The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

  The Knight’s Tale Part Four

page The Knight’s Tale Part Four: Page 15

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Heigh labour, and ful greet apparaillinge
Was at the service and the fyr-makinge,
That with his grene top the heven raughte,
And twenty fadme of brede the armes straughte;
This is to seyn, the bowes were so brode.
Of stree first ther was leyd ful many a lode.
But how the fyr was maked up on highte,
And eek the names how the treës highte,
As ook, firre, birch, asp, alder, holm, popler,
440Wilow, elm, plane, ash, box, chasteyn, lind, laurer,
Mapul, thorn, beech, hasel, ew, whippeltree,
How they weren feld, shal nat be told for me;
Ne how the goddes ronnen up and doun,
Disherited of hir habitacioun,
In which they woneden in reste and pees,
Nymphes, Faunes, and Amadrides;
Ne how the bestes and the briddes alle
Fledden for fere, whan the wode was falle;
Ne how the ground agast was of the light,
450That was nat wont to seen the sonne bright;
Ne how the fyr was couched first with stree,
And than with drye stokkes cloven a three,
And than with grene wode and spycerye,
And than with cloth of gold and with perrye,
And gerlandes hanging with ful many a flour,
The mirre, thencens, with al so greet odour;
Ne how Arcite lay among al this,
Ne what richesse aboute his body is;
Ne how that Emelye, as was the gyse,
460Putte in the fyr of funeral servyse;
Ne how she swowned whan men made the fyr,
Ne what she spak, ne what was hir desyr;
Ne what Ieweles men in the fyr tho caste,
Whan that the fyr was greet and brente faste;
Ne how som caste hir sheeld, and som hir spere,
And of hir vestiments, whiche that they were,
And cuppes ful of wyn, and milk, and blood,
Into the fyr, that brente as it were wood;
Ne how the Grekes with an huge route
470Thryës riden al the fyr aboute
Upon the left hand, with a loud shoutinge,
And thryës with hir speres clateringe;
And thryës how the ladies gonne crye;
Ne how that lad was hom-ward Emelye;
Ne how Arcite is brent to asshen colde;
Ne how that liche-wake was y-holde
Al thilke night, ne how the Grekes pleye
The wake-pleyes, ne kepe I nat to seye;
Who wrastleth best naked, with oille enoynt,
480Ne who that bar him best, in no disioynt.
I wol nat tellen eek how that they goon
Hoom til Athenes, whan the pley is doon;
But shortly to the poynt than wol I wende,
And maken of my longe tale an ende.
A lot of work had gone into making this funeral pyre. It was very tall and about 120 feet long because it was made out of such tall trees. Theseus’s men had placed straw all over it to help make it light. I’m not going to go into all the details about exactly how it was built, though, or what other kinds of trees they used such as fir, birch, aspen, alder, poplar, willow, elm, plane, ash, chestnut, laurel, maple, thorn, beech, hazel, yew, dogwood, or talk about how all the magical forest creatures such as the fauns and the tree nymphs and birds and animals all ran away when their trees were cut down. I don’t want to talk about how the plants on the forest floor were shocked to suddenly see the light of day when the trees above had been cut down, or how Emily first set fire to the straw, which then caught the smaller branches on fire, and then the bigger branches. I don’t really want to go into how everyone sprinkled gold and jewels and spices and milk and honey and incense on Arcite’s body. I’m not going to tell you how Emily fainted after the fire started, and what she said when she woke up, or how some knights tossed in weapons and bits of their armor to pay tribute. I don’t want to talk about how the Athenians circled clockwise around the raging inferno three times as they shouted and made as much noise as they could or how the women howled out loud three times or how they played funeral sports and who won and who lost or that they were out there all night until the next morning when they finally went home. I’m also not going to mention how Arcite’s body burned until there was nothing left but ashes. I’m just going to plow on and try to finish up this long story.