Whilom, as olde stories tellen us,
Ther was duk y-namèd Theseus;
Of Athens he was lord and governoúr,
And in his tyme such a conqueroúr,
That gretter was ther non under the sonne.
Ful many a riche contree had he wonne;
That with his wisdom and his chivalrie
He conquered al the realme of Femynye,
That whilom was i-clepèd Scythia;
And wedded hath the queen Hippolyta,
And brought her home with him to his contree,
With moche glorie and gret solemnitee,
And eek her yonge sister Emelye.
And thus with victorie and with melodye
Let I this noble duk to Athens ryde,
And al his host, in armes him biside.
And certes, were it not too long to heere,
I wolde have told you fully the manére,
How wonnen was the realm of Femenye
By Theseus, and by his chivalrye;
And of the grete bataille for the nonce
Bytwix Athénes and the Amazons;
And how besiegèd was Hippolyta,
The faire hardy queen of Scythia;
And of the feste that was at her weddynge,
And of the tempest at her home comynge;
But al that thing I most as now forbere.
I have, God wot, through a large feeld to fare,
And weake be the oxen in my plough,
The remnaunt of the tale is long inough;
I wol not stop a man of al this rowte
Lat every felawe telle his tale aboute,
And lat see now who shal the soper wynne,
And where I lafte, I wolde agayn begynne.
This duk, of whom I make mencioún,
When he was comen almost unto the toun,
In al his wealth and in his moste pryde,
He was war, as he cast his eye aside,
Wher that ther knelèd in the hye weye
A companye of ladies, tweye and tweye,
Ech like the other, clad in clothes blake;
But such a cry and such a wo they make,
That in this world no creätúre lyvýnge,
Hath herde such another lámentynge,
And of that cry stinten they never wolde,
Til they the reynes of his bridel holde.
“What folk be ye that at myn hom comynge
Perturben so my feste with cryénge?”
Quoth Theseus, “have ye so gret envýe
To myn honoúr, that thus compleyne and crie?
Or who hath you injúrèd, or offendid?
Nay tell it me if it may be amendid;
And why that ye be clad thus al in blak?”
The oldest lady of them alle spak,
When she hadde swownèd with a dedly chere,
That it was pity for to see or heere;
And seyde: “Lord, to whom Fortúne hath geven
Victorie, and as a conquerour to lyven,
Noughte greveth us youre glorie and honoúr;
But we beseechen mercy and socoúr.
Have mercy on oure wo and oure distresse.
Som drope of pitee, thurgh youre gentilnesse,
Uppon us wretchede wommen lat thou falle.
For certes, lord, ther is noon of us alle,
That hath not been a duchesse or a queene;
Now be we caytifs, as it is wel seene:
Thankèd be Fortune, and her false wheel,
That no estat assureth to be weel.
And certes, lord, to abiden youre presénce
Here in the temple of the goddesse Clemence
We have ben waytynge al this fourtenight;
Now helpe us, lord, since it is in thy might.
I wretche, which that wepe and waylle thus,
Was whilom wyf to kyng Capaneus,
That died at Thebes, cursed be that day,
And alle we that be in this array,
And maken alle this lamentacioun,
We leften alle oure housbondes at the toun,
Whil that the siege ther aboute lay.
And yet the olde Creon, welaway!
That lord is now of Thebes the citee,
Fulfilde of ire and of iniquitee,
He for despyt, and for his tyrannýe,
To do the deede bodyes vilonýe,
Of alle oure lordes, which that be i-slawe,
Hath alle the bodies on an heep y-drawe,
And wil not suffre them by no assent
Neither to be y-buried nor i- brent,
But maketh houndes ete them in despite.”
And with that word, withoute more respite,
They fillen flat, and criden piteously,
“Have on us wretched wommen som mercy,
And lat oure sorrow synken in thyn herte.”
This gentil duke doun from his courser sterte
With herte piteous, when he herde them speke.
Him thoughte that his herte wolde breke,
Whan he saw them so piteous and so poor,
That whilom weren of so gret honoúr.
And in his armes he them alle up hente,
And them confórteth in ful good entente;
And swor his oth, as he was trewe knight,
He wolde do for them as wel he might
And on the tyraunt Creon vengeance take,
That al the people of Grece sholde speke
How Creon was of Theseus y-served,
As one that hath his deth right wel deserved.
And right anon, withoute more delaye
His baner he desplayeth, and took his waye
To Thebes-ward, and al his host bysyde;
Nor near Athenes wolde he go nor ryde,
Nor take his ese fully half a day,
But onward on his way that nyght he lay;
And sente anon Hippolyta to go,
And Emelye hir yonge sister too,
Unto the toun of Athenes for to dwelle;
And forth he rode; ther is no more to telle.
The red statúe of Mars with spere and targe
So shyneth in his white baner large,
That alle the feeldes gliter up and doun;
And by his baner was borne his pennón
Of gold ful riche, in which was set to view
The Minatour which that in Crete he slew.
Thus rode this duk, thus rode this conqueroúr,
And in his host of chevalrie the flour,
Til that he cam to Thebes, and alighte
Fayre in a feeld wher as he thoughe to fighte.
But shortly for to speken of this thing,
With Creon, which that was of Thebes kyng,
He faught, and slew him manly as a knight
In plain bataille, and putte his folk to flight;
And by assault he wan the citee after,
And rente doun bothe wal, and sparre, and rafter;
And to the ladies he restored agayn
The bones of their housbondes that were slayn,
To do exéquies, as was then the guise.
But it were al too long for to devyse
The grete clamour and the lámentynge
Which that the ladies made at the brennynge
Of the bodyes, and the grete honoúr
That Theseus the noble conqueroúr
Doth to the ladyes, when they from him wente.
But shortly for to telle is myn entente.
Whan that this worthy duk, this Theseus,
Hath Creon slayn, and Thebes wonne thus,
Stille in the feelde he took al night his reste,
And dide with al the contree as he list.
To ransake in the heap of bodyes dede
Them for to strip of harness and of wede,
The searchers diden businesse and cure,
After the bataile and discomfiture.
And so bifel, that in the heap they founde,
Thurgh pierced with many a grevous blody wounde,
Two yonge knightes lying by and by,
Both in one coat of arms wrought richely;
Of whiche two, Arcite hight the one,
And the other knight was namèd Palamon.
Not fully quyk, nor fully deed they were,
But by their coat armure, and by their gear,
Heraldes knewe them wel in special,
As knights that weren of the blood royál
Of Thebes, and of sistren tuo i-born.
Out of the heap the searchers have them torn,
And have them caried softe unto the tente
Of Theseus, and ful sone he them sente
To Athenes, for to dwellen in prisoún
Perpetuelly, he wolde no ransom.
And this duk when he hadde thus i- doon,
He took his host, and hom he rode anon
With laurel crownèd as a conqueroúr
And there he lyveth in joye and in honoúr
Al through his lyf; what wille ye wordes mo?
And in a tour, in angwishe and in wo,
Dwell evermo wher gold may profit none
This Arcite and his felawe Palamon.
Thus passeth yeer by yeer, and day by day,
Til it fel once upon a morn of May
That Emelie, far fairer to be seene
Than is the lilie on her stalke grene,
And fressher than the May with floures newe —
For with the rose colour strove her hewe,
I know not which was fairer of them two —
Ere it was day, as she was wont to do,
She was arisen, and al redy dight;
For May wil have no sloggardye a nyght.
The sesoun priketh every gentil herte,
And maketh him out of his sleepe sterte,
And seith, “Arise, and do thin óbservance.”
This makèd Emelye have rémembrance
To do honoúr to May, and for to ryse.
I-clothèd was she fressh for to devyse.
Her yellow hair was braided in a tresse,
Byhynde her bak, a yerde long I gesse.
And in the gardyn as the sonne upriste.
She walketh up and doun wher as she liste.
She gathereth floures, party whyte and red,
To make a subtle gerland for her hed,
And as an angel hevenly she song.
The grete tour, that was so thikke and strong,
Which of the castel was the cheef dongeoún,
(Ther as this knightes weren in prisoún,
Of which I tolde yow, and telle shal)
Was evene joynging to the garden wal,
Where as this Emely hadde her pleyynge,
Bright was the sonne, and cleer was the mornyng,
And Palamon, this woful prisoner,
As was his wont, by leve of his gayler
Was risen, and roamèd in a chambre on high,
Where he could al the noble citee espye,
And eek the garden, ful of braunches grene,
In which that Emelye the fresshe and shene
Was in her walk, and romèd up and doun.
This sorweful prisoner, this Palamon,
Goth in the chambre roamyng to and fro,
And to himself compleynyng of his wo;
That he was born; ful ofte he seyd, alas!
And so byfel, by áventure or case,
That thurgh a wyndow thikke and many a barre
Of iren greet and square as eny sparre,
He cast his eyen upon Emelya,
And therwithal he blinked and cryéd, a!
As that he stongen were unto the herte.
And with that crye Arcite anon up sterte,
And seyde, “Cosyn myn, what eyleth thee,
That art so pale and deedly for to see?
Why criedest thou? who hath thee doon offence?
For Goddes love, tak al in pacience
Oure prisoun, for it may non other be;
Fortune hath geven us this adversitee.
Som wikked aspéct or disposicioún
Of Saturne, by sum constellacioún,
Hath geven us this, though gainst it we had sworn;
So stood the heven when that we were born;
We moste endure it: this is the short and pleyn.”
This Palamon answered, and seyde ageyn,
“Cosyn, for-sothe, of this opynyoún
Thou hast a veyn imaginacioún.
This prisoun causèd me not to crye.
But I was hurt right now thorough myn eye
Into myn herte, that wil my bane be.
The fairnesse of the lady that I see
Yonde in the gardyn roming to and fro,
Is cause of al my cryying and my wo.
I know not whether womman or goddesse;
But Venus is it, sothly as I gesse.”
And therwithal on knees adoun he fel,
And seyde: “Venus, if it be youre wil
You in this gardyn thus to transfigúre,
Bifore me sorrowful wretched créatúre,
Out of this prisoun help that we may scape.
And if so be oure destynee be shape,
By word eterne to die in this prisoún,
On our lineáge have sum compassioún,
That is so lowe y-brought by tyrannye.”
And with that word Arcite gan espye
Where that this lady roamèd to and fro.
And with that sight her beauty hurt him so,
That if that Palamon was wounded sore,
Arcite is hurt as moche as he, or more.
And with a sigh he seyde piteously:
“The fresshe beauty sleeth me suddenly
Of her that roameth yonder in the place;
And save I have her mercy and her grace
That I may see her beauty day by day,
I am but deed; ther is no more to seye.”
This Palamon, whan he those wordes herde,
Dispiteously he lokèd, and answérde:
“Whether sayst thou in ernest or in pley?”
“Nay,” quoth Arcite, “in ernest in good fey.
God helpe me so, ful loth am I to pleye.”
This Palamon gan knytte his browes tweye:
“It would not be to thee a gret honoúr,
For to be false, and for to be traytoúr
To me, that am thy cosyn and thy brother
I-sworn ful deepe, and each of us to other,
That never even for death and for his paine,
Til life shal departe from us twayne,
Neyther of us in love to hynder other,
Nor in no other case, my deare brother;
But that thou shuldest trewly further me
In every case, and I shal further thee.
