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From The Second Nun's Prologue, lines 29-84:
A hymn to Holy Mary
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From The Canterbury Tales:
The Second Nun's Prologue
lines 85-119: The meaning of the name 'Cecilia'


Interpretacio nominis Cecile quam ponit
Frater Jacobus Januensis in Legenda

85First wolde I yow the name of seinte Cecilie
Expowne, as men may in hir storie see.
It is to seye in Englissh, `hevenes lilie'
For pure chaastnesse of virginitee,
Or for she whitnesse hadde of honestee
90And grene of conscience, and of good fame
The soote savour, lilie was hir name.
85First would I you the name of Saint Cecilia
Expound, as men may in her story see.
It is to say, in English, 'heaven's lily,'
Symbol of pure and virgin chastity;
Or, since she had the white of modesty,
90And green of good conscience, and of good fame
The savour sweet, so lily was her name.

Or Cecilie is to seye, `the wey to blynde,'
For she ensample was by good techynge;
Or elles, Cecile, as I writen fynde
95Is joyned by a manere conjoynynge
Of `hevene' and `Lia,' and heere in figurynge
The `hevene' is set for thoght of hoolynesse,
And `Lia' for hir lastynge bisynesse.
Or else Cecilia means 'path for the blind,'
For she example was, by good teaching;
Or else Cecilia, as I written find,
95Is made, after a manner of joining,
Of 'heaven' and 'Lia'; and, in figuring,
The 'heaven' is put for 'thought of holiness'
And 'Lia' for enduring busyness.

Cecile may eek be seyd, in this manere,
100`Wantynge of blyndnesse,' for hir grete light
Of sapience, and for hire thewes cleere
Or elles, loo, this maydens name bright
Of `hevene' and `leos' comth, for which by right
Men myghte hire wel `the hevene of peple' calle,
105Ensample of goode and wise werkes alle.
Cecilia may mean, too, in this wise,
100'Lacking in blindness,' for her shining light
Of sapience, and for good qualities;
Or else, behold! this maiden's name so bright
From 'heaven' and 'leos' comes, for which, by right,
Men well might her the 'heaven of people' call,
105Example of good and wise works unto all.

For `leos' `peple' in Englissh is to seye,
And right as men may in the hevene see
The sonne and moone and sterres every weye,
Right so men goostly, in this mayden free,
110Seyen of feith the magnanymytee,
And eek the cleernesse hool of sapience,
And sondry werkes, brighte of excellence.
Leos is folk in English, so to say,
And just as men may in the heavens see
The sun and moon and stars strewn every way,
Just so men ghostly, in this maiden free,
110See of her faith the magnanimity,
And the whole glory of her sapience,
And many actions, bright of excellence.

And right so as thise philosophres write
That hevene is swift and round and eek brennynge,
115Right so was faire Cecilie the white
Ful swift and bisy evere in good werkynge,
And round and hool in good perseverynge,
And brennynge evere in charite ful brighte.
Now have I yow declared what she highte.
And just as these philosophers do write
That heaven is round and moving and burning,
115Just so was fair Cecilia the white
Eager and busy ever in good working,
Large and whole-hearted, steadfast in each thing,
And shining ever in charity full bright;
Now have I told you of her name aright.


Explicit





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From The Second Nun's Tale, lines 120-140:
Cecilia the virgin is married to Valerian
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