PART I Once upon a time, old stories tell us, There was a duke whose name was Theseus. 860 Of Athens he was lord and governor, And in his time was such a conqueror That none was greater underneath the sun, So many wealthy countries he had won. What with his wisdom and his chivalry, 865 He conquered all the realm of Femeny, Which then was known as Scythia, and married The queen named Hippolyta, whom he carried Back home with him amid much pageantry And glorious ceremony. Emily, 870 Her younger sister, also went along. And so in victory and glorious song I leave this noble duke as he is bound For Athens, with his warriors all around. And if there weren't so much to hear, I now 875 Would fully have related for you how That land was won, the realm of Femeny, By Theseus and by his chivalry; I'd tell you of the battle that was waged As Athens and the Amazons engaged, 880 And of the siege in which was finally seen Defeat for Scythia's fair and hardy queen, And of the feast upon their wedding day And the rousing welcome home. But as I say, I must forbear describing all that now. 885 I have, God knows, a lot of field to plow, The oxen in my yoke have got it rough. And since the rest of my tale's long enough, Not holding back the group is my concern; Let every fellow tell his tale in turn 890 And let us see who shall the supper win. Where I left off, then, I'll once more begin. This duke of whom I spoke, when he almost Had reached the gates of town with all his host, In such high spirits and so full of pride, 895 Became aware, as he looked to the side, That kneeling by the road there was in rue A company of ladies, two by two, One pair behind another, in black dress. So woeful were the cries of their distress 900 No living creature ever heard before Such lamentation uttered. Furthermore They did not cease until his horse was idle, For they had grabbed the reins upon its bridle. "What folk are you, against our joy vying, 905 Disturbing our homecoming with your crying?" Said Theseus. "So envious can you be That you protest the honor given me? Or who mistreated you, who has offended? And tell me if the damage can be mended, 910 And why it is in black you are arrayed." The eldest lady answered, though she swayed Half in a swoon of such deathlike degree It was a pity both to hear and see. "My lord," she said, "whom Fortune chose to give 915 The victory, as conqueror to live, Your glory and honor are not our grief, It's mercy that we're seeking and relief. Have mercy on our woe and our distress! Some drop of pity, through your gentleness, 920 Upon us wretched women please let fall. In truth, my lord, there's none among us all Who hasn't been a duchess or a queen; Now we are wretches. As may well be seen, Thanks be to Fortune's faithless wheel, there's no 925 One whose well-being is assured. And so, My lord, that in your presence we might be, The temple of the goddess Clemency Is where we've waited for a whole fortnight. Help us, my lord, if it be in your might. 930 "The wretch I am, now weeping, wailing thus, Was once the wife of King Capaneus, Who died at Thebes--and curséd be that day! And all of us you see in this array Are crying so, our spirits beaten down, 935 Because we lost our husbands in that town During the time that under siege it lay. And yet this old Creon--ah, wellaway!-- Who is in Thebes, now lord of all the city, Iniquitous and ireful, without pity, 940 Has for despite and by his tyranny Inflicted on their bodies villainy: The corpses of our lords, all of them slain, He threw into a heap where they have lain, For he gives no assent, will not allow 945 That they be burnt or buried, rather now He makes hounds eat them, such is his despite." And with that word, they cried without respite And then they groveled, weeping piteously. "Have mercy for us wretched," was their plea, 950 "Your heart be open to our grief today." This gentle duke dismounted right away With pitying heart when hearing these words spoken. He felt as if his heart were nearly broken, To see so pitiful, in such a strait, 955 Those who had once been of such great estate. He took them in his arms then and consoled them; He comforted as best he could, and told them That by his oath, that of a faithful knight, He would do all that lay within his might 960 Upon this tyrant vengefulness to wreak, That afterwards all those in Greece might speak Of how Creon by Theseus was served His just deserts, the death he so deserved. Immediately, without the least delay, 965 His banner he displayed and rode away For Thebes, with all his host on every side; No nearer Athens did he choose to ride Nor take his ease for even half a day, But slept that night somewhere along the way. 970 The queen was not among his company, But with her fair young sister Emily Was sent forth into Athens, there to dwell While he rode on his way. No more to tell. The red image of Mars with spear and targe 975 So shone upon his banner white and large That up and down the meadows seemed to glitter; A pennon by his banner was aflitter In richest gold, upon it, as was meet, The Minotaur that he had slain in Crete. 980 Thus rode this duke, this conqueror, in power, The men with him of chivalry the flower, Until he came to Thebes, there to alight Upon a field where he was set to fight. But only speaking briefly of this thing, 985 He fought and slew Creon, the Theban king, In open battle, as befits a knight So manly. Creon's men he put to flight. The city by assault he won thereafter And tore it down, each wall and beam and rafter; 990 And to the ladies he restored again The bones of all their kinsmen who'd been slain, For obsequies then custom of the day. But it would take too long here to delay By telling of the din, the lamentation 995 Made by these ladies during the cremation, And honor paid, all that one could confer, By Theseus, the noble conqueror, To the ladies when on their way they went. To speak with brevity is my intent. 1000 This worthy Theseus, when he had slain Creon and captured Thebes, chose to remain Upon the field that night to take his rest, With all that country under his behest. To rummage through the heap of Theban slain, 1005 The corpses' clothes and armor to retain, The pillagers worked hard and carefully After the battle and the victory. It so befell that in the heap they found, With grievous wounds there lying on the ground, 1010 Two youthful knights who side by side had fought, Identical their arms and richly wrought. As for their names, Arcite was that of one, The other knight was known as Palamon; Not yet alive nor dead did they appear, 1015 But by their coat of arms and by their gear The heralds knew that these two specially Were members of the royal family Of Thebes, two sisters' sons. Their finders then Removed them from the heap where they had been, 1020 And had them carried gently to the tent Of Theseus, who promptly had them sent To Athens, there to dwell perpetually In prison--to no ransom he'd agree. And when this worthy duke thus held his sway, 1025 He took his host and rode home straightaway. As conqueror with laurel he was crowned, And lived in joy and honor, much renowned Throughout his life. What more is there to know? And in a tower, in anguish and woe, 1030 Are Palamon and his good friend Arcite Forevermore. No gold could end their plight. So year by year it went, and day by day, Until one morning it befell in May That Emily, a fairer sight to see 1035 Than lilies on a stalk of green could be, And fresher than the flowers May discloses-- Her hue strove with the color of the roses Till I know not the fairer of the two-- Before daylight, as she was wont to do, 1040 Had roused herself and was already dressed. For May will leave no sluggard nightly rest; The season seems to prick each gentle heart, It causes one out of his sleep to start And says, "Arise, it's time to pay respect!" 1045 And this caused Emily to recollect The honor due to May and to arise. She brightly dressed, a pleasure to the eyes. Her hair was braided in one yellow tress A good yard down her back, so I would guess. 1050 And in the garden, as the sun arose, She wandered up and down, and, as she chose, She gathered flowers, white as well as red, To make a dainty garland for her head; And like that of an angel was her song. 1055 The tower, of great size and thick and strong, Which was the castle's major dungeon--there The knights were held in prison and despair, As I have said, though more will soon befall-- Was built adjacent to the garden wall 1060 Where Emily was then about her play. The sun was bright, and clear the early day, As Palamon, in woe with no reprieve, As was his wont--the jailer gave him leave-- Was roaming in a chamber of great height 1065 From which all of the city was in sight, As was the green-branched garden near the tower Where Emily, as radiant as a flower, Was in her walk and roaming here and there. So Palamon, this captive in despair, 1070 Was pacing in this chamber to and fro, And to himself complaining of his woe. That he was born he often said "Alas!" And then by chance or fate it came to pass That through the window (thick with many a bar 1075 Of iron, as great and squared as girders are) He cast his eyes upon fair Emily. He blanched and cried an "Ah!" of such degree It was as if he'd been pierced through the heart. And at this cry Arcite rose with a start 1080 And said, "My cousin, what is ailing you That you're so pale, a deathlike thing to view? Why did you cry? Has someone done you wrong? For God's love, it's the patient gets along In prison, that's the way it has to be. 1085 We owe to Fortune this adversity. Some wicked aspect or configuration Of Saturn with some certain constellation Gave this to us, for all we might have sworn. So stood the heavens when we two were born; 1090 We must endure it, to be short and plain." But Palamon replied, "You have a vain Imagination, cousin, truthfully, To be expressing such a thought to me. It wasn't prison that caused me to cry. 1095 I just received a shot, struck through my eye Right to my heart, and it will finish me. The fairness of that lady that I see In yonder garden, roaming to and fro, Is cause of all my crying and my woe. 1100 I don't know if she's woman or a goddess, But truly it is Venus, I would guess." Then Palamon fell down upon his knees And said this prayer: "Dear Venus, if you please To be transfigured so, to be seen by 1105 A woeful, wretched creature such as I, Out of this prison help us to escape. But if it is my fate, one taken shape By eternal word, to die in this fashion, Upon our royal house have some compassion, 1110 For we are brought so low by tyranny." And with that word, Arcite then chanced to see This lady who was roaming to and fro; And at the sight, her beauty hurt him so That if the wound to Palamon was sore, 1115 Arcite himself was hurt as much or more. And with a sigh he then said piteously, "By such fresh beauty I'm slain suddenly, The beauty of her roaming in that place! Unless I have her mercy by her grace 1120 That I at least may see her in some way, I am but dead, there is no more to say." When Palamon heard this, with angry eye He turned to look at Arcite and reply, "You speak such words in earnest or in play?" 1125 "In earnest," Arcite said, "is what I say! God help me, I've no mind for joking now." And Palamon at this then knit his brow. "It does you little honor," he replied, "To be a traitor to me, to have lied 1130 To me, as I'm your cousin and your brother; For we have sworn, each of us to the other, That never we, on pain of death--until Death do us part--would do each other ill, In love one to be hindrance to the other 1135 Or in whatever case, beloved brother; That you would further me in what I do In every case, and I would further you; This was your oath, as well as mine. I know That you would never dare deny it's so. 1140 You then are in my counsel, there's no doubt, And yet now falsely you would go about To love my lady, whom I love and serve And always will until I die. What