Geoffrey Chaucer, The Knight's Tale, Part Ii - (Forrest Hainline's Minimalist Translation) - Poem by Forrest Hainline
Sequitur pars secunda
When that Arcite to Thebes come was,
Full often each day he felt faint and said, "Alas! "
For see his lady shall he never more.
And shortly to conclude all his woe,
So much sorrow had never a creature
That is, or shall, while that the world may endure.
His sleep, his meat, his drink, is him bereft;
That lean he waxed and dry as is a shaft;
His eyes hollow and grisly to behold,
His hue fallow and pale as ashes cold,
And solitary he was and ever alone,
And wailing all the night, making his moan;
And if he heard song or instrument,
Then would he weep, he might not be stent.
So feeble too were his spirits, and so low,
And changed so, that no man could know
His speech or his voice, though men it heard.
And in his gear for all the world he feared
Not only like the lovers' malady
Of Heroes, but rather like many,
Engendered of humor melancholic
Before, in his cell fantastic.
And shortly, turned was all so up and down
Both habit and also disposition
Of him, this woeful lover dan Arcite.
What should I all day of his woe write?
When he endured had a year or two
This cruel torment and this pain and woe,
At Thebes, in his country, as I said,
Upon a night in sleep as he him laid,
He thought how that the winged god Mercury
Before him stood and bade him to be merry.
His sleeping rod in hand he bore upright;
A hat he wore upon his hairs bright.
Arrayed was this god, as he took keep,
As he was when that Argus took his sleep;
And said him thus: "To Athens shall thou wend,
There is the shape of thy woe an end."
And with that word Arcite woke and start.
"Now truly, however sore that me smart, "
Said he, "to Athens right now will I fare,
Not for the dread of death shall I not spare
To see my lady, that I love and serve.
In her presence I care not to starve."
And with that word he caught a great mirror,
And saw that changed was all his color,
And saw his visage in another kind.
And right anon it ran him in his mind,
That since his face was so disfigured
Of malady the which he had endured,
He might well, if that he bore him low,
Live in Athens evermore unknown,
And see his lady well nye day by day.
And right anon he changed his array,
And clad him as a poor laborer,
And all alone, save only a squire
That knew his privity and all his case,
Which was disguised poorly as he was,
To Athens is he gone the next way.
And to the court he went upon a day,
And at the gate he proffered his service
To drudge and draw, what so men will devise.
And shortly of this matter for to say,
He fell in office with a chamberlain
The which that dwelling was with Emily,
For he was wise and could soon espy,
Of every servant, which that served her.
Well could he hew wood, and water bear,
For he was young and might for the nones,
And thereto he was long and big of bones
To do that anyone can him devise.
A year or two he was in this service,
Page of the chamber of Emily the bright,
And Philostrate he said that he was hight.
But half so well beloved a man as he
Was there never in court of his degree;
He was so gentle of condition
That throughout all the court was his renown.
They said that it was a charity
That Theseus would enhance his degree,
And put him in worshipful service,
There as he might his virtue exercise.
And thus within a while his name is sprung,
Both of his deeds and his good tongue,
That Theseus has taken him so near
That of his chamber he made him a squire,
And gave him gold to maintain his degree.
And too men brought him out of his country,
From year to year, full privately his rent;
But honestly and slyly he it spent,
That no man wondered how that he it had.
And three years in this wise his life he lead,
And bore him so, in peace and too in war,
That there was no man that Theseus held dearer.
And in this bliss leave I now Arcite,
And speak I will of Palamon a lite.
In darkness and horrible and strong prison
These seven years has sat Palamon
Forpined, what for woe and for distress.
Who feels double sore and heaviness
But Palamon, that love distrains so
That would out of his wit he goes for woe?
And too thereto he is a prisoner
Perpetually, not only for a year.
Who could rime in English properly
His martyrdom? For truly it is not I;
Therefore I pass as lightly as I may.
It fell that in the seventh year, of May
The third night (as old books say) ,
That all this story tell more plain) ,
Were it by adventure or destiny -
As, when a thing is shapen, it shall be -
That soon after the midnight Palamon,
By helping of a friend, broke his prison
And fled the city fast as he may go.
For he had give his jailor drink so
Of a claree made of a certain wine,
With narcotics and opium of Thebes fine,
That all that night, though that men would him shake,
The jailor slept, and might not awake.
And thus he flew as fast as ever he may.
The night was short and fast by the day
That needs cost he must himself hide,
And to a grove fast there beside
With dreadful foot then stalked Palamon.
For, shortly, this was his opinion:
That in that grove he would him hide all day,
And in the night then would he take his way
To Thebes-ward, his friends for to pray
On Theseus to help him to war;
And shortly, either he would lose his life
Or win Emily unto his wife.
