The Canterbury Tales: The Second Nun's Tale
How we cite our quotes:
Thou confort of us wrecches, do me endite
Thy maydens deeth, that wan thurgh hir merite
The eterneel lyf, and of the feend victorie,
As man may after reden in hir storie.
(32 – 35)
Here the Second Nun asks the Virgin Mary to help her write the story of Cecilia. The beautiful symmetry of this prayer is that the Nun is asking one holy maiden who won victory over the devil through her merit to help write the story of another holy maiden who did exactly the same and who, just like Mary, was a married virgin.
Thow humble and heigh, over every creature
Thow nobledest so ferforth oure nature,
That no desdeyn the Makere hadde of kynde.
(40 – 43)
The idea that the existence of one holy person can so ennoble the human race that God would choose to save, rather than damn it, is a powerful one. Cecilia, too, enacts this ennobling through the conversions she inspires, which also mean that people are saved rather than damned.
It is to seye in Englissh, 'hevenes lilie'
For pure chaastnesse of virginitee,
Or for she whitnesse hadde of honestee
And grene of conscience, and of good fame
The soote savour, lilie was hir name.
(87 – 91)
Here the narrator uses Cecilia's name to introduce her character's important aspects: chastity, "honestee," which could mean chastity or purity, conscience, and great renown.