Classics and the Western Canon discussion

19 views
Discussion - Canterbury Tales > Week 8 - the Squire's Tale

Comments Showing 1-14 of 14 (14 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments As befits the Knight’s son, we have another Chivalric romance – or at least part of one. And also as befits the well-traveled Squire, we leave the known world of Europe for the mysteries of Asia.

The story starts out very nicely, for me at least. It was a pleasant change from the nastiness of the past few tales; a tale that would return us to a place of moral values, courage, and kindness. But we only get the story of the ring and the falcon, and then – I was very disappointed when I got to the end and realized that we wouldn’t hear the stories of the horse, the mirror, and the sword, nor how the falcon was reunited with her mate.

One aspect of this story: it’s interesting that it is the male who is unfaithful, as a counterpoint to all the tales we have had where wives cuckold their husbands. Is this a reflection of the status of the squire, whose chivalric impulses are to see all women as pure, unsullied, to be honored? Or is something else at work here? Or is it just a story and the switch from faithless female to faithless male is of no significance?

A curiosity: one translation I have translates Cambynskan as Genghis Khan. Does anybody else have a similar translation? Anybody know whether Cambynskan was another name for Genghis Khan?

P.S. Recall from the Knight’s tale that bachelor is a term for a level of knighthood, not for an unmarried person, so there is no inconsistency in Chaucer calling Cambynskan a bachelor knight and also a married man.


message 2: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments BTW, I found this book, John Lane's Continuation of Chaucer's Squire's Tale. Haven't had a chance to look at it yet, but the place I found it referred to suggested that it was based on notes Chaucer had made. I have no idea, but I intend to look at it tomorrow, if the power stays on (we have a major storm brewing, they're expecting winds at the 50-60 mph level, and that often means, out here in the boonies, bye-bye power).


message 3: by Bill (last edited Feb 22, 2011 09:29PM) (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 250 comments Good luck up there in the San Juans. We're getting snow down here in Olympia, but I haven't heard anything about high winds. We love Friday Harbor by the way. Especially flying in by small plane--one of the most beautiful sights in the world has to be flying over the San Juans on a summer day.


message 4: by MadgeUK (last edited Feb 23, 2011 08:16AM) (new)

MadgeUK Everyman wrote: Anybody know whether Cambynskan was another name for Genghis Khan?
.."


Apparently that was so:-

http://www.mongolinternet.com/history...

See the Notes.

This article has some interesting comments about how our perception of the Mongols and Ghengis Khan has changed since Medieval times, when Chaucer 'wrote in undisguised awe of him and his accomplishments':-

http://www.angelfire.com/mi4/cmin/gk/...


message 5: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Bill wrote: "Good luck up there in the San Juans. We're getting snow down here in Olympia, but I haven't heard anything about high winds. We love Friday Harbor by the way. Especially flying in by small plane..."

Thanks for the good wishes. If you like snow, come on up. We have about 5" and it's still coming down. My wife had to go in to town (10 miles) this morning for a dentist appointment. Fortunately, our son-in-law was willing to drive her in in his 4WD truck. On the way in, got slowed down by a car in the ditch on the mountain (we call it a mountain, but really a long 1/2 mile run up the side of a steep hill plus a truck that couldn't make it had to back down around them, plus a school bus stuck at the bottom and putting its chains on. On the way out, were stopped for 15 minutes waiting for ambulance to clear person injured in accident and tow truck to clear the two vehicles.

Me, I'm staying home and hoping the power stays on.

But the 3 yo grandkids had a wonderful time sliding down the front hill, throwing snowballs at me as I stood on the porch watching them, and making a snowman.

Life is good. Here, at least. My heart goes out to those in New Zealand.


message 6: by Bill (last edited Feb 23, 2011 05:36PM) (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 250 comments My feeling about this story, as a story, is summed up by quoting it:

The knot and gist of every tale that's told
If lingered out till all desire be cold
In those that listen and the moment's past,
Savours the less the longer it may last
By fulsomeness of its prolixity,
And for that reason as it seems to me
I ought to reach that knot of which I'm talking
And make an end, and quickly, of her walking...


And of course the knot and gist of the tale is never reached. The story of the poor noble falcon maid whose lover sates his lust with a low down, carrion eating, kite -- seems to be tacked on. And like Everyman, I'm suspicious it's there to show the young squire defending his idealistic view of women.

