The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

Original Text

Modern Text

Whan that this worthy duk, this Theseus,
Hath Creon slayn, and wonne Thebes thus,
Stille in that feeld he took al night his reste,
And dide with al the contree as him leste.
And after he’d killed Creon and conquered Thebes, Theseus slept quietly in his tent on the battlefield that night and enjoyed the fruits of victory.
To ransake in the tas of bodyes dede,
Hem for to strepe of harneys and of wede,
The pilours diden bisinesse and cure,
150After the bataille and disconfiture.
And so bifel, that in the tas they founde,
Thurgh-girt with many a grevous blody wounde,
Two yonge knightes ligging by and by,
Bothe in oon armes, wroght ful richely,
Of whiche two, Arcita hight that oon,
And that other knight hight Palamon.
Nat fully quike, ne fully dede they were,
But by hir cote-armures, and by hir gere,
The heraudes knewe hem best in special,
160As they that weren of the blood royal
Of Thebes, and of sustren two y-born.
Out of the tas the pilours han hem torn,
And han hem caried softe unto the tente
Of Theseus, and he ful sone hem sente
To Athenës, to dwellen in prisoun
Perpetuelly, he nolde no raunsoun.
And whan this worthy duk hath thus y-don,
He took his host, and hoom he rood anon
With laurer crowned as a conquerour;
170And there he liveth, in Ioye and in honour,
Terme of his lyf; what nedeth wordes mo?
And in a tour, in angwish and in wo,
Dwellen this Palamoun and eek Arcite,
For evermore, ther may no gold hem quyte.
Meanwhile, looters ransacked the dead bodies on the battlefield looking for armor and weapons. And while they were searching they found two young knights lying side by side, badly wounded and on the brink of death. They wore matching clothing and armor that identified them as cousins—the sons of two sisters in the royal family of Thebes. One knight was named Arcite, and the other was named Palamon. The looters gently took the wounded knights to Theseus, who ordered that they be put in a prison in Athens. He decided that they should remain there for the rest of their lives, even if someone offered to pay a ransom for them. Soon after, Theseus himself returned to Athens a hero with a victory crown made of laurel. And there he lived happily and honorably for the rest of his life, with Arcite and Palamon stuck in prison for the rest of their miserable lives too.