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From The Monk's Tale, lines 295-358:
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From The Canterbury Tales:
The Monk's Tale
lines 359-486: Cenobia


Cenobia

       Cenobia, of Palymerie queene,
360As writen Persiens of hir noblesse,
So worthy was in armes, and so keene,
That no wight passed hir in hardynesse,
Ne in lynage, ne in oother gentillesse.
Of kynges blood of Perce is she descended.
365I seye nat that she hadde moost fairnesse,
But of hire shap she myghte nat been amended.
       Zenobia, of all Palmyra queen
360As write old Persians of her nobleness,
So mighty was in warfare, and so keen,
That no man her surpassed in hardiness,
Nor yet in lineage, nor in gentleness.
Of blood of Persia's kings she was descended;
365I say not she had greatest beauteousness,
But of her figure naught could be amended.

From hir childhede I fynde that she fledde
Office of wommen, and to wode she wente,
And many a wilde hertes blood she shedde
370With arwes brode, that she to hem sente.
She was so swift that she anon hem hente,
And whan that she was elder, she wolde kille
Leouns, leopardes, and beres al torente,
And in hir armes weelde hem at hir wille.
From childhood on I find that she had fled
Duties of women, and to wildwood went;
And many a wild hart's blood therein she shed
370With arrows broad that she within them sent.
So swift she was, she ran them down all spent;
And when she was grown older she would kill
Lions and leopards, and bears too she rent,
And in her arms she broke them at her will.

375 She dorste wilde beestes dennes seke,
And rennen in the montaignes al the nyght
And slepen under the bussh, and she koude eke
Wrastlen by verray force and verray myght
With any yong man, were he never so wight;
380Ther myghte nothyng in hir armes stonde.
She kepte hir maydenhod from every wight,
To no man deigned hir for to be bonde.
375She even dared the wild beasts' dens to seek,
And ran upon the mountains all the night,
Sleeping beneath a bush; and, nothing weak,
Wrestled by very force and very might
With any man, however brave in fight;
380For there was nothing in her arms could stand.
She kept her maidenhead from every wight,
And unto no man would she yield her hand.

But atte laste hir freendes han hir maried
To Odenake, a prynce of that contree,
385Al were it so that she hem longe taried.
And ye shul understonde how that he
Hadde swiche fantasies as hadde she.
But nathelees, whan they were knyt infeere,
They lyved in joye and in felicitee,
390For ech of hem hadde oother lief and deere;
But at the last her friends did make her marry
Odenathus, a prince of that country,
385Albeit she long waited and did tarry;
And you must understand that also he
Held to the same queer fancies as had she.
Nevertheless, when wedded, 'twould appear
They lived in joy and all felicity,
390For each of them held other lief and dear.

Save o thyng, that she wolde nevere assente
By no wey that he sholde by hir lye
But ones, for it was hir pleyn entente
To have a child the world to multiplye;
395And also soone as that she myghte espye
That she was nat with childe with that dede,
Thanne wolde she suffre hym doon his fantasye
Eft-soone and nat but oones, out of drede.
But to one thing she never would consent,
For any prayers, that he should near her lie
Except one night only, when 'twas her intent
To have a child, since men should multiply;
395Yet when she learned she'd got no pregnancy
From that night's work together on her bed,
Then would she suffer him again to try,
But only once indeed, and then with dread.

And if she were with childe at thilke cast,
400Namoore sholde he pleyen thilke game
Til fully fourty dayes weren past;
Thanne wolde she ones suffre hym do the same.
Al were this Odenake wilde or tame,
He gat namoore of hir, for thus she seyde,
405It was to wyves lecheie and shame
In oother caas, it that men with hem pleyde.
And when she was with child, all at the last,
400Then no more might he play at that same game
Till fully forty days were gone and past;
Then would she once more suffer him the same
And were Odenathus grown wild or tame,
He got no more of her; for thus she'd say:
405"In wives it is but lechery and shame
When, oftener, men with their bodies play.

Two sones by this Odenake hadde she,
The whiche she kepte in vertu and lettrure,
But now unto oure tale turne we;
410I seye, so worshipful a creature,
And wys therwith, and large with mesure,
So penyble in the werre, and curteis eke,
Ne moore labour myghte in werre endure,
Was noon, though al this world men wolde seke.
Two sons by this Odenathus had she,
The which she bred in virtue and learning;
But now again unto our tale turn we.
410I say, so worshipful a young being,
Wise, and right generous in everything,
Careful in war and courteous as well,
And hardy in the field, and full daring,
Was not in all the world where men do dwell.

415 Hir riche array ne myghte nat be told
As wel in vessel as in hir clothyng;
She was al clad in perree and in gold,
And eek she lafte noght for noon huntyng
To have of sondry tonges ful knowyng,
420Whan that she leyser hadde; and for to entende
To lerne bookes was al hire likyng,
How she in vertu myghte hir lyf dispende.
415Her rich array may not be rightly told,
Either of vessels or of fine clothing;
She was clad all in jewels and in gold;
And she did never cease, despite hunting,
To gain of divers tongues a full knowing,
420Whenever she had time; she did intend
To learn from books, which were to her liking,
How she in virtue might her whole life spend.