This was thyn othe, and myn also certáyn;
I wot right wel, thou darst it not withsayn.
Thus art thou sworn to help me out of doute.
And now thou woldest falsly be aboute
To love my lady, whom I love and seek,
And ever shal, until myn herte break.
Now certes, false Arcite, thou shalt not so.
I loved her first, and tolde thee my woe
That thou shouldst help me as my brother sworn
To further me, as I have told biforn.
For which thou art i-bounden as a knight
To helpe me, if it lay in thy might,
Or else thou art false, I dare wel sayn.”
To this Arcite ful proudly spake agayn.
“Thou shalt,” quoth he, “be rather false than I.
But thou art false, I telle thee utterly.
For par amour I loved her first ere thou.
What wilt thou sayn? thou knewest not yet now
Whether she be a woman or goddesse.
Thyn is affectioun for holynesse,
And myn is love, as for a creatúre;
For which I tolde thee myn áventúre
As to my cosyn, and my brother sworn.
Suppose, that thou lovedest her biforn;
Knowest thou not wel the olde clerkes saw,
That none shal geve a lover any lawe,
Love is a grettere lawe, by my pan,
Than may be given to any erthly man?
Therfore posityf lawe, and such decree,
Is broke alway for love in each degree.
A man must needes love when al is said.
He may nought flee it, though he shulde be deed,
Be she a mayde, or be she widewe or wyf.
And eke it is not likely al thy lyf
To standen in her grace, no more shal I;
For wel thou knowest thyself in verity,
That thou and I be damnèd to prisoún
Perpetuelly, us gayneth no ransóm.
We stryve, as do the houndes for the bone,
They foughte al day, and yet their part was none;
Ther came a kyte, while that they were wrothe,
And bare away the bone betwixt them bothe.
And therfore at the kynges court, my brother,
Eache man is for himself, ther is no other.
Love if thou list; for I love and ay shal;
And sothly, deare brother, this is al.
Here in this prisoun muste we endure,
And each of us must take his áventúre.”
Gret was the stryf and long bytwixe them tweye,
If that I hadde leisure for to seye;
But to the effect. It happèd on a day,
(To telle it you as shortly as I may)
A worthy duk that highte Peirithous,
That felaw was to the duk Theseus
Since that same day that they were children lyte,
Was come to Athenes, his felawe to visíte,
And for to pley, as he was wont to do,
For in this world he lovèd noman so:
And he loved him as tenderly agayn.
So wel they loved, as olde bookes sayn,
That whan the oon was deed, sothly to telle,
His felawe wente and sought him doun in helle;
But of that story lyst me nought to write.
Duk Peirithous lovèd wel Arcite,
And hadde him known at Thebes yeer by yeer,
And fynally at réqueste and prayér
Of Peirithous, withouten any ransoúm,
Duk Theseus him let out of prisoún,
Frely to go, wher that he list to dwell,
In such a gyse, as I shal pleynly tell.
This was the covenaunt, playnly to endite,
Betwixe Theseus and this Arcite:
That if so were, that Arcite were founde
Evere in his lyf, on any place or grounde,
In eny contree of this Theseus,
And he were caught, it was recorded thus,
That with a swerde sharpe he sholde dye;
Withouten any other remedy,
He took his leeve, and homward he him spedde;
Let him be war, in daunger lieth his head.
How gret a sorrow suffreth now Arcite.
The deth he feleth thorugh his herte smyte;
He weepeth, weyleth, cryeth piteously;
To slay himself he wayteth privily.
He seyde, “Allas the day that I was born!
Now is my prisoun werse than was biforn;
Now am I doomed eternally to dwelle
Not only in purgatorie, but in helle.
Allas! that ever I knewe Peirithous!
For else I had y-dwelt with Theseus
I-fetered in his prisoun for ever mo.
Than had I been in bless, and not in woe.
Only the sight of her, whom that I serve,
Though that her grace I may not even deserve,
Wold have sufficèd right ynough for me.
O dere cosyn Palamon,” quoth he,
“Thyn is the victorie of this áventúre,
Ful blisfully in prisoun to endure;
In prisoun? day, certes in paradys
Wel hath fortune y-tornèd thee the dice,
That hath the sight of her, and I the absénce.
For possible is, since thou hast her presénce,
And art a knight, a worthi and an able,
That by som case, since fortune is chaungáble,
Thou maist to thy desir somtyme atteyne.
But I that am exilèd, and barren
Of allegrace, am in so gret despeir,
That neither water, erthe, nor fyr, nor air,
Nor creatúre, that of them makèd is,
May ever helpe or comfort me in this.
Wel ought I die in wanhope and distresse;
Farwel my lyf and al my jolynesse.
Allas! why blamen folk so in comúne,
The providence of God, or else fortúne,
That giveth them ful ofte in many a gyse
Wel better than they can themselves devyse?
One man desireth for to have richésse,
That cause is of his murder or gret seeknesse.
And one man wolde out of his prisoun fayn,
That in his hous is by his servants slayn.
Infínite harmes be in this matére;
We never know what thing we prayen here.
We fare as he that dronke is as a mouse.
A dronke man wot wel he hath an hous,
But he not knoweth which the wey is thider,
And to a dronke man the wey is slider,
And certes in this world so faren we.
We seeken faste after felicitee,
But we go wrong ful ofte trewely.
Thus may we see alle day, and namely I,
That thought I had a gret opiniún,
That if I mighte skape fro prisoún,
Then had I been in joye and perfyt health,
And now I am exilèd fro my wealth.
Since that I may not see you, Emelye,
I am but deed; ther is no remedye.”
Uppon that other syde Palomon,
When that he wiste that Arcite had gone,
Such sorrow maketh, that the grete tour
Resowneth of his yellyng and clamoúr.
The very feteres of his legges grete
Were of his bitter salte teres wete.
“Allas!” quoth he, “Arcita, cosyn myn,
Of al oure strif, God wot, the fruyt is thin.
Thow walkest now in Thebes at thi large,
And of my woe thou makest litel charge.
Thou maiste, since thou hast wysdom and manhede,
Assemble al the folk of oure kyndred,
And make a werre so sharpe in this citee,
That by som áventure, or by som trety,
Thou mayst her wynne to lady and to wyf,
For whom that I must needes lose my lyf.
For as by wey of possibilitee,
Since thou art at thi large of prisoun free,
And art a lord, gret is thy ávantage,
More than is myn, that sterve here in a cage.
For I must weepe and weyle, whil that I lyve,
With al the woe that prisoun may me give,
And eek with peyne that love me giveth also,
That doubleth al my torment and my woe.”
Therwith the fire of jelousye upsterte
Withinne his brest, and caught him by the herte
So madly, that he like was to byholde
The box-tree, or the asshen deed and colde.
Then seyde; “O goddes cruel, that govérne
This world with byndyng of your word eterne,
And writen in the table of adamant
Is all your will and youre eterne graunte,
How is mankynde more by you held
Than is the sheep, that lieth in the field?
For slayn is man right as another beste,
And dwelleth eek in prisoun and arreste,
And hath seknesse, and greet adversitee,
And ofte tymes gilteles, pardé.
What governaunce is in youre prescience,
That gilteles tormenteth innocence?
And yet encreaseth this al my penaúnce,
That man is bounden to this óbservaúnce
For Goddes sake to conquer al his wille,
When every beste may al his lust fulfille.
And whan a beste is deed, he hath no peyne;
But man after his deth must wepe and pleyne,
Though in this world he have care and woe.
Withouten doute he shall have peynes mo.
The answer of this I leve to divinis,
But wel I wot, that in this world gret pyne is.
Allas! I see a serpent or a theef,
That unto many a man hath done mescheef,
Go at his large, and where him lust may turne.
But I muste be in prisoun through Saturne,
And eek through Juno, jealous and eke wood,
That hath destroyèd wel nigh al the blood
Of Thebes, with his waste walles wyde.
And Venus sleeth me on that other syde
For jelousye, and fere of him — Arcyte.”
Now wol I stynte of Palamon a lite,
And lete him in his prisoun stille dwelle,
And of Arcita forth then wil I telle.
The somer passeth, and the nightes longe
Encreasen double wise the peynes stronge
Bothe of the lover and the prisoner.
I know not which one is the wofuller.
For shortly for to sey, this Palomon
Perpetuelly is damnèd in prisoún,
In cheynes and in feteres to be deed;
And Arcite is exiled upon his hed
For evere mo as out of that contree,
And nevere mo shal he his lady see.
Now loveres axe I you this question,
Who hath the worse, Arcite or Palomon?
That one may see his lady day by day,
But in prisoun he muste dwelle alway.
That other where him luste may ryde or go,
But see his lady shal he never mo.
Now deem it as you liste, ye that can,
For I wil telle forth as I bigan.
When that Arcite to Thebes come was,
Ful oft a day he moaned and seyd alas!
For see his lady shal he never mo.
And shortly to concluden al his woe,
So moche sorrow had never créatúre,
That is or shal be while the world may dure.
His sleep, his mete, his drynk is him byraft,
That lene he waxeth, and drye as eny shaft.
His eyen hollow, grisly to biholde;
His hewe yellow, and pale as asshen colde,
And solitary he was, and ever alone,
And dwellying al the night, making his mone.
And if he herde song or instrument,
Then wolde he wepe, he might not be silent;
So feble were his spirits, and so lowe,
And chaungèd so, that no man coulde knowe
His speche nor his vois, though men it herde.
And in his look, for al the world he fared
Naught only lyke the lovers heaviness
Of Cupido, but rather lik madnesse,
Engendred of humoúr melancolýk,
In his forehead and braine fántastic.
And shortly turnèd was all up-so-doun
Bothe habit and eek disposicioun
Of him, this woful lovere Dan Arcite.
What shulde I alway of his woe endite?
When he endurèd had a yeer or tuo
This cruel torment, and this peyne and woe,
At Thebes, in his contree, as I seyde,
Upon a night in sleep as he him leyde,
Him thought that how the winged god Mercurie
Byforn him stood, and bad him to be merry.
His slepy staff in hond he bar upright;
An hat he wered upon his heres bright.
Arrayèd was this god (as he took keepe)
As he was when he Argus laid to sleep;
And seyde thus: “To Athenes shalt thou wende;
There is y-shapen of thy woe an ende.”
And with that word Arcite woke and sterte.
“Now tremely how sore that me smerte.
Quoth he, “to Athenes right now wil I fare;
And for the drede of deth shal I not spare
To see my lady, that I love utterlie;
In her presénce I reck not if I die.”
And with that word he caught a gret myrour,
And saw that chaungèd was al his coloúr,
And saw his visage was in another kynde.
And right anon it ran him into mynde,
That since his face was so dísfigúred
Of maladie the which he had endured,
He mighte wel, if that he kept him lowe,
Lyve in Athénes ever more unknowe,
And see his lady wel nigh day by day.
And right anon he chaungéd his aray,
And clothéd him as a pore laborer.
And al alone, save only one squyer,
That knew his counsel well and al his case,
Which was disgysèd poorely as he was,
To Athenes is he gone the nexte way.
And to the court he went upon a day,
And at the gate he profred his servýse,
To dragge and drawe, what-so men wolde devyse.
And shortly on this matter for to seyn,
He fel in office with a chamberleyn,
The which that dwellyng was with Emelye.
For he was wys, and coulde sone aspye
Of every servaunt, which that servèd there.
