,
1316 That man is bounden to his observaunce,
1317 For Goddes sake, to letten of his wille,
1318 Ther as a beest may al his lust fulfille.
1319 And whan a beest is deed he hath no peyne;
1320 But man after his deeth moot wepe and pleyne,
1321 Though in this world he have care and wo.
1322 Withouten doute it may stonden so.
1323 The answere of this lete I to dyvynys,
1324 But wel I woot that in this world greet pyne ys.
1325 Allas, I se a serpent or a theef,
1326 That many a trewe man hath doon mescheef,
1327 Goon at his large, and where hym list may turne.
1328 But I moot been in prisoun thurgh Saturne,
1329 And eek thurgh Juno, jalous and eek wood,
1330 That hath destroyed wel ny al the blood
1331 Of Thebes with his waste walles wyde;
1332 And Venus sleeth me on that oother syde
1333 For jalousie and fere of hym Arcite.”
1334 Now wol I stynte of Palamon a lite,
1335 And lete hym in his prisoun stille dwelle,
1336 And of Arcita forth I wol yow telle.
1337 The somer passeth, and the nyghtes longe
1338 Encressen double wise the peynes stronge
1339 Bothe of the lovere and the prisoner.
1340 I noot which hath the wofuller mester.
1341 For, shortly for to seyn, this Palamoun
1342 Perpetuelly is dampned to prisoun,
1343 In cheynes and in fettres to been deed;
1344 And Arcite is exiled upon his heed
1345 For everemo, as out of that contree,
1346 Ne nevere mo ne shal his lady see.
1347 Yow loveres axe I now this questioun:
1348 Who hath the worse, Arcite or Palamoun?
1349 That oon may seen his lady day by day,
1350 But in prison he moot dwelle alway;
1351 That oother wher hym list may ride or go,
1352 But seen his lady shal he nevere mo.
1353 Now demeth as yow liste, ye that kan,
1354 For I wol telle forth as I bigan.
1355 Whan that Arcite to Thebes comen was,
1356 Ful ofte a day he swelte and seyde ” Allas!”
1357 For seen his lady shal he nevere mo.
1358 And shortly to concluden al his wo,
1359 So muche sorwe hadde nevere creature
1360 That is, or shal, whil that the world may dure.
1361 His slep, his mete, his drynke, is hym biraft,
1362 That lene he wex and drye as is a shaft;
1363 His eyen holwe and grisly to biholde,
1364 His hewe falow and pale as asshen colde,
1365 And solitarie he was and evere allone,
1366 And waillynge al the nyght, makynge his mone;
1367 And if he herde song or instrument,
1368 Thanne wolde he wepe, he myghte nat be stent.
1369 So feble eek were his spiritz, and so lowe,
1370 And chaunged so, that no man koude knowe
1371 His speche nor his voys, though men it herde.
1372 And in his geere for al the world he ferde
1373 Nat oonly lik the loveris maladye
1374 Of Hereos, but rather lyk manye,
1375 Engendred of humour malencolik
1376 Biforen, in his celle fantastik.
1377 And shortly, turned was al up so doun
1378 Bothe habit and eek disposicioun
1379 Of hym, this woful lovere daun Arcite.
1380 What sholde I al day of his wo endite?
1381 Whan he endured hadde a yeer or two
1382 This crueel torment and this peyne and wo,
1383 At Thebes, in his contree, as I seyde,
1384 Upon a nyght in sleep as he hym leyde,
1385 Hym thoughte how that the wynged god Mercurie
1386 Biforn hym stood and bad hym to be murie.
1387 His slepy yerde in hond he bar uprighte;
1388 An hat he werede upon his heris brighte.
1389 Arrayed was this god, as he took keep,
1390 As he was whan that Argus took his sleep;
1391 And seyde hym thus: “To Atthenes shaltou wende,
1392 Ther is thee shapen of thy wo an ende.”
1393 And with that word Arcite wook and sterte.
1394 “Now trewely, hou soore that me smerte,”
