Tag Archives: 2021

Chaucer, CT, Tales of the Nun’s Priest and the Nun

Here is a table of contents for this final reading of our group:

THE PROLOGUE OF THE NONNE PRESTES TALE.

THE NONNE PREESTES TALE.

EPILOGUE TO THE NONNE PREESTES TALE.

THE SECONDE NONNES TALE.

The angel seyde, ‘god lyketh thy requeste,
And bothe, with the palm of martirdom,
Ye shullen come unto his blisful feste.’

The palm of martirdom for to receyve,
Seinte Cecile, fulfild of goddes yifte,
The world and eek hir chambre gan she weyve.

The Nun’s Priest’s Tale is of Chanticleer the cock and Pertelote the hen, also Russell the Fox. Chanticleer dreams of a beast in the yard. Pertelote says it’s nothing but ill humor, which she can cure with herbs. It’s Russell though, who, recalling the ability of the cock’s father, charms Chanticleer into singing. Caught by the throat, Chanticleer escapes by goading Russell into addressing his pursuers. “Take the morality, good men,” the Priest tells us. Beware of women and your own vanity, apparently; but the moral is not actually spelled out, though there is an obscure (to me) reference to St Paul and an additional command, “Take the fruit and let the chaff be still.”

The Second Nun’s Tale is a hagiography of St Cecilia, “Heaven’s Lily,” martyred in ancient Rome. She is an example against the sin of idleness. The Nun (or whoever it may be), invoking the Virgin, observes that faith without works is dead. Cecilia converts her husband Valerian by leading him to see an angel, if not God the Father himself; Valerian’s brother Tiberuce is converted by the divine smell of two unseen crowns of roses and lilies. Cecilia preaches that there is a better and an eternal life after this one. She explains the Trinity by noting how a single man has memory, “engine,” and intellect. She tells her persecutor Almachius that his own god is only a stone; the real God is in heaven, and images are of no profit. Three strokes cannot sever her head, and she gets three more days to preach.

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On Plato’s Republic, 4

Index to this series

Our fourth scheduled reading in the Republic is Book III, Stephanus pages 386–417. Socrates continues to direct the construction of the fantastic city. Plato’s brothers, faithful as dogs, agree to two infamous proposals:

  1. The deportation from the city of any poet “who is able by wisdom to become every sort of thing and to imitate all things” (δυνάμενον ὑπὸ σοφίας παντοδαπὸν γίγνεσθαι καὶ μιμεῖσθαι πάντα χρήματα, 398a).

  2. The teaching of the Noble Lie, that the citizens were formed under ground and distinguished, according to class, with admixture of

    • gold for the rulers,
    • silver for the auxiliaries,
    • iron and bronze for the “farmers and other craftsmen” (414b–5c).

Later in this post, I shall try to analyze the reading into sections; but a serial summary of these seems tedious, and I shall focus on a few remarkable points, such as the ones above.


Two dogs with my copy of
Allan Bloom (translator), The Republic of Plato, 2016 edition,
on the beach at
Profesörler Sitesi, Altınova, Balıkesir, Turkey
September 8, 2021

I shall be quoting

  • Homer, whom Socrates loves to hate;
  • Adam Kirsch, from the 2016 introduction to Allan Bloom’s Republic translation, on the danger of summarizing Plato;
  • Pascal on the will of God as the rule for justice;
  • Bruno Bettelheim on fairy tales such as the Three Little Pigs, and perhaps our City in Speech, as opposed to fables;
  • Somerset Maugham on the fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper;
  • Plato, in the Symposium, on the identity of comedy and tragedy, and Socrates as a seductive flute-player;
  • Anne Applebaum on “The New Puritans”: the same as the old ones, called Glaucon, Adeimantus, and Socrates?

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On Plato’s Republic, 3

Index to this series

We are reading now Book II of the Republic.

Dog with copy of Alain Badiou, Plato’s Republic:
A Dialogue in Sixteen Chapters, with a Prologue and an Epilogue, 2012
Profesörler Sitesi, Altınova, Balıkesir, Turkey, September 2, 2021

Our reading is Stephanus pages 357–83, covering

  • the conventional arguments in favor of injustice and justice, reviewed by Plato’s brothers Glaucon and Adeimantus respectively;
  • the beginning of the construction of the city in speech, wherein the advent of justice is to be discerned; the guardians of the city are to be like dogs and to be given a traditional education, although with none of the traditional stories, since they talk about things like parricide and bad luck.

I am exercised by how Adeimantus in the first part, and Socrates in the second, criticize certain teachings in the Iliad, without considering how those teachings are given by one character to another, in contexts that we ought to use in judging them.

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Chaucer, CT, Tales of the Prioress and the Monk

Index to this series

In the selection from the Canterbury Tales taken up here,

  • the Prioress tells an unchristian tale of piety;
  • the Host wishes Rome would not put monks under a vow of celibacy;
  • the Monk tells a miniature Canterbury Tales; all of his tales are tragedies, but with various sources, Hebraic, classical, and contemporary.

