The Clever Quill – READ. LEARN. INSPIRE.

An Educated Mind ~ Come Along On My Quest to Finish 1350 Great Works

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    In my early 20s, I was diagnosed with a debilitating illness that forced me to forego a more traditional path to a classical education, leaving University shy of achieving a formal degree. But I won't give up! I believe in everyone's right to learn, no matter what health challenges they face. I'm determined to leave this life with a more cultured mind regardless of the time I have to make it happen, whether it be a year or five. Be my witness as I embark on this Epic, Gargantuan Adventure! My Quest to battle imposed limitations, slaying the fiery Dragons of Injustice, Intolerance, Disdain and Complacency... = 1350 GREAT WORKS = ~~ : ME versus TIME : ~~ Join TEAM AJ and cheer me on!!!
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Day 1 – You Have To Start Somewhere

Posted by Amanda Jane on April 15, 2015

Selected Readings Goal: 1350   |   Started: 1   |   Finished: 0   |   Remaining: 1350

Currently Reading: The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

Today’s Reading: Prologue, The Knight’s Tale   |   Pages: 1-85


Woodcut of 29 Pilgrims from The Canterbury Tales

I finished setting up the blog today.  It’s not as simple as I thought it was going to be–well, not for the perfectionist that lives inside my head.  Family and other work make it impossible for me to focus on just my studies.

I was excited to get started on my reading! I searched high and low for a good progress counter widget to add to this page so that I could see my progress.  I found one, but it makes me feel like a loser.  It’s still at Zero!  I’m being neurotic; It’s only my first day, for crying out loud! Anyway, on to my impressions.

First of all, I have to say that I think I picked the perfect book to start with.  Nothing gets you in the mood for an epic adventure of your own than reading about brave knights and fair ladies in faraway lands.  When I first started reading this morning, I found it required more concentration than my usual fluff reading does, but the richness and poetic lyricism make up for it.  The detail merits your focused attention.  It’s well worth the study you put into it.

The Prologue describes the 29 visitors to the Tabard Inn at the beginning of the pilgrimage to Canterbury, and the wager that gives birth to the tales.  I cannot help but marvel at Chaucer’s intricate lyrical poetry.  I could almost see and be inspired by the brave knight and the parson from his description alone.  Such mastery of the language so as to bring characters to life across seven centuries is remarkable!

In my reading of “The Knight’s Tale,” I came across a few passages that resonated within my own mind.  I will quote them here for our mutual benefit and inspiration:

(Here, Arcita is lamenting the fact that he has been exiled while his cousin Palamon remains in prison, where he can see fair Emily from the cell window.  Both cousins are in love with Emily and each curses the others luck)

“Alas! Why is it men so much complain/Of what great God, or Fortune, may ordain,

When better is the gift, in any guise,/That men may often for themselves devise?

One man desires only that great wealth/Which may but cause his death or long ill-health.

One who from prison gladly would be free,/At home by his own servants slain might be.

We furiously pursue felicity,/Yet we go often wrong before we die.”

Chaucer is wise to point out that sometimes our own desires are our folly.  This was the medieval equivalent to “the grass is greener.”  Sometimes we wish that things were different, or we are certain that if things were different, we would be happy and everything would be “perfect,” and resent the tribulations we face.  Who among us is truly without problems?  Chaucer here suggests that sometimes we would do better to be content with our current strife than to forcibly pursue our desires, which may, in themselves, bring greater pain or strife than that which we were already dealing with, and had a handle on.

I also like the question Chaucer poses to his readers as to who feels the greater pain as a lover: the man who is banished from her presence forever, or he who can see her from his prison cell but knows he will never have her.

Next, philosophizing by the worthy Theseus once Arcita has been set on his funeral bier, and he is left with the decision of the fate of Palamon and Emily.

“And therefore, of His Wisdom’s Providence,/Has He (God) so well established ordinance

That species of all things and all progressions/If they’d endure, it must be by successions,

Not being themselves eternal…

“Of man and woman just the same is true;/Needs must, in either season of the two,

That is to say, in youth or else in age,/All men perish, the king as well as page…

“Then it is wisdom, as it seems to me,/To make a virtue of necessity,

And calmly take what we may not eschew,/And specially that which to all is due.”

In this context, I believe the Duke’s reasoning to be sound.  He is saying that nothing is lasting. Everything is fleeting.  If we are to endure, then we must take place in the succession of humanity–not as immortals, for that is not possible, but as part of a line, a succession– the human descendency.  Somehow, that brings me comfort.

He makes a solid argument for the joining of the two mourners by suggesting that this is the next logical step in that succession.  Since all people are to die, king as well as pauper, then why let death be a stumbling block to keep two people from finding joy, instead of accepting it and remembering it is part of nature, part of life and moving on to find our own happiness before our own time is up.

And finally, this great quote from noble Theseus, the Duke:

“Who can be called a fool, except he love?”

or as Lorelai Gilmore said it:

“I’m afraid that once your heart is involved, it all comes out in ‘moron’. “


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