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The Canterbury Tales

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Now wol I torne unto Arcite ageyn,
That litel wiste how ny that was his care,
Til that Fortune had broght him in the snare.
Okay, now back to Arcite, who’d thought he was living in the clear until the goddess Fortune put him in the hot seat once more.



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The bisy larke, messager of day,
Saluëth in hir song the morwe gray;
And fyry Phebus ryseth up so brighte,
That al the orient laugheth of the lighte,
And with his stremes dryeth in the greves
The silver dropes, hanging on the leves.
And Arcite, that is in the court royal
With Theseus, his squyer principal,
Is risen, and loketh on the myrie day.
And, for to doon his observaunce to May,
Remembring on the poynt of his desyr,
He on a courser, sterting as the fyr,
Is riden in-to the feeldes, him to pleye,
Out of the court, were it a myle or tweye;
And to the grove, of which that I yow tolde,
By aventure, his wey he gan to holde,
To maken him a gerland of the greves,
Were it of wodebinde or hawethorn-leves,
And loude he song ageyn the sonne shene:
‘May, with alle thy floures and thy grene,
Wel-come be thou, faire fresshe May,
I hope that I som grene gete may.’
And from his courser, with a lusty herte,
In-to the grove ful hastily he sterte,
And in a path he rometh up and doun,
Ther-as, by aventure, this Palamoun
Was in a bush, that no man mighte him see,
For sore afered of his deeth was he.
No-thing ne knew he that it was Arcite:
God wot he wolde have trowed it ful lyte.
But sooth is seyd, gon sithen many yeres,
That ‘feeld hath eyen, and the wode hath eres.’
It is ful fair a man to bere him evene,
For al-day meteth men at unset stevene.
Ful litel woot Arcite of his felawe,
That was so ny to herknen al his sawe,
For in the bush he sitteth now ful stille.
Well, the fateful day began like all others, with the lark’s song greeting the morning sun. Arcite, who was still Theseus’s chief servant, woke up and looked out the window to take in the morning view. He decided to enjoy the spring air by saddling his horse and going for a morning ride a mile or two away from the castle to the same grove where Palamon was hiding. He picked some flowers and wove a garland, all the while happily singing, “Welome fair, fresh May, with all your flowers and your green. These flowers are the loveliest I’ve seen!” And with a happy heart he strolled around the grove along the path that happened to run right past the bush that Palamon was hiding behind. Palamon, for his part, was terrified that he was going to die because he didn’t realize that the man singing and walking through the grove was his cousin Arcite. Then again, how could he have possibly known since Arcite was supposedly exiled? Well, you know what they say: The fields have eyes and the trees talk. Arcite meanwhile had no idea that his old friend Palamon was lurking quietly in the bushes. People, though, should always keep their wits about them and be ready for the unexpected.

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