A Note on the Renascence Editions text:. Bear at the University of Oregon. The text is in the public domain. Fly fly quoth then The fearefull Dwarfe: this is no place for liuing men. With holy father sits not with such things to mell. The Sunne that measures heauen all day long, At night doth baite his steedes the Ocean waues emong. The knight was well content: So with that godly father to his home they went. Yet thus perforce he bids me do, or die.
Why Dame quoth he what hath ye thus dismayd? What frayes ye, that were wont to comfort me affrayd? But when he saw his threatning was but vaine, He cast about, and searcht his balefull bookes againe. O who can tell The hidden power of herbes, and might of Magicke spell? Her soone he ouertooke, and bad to stay, For present cause was none of dread her to dismay.
There they alight, in hope themselues to hide From the fierce heat, and rest their weary limbs a tide. Astond he stood, and vp his haire did houe, And with that suddein horror could no member moue. Time and suffised fates to former kynd Shall vs restore, none else from hence may vs vnbynd.
At length all passed feare, He set her on her steede, and forward forth did beare. By this arriued there Dame Vna , wearie Dame, and entrance did requere. Now then your plaint appease. Before her stands her knight, for whom she toyld so sore. Which doen away, He left him lying so, ne would no lenger stay. Whose shield he beares renuerst, the more to heape disdayn.
Him litle answerd th'angry Elfin knight; He neuer meant with words, but swords to plead his right.
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Charmd or enchaunted answerd he then ferce I no whit reck, ne you the like need to reherce. So passing forth she him obaid. The Elfe him cals alowd, But answer none receiues: the darknes him does shrowd.
Chaucer, Geoffrey (c–) - The Canterbury Tales: II; The Knight's Tale
The conquest yours, I yours, the shield, and glory yours. Lo where the stout Sansioy doth sleepe in deadly shade. But all so soon, as he from far descry'd Those glistring Arms, that Heaven with Light did fill, He rous'd himself full blith, and hastned them until. Then bad the Knight this Lady yede aloof, And to an Hill her self with-draw aside, From whence she might behold that Battel's proof, And eke be safe from Danger far descry'd: She him obey'd, and turn'd a little wide.
By this, the dreadful Beast drew nigh to hand, Half flying, and half footing in his haste, That with his largeness measured much Land. Approaching nigh, he reared high afore His Body monstrous, horrible, and vast, Which to increase his wondrous Greatness more Was swoln with Wrath, and Poison, and with bloody Gore. And over all with brazen Scales was arm'd, Like plated Coat of Steel, so couched near, That nought mote pierce, ne might his Corse be harm'd With dint of Sword, nor push of pointed Spear; Which as an Eagle, seeing Prey appear, His airy Plumes doth rouze, full rudely dight, So shaked he, that Horror was to hear: For, as the clashing of an Armour bright, Such noise his rouzed Scales did send unto the Knight.
His flaggy Wings when forth he did display, Were like two Sails, in which the hollow Wind Is gathered full, and worketh speedy way: And eke the Pens that did his Pinions bind, Were like Main-yards with flying Canvas lin'd; With which, when as him list the Air to beat, And there by force unwonted Passage find, The Clouds before him fled for Terror great, And all the Heavens stood full amazed with his Threat. His huge long Tail, wound up in hundred Folds, Does over-spread his long Brass-scaly Back; Whose wreathed Boughts when ever he unfolds, And thick entangled Knots adown does slack; Bespotted all with Shields of red and black, It sweepeth all the Land behind him far, And of three Furlongs does but little lack; And at the Point two Stings in-fixed are, Both deadly sharp, that sharpest Steel exceeden far.
But Stings and sharpest Steel did far exceed The sharpness of his cruel rending Claws: Dead was it sure, as sure as Death in deed, What-ever thing does touch his ravenous Paws, Or what within his reach he ever draws. But, his most hideous Head, my Tongue to tell Does tremble: for, his deep devouring Jaws Wide gaped, like the griesly Mouth of Hell; Through which, into his dark abyss all ravin fell. And that more wondrous was, in either Jaw Three Ranks of iron Teeth enranged were, In which, yet trickling Blood and Gobbets raw Of late devoured Bodies did appear, That sight thereof bred cold congealed Fear: Which to increase, and all at once to kill, A Cloud of smothering Smoke and Sulphur sear Out of his stinking Gorge forth steemed still, That all the Air about with Smoke and Stench did fill.
