The Knightes Tale

Whilom, as olde stories tellen us,
Ther was duk y-namèd Theseus;
Of Athens he was lord and governoúr,
And in his tyme such a conqueroúr,
That gretter was ther non under the sonne.
Ful many a riche contree had he wonne;
That with his wisdom and his chivalrie
He conquered al the realme of Femynye,
That whilom was i-clepèd Scythia;
And wedded hath the queen Hippolyta,
And brought her home with him to his contree,
With moche glorie and gret solemnitee,
And eek her yonge sister Emelye.
And thus with victorie and with melodye
Let I this noble duk to Athens ryde,
And al his host, in armes him biside.
And certes, were it not too long to heere,
I wolde have told you fully the manére,
How wonnen was the realm of Femenye
By Theseus, and by his chivalrye;
And of the grete bataille for the nonce
Bytwix Athénes and the Amazons;
And how besiegèd was Hippolyta,
The faire hardy queen of Scythia;
And of the feste that was at her weddynge,
And of the tempest at her home comynge;
But al that thing I most as now forbere.
I have, God wot, through a large feeld to fare,
And weake be the oxen in my plough,
The remnaunt of the tale is long inough;
I wol not stop a man of al this rowte
Lat every felawe telle his tale aboute,
And lat see now who shal the soper wynne,
And where I lafte, I wolde agayn begynne.
This duk, of whom I make mencioún,
When he was comen almost unto the toun,
In al his wealth and in his moste pryde,
He was war, as he cast his eye aside,
Wher that ther knelèd in the hye weye
A companye of ladies, tweye and tweye,
Ech like the other, clad in clothes blake;
But such a cry and such a wo they make,
That in this world no creätúre lyvýnge,
Hath herde such another lámentynge,
And of that cry stinten they never wolde,
Til they the reynes of his bridel holde.
“What folk be ye that at myn hom comynge
Perturben so my feste with cryénge?”
Quoth Theseus, “have ye so gret envýe
To myn honoúr, that thus compleyne and crie?
Or who hath you injúrèd, or offendid?
Nay tell it me if it may be amendid;
And why that ye be clad thus al in blak?”

The oldest lady of them alle spak,
When she hadde swownèd with a dedly chere,
That it was pity for to see or heere;
And seyde: “Lord, to whom Fortúne hath geven
Victorie, and as a conquerour to lyven,
Noughte greveth us youre glorie and honoúr;
But we beseechen mercy and socoúr.
Have mercy on oure wo and oure distresse.
Som drope of pitee, thurgh youre gentilnesse,
Uppon us wretchede wommen lat thou falle.
For certes, lord, ther is noon of us alle,
That hath not been a duchesse or a queene;
Now be we caytifs, as it is wel seene:
Thankèd be Fortune, and her false wheel,
That no estat assureth to be weel.
And certes, lord, to abiden youre presénce
Here in the temple of the goddesse Clemence
We have ben waytynge al this fourtenight;
Now helpe us, lord, since it is in thy might.
I wretche, which that wepe and waylle thus,
Was whilom wyf to kyng Capaneus,
That died at Thebes, cursed be that day,
And alle we that be in this array,
And maken alle this lamentacioun,
We leften alle oure housbondes at the toun,
Whil that the siege ther aboute lay.
And yet the olde Creon, welaway!
That lord is now of Thebes the citee,
Fulfilde of ire and of iniquitee,
He for despyt, and for his tyrannýe,
To do the deede bodyes vilonýe,
Of alle oure lordes, which that be i-slawe,
Hath alle the bodies on an heep y-drawe,
And wil not suffre them by no assent
Neither to be y-buried nor i- brent,
But maketh houndes ete them in despite.”
And with that word, withoute more respite,
They fillen flat, and criden piteously,
“Have on us wretched wommen som mercy,
And lat oure sorrow synken in thyn herte.”
This gentil duke doun from his courser sterte
With herte piteous, when he herde them speke.
Him thoughte that his herte wolde breke,
Whan he saw them so piteous and so poor,
That whilom weren of so gret honoúr.
And in his armes he them alle up hente,
And them confórteth in ful good entente;
And swor his oth, as he was trewe knight,
He wolde do for them as wel he might
And on the tyraunt Creon vengeance take,
That al the people of Grece sholde speke
How Creon was of Theseus y-served,
As one that hath his deth right wel deserved.
And right anon, withoute more delaye
His baner he desplayeth, and took his waye
To Thebes-ward, and al his host bysyde;
Nor near Athenes wolde he go nor ryde,
Nor take his ese fully half a day,
But onward on his way that nyght he lay;
And sente anon Hippolyta to go,
And Emelye hir yonge sister too,
Unto the toun of Athenes for to dwelle;
And forth he rode; ther is no more to telle.

The red statúe of Mars with spere and targe
So shyneth in his white baner large,
That alle the feeldes gliter up and doun;
And by his baner was borne his pennón
Of gold ful riche, in which was set to view
The Minatour which that in Crete he slew.
Thus rode this duk, thus rode this conqueroúr,
And in his host of chevalrie the flour,
Til that he cam to Thebes, and alighte
Fayre in a feeld wher as he thoughe to fighte.
But shortly for to speken of this thing,
With Creon, which that was of Thebes kyng,
He faught, and slew him manly as a knight
In plain bataille, and putte his folk to flight;
And by assault he wan the citee after,
And rente doun bothe wal, and sparre, and rafter;
And to the ladies he restored agayn
The bones of their housbondes that were slayn,
To do exéquies, as was then the guise.
But it were al too long for to devyse

  By PanEris using Melati.

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