The canterbury tales, p.11
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       The Canterbury Tales, p.11

           Geoffrey Chaucer

  He may nat spare, althogh he were his brother;

  He moot as wel seye o word as another.

  Crist spak himself ful brode 739 in holy writ,

  740 And wel ye woot 740 no vileinye is it.

  Eek Plato seyth, whoso kan him rede,

  The wordes mote be cosin to 742 the dede.

  Also I pray yow to foryeve it me

  Al have I 744 nat set folk in hir degree

  745 Here in this tale, as that they sholde stonde;

  My wit 746 is short, ye may wel understonde.

  Greet cheere made 747 oure HOOST us everychon,

  And to the soper sette he us anon.

  He served us with vitaille 749 at the beste;

  750 Strong was the win and wel to drinke us leste 750.

  A semely man oure Hooste was withalle

  For to been a marchal in an halle 752.

  A large man he was, with eyen stepe 753;

  A fairer burgeis was ther noon in Chepe.

  755 Boold of his speche 755, and wis, and wel ytaught,

  And of manhode him lakkede right naught.

  Eke therto 757 he was right a murye 764 man;

  And after soper pleyen 758 he bigan,

  And spak of mirthe amonges othere thinges,

  760 Whan that we hadde maad oure rekeninges,

  And seide thus: ‘Now, lordinges, trewely

  Ye been to me right welcome, hertely!

  For by my trouthe, if that I shal nat lie,

  I saugh nat this yeer so murye a compaignye

  765 Atones 765 in this herberwe as is now.

  Fain wolde I doon yow mirthe 766, wiste I how,

  And of a mirthe I am right now bithoght,767

  To doon yow ese 768, and it shal coste noght.

  Ye goon to Caunterbury – God yow spede!

  770 The blisful martyr quite yow youre mede 770! –

  And wel I woot, as ye goon by the weye

  Ye shapen yow to talen 772 and to pleye.

  For trewely, confort ne mirthe is noon

  To ride by the weye domb as the stoon.

  775 And therfore wol I maken yow disport 775,

  As I seide erst 776, and doon yow som confort.

  And if yow liketh 777 alle by oon assent

  For to stonden at my juggement,

  And for to werken as I shal yow seye,

  780 Tomorwe 780 whan ye riden by the weye,

  Now, by my fader soule that is deed,

  But ye be murye 782, I wol yeve yow min heed!

  Hoold up youre hondes 783, withouten moore speche.’

  Oure conseil was nat longe for to seche:784

  785 Us thoughte it was nat worth to make it wis 785,

  And graunted him, withouten moore avis 786,

  And bad him seye his voirdit 787 as him leste.

  ‘Lordinges,’ quod he, ‘now herkneth 788 for the beste –

  But taak it nat 789, I pray yow, in desdein –

  790 This is the point, to speken short and plein:

  That ech of yow, to shorte 791 with oure weye

  In this viage, shal tellen tales tweye

  To Caunterburyward 793, I mene it so,

  And homward he shall tellen othere two 794,

  795 Of aventures 795 that whilom have bifalle.

  And which of yow that berth him 796 best of alle –

  That is to seyn, that telleth in this caas

  Tales of best sentence 798 and moost solaas –

  Shal have a soper at oure aller cost 799,

  800 Here in this place, sitting by this post,

  Whan that we come again fro Caunterbury.

  And for to make yow the moore mury,

  I wol myself goodly 803 with yow ride,

  Right at min owene cost, and be your gide.

  805 And whoso wole my juggement withseye

  Shal paye al that we spende by the weye.

  And if ye vouchesauf 807 that it be so,

  Tel me anoon, withouten wordes mo,

  And I wol erly shape me therfore 809.’

  810 This thing was graunted, and oure othes swore 810

  With ful glad herte, and preyden 811 him also

  That he wolde vouchesauf for to do so,

  And that he wolde been oure governour 813,

  And of oure tales juge and reportour 814,

  815 And sette a soper at a certain pris,

  And we wol reuled been at his devis 816

  In heigh and lough 817; and thus by oon assent

  We been acorded to 818 his juggement.

  And therupon the win was fet anoon 819;

  820 We dronken and to reste wente echon 820,

  Withouten any lenger taryinge.