nerve! False Arcite, you would surely not do so; 1145 I loved her first, and told you of my woe As to my counsel, to the one who swore To further me, as I have said before. And so, my cousin, you're bound as a knight To help me, if it lies within your might, 1150 Or else be false, and such I dare to say." But Arcite proudly answered in this way: "It's you instead who would be false to me, And false you are, I tell you utterly. For par amour, I loved her first, not you. 1155 What can you say? You don't know which is true, She's 'woman or a goddess'! You profess Affection felt in terms of holiness, But I feel love that's for a creature, such That I've already said to you as much, 1160 As to my brother, one who to me swore. But let's suppose you did love her before: Have you not heard the learned man's old saw That 'Who shall give a lover any law'? Love, by my crown, is law that's greater than 1165 All law that Nature gives to earthly man; That's why, for love, decrees or laws men pass Are broken every day in every class. A man must love despite himself; albeit His death may be the cost, he cannot flee it, 1170 Be she a maiden, widow, or a wife. But it's not likely that in all your life You'll stand once in her grace, nor myself either; You know as well as I it shall be neither, For you and I have been forever damned 1175 To prison without ransom. We have shammed, We strive just as the hounds did for the bone: They fought all day to find the prize was gone, For while they fought a kite came winging through And bore away the bone from twixt the two. 1180 And therefore at the royal court, my brother, It's each man for himself and not another. Love if you like, I love and always will, And truly, brother, that is that. Be still; Here in this prison we must not succumb 1185 But each take his own chances as they come." The strife between the two was long and great; Had I the time, more of it I'd relate. But to the point. It happened that one day (To tell it all as briefly as I may) 1190 Perotheus, a worthy duke who'd been A friend of Theseus since way back when The two of them were children, came to pay His friend a visit and to have some play In Athens, as he'd often done before. 1195 In all this world he loved no fellow more Than Theseus, who cherished him the same; They loved so greatly, so the old books claim, That when one died, as truthfully they tell, The other went to look for him in hell-- 1200 But that's a tale I don't wish to recite. Duke Perotheus also loved Arcite, Whom he'd known in Thebes for many a year. At last, when Perotheus had bent his ear With the request, Duke Theseus agreed 1205 To free Arcite from prison; he was freed Without a ransom and allowed to go Where he desired--on one condition, though. The understanding, plainly to relate, With Theseus regarding Arcite's fate 1210 Was that if Arcite ever should be found, By day or night or any time, on ground Of any country ruled by Theseus, And he were caught, it was accorded thus: He was to lose his head then by the sword. 1215 There was no action Arcite could afford Except to make for home a speedy trek; One must beware when he must pledge his neck. How great a sorrow Arcite had to bear! His heart was smitten with deathlike despair; 1220 He wept and wailed, and pitifully he cried, And even contemplated suicide. He said, "Alas, the day that I was born! Worse than before in prison I'm forlorn. It's now my fate eternally to dwell 1225 Not as in purgatory but in hell. I wish I'd never known Perotheus! I'd still be dwelling with Duke Theseus, Be fettered in his prison--not like this, Not in this woe. Then I would be in bliss; 1230 The sight of her, the lady whom I serve, Although her grace I never may deserve, Would have sufficed and been enough for me. O my dear cousin Palamon," said he, "You've won in this adventure, that's for sure. 1235 In prison blissfully you may endure-- In prison? Surely not! In paradise! Fate's passed to you the dice to seek the prize, You have her sight, which I no more shall see. Since you're so near her presence, it may be, 1240 As you're a knight, a worthy one and able, That by some chance--as Fortune's so unstable-- You may attain your great desire in time. But I, who am exiled to other clime And barren of all grace, in such despair 1245 That neither earth nor water, fire nor air, Nor any creature that is made of these, Can ever give me any help or ease-- Well should I die without a hope, in sadness. Farewell my life, my pleasure, and my gladness! 1250 "Alas, why do folks so complain about The providence of God or feel put out By Fortune, when they're often given more In many ways than they could bargain for Themselves? A man's desire for wealth may well 1255 Leave that man sick or murdered. From his cell A prisoner may long for freedom, then At home have his own servants do him in. So many ills befall us in this way, We don't know really that for which we pray. 1260 We fare as one who's drunken as a mouse: Although a drunkard knows he has a house, He doesn't know the right way there. The road Is slippery for a man who drinks his load. So fare we in this world, most certainly; 1265 We search with vigor for felicity, But it's so true we often go awry. We all can vouch for that, and namely I, Who had this great opinion overall That if I could escape that prison wall 1270 I then could live in perfect health and bliss-- From which I have been exiled now for this. Since I may never see you, Emily, I'm good as dead, there is no remedy." Now Palamon, meanwhile, was still confined, 1275 And when he learnt Arcite was gone, he whined And wailed with so much sorrow it resounded Throughout the tower. Utterly confounded, He wet the mighty fetters round each shin With bitter, salty tears in his chagrin. 1280 "Alas," said he, "my cousin, dear Arcite, The fruit is yours, God knows, you've won the fight! To walk at large in Thebes now you may go And give but little thought to all my woe; And you may, in your wise and knightly manner, 1285 Assemble all your kinsmen to your banner And on this city make a sharp attack, By treaty or by Fortune to go back To Thebes with her, your lady and your wife, For whom I now must forfeit here my life. 1290 When one weighs every possibility-- Since you are now at large, from prison free, And are a lord--you have a great advantage. I'm dying in a cage, what can I manage? Here I must weep and wail long as I live 1295 With all the woe that prison has to give, And with the heartache love has given me That doubles my torment and misery." The fire of jealousy with sudden start Was raging in his breast, and caught his heart 1300 So madly he was whiter to behold Than box-tree or the ashes dead and cold. He said then, "O cruel gods, eternal tribe Who rule us by your word, and who inscribe Upon a tablet made of adamant 1305 Your every judgment and eternal grant! Why is it mankind in esteem you hold More than the sheep that cowers in the fold? For man is slain like any other beast, Or dwells in prison, not to be released, 1310 Confronted with adversity and illness-- And often, by my faith, when he is guiltless. "What is the reason in your prescience That torment's the reward for innocence? And only adding more to all my strife 1315 Is that a man must live a moral life In God's name, and keep rein upon his will, While every beast may all his lust fulfill. And when a beast is dead, he has no pain, While man in death must still weep and complain 1320 Though in this world he had his share of woe. Without a doubt that's how it stands, although I'll leave it to the clergy to explain. How well I know this world is full of pain. Alas, I see a serpent or a thief, 1325 From whose deceit the righteous seek relief, Go freely as he pleases on his way; Yet I'm a captive, under Saturn's sway And that of Juno, who in jealousy And wrath has well nigh cut off totally 1330 The blood of Thebes, laid waste the walls once grand. And Venus slays me, on the other hand, With jealousy and fear of this Arcite." On Palamon I'll cease now if I might And leave him in his prison still to dwell, 1335 That further word on Arcite I may tell. The summer passed. The winter nights so long Increased twofold the pains that were so strong In both lover and prisoner. I know Not which one had to bear the greater woe: 1340 For Palamon, with brevity to tell, Was damned to life inside a prison cell, In iron fetters until he be dead; Yet banishment had fallen on the head Of Arcite, from that land he had to flee 1345 And nevermore might he his lady see. I now will ask you lovers, who's the one Who has it worse, Arcite or Palamon? For one may see his lady day by day But must in prison waste his life away; 1350 The other may go riding where he please, But now his lady nevermore he sees. Make your own judgment on it, if you can. I will go on, meanwhile, as I began. PART II When back to Thebes Arcite had made his way, 1355 With many an "Alas!" he pined each day, For nevermore his lady might he see. To summarize his woe with brevity, No creature's had such sorrow, to be sure, Nor will as long as this world may endure. 1360 Of sleep and meat and drink he had so little That lean and dry he grew, shaftlike and brittle; His eyes were hollow, ghastly to behold, His sallow skin like ashes pale and cold. And he kept to himself, always alone, 1365 And all through every night he'd wail and moan. And when he heard a song or instrument, He wept, shed tears that nothing could prevent. So feeble were his spirits and so low That, if he spoke, no man would ever know 1370 Him by his speech or voice, he had so changed. He moodily behaved, as if deranged Not only by lovesickness (hereos Is what it's called) but mania that grows From melancholic humor that arises 1375 From that front brain cell where one fantasizes. In short, all was in overturned position In both the habit and the disposition Of this despairing lover, Sir Arcite. Should I go on all day about his plight? 1380 Now when he had endured a year or so This cruel torment, all this pain and woe At home in Thebes (as you have heard me say), One night he dreamt while in the bed he lay That winged Mercury came to appear 1385 Before him, bidding him to be of cheer. His sleep inducing wand he held upright, A hat was on his head, his hair was bright; As Arcite noticed, Mercury was dressed Just as when Argus he induced to rest. 1390 The god said this: "To Athens you shall go, Where destined is an end to all your woe." With that, Arcite woke with a start and said, "No matter what sore pain may lie ahead, Right now to Athens truly I must fare; 1395 Though death be dreaded, I'll be seeing there My lady whom I love and serve, and I Shall not, in her dear presence, fear to die." He picked up a large mirror then to see The great change in his color, the degree 1400 To which his face looked like another kind. Immediately the thought ran through his mind That since his face had been disfigured so By all that he had suffered, he could go And live in Athens, in some lowly guise, 1405 And who he was no one would realize; Then he could see his lady every day. And so at once he changed his knight's array For that of a poor laborer for hire; Then all alone (save only for a squire 1410 Who knew his secret, all there was to know, And was disguised in poverty also), He went to Athens by the shortest way. Then to the royal court he went one day And offered at the gate his worker's hands, 1415 To drag and draw, to follow all commands. To tell you what occurred without ado, He got a job with an attendant who Was dwelling in the house of Emily; For he was shrewd and very quick to see 1420 Which of them served his lady there. Well could He bear the water and he hewed as well the wood, For he was young and equal to the task, Big-boned and strong. What any man might ask, Whatever one devised, Arcite could do. 1425 He served in this way for a year or two, The chamber-page of lovely Emily, And said his name was Philostrate. And he Was twice as loved as any other man Of equal rank at court, for in this span 1430 His character was of such noble sort That he won quite a name throughout the court. As charity, they said, it would be noted If Theseus would have the man promoted To higher station, so that servicewise 1435 His virtue he might fully exercise. And so it was in time his fame had sprung Out of his gentle deeds and pleasant tongue Until the duke took him and set him higher, To serve him in his chamber as a squire, 1440 And gave him gold to keep himself in style. From his own country, too, from while to while Men brought to him a secret increment That honestly and slyly would be spent, That none might wonder how he had so much. 1445 He lived this way three years, his bearing such, In time of peace as well as time of war, That there was none whom Theseus loved more. I now leave Arcite in this blissful state That more on Palamon I may relate. 