The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

  The Knight’s Tale Part Four

page The Knight’s Tale Part Four: Page 17

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‘Lo the ook, that hath so long a norisshinge
From tyme that it first biginneth springe,
And hath so long a lyf, as we may see,
Yet at the laste wasted is the tree.
‘Considereth eek, how that the harde stoon
540Under our feet, on which we trede and goon,
Yit wasteth it, as it lyth by the weye.
The brode river somtyme wexeth dreye.
The grete tounes see we wane and wende.
Than may ye see that al this thing hath ende.
“Take, for example, that oak tree over there. See how tall and old it is—it’s been a long time since it was just a little sapling. And yet, one day it’ll be dead and gone. Or look at the rocks underneath our feet: It’s hard and solid, but will someday no longer be part of the road we walk on. Rivers eventually dry up, great cities become towns and eventually ruins—everything has an end.
‘Of man and womman seen we wel also,
That nedeth, in oon of thise termes two,
This is to seyn, in youthe or elles age,
He moot ben deed, the king as shal a page;
Som in his bed, som in the depe see,
550Som in the large feeld, as men may se;
Ther helpeth noght, al goth that ilke weye.
Thanne may I seyn that al this thing moot deye.
What maketh this but Iupiter the king?
The which is prince and cause of alle thing,
Converting al unto his propre welle,
From which it is deryved, sooth to telle.
And here-agayns no creature on lyve
Of no degree availleth for to stryve.
“The same is true of people, whether they be men or women, young or old, king or commoner—everyone will die. Some will die in bed, others at sea, some out in their fields. There really isn’t anything anyone can do about it because that’s just the way it is. The god Jupiter decides that everything will return to the place from which it came no matter how hard you or I or anyone else tries to prevent it.