Citation
The Literary cosmos : symbol, metaphor, and reflection in the medieval universe

Material Information

Title:
The Literary cosmos : symbol, metaphor, and reflection in the medieval universe
Creator:
Harrer, Kimberly
Place of Publication:
Denver, Colo.
Publisher:
Metropolitan State University of Denver
Publication Date:
Language:
English

Record Information

Source Institution:
Metropolitan State University of Denver
Holding Location:
Auraria Library
Rights Management:
Copyright [name of copyright holder or Creator or Publisher as appropriate]. Permission granted to University of Colorado Denver to digitize and display this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.

Downloads

This item has the following downloads:


Full Text
The Literary Cosmos: Symbol, Metaphor, and Reflection in the Medieval Universe
by Kimberley Harrer
An undergraduate thesis submitted in partial completion of the Metropolitan State University of Denver Honors Program
May 2013
Dr. Pamela Troyer
Dr. Wendolyn Weber Primary Advisor
Second Reader
Dr. Megan Hughes-Zarzo Honors Program Director




1
The Literary Cosmos: Symbol, Metaphor, and Reflection in the Medieval Universe
by Kimberly Harrer


2
The mysteries of the cosmos have intrigued human kind for millennia. Much of our art and literature reflects our attempt to understand humans place within the cosmos, to sort out what it means to exist in a vast realm of unknown space. Among many others, series such as Star Trek and literature such as Frank Herberts Dune take us on futuristic journeys to other planets, introduce us to new species, and often use time travel or inter-dimensional voyages to illustrate our insignificance against the backdrop of infinity. These stories employ very modern concepts of the universe in order to expand the readers/vi ewers sense of place within the cosmos. What then of other, older expressions of these same puzzles? As cosmological thought advances and expands from late antiquity, to the medieval period, and then into the Renaissance, so, too does the space (literally and literarily) for the writer and reader in their explorations of meaning and self. Writers and thinkers such as Boethius, Geoffrey Chaucer, and John Milton explore the perceptible disconnect between the ordered nature of the divine and the chaos of everyday human life in their respective works, The Consolation of Philosophy, The Canterbury Tales, and Paradise Lost. They utilize cosmological symbol and metaphor to reflect the universal structure known to them to make sense of this division, grasping for a greater awareness of the place for human existence and meaning in an ever-expanding notion of the universe.
In preparation for my argument, it will be helpful at this juncture to examine the cosmological models these authors examined and accepted. In the medieval and early modern periods, cosmology and astronomy (what would today be categorized as hard sciences) as well as astrology (now a pseudo-science) were all included in a field of study known as natural philosophy. Just as in modern-day scientific fields of this nature, this stretch of time is rich with competing perspectives on the nature of the universe: its origins, its measurements, and its


3
overall structure. In stark contrast to our use of the scientific method, here evidence is required to back religious belief. The most influential viewpoint on the structure of the universe during this period, however, is based on the geocentric Ptolemaic and Aristotelian models of astronomy, dating as far back as the first century, and accepted all the way into the 17th century. The entire concept of this cosmological model is based on the notion of divine perfection in the form of circles
The perspective that these models offer is one of a highly ordered system of motion. Motion is afforded to a hierarchical arrangement of spheres. There is one sphere allotted to each of the five planets known at the time (Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Mercury). The moon, the sun, and the fixed stars (celestial sphere, or firmament) each has its own sphere. Divine power resides in the outermost sphere, the sphere of the Primus Mobile (Prime Mover), furthest from Earth. Earth is made up of the elements earth, air, water, and fire. The spheres beyond Earth are made up of the element ether, often associated with their motion. There was some contention during this time among astronomers as to how many spheres exist in the scheme. Although all were agreed that the planets and fixed stars together accounted for at least eight concentric orbs or heavens, as observations of celestial movement become more detailed and accurate, more ideas emerge about the existence of a greater number of spheres to account for the sometimes inexplicable motions of celestial bodies and to maintain the evidence-supporting-belief principle (Grant 315).
As with so much in this field of scientific study, such a complex and unfamiliar structure requires a visual aid to assist in understanding it. The image below shows the spheres (10 in all for this particular rendering) with the Earth at the center made up of the four elements earth, air, water, and fire (faculty.vassar.edu). Of note in this image is a space beyond the Primus Mobile.