1450 In dark and solid prison, horrid, drear, Now Palamon endures a seventh year And pines away in sorrow and distress. Who feels such double wounds, such heaviness, As Palamon whom love destroys so, 1455 Almost out of his wits through all his woe? And Palamon's a captive, be it clear, Perpetually, not only for a year. O who could rhyme in English properly His martyrdom? It's not I truthfully, 1460 So I'll pass on as briefly as I may. Now in the seventh year (the old books say, With more detail, it was the third night in The month of May), the time came finally when, Whether it was by chance or destiny-- 1465 As when a thing's determined, it shall be-- With a friend's help, soon after midnight fell, Palamon escaped from his prison cell And fled the town as fast as he could go. He'd given his jailer drink, and it was so 1470 Well mixed--a honeyed wine, along with some Narcotics, like fine Theban opium-- That all that night, as hard as men could shake him, The jailer slept and no one could awake him, While Palamon fled swiftly as he may. 1475 The night was short, and fast would come the day, When at all costs he knew he'd have to hide. And so a grove that stood off to the side He fearfully approached. It was his plan, Which I will tell as briefly as I can, 1480 Inside that grove to hide himself all day, Then at the fall of night to make his way To Thebes. There all his friends he would implore To help him march on Theseus in war, And, to be brief, unless he lose his life, 1485 To win the lovely Emily as wife. That was his whole intention, short and plain. And now to Arcite I'll return again, Who little knew how nigh had grown his care Till Fortune was to catch him in her snare. 1490 The busy lark, the messenger of day, Salutes now with her song the morning gray, And fiery Phoebus rises up so bright Till all the east is laughing in his light, The beams of which dry every bush where cleaves 1495 The silver droplets, hanging on the leaves. And Arcite, who is in the royal court As Theseus's squire of good report, Has risen and looks on the merry day. To give the honor that was due to May 1500 (Recalling, too, his object of desire), He set out on a courser quick as fire Into the fields to have a little play. A mile or two from court he rode his way Till he came to the grove of which I spoke. 1505 By chance along that grove his course he broke To make himself a garland from the growth, With woodbine or with hawthorn leaf or both, While in the sunshine singing heartily: "O May, with flowers and with greenery, 1510 You are so welcome, fresh and fairest May! I hope that I may get some green today!" Down from his courser, with a lusty heart Into the grove he promptly made his start And roamed a path wherever it would chance. 1515 Now Palamon, as was the happenstance, Was hidden in a bush where none could see, As fearful for his life as he could be. He'd no idea that this could be Arcite; God knows, he had no cause to think it might, 1520 But it's been truly said down through the years, "The field is blest with eyes, the wood has ears." It's best a fellow always be discreet, For when they least expect men often meet. Little did Arcite know that near him there 1525 Was his old friend to hear him sing his air, For he sat in the bush completely still. When of his roaming Arcite had his fill And he had sung his rondel lustily, Into a muse he fell then suddenly 1530 As lovers do, so variable their mood-- First treetop high, then in the briers they brood, Now up, now down, like buckets in a well; Like on a Friday, truly I can tell, At first it shines, then rains start coming fast. 1535 Just so can fickle Venus overcast The hearts of lovers; Friday is her day, And just as she keeps changing her array Few Fridays are like other days, for sure. When he had sung, Arcite became demure, 1540 He sighed and sat down without further song. "Alas," said he, "the day I came along! O Juno, how much longer will it be That you wage war on Thebes with cruelty? Alas! so much confusion is brought on 1545 The royal blood of Cadmus, Amphion-- Of Cadmus, who's the one who first began To build the town of Thebes, and he's the man Who was the first the city crowned as king; I'm one of his descendants, his offspring, 1550 By true descent I'm of the royal stock; Yet I'm just like a slave sold on the block, For he who is my mortal enemy Is whom I serve as squire so wretchedly. And evermore does Juno cause me shame, 1555 For I dare not to tell them my own name; For whereas I was once known as Arcite, I now am Philostrate, not worth a mite. Alas, you evil Mars! Juno, alas! Your wrath has caused our house to all but pass, 1560 There's left but me and Palamon (in woe, As in the dungeon he's still martyred so). And more than that, to slay me utterly, Love with his fiery dart so burningly Has struck my loving heart with such a hurt, 1565 My death was knit before this very shirt. You've slain me with your eyes, fair Emily, You are the cause I die, that's all there be. And for the rest of all my earthly care I wouldn't give one weed the field may bear 1570 If but to please you I could have a chance." And with that word he fell down in a trance Where long he lay, till rising with a start. This Palamon, who felt that through his heart A cold sword suddenly had glided, shook 1575 With anger, not much time at all he took, For when he finished hearing Arcite's tale, He leapt as if gone mad, face deathly pale, Out of the thicket not one second later, And said, "Arcite, you false and wicked traitor! 1580 Now you are caught who loves my lady so, She for whom I have had such pain and woe; You're of my blood, and to my counsel swore, As I have often said to you before. So you have fooled Duke Theseus, you claim, 1585 And also you have falsely changed your name, But you shall die, or else it shall be me: You shall not love my lady Emily. For I and I alone shall love her so; I'm Palamon himself, your mortal foe. 1590 And though I have no weapon in this place (I just escaped from prison, by God's grace), You'll either die--of that there's no mistake-- Or else not love my Emily. So make The choice you will, you'll not escape from me." 1595 Now when Arcite had heard and turned to see That it was Palamon, as spite coursed through His heart he fiercely as a lion drew His sword and said, "By God who sits above, If you were not so sick and crazed with love, 1600 And if you had a weapon at your side, You'd not walk from this grove a single stride, For by my hand you would be lying dead. The pledge, the guarantee that you have said I gave you, I renounce. Why, you must be 1605 A perfect fool, I tell you love is free, And I will love her, try all that you might! But inasmuch as you're a worthy knight Who'd wager her to see who should prevail, Here is my oath: tomorrow without fail, 1610 In secret, known to no one else around, It's right here as a knight that I'll be found, With arms for you as well--and you be first To choose the best ones, leave for me the worst. Some meat and drink tonight I'll bring to you, 1615 All that you need; I'll bring some bedding too. And if it be my lady you shall win And slay me in this wood that we are in, You well may have her, nothing more from me." And Palamon then answered, "I agree." 1620 And so till then they parted, when they both Had pledged in all good faith with solemn oath. O Cupid, so devoid of charity! O rule where no compeer's allowed to be! It truly has been said that love or power 1625 Won't willingly give fellowship an hour; So Palamon has found, as has Arcite. The latter rode at once to town that night, Then in the morning, just before the sun, Sneaked out the armor he and Palamon 1630 Would need; he brought enough to more than do For battle in the field between the two. So as alone as he was born he rode His horse, with all this armor as his load, And at the time and place that had seen set, 1635 There in the grove, the two of them were met. The hue began to change in each's face, Like in the hunter's who in distant Thrace Stands in the gap with spear in hand, as there He's hunting for the lion and the bear; 1640 He hears it coming, rushing through the branches And breaking boughs asunder; then he blanches: "Here comes," he thinks, "my mortal enemy! Without fail one must die, it's him or me, For either I will slay him at the gap 1645 Or he slay me, if that be my mishap." That's how they were in changing of their hue As soon as each one had his foe in view. There was no "Good day," not one salutation. Without a word before the confrontation 1650 Each of the two first helped to arm the other As courteously as if he were his brother. And then, with sharpened spears of sturdy strength, They plunged into a fight of wondrous length. To watch this Palamon you might have thought 1655 He was a maddened lion, the way he fought, And like a cruel tiger was Arcite. They smote each other as wild boars would fight When frothing white with foam, so mad each one. They fought till ankle deep the blood had run. 1660 I'll leave them, on their fight no more to dwell, Now something more of Theseus to tell. That minister general, Destiny, Who executes all that must come to be (The providence foreseen by God on high), 1665 Is so strong that although the world deny A thing shall be, by vow, by "yea" or "nay," It still will come to pass upon its day, Though not again till pass a thousand years; Each appetite that in this world appears, 1670 Be it for war or peace or hate or love, Is governed by this providence above. Of mighty Theseus I say the same, For he had such desire for hunting game, Especially the great hart, all that May 1675 There didn't dawn on him a single day That didn't find him clad and set to ride With hunters, horns, hounds running at his side; For in his hunting he took such delight That it was all his joy and appetite 1680 To be the great hart's mighty bane and dread; He served Diana after Mars the Red. Clear was the day, as I've said prior to this, As Theseus--all joyful, full of bliss, Along with Hippolyta, his fair queen, 1685 And Emily, clothed all in lovely green-- Was out upon a royal hunting ride; And to the grove that stood so near beside, In which there was a hart (so men had said), Duke Theseus directly turned and sped. 1690 He rode straight for the glade, which was the place To which the hart was wont to go, to race Across the brook and flee as harts will do; The duke would have a run at him or two With hounds such as it pleased him to command. 