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The Canterbury Tales

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100






In derknesse and horrible and strong prisoun
This seven yeer hath seten Palamoun,
Forpyned, what for wo and for distresse;
Who feleth double soor and hevinesse
But Palamon? that love destreyneth so,
That wood out of his wit he gooth for wo;
And eek therto he is a prisoner
Perpetuelly, noght oonly for a yeer.
Who coude ryme in English proprely
His martirdom? for sothe, it am nat I;
Therefore I passe as lightly as I may.
For seven horrible years Palamon had been living locked up in the horrible darkness of the prison tower. In addition to having been imprisoned this entire time, he was also so lovesick that he’d nearly gone insane. Words can hardly describe his torment properly. I know I’m not doing a very good job myself at describing his misery, so I’m just going to get right to the point.


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It fel that in the seventhe yeer, in May,
The thridde night, (as olde bokes seyn,
That al this storie tellen more pleyn,)
Were it by aventure or destinee,
(As, whan a thing is shapen, it shal be,)
That, sone after the midnight, Palamoun,
By helping of a freend, brak his prisoun,
And fleeth the citee, faste as he may go;
For he had yive his gayler drinke so
Of a clarree, maad of a certeyn wyn,
With nercotikes and opie of Thebes fyn,
That al that night, thogh that men wolde him shake,
The gayler sleep, he mighte nat awake;
And thus he fleeth as faste as ever he may.
The night was short, and faste by the day,
That nedes-cost he moste him-selven hyde,
And til a grove, faste ther besyde,
With dredful foot than stalketh Palamoun.
For shortly, this was his opinioun,
That in that grove he wolde him hyde al day,
And in the night than wolde he take his way
To Thebes-ward, his freendes for to preye
On Theseus to helpe him to werreye;
And shortly, outher he wolde lese his lyf,
Or winnen Emelye unto his wyf;
This is theffect and his entente pleyn.
Well, it so happened on the night of May third in the seventh year of his imprisonment (according to all the old books that tell this story anyway), whether by chance or by fate (which there’s no escaping if it really was fate) that Palamon broke out of prison with a little help from a friend and fled Athens. His friend had spiked the prison guard’s wine with a sweet drug made of opium from Thebes that made the poor guy sleep through the entire breakout. Palamon ran as far as he could and hid in a grove of trees when the sun began to rise. He planned to hide in the grove all day then hightail it back to Thebes at night. There he would rally his friends and raise an army to attack Athens. To put it simply, he pledged to win Emily or die trying.

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