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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 3 – Dragon’s Breath

Posted by Amanda Jane on April 17, 2015

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

Currently Reading: The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

Today’s Reading: The Sailor’s Prologue, The Sailor’s Tale, The Prioress’ Prologue, The Prioress’ Tale, Prologue to Sir Thopas, Sir Thopas, Prologue to Melibeus | Pages: 158-189

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The Little Choir Boy and The Holy Virgin

As I sit here, feeling a little unwell and eating reheated Thai noodles so spicy I am about to spit fire, I am caught up yet again in the dragon-slaying knight analogy with which I have peppered my articles from the beginning.  When my illness gets the best of me, the dragon seems too large, too unconquerable, the fire seems too hot, the quest too insurmountable.   It’s at times like these that I rally my spirits with a warm cup of chamomile tea, a re-reading of the poem “Don’t Quit” I have taped to my monitor, and a booming refrain of Gloria Gaynor’s, “I Will Survive.” 🙂

Today’s readings were short but very interesting.  I will start with The Sailor’s Tale.

I have to admit that the tale made me feel as if I were going around in circles. What was the moral? Even monks can be untrustworthy? The people you think you know best can sometimes surprise you with treachery? In doing you a kindness, people have their own selfish motives at heart?  I’m having a little trouble understanding what Chaucer meant to moralize with this tale.

In The Sailor’s Tale, a rich merchant and his pretty wife are intimate childhood friends with a monk, whose visits are always welcomed with honest cheer.  The wife is a spender who is generously funded by her husband, the merchant is ever occupied by his bookkeeping and business dealings and the monk secretly harbors a love for the wife.  The wife asks the monk for a money loan for a dire need, labeling her husband a penny-pincher who would not provide for her even when her need is great. The monk offers to help and confesses he only comes around for love of her, then he goes and asks the merchant for a loan which he then passes on to the wife, no one being the wiser, except the monk, of all the dealings.  The merchant goes away, the monk comes to the wife and she repays his kindness by spending the night with him, then the merchant returns, he visits the monk out of friendship and the monk tells him he already left the money he borrowed with the wife, who in turn tells him that she’s already spent it on herself to look nice for him.

I don’t quite understand the point of the story, as I discussed before, but it was a comical read, nonetheless.

The Prioress’ Tale was sad. About a devout little choir boy with a single mom who was murdered by Jews beguiled by Satan, because they heard him singing the praises of the Holy Virgin.  It’s a little anti-semitic in my opinion. I need to study the condition of the Jewish people at that time, and the ghettos he describes, to get a better handle on the historical context.

Regardless, the murder of a child for any reason is an abhorrence, and then to be dumped in a cess pool! It is fitting that the story of the young martyr was given by a prioress.  It seemed almost a scriptural sonnet in its architecture.

My favorite part of the story is when they take the grain (put on his tongue by the Virgin to make his lifeless body and nearly severed head sing) away, and the little boy’s soul is finally released to heaven:

“The holy monk, this abbot, so say I,/The tongue caught out and took away the grain,

And he gave up the ghost, then easily,/And when the abbot saw this wonder plain,

The salt tears trickled down his cheeks like rain,/And humbly he fell prone upon the ground,

Lying there still as if he had been bound.

“And all the monks lay there on the pavement,/Weeping and praising Jesus’ Mother dear,

And after that they rose and forth they went,/Taking away this martyr from his bier,

And in a tomb of marble, carved and clear,/Did they enclose his little body sweet;”

What a poignant tale of innocence!  His sweetness touched the lives of many. By his death, perhaps he brought more learning than he might have had he lived.

Sir Thopas’ tale is a little whimsical and flowery.  It’s also about a knight, but one that thinks no regular girl is good enough to be his wife and goes after an elf-queen, where he meets with her bodyguard, a giant with three heads.  He arrays himself in his armor and goes back to fight him but we don’t get to hear the rest because Sir Thopas is interrupted in the middle of his story by the host who has grown weary of his flowery, foolish poetry.

To end today’s reflections, I will end with the host’s amusing rebuke to Sir Thopas:

” ‘By God!’ cried he, ‘now plainly, in a word,/Your dirty rhyming is not worth a turd (sorry–that’s what he said! :P)

You do naught else but waste and fritter time./Sir, in one word, you shall no longer rhyme.”

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