The Canterbury Tales: The Second Nun's Tale
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Old Man and the Book
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
When Valerian travels to Pope Urban to receive Baptism, an old man holding a beautiful book appears to him. These letters spell out the Christian God's sovereignty, to which Valerian must assent before receiving Baptism. The possibilities for the symbolism of this book are endless; it might represent the Book of Life from Revelations, in which the names of the saved are said to be written. The great opulence of the book, with its letters all of gold, suggests rarity and preciousness, perhaps representing the great preciousness of the Christian teachings. The book also probably represents revelation, or the truths that God reveals to his faithful. Valerian's agreement with the truths of revelation represents his total acceptance of the teachings of Christianity into his heart.