The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

Original Text

Modern Text

This Arcitë ful proudly spak ageyn,
‘Thou shalt,’ quod he, ‘be rather fals than I;
But thou art fals, I telle thee utterly;
For par amour I loved hir first er thow.
What wiltow seyn? thou wistest nat yet now
Whether she be a womman or goddesse!
300Thyn is affeccioun of holinesse,
And myn is love, as to a creature;
For which I tolde thee myn aventure
As to my cosin, and my brother sworn.
I pose, that thou lovedest hir biforn;
Wostow nat wel the olde clerkes sawe,
That ‘who shal yeve a lover any lawe?’
Love is a gretter lawe, by my pan,
Than may be yeve to any erthly man.
And therefore positif lawe and swich decree
310Is broke al-day for love, in ech degree.
A man moot nedes love, maugree his heed.
He may nat fleen it, thogh he sholde be deed,
Al be she mayde, or widwe, or elles wyf.
And eek it is nat lykly, al thy lyf,
To stonden in hir grace; namore shal I;
For wel thou woost thy-selven, verraily,
That thou and I be dampned to prisoun
Perpetuelly; us gayneth no raunsoun.
We stryve as dide the houndes for the boon,
320They foughte al day, and yet hir part was noon;
Ther cam a kyte, whyl that they were wrothe,
And bar awey the boon bitwixe hem bothe.
And therfore, at the kinges court, my brother,
Ech man for him-self, ther is non other.
Love if thee list; for I love and ay shal;
And soothly, leve brother, this is al.
Here in this prisoun mote we endure,
And everich of us take his aventure.’
Arcite haughtily replied, “You’re more of a traitor than I am. In fact, I’ll be honest with you: You are a traitor. I loved her first before you even saw her, and you’re not even sure whether she’s a goddess or a flesh-and-blood woman! You’re in love with a goddess! I, however, am in love with a woman, which is why I told you about her because I thought you were my cousin, my blood brother. And even if you’d fallen in love with her first, haven’t you ever heard the saying ‘All’s fair in love and war?’ I swear to God that love is more important than anything else in this world, especially anything that one man promises to another. Laws and promises are broken every day in the name of love by all kinds of men from all walks of life. Every man must love—even if it kills him—whether she’s a young girl, a widow, or his wife. There isn’t anything he can do about it. Besides, it’s not like you or I will ever be able to meet this girl or do anything about our love for her anyway given the fact that we’re locked in this tower. You and I both know we’re stuck in this prison forever, without any possibility of anyone buying our freedom. You and I are like two dogs who spend all day fighting over a bone only to have a hawk swoop down and steal it from both of us. It’s every man for himself out there, brother. That’s just the way it is. You can be in love with her if you want. I know I will always be. That’s really all there is to it. We’ve got to suck it up and take what we can get.”