The Canterbury Tales: The Knight's Tale
How we cite our quotes:
And certeinly, a man hath moost honour
To dyen in his excellence and flour,
Whan he is siker of his goode name,
Thanne hath he doon his freend ne hym no shame.
And gladder oghte his freend been of his deeth,
Whan with honour up yolden in his breeth,
Than whan his name apalled is for age;
For al forgotten is his vassellage.
Thanne is it best as for a worthy fame,
To dyen whan that he is best of name.
The idea that it's better to die in your youth, at the height of your good reputation and valorous deeds, comes from a culture that values reputation almost more than life itself. This idea makes sense if you believe that your reputation is all that lives on in the world after you die.