This is the effect and his intent plain.
Now will I turn to Arcite again,
That little knew how near that was his care,
Til that Fortune had brought him in the snare.
The busy lark, messenger of day,
Salutes in his song the morning gray,
And fiery Phoebus rises up so bright
That all the orient laughs of the light,
And with his streams drieth in the greves
The silver drops hanging on the leaves.
And Arcite, that in the court royal
With Theseus is squire principal,
Is risen and looks out on the merry day.
And for to do his observance of May,
Remembering on the point of his desire,
He on a courser, startling as the fire,
Is ridden into the fields him to play,
Out of the court, were it a mile or tway.
And to the grove of which that I thou told
By adventure his way he began to hold
To make him a garland of the greves,
Were it of woodbine or hawthorn leaves,
And loud he sang against the sun shine:
"May, with all thy flowers and thy green,
Welcome be thou, fair fresh May,
In hope that I some green get may."
And from his courser, with a lusty heart,
Into the grove full hastily he start,
And in a path he roamed up and down,
There as by adventure this Palamon
Was in a bush, that no man might him see,
For sore afraid of his death was he.
Nothing he knew he that it was Arcite:
God knows he would have known it full lite.
But truth is said, gone since many years,
That "field has eyes and the wood has ears."
It is full fair a man to bear him even,
For all day met men at unset steven.
Full little knew Arcite of his fellow,
That was so nye to hearken all he said,
For in the bush he sits now full still.
When that Arcite had roamed all his fill,
And sang all the roundels lustily,
Into a study he fell all suddenly,
As do these lovers in their quaint desires,
Now in the crop, now down in the briars,
Now up, now down, as a bucket in a well.
Right as the Friday, truly for to tell,
Now it shines, now it rains fast,
Right so can fickle Venus overcast
The hearts of her folk; right as her day
Is changeful, right so changes her array.
Seldom is the Friday all the week alike.
When that Arcite had sung, he began to sigh,
And set him down without any more;
"Alas, " said he, "that day that I was born!
How long, Juno, through thy cruelty,
Will thou war on Thebes the City?
Alas, brought is to confusion
The blood royal of Cadme and Amphion, -
Of Cadmus, which that was the first man
That Thebes built, or first the town began,
And of the city first was crowned king
Of his lineage am I, and his offspring,
By true line, as of the stock royal,
And now I am so caitiff and so thrall
That he that is my mortal enemy
I serve him as his squire poorly.
And yet does Juno me well more shame,
For I dare not know my own name,
But thereas I was once called Arcite,
Now called am I Philostrate, not worth a mite.
Alas, thou fell Mars! alas, Juno!
Thus has your ire our lineage all fordone,
Save only me, and wretched Palamon
That Theseus martyrs in prison.
And over all this, to slay me utterly,
Love has his fiery dart so burningly
Struck through my true careful heart,
That shaped was my death before my shroud.
Thou slay me with your eyes, Emily!
You've been the cause wherefore that I die.
Of all the remnant of my other care
Nor set I not the extent of a tare,
So that I could do ought to your pleasure.'
And with that word he fell down in a trance
A long time, and after he up start.
This Palamon, who thought that through his heart
He felt a cold sword suddenly glide,
For ire he quaked; no longer would he bide.
And when that he had heard Arcite's tale,
As he were mad, with face dead and pale,
He started him up out of the bushes thick,
And said, 'Arcite, false traitor wicked!
Now art thou held who loves my lady so,
For whom that I have all this pain and woe,
And art my blood, and to my counsel sworn,
As I full oft have said thee herebefore,
And have deceived here Duke Theseus,
And falsely changed has thy name thus.
I will be dead, or else thou shalt die;
Thou shall not love my lady Emily,
But I will love her only, and no more;
For I am Palamon, thy mortal foe!
And though that I no weapon have in this place,
But out of prison am escaped by grace,
I dread not that either thou shalt die,
Or thou shall not love Emily.
Choose which thou will, for thou shall not escape! "
This Arcite, with full despiteful heart,
When he him knew, and had his tale heard,
As fierce as a lion pulled out his sword,
And said this: 'By God that sits above,
Were it not that thou art sick and mad for love,
And too that thou no weapon have in this place,
Thou should never out of this grove pace,
That thou should die of my hand.
For I defy the surety and the bond
Which that thou say that I have made to thee.
What! Very fool, think well that love is free,
And I will love her despite all thy might!
But for as much as thou art a worthy knight
And willest to darrain her by battle,
Have here my truth, tomorrow I will not fail,
Without the witting of any other wight,
That here I will be found as a knight,
And bring armor right enough for thee;
And choose the best, and leave the worst for me.