Wel coulde he hewe woode, and water bere,
For he was yonge and mighty for the nonce,
And also he was long and bygge of bones
To do what eny wight can him devyse.
A yeer or two he was in this servise,
Page of the chambre of Emelye the bright;
And Philostrate he told men that he hight.
But half so wel byloved a man as he
There never was in court of his degree.
He was so gentil of his condicioún,
That throughout al the court was his renoun.
They seyde that it were a charitee
That Theseus would advancen his degree
And putten him in honourable servýse,
Ther where he might his vertu exercise.
And thus withinne a while his name spronge
Bothe of his dede and his goode tonge,
That Theseus hath taken him so neer
That of his chambre he made him be squyer,
And gaf him gold to mayntene his degree;
And eek men brought him out of his countree
Fro yeer to ful pryvyly his rente;
But honestly and slyly he it spente,
That no man wondred how that he it hadde.
And thre yeer in this wise his lyf he ladde,
And bare him so in pees and eek in warre,
Ther was no man that Theseus loveth more.
And in this blisse let I now Arcite,
And speke I wile of Palomon a lyte.
In derknes orrible and strong prisoún
This seven yeer hath livèd Palomon,
All pinèd, what for woe and for distresse.
Who feleth double sorrow and hevynesse
But Palamon? that love constreyneth so,
That quite out of his witt he goth for woe;
And eek therto he is a prisoner
Perpetuelly, nat only for a yeer.
Who coude ryme in Englissh properly
His martirdom? for-sothe it am not I;
Therefore I passe as lightly as I may.
It fel that in the seventhe yeer in May
The thridde night, (as olde bookees seyn,
That al this storie tellen more pleyn)
Were it by áventure or destinee,
(As, when a thing is shapen, it shal be,)
That soone after the mydnyght, Palamoun
By helpyng of a freend brak his prisoún,
And fleeth the citee fast as he may go,
For he had given drinke his gayler so
Of a spicerie and of a certeyn wyn,
With narcotykes and opie of Thebes fyn,
That al that night though that men wolde him shake,
The gayler sleep, he mighte nought awake.
And thus he fleeth as fast as ever he may.
The night was short, and sone cam the day,
That at all needs he most himselven hyde,
And to a grove faste ther besyde
With fearful foot then stalketh Palomoun.
For shortly this was his opynyoun,
That in that grove he wolde him hyde al day,
And in the night then wolde he take his way
To Thebes-ward, and pray his frendes alle
On Theseus to helpe him to battaile.
And shortely, or he wolde lose his lyf,
Of wynnen Emelye unto his wyf.
This is theffect of his intente playn.
Now wil I torne unto Arcite agayn,
That litel wiste how near him was his care,
Til that fortúne hath brought him in the snare.
The busy larke, messager of day,
Saluteth in her song the morning gray,
And fyry Phebus ryseth up so bright,
That al the orient laugheth with the light,
And with his stremes dryeth in the greves
The silver dropes, hongyng on the leeves.
And Arcite, that is in the cours royál
With Theseus, his squyer principal,
Is risen, and loketh on the mery day,
And for to do his óbservance to May
Remembryng all the poynt of his desire,
He on his courser, proud as is the fire,
Is riden to the feeldes him to pleye,
Out of the court, were it a myle or tweye.
And to the grove, of which that I you tolde,
By áventure his wey he gan to holde,
To maken him a garland for the morn,
Were it of woodbyn or of hawe-thorn,
And lowde he song against the sonne sheene:
“May, with al thy floures and thy greene,
Welcome be thou, thou faire fresshe May!
I hope that I som grene getee may.”
And fro his courser, with a lusty herte,
Into the grove ful lustily he sterte,
And in a pathe he romèd up and doun,
Whereas by áventure this Palamoun
Was in a bushe, that no man might him see.
Ful sore aferèd of his deth was he,
And nothing knew he that it was Arcite:
God wot he wolde have trowèd it ful lite.
For soth it hath been seyd ful many yeres,
That feeldes have eyen, and the woode hath eeres.
It is ful wise to bear an evene minde,
At everich hour the foe his foe may finde.
Ful litel wot Arcite of his feláwe,
That was so nigh to herken all his sawe,
For in the busche he sitteth now ful stille.
Whan that Arcite had romèd at his fille,
And songen al the roundel lustily,
Into a studie he fel sodeynly,
As do these lovers in there queynt manére,
Now in the toppe, now lying in the mire,
Now up, now doun, as boket in a welle.
Right as the Friday, sothly for to telle,
Now it shyneth, and now reyneth faste,
Right so gan fickel Venus overcaste
The hertes of her folk, right as her day
Is fickel, right so chaungeth her aray.
Seldom is Friday like each other day.
Whan that Arcite hadde songe, he gan to stay,
And sette him doun withouten eny more:
“Alas!” quoth he, “that day that I was bore!
How longe Juno, thurgh thy crueltee
Wilt thou destroyen Thebes the citee?
Allas! i-brought is to confusioún
The blood royál of Cadme and Amphioun:
Of Cadmus, which that was the firste man
That Thebes built, or first the toun bygan,
And of that citee first was crownèd kyng,
Of his lynáge am I, and his ofspring
By verray lyne, and of his stock royál:
And now I am so caytyf and so thral,
That he that is my mortal enemy,
I serve him as his squyer poorely.
And yet doth Juno me far more shame,
For I dare nought byknowe myn owne name,
But ther as I was wont to be Arcite,
Now am I Philostrate, nought worth a myte.
Allas! thou felle Mars, alas! Juno,
Thus hath youre ire owre lynage all fordo,
Save only me, and wretched Palomon,
That Theseus hath martyred in prisoún.
And over al this, to slay me utterly,
Love hath his fyry dart so brennyngly
I-stickèd thrugh my trewe careful herte,
That shapen was my deth before my shirte.
Ye slay me with youre eyen, Emelye;
Ye be the cause wherfore that I dye.
Of al the remenant of al myn other care
Ne sette I nought the value of a tare,
So that I coude do ought to youre pleasaúnce.”
And with that word he fel doun in a traunce
A longe tyme; and aftirward upsterte
This Palamon, that thoughte thurgh his herte
He felt a cold sword suddenly to glyde;
For ire he quaked, he wolde no longer abyde.
And when that he hath herd Arcites tale,
As he were mad, with face deed and pale,
He sterte him up out of the busshes thikke,
And seyd: “Arcyte, false traitour wikke,
Now art thou caught, that lovest my lady so,
For whom that I have al this peyne and woe,
And art my blood, and to my counseil sworn,
As I ful ofte have told thee here byforn,
And has deceivèd here duk Theseus,
And falsly chaungèd hast thy name thus;
I wil be deed, or else thou shalt dye.
Thou shalt not love my lady Emelye,
But I will love hire only and no mo,
For I am Palomon thy mortal fo.
And though that I no wepen have in this place,
But out of prisoun am y-stert by grace,
I drede not that either thou shalt dye,
Or that thou never shalt love Emelye.
Choose which thou wilt, for thou shalt not departe.”
This Arcita, with ful despiteous herte,
Whan he him knew, and had his tale herde,
As fierce as lyoun pulleth out a swerde,
And seide thus: “By God that sitteth above,
Were it not thou art sike and mad for love,
And eek that thou no wepne hast in this place,
Thou sholdest never out of this grove pace,
Thou shuldest deyen of myn owen hond.
For I defye the suretee and the bond
Which that thou seyst that I have maad to thee.
For, very fool, know well that love is free,
And I will love hire yet for al thy might.
But, for thou art a gentil perfight knight,
And woldest fighten for her by batayle,
Have heere my trothe, to morrow I wil not fayle,
Withouten wittyng of eny other wight,
That heer I wil be founden as a knight,
And bryngen harneys right inough for thee;
And choose the best, and leave the worst for me.
And mete and drynke this night wil I bryng
Inough for thee, and cloth for thy beddynge.
And if so be that thou my lady wynne,
And sle me in this wood that I am inne,
Thou maist wel have thy lady as for me.”
This Palomon answereth, “I graunt it thee.”
And thus they be depart til morning light,
Whan ech of them had pledged his feith to fight.
O Cupide, foe of alle charitee!
O King, that wolt no felaw have with thee,
Ful soth is seyde, that love and eek lordshipe
Wol not, for aught, have any fellowship.
Wel fynden that Arcite and Palamoun.
Arcite is ridden anon unto the toun,
And on the morrow, ere it were day light,
Ful prively two armours hath he dight,
Bothe suffisaunt and mete for to do
The batayl in the feeld betwix them two.
And on his hors, alone as he was borne,
He caryed al this armour him biforn;
And in the grove, at tyme and place i-sette,
This Arcite and this Palamon be mette.
Then changen gan their colour in their face.
Right as the hunter in the land of Trace
That stondeth in the gappe with a spere,
When honted is the lyoun or the bere,
And hereth him come rushing in the greves,
And breking both the bowes and the leves,
And thenketh, “Here cometh my mortel enemy,
Withoute faile, he must be deed or;
For eyther I must slay him at the gappe,
Or he must slee me, if it me myshappe:
So ferden they, in changyng of their hew,
As fer as eyther of them other knew.
Ther was no good day, ne no salutyng;
But streyt withouten word or r/da/ehersyng,
Eche one of them helpeth to arm the other,
As friendly as he were his owen brother;
And thenne with their sharpe speres stronge
They thrusten eche at other wonder longe.
And then it semede that this Palomon
In his fightyng were as a mad lyoun,
And as a cruel tygre was Arcite:
As wilde boores they began to smyte,
That frothen white as fome, in anger wood.
Up to the ancle they fought in there blood.
And in this wise I lete them fightyng welle;
And forthere wil I of duk Theseus telle.
The destinee mynistre general,
That executeth truly over all
The events, that God hath seen and seide byforn;
So strong it is, that though the world had sworn
The contrary of a thing by yea or nay,
Yet som tyme it shal falle upon a day
What falleth nought within a thousand yeere.
For certeynly oure appetites here,
Be it of war, or peace, or hate, or love,
Al is it rulèd by the sight above.
This mene I now by mighty Theseus,
That for to hunten is so désirous,
And namely the grete hert in May,
That in his bed ther dawneth him no day,
He is not clad, and redy for to ryde
With hunt and horn, and houndes him byside.
For in his huntyng hath he such delyt,
That it is al his joye and appetyt
To be himself the grete hertes bane,
For after Mars he serveth now Dyane.
Cleer was the day, as I have told ere this,
And Theseus, with alle joye and bliss,
With his Hippolyta, the fayre queene,
And Emelye, clothèd al in greene,
On huntyng be thay riden royally.
And to the grove, that stood ther faste by,
In which ther was an hert as men him tolde,
Duk Theseus the streyte wey hath holde.
And to the place he rydeth him ful right,
Where was the hert y-wont to have his flight,
And over a brook, and so forth in his weye.
This duk wil have of him a cours of tweye
With houndes, such as he can best comaunde.
And whan this duk was come into the ground,
Under the sonne he loketh, and right anon
Was war of Arcite and of Palomon,
That foughten fierce, as it were bores tuo;
The brighte swerdes wente to and fro
So hideously, that with the leste strook
It seemeth as it wolde felle an oak;
But what they were, nothing did he ween.
