In Theseus, cousin knights Arcite
And Palamon saw lovely Emily;
So stricken each was under true love’s rule
That they would fight for her hand in a duel.
All three sent prayers to the gods above:
To Aphrodite, Palamon, for love
To Ares, Arcite asked victory,
And Emily, glad of virginity,
Begged Diana that she would so remain.
The answer of the goddess gave her pain:
The other gods would not allow such things,
But she could have the pleasure true love brings.
Young Emily, who saw she could not win,
Resigned herself to watch the games begin.
At end, the winner was good Arcite,
But he was slain ‘fore claiming victory.
As soon as Arcite was lain to rest,
His cousin cried, “Begin the wedding fest!”
“Have you no shame?” called out his bride-to-be
He took her hands and said, “My Emily,
“There is no sense in waiting, for now all
“Are gathered. Put out food and glasses tall
“So that we may partake of wine and ale
“And join as one tonight hearty and hale!”
His bride knew well she had no choice; her life
Was to be bound in duties of a wife.
As she prepared, she whispered a last prayer,
“My Goddess, Diana, if you are there,
“I know the time before when I beseeched
“You, you said my desire was out of reach
“But that you would permit a compromise.
“Tonight, I beg again. I now despise
“The thought of any man. O Gods above!
“Must he love me when him I cannot love?”
Diana entered. “Hush, child, I am here.
“How could I make myself neglect to appear
“To one who is so desp’rately in need?
“Though I warn you first: if I do this deed
“It will be irreversible; for mighty
“Is revenge from spurned Aprhodite.”
“Those punishments are such that I may take,”
Said Emily. “Better that than to fake
A passion that I know I will ne’er feel.”
Diana smirked. “In that case, my dear, steel
“Yourself,” the goddess said, dropping a hand
To grab the sword upon her belt. “Now, stand
“Before me,” she ordered the fainting girl,
And when Emily did as told, a twirl
Of great Diana’s weapon was the start
Of a strong thrust, stopped before the girl’s heart.
“If ’tis your plan to kill me,” came the cry,
“Then do it quick – let me not slowly die.”
Diana’s grin was wider now. She said,
“You may now touch the blade,” and when, with dread,
Emily did, she gasped as it went limp.
The goddess laughed. “Now, off you go to primp
“To pretty yourself for your husband’s eyes
“Tonight, in bed, he will receive his prize.”
Emily could not fathom what she meant.
Before she could ask, off the goddess went,
And thus was the young woman left alone
‘Twas how she felt when she came before the throne
With Palamon to be pronounced his wife
That night, in bed, he did exclaim, “Our life
“As one, may now begin officially.”
Though his embrace was strong initially,
He soon fell off. “O gods above, what can
I do? For clearly, I am not a man!”
He wept all night into Emily’s arms,
His virgin bride would e’er remain unharmed.