The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

  The Knight’s Tale Part Two

page The Knight’s Tale Part Two: Page 9

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And whan this duk was come unto the launde,
Under the sonne he loketh, and anon
He was war of Arcite and Palamon,
That foughten breme, as it were bores two;
The brighte swerdes wenten to and fro
So hidously, that with the leeste strook
It seemed as it wolde felle an ook;
But what they were, no-thing he ne woot.
350This duk his courser with his spores smoot,
And at a stert he was bitwix hem two,
And pulled out a swerd and cryed, ‘ho!
Namore, up peyne of lesing of your heed.
By mighty Mars, he shal anon be deed,
That smyteth any strook, that I may seen!
But telleth me what mister men ye been,
That been so hardy for to fighten here
With-outen Iuge or other officere,
As it were in a listes royally?’
When they finally reached the grove, Theseus immediately spotted Arcite and Palamon duking it out in a vicious battle as if they were two wild beasts. They swung their swords so violently that it seemed like you could chop a thick oak tree with each blow. He had no idea who the men were or what was going on, but he spurred his horse and jumped in between the two of them to stop the battle. He drew his sword and yelled, “Stop! Enough already! I swear to Mars that I’ll kill whoever swings next! Tell me what’s going on here and why you two are dueling without a judge like a couple of ruffians.”
360This Palamon answerde hastily,
And seyde: ‘sire, what nedeth wordes mo?
We have the deeth deserved bothe two.
Two woful wrecches been we, two caytyves,
That been encombred of our owne lyves;
And as thou art a rightful lord and Iuge,
Ne yeve us neither mercy ne refuge,
But slee me first, for seynte charitee;
But slee my felawe eek as wel as me.
Or slee him first; for, though thou knowe it lyte,
370This is thy mortal fo, this is Arcite,
That fro thy lond is banished on his heed,
For which he hath deserved to be deed.
For this is he that cam unto thy gate,
And seyde, that he highte Philostrate.
Thus hath he Iaped thee ful many a yeer,
And thou has maked him thy chief squyer;
And this is he that loveth Emelye.
For sith the day is come that I shal dye,
I make pleynly my confessioun,
380That I am thilke woful Palamoun,
That hath thy prison broken wikkedly.
I am thy mortal fo, and it am I
That loveth so hote Emelye the brighte,
That I wol dye present in hir sighte.
Therfore I axe deeth and my Iuwyse;
But slee my felawe in the same wyse,
For bothe han we deserved to be slayn.’
Palamon jumped in and said, “Sire, just let us keep fighting. Neither one of us is fit to live. We both live such awful lives that I beg you not to interfere or try to help us or anything and to just kill me now, for God’s sake. And kill this guy too while you’re at it. In fact, you may want to kill him first because this knight here—your friend and most trusted advisor, Philostrato—has been deceiving you all these years and is actually none other than your mortal enemy, Arcite, whom you banished from Athens so long ago. He is in love with Emily. And since it looks like I’m going to die here and now anyway, I might as well tell you that I am Palamon, your other enemy who has just escaped from your prison tower. I love Emily so much that I want to die in her presence, so I beg you to kill us here and now as punishment and to end our pain.”