So dreadfully he towards him did pass, Forelifting up aloft his speckled Breast, And often bounding on the bruised Grass, As for great joyance of his new-come Guest. Eftsoons he 'gan advance his haughty Crest, As chauffed Boar his Bristles doth uprear, And shook his Scales to Battel ready drest; That made the Red-cross Knight nigh quake for fear, As bidding bold defiance to his Foeman near. The Knight 'gan fairly Couch his steddy Spear, And fiercely ran at him with rigorous Might: The pointed Steel arriving rudely there, His harder Hide would neither peirce nor bite, But glauncing by, forth passed forward right; Yet sure amoved with so puissant Push, The wrathful Beast about him turned light, And him so rudely passing by, did brush With his long Tail, that Horse and Man to ground did rush.
Both Horse and Man up lightly rose again, And fresh Encounter towards him address'd: But th' idle Stroke yet back recoil'd in vain, And found no place his deadly Point to rest.
Exceeding Rage enflam'd the furious Beast, To be avenged of so great Despight; For, never felt his imperceable Breast So wondrous Force from hand of living Wight; Yet had he prov'd the power of many a puissant Knight. Then with his waving Wings displayed wide, Himself up high he lifted from the ground, And with strong Flight did forcibly divide The yielding Air, which nigh too feeble found Her flitting parts, and Element unsound, To bear so great a weight he cutting way With his broad Sails, about him soared round At last, low stouping with unwieldy sway, Snatch'd up both Horse and Man, to bear them quite away.
Long he them bore above the subject Plain, So far as Yewen Bow a Shaft may send, Till struggling strong, did him at last constrain To let them down before his Flightes end. As hagard Hawk, presuming to contend With hardy Fowl, above his able might, His weary Pounces all in vain doth spend, To truss the Prey, too heavy for his Flight; Which coming down to ground, does free it self by Fight. He so disseized of his griping gross, The Knight his thrillant Spear again assay'd In his brass-plated Body to emboss, And three Mens Strength unto the Stroke he laid Wherewith the stiff Beam quaked, as affraid, And glancing from his scaly Neck, did glide Close under his left Wing, then broad display'd.
The piercing Steel there wrought a Wound full wide, That with the uncouth Smart the Monster loudly cry'd. He cry'd, as raging Seas are wont to roar, When wintry Storm his wrathful Wreck does threat The rolling Billows beat the ragged Shore, As they the Earth would shoulder from her Seat; And greedy Gulf does gape, as he would eat His neighbour Element in his Revenge: Then 'gin the blustring Brethren boldly threat, To move the World from off his stedfast Henge, And boistrous Battle make, each other to avenge.
The steely Head stuck fast still in his Flesh, Till with his cruel Claws he snatch'd the Wood, And quite asunder broke. His hideous Tail then hurled he about, And therewith all enwrapt the nimble Thighs Of the froth-fomy Steed, whose Courage stout Striving to loose the Knot, that fast him ties, Himself in straiter Bands too rash implies, That to the ground he is perforce constrain'd To throw his Rider: who can quickly rise From off the Earth, with dirty Blood distain'd; For, that reproachful Fall right foully he disdain'd.
And fiercely took his trenchand Blade in hand, With which he strook so furious and so fell, That nothing seem'd the Puissance could withstand: Upon his Crest the harden'd Iron fell, But his more harden'd Crest was arm'd so well, That deeper Dint therein it would not make; Yet so extremely did the Buffe him quell, That from thenceforth he shun'd the like to take, But when he saw them come, he did them still forsake.