4
Natural philosophers questioned whether there were more spheres, or anything at all, beyond that boundary. There were many questions about the structure of the cosmos at the time which, for the purposes of this paper, do not need to be detailed, merely mentioned to elaborate on the complexities and variety of ideas regarding this subject which surface in the literature to be discussed.
Though there were many variations of the idea of the spheres, each reflected its cultures need for harmony and order in all things. It was imperative that the heavens remain tidy and regulated so as to reflect the perfection of God. A sphere is considered a perfect shape which provides regularity in its motion. Since God is perfection, all he creates must adhere to divine standards of that perfection. Here lies the dilemma: the reality lived by humans is incessant change. .things happened on the whole or for the most part. .but the world studied by astronomy seemed quite different. .celestial bodies were permanent. .the more you studied them, the more perfectly regular their movements seemed to be (Lewis 3-4). Though the highly ordered structure of the universe reflects the bookish character of their culture in its systematic nature, there is a religious pursuit in this endeavour as well (Lewis 11). Thus, the directive of astronomy within the field of natural philosophy was to reconcile everyday experience of irregularity with observations of a highly structured and ordered system of divinely regulated spheres; a system of spheres controlled by God.
Just one of the many ways in which this attempt manifests is through literature. Being concerned with structure, order, and knowledge as learned through books, medieval writers ascribe Platos philosophy of unity in form and content to their works. In other words, the organization of their work reflects the meaning and ideology which it purports. They use the very format of their writing to physically represent their ideas. Ideas is the operative word in


5
the goal of literature from this period. The facts are not as important as the story. The mode of writing for them suggests that allegory and analogy were not for the Middle Ages a way of abstracting, but rather a way of internalizing, making personal, and thus humanizing all that was otherwise lost outside them. .it was a process of mental incorporation (Peck 33). These methods show the inherent richness of literary work in this time period. They reveal the spiritual and intellectual imperative contained within the frame of literature, and the space it allows the reader and writer to inspect reality in terms of theology, thought, and observation through narrative.
One literary figure whose work exemplifies these characteristics is Boethius (AD 480-524). Though he had many works that can be referenced, consideration will be given here to his Consolation of Philosophy. This texts unique placement in time consists of a period between late antique and early medieval, lending a unique cultural and historical perspective.
Commenting on its placement in history, Dr. Wendolyn Weber writes:
The Consolation of Philosophy may be one of the best examples of a text perfectly placed and perfectly composed for longevity within a multitude of receptive possibilities. In cultural and historical terms, the text balances on a critical nexus point, a meeting place of classical and medieval, pagan and Christian worldviews. Perched on the crumbling remains of the Roman Empire, standing at the edge of the classical era and on the cusp of the medieval, it reaches in both directions.
(Weber 95)
The influence of this work reaches beyond its own time period, surviving many political, cultural, spiritual, and scientific changes. One characteristic of its survival, examined in this paper, is that the cultural and historical crossroads of time in which this text is found lends itself to unique uses of cosmological symbol, metaphor, and allegory.