1695 But when the duke had reached this open land, There in the glaring sun he caught the sight At once of Palamon and of Arcite, Still fighting like two boars. It seemed as though The two bright swords, there flashing to and fro 1700 So hideously, could with the lightest stroke Be either one enough to fell an oak. Now who these people were he didn't know; The duke at once then spurred his courser, though, And in a trice he was between the two, 1705 Pulled out his sword, and said, "Halt! That will do! No more, on pain of parting with your head! By mighty Mars, he'll be as good as dead Who strikes another blow that I may see. Tell me what sort of men you two must be, 1710 In such a hardy fight here as you were Without a judge or other officer Though as if in a tournament today." Then Palamon responded right away: "Sire, there are no more words that need be said, 1715 We both are quite deserving to be dead. Two woeful wretches, prisoners are we, Both weary of our lives, that's him and me. And as you are a righteous judge and lord, No mercy nor refuge for us afford, 1720 But slay me first, in saintly charity. But slay this fellow here as well as me-- Or slay him first, when you have seen him right: This is your mortal foe, this is Arcite, Whom you have banished or would have his head, 1725 For which he's now deserving to be dead. This is the one who came up to your gate And told them that his name was Philostrate, The one who's made a fool of you for years-- You made him your chief squire, from all his peers. 1730 And he's in love with Emily. And I, Since now has come the day that I shall die, Shall plainly here confess and have it done That I am that same woeful Palamon Who broke out of your prison wickedly; 1735 I am your mortal foe, and I am he Who loves so hotly Emily the Bright I'd die for it here in my lady's sight. I therefore ask for death, for it is just. But you will slay this fellow too, I trust, 1740 For both of us deserve to die, not one." This worthy duke then answered Palamon At once. He said, "Then here's the long and short: The confession from your mouth, your own report Has damned you, so I'll thereby note the fact 1745 That there's no need to flog or have you racked. By mighty Mars the Red, you'll die and should!" But then the queen, in all her womanhood, Began to weep, and so did Emily And all the ladies in their company. 1750 They thought it such a pity, one and all, That ever such misfortune should befall; For gentlemen these were, of great estate, And nothing but of love was their debate. To see the two men's bloody wounds so wide, 1755 Both young and old among the women cried, "Have mercy, lord, upon us women all!" And on their bare knees they began to fall, And would have kissed his feet there as he stood. At last, as pity rises in a good 1760 And gentle heart, his anger finally slaked; For though the duke at first with ire quaked, He gave consideration with a pause To what had been their trespass and the cause. Though, to his mind, of guilt they stood accused, 1765 His reason said that they should be excused; He settled on the thought that every man Will help himself in love all that he can, And free himself from jail in any fashion. And also in his heart he had compassion 1770 For all these women who were still in tears. He gently took to heart the women's fears, Then softly told himself, "Fie on a lord Who has no whit of mercy to afford, Who's lionlike in all that's done and said 1775 To those who are repentant and in dread, As well as to a proud, defiant man Who aims to finish that which he began. That lord has no discriminating vision Who can't in such a case make some division 1780 But weighs pride and humility as one." So when its course his wrath had shortly run, Duke Theseus looked up toward the skies And spoke aloud, a sparkling in his eyes: "The god of love! Ah, benedicite! 1785 How great a lord, how mighty is his sway! Against his might there are no obstacles; Call him a god for all his miracles. For he can mold according to his muse All of our hearts however he may choose. 1790 This Palamon, this Arcite whom you see, Were from my prison both completely free; They might have lived in Thebes and royally so, For they both know I am their mortal foe And death for both within my power lies; 1795 Yet love, in spite of all before their eyes, Brought them back here to die, back to the brink. Now this is some high folly, don't you think? Who else may be a fool but one in love! Look, for the sake of God who sits above, 1800 See how they bleed! Are they not well arrayed? Thus by their lord, the god of love, they're paid For serving him, they have their fee and wage. Yet they think they are wise who so engage In serving love, whatever may befall. 1805 But this is yet the biggest joke of all, That she for whom they passionately vie Can give them thanks about as much as I-- She knew no more about this whole affair Than knew, by God, a cuckoo or a hare! 1810 But all must be assayed, both hot and cold, A man must be a fool, though young or old. From long ago I know myself it's true, For in my time I was love's servant too. And therefore, since I recognize love's pain 1815 And know full well love's power to constrain (As one so often captured in his net), This trespass I'll forgive and I'll forget, As my queen has requested, kneeling here Along with Emily, my sister dear. 1820 But both of you shall swear to me: my land Shall nevermore be threatened by your hand, You shan't make war against me day or night; You'll be my friends in every way you might, Then I'll forgive this trespass as I may." 1825 And they swore as he asked in every way, And for his lordship's mercy then they prayed. He granted grace, and then this speech he made: "Regarding royal blood and riches too, Were she a queen or princess, each of you, 1830 I have no doubt at all, has worthiness To marry her in time; but nonetheless I speak now for my sister Emily For whom you've had this strife and jealousy. You know that two at once she cannot marry 1835 No matter how this fight you choose to carry. No, one of you, no matter what the grief, Must go and 'whistle with an ivy leaf'; She cannot have you both, that is to say, Be you as mad and jealous as you may. 1840 This proposition, then, I put to you: Each one shall have his destiny, his due, However it's been shaped--and listen how, For here's your end as I devise it now. "My will is this (this matter to conclude 1845 Once and for all, no protest to intrude, So if you like it, make of it the best): Where you may wish to go, by me you're blest, Go freely, there's no danger in your way; But after fifty weeks right to the day, 1850 Each of you shall bring back one hundred knights, Armed for the lists to represent your rights, All set to fight for her. For here's an oath That this is what shall be, I tell you both Upon my word and as I am a knight: 1855 When we have seen which has the greater might-- That is to say, whichever of the two With his one hundred (as I've said to you) Shall slay or from the lists the other drive-- To him I shall give Emily to wive, 1860 To him who Fortune gives so fair a grace. I'll have the lists built in this very place, And--God bestow my soul with wisdom's order-- I'll be a true judge on the battle's border. With me you have no other way to go, 1865 One of you shall be killed or taken. So If you believe this judgment is well said, Advise me now and count yourselves ahead. That is your end, that's how it shall be done." Who looks as happy now as Palamon? 1870 And who but Arcite springs with such delight? Who could explain, who has the skill to write About the joy witnessed in the place That Theseus has granted such a grace? Then everyone went down on bended knee 1875 And gave him thanks in most heartfelt degree-- Especially the Thebans, more than once. And so, with high hopes and ebullience, The two then took their leave, they were to ride Back home to Thebes, to walls so old and wide. 1880 PART III I know that men would deem it negligence If I forgot to tell of the expense To which Duke Theseus went busily To build the lists. He built them royally, A theatre so noble standing there 1885 I daresay none was finer anywhere. Its circuit measured one full mile about, Its wall of stone, a circling moat without. As surely as a compass it was round, And sixty rows it stood above the ground, 1890 So that a man on one row wouldn't be The reason that another couldn't see. On the east stood a great, white marble gate, Another on the west. I'll briefly state, Concluding, there was no such other place 1895 In all the earth that took so little space. For there was not one craftsman in the land With math and his geometry in hand, No single sculptor or one painter, who Duke Theseus did not hire for the crew 1900 That worked on this theatre. So that he Might sacrifice, do all rites properly, At the eastern gate he had built above, In honor of Venus, goddess of love, An altar and an oratory. Then, 1905 Above the west gate, he constructed in The memory of Mars the very same; A cart of gold was spent in Mars's name. In a turret, built on the northern wall In coral and white alabaster all, 1910 The duke had nobly wrought an oratory Magnificent see, built for the glory Of Diana, most chaste of deities. Yet I've forgotten to describe with these The sculptures, paintings, noble works of art, 1915 The shapes and figures that were all a part Of the work in these oratories three. In the temple of Venus you could see (Wrought on the wall, and piteous to behold) The broken sleep, the lonely sighs, the cold 1920 And sacred tears, the sad laments; the burning, The fiery strokes of all desire and yearning That servants of love in this life endure; The oaths by which covenants they assure; Pleasure and Hope, Desire, Foolhardiness, 1925 Beauty and Youth and Riches, Bawdiness, Seduction, Force, Falsehood and Flattery, Extravagance, Ado and Jealousy (Who wears a garland, yellow marigolds, And in her hand a bird, the cuckoo, holds); 1930 The banquets, instruments, the carols, dances, Lust and array. All of the circumstances Of love that I'm recounting here were all In proper order painted on the wall-- And more than I'd be able to recount, 1935 For truly all the Cytherean mount, The place where Venus has her major dwelling, Was in the scenes on that wall for the telling With all its gardens and its lustfulness. Nor was forgotten the porter Idleness, 1940 Nor Narcissus, that ancient, fairest one, Nor all the folly of King Solomon, Nor yet the mighty strength of Hercules, Medea's enchanting power nor Circe's, Nor Turnus with a heart so fierce and bold, 1945 Nor Croesus, rich but captive with his gold. So you can see that neither wisdom, wealth, Nor beauty, sleight, nor strength nor hardy health Can hold with Venus an equality, For as she wills she guides the world to be. 1950 Look how these people, caught up in her snare, So often cried "Alas!" in their despair. Suffice here these examples one or two, Though I could tell a thousand more to you. Venus's statue, glorious to behold, 1955 Was naked, and the sea about her rolled, As from her navel down were shown to pass Green waves that were as bright as any glass. She had a harp in her right hand, and she Had on her head, a seemly sight to see, 1960 A fresh rose garland, fragrant as the spring. Above her head her doves were flickering. Before her Cupid stood, who is her son; He had two wings and was superbly done, And blind he was, as is so often seen. 1965 He held a bow, and arrows bright and keen. Why should I not as well tell you of all The paintings that appeared upon the wall In the temple of mighty Mars the Red? From roof to floor the wall was overspread 1970 With painted scenes like in that grisly place That's known as his great temple back in Thrace-- That cold and frosty region where, I'm told, He has his sovereign mansion from of old. A forest, first, was painted on the wall 1975 In which there dwelt no man nor beast at all. Its knotty, knarled trees were bare and old, The stubs were sharp and hideous to behold; And through it ran a rumble and a sough As if a storm would break off every bough. 