1395 Quod he, “to Atthenes right now wol I fare,
1396 Ne for the drede of deeth shal I nat spare
1397 To se my lady, that I love and serve.
1398 In hire presence I recche nat to sterve.”
1399 And with that word he caughte a greet mirour,
1400 And saugh that chaunged was al his colour,
1401 And saugh his visage al in another kynde.
1402 And right anon it ran hym in his mynde,
1403 That, sith his face was so disfigured
1404 Of maladye the which he hadde endured,
1405 He myghte wel, if that he bar hym lowe,
1406 Lyve in Atthenes everemoore unknowe,
1407 And seen his lady wel ny day by day.
1408 And right anon he chaunged his array,
1409 And cladde hym as a povre laborer,
1410 And al allone, save oonly a squier
1411 That knew his privetee and al his cas,
1412 Which was disgised povrely as he was,
1413 To Atthenes is he goon the nexte way.
1414 And to the court he wente upon a day,
1415 And at the gate he profreth his servyse
1416 To drugge and drawe, what so men wol devyse.
1417 And shortly of this matere for to seyn,
1418 He fil in office with a chamberleyn
1419 The which that dwellynge was with Emelye,
1420 For he was wys and koude soone espye,
1421 Of every servaunt, which that serveth here.
1422 Wel koude he hewen wode, and water bere,
1423 For he was yong and myghty for the nones,
1424 And therto he was long and big of bones
1425 To doon that any wight kan hym devyse.
1426 A yeer or two he was in this servyse,
1427 Page of the chambre of Emelye the brighte,
1428 And Philostrate he seyde that he highte.
1429 But half so wel biloved a man as he
1430 Ne was ther nevere in court of his degree;
1431 He was so gentil of condicioun
1432 That thurghout al the court was his renoun.
1433 They seyden that it were a charitee
1434 That Theseus wolde enhauncen his degree,
1435 And putten hym in worshipful servyse,
1436 Ther as he myghte his vertu excercise.
1437 And thus withinne a while his name is spronge,
1438 Bothe of his dedes and his goode tonge,
1439 That Theseus hath taken hym so neer
1440 That of his chambre he made hym a squier,
1441 And gaf hym gold to mayntene his degree.
1442 And eek men broghte hym out of his contree,
1443 From yeer to yeer, ful pryvely his rente;
1444 But honestly and slyly he it spente,
1445 That no man wondred how that he it hadde.
1446 And thre yeer in this wise his lif he ladde,
1447 And bar hym so, in pees and eek in werre,
1448 Ther was no man that Theseus hath derre.
1449 And in this blisse lete I now Arcite,
1450 And speke I wole of Palamon a lite.
1451 In derknesse and horrible and strong prisoun
1452 Thise seven yeer hath seten Palamoun
1453 Forpyned, what for wo and for distresse.
1454 Who feeleth double soor and hevynesse
1455 But Palamon, that love destreyneth so
1456 That wood out of his wit he goth for wo?
1457 And eek therto he is a prisoner
1458 Perpetuelly, noght oonly for a yer.
1459 Who koude ryme in Englyssh proprely
1460 His martirdom? For sothe it am nat I;
1461 Therfore I passe as lightly as I may.
1462 It fel that in the seventhe yer, of May
1463 The thridde nyght (as olde bookes seyn,
1464 That al this storie tellen moore pleyn),
1465 Were it by aventure or destynee —
1466 As, whan a thyng is shapen, it shal be —
1467 That soone after the mydnyght Palamoun,
1468 By helpyng of a freend, brak his prisoun
1469 And fleeth the citee faste as he may go.
1470 For he hadde yeve his gayler drynke so
1471 Of a clarree maad of a certeyn wyn,
1472 With nercotikes and opie of Thebes fyn,
1473 That al that nyght, thogh that men wolde him shake,
1474 The gayler sleep; he myghte nat awake.
1475 And thus he fleeth as faste as evere he may.
1476 The nyght was short and faste by the day
1477 That nedes cost he moot hymselven hyde,
1478 And til a grove faste ther bisyde
1479 With dredeful foot thanne stalketh Palamon.
1480 For, shortly, this was his opinion:
1481 That in that grove he wolde hym hyde al day,
1482 And in the nyght thanne wolde he take his way
1483 To Thebes-ward, his freendes for to preye
1484 On Theseus to helpe him to werreye;
1485 And shortly, outher he wolde lese his lif
1486 Or wynnen Emelye unto his wyf.
1487 This is th’ effect and his entente pleyn.
1488 Now wol I turne to Arcite ageyn,
1489 That litel wiste how ny that was his care,
1490 Til that Fortune had broght him in the snare.
1491 The bisy larke, messager of day,
1492 Salueth in hir song the morwe gray,
1493 And firy Phebus riseth up so bright
1494 That al the orient laugheth of the light,
1495 And with his stremes dryeth in the greves
1496 The silver dropes hangynge on the leves.
1497 And Arcita, that in the court roial
1498 With Theseus is squier principal,
1499 Is risen and looketh on the myrie day.
1500 And for to doon his observaunce to May,
1501 Remembrynge on the poynt of his desir,
1502 He on a courser, startlynge as the fir,
1503 Is riden into the feeldes hym to pleye,
1504 Out of the court, were it a myle or tweye.
1505 And to the grove of which that I yow tolde
1506 By aventure his wey he gan to holde
1507 To maken hym a gerland of the greves,
1508 Were it of wodebynde or hawethorn leves,
1509 And loude he song ayeyn the sonne shene:
1510 “May, with alle thy floures and thy grene,
1511 Welcome be thou, faire, fresshe May,
1512 In hope that I som grene gete may.”
1513 And from his courser, with a lusty herte,
1514 Into the grove ful hastily he sterte,
1515 And in a path he rometh up and doun,
1516 Ther as by aventure this Palamoun
1517 Was in a bussh, that no man myghte hym se,
1518 For soore afered of his deeth was he.
1519 No thyng ne knew he that it was Arcite;
1520 God woot he wolde have trowed it ful lite.
1521 But sooth is seyd, go sithen many yeres,
1522 That “feeld hath eyen and the wode hath eres.”
1523 It is ful fair a man to bere hym evene,
1524 For al day meeteth men at unset stevene.
1525 Ful litel woot Arcite of his felawe,
1526 That was so ny to herknen al his sawe,
1527 For in the bussh he sitteth now ful stille.
1528 Whan that Arcite hadde romed al his fille,
1529 And songen al the roundel lustily,
1530 Into a studie he fil sodeynly,
1531 As doon thise loveres in hir queynte geres,
1532 Now in the crope, now doun in the breres,
1533 Now up, now doun, as boket in a welle.
1534 Right as the Friday, soothly for to telle,
1535 Now it shyneth, now it reyneth faste,
1536 Right so kan geery Venus overcaste
1537 The hertes of hir folk; right as hir day
1538 Is gereful, right so chaungeth she array.
1539 Selde is the Friday al the wowke ylike.
1540 Whan that Arcite had songe, he gan to sike
1541 And sette hym doun withouten any moore.
1542 ” Allas,” quod he, “that day that I was bore!