6
The Boethian figure of Lady Philosophy is one of these particularly important symbols. When she first appears to Boethius in his prison cell, her form is difficult for him to comprehend visually and intellectually. He says, it was difficult to be sure of her height, for sometimes she was of average human size, while at other times she seemed to touch the very sky with the top of her head, and when she lifted herself even higher, she pierced it and was lost to human sight (Boethius 4). The cosmological model is key to establishing the symbolism of this character. Firstly, Lady Philosophy introduces herself as inherently liminal. She has the ability to alter her height, allowing her to move freely in between the divine and the earthly. In addition to the capability of moving in between these spaces, she is able to penetrate the divine realm. She is able to move beyond the sphere of the fixed stars and into the unknown sphere of the Primus Mobile. Her growth spans all spheres and thus her character as a symbol encompasses all of space and time and all ideas about space and time. All questions, theories, beliefs, and intellectual pursuits are unified under the umbrella of philosophy through her act in traveling the distance between all spheres.
This act of shape shifting also reflects the notion of the time period that understanding the universe through reflection, contemplation, and through scientific inquiry is a means to understanding God in the order of His creation. The mind as a means to divine comprehension is a continuing theme directed by Lady Philosophy. Shortly after he encounters her, she acknowledges the philosophers sad and distorted state of mind, pointing out that a mind filled with earthly cares cannot contemplate the questions of the universe: so sinks the mind in deep despair/and sight grows dim; when storms of life/inflate the weight of earthly care/the mind forgets its inward light/and turns in trust to the dark without (Boethius 5). This statement shows


7
the cultural importance of cosmological scrutiny and divine understanding by suggesting that when one loses the ability to probe the cosmos, one loses connection with divine knowledge.
This verse also introduces the complexity of the mind as a tool for understanding the cosmos. Not only does the mind hold the capability to comprehend the universe, it also has the ability to work against itself. It can compromise an individuals intellectual pursuit by disrupting the harmony among mind, spirit, and the divine. It can clog itself with worries of mortal being, thus distracting one from divine being. The mind, which is internal, is the light. All that is external is darkness (Boethius 5). This idea suggests that the universe is an internal experience. The divine is the universe, knowledge is divine, and the mind, being internal, is what is used to seek and acquire knowledge. The universe is explored with the mind which can perceive divine order, thus internalizing the light of divine knowledge (Boethius 5).
Lady Philosophy is quick to expound upon the importance of utilizing mental faculties to investigate the world. She reminds the prisoner, herself, and the reader of what he once had the capacity for:
This was the man who once was free To climb the sky with zeal devout To contemplate the crimson sun The frozen fairness of the moon -Astronomer once used in joy To comprehend and to commune With planets on their wandering ways. This man, this man sought out the source Of storms that roar and rouse the seas The spirit that rotates the world The cause that translocates the sun


8
From shining East to watery West
(Boethius 5)
Boethius was once able to consider the mysteries of the universe. Through his quest for knowledge, divine order came to life for him. The planets came to life. He could commune with them and follow them on their path through the heavens (Boethius 5). His pursuit allowed him to traverse the incline of the spheres as a hiker climbing a mountain, the summit being the realm of the Primus Mobile, referred to in this verse as the spirit that rotates the world (Boethius 5).
There is much emphasis on the fact that Boethius is a man, a mortal. Knowledge permits him the opportunity as a human to explore and interpret divine order in the universe. He has access to each sphere, inferred by his following of the planets, and just as Lady Philosophy, he can move freely through each sphere. Though he cannot penetrate the divine sphere of the Primus Mobile, by engaging his mental faculties, he is allowed to approach it. This ability establishes liminality within the pursuit of knowledge. It allows one to bridge the divide between divine and human, the unknown and the known. Thought in essence is a spiritual journey through the physical world, collapsing the separation between the two areas in order to gain divine knowledge. Understanding the universe is intrinsically linked to human knowledge of the divine.
Just as the cosmos is used to acquire divine knowledge, it is also used as a metaphor for knowledge itself through the use of simile. In verse III of Book I, Boethius illustrates the experience he has in regaining his sight (faculties of mind, i.e., the ability to pursue knowledge)
through the assistance of Lady Philosophys initiative in wiping his eyes with her dress. He
says:


