The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story Time Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used the line numbering found on Librarius's online edition.
Our Hooste saugh wel that the brighte sonne
The ark of his artificial day hath ronne
The ferthe part, and half an houre and moore
(Man of Law's Introduction 1 – 3 & ff)
These and the eleven lines that follow go into great detail about how the Host calculates the time of day by combining his knowledge of the date (May 18) with his observation of the position of the sun and the length of shadows on the ground. It's possible that Chaucer was showing off a bit here: we know that he wrote a book about the astrolabe, an instrument for determining the time of day based on the position of the sun, among other things. Here, he's probably demonstrating the knowledge he got from that endeavor.
Lordynges, the tyme wasteth nyght and day,
And steleth from us, what pryvely slepynge,
And what thurgh necligence in oure wakynge,
As dooth the streem that turneth nevere agayn,
Descendynge fro the montaigne into playn.
(Man of Law's Introduction 20 – 24)
As the Reeve does, the Host here compares time passing to a liquid flowing away. Yet he also suggests that it's possible not to lose time if we are careful. Time is only lost through our own negligence and waste.
Wel kan Senec and many a philosophre
Biwaillen tyme moore than gold in cofre;
For 'Los of catel may recovered be,
But los of tyme shendeth us,' quod he.
It wol nat come agayn, withouten drede,
Namoore than wolde Malkynes maydenhede,
Whan she hath lost it in hir wantownesse.
(Man of Law's Introduction 25 – 31)
As he does in the above quote, the Host suggests again that time is lost only through our negligence. He accomplishes this by comparing lost time to virginity lost in "wantownesse," or the lustful nature of the virgin. Sexist, yes, but it makes the Host's point that loss of time is our own fault.