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The Canterbury Tales

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Ther saugh I first the derke imagining
Of felonye, and al the compassing;
The cruel ire, reed as any glede;
The pykepurs, and eek the pale drede;
The smyler with the knyf under the cloke;
The shepne brenning with the blake smoke;
The treson of the mordring in the bedde;
The open werre, with woundes al bi-bledde;
Contek, with blody knyf and sharp manace;
Al ful of chirking was that sory place.
The sleere of him-self yet saugh I ther,
His herte-blood hath bathed al his heer;
The nayl y-driven in the shode a-night;
The colde deeth, with mouth gaping up-right.
Amiddes of the temple sat meschaunce,
With disconfort and sory contenaunce.
Yet saugh I woodnesse laughing in his rage;
Armed compleint, out-hees, and fiers outrage.
The careyne in the bush, with throte y-corve:
A thousand slayn, and nat of qualm y-storve;
The tiraunt, with the prey by force y-raft;
The toun destroyed, ther was no-thing laft.
Yet saugh I brent the shippes hoppesteres;
The hunte strangled with the wilde beres:
The sowe freten the child right in the cradel;
The cook y-scalded, for al his longe ladel.
Noght was foryeten by the infortune of Marte;
The carter over-riden with his carte,
Under the wheel ful lowe he lay adoun.
Ther were also, of Martes divisioun,
The barbour, and the bocher, and the smith
That forgeth sharpe swerdes on his stith.
And al above, depeynted in a tour,
Saw I conquest sittinge in greet honour,
With the sharpe swerde over his heed
Hanginge by a sotil twynes threed.
Depeynted was the slaughtre of Iulius,
Of grete Nero, and of Antonius;
Al be that thilke tyme they were unborn,
Yet was hir deeth depeynted ther-biforn,
By manasinge of Mars, right by figure;
So was it shewed in that portreiture
As is depeynted in the sterres above,
Who shal be slayn or elles deed for love.
Suffyceth oon ensample in stories olde,
I may not rekne hem alle, thogh I wolde.
As with the paintings honoring Venus, you could see all the emotions associated with war personified in the paintings in the temple of Mars. There was Treachery plotting and scheming, Anger glowing red, and Dread as well. There was the smiling character holding a knife underneath his cape, a barn burning with black smoke, murder, bloodshed, gaping wounds, misery, bloody knives, and piled bodies. You could almost hear the clash of steel and the screams of battle. There was a painting of a man who’d killed himself, his head lying in a pool of his own blood. Death himself stalked another man who had an iron stake poking through his head. Other figures representing personified emotions were nearby too. Misfortune, for example, sat in the middle of the temple looking forlorn, while Insanity laughed hysterically. Sadness and Outrage were there too, and Conquest sat high up in a tower overlooking the entire scene below. You could see a dead body lying in the bushes with its throat cut, and a thousand dead bodies all piled up, dead from war rather than old age or even disease. There were kidnappers and burning cities and sailing ships, hunters gored to death by their own prey, pigs gorging themselves on little babies lying in their cribs. Mars’s servants were there too, including the battlefield surgeon, the butcher, and the blacksmith who makes weapons for war. You could see the scenes of the murders of Julius Caesar and the Roman emperors Nero and Caracalla, who’d all been murdered. Nothing was left out. All the horrors of war were there to see in the paintings inside the temple of Mars.

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