1980 And downward from a hill, below the bent, Stood the temple of Mars of Armament, Made all of burnished steel. The entrance there Was long and straight, indeed a sight to scare, And out of it came such a raging wind 1985 The very gate was made to shake and bend. In through the doors there shone the northern light (No window being in that temple's height Through which to see a single light). Each door Was of eternal adamant and, more, 1990 Was reinforced as wide as well as long With toughest iron. To make the temple strong, Each pillar had the girth of any cask, Each of bright shiny iron fit for the task. There I first saw the dark imagination 1995 Of Felony, the scheme of its creation; Cruel Ire that burns till like a coal it's red; The pickpurse and the pallidness of Dread; The smiler with the knife beneath his cloak; The stable burning up with blackest smoke; 2000 The treachery of murder in the bed; The wounds of open Warfare as they bled; Strife with its threats and with its bloody knife. With frightful sounds that sorry place was rife. The suicide I saw, too, lying there, 2005 The blood of his own heart had bathed his hair; The driven nail in someone's head by night; Cold Death laid out, his mouth a gaping sight; Right in the temple's center sat Mischance, Uncomforted, and sad his countenance; 2010 There I saw Madness laughing in his rage, And armed Complaint, Outcry and fierce Outrage; The carrion found in the bush (throat slit), A thousand slain, no plague the cause of it; The tyrant with his booty, battle's gains; 2015 The town laid waste till nothing now remains. I saw the burning ships dance on the tide; The hunter strangled by wild bears; I spied The sow devour the child right in the cradle; The scalded cook despite his lengthy ladle. 2020 Not one misfortune that Mars could impart Was overlooked; the carter by his cart Run over, underneath the wheel laid low. Of those who follow Mars, there were also The barber and the butcher, and the smith 2025 Who forges at the anvil, busy with Sharp swords. Above, where seated in his tower, I saw Conquest depicted in his power; There was a sharpened sword above his head That hung there by the thinnest simple thread. 2030 The killing, too, was shown of Julius, Of mighty Nero, of Antonius-- Though at that time they all were still unborn, Their deaths appeared upon that wall forlorn By threat of Mars and by prefiguration. 2035 So it was shown in that wall's illustration As is depicted in the stars above: Who shall be slain and who shall die for love. (Old stories tell it; one example's good, I can't recount them all, although I would.) 2040 His statue on its chariot, lifelike In arms and grim, looked mad enough to strike. Two starry figures shone above his head, Puella one (as in the old books read), The other one as Rubeus was known. 2045 That's how this god of armament was shown. There was a wolf before him at his feet With red eyes, as a man he set to eat. With subtle brush depicted was the story Of Mars, redoubtable in all his glory. 2050 Now to the temple of Diana chaste As briefly as I can I'll turn with haste To give you a description that's complete. The walls all up and down were made replete With scenes of hunting and of chastity. 2055 I saw how sad Callisto came to be (When she had caused Diana some despair) Changed from a woman first into a bear And then into the lodestar. (That's the way That it was painted, what more can I say?) 2060 Her son's also a star, as men may see. There I saw Daphne turned into a tree. (Diana I don't mean, she's not the same; Peneus's daughter, Daphne her name.) I saw Actaeon turned into a hart 2065 (He saw Diana nude, which wasn't smart), And then I saw his hounds run and surprise him And eat him up (they didn't recognize him). And painted on the wall was furthermore How Atalanta hunted after boar, 2070 As did Meleager and some others (though For this Diana brought Meleager woe). I also saw there many a wondrous tale On which I'd rather let my memory fail. This goddess on a hart had taken seat, 2075 And there were slender hounds about her feet, And underneath her feet there was a moon (One that was waxing, to be waning soon). Her statue was arrayed in green; she wore A quiver filled, her bow in hand she bore. 2080 Her eyes were looking down, extremely so, Toward Pluto's dark region far below. Before her was a woman in travail, Trying to have her child to no avail As to Lucina she began to call, 2085 "Please help me, for your help's the best of all!" How lifelike were these scenes the artist wrought! The paint cost many a florin that he bought. Now when these lists were finished, Theseus, Who'd gone to great expense in building thus 2090 The theatre and temples, was elated With all of it as finally consummated. On Theseus I'll cease now if I might, Of Palamon to speak and of Arcite. The day of their return was drawing nigh, 2095 When each should bring one hundred knights to vie For Emily in battle, as I've told. To Athens, their covenants to uphold, Each one of them thus brought one hundred knights, Well armed and set for battle by all rights. 2100 And certainly, as thought then many a man, Not once before since this world first began (Regarding knighthood, deeds of gallant hand), As surely as God made the sea and land, Had there been such a noble company. 2105 For every man with love of chivalry And who desired to make himself a name Had prayed that he might take part in the game. The chosen surely had no cause for sorrow; If such a thing were taking place tomorrow, 2110 You know right well that every lusty knight Who loves his paramours and has some might, Whether it were in England or elsewhere, Would thankfully and willingly be there. To fight for a lady, benedicite! 2115 It was a lusty sight, this whole array. The many knights who rode with Palamon Were of that lusty spirit, every one. Now some of these had chosen to be dressed In hauberk, breastplate, and a simple vest; 2120 Some wore two plates (both front and black, and large), While some preferred a Prussian shield or targe; Some liked to arm their legs against attacks And have a mace of steel or else an ax. There's no new armored style that isn't old, 2125 They all were armed, as I have briefly told, According to the liking of each one. There you may see approach with Palamon Lycurgus, who's the mighty king of Thrace. His beard was black, and manly was his face. 2130 The fellow's eyes were glowing in his head With light that was half yellow and half red, And like a griffin he would look about From neath two shaggy brows. The man was stout; He had great limbs, with muscles hard and strong, 2135 His shoulders broad, arms barrel like and long. As was the custom in his land, he rolled Along upon a chariot of gold, Four white bulls in the traces at the fore. Instead of coat of arms Lycurgus wore 2140 A bearskin that was coal black, very old, Its yellow claws as bright as any gold. His hair shone, long and combed behind his back, Bright as a raven's feather, and as black. His strong and shaggy head was underneath 2145 A mighty weight, an arm-sized golden wreath, Inlaid with bright and precious stones in plenty. White wolfhounds were around him, more than twenty, Each one of them as big as any steer, That he would use to hunt for lion or deer. 2150 They followed him with muzzles tightly bound, Their collars gold with collar rings filed round. He had a hundred lords there in his rout, All fully armed. Their hearts were stern and stout. With Arcite, as we find old tales relate, 2155 The Indian king, Emetrius the Great-- His bay steed with steel trappings, covered by A motley cloth of gold--came riding. Why, The god of arms, new Mars he looked to be. His surcoat was of cloth from Tartary, 2160 With all the large white pearls that it could hold. His saddle, newly forged, was burnished gold. A mantle from his shoulders hung, attire Brimful of rubies sparkling red as fire. His crisp hair into ringlets seemed to run, 2165 So yellow it would glitter like the sun. His nose was high, his eyes bright and citrine; He had full lips, and skin that had a fine Sanguinity, with freckles on his face From black to yellow and from place to place. 2170 And like that of a lion was his gaze. His age was twenty-five, I would appraise. His beard had very well begun to grow; His voice thundered like a trumpet's blow. He wore a garland made of laurel, green 2175 And freshly picked and pleasant to be seen. Upon his hand he bore, to his delight, An eagle that was tame and lily white. He had a hundred nobles with him there, Armed to the teeth with all a warrior's wear, 2180 Fully equipped with all that battle brings. For take my word that earls, dukes, and kings Were gathered in this noble company For love of and the growth of chivalry. Around this king, among this noble tide, 2185 Tame lions and leopards ran on every side. And in this manner nobles all and some Had on that Sunday to the city come, There in the early morning to alight. Now Theseus, this duke and worthy knight, 2190 When he had brought them all into the town To inns where they would all be bedded down According to their rank, gave them a feast. He honored all, ignoring not the least. It still is said that none, however great, 2195 Could have done better. Here I could relate The music and the service at the feast, The gifts both to the highest and the least; The rich array with which he decked the place, And who sat first and last upon the dais; 2200 Which ladies were the fairest, danced the best, Or which of them sang better than the rest; Or who could speak most feelingly of love; What hawks were sitting on the perch above, What hounds were lying on the floor below-- 2205 Of all this I will make no mention, though. To tell what followed seems the best to me, So let's get to the point, if you agree. That Sunday night, before day came along, When Palamon had heard the lark in song-- 2210 It was two hours till day would begin, And yet the lark sang--Palamon right then In hopeful spirit and with holy heart Arose, then as a pilgrim to depart To Cytherea, blissful and benign 2215 (That is, to Venus, honored and divine); For in her hour he walked out to where Her temple stood in the theatre. There He knelt down with a humble, aching heart And prayed, as you shall hear me now impart. 2220 "O lady Venus, fairest of the fair, Jove's daughter, wife of Vulcan, hear my prayer! O gladness of the Cytherean mount! By your love for Adonis--such amount!-- Have pity on my tears, their bitter smart, 2225 And take my humble prayer into your heart. Alas! I have no language that can tell The ravages and torments of my hell, The many ills my heart cannot convey; I'm so confused there's nothing I can say 2230 But 'Mercy, lady bright, who, as I kneel, Knows all my thought and sees what woe I feel!' Consider all and rue me, I implore, As surely as I shall forevermore (Give me the might!) your truest servant be 2235 And always be at war with chastity. I give to you my vow, give me your aid. For I don't care to boast of arms displayed Nor ask that mine shall be the victory And fame; I do not seek the vanity 2240 Of warriors' glory, praised both far and wide; I wish but full possession as my bride Of Emily, and death in serving you. Determine now the way, what's best to do. I do not care, whichever's best to be-- 2245 To vanquish them or have them vanquish me-- That I might hold my lady safe from harms. For though it's true that Mars is god of arms, Your virtue, Venus, is so great above, If you but will it I shall have my love. 2250 I'll worship at your temple ever biding; At every altar where I may go riding My sacrifice will be with fiery heat. But if you will it not, my lady sweet, I pray tomorrow, when we're fighting here, 2255 Arcite will run my heart through with a spear; Then I won't care, when I have lost my life, Though he indeed should win her as his wife. This is my prayer, it all concludes in this: Give me my love, dear lady of all bliss." 2260 When the prayer of Palamon was done, He gave a sacrifice, and it was one Of all good form and fullest piety. (I won't go into all the liturgy.) Then at the last the Venus statue shook 2265 And made a sign to him, which he then took To mean acceptance of his prayer that day; For though the sign had come with some delay, He well knew she had granted his request. He hurried home with gladness in his breast. 