The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

  The Knight’s Tale Part Four

page The Knight’s Tale Part Four: Page 12

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Infinite been the sorwes and the teres
Of olde folk, and folk of tendre yeres,
In al the toun, for deeth of this Theban;
For him ther wepeth bothe child and man;
So greet a weping was ther noon, certayn,
350Whan Ector was y-broght, al fresh y-slayn,
To Troye; allas! the pitee that was ther,
Cracching of chekes, rending eek of heer.
‘Why woldestow be deed,’ thise wommen crye,
‘And haddest gold y-nough, and Emelye?’
No man mighte gladen Theseus,
Savinge his olde fader Egeus,
That knew this worldes transmutacioun,
As he had seyn it chaungen up and doun,
Ioye after wo, and wo after gladnesse:
360And shewed hem ensamples and lyknesse.
The entire city of Athens cried over Arcite’s death—men, women, children, old people, everyone. The people of the ancient city of Troy didn’t even cry as much when the Greek warrior Achilles killed Hector, their chosen son. The Athenians scratched their cheeks and pulled their hair as they grieved, asking each other such questions as, “Why did he have to die? He was so noble and had just won Emily!” Even Theseus was glum, and no one could cheer him up at all except for his aging father Aegeus, who was wise enough to know that both pleasure and pain comes and goes with the passing of time. He tried to brighten Theseus’s mood by saying:
‘Right as ther deyed never man,’ quod he,
‘That he ne livede in erthe in som degree,
Right so ther livede never man,’ he seyde,
‘In al this world, that som tyme he ne deyde.
This world nis but a thurghfare ful of wo,
And we ben pilgrimes, passinge to and fro;
Deeth is an ende of every worldly sore.’
And over al this yet seyde he muchel more
To this effect, ful wysly to enhorte
370The peple, that they sholde hem reconforte.
“No man can die if he never was born to live life on this earth, and nobody can live on this earth without having to die someday. Life is a highway filled with pain and sadness, and we’re travelers on that highway, going back and forth. Death is merely the final destination of every painful journey.” He said lots of things like this in order to help make Theseus and the people feel better.