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Day 2 – The 5 Types of People You Meet On A Quest

Posted by Amanda Jane on April 16, 2015

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

Currently Reading: The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

Today’s Reading: The Miller’s Prologue, The Miller’s Tale, The Reeve’s Prologue, The Reeve’s Tale, The Cook’s Prologue, The Cook’s Tale, Introduction to The Lawyer’s Prologue, The Lawyer’s Prologue, The Lawyer’s Tale  | Pages: 86-157

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Constance Cast Adrift from “The Lawyer’s Tale”

It’s interesting the response you get from people when you start a massive project.

There are:

1. The constant cheerleaders who applaud anything you do because they think you’re great.

2. The friends who’ve seen you try and succeed–or sometimes try and fail–at many things, who shake their heads in amusement and utter “here we go again” with patient solidarity.

3. The bemused who think you are a few fries short of a Happy Meal, but wish you luck anyway.

4. The naysayers, who think your endeavor is pointless because it has no sense or importance in their version of the World.

and worst of all,

5. The condescending negativists who see your efforts as the desperate act of a pitiable creature.

You may think that the opinion of others is fairly easy to overlook, but that is not true.  Whether we like it or not, we have a reaction, however much we attempt to dissemble, to what other people think of us and the things we do.  Other people are our mirrors.  We are afraid of the reflection we see of ourselves through their eyes.  Not perhaps for their sake, but for our own fear that we are really as foolish and awkward as we have always believed, and that they can see it where we cannot–that if they can see our foolishness, frailty of character or mind, or indeed our beauty, or lack thereof, so can everyone else.

So what is the answer, then? Listen to what everyone says about us? Take a hit to our self-esteem? No.  The answer is to accept it, comment or criticism, but only internalize what makes us better.  I find that when I try to understand the reasoning behind a comment, instead of fighting it with anger or resentment, or letting the flattery go to my head, I decide how much it affects me, and in that way, I can learn a lot more from these individual mirrors and catch glimpses of the “me” I aspire to be.

Well, enough of my reflections for now.  Time to expound upon today’s readings.

Let’s start with The Miller’s Tale. Chaucer gives good advice to anyone who participates in sport/games.  It could also apply to the internet community.  He says before continuing with the Miller’s Tale:

“Be then advised, and hold me free from blame;

Men should not be too serious at a game.”

Solid piece of advice, that.  We sometimes get too involved in triviality.

It is no surprise that the Miller was portrayed as being drunk while telling this tale.  It gave Chaucer the latitude to bring the comically coarse vulgarity of the Miller to life. It definitely was an eyebrow-raiser of a story. I was surprised to see many idioms that I thought were more modern in origin, such as “shut your trap,”  “arse kissed,” and “let fly a fart.” OK, so I giggled.  Another funny epithet I came across was “primrose and a tender chicken” when describing the young carpenter’s wife, Alison.  I wonder if it was flattering at the time to be compared to juicy poultry. 😐

On to more serious passages!  The Carpenter, upon finding Nicholas catatonic, became superstitious and uttered:

“This man has fallen…into some madness or some agony;

I always feared that somehow this would be!/Men should not meddle in God’s privity.

Aye, blessed always be the ignorant man,/Whose creed is all he ever has to scan!”

Ignorance has always been the tributary that feeds the meandering river of superstition, and it became the carpenter’s ultimate folly.  He was taken for a fool by his wife and Nicholas (who made him believe that Noah’s flood was about to be repeated so they could have a private frolic), and from then on he was regarded as a rambling lunatic.

The Reeve felt his pride threatened by the Miller’s Tale, since he was a carpenter, so he told another bawdy tale in response, casting A Miller as the fool.  In his tale, he tells of a Miller who stole from his customers and was ultimately cheated of his wife’s and his daughter’s dignity, as well as of what he had first stolen.  All I can say to this is that Chaucer was saying, “What goes around, comes around.”

The Cook’s Tale is really short. It is thought that Chaucer was not finished with it yet, but it starts with Perkin who was a party boy that loved to dance and drink. He gets fired from his apprenticeship then moves in with a friend, who is also a partying man, and his wife, who is a prostitute.  The only thing I learned from this is that a “Jack of Dover” is a ‘slang term for a meat pie which, not being sold the day it was cooked, the gravy was drawn off.’  Ewww.

My favorite selection of today’s reading is The Lawyer’s Tale.  It is the story of fair Constance, daughter of the Roman emperor who is sent to marry a Syrian sultan who has fallen madly in love with her. She’s Christian, he’s Muslim, so he decides to convert himself and his people to Christianity so he can have her in marriage.  His mom gets mad at his desire to renounce his faith and when Constance arrives, after a long sea voyage, the sultan and his followers are slain by order of the sultan’s mom, then Constance is set back on the ship with provisions but without a rudder and left to die in the ocean.  A merciful God guards this pious princess and guides her ship to Northumberland where she is found by a warden and is invited to live with him and his wife. A man falls in love with her and she turns him down, so he decides to shame her. He kills the warden’s wife, frames her, then testifies against her before the King.  The King discovers the man is lying. The King falls in love with her himself and takes her to be his queen.  Then he takes off to Scotland. His mother gets jealous of Constance, tricks a messenger into miscommunication with the King, then fakes an order to set Constance adrift with her baby, the King’s heir.  She sails for a long time and is guided providently back to Rome. She takes up residence with her uncle, never revealing her identity. The King comes to Rome, after learning the truth of what occurred at home, wanting to pay penance.  Constance discovers he’s there, sends the boy, then she reunites with him, and then with her own father.  They live happily ever after (at least for a year) and then the King dies and she goes back to Rome to live with her father the Emperor forever.

It’s a sweet, heart-wrenching story of a good, virtuous woman whom misfortune takes in hand and leaves her life in shambles.  She did nothing karmically to deserve the utter misery and hopelessness that plagued her life.  She waited to die at every moment, but never once renounced or cursed God, but constantly sought His solace. Fortune favored her and led her through each misadventure and to ultimate peace.  I suppose I can draw a parallel to my own life, although I don’t know how saintly I can count myself.  I know how it feels to feel insignificant, adrift, and uncertain of a future.  What keeps me going is hope, akin to Constance’s faith–deep, unmovable, resolute.  My every breath is my “ship’s provisions,” which multiply by the Grace of God to keep me alive.

I love what the Lawyer says in his prologue about promises.  I never thought about them in that way before.  It ties together honor, honesty, and the integrity of our word.

“To break a promise is not my intent.

A promise is a debt, and by my fay/I keep all mine; I can no better say.

For such law as man gives to other wight,/He should himself submit to it, by right;”

Very wise. 🙂

And finally, I’ll share the Lawyer’s version of “happily ever after.” It is a more realistic and satisfying “forever” than the one found in fairy tales, in my opinion.

“…They did live in joy and quiet meet./But little while it lasts us, this complete,

Joy of this world, for time will not abide;/From day to day it changes as the tide.

Who ever lived in such delight one day/That was not stirred therefrom by his conscience,

Desire, or anger, or some kindred fray,/Envy, or pride, or passion, or offense?

I say but to one ending this sentence;/That but a little while in joy’s pleasance

Lasted the bliss of Alla (the King) and Constance.”

The End.

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