honour corruption villainy holiness
riding in fragrance of sunlight (side by side
all in a singing wonder of blossoming yes
riding) to him who died that death should be dead
humblest and proudest eaderly wandering
(equally all alive in miraculous day)
merrily moving through sweet forgiveness of spring
(over the under the gift of the sky
knight and ploughman pardoner wife and nun
merchant frere clerk somnour miller and reve
and geoffrey and all) come up from the never of when
come into the now of forever come riding alive
down while crylessly drifting through vast most
nothing's own nothing children go of dust
It's a splendid poem on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. I came across it again when being asked how I taught Chaucer. For it had shaped my Chaucer courses during those many years of teaching, at Berkeley, Quincy, Princeton, Boulder. For books are Ezekiel's bones, libraries being that great valley, into which life can be breathed by reading.
But there is also that wisdom of 'honour corruption villainy holiness' riding together in sunlight and shadow. A medieval poem had it 'Fas et nefas ambulans'.
Our gypsies! We love them dearly. And they confessed they lied. Their mother did not need the operation. Their house in Buzau is large. Their children are in school. Vandana was not deported but went home. The two, Maria and Vandana, worked to have money to buy land and build their own houses. They had worked so well we told them we would have paid them for the truth. It has put us in a compromising situation. For we had protested to the Assessor for Immigration in Florence about the 'deportation'. We had spoken with the Romanian Government about the school fees and the medical care. We had gone to Foundations to get help for new roofs and for education. So we had 'corruption' and 'villainy' mixed together with 'honour' and 'holiness'.
We've decided we will still try to put together the proposal for the European Union, putting this experience into the category of 'formation', of both our guests and ourselves their hosts. I must go to Buzau to see what is needed and write that into the proposal. We keep remembering their great courtesy, intelligence, energy. Eating together at table was enchanting. They are much better behaved than Italians, Assunta saying there was never a spot on the tablecloth. They gardened and carpentered and sewed so well, doing what you needed done before you spoke, continuing long after you asked them to stop and had paid them, and always saying 'Thank you'. And even their confessing is in their favour. And the lie was a white one. But now I am making retribution to all who were generous. And apologising to those whom I innocently misled. It reminds me of Chaucer's Franklin's Tale!
He drew a circle that shut me out--
Heretic, a rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!
Julia Bolton Holloway, Hermit of the Holy Family
Biblioteca e Bottega Fioretta Mazzei, 'English Cemetery'
Piazzale Donatello, 38, 50132 FIRENZE, ITALY
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