And meat and drink this night will I bring
Enough for thee, and clothes for thy bedding.
And if it be so that thou my lady win,
And slay me in this wood that I am in,
Thou may well have thy lady as for me."
This Palamon answered, 'I grant it thee.'
And thus they departed till the morrow,
When each of them had laid his faith to borrow.
Oh Cupid, out of all charity!
Oh reign, that will no fellow have with thee!
Full truth it's said that love's lordship
Will not, his thanks, have fellowship.
Well found that Arcite and Palamon.
Arcite is ridden at once into the town,
And in the morning, before it was daylight,
Full privily two harness had he dight,
Both sufficient and mete to darrain
The battle in the field between them twain;
And on his horse, alone as he was born,
He carried all the harness him before.
And in the grove, at the time and place set,
This Arcite and this Palamon were met.
To change began the color in their face;
Right as the hunters in the reign of Thrace,
That stood at the gap with a spear,
When hunted is the lion or the bear,
And hear him come rushing in the greves,
And breaks both boughs and the leaves,
And thinks, "Here comes my mortal enemy!
Without fail, he must be dead, or I,
For else I must slay him at the gap,
Or he must slay me, if that be my mishap."
So far were they in changing their hue,
As far as each of them the other knew.
There was no good day, and no saluting,
But straight, without word or rehearsing,
Each of them helped arm the other
As friendly as if he were his own brother;
And after that, with sharp spears strong
They foin at each other wonder long.
Thou mightest ween that this Palamon
In his fighting were a mad lion,
And as a cruel tiger was Arcite;
As wild boars go they to smite,
That froth white as foam for ire wood.
Up to their ankles fought they in their blood.
And in this wise I leave them fighting dwell,
And forth I will of Theseus you tell.
The destiny, minister general,
Who administers the world over all
The purveyance that God has seen before,
So strong it is that, though the world had sworn
The contrary of a thing by yea or nay,
Yet sometime it shall fall on a day
That falls not again within a thousand years.
For certainly, our appetites here,
Be it for war, or peace, or hate, or love,
All is this ruled by foresight above.
This mean I now by mighty Theseus,
That for to hunt is so desirous,
And namely at the great hart in May,
That in his bed their dawneth him no day
That he not be clad and ready for to ride
With hunt and horn and hounds him beside.
For in his hunting had he such delight
That it is all his joy and appetite
To be himself the great hart's bane,
For after Mars he serves now Diane.
Clear was the day, as I have told ere this
And Theseus, with all joy and bliss,
With his Hippolyta, the fair queen,
And Emily, clothed all in green,
On hunting be they ridden royally,
And to the grove, that stood full fast by,
In which there was a hart, as men him told,
Duke Theseus the straight way had hold,
And to the lawn he rode him full right,
For there the hart won't have his flight,
And over a brook, and so forth on his way,
This Duke will have a course at him, or tway
With hounds such as that he liked to command.
And when this duke was come on to the land,
Into the sun he looked, and anon
He was aware of Arcite and Palamon,
That fought breme as if they were boars two.
The bright swords went to and fro
So hideously that with the least stroke
It seemed as it would fell an oak.
But what they were, he knew not what.
This duke his courser with his spurs smote,
And at a start, he was between them two,
And pulled out a sword and cried, "Hoo!
No more, on pain of losing your head!
By mighty Mars, he shall anon be dead
That smiteth any stroke that I may see.
But tell me what mystery men you be,
That be so hardy for to fight here
Without judge or other officer,
As it were in a list royally."
This Palamon answered hastily
And said, "Sire, what needs words more?
We have the death deserved both two.
Two woeful wretches be we, two caitiffs,
That be encumbered of our own lives;
And as thou art a rightful lord and judge,
No, give us neither mercy nor refuge,
But slay me first, for saint charity!
But slay my fellow too as well as me;
Or slay him first, for though thou know it lite,
This is my mortal foe, this is Arcite,
That from thy land is banished on his head,
For which he has deserved to be dead.
For this is he that came unto thy gate
And said that he was called Philostrate.
Thus hath he japed thee full many a year,
And thou hast made him thy chief squire;
And this is he that loves Emily.
For since the day is come that I shall die,
I make plainly my confession
That I am the like woeful Palamon
That hath thy prison broken wickedly.
I am thy mortal foe, and it am I
That loves so hot Emily the bright
That I will die present in her sight.
Wherefore I ask death and my justice;
But slay my fellow in the same wise,
For both have we deserved to be slain."
This worthy duke answered anon again,
And said, "this is a short conclusion.
Your own mouth, by your confession,
Has damned you, and I will it record;
It needeth not to pain you with the cord.
