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The Canterbury Tales: The Second Nun's Tale

The Canterbury Tales: The Second Nun's Tale


by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Canterbury Tales: The Second Nun's Tale Prologue, Lines 29-77 Summary

  • At my beginning, I call to you that are flower of all virgins, of whom Bernard loved to write. (Here the Nun is calling out to the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus.)
  • You comfort us wretches; please help me to write about your maiden's death, who won through her merit eternal life and victory over the devil, as men may afterward read in her story.
  • You, maid and mother, daughter of your son; you well of mercy, cure of sinful souls, in whom for your goodness God chose to dwell; you humble and high over every creature –
  • You so ennoble our nature that God could not disdain humankind, and clothed his son in flesh and blood. (Here the Nun is speaking of Jesus, who in Christian theology is considered to be the son of God, born as a human.)
  • Within the blessed cloister of your sides, eternal love and peace took mankind's form – he who is lord and guide to the threefold world, whom earth and sea and heaven praise without ceasing.
  • And you, stainless Virgin, bore of your body – and remained always a virgin – the Creator of every creature.
  • In you, magnificence meets mercy, goodness, and such pity that you, who are the sun of excellence, not only help them that pray to you, but often, because of your goodness, become the life-doctor of men's souls even before they ask for your help.
  • Now, meek and blessed fair maid, help me, banished wretch in this desert of bitterness.
  • Think about the Canaanite woman, who said that even dogs eat some of the crumbs that fall from their lord's table.
  • And even though I, an unworthy son of Eve, am sinful, accept my faith.
  • And because that faith is dead without works, give me intelligence and opportunity to work, so that I may free myself from the place that is most dark.
  • O you, who are so fair and full of grace, be my advocate in the high place where Hosanna is sung without end; you, Christ's mother, dear daughter of Anne!
  • And of your light, lighten my imprisoned soul, that is sickened by the disease of my body, and by the weight of earthly lust and false loves.
  • O haven of refuge, O salvation of they who are in sorrow and in distress, now help me, for I am about to begin my work!

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