The Canterbury Tales
The Knight’s Tale, Part Four: Page 18
‘Thanne is it wisdom, as it thinketh me,
To maken vertu of necessitee,
And take it wel, that we may nat eschue,
And namely that to us alle is due.
And who-so gruccheth ought, he dooth folye,
And rebel is to him that al may gye.
And certeinly a man hath most honour
To dyen in his excellence and flour,
Whan he is siker of his gode name;
Than hath he doon his freend, ne him, no shame.
And gladder oghte his freend ben of his deeth,
Whan with honour up-yolden is his breeth,
Than whan his name apalled is for age;
For al forgeten is his vasselage.
Than is it best, as for a worthy fame,
To dyen whan that he is best of name.
|“So, I’ve come to the conclusion that we just have to accept that death is inevitable. People who complain about it are just plain stupid and set themselves against the Maker who demands it. Besides, it’s better for a person to die honorably and with dignity that to ruin one’s good name foolishly trying to stop death. And this also means that the friends of those who have died need to do honor to their memory by not grieving forever until no one can remember whom they’re grieving for in the first place.|
The contrarie of al this is wilfulnesse.
Why grucchen we? why have we hevinesse,
That good Arcite, of chivalrye flour
Departed is, with duetee and honour,
Out of this foule prison of this lyf?
Why grucchen heer his cosin and his wyf
Of his wel-fare that loved hem so weel?
Can he hem thank? nay, God wot, never a deel,
That bothe his soule and eek hem-self offende,
And yet they mowe hir lustes nat amende.
|“To try and do anything else is just plain stubborn. We shouldn’t whine and complain, and we shouldn’t still be mourning for Arcite, that noble knight who left us honorably and escaped the burdens of this world. Why is it that his wife and his cousin are still mourning his passing so many years later? Can he thank them? No, he’s dead and gone. Besides, they’re sullying his memory by continuing to grieve for him.|