  Amorwe 822, whan that day bigan to springe,

  Up roos oure Hoost and was oure aller cok 823,

  And gadred us togidre 824 in a flok;

  825 And forth we riden825, a litel moore than pas,

  Unto the watering of Seint Thomas 826.

  And there oure Hoost bigan his hors areste 827,

  And seide, ‘Lordinges, herkneth if yow leste!

  Ye woot youre forward, and it yow recorde.829

  830 If evensong and morwe-song 830 acorde,

  Lat se now who shal telle the firste tale.

  As evere moot I 832 drinke win or ale,

  Whoso be 833 rebel to my juggement

  Shal paye for al that by the wey is spent.

  835 Now draweth cut 835, er that we ferrer twinne;

  He which that hath the shorteste shal biginne.

  Sire knight,’ quod he, ‘my maister and my lord,

  Now draweth cut, for that is min acord 838.

  Comth neer,’ quod he, ‘my lady prioresse,

  840 And ye, sire clerk, lat be youre shamefastnesse,

  Ne studyeth noght 841 – ley hond to, every man!’

  Anoon to drawen every wight bigan;

  And shortly for to tellen as it was,

  Were it by aventure or sort or cas,844

  845 The sothe is this: the cut fil 845 to the Knight,

  Of which ful blithe and glad was every wight.

  And telle he moste 847 his tale as was resoun,

  By forward and by composicioun 848,

  As ye han herd – what nedeth wordes mo?

  850 And whan this goode man saugh that it was so,

  As he that wis was and obedient

  To kepe his forward by his free assent,

  He seide, ‘Sin853 I shal biginne the game,

  What, welcome be the cut, a Goddes name!

  Now lat us ride, and herkneth what I seye.’

  855 And with that word we riden forth oure weye,

  And he bigan with right a murye cheere 857

  His tale anoon, and seide as ye may heere.


  Iamque domos patrias Scithice post aspera gentis prelia laurigero etc.

  Heere biginneth the Knightes Tale.

  Whilom 859, as olde stories tellen us,

  860 Ther was a duc that highte 860 Theseus.

  Of Atthenes he was lord and governour,

  And in his time swich a conqueror

  That gretter was ther noon under the sonne.

  Ful many a riche contree hadde he wonne,

  865 What with his wisdom and his chivalrye.

  He conquered al the regne of Femenye 866,

  That whilom was ycleped 867 Scythia,

  And weddede the queene Ypolita 868,

  And broghte hir hoom with him in his contree

  870 With muchel glorye and greet solempnitee 870,

  And eek hir yonge suster Emelye.

  And thus with victorye and with melodye

  Lete873 I this noble duc to Atthenes ride,

  And al his hoost in armes him biside.

  875 And certes 875, if it nere to long to heere,

  I wolde have toold yow fully the manere

  How wonnen was the regne of Femenye

  By Theseus and by his chivalrye,
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  And of the grete bataille for the nones 879

  880 Bitwixen Atthenes and Amazones,

  And how asseged 881 was Ypolita,

  The faire hardy 882 queene of Scythia,

  And of the feste that was at hir weddinge

  And of the tempest at hir hom-cominge;

  885 But al that thing I moot 885 as now forbere.

  I have, God woot 886, a large feeld to ere,

  And waike 887 been the oxen in my plough.

  The remenant of the tale is long inough.

  I wol nat letten 889 eek noon of this route;

  890 Lat every felawe telle his tale aboute,

  And lat se now who shal the soper winne!

  – And ther I lefte 892, I wol ayein biginne.

  This duc of whom I make mencioun,

  Whan he was come almost unto the toun,

  895 In al his wele 895 and in his mooste pride,

  He was war 896, as he caste his eye aside,

  Wher that ther kneled in the hye weye 897

  A compaignye of ladies, tweye and tweye 898,

  Ech after oother, clad in clothes blake.

  900 But swich a cry and swich a wo they make

  That in this world nis creature livinge

  That herde swich another waimentinge 902.

  And of this cry they nolde nevere stenten903

  Til they the reines of his bridel henten 904.

  905 ‘What folk been ye, that at min hom-cominge

  Perturben 906 so my feste with cryinge?’

  Quod Theseus. ‘Have ye so greet envye

  Of min honour, that thus compleine and crye?

  Or who hath yow misboden 909 or offended?

  910 And telleth me if it may been amended,

  And why that ye been clothed thus in blak.’

