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The Canterbury Tales

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460









470




What governaunce is in this prescience,
That giltelees tormenteth innocence?
And yet encreseth this al my penaunce,
That man is bounden to his observaunce,
For Goddes sake, to letten of his wille,
Ther as a beest may al his lust fulfille.
And whan a beest is deed, he hath no peyne;
But man after his deeth moot wepe and pleyne,
Though in this world he have care and wo:
With-outen doute it may stonden so.
The answere of this I lete to divynis,
But wel I woot, that in this world gret pyne is.
Allas! I see a serpent or a theef,
That many a trewe man hath doon mescheef,
Goon at his large, and wher him list may turne.
But I mot been in prison thurgh Saturne,
And eek thurgh Iuno, Ialous and eek wood,
That hath destroyed wel ny al the blood
Of Thebes, with his waste walles wyde.
And Venus sleeth me on that other syde
For Ielousye, and fere of him Arcite.’
“What’s the purpose of such pointless living, where man has no choice but to suffer before ultimately dying? And worse, why do people have to live good, moral lives and restrain their will in the name of the God if all the other animals can do whatever they want? And when an animal dies, that’s it, it’s dead and the pain is gone. But when a person dies, there’s more sorrow to come, even though he’s lived all his life in misery already. Priests and other thinkers can philosophize about life and death all they want, but that’s pretty much what it comes down to. All I know is that an awful little snake has gotten away and is allowed to do whatever he pleases, while the gods’ will has doomed me to waste away here in this dungeon. The god Saturn desires it, as does his vengeful wife, Juno, who’s succeeded in dooming most of the royal house of Thebes after Saturn slept with some Theban women. And even Venus, the goddess of love, is punishing me while she lets Arcite roam free to pursue Emily.”


Now wol I stinte of Palamon a lyte,
And lete him in his prison stille dwelle,
And of Arcita forth I wol yow telle.
Well, let’s leave Palamon rotting in his prison cell for a while and go back to Arcite, whom I’ll tell you some more about in just a minute.

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