This duk his hors smot with his spores sheen,
And at a stert he was betwixt them tuo,
And pulled out a swerd and crièd, “Hoo!
Nomore, on peyne of losyng of your hed.
By mighty Mars, anon he shal be bed,
That smyteth eny strook, that I may see!
But telle me what maner men ye be,
That be so hardy for to fighten here
Withoute judge or other officere,
As it were in a lyste royally?”
This Palamon answerde hastily,
And seyde: “Sir, what nedeth wordes mo?
We have the deth deservèd bothe tuo.
Tue woful wretches be we, and caytyves,
That be encombred of oure owne lyves;
And as thou art a rightful lord and judge,
Give neither eny morcy nor refùge.
And sle me first, for seynte charitee;
But sle my felaw eek as wel as me.
Or sle him first; for, look that thou know him right,
This is thy mortal fo, this is Arcite,
That fro thy lond by thee is banishèd,
For which he hath deservèd to be ded.
For this is he that came to thi gate
And seyd, that he was clepèd Philostrate.
Thus hath he cheated thee ful many a yer,
And thou hast made of him thy cheef squyer.
And this is he that loveth Emelye.
For since the day is come that I shal dye,
I make pleynly my confessioun,
That I am he, the woful Palamoun,
That hath thi prisoun broke wikkedly.
I am thy mortal fo, and it am I
That loveth so hot Emely the bright,
That I wil dye present in his sight.
Therefore I aske deeth and my justice;
But slee my felaw in the same wyse,
For bothe we have deservèd to be slayn.”
This worthy duk answered anon agayn,
And seide: “This is a short conclusioùn:
Your owne mouth, by your owne confessioùn,
Hath damned you bothe, and I wil it recorde.
It needeth nought to hang yow with the corde.
Ye shal be deed by mighty Mars the red!”
The queen anon for very wommonhede
Gan for to wepe, and so ded Emelye,
And alle the ladies in the companye.
Great pity was it, as it thought them alle,
That evere such a chaunce shulde falle;
For gentil men they were and of gret estate,
And nothing but for love was this debate.
And saw their bloody woundes wyde and sore;
And alle they cryden bothe less and more,
“Have mercy, Lord, upon us wommen alle!”
And on there bare knees anon they falle,
And wolde have kissed his feet right as he stood,
Til at the laste aslakèd was his mood;
For pite runneth sone in gentil herte.
And though he first for ire quaked and sterte
He hath it al considered in a clause,
The trespas of them bothe, and eek the cause:
And although that his ire there gylt accused,
Yet he, in his resoùn, them bothe excused;
And thus he thought that every maner man
Wil help himself in love if that he can,
And eek delyver himself out of prisoùn.
And in his gentil hert he thought anon,
Of wommen, for they wepen ever as one;
And in his gentil hert he thought anon,
And sothly he to himself he seyde: “Fy
Upon a lord that wil have no mercy,
But be a lyoun bothe in word and dede,
To them that be in rèpentaùnce and drede,
As wel as to a proud dispiteous man,
That wol maynteyne what he first bigan.
That lord hath litel of discrecioun,
That in such case knows no divisioun;
But wayeth pride and humblenesse as one,
And shortly, whan his ire is over-gon,
He gan to loke on them with lighter eye,
And spak these same wordes in charity.
“The god of love, a! benedicite,
How mighty and how gret a lord is he!
Agaynst his might there standeth no obstácles,
He may be cleped a god for his mirácles;
For he can maken at his owen gyse
Of every herte, al that he wil devyse.
Lo here is Arcite and here Palomon,
That freely weren out of my prisoún,
And might have lyved in Thebes royally,
And know I am their mortal enemy,
And that there deth lieth in my might also,
And yet hath love, for al their eyen tuo,
I-brought them hider bothe for to dye.
Now look ye, is nat that an high folye?
Who may not be a foole, if that he love?
Byholde for Goddes sake that sitteth above,
See how they blede. Be they nought wel arrayed?
Thus hath their lord, the god of love, them payed
Their wages and their fees fro their servise.
And yet they wenen for to be ful wise,
That serven love, for ought that may bifalle.
But this is yet the beste of alle,
That she, for whom they have this jelousye,
Can them therfore as moche thank as me.
She wot no more of al this hote fare,
By God, than wot a cuckow or an hare.
But al must be assayèd hot or colde;
A man must be a fool or yong or olde;
I wot it by myself ful yore agon:
For in my tyme a lover was I one.
And since that I knewe well of loves peyne,
And wot how sore it can a man destreyne,
As he that hath ben oft caught in his trap,
I you forgeve wholly this myshappe,
At the réquest of the queen that kneleth here,
And eek of Emely, my sister deere.
And ye shal both anon unto me swere,
That never ye shal harm my contree deere,
Nor make werre on me by night or day,
But be my freendes in alle that ye may.
I you forgeve this trespas every whit.”
And they him swore his axyng faire and fit,
And him for lordship and for mercy prayde,
And he them graunted mercy, and thus he sayde:
“To speke of royal lynage and richés
Though that she were a queen or a pryncess,
Ech of yow both is worthy douteless
To wedde when tyme is, but nontheles
I speke as for my sister Emelye,
For whom ye have this stryf and jelousye,
Ye wot youreself she may not wedde two
At once, although ye faughten ever mo:
That one of yow, whether he be loth or lief,
He may go play uppon an ivy leef;
This is to say, she may nought have bothe,
Al be ye never so jelous, or so lothe.
Therefore I put you bothe in this degree,
That ech of you shall have his destynee,
As him is shape, and herken in what wyse;
Lo here the ende of that I shal devyse.
My wil is this, for playn conclusioun,
Withouten eny repplicacioun,
If that you liketh, tak it for the best,
That ech of you shall go wherever he list
Frely withouten raunsoun or dangér;
And this day fyfty weekes, fer or near,
Ech of you then shal bryng an hundred knightes
Armèd for lystes here in all our sightes
Al redy to contest her by batayle.
And thus commaunde I you withouten fayle
Upon my trothe, and as I am a knight,
That which of yow two bothe that hath might,
This is to sey, that whethir he or thou
May with his hundred, as I spak of now,
Slay his contráry, or out of lystes dryve,
Him shal I geve faire Emelye to wyve
To whom that fortune geveth so fair a grace
The lyste shal I make here in this place,
And God so wisly on my sowle have ruth,
As I shal even judge be in truth.
Ye shul no othir ende with me make,
That one of yow shal either be ded or take.
And if you thinketh this is wel i-sayde,
Say youre say, and hold yow wel apayde.
This is youre ende and youre conclusioun.”
Who loketh lightly now but Palomoun?
Who spryngeth up for joye but Arcite?
Who coude telle, or who coude wel endite,
The joye that is made in al this place
Whan Theseus hath don so fair a grace?
But down on knees wente every maner wight,
And thankèd him with al their hertes miht,
And namely these two Thebans of his grace.
And thus with good hope and with mery face
They take their leve, and hom-ward bothe they ryde
To Thebes-ward, with olde walles wyde.
I trowe men wold deme it necligence,
If I forgete to telle the dispence
Of Theseus, that goth so busily
To maken up the lystes royally.
And such a noble theatre to see,
I dar say in this world shal never be.
The circuite of it was a myle aboute,
Wallèd of stoon, and dychèd al withoute.
Round was the shape, in maner of compass,
Ful of degrees, the height of sixty pace,
That when a man was set in one degree
He stayèd nought his felaw for to see.
Est-ward ther stood a gate of marbul whit,
West-ward another such in opposit.
And shortly to conclude, such a place
Was non in erthe within so litel space.
In al the lond ther was no craftesman
That géométry or arithmétic can,
Nor portreyour, nor kerver of ymáges,
That géométry or arithmètic can,
The theatre for to maken and devyse.
And for to do his right and sacrifise,
He est-ward hath upon the gate above,
In worship of Venus, goddess of love,
Don make an altar and an oratory;
And westward in the mynde and memory
Of Mars, he hath i-makèd a temple hy
That coste of gold and silver largely.
And northward, in a toret on the walle,
Of alabaster whit and red corálle
An oratory riche for to see,
To clene Dyane, goddess of chastitee,
Hath Theseus i-wrought in noble wise.
But yit had I forgeten to devyse
The nobil kervyng, and the portretures,
The shape, and countenaunce of the figúres,
That weren in these oratories three.
Furst in the temple of Venus thou may see
Wrought in the wal, ful piteous to byholde,
The broken slepes, and the sighes colde;
The sacred teeres, and the lámentyng;
The fyry strokes and the désiryng,
That loves servaunts in this lyf enduren;
The othes that their covenants assuren.
Plesánce and hope, desyr, fool-hardynesse,
Beautee and youthe, lecherie and richesse,
Charmes and sorcery, lesynges and flatery,
Dispense, busynes, and jelousy,
That wered of yelow goldes a gerland,
And a cukkowe sittyng on her hand;
Festes, and instruments, carols, and daunces,
Lust and array, and al the circumstaunces
Of love, which I rekned and reken shal,
Ech by the other were peynted on the wal.
And mo than I can make of mencioun.
For sothly al the mount of Citheroun,
Where Venus hath her principal dwellyng,
Was shewèd on the wal in portrayng
With alle the gardyn, and al the lustynes.
Nought was forgot; the porter Idelnesse,
And Narcisus the fayr of long agon,
And al the foly of kyng Salomon,
And al the grete strengthe of Hercules,
Thenchauntements of Medea and Cerces,
And of Turnús the hard fyry coráge,
The riche Cresus caytif in serváge.
Thus may we see, that wisdom and riches,
Beautee and sleighte, strengthe and hardynes,
May not with Venus holde comparisoún,
For as she liste she turneth up or doun.
Lo, al this folk i-caught were in her trace,
Til they for wo ful often sayde allas.
Sufficeth this ensample one or tuo,
Although I rekon coud a thousend mo.
The statu of Venus, glorious for to see,
Was naked flotyng in the large see,
And from the navel doun al covered was
With waves grene, and bright as eny glas.
In her right hand a harpe hadde she,
And on her hed, ful semely for to see,
A rose garland swete and wel smellyng,
Above her heed her doves were flickering.
Bifore hir stood hir sone Cupido,
Upon his shuldres were wynges two;
And blynd he was, as it is often seene;
A bowe he bare and arrows fair and keene.
Why shuld I not as wel telle you alle
The portraiture, that was upon the walle
Within the temple of Mars of mighty strength?
Al peynted was the wal in bredth and length
Like to the halles of the grisly place,
Y-callèd the gret temple of Mars in Thrace,
Within that colde and frosty regioún,
Where Mars hath built his sovereyn mansioún.
First on the wal was peynted a foréste,
In which ther dwellède neyther man nor beste,
With knotty knarry bareyn treës olde
With stubbes sharpe and hideous to beholde;
In which ther ran a rumble and a moan,
As though a storme shulde tear the branches down:
And downward wher the hil to the plaine is bent,
Ther stood the temple of Mars armypotent,
Wrought al of burnèd steel, of which the entry
Was long and streyt, and ghastly for to see.
And therout came a blast in suche wise,
That it made al the gates for to rise.
The northern light in at the dore shone,
For wyndow on the walle was ther none,
Through which men might the light of day discerne.
The dores wer alle adamant eterne,
Y-clenchèd overthwart and endelong
With iron tough; and, for to make it strong,
Every pillar the temple to sustaine
Was round and greet, or iron bright and sheene.
