The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

  The Knight’s Tale Part One

page The Knight’s Tale Part One: Page 12

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How greet a sorwe suffreth now Arcite!
The deeth he feleth thurgh his herte smyte;
He wepeth, wayleth, cryeth pitously;
To sleen him-self he wayteth prively.
He seyde, ‘Allas that day that I was born!
Now is my prison worse than biforn;
Now is me shape eternally to dwelle
Noght in purgatorie, but in helle.
Allas! that ever knew I Perotheus!
370For elles hadde I dwelled with Theseus
Y-fetered in his prisoun ever-mo.
Than hadde I been in blisse, and nat in wo.
Only the sighte of hir, whom that I serve,
Though that I never hir grace may deserve,
Wolde han suffised right y-nough for me.
O dere cosin Palamon,’ quod he,
‘Thyn is the victorie of this aventure,
Ful blisfully in prison maistow dure;
In prison? certes nay, but in paradys!
380Wel hath fortune y-turned thee the dys,
That hast the sighte of hir, and I thabsence.
For possible is, sin thou hast hir presence,
And art a knight, a worthy and an able,
That by som cas, sin fortune is chaungeable,
Thou mayst to thy desyr som-tyme atteyne.
But I, that am exyled, and bareyne
Of alle grace, and in so greet despeir,
That ther nis erthe, water, fyr, ne eir,
Ne creature, that of hem maked is,
390That may me helpe or doon confort in this.
Wel oughte I sterve in wanhope and distresse;
Farwel my lyf, my lust, and my gladnesse!
It sucked for Arcite! He was so sad that he felt like he was going to die. He cried and wailed and screamed pitifully, and even thought about comitting suicide. “Curse the day I was born!” he cried out. “Being free is a worse kind of prison than being in that tower because now I’m forced to live not in purgatory but in hell itself. I wish I’d never met Perotheus! Then Theseus would never have set me free, and I could have lived in that prison for the rest of my life. That wouldn’t have been bad. I’d have been so happy because then I could have seen that girl in the garden every day. And even though I would have never been able to see her, just seeing her is better than nothing, which is all I have now. You won in the end, Palamon, because you get to stay in that prison. Did I say prison? I meant paradise! The goddess Fortune has favored you because you get to see the girl every day, but I have to spend the rest of my life away from her. And who knows, you’re brave and noble, and Fortune may take a turn so that by some twist of fate you might actually win Emily someday and have everything that you want—because you’re actually there in Athens. But me, I’m banished from Athens forever with no chance of every getting back. I am so sad, and nothing—nothing and no one—can help me. All my hopes are ruined. I wish I were dead.