Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Against War: Some Counsel from The Tale of Melibee

(Erm... my third post today. You'd know I'm in the middle of writing a chapter and am hungry for distraction!)

I'm rereading Chaucer's Tale of Melibee at the moment, and came across a little gem I had forgotten. The last time I read it I was paying very close attention to what Prudence, Melibee's wife, had to say. This time another piece of counsel stood out for me, that of "oon of thise olde wise" who advises that there are many who call for war, and know nothing of what it really entails:

"Lordynges," quod he, "ther is ful many a man that crieth 'Werre, werre! that woot ful litel what werre amounteth. Werre at his bigynyng hath so greet an entryng and so large that every wight may entre whan hym liketh and lightly fynde werre; but certes what ende that shal thereof bifalle, it is nat light to knowe. For soothly, whan that werre is ones bigonne, ther is ful many a child unborn of his mooder that shal sterve yong by cause of thilke werre, or elles lyve in sorwe and dye in wrecchednesse..."

This is a passage full of wisdom to my mind. How many children unborn today will suffer because of the wars we are fighting at this moment? It is a disturbing reminder that there are consequences to our actions.

This is by no means the only view on war in The Tale of Melibee, but to my mind it is the most sensible. The untold consequences of war are as big a concern today as they were in the Middle Ages. Let's hope our leaders listen to the right advice.

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