Chaucerin–Metaphysics on His Sleeve

I have been retired fifteen plus years now. So I have much time to catch up on history and such. Eleven volumes in their The Story of Civilization by Will and Ariel Durant offer all the history impossible for me to read in what time is left.  How did they find time to write so much and more? Anyway, here are more quotes from The Reformation, one of the eleven volumes 

Today I have shought out Chaucer

Durant wrote of Chaucer that,  “He was not a very learned man, for he liked to display his learning….He mentions  some problems of philosophy and theology, but shrugs his shoulders at them helplessly. Perhaps he felt, like any man of the world, that a prudent philosopher will not wear his metaphysics on his sleeve.

Durant says Chaucer, “…is disturbed by evils apparently irreconcilable with an omnipotent benevolence…” In that regard, here is my rough translation of a line or two of Chaucer spoken through Arcite, one of the travelers in Canterbury TalesAnd what is mankind to you[God] than sheep that huddle in the fold. For slain is man same as another beast and is arrested and dwells in prison, and has sickness and great adversity,…and when a beast is dead he has no pain, but man in his death must weep and plea.


About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (, and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation ( I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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