The real story is in those magical gifts, but he never gets to it.

One thing that really interested me about the horse was how mechanized it was. Made of brass. Too heavy to move. It had dials to set to get the rider anywhere.

Just twirl this pin thats standing in its ear
...
bid him descend and twirl another pin
for all the mechanism lies within.


It makes me wonder what kind of machine from that era that this magical horse is based on.

Madge?


message 7: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Bill wrote: "It makes me wonder what kind of machine from that era that this magical horse is based on. "

Alien technology, of course. (For those who don't know, there's a series on TV which claims that aliens came to earth millennia ago and taught humans all sorts of things; why not how to make a brass horse>)

Okay, just kidding! But it is pretty creative to think that one up, isn't it?


message 8: by Bill (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 250 comments Yes, that was creative. You should contact the tv series you're talking about (what is that series anyway?) and let them know you've found proof in Chaucer. Who knows, they may have a reward for such contributions--a day on the set or lunch with the narrator/voice guy. (Which surely can be none other then Morgan Freeman).


message 9: by MadgeUK (last edited Feb 24, 2011 04:23AM) (new)

MadgeUK It makes me wonder what kind of machine from that era that this magical horse is based on.

Stories of flying horses, like Pegasus, have many variants. Chaucer may have heard the tale of the Ebony Horse in 1001 Nights, which was mechanical and was controlled by keys as it flew towards the sun. It could 'cover the space of a year in a single day':-

http://goodwinillustration.blogspot.c...#

http://classiclit.about.com/library/b...

Mechanical toys (automata) made from brass, originating in the East, were quite common in medieval times and Chaucer could have been drawing on his knowledge of one of these. He also wrote a learned treatise on the use of the astrolobe, which is a mechanical device made of brass showing a map of the celestial sphere, where Pegasus was located according to the astrology of the time. I think the two things - steed of brass and the astrolobe are somehow connected but I do not know enough about astronomy/astrology to figure out how! It seems to me to be a piece of Chaucerian science fiction mixed up with his beliefs in astrology/astronomy, which he refers to throughout CT.


message 10: by Bill (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 250 comments Fascinating as usual. Thanks Madge.

I've noted too, that he often finds it significant to the events of a story, to specify the positions of sun, moon, and stars in relation to one another. No doubt there's extra meaning to the story that only an astrologer could discern.


message 11: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Bill wrote: "Fascinating as usual. Thanks Madge.

I've noted too, that he often finds it significant to the events of a story, to specify the positions of sun, moon, and stars in relation to one another. No d..."


Including astrological data in his works was like including plate tectonics, string theory, quarks, or other current scientific principles in modern fiction -- that was the height of scientific development in his day.


message 12: by Sasha (new)

Sasha I was disappointed when the story ended, too, Everyman. Such a shame, as it is the first story with magical elements.

Astrolabes appear to have been very popular in the middle ages, I suppose because there was such reliance on the sun, moon and stars.

Madge, I would never have made the connection myself between the brass horse and the astrolabe, but it makes perfect sense.

I loved the following lines:

604 Men love, and naturally, newfangledness,
605 As do these birds that men in cages feed.
606 For though you night and day take of them heed,
607 And fairly strew their cage as soft as silk,
608 And give them sugar, honey, bread, and milk,
609 Yet on the instant when the door is up,
610 They with their feet will spurn their feeding cup,
611 And to the wood will fly and worms will eat;
612 So are they all newfangled of their meat,
613 And love all novelties of their own kind;
614 Nor nobleness of blood may ever bind.


message 13: by Bill (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 250 comments Sasha wrote: "I loved the following lines:..."

I liked those lines too. They reminded me of lines in Hamlet, which I read a week or two ago,for the first time, at these advanced years.

But virtue, as it never will be moved,
Though lewdness court it in a shape of heaven,
So lust, though to a radiant angel linked,
Will sate itself in a celestial bed
And prey on garbage



message 14: by Sasha (new)

Sasha Great comparison.

I love Hamlet and I read it for the first time when I was 17, when we studied it at school. I can't recall the lines you quoted, I assume Hamlet was musing about Gertrude and Claudius?

It's lovely to think we have Chaucer in common with Shakeseare. :)


back to top