9
The night was put to flight, the darkness fled
And to my eyes their former strength returned
Like when the wild west wind accumulates
Black clouds and stormy darkness fills the sky
The sun lies hid before the hour the stars
Should shine, and night envelops all the earth
But should the North wind forth from his Thracian cave
Lash at the darkness and loose the prisoner day
Out shines the sun with sudden light suffused
And dazzles with its rays and blinking eye.
(Boethius 7)
Night and darkness are both here used as symbols for state of mind, one in which an individual embeds himself in ignorance or refusal to gain knowledge. It is essentially a state of immobilityimmobility of mind through paralyzing ones momentum on the path through the cosmic spheres (i.e., knowledge). The lack of momentum also freezes the movement of the spheres and darkness obscures the sun. In other words, it obscures God, divine knowledge, human understanding, and capability of obtaining that knowledge. Darkness and ambiguity swallow up the light of the stars and all of the earth, making it impossible to see the spheres beyond. They hold knowledge prisoner until one comes to his senses, letting go of earthly concerns, liberating himself to begin again the journey of understanding. He scatters the clouds letting the sun through which illuminates the motion of the spheres, and allows him to resume his pursuit of dazzling divine knowledge (Boethius 7).
Once again, the external universe metaphorizes an internal mindscape. The individual has the capability to hide himself from knowledge, to hide himself from the divine truth found in the cosmic system through focusing on everyday conflicts and concerns of earthly nature, through isolating himself from the deep connection to the universe. Human understanding is in


10
this passage equated with cosmic understanding. The mind, just as the highly ordered system of spheres, has periods of darkness and light, obscurity and clarity. Figuring out the divine order of the world, opening oneself up to the lessons of it permits one to comprehend the universe in terms of divine knowledge and the humans place in the divine plan in terms of the structure of the cosmos.
Cosmology in The Consolation of Philosophy also serves as a means of reconciling human reality (chaos) with the divine structure or plan (order). Boethius in Book I voices his observations of disorder and general tumult in the reality of human life around him. In order to elucidate the matter, he makes the point that criminals are found to be innocent of crimes while the innocent are found guilty of others crimes. This reality has become such that ones who commit crimes in fact expect to be found innocent, while those who obey the laws expect to be found guilty of something at some point. It appears to Boethius that there is a palpable disconnect between the divine order of the world and his human experiences. Prompted by his convictions about this subject, he makes a plea to God saying, thy power turns the moving sky/and makes the stars obey fixed laws. .thou Evening Star dost make/rise cold and clear in early night. .all things obey their ancient laws, illustrating the systematic motion provided by divine power (Boethius 15). Yet again the human mind is put into cosmic terms with his statement bright virtue lies in dark eclipse/by clouds obscured, reiterating ignorance as a self-inflicted separation from the world, this time not as an individual, but as a society at large (Boethius 16). He asks that God secure the motions of human kind as he does with the bond thou rulstthe stars (Boeithius 16).
In defense of the divine, Lady Philosophy reminds Boethius that human kind is also a part of Gods creation along with the cosmos. There is no difference between the movement of


11
the heavens and his experience on Earth. She discusses this idea in terms of seasons, crops, and harvests, all of which are intricately associated with the movement of the stars and of the sun. The Lady then says, for God has fixed the seasons tasks/and each receives its own/no power is free to disarray/the order God has shown/should then some being precipitate/aspire to quit its place/the Lord would not allow success/its mutiny to grace (Boethius 18-19). She implores Boethius to remember his belief that the universe is run on rational movement and that nothing happens irrationally because God is a rational being.
Recalling that a sphere is a perfect and therefore divine shape, rational movement is associated with circular motion. Fortune is given as a symbol of rational motion in the circularity of her wheel which reflects the circularity of celestial motion of the spheres. The philosopher discusses Fortune in terms of the turmoil and unfairness described earlier. She is simultaneously credited with happiness and the upheaval of said happiness. From the human perspective, her purpose, indeed her very essence, is chaos. Lady Philosophy, however, counters this argument by putting Fortunes motion in terms of the cosmic scheme: change is her normal behavior, her true nature. .in the very act of changing she has preserved her own particular kind of constancy towards you (Boethius 23). Fortune herself says I never cease to play as I turn my wheel in its ever changing circle, restating the importance of circular motion (Boethius 25).
The seemingly irrational motion of this cycle in the human experience is rationalized in Lady Philosophys statement that the world stays rarely the same/so great its instability. .in law eternal it lies decreed/that naught from change is ever freed (Boethius 29). What this statement from the Lady achieves is placing human reality in terms of divine motion. What seems to be mayhem and disorder from a human perspective is in actuality an intricate, and not