2270 Three hours after he had made his way Out to the temple of Venus to pray, The sun arose and so did Emily. She started for Diana's temple, she And all the maidens in her following 2275 Who brought the fire to burn the offering, The incense, clothes, all the accoutrements Required for sacrificial sacraments; As was the custom, horns were full of mead; They brought all things that sacrificers need. 2280 The temple smoked, the vestments all were fair, As Emily, with heart so debonair, Her body washed with water from a well. How she performed the rite I dare not tell Unless it's in a very general way. 2285 (A pleasure it would be were I to say, And, meaning well, there's nothing I could lose, But it's good for a man to pick and choose.) She combed her loose bright hair, smooth to the stroke. A crown of green leaves taken from the oak 2290 Was on her head, the arrangement meet and fair. Two fires she kindled at the altar there And then performed the rites (as men may note In old books like the Theban Statius wrote). The fire once lit, she in a piteous way 2295 Addressed Diana, as you'll hear me say. "O most chaste goddess of the woods so green, By whom all heaven, earth, and sea are seen! Queen of the realm of Pluto dark below! Goddess of maidens! My heart you well know 2300 And have for years, you've known what I desire. O keep me from your vengeance and your ire, For which Actaeon paid so brutally! You've seen, chaste goddess, one desire in me: I long to be a maiden all my life, 2305 Not ever to be lover or a wife. You know that I'm yet of your company, A maiden who's in love with venery, One who desires to walk the woods so wild And not be someone's wife and be with child 2310 Or have to know the company of man. Now help me, lady, since you may and can, By these three forms that you possess. I see That Palamon has such a love for me, And Arcite too, and for them I implore, 2315 One grace I ask, and pray for nothing more: That love and peace between the two you'll send And turn their hearts from me, to such an end That all their burning love and their desire, That all their busy torment and their fire 2320 Be quenched, or else turned to another place. But if you will not grant me such a grace, Or destiny is shaped in such a way That I must have one of the two, I pray You'll send me him with most desire for me. 2325 Behold, O goddess of pure chastity, Upon my cheeks the bitter tears that fall. You are a maiden, keeper of us all; My maidenhood now keep and well conserve, And you, while I'm a maiden, I will serve." 2330 The fires burnt clearly on the altar there While Emily was kneeling in her prayer. Then suddenly so strange a sight she flinched, For all at once one of the fires was quenched, Then lit again; and after that the other 2335 Was gone as quickly, as if in a smother-- And as it went, it made a whistling noise Like firebrands when they're wet. She lost all poise When from the firebrand's end began to run What looked like drops of blood, and many a one. 2340 Poor Emily, aghast at such a sight, Began to cry, half maddened in her fright, Not knowing what this all might signify; It was pure fear alone that made her cry, And cry she did, a woeful sound to hear. 2345 Just then Diana seemed there to appear, Like any huntress, in her hand a bow. "Daughter," she said, "put off your heavy woe. Among the gods on high it is affirmed By word eternal, written and confirmed: 2350 You shall be wedded to one of the two Who have endured such care and woe for you. But as to which of them, I may not tell. No longer may I tarry, so farewell. The fires that here upon my altar burn 2355 Shall say to you, before away you turn, What in this case shall be your fate in love." With that, the arrows in the quiver of The goddess rang with noisy clattering, Then she was gone. Upon this vanishing, 2360 Astonished by the things that she had seen, Emily said, "Alas, what can it mean? I put myself now under your protection, Diana, I shall follow your direction." She then at once went home the nearest way, 2365 And that was that, there is no more to say. The next hour of Mars to follow this, Arcite went to the temple in the lists To offer fiery Mars his sacrifice With all the rites that such a god suffice. 2370 With piteous heart and very high devotion He said to Mars the following orison. "O god of strength, who in cold Thracian regions Is honored as a lord by all your legions; Who has in every realm and every land 2375 All arms as but a bridle in your hand, Whose fortunes are your pleasure, your device; Accept, I pray, my humble sacrifice. If it be by my youth I might deserve, And by my strength have worthiness, to serve 2380 Your godhead and to be among your train, I pray that you'll have pity on my pain. By that same pain, that same hot, blazing fire In which you too were burning with desire, When you once had the fair, the fresh young beauty 2385 Of Venus--when you had her in your duty, When in your arms you had her at your will (Although there was a time it brought you ill, The time when Vulcan caught you in his net And found you with his wife, to your regret)-- 2390 By that same sorrow that was in your heart, Now rue my pains as well, for how they smart! I'm young, unknowing, as you are aware; By love I'm hurt, and have much more despair Than any creature ever drawing breath. 2395 For she, for whom I must endure to death This woe, cares not if I should sink or swim-- No mercy from her, not a trace or whim, Unless by strength I win her in this place. And well I know, without your help or grace, 2400 My strength will not avail me in my plight. So help me, lord, tomorrow in my fight. By that same fire that once caused you to burn (Those flames that now cause me as well to yearn), Let victory tomorrow be my story; 2405 Let mine be all the trial, yours the glory. Your temple I will honor without measure, Above all places; always at your leisure And in your crafts I'll work in mighty manner. And in your temple I will hang my banner, 2410 And all the arms of all my company, And henceforth, till the day I die, I'll see That there's eternal fire before you found. And also to this oath I will be bound: My beard and hair, that now hang down so long 2415 And never yet have suffered any wrong From razor or from shear, I'll give to you, And be long as I live your servant true. Now, lord, look on my sorrow ruefully; I ask for nothing more than victory." 2420 Now when this prayer of strong Arcite was ended, The rings that on the doors had hung suspended, And then the doors themselves, began to clatter (With Arcite somewhat frightened by the matter). The altar fires began to burn so bright 2425 That Mars's temple soon was all alight. The floor gave up an odor sweet and grand. Immediately Arcite raised up his hand, As more incense into the fire he cast, With other rites as well, when at the last 2430 The statue's hauberk then began to ring, And with the sound was heard a murmuring: Though low and dim, and word was "Victory!" Then Mars he praised and honored joyfully; His hopes were high as to how well he'd fare 2435 As to his inn he then went to repair, As happy as a bird to see the sun. And right away such strife was then begun, By these accords, in the heavens above Between fair Venus, goddess of all love, 2440 And Mars, stern god of every sword and plate, That Jupiter could hardly arbitrate-- Until his father Saturn, pale and cold, Well taught by many fortunes from of old, Recalled from his experience an art 2445 By which they were appeased for each's part. It's truly said the elder has advantage, On wisdom and on life he has the vantage; Men may outrun but not outsmart the old. At once to end this strife he'd seen unfold, 2450 Old Saturn (though it wasn't like himself) Sought ways to put this quarrel on the shelf. "Dear daughter Venus," Saturn said, "my course Must take a lengthy turn, yet it's a force And power like no man can bring to be. 2455 Mine is the drowning in the pallid sea; Mine is the prison cell where shines no speck Of light; the strangling, hanging by the neck, The murmur and rebellion of the throng, The secret poison, and complaints of wrong; 2460 I take revenge, complete correction's mine, While I am dwelling in the Lion's sign. Mine's the ruin of many high built halls, The falling of the towers and the walls On carpenter and miner. I'm the killer 2465 Of Samson as he shook the mighty pillar; And mine are all the maladies so cold, The plans of all dark treasons from of old; My glance is father of all pestilence. Now weep no more, for by my diligence 2470 This Palamon, who is your worthy knight, Shall have her as you promised him tonight. Though Mars shall help his knight, this has to cease, Between you once again must be some peace, Although you're not the same in temperament 2475 (Which causes all the day such argument). I'm your grandfather, ready at your will; No longer weep, your wish I shall fulfill." Now I will cease to speak of gods above, Of Mars and Venus, gods of war and love, 2480 And tell you now, as plainly as I can, The end result for which I first began. PART IV Great was the feast in Athens on that day, And such a lusty season was that May That everyone took pleasure at the chance 2485 To joust all of that Monday and to dance And serve fair Venus as he might devise. But by the fact that they would have to rise Up early if they were to see the fight, They finally went to bed that Monday night. 2490 Next morning, when the day began to spring, Of horse and harness, noise and clattering, The sounds were heard in all the inns about. Then to the palace rode a mighty rout Of lords upon their steeds and palfreys. There 2495 One might see many styles of knightly wear, Exotic, rich, all wrought with great appeal, Combining gold, embroidery, and steel; Bright shields, headpieces, gear for all alarms, Gold-tinted helmets, hauberks, coats of arms; 2500 Lords robed on mounts, with knights in retinue Attending to their needs; and squires too Were in attendance, buckling up headgear And strapping shields and nailing every spear (The needs were such these squires were never idle). 2505 The foaming steeds gnawed at the golden bridle, While through the throng ran armorers also, With file and hammer, pricking to and fro; Yeomen on foot, and many commoners too, With short staves, were as thick as could get through; 2510 The pipe, the trumpet, clarion, kettledrum, From which in battle bloody sounds would come; The palace full of people wall to wall, Three here, ten there, discussing one and all The question of these two young Theban knights, 2515 Some saying this, some that; as for the fights, Some favored yon black-headed, some the bald, While triumph for that thick-haired others called; Some said, "He has a grim look, he can fight; His ax weighs twenty pounds, that isn't light." 2520 And so the hall was filled with such divining, The sun long since arisen, brightly shining. Great Theseus, now from his sleep awaking To minstrelsy and noise they were making, Within his splendid palace chamber stayed 2525 Until the Theban knights, who both were paid The honor due, were fetched. The duke with that Made his appearance, at a window sat, And like a god enthroned the duke was dressed. At once all of the people forward pressed 2530 To see him and to pay high reverence And hear what judgments he might then dispense. A herald on a scaffold bellowed "Hear ye!" Until the noise quieted down; then he, On seeing that the crowd below was still, 2535 Disclosed to them Duke Theseus's will: "Our lord discreet, upon deliberation, Considers it would be a desolation Of gentle blood here in this enterprise To fight a mortal battle for the prize. 2540 Wherefore, to see that no one here should die, His former purpose he will modify. No man, on pain of forfeiture of life, Shall send a missile, poleax, or a knife Into the lists, nor bring such weapons there; 2545 No short, well-sharpened sword shall anywhere Be drawn, nor shall one bear it by his side; And no man shall against his fellow ride With finely sharpened spear more than a course (But may defend with it if off his horse). 