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That she n'hath ben a duchesse or a quene;
Now be we caitives, as it is wel sene:
Thanked be fortune, and hire false whele,
That non estat ensureth to be wele.
And certes, lord, to abiden your presence
Here in this temple of the goddesse Clemence
We han ben waiting all this fourtenight:
Now helpe us, lord, sin it lieth in thy might.
I wretched wight, that wepe and waile thus,
Was whilom wif to king Capaneus,
That starfe at Thebes, cursed be that day:
And alle we that ben in this aray,
And maken all this lamentation,
We losten alle our busbondes at that toun,
While that the sege therabouten lay.
And yet now th@olde Creon, wala wa!
That lord is now of Thebes the citee,
Fulfilled of ire and of iniquitee,
He for despit, and fot his tyrannie,
To don the ded bodies a vilanie,
Of alle our lordes, which that ben yslawe,
Hath alle the bodies on an hepe ydrawe,
And will not suffren hem by non assent
Neyther to ben yberied, ne ybrent,
But maketh houndes ete hem in despite.
And with that word, withouten more respite They fallen groff, and crien pitously; Have on us wretched wimmen som mercy, And let our sorwe sinken in thin herte.
This gentil duk doun from his courser sterte With herte pitous, 'whan he herd hem speke. Him thoughte that his herte wolde all to-breke, Whan he saw hem so pitous and so mate, That whilom weren of so gret estate.
And in his armes he hem all up hente,
And hem comforted in ful good entente,
And swore his oth, as he was trewe knight,
He wolde don so ferforthly his might
Upon the tyrant Creon hem to wreke,
That all the peple of Grece shulde speke,
How Creon was of Theseus yserved,
As he that hath his deth ful wel deserved.
And right anon withouten more abode
His banner he displaide, and forth he rode
To Thebes ward, and all his host beside;
No nere Athenes n'olde he go ne ride,
Ne take his ese fully half a day,
But onward on his way that night he lay:
And sent anon Ipolita the quene,
And Emelie hire yonge sister shene
Unto the toun of Athenes for to dwell:
And forth he rit; ther n'is no more to tell.
The red statue of Mars with spere and targe
So shineth in his white banner large,
That all the feldes gliteren up and doun :
And by his banner borne is his penon
Of gold ful riche, in which ther was ybete
The Minotaure which that he slew in Crete.
Thus rit this duk, thus rit this conquerour,
And in his host of chevalrie the flour,
Til that he came to Thebes, and alight
Fayre in a feld, ther as he thought to fight.
But shortly for to speken of this thing,
With Creon, which that was of Thebes king,
He fought, and slew him manly as a knight
In plaine bataille, and put his folk to flight:
And by assaut he wan the citee after,
And rent adoun bothe wall and sparre, and rafter;
And to the ladies he restored again
The bodies of hir housbondes that were slain,
To don the obsequies, as was tho the gise.
But it were all to long for to devise
The grete clamour, and the waimenting,
Whiche that the ladies made at the brenning
Of the bodies, and the gret honour,
That Theseus the noble conquerour
Doth to the ladies, whan they from him wente:
But shortly for to telle is min entente.
Whạn that this worthy duk, this Theseus, Hath Creon slaine, and wonnen Thebes thus, Still in the feld he toke all night his reste, And did with all the contree as him leste. To ransake in the tas of bodies dede, Hem for to stripe of harneis and of wede, The pillours dide hir besinesse and cure, After the bataille and discomfiture. And so befell, that in the tas they found, Thurgh girt with many a grevous blody wound, Two yonge knightes ligging by and by, Bothe in on armes, wrought ful richely: Of whiche two, Arcita highte that on, And he that other highte Palamon. Not fully quik, ne fully ded they were, But by hir cote-armure, and by hir gere, The heraudes knew hem wel in special, As tho that weren of the blod real Of Thebes, and of sustren two yborne. Out of the tas the pillours han hem torne, And han hem carried soft unto the tente Of Theseus, and he ful sone hem sente To Athenes, for to dwellen in prison Perpetuel, he n'olde no raunson.
And whan this worthy duk had thus ydon,
He toke his host, and home he rit anon
With laurer crouned as a conquerour;
And ther he liveth in joye and in honour
Terme of his lif; what nedeth wordes mo?
And in a tour, in anguish and in wo,
Dwellen this Palamon and eke Areite,
For evermo, ther may no gold hem quite.
Thus passeth yere by yere, and day by day,
Till it felle ones in a morwe of May
That Emelie, that fayrer was to sene
Than is the lilie upon his stalke grene,
And fressher than the May with floures newe,
(For with the rose colour strof hire hewe;
I n'ot which was the finer of hem two)
Er it was day, as she was wont to do,
She was arisen, and all redy dight.
For May wol have no slogardie a-night.
The seson priketh every gentil herte,
And maketh him out of his slepe to sterte,
And sayth, arise, and do thin observance.
This maketh Emelie han remembrance To don honour to May, and for to rise. Y clothed was she fresshe for to devise. Hire yelwe here was broided in a tresse, Behind hire back, a yerde long I gesse. And in the gardin at the sonne uprist She walketh up and doun wher as hire list. She gathereth floures, partie white and red, To make a sotel gerlond for hire hed, And as an angel hevenlich she song. The grete tour, that was so thikke and strong, Which of the castel was the chef dongeon, (Wher as these knightes weren in prison,
Of which I tolde you, and tellen shal)
Was even joinant to the gardin wall,
Ther as this Emelie had hire playing.
Bright was the sonne, and clere that morwening,
And Palamon, this woful prisoner,
As was his wone, by leve of his gayler
Was risen, and romed in a chambre on high,
In which he all the noble citée sigh,
And eke the gardin, ful of branches grene,
Ther as this fresshe Emelia the shene
Was in hire walk, and romed up and doun,
This sorweful prisoner, this Palamon Goth in his chambre roming to and fro, And to himselfe complaining of his wo: That he was borne, ful oft he sayd, alas !
And so befell, by aventure or cas, That thurgh a window thikke of many a barre Of yren gret, and square as any sparre, He cast his eyen upon Emelia, And therwithal he blent and cried, a! As though he strongen were unto the herte.
And with that crie Arcite anon up sterte, And saide, cosin min, what eyleth thee, That art so pale and dedly for to see? Why cridest thou? who hath thee don offence? For goddes love, take all in patience Our prison, for it may non other be. Fortune hath yeven us this adversite. Som wikke aspect or disposition Of Saturne, by som constellation, Hath yeven us this, although we had it sworn, So stood the heven whan that we were born, We moste endure: this is the short and plain.
This Palamon angwerde, and sayde again;