You shall be dead, by mighty Mars the red! "
The queen anon, very womanly,
Went to weep, and so did Emily,
And all the ladies in the company.
Great pity was it, as it thought them all,
That ever such a chance should fall,
For gentlemen they were of great estate,
And nothing but for love was this debate;
And saw their bloody wounds wide and sore,
And all cried, both less and more,
"Have mercy, Lord, upon us women all! "
And on their bare knees down they fall
And would have kissed his feet there as he stood;
Til at the last aslaked was his mood,
For pity runs soon in gentle heart,
And though he first for ire quaked and start,
He had considered shortly, in a clause,
The trespass of them both, and too the cause,
And although that his ire their guilt accused,
Yet in his reason he them both excused,
As thus: he thought well that every man
Will help himself in love, if that he can,
And so deliver himself out of prison.
And too his heart had compassion
For women, for they weep ever as one,
And in his gentle heart he thought anon,
And soft unto himself he said, "Fie
Upon a lord who will have no mercy,
But be a lion, both in word and deed,
To them that be in repentance and dread,
As well as to a proud despiteful man
Who will maintain that he first began.
That lord has little discretion,
Who in such case makes no distinction
But weighs pride and humbleness as one."
And shortly, when his ire is thus gone,
He went to look up with eyes light
And spoke these same words all on height:
"The god of love, a benedicite!
How mighty and how great a lord is he!
Against his might there gaineth no obstacles.
He may be called a god for his miracles,
For he can make, at his own guise,
Of every heart, as please him to devise.
Lo here this Arcite and this Palamon,
Who quietly were out of my prison,
And might have lived in Thebes royally,
And knowing I am their mortal enemy,
And that their death lies in my might also,
And yet has love, despite their eyes two,
Brought them hither both for to die.
Now looketh, is not that a high folly?
Who may be a fool but if he love?
Behold, for God's sake that sits above,
See how they bleed! Be they not well arrayed?
Thus hath their lord, the god love, paid
Their wages and their fees for their service!
And yet they think for to be full wise
That serve love, for ought that may befall.
And this is yet the best game of all,
That she for whom they have this jollity
Can them therefore as much thank as me.
She knows no more of all this hot fare,
By God, than knows a cuckoo or a hare!
But all must be assayed, hot and cold;
A man must be a fool, or young or old -
I know it by myself full yore agone,
For in my time a servant was I one.
And therefore, since I know of love's pain
And know how sore it can a man distrain,
As he that has been caught oft in his laas
I you forgive all wholly this trespass,
At request of the queen, who kneels here,
And too of Emily, my sister dear.
And you shall both at once to me swear
That never more you shall my country dere,
Nor make war upon me night or day,
But be my friends in all that you may
I you forgive this trespass, every detail."
And they him swore his asking, fair and well,
And him of lordship and of mercy prayed,
And he them granted grace, and thus he said:
"To speak of royal lineage and riches,
Though that she were a queen or a princess,
Each of you both is worthy, doubtless,
To wed when the time is; but nonetheless -
I speak as for my sister Emily,
For whom you have this strife and jealousy -
You know yourself she may not wed two
At once, though you fight evermore,
That one of you, all be he loath or lief,
He must go pipe in an ivy leaf;
This is to say, she may not now have both,
All be you never so jealous nor so wroth.
And forth to you I put in this degree,
That each of you shall have his destiny
As his is shaped, and hearken in what wise;
Lo, hear your end of what I shall devise.
My will is this, for flat conclusion,
Without any replication -
If that you like, take if for the best
That each of you shall go where he lest,
Freely, without ransom or danger,
And this day fifty weeks, far or near,
Each of you shall bring a hundred knights
Armed for lists upon all rights,
All ready to darrain her by battle.
And this behoove I you without fail,
Upon my troth, and as I am a knight,
That whichever of you both who has might -
That is to say, that whether he or thou
May with his hundred, as I speak of now,
Slay his contrary, or out of lists drive,
Then shall I give Emily to wive
To whom that Fortune gives so fair a grace.
The lists shall I make in this place,
And God so wisely on my soul rue
As I shall even judge be and true.
You shall no other end with me maken,
That one of you shall be dead or taken.
And if you think this is well said,
Say your advice and hold you paid.
This is your end and your conclusion.
Who looketh lightly now but Palamon?
Who springeth up for joy but Arcite?
Who could tell, or who could it endite,
The joy that is made in the place
When Theseus had done so fair a grace?
But down on their knees went every manner wight,
And thanked him with all their heart and might,
And namely the Thebans often sighed.
And thus with good hope and with hearts blithe
They take their leave, and homeward go they ride
To Thebes with its old walls wide.
Explicit secunda pars
©2014 Forrest A. Hainline III
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