The Knight was wroth to see his Stroke beguil'd, And smote again with more outrageous Might; But back again the sparkling Steel recoil'd, And left not any Mark where it did light; As if in Adamant Rock it had been pight. The Beast impatient of his smarting Wound, And of so fierce and forcible Despight, Thought with his Wings to sty above the Ground; But his late wounded Wing unserviceable found. Then full of Grief and Anguish vehement, He loudly bray'd, that like was never heard, And from his wide devouring Oven sent A Flake of Fire, that flashing in his Beard, Him all amaz'd, and almost made affeard: The scorching Flame sore singed all his Face, And thro his Armour all his Body sear'd, That he could not endure so cruel Case, But thought his Arms to leave, and Helmet to unlace.
Not that great Champion of the antique World, Whom famous Poet's Verse so much doth Vaunt, And hath for twelve huge Labours high extol'd, So many Furies and sharp Fits did haunt, When him the poison'd Garment did enchaunt With Centaurs Blood, and bloody Verses charm'd, As did this Knight Twelve thousand Dolours daunt, Whom fiery Steel now burnt, that earst him arm'd, That earst him goodly arm'd, now most of all him harm'd. Whom so dismay'd, when that his Foe beheld, He cast to suffer him no more respire, But 'gan his sturdy Stern about to weld, And him so strongly strook, that to the ground him feld.
It fortuned as fair it then befel Behind his back unweeting where he stood, Of antient time there was a springing Well, From which fast trickled forth a silver Flood, Full of great Vertues, and for Med'cine good.
The Canterbury Tales
For unto Life the Dead it could restore, And Guilt of sinful Crimes clean wash away; Those that with Sickness were infested sore, It could recure, and aged long Decay Renew, as it were born that very Day. Now 'gan the golden Phoebus for to steep His fiery Face in Billows of the West, And his faint Steeds water'd in Ocean deep, Whiles from their journal Labours they did rest; When that infernal Monster, having kest His weary Foe into that living Well, 'Gan high advance his broad discoloured Breast Above his wonted pitch, with Countenance fell, And clapt his iron Wings, as Victor he did dwell.
Which when his pensive Lady saw from far, Great Woe and Sorrow did her Soul assay, As weening that the sad end of the War, And 'gan to highest God entirely pray, That feared chance from her to turn away; With folded Hands and Knees full lowly bent All night she watch'd, ne once adown would lay Her dainty Limbs in her sad Dreriment, But praying still did wake, and waking did lament.
The morrow next 'gan early to appear, That Titan rose to run his daily Race; But early ere the morrow next 'gan rear, Out of the Sea fair Titan's dewy Face, Up rose the gentle Virgin from her place, And looked all about, if she might spy Her loved Knight to move his manly Pace: For she had great doubt of his Safety, Since late she saw him fall before his Enemy. At last she saw, where he upstarted brave Out of the Well, wherein he drenched lay; As Eagle fresh out of the Ocean Wave, Where he hath left his Plumes all hoary grey, And deck'd himself with Feathers youthly gay, Like Eyas Hawk up mounts unto the Skies, His newly budded Pinions to assay, And marvels at himself, still as he flies: So new, this new-born Knight to Battle new did rise.
Whom, when the damned Fiend so fresh did spy, No wonder if he wondred at the sight, And doubted, whether his late Enemy It were, or other new supplied Knight. Hyperbole and superlatives are common in such descriptions and here we are told that no-one ever had or will have "So muche sorwe" as long as the world lasts.
This emotion is externalised but effectively communicated as the details are striking: "His eyen holwe, and grisly [frightening] to biholde", his "hewe falow" [his complexion is grey] and as pale as cold ashes: traditional elements but evocative. We do not know his thoughts but have to deduce them, by reader response, from his habits of solitary walking, wailing and moaning all night and weeping unstoppably if he hears a song or an instrument.
These are not intended to be realistic as the Knight follows the rules of speaking of courtly love as best he can yet the narrative remains static when we thought it might move forwards. This stasis serves to show time passing and the degree of formalisation is identifiable as within an acceptable contemporary mode. The Knight does have some skills as narrator and he now turns the still picture of Arcite into a focus point which leads the story forwards: the fact that his physique is so changed that he is unrecognisable.
