The Canterbury Tales: The Knight's Tale
Strength and Skill Quotes Page 4
How we cite our quotes:
Somme seyden thus, somme seyde 'it shal be so';
Somme helden with hym with the blake berd,
Somme with the balled, somme with the thikke-herd,
Somme seyde he looked grymme, and wolde fighte,
'He hath a sparth of twenty pound of wighte.'
Thus was the halle ful of divynynge,
Longe after that the sonne gan to sprynge.
In this passage, the people at Theseus's court try to predict the outcome of tomorrow's joust judging by the physical appearance of the knights who have gathered for the battle. Just as Theseus did when he ordained the joust, though, the narrator in the end declares the outcome of it to be in the hands of fate. He says the hall was full of "divynynge," implying that the people's attempts to predict the winner are just like a fortuneteller's efforts to divine the future.
Ther nas no tygre in the vale of Galgopheye
Whan that hir whelp is stole, whan it is lite,
So crueel on the hunte, as is Arcite
For jelous herte upon this Palamon;
Ne in Belmarye ther nys so fel leon
That hunted is, or for his hunger wood,
Ne of his praye desireth so the blood,
As Palamon to sleen his foo Arcite.
This passage compares the battle-lust of Palamon and Arcite to the wrath of a tiger whose cub has been stolen, or a hunted lion that is crazy with hunger. Despite Theseus's attempt to turn Palamon and Arcite's anger with one another into a "civilized" joust, this passage betrays just how much animal anger and violence still lurks within the two men.
For soothly ther was no disconfiture.
For fallyng nys nat but an aventure –
Ne to be lad by force unto the stake
Unyolden, and with twenty knyghtes take,
O person allone, withouten mo,
And haryed forth by arme, foot, and too,
And eke his steede dryven forth with staves,
With footmen, bothe yemen and eek knaves,
It nas aretted hym no vileynye,
Ther may no man clepen it cowardye.
Here the narrator is parroting what the people at Theseus's court say about the losing team. Everyone tries to comfort them, and Palamon. They're reminded that it's no dishonor to be taken to the stake when harried by twenty knights, or to fall from one's horse in the course of the joust – all of this is just par for the course. The narrator is trying to make the point that no one thinks less of Palamon because of his loss, and nor should we, the reader. He is just as good a fighter as ever.