Great American Novels, Ranked by How Much We Hate Them
The Knight’s Tale
Whylom, as olde stories tellen us,
Ther was a duk that highte Theseus;
Of Athenes he was lord and governour,
And in his tyme swich a conquerour,
That gretter was ther noon under the sonne.
Ful many a riche contree hadde he wonne;
What with his wisdom and his chivalrye,
He conquered al the regne of Femenye,
That whylom was y-cleped Scithia;
10And weddede the quene Ipolita,
And broghte hir hoom with him in his contree
With muchel glorie and greet solempnitee,
And eek hir yonge suster Emelye.
And thus with victorie and with melodye
Lete I this noble duk to Athenes ryde,
And al his hoost, in armes, him bisyde.
|Once upon a time, as they say in all the old fairy tales, there was a duke named Theseus who was the ruler of the kingdom of Athens in present-day Greece. His wisdom and his skill at fighting wars had made him the fiercest warrior of his generation. There was no one greater. He’d fought in many wars and conquered many other kingdoms, including even the women warriors of Amazonia, which used to be called Scythia. After defeating the Amazons, Theseus had married their queen, Hippolyta, and took her back to Athens with him along with her little sister, Emily. They traveled back to Athens in a boisterous victory march. And it’s here, on their journey back to Athens, where my story begins.|
And certes, if it nere to long to here,
I wolde han told yow fully the manere,
How wonnen was the regne of Femenye
20By Theseus, and by his chivalrye;
And of the grete bataille for the nones
Bitwixen Athenës and Amazones;
And how asseged was Ipolita,
The faire hardy quene of Scithia;
And of the feste that was at hir weddinge,
And of the tempest at hir hoom-cominge;
But al that thing I moot as now forbere.
I have, God woot, a large feeld to ere,
And wayke been the oxen in my plough.
30The remenant of the tale is long y-nough.
I wol nat letten eek noon of this route;
Lat every felawe telle his tale aboute,
And lat see now who shal the soper winne;
And ther I lefte, I wol ageyn biginne.
|Oh, I wish I had the time to tell you all about what the kingdom of Amazonia was like before Theseus arrived, and about the great battle between the Athenians and the Amazonians, and the capture of the beautiful and powerful Queen Hippolyta. And I wish I could tell you about their wedding feast and the parties and all the hubbub that their return back to Athens caused along the way. But, God knows, I’m not a great storyteller, and the part I do want to tell you about is long enough without all that. Besides, I want to be fair and make sure that each of us gets a turn to tell a story on the way to Canterbury so that we can see who wins that free dinner! So, let me just start the story where I left a minute ago, with Theseus, Hippolyta, Emily, and the victorious Athenians marching back to Athens.|