Legends and Sagas
The Canterbury Tales and Other Works of Chaucer (Middle English), by Geoffery Chaucer, [14th cent.], at sacred-texts.com
Anelida and Arcite Thou ferse god of armes, Mars the rede,
That in the frosty contre called Trace,
Within thy grisly temple ful of drede
Honoured art as patroun of that place;
With thy Bellona, Pallas, ful of grace,
Be present and my song contynue and guye;
At my begynnyng thus to the I crye.
For hit ful depe is sonken in my mynde,
With pitous hert in Englyssh to endyte
10 This olde storie, in Latyn which I fynde,
Of quene Anelida and fals Arcite,
That elde, which that al can frete and bite,
As hit hath freten mony a noble storie,
Hath nygh devoured out of oure memorie.
Be favorable eke, thou Polymya,
On Parnaso that with thy sustres glade,
By Elycon, not fer from Cirrea,
Singest with vois memorial in the shade,
Under the laurer which that may not fade,
20 And do that I my ship to haven wynne.
First folowe I Stace, and after him Corynne.
When Theseus with werres longe and grete
The aspre folk of Cithe had overcome,
With laurer corouned, in his char gold-bete,
Hom to his contre-houses is he come,
For which the peple, blisful al and somme,
So cryeden that to the sterres hit wente,
And him to honouren dide al her entente.
Beforn this duk, in signe of victorie,
30 The trompes come, and in his baner large
The ymage of Mars, and in tokenyng of glorie
Men myghte sen of tresour many a charge,
Many a bright helm, and many a spere and targe,
Many a fresh knyght, and many a blysful route,
On hors, on fote, in al the feld aboute.
Ipolita his wif, the hardy quene
Of Cithia, that he conquered hadde,
With Emelye her yonge suster shene,
Faire in a char of gold he with him ladde,
40 That al the ground about her char she spradde
With brightnesse of the beaute in her face,
Fulfilled of largesse and of alle grace.
With his tryumphe and laurer-corouned thus,
In al the flour of Fortunes yevynge,
Let I this noble prince Theseus
Toward Athenes in his wey rydinge,
And founde I wol in shortly for to bringe
The slye wey of that I gan to write,
Of quene Anelida and fals Arcite.
50 Mars, which that through his furious cours of ire,
The olde wrathe of Juno to fulfille,
Hath set the peples hertes bothe on fire
Of Thebes and Grece, everich other to kille
With blody speres, ne rested never stille,
But throng now her, now ther, among hem bothe,
That everych other slough, so were they wrothe.
For when Amphiorax and Tydeus,
Ipomedon, Parthonope also
Were ded, and slayn proude Campaneus,
60 And when the wrecched Thebans, bretheren two,
Were slayn, and kyng Adrastus hom ago,
So desolat stod Thebes and so bare
That no wight coude remedie of his fare.
And when the olde Creon gan espye
How that the blood roial was broght a-doun,
He held the cite by his tyrannye
And dyde the gentils of that regioun
To ben his frendes and wonnen in the toun.
So, what for love of him and what for awe,
70 The noble folk were to the toun idrawe.
Among al these Anelida, the quene
Of Ermony, was in that toun dwellynge,
That fairer was then is the sonne shene.
Thurghout the world so gan her name springe
That her to seen had every wyght likynge,
For, as of trouthe, is ther noon her lyche
Of al the women in this worlde riche.
Yong was this quene, of twenty yer of elde,
Of mydel stature, and of such fairenesse
80 That Nature had a joye her to behelde;
And for to speken of her stidfastnesse,
She passed hath Penelope and Lucresse;
And shortly, yf she shal be comprehended,
In her ne myghte no thing been amended.
This Theban knyght Arcite eke, soth to seyn,
Was yong and therwithal a lusty knyght,
But he was double in love and no thing pleyn,
And subtil in that craft over any wyght,
And with his kunnyng wan this lady bryght;
90 For so ferforth he gan her trouthe assure
That she him trusted over any creature.
What shuld I seyn? She loved Arcite so
That when that he was absent any throwe,
Anon her thoghte her herte brast a-two;
For in her sight to her he bar hym lowe,
So that she wende have al his hert yknowe;
But he was fals; hit nas but feyned chere --
As nedeth not to men such craft to lere.
But nevertheles ful mykel besynesse
100 Had he er that he myghte his lady wynne,
And swor he wolde dyen for distresse
Or from his wit he seyde he wolde twynne.
Alas, the while! For hit was routhe and synne
That she upon his sorowes wolde rewe;
But nothing thinketh the fals as doth the trewe.
Her fredom fond Arcite in such manere
That al was his that she hath, moche or lyte;
Ne to no creature made she chere
Ferther then that hit lyked to Arcite.
110 Ther nas no lak with which he myghte her wite;
She was so ferforth yeven hym to plese
That al that lyked hym hit dyde her ese.
Ther nas to her no maner lettre sent
That touched love, from any maner wyght,
That she ne shewed hit him er hit was brent;
So pleyn she was and dide her fulle myght
That she nyl hiden nothing from her knyght,
Lest he of any untrouthe her upbreyde.