1543 How longe, Juno, thurgh thy crueltee,
1544 Woltow werreyen Thebes the citee?
1545 Allas, ybroght is to confusioun
1546 The blood roial of Cadme and Amphioun —
1547 Of Cadmus, which that was the firste man
1548 That Thebes bulte, or first the toun bigan,
1549 And of the citee first was crouned kyng.
1550 Of his lynage am I and his ofspryng
1551 By verray ligne, as of the stok roial,
1552 And now I am so caytyf and so thral,
1553 That he that is my mortal enemy,
1554 I serve hym as his squier povrely.
1555 And yet dooth Juno me wel moore shame,
1556 For I dar noght biknowe myn owene name;
1557 But ther as I was wont to highte Arcite,
1558 Now highte I Philostrate, noght worth a myte.
1559 Allas, thou felle Mars! Allas, Juno!
1560 Thus hath youre ire oure lynage al fordo,
1561 Save oonly me and wrecched Palamoun,
1562 That Theseus martireth in prisoun.
1563 And over al this, to sleen me outrely
1564 Love hath his firy dart so brennyngly
1565 Ystiked thurgh my trewe, careful herte
1566 That shapen was my deeth erst than my sherte.
1567 Ye sleen me with youre eyen, Emelye!
1568 Ye been the cause wherfore that I dye.
1569 Of al the remenant of myn oother care
1570 Ne sette I nat the montance of a tare,
1571 So that I koude doon aught to youre plesaunce.”
1572 And with that word he fil doun in a traunce
1573 A longe tyme, and after he up sterte.
1574 This Palamoun, that thoughte that thurgh his herte
1575 He felte a coold swerd sodeynliche glyde,
1576 For ire he quook; no lenger wolde he byde.
1577 And whan that he had herd Arcites tale,
1578 As he were wood, with face deed and pale,
1579 He stirte hym up out of the buskes thikke
1580 And seide: ” Arcite, false traytour wikke,
1581 Now artow hent, that lovest my lady so,
1582 For whom that I have al this peyne and wo,
1583 And art my blood, and to my conseil sworn,
1584 As I ful ofte have told thee heerbiforn,
1585 And hast byjaped heere duc Theseus,
1586 And falsly chaunged hast thy name thus!
1587 I wol be deed, or elles thou shalt dye.
1588 Thou shalt nat love my lady Emelye,
1589 But I wol love hire oonly and namo;
1590 For I am Palamon, thy mortal foo.
1591 And though that I no wepene have in this place,
1592 But out of prison am astert by grace,
1593 I drede noght that outher thow shalt dye,
1594 Or thow ne shalt nat loven Emelye.
1595 Chees which thou wolt, or thou shalt nat asterte!”
1596 This Arcite, with ful despitous herte,
1597 Whan he hym knew, and hadde his tale herd,
1598 As fiers as leon pulled out his swerd,
1599 And seyde thus: “By God that sit above,
1600 Nere it that thou art sik and wood for love,
1601 And eek that thow no wepne hast in this place,
1602 Thou sholdest nevere out of this grove pace,
1603 That thou ne sholdest dyen of myn hond.
1604 For I defye the seurete and the bond
1605 Which that thou seist that I have maad to thee.
1606 What! Verray fool, thynk wel that love is free,
1607 And I wol love hire maugree al thy myght!
1608 But for as muche thou art a worthy knyght
1609 And wilnest to darreyne hire by bataille,
1610 Have heer my trouthe; tomorwe I wol nat faille,
1611 Withoute wityng of any oother wight,
1612 That heere I wol be founden as a knyght,
1613 And bryngen harneys right ynough for thee;
1614 And ches the beste, and leef the worste for me.
1615 And mete and drynke this nyght wol I brynge
1616 Ynough for thee, and clothes for thy beddynge.
1617 And if so be that thou my lady wynne,
1618 And sle me in this wode ther I am inne,
1619 Thow mayst wel have thy lady as for me.”
1620 This Palamon answerde, “I graunte it thee.”
1621 And thus they been departed til amorwe,
1622 Whan ech of hem had leyd his feith to borwe.
1623 O Cupide, out of alle charitee!
1624 O regne, that wolt no felawe have with thee!
1625 Ful sooth is seyd that love ne lordshipe
1626 Wol noght, his thankes, have no felaweshipe.
1627 Wel fynden that Arcite and Palamoun.
1628 Arcite is riden anon unto the toun,
1629 And on the morwe, er it were dayes light,
1630 Ful prively two harneys hath he dight,
1631 Bothe suffisaunt and mete to darreyne
1632 The bataille in the feeld bitwix hem tweyne;
1633 And on his hors, allone as he was born,
1634 He carieth al the harneys hym biforn.
1635 And in the grove, at tyme and place yset,
1636 This Arcite and this Palamon ben met.
1637 To chaungen gan the colour in hir face;
1638 Right as the hunters in the regne of Trace,
1639 That stondeth at the gappe with a spere,
1640 Whan hunted is the leon or the bere,
1641 And hereth hym come russhyng in the greves,
1642 And breketh bothe bowes and the leves,
1643 And thynketh, “Heere cometh my mortal enemy!
1644 Withoute faille, he moot be deed, or I,
1645 For outher I moot sleen hym at the gappe,
1646 Or he moot sleen me, if that me myshappe.”
1647 So ferden they in chaungyng of hir hewe,
1648 As fer as everich of hem oother knewe.
1649 Ther nas no good day, ne no saluyng,
1650 But streight, withouten word or rehersyng,
1651 Everich of hem heelp for to armen oother
1652 As freendly as he were his owene brother;
1653 And after that, with sharpe speres stronge
1654 They foynen ech at oother wonder longe.
1655 Thou myghtest wene that this Palamon
1656 In his fightyng were a wood leon,
1657 And as a crueel tigre was Arcite;
1658 As wilde bores gonne they to smyte,
1659 That frothen whit as foom for ire wood.
1660 Up to the ancle foghte they in hir blood.
1661 And in this wise I lete hem fightyng dwelle,
1662 And forth I wole of Theseus yow telle.