2550 And anyone in trouble they shall take-- That there should be no slaying--to a stake That shall be ordered, one on either side, Where he'll be put by force and there abide. And if one of the chieftains, once we start, 2555 Is taken, or has slain his counterpart, The tournament is over, come and gone. And so Godspeed! Go forward and lay on! With long sword and with maces fight your fill. Go on your way now, this is our lord's will." 2560 High as the heavens rose the people's voice, So merrily and loud did they rejoice. "God save a lord so noble!" was the cry. "He wills no blood be shed, that none should die!" The trumpets blew, then with much melody 2565 Toward the lists rode all this company In order down the city's thoroughfare, Where cloth of gold, no serge, hung everywhere. This noble duke was lordlike on the ride, With these two Theban knights on either side; 2570 And after rode the queen and Emily, And after that a mighty company In groups that were arranged by social order. They passed through all the city to its border, Out to the lists, with none arriving late. 2575 The hour of day was sometime after eight When Theseus sat high and regally, And Hippolyta and fair Emily, With other ladies of degree about. Then to the seats went pressing all the rout. 2580 Then through the west gates under Mars the Red Arcite immediately his hundred led, His banner bright and red beneath the sun. In that same moment entered Palamon Under Venus on the east. His banner 2585 Was white, and there was boldness in his manner. In all the world, were you to seek throughout, You'd find no other two such groups without A difference, well matched in every way Till there was no one wise enough to say 2590 If either of the two had any edge In worthiness or age or heritage, So evenly, it seemed, the Thebans chose. They lined up fairly, two opposing rows. And when the name of everyone was read, 2595 That in their numbers no one be misled, The gates were shut, and this cry rang aloud: "Now do your duty, knights so young and proud!" The heralds cease their pricking to and fro; Now trumpets and the clarion loudly blow; 2600 There is no more to say but east and west The spear now steady goes into its rest, And sharpened spur into the courser's side. They see now who can joust and who can ride: Shafts splinter on the stout shields tough and thick; 2605 Right through the breastbone one now feels the prick; Up spring the spears some twenty feet in height, Out come the swords all sharp and silver bright; The helmets they begin to hew and shred, Out bursts the blood in sternest streams of red; 2610 With mighty maces bones they break and bust; Right through the thickest throng one rides to thrust; Strong steeds begin to stumble, there's a fall, The rider underfoot rolls like a ball; He parries with his shaft against a thrust, 2615 Another with his horse now hits the dust-- He's wounded, so here's one whom they must take, Despite his protests, over to the stake Where by the ruling he will have to stay; Another knight is led across the way. 2620 At times Duke Theseus will have them rest, Refresh themselves, and drink if they request. And these two Theban knights time and again Have clashed together, brought each other pain, Each twice unhorsed now in their rivalry. 2625 No tiger in the vale of Gargaphy Whose young whelp has been stolen in the night Is so cruel to the hunter as Arcite, So jealous, is to Palamon; and there Is not a hunted lion anywhere 2630 In Benmarin, though crazed with hunger, so Intent to slay, to spill blood of its foe, As is fierce Palamon against Arcite. The jealous strokes into their helmets bite, Out runs the blood, down both their sides they bleed. 2635 In time there comes an end to every deed, As when that day, before the sun had set, Strong King Emetrius charged forth to get At Palamon as he fought with Arcite; His sword out of his flesh took quite a bite, 2640 Then twenty men grabbed Palamon, to take Him, though he struggled, over to the stake. Strong King Lycurgus moved with the intent To rescue him, but down Lycurgus went, While King Emetrius, for all his strength, 2645 Got knocked from his saddle by a sword's length, From Palamon receiving such a blow. But to the stake now Palamon must go; His hardiness of heart went all for naught, He had to stay right there once he was caught, 2650 By force and rules by which the jousts were run. Who sorrows now but woeful Palamon, Unable to return again to fight? When Theseus had witnessed such a sight, To those who fought, to each and every one, 2655 He cried, "Hear ye! No more, for it is done! As true impartial judge I now decree Arcite the Theban shall have Emily, For by his fortune he has fairly won." Such noise by the crowd was then begun 2660 In joy at this, so loud and high the sound, It seemed the lists would fall right to the ground. And what now can fair Venus do above? What can she say or do, this queen of love? She weeps at this denial of her will 2665 Till with her tears the lists begin to fill. "Without a doubt I'm put to shame," she cried. "Be still, my daughter!" Saturn then replied. "Mars has his will, his knight has all his boon, But, by my head, you'll have your pleasure soon." 2670 The trumpeteers, musicians playing loud, And heralds loudly crying to the crowd Were all in utter joy for Sir Arcite. But stop and hear me now as I recite A miracle that suddenly took place. 2675 Fierce Arcite, to reveal his joyous face, Had taken off his helmet. On his horse He then set out across the lengthy course While gazing up at Emily on high; And she in turn cast him a friendly eye-- 2680 For womenfolk in general, I must say, Will follow Fortune's favor all the way-- And she was all his joy, his heart's delight. A Fury sent from Pluto bounded right Out of the ground (sent by request, of course, 2685 Of Saturn), which so frightened Arcite's horse It turned and reared, and foundered in the act, So quickly that before he could react Arcite was thrown and landed on his head, And lay there as if likely he were dead; 2690 His breast was shattered by his saddlebow. He lay as black as any coal or crow, The blood rushed so profusely to his face. Arcite at once was borne out of the place, With aching heart, back to the palace. There 2695 They cut him out of all his armored wear, Then quickly but with care put him to bed; For he was still alive and in his head And crying evermore for Emily. Duke Theseus, with all his company, 2700 As he returned to Athens, made his way With all the usual pageant and display; For though mischance had surely cast a pall, He didn't want to disconcert them all. And men were saying, "Arcite shall not die, 2705 His wounds shall all be healed." And they could sigh As well in the relief that, though it thrilled, The tourney ended up with no one killed-- Though some were badly hurt, and namely one Who'd caught a spear, which through his heart had run. 2710 For other wounds and for the broken arms, Some had some salves and some had magic charms; They drank of sage, all herbal remedies Designed to save them their extremities. This noble duke, as such a noble can, 2715 Both comforted and honored every man, And gave a revel lasting all the night For all these foreign nobles, as was right. For there was held to have been no defeat Save what in jousts and tourneys one may meet; 2720 Defeat was truly no one's circumstance. To take a fall is nothing more than chance, As to be led by force out to the stake, With protest it takes twenty knights to break-- One man all by himself with twenty foes 2725 And carried by his arms and feet and toes, His courser being driven forth with staves By footmen (some were yeomen, some were knaves). No man could be maligned because of this; There is no man could call it cowardice. 2730 So Theseus at once gave the decree, To stop all rancor and all enmity, That one side's strength did not exceed the other's, That both sides were alike, as if all brothers. By rank he gave them gifts as well as praise, 2735 Gave them a feast that lasted three whole days; Then all the kings who had been at the tourney He rode with from his town a lengthy journey, And every man went home his proper way, And that was that, with "Farewell!" and "Good day!" 2740 So of this battle no more I'll recite, But speak of Palamon and of Arcite. The breast of Arcite swelled, the pain and sore About his heart increasing more and more. The clotting blood, despite physicians' art, 2745 Corrupted as it spread out from his heart, So that no bleedings nor the cuppings made, Nor drinking herbal mixtures, were of aid. The expulsive power (being the "animal") From that one that is known as "natural" 2750 Could not void all the venom nor expel. The pipes within his lungs began to swell, And every muscle that was in his chest With venom and corruption filled his breast. And there was nothing gained, that he might live, 2755 By upward vomit, downward laxative, For all had been so shattered in his breast That Nature had no power to arrest. And certainly if Nature won't work, tote The man to church, farewell to antidote. 2760 Arcite would die and that's the summary. And so he sent for lovely Emily And Palamon, his cousin once so dear, And then he spoke as you will promptly hear. "The woeful spirit that is in my heart 2765 Cannot describe my sorrows, all the smart, O lady whom I love, that you might hear it. But I bequeath the service of my spirit To you above all creatures on the earth, Since now my life must end, for what it's worth. 2770 Alas, the woe, alas, the pain so strong That for you I have suffered for so long! Alas, now death! Alas, my Emily, Alas, bereft of your sweet company! Alas, queen of my heart! Alas, my wife, 2775 My heart's own lady, ender of my life! What is this world? What is it men so crave? Now with his love, now in his frigid grave Where he's alone with none for company. Farewell, my sweetest foe, my Emily! 2780 Now softly take me in your arms, I pray, For love of God, and hear what I must say. "I have here with my cousin Palamon Had strife and rancor many days, not one, For love of you and in my jealousy. 2785 O Jupiter so wise, be guide to me To speak now of a servant as I should-- That is to say, of virtues like knighthood, Like wisdom, honor, truth, humility, High birth and rank, like generosity, 2790 And all the things that are to these akin. As Jupiter may take my spirit in, In all this world right now I know of none So worthy to be loved as Palamon, Who serves you and will do so all his life. 2795 And if you ever would become a wife, Forget not Palamon, this gentle man." And with those words, failing of speech began, As from his feet up to his breast had come The cold of death, which had him overcome; 2800 In his once mighty arms the vital strength Began to wane, till finally lost at length; And then the intellect, all that remained And dwelt within his heart so sick and pained, Began to fail. The heart was feeling death; 2805 His eyes were glazed, and failing was his breath. His lady was the last thing he could see, And his last words were, "Mercy, Emily!" His spirit left its house and went to where I cannot say, I've never journeyed there-- 2810 I'll stop, for I'm no good at divination; This tale is not of souls for registration Nor do I wish opinions here to tell Of those who write of where a soul may dwell. Arcite is cold, Mars guide his spirit free! 2815 Now I will speak again of Emily. She shrieked; Palamon howled, such was his plaint; So Theseus then took his sister, faint, And from the corpse at once bore her away. But would it help were I to take all day 2820 To tell how she wept day and night? For in Such cases women have such sorrow (when, That is to say, their husbands from them go) They usually will grieve exactly so, Or else fall sick with such a malady 2825 That death comes to them too with certainty. Unending were the sorrow and the tears Of elders and of those of tender years In all the town because of his demise; For him both child and man had