Withoute bode his heste she obeyde.
120 And eke he made him jelous over here,
That what that any man had to her seyd
Anoon he wolde preyen her to swere
What was that word or make him evel apaid.
Then wende she out of her wyt have breyd;
But al this nas but sleght and flaterie;
Withoute love he feyned jelousye.
And al this tok she so debonerly
That al his wil her thoghte hit skilful thing,
And ever the lenger she loved him tendirly
130 And dide him honour as he were a kyng.
Her herte was to him wedded with a ring;
So ferforth upon trouthe is her entente
That wher he gooth her herte with him wente.
When she shal ete, on him is so her thoght
That wel unnethe of mete tok she kep;
And when that she was to her reste broght,
On him she thoghte alwey til that she slep;
When he was absent, prevely she wep:
Thus lyveth feire Anelida the quene
140 For fals Arcite, that dide her al this tene.
This fals Arcite, of his newfanglenesse,
For she to him so lowly was and trewe,
Tok lesse deynte of her stidfastnesse
And saw another lady, proud and newe,
And ryght anon he cladde him in her hewe --
Wot I not whethir in white, rede, or grene --
And falsed fair Anelida the quene.
But neverthelesse, gret wonder was hit noon
Thogh he were fals, for hit is kynde of man
150 Sith Lamek was, that is so longe agoon,
To ben in love as fals as evere he can;
He was the firste fader that began
To loven two, and was in bigamye,
And he found tentes first, but yf men lye.
This fals Arcite, sumwhat moste he feyne,
When he wex fals, to covere his traitorie,
Ryght as an hors that can both bite and pleyne,
For he bar her on honde of trecherie,
And swor he coude her doublenesse espie,
160 And al was falsnes that she to him mente.
Thus swor this thef, and forth his way he wente.
Alas, what herte myght enduren hit,
For routhe and wo, her sorwe for to telle?
Or what man hath the cunnyng or the wit?
Or what man mighte within the chambre dwelle,
Yf I to him rehersen sholde the helle
That suffreth fair Anelida the quene
For fals Arcite, that dide her al this tene.
She wepith, waileth, swowneth pitously;
170 To grounde ded she falleth as a ston;
Craumpyssheth her lymes crokedly;
She speketh as her wit were al agon;
Other colour then asshen hath she noon;
Non other word speketh she, moche or lyte,
But `Merci, cruel herte myn, Arcite!'
And thus endureth til that she was so mat
That she ne hath foot on which she may sustene,
But forth languisshing evere in this estat,
Of which Arcite hath nouther routhe ne tene.
180 His herte was elleswhere, newe and grene,
That on her wo ne deyneth him not to thinke;
Him rekketh never wher she flete or synke.
His newe lady holdeth him so narowe
Up by the bridil, at the staves ende,
That every word he dredeth as an arowe;
Her daunger made him bothe bowe and bende,
And as her liste, made him turne or wende,
For she ne graunted him in her lyvynge
No grace whi that he hath lust to singe,
190 But drof hym forth. Unnethe liste her knowe
That he was servaunt unto her ladishippe;
But lest that he were proud, she held him lowe.
Thus serveth he withoute fee or shipe;
She sent him now to londe, now to shippe;
And for she yaf him daunger al his fille,
Therfor she hadde him at her owne wille.
Ensample of this, ye thrifty wymmen alle,
Take her of Anelida and Arcite,
That for her liste him `dere herte' calle
200 And was so meke, therfor he loved her lyte.
The kynde of mannes herte is to delyte
In thing that straunge is, also God me save!
For what he may not gete, that wolde he have.
Now turne we to Anelida ageyn,
That pyneth day be day in langwisshinge,
But when she saw that her ne gat no geyn,
Upon a day, ful sorowfully wepinge,
She caste her for to make a compleynynge,
And of her owne hond she gan hit write,
210 And sente hit to her Theban knyght, Arcite.
So thirleth with the poynt of remembraunce
The swerd of sorowe, ywhet with fals plesaunce,
Myn herte, bare of blis and blak of hewe,
That turned is in quakyng al my daunce,
My surete in awhaped countenaunce,
Sith hit availeth not for to ben trewe;
For whoso trewest is, hit shal hir rewe
That serveth love and doth her observaunce
Alwey til oon, and chaungeth for no newe.
220 I wot myself as wel as any wight,
For I loved oon with al myn herte and myght,
More then myself an hundred thousand sithe,
And called him myn hertes lif, my knyght,
And was al his, as fer as hit was ryght;
And when that he was glad, then was I blithe,
And his disese was my deth as swithe;
And he ayein his trouthe hath me plyght
For evermore, his lady me to kythe.
Now is he fals, alas, and causeles,
230 And of my wo he is so routheles
That with a word him list not ones deyne
To bringe ayen my sorowful herte in pes,
For he is caught up in another les.
Ryght as him list, he laugheth at my peyne,
And I ne can myn herte not restreyne
For to love him alwey neveretheles;
And of al this I not to whom me pleyne.