1663 The destinee, ministre general,
1664 That executeth in the world over al
1665 The purveiaunce that God hath seyn biforn,
1666 So strong it is that, though the world had sworn
1667 The contrarie of a thyng by ye or nay,
1668 Yet somtyme it shal fallen on a day
1669 That falleth nat eft withinne a thousand yeer.
1670 For certeinly, oure appetites heer,
1671 Be it of werre, or pees, or hate, or love,
1672 Al is this reuled by the sighte above.
1673 This mene I now by myghty Theseus,
1674 That for to hunten is so desirus,
1675 And namely at the grete hert in May,
1676 That in his bed ther daweth hym no day
1677 That he nys clad, and redy for to ryde
1678 With hunte and horn and houndes hym bisyde.
1679 For in his huntyng hath he swich delit
1680 That it is al his joye and appetit
1681 To been hymself the grete hertes bane,
1682 For after Mars he serveth now Dyane.
1683 Cleer was the day, as I have toold er this,
1684 And Theseus with alle joye and blis,
1685 With his Ypolita, the faire queene,
1686 And Emelye, clothed al in grene,
1687 On huntyng be they riden roially.
1688 And to the grove that stood ful faste by,
1689 In which ther was an hert, as men hym tolde,
1690 Duc Theseus the streighte wey hath holde.
1691 And to the launde he rideth hym ful right,
1692 For thider was the hert wont have his flight,
1693 And over a brook, and so forth on his weye.
1694 This duc wol han a cours at hym or tweye
1695 With houndes swiche as that hym list comaunde.
1696 And whan this duc was come unto the launde,
1697 Under the sonne he looketh, and anon
1698 He was war of Arcite and Palamon,
1699 That foughten breme as it were bores two.
1700 The brighte swerdes wenten to and fro
1701 So hidously that with the leeste strook
1702 It semed as it wolde felle an ook.
1703 But what they were, no thyng he ne woot.
1704 This duc his courser with his spores smoot,
1705 And at a stert he was bitwix hem two,
1706 And pulled out a swerd and cride, “Hoo!
1707 Namoore, up peyne of lesynge of youre heed!
1708 By myghty Mars, he shal anon be deed
1709 That smyteth any strook that I may seen.
1710 But telleth me what myster men ye been,
1711 That been so hardy for to fighten heere
1712 Withouten juge or oother officere,
1713 As it were in a lystes roially.”
1714 This Palamon answerde hastily
1715 And seyde, “Sire, what nedeth wordes mo?
1716 We have the deeth disserved bothe two.
1717 Two woful wrecches been we, two caytyves,
1718 That been encombred of oure owene lyves;
1719 And as thou art a rightful lord and juge,
1720 Ne yif us neither mercy ne refuge,
1721 But sle me first, for seinte charitee!
1722 But sle my felawe eek as wel as me;
1723 Or sle hym first, for though thow knowest it lite,
1724 This is thy mortal foo, this is Arcite,
1725 That fro thy lond is banysshed on his heed,
1726 For which he hath deserved to be deed.
1727 For this is he that cam unto thy gate
1728 And seyde that he highte Philostrate.
1729 Thus hath he japed thee ful many a yer,
1730 And thou hast maked hym thy chief squier;
1731 And this is he that loveth Emelye.
1732 For sith the day is come that I shal dye,
1733 I make pleynly my confessioun
1734 That I am thilke woful Palamoun
1735 That hath thy prisoun broken wikkedly.
1736 I am thy mortal foo, and it am I
1737 That loveth so hoote Emelye the brighte
1738 That I wol dye present in hir sighte.
1739 Wherfore I axe deeth and my juwise;
1740 But sle my felawe in the same wise,
1741 For bothe han we deserved to be slayn.”
1742 This worthy duc answerde anon agayn,
1743 And seyde, “This is a short conclusioun.
1744 Youre owene mouth, by youre confessioun,
1745 Hath dampned yow, and I wol it recorde;
1746 It nedeth noght to pyne yow with the corde.
1747 Ye shal be deed, by myghty Mars the rede!”
1748 The queene anon, for verray wommanhede,
1749 Gan for to wepe, and so dide Emelye,
1750 And alle the ladyes in the compaignye.
1751 Greet pitee was it, as it thoughte hem alle,
1752 That evere swich a chaunce sholde falle,
1753 For gentil men they were of greet estaat,
1754 And no thyng but for love was this debaat;
1755 And saugh hir blody woundes wyde and soore,
1756 And alle crieden, bothe lasse and moore,
1757 “Have mercy, Lord, upon us wommen alle!”
1758 And on hir bare knees adoun they falle
1759 And wolde have kist his feet ther as he stood;
1760 Til at the laste aslaked was his mood,
1761 For pitee renneth soone in gentil herte.
1762 And though he first for ire quook and sterte,
1763 He hath considered shortly, in a clause,
1764 The trespas of hem bothe, and eek the cause,
1765 And although that his ire hir gilt accused,
1766 Yet in his resoun he hem bothe excused,
1767 As thus: he thoghte wel that every man
1768 Wol helpe hymself in love, if that he kan,
1769 And eek delivere hymself out of prisoun.
1770 And eek his herte hadde compassioun
1771 Of wommen, for they wepen evere in oon,
1772 And in his gentil herte he thoughte anon,
1773 And softe unto hymself he seyde, “Fy
1774 Upon a lord that wol have no mercy,
1775 But been a leon, bothe in word and dede,
1776 To hem that been in repentaunce and drede,
1777 As wel as to a proud despitous man
1778 That wol mayntene that he first bigan.
1779 That lord hath litel of discrecioun,
1780 That in swich cas kan no divisioun
1781 But weyeth pride and humblesse after oon.”
1782 And shortly, whan his ire is thus agoon,
1783 He gan to looken up with eyen lighte
1784 And spak thise same wordes al on highte:
1785 “The god of love, a benedicite!
