Chaucer and His Poetry: Lectures Delivered in 1914 on the Percy Turnbull Memorial Foundation in the Johns Hopkins University

By George Lyman Kittredge | Go to book overview

VI
THE CANTERBURY TALES -- II

MIRACLES of the Blessed Virgin were a favorite form of legend in the middle ages, and no wonder! Every student will recall, at the mere word, a score of these stories, delicately beautiful and of a pathos almost beyond belief. The Prioress, involuntarily expressive of her inmost nature, had chosen to repeat the loveliest and most touching of them all. Its effect upon the Pilgrims is described by Chaucer in two lines of utter simplicity, which touch, so I think, the skirts of Shakespeare's garment: -- "Whan seyd was this miracle, every man" -- think what that means: the jangling Miller, the trumpet- voiced Sumner, the cynical and accursed Pardoner, the irrepressible Wife of Bath, the merry Friar, the Merchant, angry to the death under his mask of sedate respectability --

"Whan seyd was this miracle, every man
As sobre was that wonder was to see.

Nobody can command his thought or trust his voice. The whole troop is silent, till at last the Host, to relieve the tension, falls a-jesting, for it must be either laughter or tears; and the butt of

-181-

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Chaucer and His Poetry: Lectures Delivered in 1914 on the Percy Turnbull Memorial Foundation in the Johns Hopkins University
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Preface iii
  • Contents v
  • I - THE MAN AND HIS TIMES 1
  • II - THE BOOK OF THE DUCHESS 37
  • III - THE HOUSE OF FAME 73
  • IV - TROILUS 108
  • V - THE CANTERBURY TALES -- I 146
  • VI - THE CANTERBURY TALES -- II 181
  • Index 219
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