And shal I pleyne -- alas, the harde stounde! --
Unto my foo that yaf myn herte a wounde
240 And yet desireth that myn harm be more?
Nay, certis, ferther wol I never founde
Non other helpe, my sores for to sounde.
My destinee hath shapen hit so ful yore;
I wil non other medecyne ne lore;
I wil ben ay ther I was ones bounde.
That I have seid, be seid for evermore!
Alas! Wher is become your gentilesse,
Youre wordes ful of plesaunce and humblesse,
Youre observaunces in so low manere,
250 And your awayting and your besynesse
Upon me, that ye calden your maistresse,
Your sovereyne lady in this world here?
Alas! Is ther now nother word ne chere
Ye vouchen sauf upon myn hevynesse?
Alas! Youre love, I bye hit al to dere.
Now, certis, swete, thogh that ye
Thus causeles the cause be
Of my dedly adversyte,
Your manly resoun oghte hit to respite
260 To slen your frend, and namely me,
That never yet in no degre
Offended yow, as wisly He
That al wot, out of wo my soule quyte!
But for I shewed yow, Arcite,
Al that men wolde to me write,
And was so besy yow to delyte --
Myn honor save -- meke, kynde, and fre,
Therfor ye put on me this wite,
And of me rekke not a myte,
270 Thogh that the swerd of sorwe byte
My woful herte through your cruelte.
My swete foo, why do ye so, for shame?
And thenke ye that furthered be your name
To love a newe, and ben untrewe? Nay!
And putte yow in sclaunder now and blame,
And do to me adversite and grame,
That love yow most -- God, wel thou wost -- alway?
Yet come ayein, and yet be pleyn som day,
And than shal this, that now is mys, be game,
280 And al foryive, while that I lyve may.
Lo, herte myn, al this is for to seyne
As whether shal I preye or elles pleyne?
Which is the wey to doon yow to be trewe?
For either mot I have yow in my cheyne
Or with the deth ye mote departe us tweyne;
Ther ben non other mene weyes newe.
For God so wisly upon my soule rewe,
As verrayly ye sleen me with the peyne;
That may ye se unfeyned of myn hewe.
290 For thus ferforth have I my deth y-soght?
Myself I mordre with my privy thoght;
For sorowe and routhe of your unkyndenesse
I wepe, I wake, I faste; al helpeth noght;
I weyve joye that is to speke of oght,
I voyde companye, I fle gladnesse.
Who may avaunte her beter of hevynesse
Then I? And to this plyte have ye me broght,
Withoute gilt -- me nedeth no witnesse.
And shal I preye, and weyve womanhede? --
300 Nay! Rather deth then do so foul a dede! --
And axe merci, gilteles -- what nede?
And yf I pleyne what lyf that I lede,
Yow rekketh not; that knowe I, out of drede;
And if that I to yow myne othes bede
For myn excuse, a skorn shal be my mede.
Your chere floureth, but it wol not sede;
Ful longe agoon I oghte have taken hede.
For thogh I hadde yow to-morowe ageyn,
I myghte as wel holde Aperill fro reyn
310 As holde yow, to make yow be stidfast.
Almyghty God, of trouthe sovereyn,
Wher is the trouthe of man? Who hath hit slayn?
Who that hem loveth, she shal hem fynde as fast
As in a tempest is a roten mast.
Is that a tame best that is ay feyn
To fleen away when he is lest agast?
Now merci, swete, yf I mysseye!
Have I seyd oght amys, I preye?
I noot; my wit is al aweye.
320 I fare as doth the song of Chaunte-pleure;
For now I pleyne, and now I pleye;
I am so mased that I deye;
Arcite hath born awey the keye
Of al my world, and my good aventure.
For in this world nis creature
Wakynge in more discomfiture
Then I, ne more sorowe endure.
And yf I slepe a furlong wey or tweye,
Then thynketh me that your figure
330 Before me stont, clad in asure,
To profren eft and newe assure
For to be trewe, and merci me to preye.
The longe nyght this wonder sight I drye,
And on the day for thilke afray I dye,
And of al this ryght noght, iwis, ye reche.
Ne nevere mo myn yen two be drie,
And to your routhe, and to your trouthe, I crie.
But welawey! To fer be they to feche;
Thus holdeth me my destinee a wreche.
340 But me to rede out of this drede, or guye,
Ne may my wit, so weyk is hit, not streche.
Then ende I thus, sith I may do no more.
I yeve hit up for now and evermore,
For I shal never eft putten in balaunce
My sekernes, ne lerne of love the lore.
But as the swan, I have herd seyd ful yore,
Ayeins his deth shal singen his penaunce,
So singe I here my destinee or chaunce,
How that Arcite Anelida so sore
350 Hath thirled with the poynt of remembraunce.
When that Anelida, this woful quene,
Hath of her hand ywriten in this wise,
With face ded, betwixe pale and grene,
She fel a-swowe; and sith she gan to rise,
And unto Mars avoweth sacrifise
Withinne the temple, with a sorowful chere,
That shapen was as ye shal after here....??
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