1786 How myghty and how greet a lord is he!
1787 Ayeyns his myght ther gayneth none obstacles.
1788 He may be cleped a god for his myracles,
1789 For he kan maken, at his owene gyse,
1790 Of everich herte as that hym list divyse.
1791 Lo heere this Arcite and this Palamoun,
1792 That quitly weren out of my prisoun,
1793 And myghte han lyved in Thebes roially,
1794 And witen I am hir mortal enemy,
1795 And that hir deth lith in my myght also,
1796 And yet hath love, maugree hir eyen two,
1797 Broght hem hyder bothe for to dye.
1798 Now looketh, is nat that an heigh folye?
1799 Who may been a fool but if he love?
1800 Bihoold, for Goddes sake that sit above,
1801 Se how they blede! Be they noght wel arrayed?
1802 Thus hath hir lord, the god of love, ypayed
1803 Hir wages and hir fees for hir servyse!
1804 And yet they wenen for to been ful wyse
1805 That serven love, for aught that may bifalle.
1806 But this is yet the beste game of alle,
1807 That she for whom they han this jolitee
1808 Kan hem therfore as muche thank as me.
1809 She woot namoore of al this hoote fare,
1810 By God, than woot a cokkow or an hare!
1811 But all moot ben assayed, hoot and coold;
1812 A man moot ben a fool, or yong or oold —
1813 I woot it by myself ful yore agon,
1814 For in my tyme a servant was I oon.
1815 And therfore, syn I knowe of loves peyne
1816 And woot hou soore it kan a man distreyne,
1817 As he that hath ben caught ofte in his laas,
1818 I yow foryeve al hoolly this trespaas,
1819 At requeste of the queene, that kneleth heere,
1820 And eek of Emelye, my suster deere.
1821 And ye shul bothe anon unto me swere
1822 That nevere mo ye shal my contree dere,
1823 Ne make werre upon me nyght ne day,
1824 But been my freendes in all that ye may.
1825 I yow foryeve this trespas every deel.”
1826 And they hym sworen his axyng faire and weel,
1827 And hym of lordshipe and of mercy preyde,
1828 And he hem graunteth grace, and thus he seyde:
1829 “To speke of roial lynage and richesse,
1830 Though that she were a queene or a princesse,
1831 Ech of you bothe is worthy, doutelees,
1832 To wedden whan tyme is; but nathelees —
1833 I speke as for my suster Emelye,
1834 For whom ye have this strif and jalousye —
1835 Ye woot yourself she may nat wedden two
1836 Atones, though ye fighten everemo,
1837 That oon of you, al be hym looth or lief,
1838 He moot go pipen in an yvy leef;
1839 This is to seyn, she may nat now han bothe,
1840 Al be ye never so jalouse ne so wrothe.
1841 And forthy I yow putte in this degree,
1842 That ech of yow shal have his destynee
1843 As hym is shape, and herkneth in what wyse;
1844 Lo, heere youre ende of that I shal devyse.
1845 My wyl is this, for plat conclusioun,
1846 Withouten any repplicacioun —
1847 If that you liketh, take it for the beste:
1848 That everich of you shal goon where hym leste
1849 Frely, withouten raunson or daunger,
1850 And this day fifty wykes, fer ne ner,
1851 Everich of you shal brynge an hundred knyghtes
1852 Armed for lystes up at alle rightes,
1853 Al redy to darreyne hire by bataille.
1854 And this bihote I yow withouten faille,
1855 Upon my trouthe, and as I am a knyght,
1856 That wheither of yow bothe that hath myght —
1857 This is to seyn, that wheither he or thow
1858 May with his hundred, as I spak of now,
1859 Sleen his contrarie, or out of lystes dryve,
1860 Thanne shal I yeve Emelya to wyve
1861 To whom that Fortune yeveth so fair a grace.
1862 The lystes shal I maken in this place,
1863 And God so wisly on my soule rewe
1864 As I shal evene juge been and trewe.
1865 Ye shul noon oother ende with me maken,
1866 That oon of yow ne shal be deed or taken.
1867 And if yow thynketh this is weel ysayd,
1868 Seyeth youre avys, and holdeth you apayd.
1869 This is youre ende and youre conclusioun.”
1870 Who looketh lightly now but Palamoun?
1871 Who spryngeth up for joye but Arcite?
1872 Who kouthe telle, or who kouthe it endite,
1873 The joye that is maked in the place
1874 Whan Theseus hath doon so fair a grace?
1875 But doun on knees wente every maner wight,
1876 And thonked hym with al hir herte and myght,
1877 And namely the Thebans often sithe.
1878 And thus with good hope and with herte blithe
1879 They taken hir leve, and homward gonne they ride
1880 To Thebes with his olde walles wyde.
1881 I trowe men wolde deme it necligence
1882 If I foryete to tellen the dispence
1883 Of Theseus, that gooth so bisily
1884 To maken up the lystes roially,
1885 That swich a noble theatre as it was
1886 I dar wel seyen in this world ther nas.
1887 The circuit a myle was aboute,
1888 Walled of stoon, and dyched al withoute.
1889 Round was the shap, in manere of compas,
1890 Ful of degrees, the heighte of sixty pas,
1891 That whan a man was set on o degree,
1892 He letted nat his felawe for to see.
1893 Estward ther stood a gate of marbul whit,
1894 Westward right swich another in the opposit.
1895 And shortly to concluden, swich a place
1896 Was noon in erthe, as in so litel space;
1897 For in the lond ther was no crafty man
1898 That geometrie or ars-metrike kan,
1899 Ne portreyour, ne kervere of ymages,
1900 That Theseus ne yaf him mete and wages
1901 The theatre for to maken and devyse.
1902 And for to doon his ryte and sacrifise,
1903 He estward hath, upon the gate above,
