The Clever Quill – READ. LEARN. INSPIRE.

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

Day 12 – All That Glitters Isn’t Gold

Posted by Amanda Jane on April 26, 2015

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

Currently Reading: The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

Today’s Reading: The Canon Yeoman’s Prologue, The Canon Yeoman’s Tale | Pages: 504-529

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My mother used to say, “If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.”  Perhaps this is a somewhat cynical way to view life, but overall it seems to be true.  Not that there aren’t gems of good in life, but they are rarer than the rarest gems and far more precious. 🙂

Growing up in northern California, the Gold Rush was a big part of my history education.  In the 3rd grade, I remember learning all about the Gold Rush and the 49ers (not the football team–well, maybe a bit about them too 😉 ).  I learned about panning for gold, and mining, and Sutter’s Mill and Coloma.  All rich parts of California history.

I remember that as a child, I always observed this rock my mother had that she said had belonged to my grandfather.  It was about 5 inches wide and 4 inches tall–and sparkled!  When I asked my mother what it was, she told me it was Fool’s Gold.  I had no idea what that meant, but it had the word “gold” in the phrase, so my brain omitted the “fool” part, much to my detriment.  Since I was learning about the gold rush at school, I asked my mom if I could take it to school for show and tell.  If she thought it was strange, she never mentioned it to me.

The next Monday, I took the rock to school, showing it off to all of my friends, telling them that my grandpa had found gold (I had quite an imagination–I think I was already imagining my grandpa as a cross between Davy Crockett and a prospector).  They were all somewhat impressed but a little skeptical.  I rushed in, telling my teacher all about the surprise I had for our class at the end of the day.  We settled into class and–lo, and behold–that day we learned about pyrite.  As the day progressed and we neared show and tell, I visibly deflated.  It became clearer that what I had brought to class wasn’t gold and that the fool had been me!  I was near panic when show and tell came around, shrinking in my seat as much as the tallest girl in a room can.  Without fail, my teacher called me up to the front.

There I was, the shyest girl in my class, stammering madly and mumbling about a golden rock.  I think my teacher caught on to the fact that I had blabbed all about it being gold earlier, because she came and rescued me and held up the rock to the class, telling them how keen it was that I had brought the very thing we had studied that day.  She asked how many people had been fooled into thinking it was gold.  Nearly everyone raised their hands.  She taught us that many people had made the same mistake and had thereby lost a lot of money, sometimes even their families or their lives.  By the time everyone had gotten the chance to examine the rock for themselves, they had forgotten all about the tall tale from that morning, thinking I probably had been in cahoots with the teacher, and I had learned a lesson, having been served a slice of humble pie.

In Chaucer’s story, The Canon Yeoman’s Tale, a yeoman talks about a canon or philosopher which he implies but denies it is the one he rides with, telling a tale of how this alchemist had fooled a priest and cheated him out of a large sum of money, pretending to give him the alchemical process for making silver out of copper.

The Yeoman speaks about greed and avarice, saying

“Consider, sirs, how that, in each estate,/Between men and their gold there is debate

To such degree that gold is nearly done./This multiplying blinds many a one

That in good faith I think that it may be/The greatest cause of this said scarcity” (526).

This kind of puts me in mind of all those get-rich-quick scams that seem so prevalent on infomercials and on the internet.  Those who seek to get gain without any effort on their part, excluding luck or innovation, usually are part of some sort of treachery, whether they are aware of it or not.  The Yeoman advises that even if we are already embroiled in one of these scams, it’s never too late to withdraw and save as much of our lives as we can before the inevitable fall catches up to us.  He says:

“If you have tried it, leave it, I repeat,/Lest you lose all; better than never is late.

Never to thrive at all were a long date./And though you prowl, you never gold shall find” (527).

The story teaches us about avarice and trickery, and also the fact that you can’t always trust your eyes to see clearly.  He teaches that we would be wise to remember that not everything is always what it appears to be, and if something “seems too good to be true” it probably is. 😉

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