And shortly of this proces for to trete,
So doghty was hir housbonde and eek she,
425That they conquered manye regnes grete
In the orient, with many a faire citee,
Apertenaunt unto the magestee
Of Rome, and with strong hond held hem ful faste,
Ne nevere myghte hir foomen doon hem flee,
430Ay whil that Odenakes dayes laste.
And briefly of this story now to treat,
So doughty was her husband, as was she,
425That they two conquered many kingdoms great
Throughout the East, with many a fair city
That did pertain unto the majesty
Of Rome; and with strong hands they held them fast;
Nor might a foe escape by trying to flee
430The while Odenathus' good days did last.

Hir batailles, whoso list hem for to rede,
Agayn Sapor the kyng and othere mo,
And how that al this proces fil in dede,
Why she conquered, and what title had therto,
435And after of hir meschief and hire wo,
How that she was biseged and ytake,
Lat hym unto my maister Petrak go,
That writ ynough of this, I undertake.
Her battles all, as whoso wants may read
Against Sapor the king and others too,
And all her story as it fell, indeed,
Why she was victor and had right thereto,
435And, after, all her misfortune and woe,
How they besieged her and at last did take,
Let him unto my master Petrarch go,
Who wrote the whole of this, I undertake.

Whan Odenake was deed, she myghtily
440The regnes heeld; and with hir propre hond
Agayn hir foos she faught so cruelly
That ther nas kyng ne prynce in al that lond
That he nas glad, if he that grace fond
That she ne wolde upon his lond werreye.
445With hir they makded alliance by bond
To been in pees, and let hire ride and pleye.
Now when Odenathus was dead, then she
440The kingdom held within her own strong hand;
Against her foes she fought so bitterly
There was no king or prince in all that land
But was right glad, if mercy make her bland,
That she turned not against him her array;
445With her they made alliance, bond and band,
To keep the peace and let her ride and play.

The Emperour of Rome, Claudius
Ne hym bifore, the Romayn Galien,
Ne dorste nevere been so corageus,
450Ne noon Ermyn, ne noon Egipcien,
Ne Surrien, ne noon arabyen,
With-inne the feeldes that dorste with hir fighte,
Lest that she wolde hem with hir handes slen,
Or with hir meignee putten hem to flighte.
The emperor of Rome, on Claudius
His predecessor, Galien too, that man,
Had never courage to oppose her thus;
450Nor was Egyptian nor Armenian,
Nor Syrian, nor yet Arabian
That dared against her in the field to fight,
For fear that at her hands they might be slain,
Or by her army put to sudden flight.

455In kynges habit wente hir sones two
As heires of hir fadres regnes alle,
And Hermanno, and Thymalao
Hir names were, as Persiens hem calle.
But ay Fortune hath in hir hony galle;
460This myghty queene may no while endure.
Fortune out of hir regne made hir falle
To wrecchednesse and to mysaventure.
455In kingly habit went her sons also,
As being heirs to their sire's kingdoms all,
Athenodorus and Thymalao
Their names were, or the Persians did so them call.
But Fortune's honey is aye mixed with gall;
460This mighty queen could no great while endure.
And Fortune from her high throne made her fall
To wretchedness and into ways obscure.

Aurelian, whan that the governaunce
Of Rome cam into hise handes tweye,
465He shoope upon this queene to doon vengeaunce,
And with hise legions he took his weye
Toward Cenobie, and shortly for to seye,
He made hir flee and atte last hir hente,
And fettred hir, and eek hir children tweye,
470And wan the land, and hoom to Rome he wente.
Aurelian, when Roman governance
Came to his two strong hands, made no delay,
465But swore that on this queen he'd wreak vengeance,
And so with mighty legions took his way
Against Zenobia; let me briefly say
He made her flee; and at the last he sent
And fettered her and her two sons one day,
470And won the land, and home to Rome he went.

Amonges othere thynges that he wan,
Hir chaar, that was with gold wroght and perree,
This grete Romayn, this Aurelian,
Hath with hym lad for that men sholde it see.
475Biforen his triumphe walketh shee,
With gilte cheynes on hir nekke hangynge;
Coroned was she, after hir degree,
And ful of perree charged hir clothynge.
Among the other booty Asian
Her chariot was, of gold and jewellery,
And this great Roman, this Aurelian,
He carried it away for men to see.
475Before his car in triumph then walked she
With golden chains upon her neck hanging;
Crowned was she, too, to show her high degree,
And full of priceless gems was her clothing.

Allas, Fortune! she that whilom was
480Dredful to kynges and to emperoures,
Now gaureth al the peple on hir, allas!
And she that helmed was in starke shoures
And wan by force townes stronge and toures
Shal on hir heed now were a vitremyte,
485And she that bar the ceptre ful of floures
Shal bere a distaf, hir costes for to quyte.
Alas, Fortune! She that but lately was
480The scourge of kings and emperors and powers,
Now may the rabble gape at her, alas!
And she that, armed, rode where grim battle lowers
And took by force great cities and strong towers,
Must wear a cap now while her two eyes weep;
485And she that bore the sceptre of carved flowers
May bear a distaff and thus earn her keep.




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From The Monk's Tale, lines 487-502:
De Petro Rege Ispannie
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