1904 In worshipe of Venus, goddesse of love,
1905 Doon make an auter and an oratorie;
1906 And on the gate westward, in memorie
1907 Of Mars, he maked hath right swich another,
1908 That coste largely of gold a fother.
1909 And northward, in a touret on the wal,
1910 Of alabastre whit and reed coral,
1911 An oratorie, riche for to see,
1912 In worshipe of Dyane of chastitee,
1913 Hath Theseus doon wroght in noble wyse.
1914 But yet hadde I foryeten to devyse
1915 The noble kervyng and the portreitures,
1916 The shap, the contenaunce, and the figures
1917 That weren in thise oratories thre.
1918 First in the temple of Venus maystow se
1919 Wroght on the wal, ful pitous to biholde,
1920 The broken slepes, and the sikes colde,
1921 The sacred teeris, and the waymentynge,
1922 The firy strokes of the desirynge
1923 That loves servantz in this lyf enduren;
1924 The othes that hir covenantz assuren;
1925 Plesaunce and Hope, Desir, Foolhardynesse,
1926 Beautee and Youthe, Bauderie, Richesse,
1927 Charmes and Force, Lesynges, Flaterye,
1928 Despense, Bisynesse, and Jalousye,
1929 That wered of yelewe gooldes a gerland,
1930 And a cokkow sittynge on hir hand;
1931 Festes, instrumentz, caroles, daunces,
1932 Lust and array, and alle the circumstaunces
1933 Of love, which that I rekned and rekne shal,
1934 By ordre weren peynted on the wal,
1935 And mo than I kan make of mencioun.
1936 For soothly al the mount of Citheroun,
1937 Ther Venus hath hir principal dwellynge,
1938 Was shewed on the wal in portreyynge,
1939 With al the gardyn and the lustynesse.
1940 Nat was foryeten the porter, Ydelnesse,
1941 Ne Narcisus the faire of yore agon,
1942 Ne yet the folye of kyng Salomon,
1943 Ne yet the grete strengthe of Ercules —
1944 Th’ enchauntementz of Medea and Circes —
1945 Ne of Turnus, with the hardy fiers corage,
1946 The riche Cresus, kaytyf in servage.
1947 Thus may ye seen that wysdom ne richesse,
1948 Beautee ne sleighte, strengthe ne hardynesse,
1949 Ne may with Venus holde champartie,
1950 For as hir list the world than may she gye.
1951 Lo, alle thise folk so caught were in hir las,
1952 Til they for wo ful ofte seyde “allas!”
1953 Suffiseth heere ensamples oon or two,
1954 And though I koude rekene a thousand mo.
1955 The statue of Venus, glorious for to se,
1956 Was naked, fletynge in the large see,
1957 And fro the navele doun al covered was
1958 With wawes grene, and brighte as any glas.
1959 A citole in hir right hand hadde she,
1960 And on hir heed, ful semely for to se,
1961 A rose gerland, fressh and wel smellynge;
1962 Above hir heed hir dowves flikerynge.
1963 Biforn hire stood hir sone Cupido;
1964 Upon his shuldres wynges hadde he two,
1965 And blynd he was, as it is often seene;
1966 A bowe he bar and arwes brighte and kene.
1967 Why sholde I noght as wel eek telle yow al
1968 The portreiture that was upon the wal
1969 Withinne the temple of myghty Mars the rede?
1970 Al peynted was the wal, in lengthe and brede,
1971 Lyk to the estres of the grisly place
1972 That highte the grete temple of Mars in Trace,
1973 In thilke colde, frosty regioun
1974 Ther as Mars hath his sovereyn mansioun.
1975 First on the wal was peynted a forest,
1976 In which ther dwelleth neither man ne best,
1977 With knotty, knarry, bareyne trees olde,
1978 Of stubbes sharpe and hidouse to biholde,
1979 In which ther ran a rumbel in a swough,
1980 As though a storm sholde bresten every bough.
1981 And dounward from an hille, under a bente,
1982 Ther stood the temple of Mars armypotente,
1983 Wroght al of burned steel, of which the entree
1984 Was long and streit, and gastly for to see.
1985 And therout came a rage and swich a veze
1986 That it made al the gate for to rese.
1987 The northren lyght in at the dores shoon,
1988 For wyndowe on the wal ne was ther noon,
1989 Thurgh which men myghten any light discerne.
1990 The dore was al of adamant eterne,
1991 Yclenched overthwart and endelong
1992 With iren tough; and for to make it strong,
1993 Every pyler, the temple to sustene,
1994 Was tonne-greet, of iren bright and shene.
1995 Ther saugh I first the derke ymaginyng
1996 Of Felonye, and al the compassyng;
1997 The crueel Ire, reed as any gleede;
1998 The pykepurs, and eek the pale Drede;
1999 The smylere with the knyf under the cloke;
2000 The shepne brennynge with the blake smoke;
2001 The tresoun of the mordrynge in the bedde;
2002 The open werre, with woundes al bibledde;
2003 Contek, with blody knyf and sharp manace.
2004 Al ful of chirkyng was that sory place.
2005 The sleere of hymself yet saugh I ther —
2006 His herte-blood hath bathed al his heer —
2007 The nayl ydryven in the shode anyght;
2008 The colde deeth, with mouth gapyng upright.
2009 Amyddes of the temple sat Meschaunce,
2010 With disconfort and sory contenaunce.
2011 Yet saugh I Woodnesse, laughynge in his rage,
2012 Armed Compleint, Outhees, and fiers Outrage;
2013 The careyne in the busk, with throte ycorve;
2014 A thousand slayn, and nat of qualm ystorve;
2015 The tiraunt, with the pray by force yraft;
2016 The toun destroyed, ther was no thyng laft.
2017 Yet saugh I brent the shippes hoppesteres;
2018 The hunte strangled with the wilde beres;
2019 The sowe freten the child right in the cradel;