Ther saw I first the dark imagining
Of felony, and al the compassyng;
The cruel wrath, as eny furnace red;
The pickepurs, and eke the pale Dread;
The smyler with the knyf under his cloke:
The stables burnyng with the blake smoke;
The tresoun of the murtheryng in the bed;
The open warres, with woundes al y-bled;
Conflict with bloody knyf, and sharp menáce.
Al ful of shriekyng was that sory place.
The slayer of himself yet saw I ther,
His herte blood hath bathèd al his hair;
The nayl y-dryven in the skull at nyght;
The colde deth, with mouth gapyng upright.
In midst of al the temple sat meschaunce,
With sory comfort and evil countynaúnce.
Ther I saw madness laughyng in his rage;
Arméd complaint, alarm and fierce outráge.
The body in the bushe, with throte y-bled:
A thousand slayne, and none of sickness dead;
The tiraunt, with the prey bi force y-refte;
The toune distroyèd, there was no thing lefte.
Ther burnt the shippes daunsyng up and doun;
Ther dyed the hunter by the wilde lión:
The sowe eatyng the child right in the cradel;
The cook y-skalded, for al his longe ladel.
Nought was forgot the ill-fortüne of Mart;
The carter over-ridden by his cart,
Under the wheel ful lowe he lay adoun.
Ther wer also in Mars his regioún,
The barbour, and the butcher, and the smyth
That forgeth sharpe swordes on his stith.
And al above y-peynted in a tour
Saw I Conquest sittyng in grete honoúr,
The scharpe swerde hangyng over his hed
Y-fastened by a slender twines thread.
Y-peynted was the slaughter of Julius,
Of grete Nero, and of Antonius;
Al be that at that tyme they were unborn,
Yet was there deth y-peynthed ther beforn,
By menacyng of Mars, each ones figúre,
So was it shewèd in the pourtretúre
As is y-peynted in the sterres above,
Who shal be slayn or who shal dye for love.
Sufficeth one example in stories olde,
I may not reken them alle, though I wolde.
The statue of Mars upon a carte stood,
Armèd, and lovèd grym and red as blood;
And over his hed ther shyneth two figures
Of sterres, that be clepèd in scriptures,
The one Puella, that other Rubius.
This god of armes was arrayèd thus.
A wolf ther stood byforn him at his feet
With eyen red, and of a man he ate;
With subtil pencel peynted was this storie,
In honouring of Mars and of his glorie.
Now to the temple of Dyane the chaste
As shortly as I can I wil me haste,
To telle you al the descripcioún,
Depeynted be the walles up and doun,
Of huntyng and of shamefast chastitee.
Ther saw I how woful Calystopé,
When that Dyane was agreved with her,
Was turnèd from a womman to a bere,
And after was she made the lode-sterre;
Thus was it peynted, I can say no more;
Hir son is eek a star, as men may see.
Ther saw I Dyane turned intil a tree,
I mene nought the hy goddés Dyane,
But Peneus doughter, the whiche highte Dane.
Ther saw I Atheon an hert i-makèd,
For vengeance that he saw Dyane al naked;
I saw how that his houndes have him caught
And eten him, for that they knew him naught.
Yit peynted was a litel forthermore.
How Atthalaunce huntyd the wilde bore,
And Melyagre, and many another mo,
For which Dyane wrought them care and wo.
Ther saw I eek ful many another story,
The which me list not drawe in memory.
This goddess on an hert ful hy she sat,
With smale houndes al aboute hir feet,
And undernethe her feet she had the moone,
Wexyng it was, and shulde wane soone.
In gaude greene her statue clothèd was,
With bowe in hande, and arrows in a case.
Hir eyen caste she ful lowe adoun,
Where Pluto hath his derke regioún.
A womman travailyng was hir biforn,
But for her child so longe was unborn
Ful piteously Lucyna gan she calle,
And seyde, “Help, for thou mayst best of alle.”
Wel coude he peynten lyf-like that it wrought,
With many a floren he the hewes bought.
Now be these listes made, and Theseus
That at his grete cost arayèd thus
The temples and the theatres to see,
When it was don, it liked him wonderly.
But stynt I wil of Theseus a lite,
And speke of Palomon and of Arcite.
The day approcheth of their tourneying,
That eche shuld an hundred knightes brynge,
The batail to maintain, as I you tolde;
And to Athenes, their covenant to holde,
Hath eche of them brought out an hundred knightes
Wel armèd for the werre at alle rights.
And certeynly ther trowèd many a man
That never, since the day this world bigan,
To speke of knighthod or of high degree,
As fer as God hath makèd land or sea,
Came, from so fewe, so good a company.
For every wight that loveth chyvalry,
And wolde seek to have a noble name
Hath preyèd that he might be of that game;
Wel was to him, that therto chosen was.
For if ther felle to morrow such a case,
I knowe wel, that every lusty knight
That loveth his lady, and that hath his might,
Were it in Engelond, or elleswhere,
They wolde longen douteless to be there.
To fighte for a lady; bencité!
It were a lusty sighte for to see.
And right so journeyed they with Palomon.
With him ther wente knyghtes many a oon;
Some will be armèd in an armour stout,
In a brest-plat and in a lighte cote;
And som wold have a peyre of plates large;
And som wold have a Pruce shield, or targe;
Som wil be armèd on their legges weel,
And have an ax, and eek a mace of steel.
Ther is no newe gyse, that is not old.
Armèd were they, as I have now you told,
Eche at his pleasure and opinioun.
There mayst thou see comyng with Palomoun
Ligurge himself, the grete kyng of Thrace;
Blak was his berd, and manly was his face.
The circles of his eyen in his hed
They glowéden bytwixe yellow and red,
And lik a griffoun lokèd he aboute,
With shaggy heres on his browes stoute;
His lymes greet, his brawnes hard and stronge,
His shuldres brood, his armes rounde and longe.
And as the gyse was in his contree,
Ful heye upon a car of gold stood he,
With foure whitee bulls in the traces.
In stede of cote armoúr on his harness,
He had a bere skyn, cole-blak and old,
With nailes yelwe, and bright as eny gold.
His longe heer y-kempt byhynd his bak,
As eny raven fether it shone for blak.
A wrethe of gold arm-great, and huge of weight,
Upon his hed, set ful of stones bright,
Of fyne rubies and of dyamaunts.
Aboute his car ther wenten white hounds,
Twenty and mo, as grete as eny steer,
To hunten at the lyoun or the bere,
And followed him, with muzzle fast i-bounde,
Collared with golde, and ringes fylèd rounde.
An hundred lordes had he in his route
Armèd ful wel, with hertes stern and stoute.
With Arcite, as in stories ye shal finde,
The gret Emetreus, the kyng of Ynde,
Uppon a steede bay, trappèd in steel,
Covered with cloth of gold dyápred wel,
Cam rydyng lyk the god of armes, Mars.
His cote armour was of a cloth of Tars,
Broided with perles whyte, round and grete.
His sadil was of burnt gold newe y- bete;
A mantelet upon his shuldre hangyng
Brim-ful of rubies red, as fire sparklyng.
His crispe hair all into ringes dight,
And that was yelwe, and gliteryng as the light,
His nose was high, his eyen bright and keen,
His lippes rounde, his colour was sangwyn,
A fewe frekles in his face y-sprinkled,
Betwixe yelwe and blak somewhat y-mingled,
And as a lyoun he his lokyng caste.
Of fyve and twenty yeer his age I caste.
His berd was wel bygonne for to sprynge;
His voys was as a trumpe thunderynge.
Upon his hed he werèd laurel grene
A garlond fresch and lusty for to sene.
Upon his hond he bar for his delyt
An egle tame, as eny lylie whyt.
An hundred lordes had he with him ther,
Al armèd save their hedes in their gear,
Ful richely in alle maner thinges.
For truste wel, that dukes, erles, kynges,
Were gadred in this noble companye,
For love, and for encrease of chivalrye.
Aboute the kyng ther ran on every part
Ful many a tame lyoun and lepard.
And in this wise these lordes alle and some
Be on the Sonday to the citee come
Aboute prime, and in the toun alight.
This Theseus, this duk, this worthy knight,
Whan he had brought them into this citee,
And innèd them, eche one at his degree
He festeth them, and doth so gret laboúr
To lodge them, and do them al honoúr,
That yit men thinketh that no mannes wyt
Of non estat coude aught amenden it.
The mynstralcye, the servyce at the feste,
The grete giftes to the most and leste,
The riche aray of Theseus palace,
And who sat first and last upon the dais,
What ladies fayrest be or best daunsyng,
Or which of them can harpen best or syng,
And who most felyngly speketh of love;
What haukes sitten on the perche above,
What houndes lyen in the floor adoun,
Of al this make I now no mencioun;
But of theffect; that thinketh me the beste;
Now comth the poynt, and herken if youeleste.
The Sonday night, ere day bigan to springe,
When Palomon the larke herde synge,
Although it were nought day by houres tuo,
Yit sang the larke, and Palomon also
With holy herte, and with an high coráge
He rose, to wenden on his pilgrymage
Unto the blisful Cithera benigne,
I mene Venus, honorable and digne.
And in her hour he walketh forth a pace
Unto the lystes, where hir temple was,
And doun he kneleth, and, with humble cheer
And herte sore, he seide as ye shal heer.
“Fairest of faire, o lady myn Venús,
Doughter of Jove, and spouse to Vulcanus,
Thou gladder of the mount of Citheroun,
For that great love thou haddest to Adon
Have pitee on my bitter teeres smerte,
And tak myn humble prayer to thin herte.
Allas! I have no langage for to telle
Theffectes or the torments of myn helle;
Myn herte may myn harmes not betray;
I am so confus, that I may not seye.
But mercy, lady bright, that knowest wel
My thought, and felest what harm that I feel,
Consider al this, have ruth upon my sore,
And wisely shal I now for evermore
With all my might thi trewe servant be,
And holde werre alday with chastitee;
That make I myn avow, so ye me helpe.
I care not of armes for to yelpe,
Nor do I aske to morn to have victorie,
Or rénoun in this case, or veyne glorie
Of pris of armes, blowyng up and doun,
But I wolde have the ful possessioun
Of Emelye, and dye in thi servise;
Fynd thou the maner how, and in what wyse.
I recche nat, if it may better be,
To have victorie of him, or he of me,
So that I have my lady in myn armes.
For though so be that Mars be god of armes,
And ye be Venus, the goddéss of love,
Youre vertu is so gret in heven above,
Thy temple wil I worshipe evermo,
And on thin altar, whether I ryde or go,
I wil do sacrifice, and fyres light.
And if ye wil nat so, my lady bright,
Then pray I thee tomorrow with a darte
That fiers Arcite may pierce me to the herte.
Thenne rekke I not, when I have lost my lyf,
Though that Arcita have hir to his wyf.
This is theffect and ende of my prayére;
Gif me my love, thou blisful lady deere.”
Whan the orisoun was don of Palomon,
His sacrifice he dede, and that anon
Ful piteously, with alle circumstances,
Though telle I nat as now his óbservánces.
But at the last the statu of Venus shook,
And made a signe, wherby that he took
That his prayér accepted was that day.
For though the signe shewèd a delay,
Yet wist he wel that graunted was his boone;
And with glad herte he went him hom ful soone.
