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From The Second Nun's Tale, lines 414-441:
The Roman governour Almachius arrests and interrogates Cecilia
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From The Canterbury Tales:
The Second Nun's Tale
lines 442-511: Discussion and dispute on worldly and religious power


       "Ful wrongfully bigonne thow," quod he,
"And yet in wrong is thy perseveraunce;
Wostow nat how oure myghty princes free
445Han thus comanded and maad ordinaunce
That every cristen wight shal han penaunce,
But if that he his cristendom withseye-
And goon al quit, if he wole it reneye?"
       "Erroneously have you begun," said he,
"And deep in error do you still remain;
Know you not how our mighty princes free
445Have ordered us such error to restrain,
That every Christian man shall suffer pain,
Unless his Christianity he deny?
He shall be free if he'll do that, say I."

       "Youre princes erren, as youre nobleye dooth,"
450Quod tho Cecile, "and with a wood sentence
Ye make us gilty, and it is nat sooth,
For ye, that knowen wel oure innocence,
For as muche as we doon a reverence
To Crist, and for we bere a cristen name,
455Ye putte on us a cryme, and eek a blame.
       "Your princes err, and your nobility,"
450Cecilia said, "and with a mad sentence
Condemn our guilt all guiltless though we be;
And you, who know full well our innocence,
Merely because we do our reverence
To Christ and bear ourselves the Christian name,
455You thus impute to us a crime and blame.

But we that knowen thilke name so
For vertuous, we may it nat withseye."
Almache answerde, "Chees oon of thise two,
Do sacrifise, or cristendom reneye,
460That thou mowe now escapen by that weye."
At which the hooly blisful faire mayde
Gan for to laughe, and to the juge sayde,
But we, who know far better than can you
Its virtue, will not once the name gainsay."
Almachius said: "Choose one of these things two:
Deny that faith, or sacrifice today,
460That you may now escape from death that way."
Whereat the holy, blessed, lovely maid
Began to laugh, and to the judge she said:

       "O Juge, confus in thy nycetee,
Woltow that I reneye innocence,
465To make me a wikked wight," quod shee;
"Lo, he dissymuleth heere in audience,
He stareth, and woodeth in his advertence."
To whom Almachius, "Unsely wrecche,
Ne woostow nat how far my myght may strecche?
       "O judge, convicted by your own folly,
Will you that I deny my innocence
465And make myself a criminal?" asked she.
"Lo, he dissimulates in audience,
He glares and rages in his violence!"
To whom Almachius: "O unhappy wretch,
Do you not know how far my might may stretch?

470Han noght oure myghty princes to me yeven
Ye, bothe power and auctoritee
To maken folk to dyen or to lyven?
Why spekestow so proudly thanne to me?"
"I speke noght but stedfastly," quod she,
475"Nat proudly, for I speke as for my syde,
We haten deedly thilke vice of pryde.
470"Did not our mighty princes to me give,
Aye, both the power and authority
To give to people death or make them live?
Why do you speak so proudly then to me?"
"I speak to you but steadfastly," said she,
475"Not proudly, for I say, upon my side,
We've deadly hatred for the vice of pride.

And if thou drede nat a sooth to heere,
Thanne wol I shewe al openly by right
That thou hast maad a ful grete lesyng heere,
480Thou seyst, thy princes han thee yeven myght
Bothe for to sleen, and for to quyken a wight.
Thou that ne mayst but oonly lyf bireve,
Thou hast noon oother power, ne no leve!
And if to hear a truth you do not fear,
Then will I show, all openly, by right,
That you have said a full great falsehood here.
480You say, your princes have you given the might
Both to condemn and give life to a wight;
But you can merely him of life bereave,
You have no other power or other leave!

But thou mayst seyn thy princes han thee maked
485Ministre of deeth, for if thou speke of mo,
Thou lyest, for thy power is ful naked."
"Do wey thy booldnesse," seyde Almachius tho,
"And sacrifise to oure goddes er thou go.
I recche nat what wrong that thou me profre,
490For I can suffre it as a philosophre.
"You may but say, your princes did declare
485You were death's officer; if more you claim,
You lie, for of more power you are bare."
"This bold speech drop!" Almachius did exclaim,
"And do your sacrifice in our gods' name.
I care not what you wrongfully impute;
490Like a philosopher I'll bear it, mute.

       But thilke wronges may I nat endure
That thou spekest of oure goddes heere," quod he.
Cecile answerde, "O nyce creature,
Thou seydest no word, syn thou spak to me,
495That I ne knew therwith thy nycetee,
And that thou were in every maner wise
A lewed officer and a veyn justise.
       But those same wrongs which I cannot endure
Are those you speak against our gods," said he.
Cecilia replied: "O vain creature,
You've nothing said, since speaking first to me,
495That I've not learned thereby your great folly,
And that you were and are, in every wise,
An ignorant officer and vain justice.

Ther lakketh no thyng to thyne outter yen
That thou nart blynd, for thyng that we seen alle
500That it is stoon - that men may wel espyen -
That ilke stoon a god thow wolt it calle.
I rede thee lat thyn hand upon it falle,
And taste it wel, and stoon thou shalt it fynde,
Syn that thou seest nat with thyne eyen blynde.
There is no proving, by your outward eye,
That you're not blind; what can be seen by all,
500That it is stone -that men see well, say I-
Yet that same stone a god you think and call.
I charge you, let your hand upon it fall,
And test it well, and 'twill be stone, you'll find,
Since you can see it not with your eyes blind.

505It is a shame that the peple shal
So scorne thee, and laughe at thy folye;
For communly men woot it wel overal
That myghty God is in hise hevenes hye,
And thise ymages, wel thou mayst espye,
510To thee ne to hemself mowen noght profite,
For in effect they been nat worth a myte."
505It is a shame that all the people shall
So scorn you, judge, and laugh at your folly;
For commonly men know it above all
That mighty God is in His heaven high,
And idols such as these, they testify,
510May bring no profit to themselves or you -
They have no power, nothing can they do."





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From The Second Nun's Tale, lines 512-525:
Cecilia is boiled, but not killed
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