2020 The cook yscalded, for al his longe ladel.
2021 Noght was foryeten by the infortune of Marte.
2022 The cartere overryden with his carte —
2023 Under the wheel ful lowe he lay adoun.
2024 Ther were also, of Martes divisioun,
2025 The barbour, and the bocher, and the smyth,
2026 That forgeth sharpe swerdes on his styth.
2027 And al above, depeynted in a tour,
2028 Saugh I Conquest, sittynge in greet honour,
2029 With the sharpe swerd over his heed
2030 Hangynge by a soutil twynes threed.
2031 Depeynted was the slaughtre of Julius,
2032 Of grete Nero, and of Antonius;
2033 Al be that thilke tyme they were unborn,
2034 Yet was hir deth depeynted ther-biforn
2035 By manasynge of Mars, right by figure;
2036 So was it shewed in that portreiture,
2037 As is depeynted in the sterres above
2038 Who shal be slayn or elles deed for love.
2039 Suffiseth oon ensample in stories olde;
2040 I may nat rekene hem alle though I wolde.
2041 The statue of Mars upon a carte stood
2042 Armed, and looked grym as he were wood;
2043 And over his heed ther shynen two figures
2044 Of sterres, that been cleped in scriptures,
2045 That oon Puella, that oother Rubeus —
2046 This god of armes was arrayed thus.
2047 A wolf ther stood biforn hym at his feet
2048 With eyen rede, and of a man he eet;
2049 With soutil pencel was depeynted this storie
2050 In redoutynge of Mars and of his glorie.
2051 Now to the temple of Dyane the chaste,
2052 As shortly as I kan, I wol me haste,
2053 To telle yow al the descripsioun.
2054 Depeynted been the walles up and doun
2055 Of huntyng and of shamefast chastitee.
2056 Ther saugh I how woful Calistopee,
2057 Whan that Diane agreved was with here,
2058 Was turned from a womman til a bere,
2059 And after was she maad the loode-sterre.
2060 Thus was it peynted; I kan sey yow no ferre.
2061 Hir sone is eek a sterre, as men may see.
2062 Ther saugh I Dane, yturned til a tree —
2063 I mene nat the goddesse Diane,
2064 But Penneus doghter, which that highte Dane.
2065 Ther saugh I Attheon an hert ymaked,
2066 For vengeaunce that he saugh Diane al naked;
2067 I saugh how that his houndes have hym caught
2068 And freeten hym, for that they knewe hym naught.
2069 Yet peynted was a litel forther moor
2070 How Atthalante hunted the wilde boor,
2071 And eagre, and many another mo,
2072 For which Dyane wroghte hym care and wo.
2073 Ther saugh I many another wonder storie,
2074 The which me list nat drawen to memorie.
2075 This goddesse on an hert ful hye seet,
2076 With smale houndes al aboute hir feet,
2077 And undernethe hir feet she hadde a moone —
2078 Wexynge it was and sholde wanye soone.
2079 In gaude grene hir statue clothed was,
2080 With bowe in honde and arwes in a cas.
2081 Hir eyen caste she ful lowe adoun
2082 Ther Pluto hath his derke regioun.
2083 A womman travaillynge was hire biforn;
2084 But for hir child so longe was unborn,
2085 Ful pitously Lucyna gan she calle
2086 And seyde, “Help, for thou mayst best of alle!”
2087 Wel koude he peynten lifly that it wroghte;
2088 With many a floryn he the hewes boghte.
2089 Now been thise lystes maad, and Theseus,
2090 That at his grete cost arrayed thus
2091 The temples and the theatre every deel,
2092 Whan it was doon, hym lyked wonder weel.
2093 But stynte I wole of Theseus a lite,
2094 And speke of Palamon and of Arcite.
2095 The day approcheth of hir retournynge,
2096 That everich sholde an hundred knyghtes brynge
2097 The bataille to darreyne, as I yow tolde.
2098 And til Atthenes, hir covenant for to holde,
2099 Hath everich of hem broght an hundred knyghtes,
2100 Wel armed for the werre at alle rightes.
2101 And sikerly ther trowed many a man
2102 That nevere, sithen that the world bigan,
2103 As for to speke of knyghthod of hir hond,
2104 As fer as God hath maked see or lond,
2105 Nas of so fewe so noble a compaignye.
2106 For every wight that lovede chivalrye
2107 And wolde, his thankes, han a passant name,
2108 Hath preyed that he myghte been of that game;
2109 And wel was hym that therto chosen was,
2110 For if ther fille tomorwe swich a cas,
2111 Ye knowen wel that every lusty knyght
2112 That loveth paramours and hath his myght,
2113 Were it in Engelond or elleswhere,
2114 They wolde, hir thankes, wilnen to be there —
2115 To fighte for a lady, benedicitee!
2116 It were a lusty sighte for to see.
2117 And right so ferden they with Palamon.
2118 With hym ther wenten knyghtes many on;
2119 Som wol ben armed in an haubergeoun,
2120 And in a brestplate and a light gypoun;
2121 And som wol have a paire plates large;
2122 And som wol have a Pruce sheeld or a targe;
2123 Som wol ben armed on his legges weel,
2124 And have an ax, and som a mace of steel —
2125 Ther is no newe gyse that it nas old.
2126 Armed were they, as I have yow told,
2127 Everych after his opinioun.
2128 Ther maistow seen, comynge with Palamoun,
2129 Lygurge hymself, the grete kyng of Trace.
2130 Blak was his berd, and manly was his face;
2131 The cercles of his eyen in his heed,
2132 They gloweden bitwixen yelow and reed,
2133 And lik a grifphon looked he aboute,
2134 With kempe heeris on his browes stoute;
2135 His lymes grete, his brawnes harde and stronge,
2136 His shuldres brode, his armes rounde and longe;
2137 And as the gyse was in his contree,