The third hour inequál that Palomon
Bigan to Venus temple for to goon,
Up rose the sonne, and up rose Emelye,
And to the temple of Dian gan she hye.
Hir maydens, that she with hir thider ladde,
Ful redily with them the fyr they hadde,
The incense, the clothes, and the remnant al
That to the sacrifice longen shal;
The hornes ful of mead, as is the gyse;
Ther lakketh nought to do their sacrifise.
Smokyng the temple, ful of clothes faire.
This Emelye with herte debonaire
Hir body wessh with watir of a welle;
But how she dide her rite I dare nat telle,
Save it be eny thing in general;
And yet it were a game to here it al;
To him that meneth wel it were no wrong:
But it is good a man sholde kepe his tong.
Hir brighte hair was kempt, untressèd al;
A corone of a grene oak cerial
Upon hir heed was set ful fair and bright.
Tuo fyres on the alter gan she light,
And did al thinges, as men may biholde
In Stace of Thebes, and the bokes olde.
Whan kyndled was the fyr, with piteous cheere
Unto Dyan she spak, as ye may heere.
“O chaste goddes of the woodes greene,
By whom bothe heven and erthe and see is seene,
Queen of the regne of Pluto derk and lowe,
Goddes of maydenes, that myn hert has knowe
Ful many a yeer, ye wot what I desire,
So keep me fro the vengeance and the ire,
That Atheon did suffer trewely:
O chaste goddesse, wel knowest thou that I
Desire to be a mayden al my lyf,
Nor never wil I be no love nor wyf.
I am yit, thou knowest, of thi company,
A mayden, and love huntyng and venery,
And for to walken in the woodes wylde,
And nought to be a wyf, and be with chylde.
Nought wil I knowe the company of man.
Now helpe me, lady, since ye may and kan,
For the three formes that thou hast in the.
And Palomon, that hath such love to me,
And eek Arcite, that loveth me so sore,
This grace I praye thee withouten more,
And sende love and pees betwix them two;
And fro me torne awey their hertes so,
That al their hote love, and their desire,
And al their torment, and their busy fyre
Be quensht, or turnèd in another place.
And if so be thou wolt do me no grace,
Or if my destynee be shapid so,
That I shal needes have one of them two,
So send me him that most desireth me.
Biholde, goddes of clene chastitee,
The bitter teeres that on my cheekes falle.
Since thou art mayde, and keper of us alle,
My maydenhode thou kepe and wel conserve,
And whil I lyve a mayde I wil thee serve.”
The fyres burn upon the alter cleer,
Whil Emelye was thus in hir preyér;
But sodeinly she saw a sighte queynt,
For right anon one of the fyres did faint,
And glowed agayn, and after that anon
That other fyr was quensht, and al agon;
And as it quensht, it made a whistelyng,
As doth a wete brand in his burning.
And at the brandes end out ran anon
As it were bloody dropes many a one;
For which so sore agast was Emelye,
That she wel nigh mad was, and gan to crie,
For she ne wiste what it signifyed;
But all alone for feere thus she cryed,
And wepte, that it was pitee to heere.
And therewithal Dyane gan appeere,
With bow in hond, right as a hunteresse,
And seyd; “A! doughter, stynt thyn hevynesse.
Among the goddes hye it is affermed,
And by eterne word writ and confermed,
Thou shalt be wedded unto one of those,
That have for the so many cares and woes;
But unto which of them may I nat telle.
Farwel, for I may here no lenger dwelle.
The fyres which that on myn alter burn
Shal thee declare, ere that thou homward turn,
Thyn áventure of love, and in this place.”
And with that word, the arrows in the case
Of the goddesse clatren faste and rynge,
And forth she went, and made a vanysshynge,
For which this Emelye astoneyd was,
And seide, “What amounteth this, allas!
I put me under thy proteccioún,
Dyane, and in thi disposicioun.”
And hom she goth anon the nexte way.
This is theffect, ther is no more to say.
The houre nexte of Mars that folowed this,
Arcite unto the temple walkyd is,
To fyry Mars to do his sacrifise,
With al the rightes of his pagan wise.
With piteous herte and hy devocioún,
Right thus to Mars he sayd his orisoún:
“O stronge god, that in the countree colde
Of Trace honoúred and lord art thou y-hold,
And hast in every realm and every land
Of armes al the bridel in thy hand,
And guidest al as thou dost wel devyse,
Accept of me my piteous sacrifise.
If so be that my youthe may deserve,
And that my might be worthi for to serve
Thy godhed, that I may be one of thine,
Then pray I thee have pity on my pyne,
For that same peyne, and for that hote fyr,
In which whilom thou burnedst for desyre,
Whan that thou didst obtaine the gret beautee
Of faire Venus, that is so fressh and free,
And haddest hir in armes at thy wille;
Though on a tyme mischeef thee bifel,
When Vulcan caught thee in his nette wide,
And fand thee liggyng by his wyfes side
For that same sorwe that was in thin herte,
Have pity too upon my peynes smerte.
I am yong and unkonnyng, as thou knowst,
And, as I trowe, with love offendid most,
That ever was eny lyve créatúre;
For she, that doth me al this wo endure,
Ne rekketh never whether I synke or live.
And wel I wot, ere she me mercy give,
I must with strengthe wyn hir in the place;
And wel I wot, withouten help or grace
Of thee, my strengthe may nought a whit avayle.
Then help me, lord, tomorrow in my batayle,
For that same fyr that whilom burnèd the,
Right so this fyre now it burneth me;
Make now tomorrow I have the victorie.
Myn be the travail, al thin be the glorie.
Thy soverein tempul wol I most honoúren
Of any place, and alway most laboúren
In thy pleasure and in thy craftes stronge.
And in thy tempul I wil my baner hong,
And alle the armes of my companye,
And ever more, unto that day I dye,
Eterne fyr I wol bifore thee fynde.
And eek to this avow I wil me bynde:
My beard, myn heer that hangeth longe adoun,
That never yit has felt offensioún
Of rasour or of shere, I wil thee give,
And be thy trewe servaunt whiles I lyve.
Lord, have thou pity uppon my sorrows sore,
Gif me the victorie, I aske no more.”
The preyer ended of Arcite the strang,
The rynges on the tempul dore that hang,
And eek the dores, clatereden ful fast,
Of which Arcita somwhat was agast.
The fires brenden on the alter bright,
That it gan al the tempul for to light;
A swete smel anon the ground did give,
Anon his hond Arcita did upheave,
And more encens into the fyr yet cast,
With othir rightes, and than atte last
The statu of Mars bigan his hauberk rynge,
And with that soun he herd a murmurynge
Ful lowe and dym, and sayde thus, “Victorie.”
For which he gaf to Mars honoúr and glorie.
And thus with joye, and hope wel to win,
Arcite anon is gon unto his inne,
As fayn as bird is of the brighte sonne.
And right anon such stryf there is bygonne
For that same grauntyng, in the heven above,
Bitwixe Venus the goddés of love,
And Mars the sterne god armypotent,
That Jupiter was busy it to stent;
Til that the pale Saturnus the colde,
That knew so many àventures olde,
Found in his old experiens an art,
That he ful sone hath plesyd every part.
As soth is sayd, eld hath gret ávantage,
In eld is bothe wisdom and uságe;
Men may out-runne but not out-counselle age.
Saturne anon, to stynte stryf and rage,
Although to do thys be agaynst his mind,
Of al this stryf he can a remedy fynde.
“My deere doughter Venus,” quoth Saturne,
“My cours, that hath so wyde for to turne,
Hath more power than wot eny man.
Myn is the drowning in the see so wan;
Myn is the prisoun in the derke ward;
Myn is the stranglyng and hangyng by the cord;
The murmur, and the cherles rébellyng;
The gronyng, and the privy enpoysonyng,
I make vengance and ful correctioun,
Whiles dwellyng in the signe of the lyoun.
Myn is the ruin of the hye halles,
The fallyng of the toures and the walles
Upon the mynour or the carpenter.
I slew Samson in shakyng the piler:
And myne be the maladies colde,
The derke tresoun, and the plottes olde;
Myn eye is the fadir of pestilens.
Now wepe nomore, I shal do my diligence,
That Palomon, that is myn own servaunt,
Shal have his lady, as thou didst him graunt.
Though Mars shal kepe his knight, yet nevertheles
Bitwixe you ther must som tyme be pees;
Al be ye nought of one complexioún,
That every day causeth divisioún.
I am thi fadirs fadir, at thy wille;
Wepe thou nomore, I wil thi lust fulfille.”
Now wil I stinten of the goddes above,
Of Mars, and of Venús goddéss of love,
And telle you, as pleinly as I can,
The grete effecte for which that I bigan.
Gret was the fest in Athenes on that day,
And eek the lusty sesoun of that May
Made every wight to be in such plesaunce
That al the Monday jousten they and daunce,
And spenden it in Venus high servise.
But by the cause that they shal arise
Erly amorrow for to see that fight,
Unto their reste wente they at nyght,
And on the morrow whan the day gan spryng,
Of hors and harness noyse and clateryng
Ther was in al the hostelryes aboute;
And to the paleys rode ther many a route
Of lordes, upon steedes and palfréys.
Ther mayst thou see devysing of harness
So uncouth and so riche wrought and wel
Of goldsmithry, of broidery, and steel;
The sheldes bright, the helmets, and trappings;
Gold-beten helmes, hauberks, and cote armings;
Lordes in clothes riche on their coursers,
Knightes of retenu, and eek squyers
Nailing the speres, and helmes buckelyng,
Girdyng of sheeldes, with the thongs lacyng;
Where the need was, there they were nothing ydel
Ther fomen steedes, on the golden bridel
Gnawyng, and faste the armurers also
With fyle and hamer prikyng to and fro;
Yeomen on foot, and knaves many a one
With shorte staves, as thikke as they may goon;
Pypes, and trompes, drums, and clariounes,
That in the batail blewe bloody sownes;
The paleys ful of pepul up and doun,
Heer three, ther ten, holdyng there questioun,
Dyvynyng of these Thebans knightes two.
Som seyden thus, som seyd it shal be so;
Som held with him that hath the blake berd,
Som with the bald, som with the thikke haired;
Som sayd he lokèd grym and wolde fight;
He hath an ax of twenti pound of wight.
Thus was the halle ful of dévynyng,
Long after that the sonne gan to springe.
The gret Theseus that of his sleep is wakèd
With menstralcy and noyse that was makèd,
Kept yit the chambre of his paleys rare,
Til that the Thebanes knyghtes bothe were
Honoúrèd, and into the paleys go.
Duk Theseus was set at a wyndow,
Arayèd, right as he were god on throne.
The pepul preseth thider-ward ful sone
Him for to see, and do him reverence,
And eek herken his hest and his sentence.
An herauld on a skaffold made a hoo,
Til al the noyse of the pepul was i-do;
And whan he saw the pepul of noyse al stille,
Thus shewèd he the mighty dukes wille.
“The lord hath of his hy discrecioun
Considered, that it were destruccioun
To gentil blood, to fighten in this wise
In mortal batail in this enterprise;
Wherfor to shapen that they shuld not dye,
He wil his firste purpos modifye.
No man therfore, on peyne of los of lyf,
No maner shot, nor pollax, nor schort knyf
Into the lystes sende, or thider brynge;
Nor schorte swerd to stick with poynt bytyng
No man shal drawe, or bere by his side.
