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The Canterbury Tales

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But yet hadde I foryeten to devyse
The noble kerving, and the portreitures,
The shap, the countenaunce, and the figures,
That weren in thise oratories three.
Oh, but before I forget, let me tell you a little bit more about the sculptures and paintings that adorned these three altars because they were truly amazing.


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First in the temple of Venus maystow see
Wroght on the wal, ful pitous to biholde,
The broken slepes, and the sykes colde;
The sacred teres, and the waymenting;
The fyry strokes of the desiring,
That loves servaunts in this lyf enduren;
The othes, that hir covenants assuren;
Plesaunce and hope, desyr, fool-hardinesse,
Beautee and youthe, bauderie, richesse,
Charmes and force, lesinges, flaterye,
Dispense, bisynesse, and Ielousye,
That wered of yelwe goldes a gerland,
And a cokkow sitting on hir hand;
Festes, instruments, caroles, daunces,
Lust and array, and alle the circumstaunces
Of love, whiche that I rekne and rekne shal,
By ordre weren peynted on the wal,
And mo than I can make of mencioun.
For soothly, al the mount of Citheroun,
Ther Venus hath hir principal dwelling,
Was shewed on the wal in portreying,
With al the gardin, and the lustinesse.
Nat was foryeten the porter Ydelnesse,
Ne Narcisus the faire of yore agon,
Ne yet the folye of king Salamon,
Ne yet the grete strengthe of Hercules—
Thenchauntements of Medea and Circes—
Ne of Turnus, with the hardy fiers corage,
The riche Cresus, caytif in servage.
Thus may ye seen that wisdom ne richesse,
Beautee ne sleighte, strengthe, ne hardinesse,
Ne may with Venus holde champartye;
For as hir list the world than may she gye.
Lo, alle thise folk so caught were in hir las,
Til they for wo ful ofte seyde ‘allas!’
Suffyceth heer ensamples oon or two,
And though I coude rekne a thousand mo.
Well, first, if you look at the altar devoted to Venus, you’ll see paintings of all sorts of people who personify everything that love has the ability to make people feel: Pleasure, Hope, Desire, Foolishness, Beauty, Youth, Lust, Wealth, Magic, Power, Deceit, Flattery, Opulence, Toil, and Jealousy, who wore a garland of golden flowers and had a cuckoo bird sitting on her hand. The paintings also depict parties, musical instruments, singers, dancing, happiness, and everything else that love has the power to create but that I don’t have time to talk about. There was also a painting of beautiful Mount Cytheria, the home of Venus. There were also paintings of all sorts of people who’ve felt love’s pleasure and pain, including Narcisus, the man who fell in love with his own reflection; King Solomon; Hercules; the sirens Medea and Circe; fierce Turnus; and wealthy Croesus. So, as you can see, no one is immune from Venus’s powers of love, not even the wisest and richest and strongest men out there. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

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