Chaucer and the Country of the Stars: Poetic Uses of Astrological Imagery

Chaucer and the Country of the Stars: Poetic Uses of Astrological Imagery

Chauncey Wood
Copyright Date: 1970
Pages: 338
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    Chaucer and the Country of the Stars: Poetic Uses of Astrological Imagery
    Book Description:

    Professor Wood examines in detail the astrological references inThe Canterbury Tales, Troilus and Criseyde, andThe Complaint of Mars, using mediaeval source materials not only to elucidate the technicalities of the imagery but also to analyze its poetic function.

    Originally published in 1970.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7207-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  4. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xvii-2)
  5. CHAPTER I Chaucer’s Attitude Toward Astrology
    (pp. 3-50)

    To argue, as Professor Curry has done, that it is “both a futile and a useless procedure” to attempt to reconstruct Chaucer’s personal attitude toward astrology is short-sighted.¹ While this observation might hold true for some other artist in some other age, there are certain presuppositions made in connection with it that many Chaucerian scholars would be reluctant to accept. The heart of the matter is that this opinion presumes that the genius of Chaucer’s art begins and ends with the creation of self-determining characters who are free to work out their own destinies. As Professor Curry puts it:


  6. CHAPTER II The Conventions and Possibilities of Astrology
    (pp. 51-102)

    If we grant that Chaucer was quite high among the skeptics on the mediaeval scale of belief in astrology, we must look upon his employment of numerous astrological images as more poetic than biographical, “scientific,” or “destinal.” To do so is to take on a rather formidable task. It is formidable because it requires that every astrological image be examined in its immediate context in order to determine Chaucer’s particular usage in different poetic matrices. Once it is assumed that Chaucer uses astrological imagery for something more than clandestine hints at his personal belief on the subject, there are a...

  7. CHAPTER III The Complaint of Mars
    (pp. 103-160)

    If Chaucer’sComplaint of Marshas not attracted the least amount of criticism of any of the poet’s works, it must surely rank very near the bottom of the list, and the lack of scholarly interest in the poem is probably the result of its vexatious astrological detail on the one hand, and its seeming lack of unity on the other. It must be confessed that the poem proceeds with a good many changes of direction; starting out with a Valentine’s Day invocation, it continues with a long astrological discourse and concludes with a “complaint” proper that involves philosophical questioning...

  8. CHAPTER IV Three Astrological Cruxes
    (pp. 161-191)

    We have already examined the several ways in which Chaucer uses the astronomical periphrasis of time inThe Canterbury Talesand theTroilus,but the two periphrases that open and close theTalesdeserve further scrutiny, for it seems that Chaucer is reaching for significance beyond either eloquence or rhetoric in both cases.

    The first problem with the periphrasis in the General Prologue is to determine what time of year it points to; the second is to determine what that means, after which some speculation as to the significance of the opening date for the Tales as a whole is...

  9. CHAPTER V Astrology in the Man of Law’s Tale
    (pp. 192-244)

    The several astrological passages in theMan of Law’s Tale,especially the narrator’s apostrophes “O firste moevyng! crueel firmament” and “In sterres, many a wynter therbiforn, / Was writen the deeth of Ector, Achilles” (MLT,295 and 197-98), are rather complex in themselves and even more difficult to understand in relationship to the tale as a whole. This is because of the curious relationship of the Man of Law to the materials of his story. The Man of Law, as narrator, uses astrology to gloss the tale of Custance; therefore, the astrology cannot be fully understood until we understand what...

  10. CHAPTER VI Time and Tide in the Franklin’s Tale
    (pp. 245-271)

    No study of theFranklin’s Talecould fail to mention the incident of the disappearance of the rocks along the coast, but few studies have focused carefully upon the incident itself before going on to discuss the impact of the vanished rocks on the rest of the tale. The disappearance of the rocks has usually been accepted at face value for the sound reasons that magic is a common feature of the Breton lays after which theFranklin’s Taleis patterned, and that the impossible is common enough elsewhere in theTales.Thus, when Tatlock wrote his pioneer study of...

  11. CHAPTER VII The Parson’s Prologue
    (pp. 272-297)

    As the Canterbury pilgrims prepare to hear the last of the tales, signaled by Harry Bailly’s remark that “Now lakketh us no tales mo than oon” (Pars Prol,16), Chaucer first calls attention to the time of day and then to the sign of the zodiac rising in the east. The timetelling completes a motif that was begun in the Headlink to theMan of Law’s Tale,where the Host told the time by reference to the date and the proportion of a shadow to the body casting it:

    Oure Hooste saugh wel that the brighte sonne

    The ark of...

  12. APPENDIX. The Workings of Astrology: “Brede and Milke for Childeren”
    (pp. 298-306)
  13. Index
    (pp. 307-318)
  14. Illustrations
    (pp. None)