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Gentilesse Analysis

Author: Poetry of Geoffrey Chaucer Type: Poetry Views: 486

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The firste stok, fader of gentilesse --
What man that desireth gentil for to be
Must folowe his trace, and alle his wittes dresse
Vertu to love and vyces for to flee.
For unto vertu longeth dignitee
And noght the revers, saufly dar I deme,
Al were he mytre, croune, or diademe.

This firste stok was ful of rightwisnesse,
Trewe of his word, sobre, pitous, and free,
Clene of his gost, and loved besinesse,
Ayeinst the vyce of slouthe, in honestee;
And, but his heir love vertu as dide he,
He is noght gentil, thogh he riche seme,
Al were he mytre, croune, or diademe.

Vyce may wel be heir to old richesse,
But ther may no man, as men may wel see,
Bequethe his heir his vertuous noblesse
(That is appropred unto no degree
But to the firste fader in magestee,
That maketh hem his heyres that him queme),


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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In order to understand Chaucer’s “Gentilesse,” it is necessary to understand the meaning of the title. The idea of “gentilesse” comprises those of nobility, gentility and graciousness. One must also understand that “the fader of gentilesse” refers to Christ Jesus. The word “stok” also has the meaning of a stump, and thus introduces the image of a tree. There are two representative images in the poem to understand, along with their sub-images: Jesus Christ and everyday man.
The speaker argues that Christ was the paragon of “gentilesse,” and enumerates his virtues in the second stanza. He argues that man must follow his “trace,” or footsteps, employ his mind for the ends of virtue and of flight from vices. The speaker calls Christ “the firste stok,” introducing the idea of the Tree of Knowledge, and, thus, the Fall of Man. However, man “falls” into sin as he is higher on the tree: therefore, the more he deifies himself, the further from Christ he goes.
The speaker further that, although man may bequeath to his descendants what he considers valuable, he may not do the same with that which God considers valuable. Jesus, he declares, was the only man unto whom any degree of gentilesse was accorded. The speaker further argues that man may not be considered valuable simply because of his rank in society (Chaucer gives the examples of bishop, king and emperor). Since these give credence to man’s view of value, they only inherit his vices, and do not emulate Christ in virtue.

| Posted on 2009-11-22 | by a guest

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