2138 Ful hye upon a chaar of gold stood he,
2139 With foure white boles in the trays.
2140 In stede of cote-armure over his harnays,
2141 With nayles yelewe and brighte as any gold,
2142 He hadde a beres skyn, col-blak for old.
2143 His longe heer was kembd bihynde his bak;
2144 As any ravenes fethere it shoon for blak;
2145 A wrethe of gold, arm-greet, of huge wighte,
2146 Upon his heed, set ful of stones brighte,
2147 Of fyne rubyes and of dyamauntz.
2148 Aboute his chaar ther wenten white alauntz,
2149 Twenty and mo, as grete as any steer,
2150 To hunten at the leoun or the deer,
2151 And folwed hym with mosel faste ybounde,
2152 Colered of gold, and tourettes fyled rounde.
2153 An hundred lordes hadde he in his route,
2154 Armed ful wel, with hertes stierne and stoute.
2155 With Arcita, in stories as men fynde,
2156 The grete Emetreus, the kyng of Inde,
2157 Upon a steede bay trapped in steel,
2158 Covered in clooth of gold, dyapred weel,
2159 Cam ridynge lyk the god of armes, Mars.
2160 His cote-armure was of clooth of Tars
2161 Couched with perles white and rounde and grete;
2162 His sadel was of brend gold newe ybete;
2163 A mantelet upon his shulder hangynge,
2164 Bret-ful of rubyes rede as fyr sparklynge;
2165 His crispe heer lyk rynges was yronne,
2166 And that was yelow, and glytered as the sonne.
2167 His nose was heigh, his eyen bright citryn,
2168 His lippes rounde, his colour was sangwyn;
2169 A fewe frakenes in his face yspreynd,
2170 Bitwixen yelow and somdel blak ymeynd;
2171 And as a leon he his lookyng caste.
2172 Of fyve and twenty yeer his age I caste.
2173 His berd was wel bigonne for to sprynge;
2174 His voys was as a trompe thonderynge.
2175 Upon his heed he wered of laurer grene
2176 A gerland, fressh and lusty for to sene.
2177 Upon his hand he bar for his deduyt
2178 An egle tame, as any lilye whyt.
2179 An hundred lordes hadde he with hym there,
2180 Al armed, save hir heddes, in al hir gere,
2181 Ful richely in alle maner thynges.
2182 For trusteth wel that dukes, erles, kynges
2183 Were gadered in this noble compaignye,
2184 For love and for encrees of chivalrye.
2185 Aboute this kyng ther ran on every part
2186 Ful many a tame leon and leopart.
2187 And in this wise thise lordes, alle and some,
2188 Been on the Sonday to the citee come
2189 Aboute pryme, and in the toun alight.
2190 This Theseus, this duc, this worthy knyght,
2191 Whan he had broght hem into his citee,
2192 And inned hem, everich at his degree,
2193 He festeth hem, and dooth so greet labour
2194 To esen hem and doon hem al honour
2195 That yet men wenen that no mannes wit
2196 Of noon estaat ne koude amenden it.
2197 The mynstralcye, the service at the feeste,
2198 The grete yiftes to the meeste and leeste,
2199 The riche array of Theseus paleys,
2200 Ne who sat first ne last upon the deys,
2201 What ladyes fairest been or best daunsynge,
2202 Or which of hem kan dauncen best and synge,
2203 Ne who moost felyngly speketh of love;
2204 What haukes sitten on the perche above,
2205 What houndes liggen on the floor adoun —
2206 Of al this make I now no mencioun,
2207 But al th’ effect; that thynketh me the beste.
2208 Now cometh the point, and herkneth if yow leste.
2209 The Sonday nyght, er day bigan to sprynge,
2210 Whan Palamon the larke herde synge
2211 ( Although it nere nat day by houres two,
2212 Yet song the larke) and Palamon right tho
2213 With hooly herte and with an heigh corage,
2214 He roos to wenden on his pilgrymage
2215 Unto the blisful Citherea benigne —
2216 I mene Venus, honurable and digne.
2217 And in hir houre he walketh forth a pas
2218 Unto the lystes ther hire temple was,
2219 And doun he kneleth, and with humble cheere
2220 And herte soor he seyde as ye shal heere:
2221 “Faireste of faire, O lady myn, Venus,
2222 Doughter to Jove and spouse of Vulcanus,
2223 Thow gladere of the mount of Citheron,
2224 For thilke love thow haddest to Adoon,
2225 Have pitee of my bittre teeris smerte,
2226 And taak myn humble preyere at thyn herte.
2227 Allas! I ne have no langage to telle
2228 Th’ effectes ne the tormentz of myn helle;
2229 Myn herte may myne harmes nat biwreye;
2230 I am so confus that I kan noght seye
2231 But ‘Mercy, lady bright, that knowest weele
2232 My thought and seest what harmes that I feele!’
2233 Considere al this and rewe upon my soore,
2234 As wisly as I shal for everemoore,
2235 Emforth my myght, thy trewe servant be,
2236 And holden werre alwey with chastitee.
2237 That make I myn avow, so ye me helpe!
2238 I kepe noght of armes for to yelpe,
2239 Ne I ne axe nat tomorwe to have victorie,
2240 Ne renoun in this cas, ne veyne glorie
2241 Of pris of armes blowen up and doun;
2242 But I wolde have fully possessioun
2243 Of Emelye, and dye in thy servyse.
2244 Fynd thow the manere hou and in what wyse:
2245 I recche nat but it may bettre be
2246 To have victorie of hem, or they of me,
2247 So that I have my lady in myne armes.
2248 For though so be that Mars is god of armes,
2249 Youre vertu is so greet in hevene above
2250 That if yow list, I shal wel have my love.
2251 Thy temple wol I worshipe everemo,
2252 And on thyn auter, where I ride or go,
2253 I wol doon sacrifice and fires beete.
2254 And if ye wol nat so, my lady sweete,
2255 Thanne preye I t