His low spirits are connected to three fluids carried through the blood and the lover's malady of "Hereos" [Eros] was thought of as an actual disease with symptoms as recounted here. It could lead to mania, an ailment of the "celle fantastik" in the front of the brain, caused by an excess of the humour of melancholy, one of the four governing liquids in the body. No-one would know him from his speech or voice and his behaviour has degenerated from that of Hereos into that of mania.
The Knight relishes his knowledge of this physiology and likes its pragmatic foundation, spreading himself before swiftly, "shortly", summing up bluntly and with some bathos that his "habit and eek disposicioun" [habits and state of mind] are turned upside down. He continues in bluff and uncourtly manner when he takes up the moving plot once more. Added to the discrepancy of tone which undermines the Knight's previous construction of a picture of sorrow, although he emphasises "This crueel torment and this peyne and wo", he or Chaucer errs again: "What sholde I al day of his wo endite?
Not only is the manner discourteous, impatient and abrupt as he is part of a contract to tell stories, but he claims he is writing here not relating orally. However, it is a summarising device, allowed in rhetoric, and does pass over a year or two, until the god also a planet Mercury, seems to appear to him in his sleep. This apparition is an addition of Chaucer to the source, the Teseida of Boccaccio, and, in general Chaucer makes the pagan gods more active in affecting the lives of humans.
In the mouth of the Knight, this casts doubt on his Christianity as he does seem to stress these malign influences as a hired soldier might notice the inexplicable nature of evil Fate. As a Christian, he would be deploring the nature and influence of the pagan gods but this interpretation is less likely. Irony occurs when Mercury, recognisable by his "slepy yerde" [sleep-inducing staff] and hat on his bright hair, firstly bids him to be "murie" and then tells him to go to Athens which hurts him "soore", as that is his destiny: the intervention of the god is equivocal and we wait to see whether it will lead to joy or grief, suspecting the latter, whilst Arcite passively agrees: he is not pro-active here but is led astray by Mercury.
Dramatic irony strikes us when he determines to risk the death penalty in order to see Emelye, who does not even know of his existence, creating an irony of situation, as we know that he will probably die as a result and that fate, with verbal irony, will end his grief. He now looks in a mirror and sees how entirely changed his face is which suggests to him that he could live in disguise: the physiological effects of extreme love become a plot trigger.
Disguised as a poor labourer he has only one companion, a squire: there are few secondary characters in the story so that attention is concentrated on the primary figures. It is unrealistic that this squire would learn all the details of the situation so quickly but this is necessary for the plot. The reference to hewing wood and drawing water is Biblical Joshua ix, 21 and he rises in rank because of his abilities, youth, height ["long"], strength and large bones, a description which seems to contradict the shrunken impression we have been given of him.
We also wonder why, if his physique has improved to what it was before, he is not arrested. He uses his natural gifts and serves her, although not openly in the manner of a true courtly lover, doing anything required; the concentration is on devoted service to a woman who does not know him but in Boccaccio Emelye does and is flirtatious whilst pretending she does not recognise him. He is now popular and back in Athens, and Fortune's Wheel raises him to the reputation of being "gentil" [noble]. There is a outside demand to raise him further by "charitee" [good deed] to a position where he might exercise his "vertu" [excellence], a strong word with connotations of manliness and power.
He becomes a squire and therefore close to Theseus because of his actions and his "goode tonge" [ability to speak well], a quality highly valued at the time and is amply rewarded to maintain his "degree" [station in life]. Unrealistically, his income is secretly increased from abroad: he spends it so "honestly and slyly" [suitably and discreetly] that no-one questions the matter - all somewhat incredible but showing the Knight's interest in money and financial arrangements and possibly, his awareness of the need for some mercenary transactions to be kept quiet.
Arcite is now high on Fortune's Wheel and stays there in bliss for three years during peace and war another main theme showing contrasts in life until the Knight, with the clear signals of change of direction in oral narration, openly indicates he will return to the topic of Palamon.