And noman shal agayns his felawe ryde
But one cours, with a sharpe y-grounden spere;
If eny fall he shal on foote fight there.
And he that is the loser, shal be take,
And not slayn, but be brought unto the stake,
That shal be fixèd hy on eyther syde;
But thider he shal by force, and ther abyde.
And if so falle, a chieftayn shulde go
Unto the stake, or elles slay his fo,
No lenger shal the fight betwixe them laste.
God spede you; go forth and ley on faste.
With long swerd and with mace fight your fille.
Go now your way; this is the lordes wille.”
The voices of the pepul touch the sky,
So lowde crièd thei with jollitee:
“God save such a lord that is so good,
He willeth no destruccioun of blood!”
Up go the trompes and the melodye.
And to the lystes ryde the companye
By ordynaunce, throughout the citee large,
Hangyng with cloth of gold, and not with serge.
Ful lik a lord this nobul duk can ryde,
And these two Theban knightes on eyther side;
And after rode the queen, and Emelye,
And after, of ladyes another companye,
And after, comunes al in there degree.
And thus they passéden thurgh that citee,
And to the lystes come thei by tyme.
It was not of the day yet fully pryme,
When sette was duk Theseus riche and hye,
Hippolyta the queen and Emelye,
And other ladyes in there degrees aboute.
Unto the seates presseth al the route;
And westeward, thorugh the gates of Mart,
Arcite, and eek the hundred of his part,
With baners red ys entred right anon;
And at that same moment Palomon
Is, under Venus, est-ward in that place,
With baner whyt, and hardy cheer and face.
In al the world, to seeken up and doun,
So even withoute doute or questión
Ther never were suche companyes tweye.
For ther was non so wys that coude seye,
That any had of the other ávantage
In worthines, or state or in viságe,
So evene were they chosen for to gesse.
And in two rankes faire they them dresse.
And when there nombre i-rad were everyone,
That in there nombre guile was ther non,
Then were the gates shut, and crièd lowde:
“Do now your devoir, yonge knightes proude!”
The heralds laft there prikyng up and doun;
Now ryngede out the tromp and clarioun;
Ther is nomore to say, but est and west
In go the speres ful surely in the rest;
Ther see men who can juste, and who can ryde;
In goth the sharpe spur into the side.
Ther shiver shaftes upon shuldres thyk;
He feeleth thurgh the navel the sharpes prik.
Up sprengen speres twenty foot on hight;
Out go the swerdes as the silver bright.
The helmes they to-hewen and to-shred;
Out brast the blood, with runnyng stremes red,
With mighty maces the bones thay to-burst.
He thurgh the thikkest of the throng gan thrust.
Ther stomble steedes strong, and doun gan falle.
He rolleth under foot as doth a balle.
He fighteth on his foot with a tronchoun,
And hurleth the other with his hors adoun.
He thurgh the body hurt is, and is take
Will he or no, and brought unto the stake,
As covenant was, right where he must abyde.
Another lad is on that other syde.
And Theseus doth make them al to reste,
Them to refressche, and drinke if so them list.
Ful oft a-day these knights, these Thebans two
Togider met, and wrought his felaw wo;
Unhorsèd hath ech other of them tweye.
Ther was no tygyr in the vale of Galgopleye,
Whan that her whelp is stole, whan it is lite,
So cruel on the hunt, as is Arcite
For jelous hert upon this Palomon:
Nor in Belmary ther is no fell lion,
That hunted is, or is for hunger wood,
Nor of his prey desireth so the blood,
As Palomon to slay his fo Arcite.
The jelous strokes on their helmes byte;
Out renneth blood on bothe their sides red.
Som tyme an ende ther is on every deed;
For ere the sonne unto his reste went,
The strange king Emetreus gan hent
This Palomon, as he faught with Arcite,
And deep into his flessh his swerd did byte;
And by the force of twenti he is take
Unyielded, and y-drawn unto the stake.
And in the rescue of this Palomon
The stronge kyng Ligurg is born adoun;
And kyng Emetreus for al his strengthe
Is borne out of his sadel his swerdes lengthe,
So hit him Palamon ere he were take;
But al for nought, he brought was to the stake.
His hardy herte might him helpe nought;
He most abyde when that he was caught,
By force, and eek by composicioun.
Who sorroweth now but woeful Palomoun,
That may nomore go agayn to fight?
And when that Theseus had seen that sight,
He cryèd, “Ho! nomore, for it is don!
And non shal longer unto his felaw goon.
I wol be trewe judge, and no partýe.
Arcyte of Thebes shal have Emelýe,
That hath her by his fortune now i-wonne.”
Anon ther is a noyse of people begun
For joye of this, so loude and heye withalle,
It semèd that the very listes wolde falle.
What can now fayre Venus do above?
What seith she now? what doth this queen of love?
But wepeth so, for wantyng of her wille,
Til that her teeres in the lystes fill;
She seyde: “I am ashamèd douteless.”
Saturnus seyd: “O Daughter, hold thy peace.
Mars hath his wille, his knight hath all his boon,
And by myn heed thou shalt be esèd soone.”
The trompes with the lowde mynstralcy,
The heraldes, that ful lowde yelle and cry,
Been merry in there joye for Dan Arcyte.
But herk to me, and stay but yet a lite,
For there bifel a miracle anon.
This Arcyte fiercely hath put his helm adoun,
And on his courser for to shewe his face,
He prikèd up and down the large place,
Lokyng upward upon his Emelye;
And she agayn him cast a frendly eye,
(For wommen, for to speke as in comune,
Thay follow alle the favour of fortúne)
And was alle his in cheer, and in his herte.
Out of the ground a fyr infernal stert,
From Pluto sent, at réquest of Satúrne,
For which his hors for feere gan to turne,
And leep asyde, and foundred as he leep;
And ere that Arcyte may of this take keep,
He pight him on the pomel of his hed,
That in that place he lay as he were ded,
His brest to-broken with his sadil bowe.
As blak he lay as eny coal or crowe,
So was the blood y-ronnen in his face.
Anon he was y-born out of the place
With herte sore, to Theseus paleys.
Then was he carven out of his harnéys,
And in a bed ful fair and soft y-brought,
For yit he was in memory and thought,
And alway crying after Emelye.
Duk Theseus, and al his companye,
Is comen hom to Athenes his citee,
With alle bliss and gret solemnitee.
Al be it that this áventure was falle,
He wolde nought discómforten them alle.
Men seyd eek, that Arcita schuld nought dye,
He shal be helèd of his maladye.
And of another thing they were as fayn,
That of them alle ther was non y-slayn,
Al were they sore hurt, and namely one,
That with a spere was piercèd his brest bone.
To other woundes, and to-broken armes,
Some hadden salves, and some hadden charmes,
Drugges of herbes and sage the doctours gave
To drinken, for they wolde their lyves save.
And eek this noble duk, as he wel can,
Comfórteth and honoúreth every man,
And made revel al the longe night,
Unto the straunge lordes, as it was right.
Nor ther was holden no discomfytyng,
But as at justes or at a tourneyinge;
For sothly ther was no discomfiture,
For fallynge doun is but an áventure.
And to be led with fors unto the stake
Unyielden, and with twenty knightes take,
A person allone, withouten helpers moo,
And draggèd forth by arme, foot, and toe,
And eke his steede dryven forth with staves,
With footemen, bothe yeomen and eke knaves,
It was not counted him no vilonye,
Nor any man held it for cowardye.
For which duk Theseus loud anon let crie,
To stynten al rancoúr and al envýe,
The prize was wel on o syde as on other,
And every side lik, as others brother;
And gaf them giftes after there degree,
And fully held a feste dayes three;
And convoyèd the knightes worthily
Out of his toun a journee largely.
And hom went every man the righte way.
Ther was no more, but “Farwel, have good day!”
Of this batayl I wol no more endite,
But speke of Palomon and of Arcyte.
Swelleth the brest of Arcyte, and the sore
Encreaseth at his herte more and more.
The clothred blood, for all the leche-craft,
Corrumpith, and is in his body left,
That neither veyne blood, ne any cutting,
Ne drynk of herbes may be his helpyng.
The vertu expulsif, or animal,
From thilke vertu clepèd natural,
May not the venym voyde, nor expelle.
The pypes of his lunges gan to swelle,
And every muscle in his brest adoun
Is filled with venym and corrupcioun.
There holp him neither, for to get his lyf,
Vomyt up-ward, ne doun- ward laxatif;
Al is to-broken thilke regioún;
Nature hath now no dominacioún.
And certeynly where nature wil not wirche,
Farwel phisik; go bere the man to chirche.
This is the end, that Arcyte moste dye.
For which he sendeth after Emelye,
And Palomon, that was his cosyn deere.
Than seyd he thus, as ye shal after heere.
“Naught may the woful spirit in myn herte
Declare a poynt of all my sorrows smerte
To you, my lady, that I love most;
But I byquethe the service of my ghost
To you aboven every créatúre,
Since that my lyf may now no longer dure.
Allas, the wo! allas, the peynes stronge,
That I for you have suffred, and so longe!
Allas, the deth! alas, myn Emelye!
Allas, departyng of our companye!
Allas, myn hertes queen! allas, my wyf!
Myn hertes lady, ender of my lyf!
What is this world? what asken men to have?
Now with his love, now in his colde grave
Allone withouten eny companye.
Farwel, my swete! farwel, myn Emelye!
And softe take me in your armes tweye,
For love of God, and herk to what I seye.
I have heer with my cosyn Palomon
Had stryf and rancour many a day i-gon,
For love of you, and eek for jelousie.
And Jupiter have on my soul pitye,
To speken of a lover proprely,
With alle circumstances trewely,
That is to seyn, truthe, honour, and knighthede,
Wysdom, humblesse, estate, and high kindrede,
Fredom, and al that longeth to that art,
So Jupiter have of my soule part,
As in this world right now I knowe non
So worthy to be loved as Palomon,
That serveth you, and wil do al his lyf.
And if that ye shal ever be a wyf,
Forget not Palomon, that gentil man.”
And with that word his speche faile gan;
For from his herte up to his brest was come
The cold of deth, that him had overcome.
And yet moreover in his armes two
The vital strength is lost, and al i-go.
At last the intellect, withouten more,
That dwellèd in his herte sik and sore,
Gan fayle, when the herte felte death,
Duskèd his eyen two, and fayled his breth.
But on his lady yit he cast his eye;
His laste word was, “Mercy, Emelye!”
His spiryt chaungèd was, and wente there,
As I cam never, I can not tellen where.
Therefore I stynte, I am no dyvynistre;
Of soules fynde I not in this registre,
Nor list I those opynyouns to telle
Of them, though that they knowen where they dwelle.
Arcyte is cold, let Mars his soule take;
Now will I of the storie further speke.
Shrieked Emely, and howlèd Palomon,
And Theseus his sistir took anon
Swoonyng, and bare hir fro the corps away.
What helpeth it to tarye forth the day,
To tellen how she weep bothe eve and morrow?
For in such case wommen can have such sorrow,
When that there housbonds be from them ago,
That for the more part they sorrow so,
Or elles fallen in such maladye,
That atte laste certeynly they dye.
