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O Cupide, out of alle charitee!
270O regne, that wolt no felawe have with thee!
Ful sooth is seyd, that love ne lordshipe
Wol noght, his thankes, have no felaweshipe;
Wel finden that Arcite and Palamoun.
Arcite is riden anon unto the toun,
And on the morwe, er it were dayes light,
Ful prively two harneys hath he dight,
Bothe suffisaunt and mete to darreyne
The bataille in the feeld bitwix hem tweyne.
And on his hors, allone as he was born,
280He carieth al this harneys him biforn;
And in the grove, at tyme and place y-set,
This Arcite and this Palamon ben met.
Tho chaungen gan the colour in hir face;
Right as the hunter in the regne of Trace,
That stondeth at the gappe with a spere,
Whan hunted is the leoun or the bere,
And hereth him come russhing in the greves,
And breketh bothe bowes and the leves,
And thinketh, ‘heer cometh my mortel enemy,
290With-oute faile, he moot be deed, or I;
For outher I mot sleen him at the gappe,
Or he mot sleen me, if that me mishappe:’
So ferden they, in chaunging of hir hewe,
As fer as everich of hem other knewe.
Ther nas no good day, ne no saluing;
But streight, with-outen word or rehersing,
Everich of hem halp for to armen other,
As freendly as he were his owne brother;
And after that, with sharpe speres stronge
300They foynen ech at other wonder longe.
Thou mightest wene that this Palamoun
In his fighting were a wood leoun,
And as a cruel tygre was Arcite:
As wilde bores gonne they to smyte,
That frothen whyte as foom for ire wood.
Up to the ancle foghte they in hir blood.
And in this wyse I lete hem fighting dwelle;
And forth I wol of Theseus yow telle.
Cupid, you merciless god, who jealously rules mankind with love! It is true what they say, that nothing is as powerful as love, as Arcite and Palamon discovered for themselves. Arcite rode back to Athens and the next morning managed to secretly acquire two suits of armor for the upcoming battle. He took them out to the grove as he’d promised. And when they saw each other, their faces changed color and reflected their determination to meet their destiny, just as the face of the famous hunter from Thrace changed color when he hunted lions and bears with his spear. And just like that hunter that you hear about in all the old stories, both Arcite and Palamon thought, “There is my enemy. It all comes down to this: It’s either going to be him or me.” They didn’t bother with any pleasantries—no “hellos” or “good mornings” or “How are you doings?” Instead, without a single word, each helped the other to put on his suit of armor, just as if they were brothers preparing for war. And then they grabbed their spears and began fighting, circling and jabbing each other for hours on end. Seeing them, you would’ve thought that Palamon was an angry lion and Arcite a ferocious tiger. They fought like wild dogs that froth at the mouth because they’re so angry. They fought until the grass was soaked in blood up to their ankles. And it’s here I’ll stop and leave them in the middle of their battle to tell you a little more about Theseus.