Andrea Mantegna, Judith with the Head of Holofernes
Andrea Mantegna or Follower (Possibly Giulio Campagnola)
Judith with the Head of Holofernes, c. 1495/1500
Widener Collection
National Gallery of Art, Washington

In some nominal sense at least, the tales of the Prioress and the Monk have a common theme, Judaism; they also have a common character, Satan.

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On Plato’s Republic, 2

Constituting the latter part of Book I, the second of the Republic readings features the only sustained contribution of Thrasymachus, who argues that, if it can be pursued perfectly, injustice is superior to justice.

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Chaucer, CT, Franklin’s Tale

Index to this series

Remarkable teachings from the Franklin, who says he never learned rhetoric, nor read Cicero:

Pacience is an heigh vertu certeyn;
For it venquisseth, as thise clerkes seyn,
Thinges that rigour sholde never atteyne.

Patience is a high virtue certain;
For it vanquisheth, as these clerks say,
Things that rigor should never attain.

There are things that you cannot win by force. Love is one, and that is the Franklin’s theme.

You can’t hurry love
No you just have to wait

Respect is another thing that you cannot win by force. I took up that theme in considering Collingwood on “Civilization as Education” (September, 2018). Confusion here may explain the problem of bad leadership that Socrates takes up in the Republic – which I have now taken up in a new series.


Rembrandt van Rijn
Lucretia, 1664
Andrew W. Mellon Collection
National Gallery of Art, Washington

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On Plato’s Republic, 1

Here begins another series on readings of a classic. Now the classic is the Republic of Plato. Below are

  • the schedule of the readings;
  • a note on the participants in the dialogue of which the Republic is a recounting (when translators give lists of dramatis personae, they leave out the enslaved boy of Polemarchus, though he does speak);
  • notes on the first reading.

Though I did it for Pascal and am doing it for Chaucer, I shall not give the full texts of the Republic readings themselves. One reason is that I cannot understand the Greek well enough in isolation, but do not want to treat any translation as definitive. When I make quotations, I may cut and paste from Project Perseus, which seems to use Shorey’s translation; or I may type out Bloom’s translation.

Again I have selected a classic from among offerings of the Catherine Project. For now, the only website that I can give for the Project is the Twitter page of the founder and director, Zena Hitz. Participants in the reading groups seemed to have found them through Twitter. Not all of the other participants are in North America.

Reasons to read the Republic include the following.

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Chaucer, CT, Tales of the Friar and the Clerk

Index to this series

In this reading:

  • The Friar tells a tale about a summoner, who becomes sworn brother to another man. The man turns out to be a devil, but it hardly matters to the summoner, he being more lawless than the devil, who himself takes only what is rightfully his, including the summoner.

  • We are skipping the Summoner’s own tale.

  • The Clerk tells a tale of a common woman with a preternatural patience for the abuse of her noble husband, who (she thinks) has her children put to death and will take another wife. Chaucer makes disclaimers, both as the Clerk and as himself. The Clerk refers explicitly to the Epistle of James, who writes in Chapter 1,

    2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
    3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
    4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

    Griselda follows, as it were, the teachings of Epictetus, here in Chapter XI of the Encheiridion (translation of George Long):

    Never say about any thing, I have lost it, but say I have restored it. Is your child dead ? It has been restored. Is your wife dead ? She has been restored. Has your estate been taken from you ? Has not then this also been restored? But he who has taken it from me is a bad man. But what is it to you, by whose hands the giver demanded it back ? So long as he may allow you, take care of it as a thing which belongs to another, as travellers do with their inn.

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Chaucer, CT, Wife of Bath’s Tale

Index to this series

The Wife of Bath: the type of the difficult woman? She is the opposite or complement of Constance in the Man of Law’s Tale. About to be sent to a barbarous country to wed a man she has never met, Constance laments,

Women are born to thraldom and penance,
And to be under man’s governance.

In her Prologue (which is longer than her Tale), the Wife says of her first three husbands, who were “gode, and riche, and olde” (line 197),

I governed hem so wel, after my lawe,
That ech of hem ful blisful was and fawe
To bringe me gaye thinges fro the fayre. (lines 219–21)

After the fight with her fifth husband in which he deafened her ear,

He yaf me al the brydel in myn hond
To han the governance of hous and lond,
And of his tonge and of his hond also,
And made him brenne his book anon right tho. (line 813–6)

The book was all about “wikked wyves.”

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Summer YILDIZ Park Tour

This post contains images from one of the walking tours that I have learned to make from our flat on the European side of Istanbul.

When the Covid-19 pandemic got going, and there was nowhere in particular to go, I would wander aimlessly, just for the exercise. Then I figured out that, in about two hours, I could walk down to Ortaköy (“Middle Village,” Μεσαχώριον) by one route, coming back by another. I could also pass through the wall around the garden of one of the Ottoman sultans, then exit by another.

The particular route below takes in as much greenery as possible, including several named parks:

Ihlamur Parkı is different from the nearby Ihlamur Kasırları, “Linden Pavilions.” Though it contains two Ottoman stelae, the park does not seem to have a name posted on the ground; its name on the list above links to the Twitter account of a group formed to resist its being built over.

Ayşe and I walked the route below, Sunday morning, August 2, 2021, during a heat wave.

Down into the valley

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