Infýnyt been the sorrows and the teeres
Of olde folk, and folk of tendre yeeres;
So gret a wepyng was ther none certayn,
Whan Ector was i-brought, al fressh i-slayn,
As that ther was for deth of this Theban;
For sorrow of him weepeth child and man
At Thebes, allas! the pitee that was there,
Scratching of cheekes, rending eek of hair.
“Why woldist thou be ded,” the wommen crye,
“And haddest gold enow — and Emelye?”
No man mighte gladd the herte of Theseus,
Savyng his olde fader Egeus,
That knew this worldes transmutacioún,
As he hadde seen it tornen up and doun,
Joye after woe, and woe aftir gladnesse:
And shewèd him ensample and likenesse.
“Right as ther deyde never man,” quoth he,
“That livèd not in erthe in som degree,
So yet there lyvede never man,” he seyde,
“In all this world, that som tyme was not deyde.
This world is but a thurghfare ful of woe,
And we be pilgryms, passyng to and fro;
Deth is an ende of every worldly sore.”
And over al this yet seide he moche more
To this effect, ful wysly to exhorte
The peple, that they shulde him récomfórte
Duk Theseus, with al his busy care,
Cast now about where that the sepulture
Of good Arcyte may best y- makèd be.
And eek most honourable in his degré.
And atte last he took conclusioún,
That where at first Arcite and Palomon
Hadden for love the batail them bytwene,
That in the same grove, swete and greene,
There when he hadde his amorous desires,
His cómpleynt, and for love his hote fyres,
He wolde make a fyr, in which the office
Of funeral he might al áccomplice;
And gave comaunde anon to hakke and hewe
The okes old, and lay them on a rowe,
In hepes wel arrayèd for to burn.
His officers with swifte foot they runne,
And ryde anon at his comaundement.
And after this, Theseus hath men i-sent
After a bier, and it al overspredde
With cloth of golde, the richest that he hadde.
And in the same suit he clad Arcyte;
Upon his hondes were his gloves white;
Eke on his heed a croune of laurel grene;
And in his hond a swerd ful bright and kene.
He leyde him with bare visage on the biere,
Therwith he weep that pity was to heere.
And for the peple shulde see him alle,
Whan it was day he brought them to the halle,
That roreth with the cry and with the sound.
Then cam this woful Theban Palomoun,
With flotery berd, and ruggy asshy heeres,
In clothis blak, y-droppèd al with teeres,
And, passyng all in wepyng, Emelye,
The rewfullest of al the companye.
And in as moche as the service shuld be
The more noble and riche in his degree,
Duk Theseus let forth three steedes bryng,
That trappèd were in steel al gliteryng,
And covered with the armes of Dan Arcyte.
Upon the steedes, that weren grete and white,
Ther seten folk, of which one bar his sheeld,
Another his spere up in his hondes held;
The thridde bar with him his bowe Turkeys,
Of brend gold was the case and eek the harness;
And riden forth a pace with sorrowful chere
Toward the grove, as ye shal after heere.
The nobles of the Grekes that ther were
Upon there shuldres carieden the beere,
With slake pace, and eyen red and wete,
Thurghout the citee, by the maister streete,
That spred was al with blak, and up on hy
With blak the houses are covered utterly.
Upon the right hond went olde Egeus,
And on that other syde duk Theseus,
With vessels in there hand of gold wel fyn,
As ful of hony, mylk, and blood, and wyn;
Eke Palomon, with a gret companye;
And after that com woful Emelye,
With fyr in hond, as was that time the gyse,
To do the office of funeral servise.
High labour, and ful gret apparailyng
Was at the service and at the fyr makyng,
That with his grene top reachèd the sky,
And twenty fathom broad the okes lie;
This is to seyn, the bowes were so brode.
Of straw first was ther leyd ful many a lode.
But how the fyr was makyd up on highte,
And eek the names how the trees highte,
As ook, fir, birch, asp, aldir, holm, popler,
Wilw, elm, plane, assh, box chestnut, laurer,
Mapul, thorn, beech, hasil ew, wyppyltree,
How they were felde, shal nought be told for me;
Ne how the goddes ronnen up and doun,
Disheryted of habitacioun,
In which they long had dwelt in rest and pees,
Nymphes and Faunes, and Hamadryades;
Nor how the beestes and the briddes alle
Fledden for feere, when the woode was falle;
Nor how the ground agast was of the light,
That was not wont to see no sonne bright;
Nor how the fyr was laid with straw below,
And thenne with drye stykkes cloven in two,
And thenne with grene woode and spicerie,
And thanne with cloth of gold and jewelry,
And gerlandes hangyng with ful many a flour,
The myrre, the incense with al so sweet odour;
Nor how Arcyte lay among al this,
Nor what richesse aboute his body is;
Nor how that Emely, as was the gyse,
Putt in the fyr of funeral servise;
Nor how she swownèd when she made the fyre,
Nor what she spak, nor what was hir desire;
Nor what jewels men in the fire cast,
When that the fyr was gret and brente fast;
Nor how sum caste their sheeld, and summe their spere,
And of their vestiments, which that they were,
And cuppes ful of wyn, and mylk, they had,
Unto the fyr, that brent as it were mad;
Nor how the Grekes with an huge route
Thre tymes ryden al the fyr aboute
Upon the lefte hond, with an high shoutyng,
And thries with there speres clateryng;
And thries how the ladyes gan to crye;
Nor how that home-ward led was Emelye;
Nor how Arcyte is brent to ashen colde;
Nor howe that liche-wake was y-holde
Al that same night, nor how the Grekes pleye
The wake- pleyes, care I nat to seye;
Who wrastleth best naked, with oyle enoynt,
Nor who that bar him best at every point.
I wil not telle eek how that they be gon
Hom to Athénes when the pley is don.
But shortly to the poynt now wil I wende,
And maken of my longe tale an ende.
By proces and by lengthe of certeyn yeres
Al styntyd is the mournyng and the teeres
Of alle Grekes, by general assent.
Then semèd me ther was a parlement
At Athenes, on a certeyn poynt and case;
Among the whiche poyntes spoken was
To have with certeyn contrees álliaunce,
And have fully of Thebans óbeissance.
For which this noble Theseus anon
Let senden after gentil Palomon,
Unwist of him what was the cause and why;
But in his blake clothes sorrowfully
He cam at his comaundement in hye.
Then sente Theseus for Emelye.
When they were sette, and husht was al the place,
And Theseus abyden hadde a space
Ere eny word cam fro his breste wyse,
His eyen set he where he did devyse,
And with a sad viságe he sighèd stille,
And after that right thus he seide his wille.
“The firste movere of the cause above,
Whan he first made the fayre cheyne of love,
Gret was the effect, and high was his entente;
Wel wist he why, and what therof he mente;
For with that faire cheyne of love he bound
The fyr, the watir, the air, and eek the lond
In certeyn boundes, that they may not flee;
That same prynce and movere eek,” quoth he,
“Hath stabled, in this wretched world adoun,
Som certeyn dayes and duracioún
To alle that are engendrid in this place,
Beyond the whiche day they may nat pace,
Though that they yit may wel there dayes abridge;
Ther needeth no auctorité to allege;
For it is provèd by experience,
But that I will declaren my sentence.
Than may men wel by this ordre discerne,
That the same movere stable is and eterne.
Wel may men knowe, but it be a fool,
That every part deryveth from his whole.
For nature hath not take his bygynnyng
Of no partye nor morsel of a thing,
But of a thing that parfyt is and stable,
Descendyng, til it be corumpable.
And therfore of his wyse providence
He hath so wel biset his ordenaunce,
That kinds of thinges and progressiouns
Shallen endure by their successiouns,
And not eterne be withoute lye:
This maistow understand and se with eye.
“Lo, see the ook, that hath long norisschyng
Fro tyme that it gynneth first to springe,
And hath so long a lyf, as we may see,
Yet atte laste wasted is the tree.
“Considereth eek, how that the harde stoon
Under oure foot, on which we trede and goon,
Yit wasteth, as it lieth by the weye.
The brode ryver som tyme wexeth dreye.
The grete towne see we wane and wende.
Then may I see that al thing hath an ende.
“Of man and womman see we wel also,
They liven all in oon of termes two,
That is to seyn, in youthe or elles in age,
All must be deed, the kyng as shal a page;
Sum in his bed, som in the deepe see,
Som in the large feeld, as men may see.
Ther helpeth naught, al goth the same weye.
Thenne may I see wel that al thing shal deye.
What maketh this but Jupiter the kyng?
The which is prynce and cause of alle thing,
Convertyng al unto his propre wille,
From which he is deryvèd, soth to telle.
And against this no créatúre alive
Of no degree avayleth for to stryve.
“Then is it wisdom, as it thenketh me,
To maken vertu of necessitee,
And take it wel, what we can nat eschewe,
And namely what to alle of us is due.
And who-so murmureth aught, he doth folye,
And rebel is to him that is on high.
And certeynly a man hath most honoúr
To deyen in his excellence and flour,
Whan he is certeyn of his goode name.
Then hath he don his freend, nor himself no shame,
And glader ought his freend be of his deth,
When with honoúr is yielden up the breth,
Thanne whan his name all feeble is for age;
And al forgeten is his great coráge.
Thenne is it best, as for a worthi fame,
To dye whan a man is best in name.
The contrary of al this is wilfulnesse.
Why murmur we? why have we hevynesse,
That good Arcyte, of chyvalry the flour,
Departed is, with worship and honoúr
Out of this foule prisoun of this lyf?
Why murmureth heer his cosyn and his wyf
At his welfare, that loven him so wel?
Can he them thank? nay, God wot, not at all,
They bothe his soule and eek themselves offende,
And yet they may their sorrow nat amende.
“How shal I then conclude verrily,
But after woe to counsel jolitee,
And thanke Jupiter for al his grace?
And ere that we departe fro this place,
I counsel that we make, of sorrows two,
One parfyt joye lastyng ever mo:
And loke now wher most sorrow is her-inne,
Ther wil we first amenden and bygynne.
“Sistyr,” quoth he, “this is my ful assent,
With al the advice heer of my parlement,
That gentil Palomon, your owne knight,
That serveth you with herte, wil, and might,
And ever hath don, since fyrst tyme ye him knewe,
That ye shal of your grace pity show,
And take him for your housbond and your lord:
Lend me youre hand, for this is oure acord.
Let see now of your wommanly pity.
He is a kynges brothirs son, pardee;
And though he were a pore bachiller,
Since he hath servèd you so many a yeer,
And had for you so gret adversitee,
Hit moste be considered, trust to me.
For gentil mercy greter is than right.”
Than seyde he thus to Palomon ful right;
“I trowe ther needeth litel sermonyng
To maken you assente to this thing.
Com neer, and tak your lady by the hond.”
Betwix them was i-made anon the bond,
That highte matrimoyn or mariáge,
By alle the counseil of the baronage.
And thus with bliss and eek with melodye
Hath Palomon i- wedded Emelye.
And God, that al this wyde world hath wrought,
Send him his love, that hath it deere i-bought.
For now is Palomon in al his wealth,
Lyvynge in blisse, richesse, and in health,
And Emely him loveth so tendirly,
And he hir serveth al so gentilly,
That never was ther word bitweene them two
Of jelousy, nor of non othir woe.
Thus endeth Palomon and Emelye;
And God save al this fayre companye! Amen!
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52