The Canterbury Tales: The Second Nun's Tale
How we cite our quotes:
Valerian, corrected as God wolde,
Answerde agayn, 'If I shal trusten thee,
Lat me that aungel se, and hym biholde,
And if that it a verray aungel bee,
Thanne wol I doon as thou hast prayed me.
And if thou love another man, forsothe
Right with this swerd thanne wol I sle yow bothe.'
(162 – 168)
Unable to see the angel Cecilia talks about, Valerian doubts the truth of her statement, suspecting she may be engaged in some deception. What's interesting, though, is that the tale is quick to fulfill Valerian's request for visual proof rather than to portray him as a "doubting Thomas."
'I leeve al this thyng,' quod Valerian,
'For sother thyng than this, I dar wel say,
Under the hevene no wight thynke may.'
(213 – 215)
Valerian immediately recognizes the truth of the statement he has read from the holy book. In this tale, a character's ability to recognize Christianity's truth is a marker of the state of his soul. An unhealthy soul, the tale implies, will simply miss this truth.
'I pray yow that my brother may han grace
To knowe the trouthe, as I do in this place.'
(237 – 238)
In portraying grace as necessary for a soul to know the truth, this tale suggests that a soul may not come to truth without God's willing it. This raises the possibility that salvation may be predestined, or pre-determined by God, and that the individual human soul actually has no power over his own fate.