The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

  The Knight’s Tale Part One

page The Knight’s Tale Part One: Page 8

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This Palamon answerde, and seyde ageyn,
‘Cosyn, for sothe, of this opinioun
Thou hast a veyn imaginacioun.
This prison caused me nat for to crye.
But I was hurt right now thurgh-out myn yë
In-to myn herte, that wol my bane be.
240The fairnesse of that lady that I see
Yond in the gardin romen to and fro,
Is cause of al my crying and my wo.
I noot wher she be womman or goddesse;
But Venus is it, soothly, as I gesse.’
And ther-with-al on kneës doun he fil,
And seyde: ‘Venus, if it be thy wil
Yow in this gardin thus to transfigure
Bifore me, sorweful wrecche creature,
Out of this prisoun help that we may scapen.
250And if so be my destinee be shapen
By eterne word to dyen in prisoun,
Of our linage have som compassioun,
That is so lowe y-broght by tirannye.’
And with that word Arcite gan espye
Wher-as this lady romed to and fro.
And with that sighte hir beautee hurte him so,
That, if that Palamon was wounded sore,
Arcite is hurt as muche as he, or more.
And with a sigh he seyde pitously:
260‘The fresshe beautee sleeth me sodeynly
Of hir that rometh in the yonder place;
And, but I have hir mercy and hir grace,
That I may seen hir atte leeste weye,
I nam but deed; ther nis namore to seye.’
“No, no, it’s not that at all, Cousin,” Palamon answered. “I didn’t yell because we’re stuck in this prison. I shouted because of what I just saw that struck my heart and will surely be the death of me—a beautiful maiden wandering in the garden below. I’m not sure if she’s a woman or a goddess, but she must be the goddess of beauty, Venus herself.” Palamon dropped to his knees and said, “Venus, if you really have decided to take the shape of this beautiful woman and show yourself to me, the wretched creation that I am, then help us escape this prison. But if it’s my fate to die in this prison, show some compassion to us, a family ruined by tyranny.” And at that moment, Arcite also caught sight of lady Emily through the window as she walked back and forth in the garden. Her beauty shocked Arcite just as much as it had stung Palamon, if not more so. He sighed rather piteously and said, “That lady is so beautiful it’s killing me. All I know is that if she doesn’t even allow me to see her any more, I’m going to die.”