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LEAD, KINDLY LIGHT
LEAD, kindly light, amid th' encircling gloom
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
So long Thy Power hath blest me, sure it still
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till
And with the morn those angel faces smile
JOHN HENRY NEWMAN.
GOD of our fathers, known of old-
The tumult and the shouting dies-
An humble and a contrite heart.
Far-called our navies melt away
On dune and headland sinks the fire – Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre! Judge of the Nations, spare us yet, Lest we forget-lest we forget!
If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Or lesser breeds without the Law
For heathen heart that puts her trust
THE selections in this volume are taken from the Prologue to The Canterbury Tales. These tales are a collection of stories supposed to be told by a group of pilgrims who are journeying on horseback to the shrine of Thomas à Becket at Canterbury. Becket was at one time Chancellor to Henry II, and later was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury by the king. A violent quarrel arose between them, and the king finally became so angered that he exclaimed in a fit of rage: “Of the cowards who eat my bread, is there not one who will free me from this turbulent priest?" Four of the king's knights straightway went to Canterbury and murdered Becket in the cathedral where he had taken refuge.
This act so aroused popular indignation that the king was forced to kneel at Becket's tomb at Canterbury and ask the monks to flog him as a punishment for the crime. Becket was canonized as a martyr, and it was a common thing for crowds to go to Canterbury to pray at his tomb. Many went with the hope of being healed of disease, both of the body and of the soul; others made the journey in a holiday mood.
Chaucer's pilgrims, twenty-nine in number, start on horseback from the Tabard Inn at Southwark, a suburb of London. They represent every station in life, in the party were a knight, a monk, a scholar, a parson, a miller, a shipman, and a cook, and they were united by one common tie, religion. Then, too, the comradeship of the highway largely brushed away whatever feeling of class distinction there may have been among the travelers. At any rate, it was a merry gathering. The jolly host of the Tabard suggests that each member of the company tell two stories, both going and coming, and that the pilgrim who tells the best story shall have a supper at the inn on their return at the cost of all the rest. The host also offers to go along and act as judge. The red-bearded miller leads the company out of town with his bagpipe.
In the Prologue, Chaucer gives a series of vivid and lifelike pictures of these twenty-nine pilgrims, portraying with a deft touch both their physical and moral qualities. As might be expected, the first picture is that of the Knight. It was an age of feudalism, and in that age the soldier was the central figure. Chaucer had lived on friendly terms with high-bred men of arms, and he here shows us his conception of a perfect knight, brave, honorable, clean-minded, courteous and generous, modest and gentle. The Knight's son, the young Squire, is described in a more playful manner, yet with entire sympathy. In addition to youthful gayety and high spirits, he has all the accomplishments of a well-born and well-bred young man who aspires to distinction in arms.
The Shipman was a man of wholly different type; but he was a representative of a class common in Chaucer's day. He was a sturdy sailor, a master of his trade, half pirate, not troubled with a scrupulous conscience; yet Chaucer calls him "a good felawe."
The portrait of the Parson is, by common consent, the best picture of its kind in literature. Dryden admired it and paraphrased it, and Goldsmith no doubt had it in mind when he described the country parson in The Deserted Village. Chaucer's parson is modestly but genuinely pious, conscientious, industrious, unselfish, kind, preaching no less eloquently by example than by word. The portrait was meant by Chaucer as a rebuke to the more selfish and worldly monks of the religious orders, many of whom were notorious for the profligacy of their lives.
LINE 1. Knight, a title of rank generally conferred upon men of gentle birth for bravery in battle. worthy, worthy of honor, distinguished. 4. fredom, generosity.
5. his lordés werré, God's wars, the Crusades. It may refer to the king of England's wars.
6. no man ferré, no man further.
9. Alisaundre, Alexandria, in Egypt.
10. the bord bigonné, sat at the head of the table. This place was often assigned to him at banquets out of respect for his bravery.
11. naciouns. Men from all nations came to Prussia to aid the Teutonic knights in their wars against the surrounding heathen. Prucé, Prussia.
13. Tramissené, Tramessen, a Moorish kingdom in Africa The Moors were Mohammedans
14. listés, lists, inclosed places for combats or tournaments.
16. Palatyé, Palathia, a strip of country in Asia Minor which was taken from the Turks by the Christian knights.
18. a sovereyn prys, very great fame.
21. vileinye, “any language unbecoming a gentleman."
22. no maner wight, no sort of person.
25. hors, horses. It is an old neuter plural.- he was nat gay, he was not gaudily dressed.
26. fustian, a coarse twilled cloth. - gipoun, a tight-fitting, sleeveless
27. Al bismotered with his habergeoun, stained with rust from his coat of mail.
28. viagé, voyage, travels abroad.
LINE 1. Squyér, a knight's attendant and armor-bearer.
2. bacheler, a candidate for knighthood.
3. crulle, curled.
5. of evene lengthé, of average height.
6. wonderly delivere, extremely quick and active.
7. chivachyé, cavalry raids.
8. Flaundrés, Artoys, Picardyé, Flanders, Artois, Picardy, districts in northern France, where many battles between the French and English were fought.
9. as of so litel spacé, in consideration of his youth.
10. his lady gracé, his lady's favor.
11. Embrouded, embroidered.
13. floytinge, playing on a flute.
17. endyté, compose.
18. Iuste, joust or just, to thrust with the lance at an opponent in single combat on horseback.
19. nightertalé, night-time.
22. The ability to carve at table was considered one of the accomplish ments of a candidate for knighthood.
LINE 1. woning fer by westé, dwelling far to the westward.
2. Dertemouthé, Dartmouth, a seaport town in the southwest of England. In Chaucer's day it was an important shipping center.