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The Canterbury Tales

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Modern Text




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140

The rede statue of Mars, with spere and targe,
So shyneth in his whyte baner large,
That alle the feeldes gliteren up and doun;
And by his baner born is his penoun
Of gold ful riche, in which ther was y-bete
The Minotaur, which that he slough in Crete.
Thus rit this duk, thus rit this conquerour,
And in his host of chivalrye the flour,
Til that he cam to Thebes, and alighte
Faire in a feeld, ther as he thoghte fighte.
But shortly for to speken of this thing,
With Creon, which that was of Thebes king,
He faught, and slough him manly as a knight
In pleyn bataille, and putte the folk to flight;
And by assaut he wan the citee after,
And rente adoun bothe wal, and sparre, and rafter;
And to the ladyes he restored agayn
The bones of hir housbondes that were slayn,
To doon obsequies, as was tho the gyse.
But it were al to long for to devyse
The grete clamour and the waymentinge
That the ladyes made at the brenninge
Of the bodyes, and the grete honour
That Theseus, the noble conquerour,
Doth to the ladyes, whan they from him wente;
But shortly for to telle is myn entente.
The red symbol of Mars, the god of war, with his spear and shield, adorned Theseus’s royal white flag. It gleamed in the sunlight, which made the surrounding fields glisten. And on Theseus’s lance hung another banner, this one made of the finest gold, which bore the symbol of the Minotaur, the ferocious creature that was half-man, half-beast that he had killed on the island of Crete. Theseus rode off to the city of Thebes like this in full glory until he stopped in a field he thought would be a good place for a battle. And to cut to the chase, Theseus gave Creon an honorable death in battle and then chased Creon’s army of out town. Then he captured the city of Thebes, tore down the city walls and beams and rafters, and returned the bones of the dead King Capaneus and noble Thebans to the wailing widows so that they could properly bury them. It’d take too long to tell you all about the great fuss and wailing that occurred at the burial or about how much the women thanked Theseus for helping them, so I’ll skip all that. I really am trying to keep this story short.

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