The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

  The Knight’s Tale Part One

page The Knight’s Tale Part One: Page 13

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Allas, why pleynen folk so in commune
Of purveyaunce of God, or of Fortune,
That yeveth hem ful ofte in many a gyse
Wel bettre than they can hem-self devyse?
Som man desyreth for to han richesse,
That cause is of his mordre or greet siknesse.
And som man wolde out of his prison fayn,
400That in his hous is of his meynee slayn.
Infinite harmes been in this matere;
We witen nat what thing we preyen here.
We faren as he that dronke is as a mous;
A dronke man wot wel he hath an hous,
But he noot which the righte wey is thider;
And to a dronke man the wey is slider.
And certes, in this world so faren we;
We seken faste after felicitee,
But we goon wrong ful often, trewely.
410Thus may we seyen alle, and namely I,
That wende and hadde a greet opinioun,
That, if I mighte escapen from prisoun,
Than hadde I been in Ioye and perfit hele,
Ther now I am exyled fro my wele.
Sin that I may nat seen yow, Emelye,
I nam but deed; ther nis no remedye.’
“Why is it that people complain so much about the will of God or Fortune when God and Fortune usually know what people want better than they know it themselves and give them far better things than they could have ever asked for? One guy, for example, wants to be rich, and his money ends up getting him murdered or sick. Or another man wants to escape from jail, and in his home is murdered by one of his own servants. I could go on and on with more examples. We simply don’t know what we really want. We’re no better than a man who’s drunk off his rocker and knows he lives somewhere but can’t seem to find his house and always gets lost along the way. That’s life for you. We’re all looking for happiness, but none of us really knows quite how to get there. Everyone thinks he knows what will make him happy, but he’s usually wrong. I, for example, thought I knew that nothing would make me happier than to escape that prison, but now I’m free and am not happy at all. Because I can’t see you, my beautiful Emily, I might as well be dead. And that’s all there is to it.”