  The eldeste lady of hem alle spak,

  Whan she hadde swowned 913 with a deedly cheere

  That it was routhe 914 for to seen and here,

  915 And seide, ‘Lord, to whom Fortune hath yeven 915

  Victorye, and as a conquerour to liven,

  Noght greveth us 917 youre glorye and youre honour,

  But we biseken 918 mercy and socour.

  Have mercy on oure wo and oure distresse!

  920 Som drope of pitee thurgh thy gentillesse 920

  Upon us wrecched wommen lat thow falle.

  For certes, lord, ther is noon of us alle

  That she nath been a duchesse or a queene.

  Now be we caitives 924, as it is wel seene,

  925 Thanked be Fortune and hir false wheel,

  That noon estaat assureth to be weel.926

  And certes, lord, t’abiden youre presence

  Here in this temple of the goddesse Clemence 928

  We have been waitinge al this fourtenight.

  930 Now help us, lord, sith 930 it is in thy might!

  I, wrecche, which that wepe and waille thus

  Was whilom wif to king Cappaneus 932

  That starf933 at Thebes – cursed be that day! –

  And alle we that been in this array

  935 And maken al this lamentacioun,

  We losten alle oure housbondes at that toun,

  Whil that the sege theraboute 937 lay.

  And yet now 938 the olde Creon, weilaway,

  That lord is now of Thebes the citee,

  940 Fulfild of 940 ire and of iniquitee,

  He for despit 941, and for his tyrannye,

  To do the dede bodies vileinye 942

  Of alle oure lordes whiche that been yslawe 943,

  Hath alle the bodies on an heep ydrawe,

  945 And wol nat suffren 945 hem by noon assent

  Neither to been yburied nor ybrent 946,

  But maketh houndes 947 ete hem in despit.’

  And with that word, withouten moore respit 948,

  They fillen gruf 949 and criden pitously:

  950 ‘Have on us wrecched wommen som mercy,

  And let oure sorwe sinken in thin herte!’

  This gentil 952 duc doun from his courser sterte

  With herte pitous 953, whan he herde hem speke.

  Him thoughte that his herte wolde breke

  955 Whan he saugh hem so pitous 955 and so maat,

  That whilom weren of so greet estaat.

  And in his armes he hem alle up hente 957

  And hem conforteth in ful good entente 958,

  And swoor his ooth, as he was trewe knight,

  960 He wolde doon so ferforthly 960 his might

  Upon the tyraunt Creon hem to wreke961

  That al the peple of Grece sholde speke

  How Creon was of Theseus yserved 963,

  As he that hadde his deeth ful wel deserved.

  965 And right anoon 965, withouten moore abood,

  His baner he desplayeth and forth rood

  To Thebesward 967, and al his hoost biside.

  Ne neer 968 Atthenes wolde he go ne ride,

  Ne take his ese fully half a day,

  970 But onward on his wey that night he lay,

  And sente anoon Ypolita the queene,

  And Emelye hir yonge suster sheene 972,

  Unto the toun of Atthenes to dwelle,

  And forth he rit 974; ther is namoore to telle.

  975 The rede statue of Mars, with spere and targe 975,

  So shineth in his white baner large 976

  That alle the feeldes gliteren up and doun,

  And by his baner born is his penoun 978

  Of gold ful riche, in which ther was ybete 979

  980 The Minotaur, which that he wan 980 in Crete.

  Thus rit this duc, thus rit this conquerour,

  And in his hoost of chivalrye the flour,

  Til that he cam to Thebes and alighte 983,

  Faire in a feeld, theras he thoghte fighte 984.

  985 But shortly for to speken of this thing,

  With Creon, which that was of Thebes king,

  He faught, and slough him manly as a knight

  In plein bataille 988, and putte the folk to flight.

  And by assaut he wan the citee after,

  990 And rente adoun bothe wal and sparre 990 and rafter;

  And to the ladies he restored again

  The bones of hir freendes 992 that were slain,

  To doon obsequies as was tho the gise 993.

  But994 it were al to long for to devise

  995 The grete clamour and the waimentinge 995

  That the ladies made at the brenninge

  Of the bodies, and the grete honour

  That Theseus the noble conquerour

  Doth to the ladies, whan they from him wente;

  1000 But shortly for to telle is min entente 1000.

  Whan that this worthy duc, this Theseus,

  Hath Creon slain and wonne Thebes thus,

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