tearful eyes. 2830 So great a weeping surely wasn't heard When they brought Hector, slain, to be interred At Troy. Alas, the mourning that was there, Gashing of cheeks and pulling out of hair. "Why dead?" the women cry. "Why should you be, 2835 Who had both gold enough and Emily?" No man could bring some cheer to Theseus Except for his old father Aegeus, Who knew this world with all its transmutation As he had seen it change with alternation, 2840 Joy after woe, and more woe after joy. Then cases and examples he'd employ: "Just as there's never died a man," said he, "Who didn't live on earth to some degree, So there's no man who's ever drawn a breath 2845 In all this world whose time won't come for death. This world is but a thoroughfare of woe And we are pilgrims passing to and fro. Death is an end to every worldly care." And he had many other words to share 2850 In this regard, that people might be taught To take more comfort, not be so distraught. Duke Theseus then took the greatest care In looking for a proper setting where They'd build for good Arcite a sepulchre 2855 That most deserving honor would confer. At last the duke decided on the one Where at the first Arcite and Palamon For love in battle with each other strove; There in that very same green, fragrant grove 2860 Where Arcite spoke his amorous desires, Where he complained of love's hot burning fires, For services a fire the duke would light And at the pyre perform the funeral rite. He gave command at once for them to mow 2865 The ancient oaks and lay them in a row Of fagots set for burning. Rapidly His officers would run, immediately To mount and ride away at his command. And after this, the duke dispatched a band 2870 To go and bring a bier, one fully clad With cloth of gold, the richest that he had, And with a matching suit he clad Arcite. On Arcite's hands were fitted gloves of white, Upon his head a laurel crown of green, 2875 And in his hand a sword both bright and keen. The duke then laid him barefaced on the bier And wept till it was pitiful to hear; And so that Arcite might be seen by all, When it was day he brought him to the hall, 2880 Which roared with all the crying and the din. The woeful Theban Palamon came in With frowsy beard and rough ash-covered hair, His clothing black and stained with tears. And there, Surpassing all who wept, came Emily, 2885 The one most grieved of all the company. Because he thought the services should be Noble and rich for one of such degree, Three steeds Duke Theseus then had them bring, With trappings made of steel, all glittering, 2890 And covered with the arms of Sir Arcite. Upon these steeds, which all were large and white, Were mounted men--one Arcite's shield to bear, Another with his spear high in the air, His Turkish bow the third one proud to hold, 2895 With quiver and with trim of burnished gold. And forth they sadly rode at mourners' gait Toward the grove as you'll hear me relate. The noblest of the Greeks from far and near Upon their shoulders carried Arcite's bier 2900 At slackened pace, their eyes a tearful red, Along the city's main street. They had spread Black cloth along the street, and from great height The same hung on each side. Upon the right Hand there came next the old man Aegeus 2905 And on the other side Duke Theseus, In hand fine golden vessels, which had in Them milk and honey, blood and wine; and then Came Palamon with a great company, And after that came woeful Emily 2910 With fire in hand (the custom of the day, That all the rites be done the proper way). Much labor and the greatest preparation Were spent upon the pyre and ministration-- A pyre so high its top the heavens fetched, 2915 And in its breadth some twenty fathoms stretched (So broad were all the boughs, that is to say). First there was many a load of straw to lay. But how the pyre was made so high to reach, And names of trees like alder, maple, beech, 2920 Fir, laurel, plane, birch, poplar, aspen too, Elm, willow, hazel, chestnut, aspen, yew, Box, dogwood, ash, and oak, as well as how They felled them all, I won't go telling now; Nor how the deities ran to and fro 2925 (The dryads, nymphs, and fauns), all forced to go, Abandoning the habitations where They'd known such rest and peace without a care; Nor how the beasts and birds in those woods all Began to flee as trees began to fall; 2930 Nor how the ground was fearful of the light, Not ever having seen the sun so bright; Nor how with straw they first began the fire, Then dry sticks split in threes to build it higher; Then spices, then wood hewn from greenest limbs, 2935 Then cloth of gold, along with precious gems And many flowered garlands, myrrh, incense, With odor great and pleasant to the sense; Nor how among all this Arcite lay there With riches all about him; nor how fair 2940 And mournful Emily went to the pyre, As was the custom, with the funeral fire; Nor how she swooned as flames began to start, Nor what she spoke, nor what was in her heart; Nor what jewels into the fire were cast 2945 When it was leaping high and burning fast; Nor how one cast a shield, and one a spear, And some parts of their clothes, about the bier; Nor how the wine and milk and blood were poured Into the fire, nor how it wildly soared; 2950 Nor how the Greeks in one huge mounted rout Three times from left to right then rode about The fire with mighty shouts, and three times more Gave out a clatter with their lances; nor How thrice the ladies cried out piteously, 2955 Nor how led home at last was Emily; Nor how to ashes cold had burnt Arcite, Nor how for him a wake was held that night, Nor how the Greeks performed each funeral game-- To speak of such as that is not my aim 2960 (Who wrestled best while nude and well anointed And never got in trouble or disjointed); I also shall not tell how everyone Went home to Athens when the games were done. To get right to the point I intend, 2965 To bring my lengthy story to an end. In course of time, the length of certain years, There ended all the mourning and the tears Among the Greeks by popular assent. I think that there was then a parliament 2970 In Athens to discuss affairs of state. Among the things decided in debate Was to ally themselves with certain lands And also govern Thebes with firmer hands. And so this noble Theseus decreed 2975 That Palamon appear, as was agreed-- The reason why unknown to Palamon, Who still in black, still as a mourning one, Came at the duke's commandment hastily. And Theseus then sent for Emily. 2980 When they had sat, and hushed was all the place, Duke Theseus was silent for a space; Before a word came from the wise duke's breast, He looked about, then his eyes came to rest. His face was sad, he sighed as all was still, 2985 Then he began to speak to them his will: "When the Prime Mover, that First Cause above, First made the chain so fair that's known as love, The effect was great, and high was his intent-- He knew the why's and wherefore's, what he meant. 2990 For with that chain of love the Mover bound The fire, the air, the water, and the ground To certain bounds from which they may not flee. And that same Prince and Mover," then said he, "Established in this wretched world below 2995 The days of the duration they may know, All those who are engendered in this place, Beyond which days they cannot take a pace But which may well be shortened. Here we see There is no need for an authority, 3000 For it is proven by experience. I want you to be clear as to my sense: By this Prime Mover's order men are able To see that he's eternal, always stable; For every man should know, unless a fool, 3005 Each part comes from the whole (a simple rule), For Nature has not taken its beginning From any part or portion of a thing But from a thing that's perfect, without change, Corrupted only in this lower range. 3010 And so he has, in his wise providence, Established without flaw his ordinance That kinds of things in all of their progressions Shall have endurance only by successions And shall not be eternal. This is seen 3015 With but a glance, you follow what I mean. "Look at the oak, how long its flourishing Since way back when it first began to spring; It has so long a life, as men may see, Yet wasted at the last is every tree. 3020 "Consider, too, the hardness of each stone Beneath our feet: each one we're treading on Will finally waste away where it may lie. The broadest river someday will be dry, We see great cities wane till they have passed. 3025 And so we see that nothing's born to last. "Of men and women, we can also see That in whichever term of life we be (That is to say, in youth or else in age), We all must die, the king just like the page, 3030 Some in the sea, some in the bed serene, Some on the battlefield, as men have seen. There is no help, we all wind up one way. So everything must die, well I can say. "And who does this but Jupiter the king 3035 Who is the prince and cause of everything, Converting all that is back to the well From which it sprung, as truly we can tell? And here again no creature that's alive Will find avail, however one may strive. 3040 "Then it is wisdom, it appears to me, To make a virtue of necessity And take well that which we cannot eschew, Especially that which is all our due. Complaint is folly, whoso has decried 3045 Resists the very one who is our guide. And surely one's most honored if his time Has come while in his excellence and prime, When he can die still sure of his good name. He's done to friend and to himself no shame; 3050 Then should his friend be gladder at his death, When it's with honor he yields up his breath, Than when his name is faded later on And he's forgotten, youth and glory gone. So it is best, in terms of lasting fame, 3055 To die while at the height of one's acclaim. "To be opposed to this is willfulness. Why do we groan, or let it so depress, That Arcite in the flower of chivalry Has passed away, with honor, dutifully, 3060 Departing the foul prison of this life? Why grieving are his cousin and his wife-- Whom Arcite loved so much--for his well being? Can Arcite thank them? No, God knows, when seeing How they offend themselves, not just his soul. 3065 Yet these are feelings they cannot control. "How shall I end this lengthy argument Save after woe let there be merriment, With thanks to Jupiter for all his grace? And I advise before we leave this place 3070 We take two sorrows and with them endeavor To make one perfect joy to last forever. Let's look to where most sorrow lies herein, Where we can help amend and so begin." He said, "My sister, this is my intent, 3075 With the advice here of my parliament: This gentle Palamon who is your knight, Who serves you with his will and heart and might (And always has since you first saw his face), You shall have pity on, and by your grace 3080 Shall take him as your husband and your lord. Lend me your hand, for this is our accord, And, as a woman should, show sympathy. He's nephew of a king, and yet if he Were nothing but a poor knight bachelor, 3085 So many years he's served you, as it were, And has for you known such adversity, I'd still consider him most favorably, For mercy should transcend one's social station." To Palamon he said then in summation: 3090 "I don't think there's a sermon I need bring To get you to assent to such a thing; Come here and take your lady by the hand." The two at once were joined in the grand And holy union that is known as marriage 3095 Before the council and the baronage. And so amid much bliss and melody Has Palamon been wed to Emily; So God on high, who all this world has wrought, Has sent to him his love so dearly bought. 3100 Now Palamon had all that's known as wealth, To live in bliss, in richness and in health; And Emily loved him so tenderly, And he served her with such nobility, That not one word between this man and wife 3105 Would ever be of jealousy or strife. So ended Palamon and Emily, And God save all this lovely company! Amen.
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