The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

Original Text

Modern Text

The nexte houre of Mars folwinge this,
Arcite unto the temple walked is
Of fierse Mars, to doon his sacrifyse,
490With alle the rytes of his payen wyse.
With pitous herte and heigh devocioun,
Right thus to Mars he seyde his orisoun:
Soon after this, Arcite went to the stadium to offer sacrifices at the temple of Mars, the god of war. With genuine devotion, he prayed:
‘O stronge god, that in the regnes colde
Of Trace honoured art, and lord y-holde,
And hast in every regne and every lond
Of armes al the brydel in thyn hond,
And hem fortunest as thee list devyse,
Accept of me my pitous sacrifyse.
If so be that my youthe may deserve,
500And that my might be worthy for to serve
Thy godhede, that I may been oon of thyne,
Than preye I thee to rewe upon my pyne.
For thilke peyne, and thilke hote fyr,
In which thou whylom brendest for desyr,
Whan that thou usedest the grete beautee
Of fayre yonge fresshe Venus free,
And haddest hir in armes at thy wille,
Al-though thee ones on a tyme misfille
Whan Vulcanus had caught thee in his las,
510And fond thee ligging by his wyf, allas!
For thilke sorwe that was in thyn herte,
Have routhe as wel upon my peynes smerte.
I am yong and unkonning, as thou wost,
And, as I trowe, with love offended most,
That ever was any lyves creature;
For she, that dooth me al this wo endure,
Ne reccheth never wher I sinke or flete.
And wel I woot, er she me mercy hete,
I moot with strengthe winne hir in the place;
520And wel I woot, withouten help or grace
Of thee, ne may my strengthe noght availle.
Than help me, lord, to-morwe in my bataille,
For thilke fyr that whylom brente thee,
As wel as thilke fyr now brenneth me;
And do that I to-morwe have victorie.
Myn be the travaille, and thyn be the glorie!
Thy soverein temple wol I most honouren
Of any place, and alwey most labouren
In thy plesaunce and in thy craftes stronge,
530And in thy temple I wol my baner honge,
And alle the armes of my companye;
And evere-mo, unto that day I dye,
Eterne fyr I wol biforn thee finde.
And eek to this avow I wol me binde:
My berd, myn heer that hongeth long adoun,
That never yet ne felte offensioun
Of rasour nor of shere, I wol thee yive,
And ben thy trewe servant whyl I live.
Now lord, have routhe upon my sorwes sore,
540Yif me victorie, I aske thee namore.’
“Oh Mars, patron of Thrace and god of all war throughout the entire world, please accept my humble sacrifice. If I am strong enough and not too young to receive your blessing and be one of your devoted followers, I ask you to have mercy on me. I have suffered for my desire for a beautiful woman, just as you once suffered for Venus when you slept with her (even though you were caught by Vulcan, her husband). Remember how you felt then and then think of me, who suffers just as much. You know as well as I do that I’m young and naïve, just as you were, but I’m suffering love’s pains more than anyone has ever suffered before. The woman whom I love makes me suffer like this, not caring what happens to me. I know that I have to win her if I’m ever to have her, and in order to do that, I’ll need some help because I’m not strong enough to do it on my own. Mars, remember the love you once felt for Venus and help me tomorrow in battle. For this I will be forever indebted to you and will pray to you more than any other god and wage war to please you and burn a fire at your alter from now until the day I die. This I promise you with my whole heart. I swear I’ll even chop off my beard and hair—neither of which has ever been cut—for you. I’ll be your devoted servant as long as I’m alive and will never ask anything else of you ever again.”