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Day 5 – Knavery and Flattery Are Blood Relations

Posted by Amanda Jane on April 19, 2015

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

Currently Reading: The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

Today’s Reading: The Monk’s Prologue, The Monk’s Tale, The Prologue to the Nun’s Priest’s Tale, The Nun’s Priest’s Tale, Epilogue to the Nun’s Priest’s Tale | Pages: 237-282


Today has been a restless day.  There is much going on in my private world, and I am dizzy from all the turns my life is taking.  I’m sitting here tonight eating frozen yogurt and reflecting on the wise things I have learned from Chaucer during our brief relationship.

In today’s readings, he taught me quite a bit about flattery, counsel, luck, and true friends.

Let’s start off with The Monk’s Tale.  The Monk depresses us with agonizing tales of great men and women who fell from grace by a stroke of ill-fortune.  However, throughout the stories, there are interspersed some deep insights into Fortune and the wisdom with which one must approach it.

In the tragedy of Belshazzar, the Monk teaches us:

Masters, therefrom a moral you may take,/That in dominion is no certainness;

For when Fortune will any man forsake,/ She takes his realm and all he may possess,

And all his friends, too, both the great and the less;/ For when a man has friends that Fortune gave,

Mishap but turns them enemies, I guess”

Chaucer attempts to teach us about fair-weather friends.  When we live in prosperity, we are surrounded by friends that prosperity brought into our lives, but these are the same that will be the first to abandon and despise us when the winds of change blow away our good Fortune.

Next, in the tragedy of Julius Caesar, the Monk tells us:

“Fortune was first the friend and then the foe./ No man may trust in Fortune’s favor long,/

But as one fearing ambush must he go.”

I think the Monk is advising us to take note of what happened to Caesar and not to trust Fortune implicitly, but rather to tread lightly as to how much we trust and build upon it in our lives.

The Monk is interrupted in his sorrowful tales and is told by the knight that he is depressing everyone with the sad tales.  He suggests he tell something jauntier, but the Monk refuses, so it falls to the Nun’s Priest to tell his tale next.

The Nun’s Priest’s Tale is a story I can only think to compare to Aesop’s Fables.  It is a moralistic beast tale, in which a proud rooster, Chanticleer and one of his 7 wives, Pertelote and a sly Fox are illustrated.  Chanticleer and his hens live in the yard of a poor widow.  He is known for his beautiful singing voice and his timely crowing.

One night he falls asleep and dreams that he is killed by a fox.  He awakens and tells his wife Pertelote of his dream, who in turn tells him he is being silly and that he should take a laxative and get over it.   They argue over the wisdom in relying on a dream, Chanticleer finally acceding and dismissing it.

Time passes and one day he finds that a fox, who is hidden in the cabbages, is spying on him.  He thinks to run away, but the fox tells him that he need not be afraid because he just came to hear him sing.  The fox flatters Chanticleer, praising his voice and saying he sings better than his father.  The fox asks him to sing, stretching out his neck as he does as his father did, the better to make his voice carry.  Chanticleer is beguiled by his flattery and stretches preparing to sing, whereupon the fox snatches him by the neck and takes off with him.

The hens all see what happened and make such a ruckus that the widow and many others are alarmed and go chasing after the fox, who carries Chanticleer.  Chanticleer tricks the fox using flattery too, in a way, telling him to turn back and say something prideful to those who follow.  As soon as the fox does, Chanticleer is freed, and he flies to a treetop away from the fox.  The fox goes to him and tries to flatter him some more to trick him to come down, but Chanticleer says that he will not fall for it again.  He says:

“…beshrew myself, both blood and bones,/If you beguile me, having done so once,

You shall no more, with any flattery,/Cause me to sing and close up either eye.

For he who shuts his eyes when he should see,/And willfully, God let him ne’er be free!”

In other words, once you have fallen prey to the beguiling effects of flattery, don’t make the same mistake twice.  Abraham Lincoln said it best when he said, “Knavery and flattery are blood relations.”

There is one passage I think is particularly funny and insightful.  It is when Chanticleer tells Pertelote of his bad dream where he gets killed and she becomes disappointed in him as a husband, expressing her disdain for males who are cowardly.

” ‘Aha,’ said she, ‘fie on you, spiritless!/Alas!’ cried she, ‘for by that God above,

Now have you lost my heart and all my love;/I cannot love a coward, by my faith.

For truly, whatsoever woman saith,/We all desire, if only it may be,

To have a husband hardy, wise, and free,/And trustworthy, no niggard, and no fool,

Nor one that is afraid of every tool,/Nor yet a braggart, by that God above!

How dare you say, for shame, unto your love?/That there is anything that you have feared?

Have you not man’s heart, and yet have a beard?”

It reminds me of a complaint I hear often among the single gals of my acquaintance, we want a sensitive man!  But when he proves truly sensitive, we dump him because he is too “soft.”  Can we ever make up our minds?  It is not a paradox, we truly want it all.  The Brawny Man.   Strong, but sensitive.  Flexible, but not wishy-washy.  Brave, but not volatile.  We want to see vulnerability, but not cowardice.  Are you out there, Brawny man?  Hey, I’ll even take Mr. Clean! 😉


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