And All the Earth a Grave by C.C. MacApp

By C.C. MacApp

This selection of literature makes an attempt to bring together some of the vintage works that experience stood the try of time and supply them at a discounted, reasonable cost, in an enticing quantity in order that all people can take pleasure in them.

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The conclusion of the paragraph is masterly: it gives the great lover's thoughts on how to win the female heart. As a proverb, it is doubtless true enough, though it is already clear that Absolon is making absolutely no impression on Alisoun. But his silly little bribes do not represent richesse. As well as revealing Absolon's vanity and folly, this comment at the same time tells us that Alisoun has married money (John), is seduced by Nicholas's rough wooing (strokes in both senses) and is not interested in Absolon's gentillesse.

Absolon is also a singer and an incense-swinger, like the angels in mediaeval pictures of heaven. The 'melodie' in John's bed reminds us of this. It lasts 'Til that the belle of laudes gan to ringe,/And freres in the chauncel gonne singe'. In the illustrated mediaeval prayer-books known as the Books of Hours (after the Hours of the Divine Office) the Annunciation is always portrayed at Matins. Matins and Lauds, the 'night hours' of the Office, were sung together before dawn. The miniature of the Annunciation always appears above the words: Domine labia mea aperies/Et os meum annunciabit laude tuam (Lord, thou openest my lips, and my mouth shall announce thy praise).

If a fishmonger in the City of London was con· victed of selling rotten fish he was placed on his horse facing backwards and had to endure a ride through the City with rotten fish strapped to his nose: making the punishment fit the crime. In Islamic law the punishment for theft is to have your hand cut off. Absolon has too oral a view of sex, while Nicholas's is too basic; their punishments fit their crimes. Alisoun, however, has merely been swyved, which was what she wanted, and she seems to have enjoyed it.

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