Greetings, Pilgrims. Now that we have all had a chance to rest and myself a chance to think and reorganize my scattered papers, I’ve had a chance to begin reading The Legend of Good Women. I have found myself moved by the Prologue and though I risk being labelled a heathen I can bear my true thoughts no longer without sharing them. I hope and trust that you all will forgive me for what I am about to tell you, and that once we reach our destination none of you will ever speak of it again. Remember that you would all be held accountable for having travelled in my presence while being aware of the truth: I am not an untouchably devout Christian.
That is right, my dear friends–I am not who you’ve taken me to be.
At first I was drawn into the poem because of the word usage and revision; I find it both fascinating and admirable that Chaucer took the care to revise this work; as a man of law I am a frequent practicioner of meticulous redrafting. In legal matters every word must be precise, perfectly chosen and placed. It seems poetry calls for similar attention to detail.
However I find myself perturbed by the content and message of the first section. I must say I regret more and more that our common law focuses on local knowledge as opposed to evidence; my realization of how difficult this would be to change has kept me mostly silent on this topic and I hope you, my faithful fellow-travelers, will not judge me for my frame of mind. I am a man of logic and I believe what I see, yet The Legend of Good Women, skillfully written as it may be, goes against much of what I hold true within myself. How am I to blindly accept what I am told of God, of Heaven and Hell, when I have never seen any of these with mine own eyes?
I feel deep admiration for Chaucer’s patience in revising his words, but no matter how many changes are made in diction the idea stands against mine in each version: that one should accept the tales told him from long ago whether or not there is any current proof. Perhaps all of the things we are told were true at one time, but how do we know things remain the same? What is the basis of our faith, upon what does it rest that keeps it so stable in the hearts of some, but allows it to crumble for others such as myself?
Is it my own fault? Have I wrongfully allowed logic and reason to take the place of faith? I ask this of you now in hopes that you will answer honestly but not cruelly. What is a Man of Law to do when one set of legal ideals begins to conflict with the other?