separate, part of the divine plan. Just as the cosmos have a very particular pattern or cycle, so, too does life on Earth, preserving Gods stability and divine harmony.
12
Further connecting human experience to the divine structure of the universe, Lady Philosophy uses the grand scheme of the cosmos compared to the size of the Earth to make a point about ethical living; in particular, to make a point about the inconsequentiality of fame. It is important here to pause for a moment in order to briefly resurrect and expand on an important function of literature during the medieval period mentioned before in this paper. According to C.S. Lewis, there is little to no mention of the cosmological structure by spiritual writers. He says that, spiritual books are wholly practical in purpose, addressed to those who ask direction. .only the order of Grace is relevant, meaning that narrative is the main source of any type of deep exploration into the meaning of the universe and its divine structure as related to human experience (Lewis 114). Understanding is essentially derived from the middle ground between science and theology that story provides. Instead of mere externalized instruction, the readers mind is engaged in a narrative and encouraged to internalize its message which is almost always spiritual/ethical in nature and is a major goal of medieval narrative. It makes sense then that Boethius would turn to literary devices such as symbol, metaphor, and allegory in order to teach important lessons and encourage profound reflection in his readers. It follows logically that he would discuss human reality in terms of cosmological structure to explore the connection among Earthly and divine realms. This example of the futility of fame as described by Lady Philosophy is no exception.
Humans, according to her, seem to be under the impression that fame provides one with immortality and unchallenged importance. She identifies this notion as a fallacy by the very structure of the universe which includes time. Earths time is finite and so cannot be compared


13
to divine time, which is eternal. She says, if you think of the infinite recesses of eternity you have little cause to take pleasure in any continuation of your name. .a single second can be compared with ten thousand years. .but ten thousand years. .cannot be compared with unending eternity to illustrate the futility of fame and thus narcissism (Boethius 42). She continues, however protracted the life of your fame, when compared with unending eternity it is shown to be not just little, but nothing at all (Boethius 42). This explanation provided by the Lady is a guide to ethical, humble living. Gaining fame is a waste of time in terms of eternity.
The cosmological model used in the Consolation supplies the distance required for the different experiences of time between Earth and Heaven. On Earth, finite time is the reality in which humans live. Each sphere beyond the Earth pushes farther and farther into the vast and largely unknown distances of this period. The sphere of the Primus Mobile is the farthest realm and can only be detected through the motions of the descending spheres (if the sky moves, it follows logically that there must be something initiating that motion). This position in the farthest realm grants God ample height from which to view all things. Time for God is thus:
eternal, not perpetual. Strictly speaking, He never foresees He simply sees. Your future is only an area, and only for us a special area, of His infinite Now. He sees (not
remembers) your yesterdays acts because yesterday is still there for Him; he sees (not foresees) your tomorrows acts because He is already in tomorrow. As a human spectator, by watching my present act, does not at all infringe its freedom, so I am none the less free to act as I choose in the future because God, in that future (His present) watches me acting.
(Lewis 89)
Eternity can only be experienced at a great distance from finite time. The order of the spheres is able to maintain the large gap necessary for keeping such a long distance between Earth and


14
Heaven. This distance also, as seen in the quote above from C.S. Lewis, provides humans with free will. Through the structure of the cosmos, the distance from humans with which it provides God (the spheres stand between them), ethical reasoning manifests itself in this literature by means of illustrating the consequences of human narcissism as fame in terms of finite time. It also manifests in an ethical God who remains as such by providing free will through the distance existent in the universe between human and divine, He is a spectator from on high of all things (Boethius 137).
Boethius also recognizes the role, if not the responsibility, of human kind to be spectators as well, not on the same level as God is a spectator, but on the level of viewing the world through our mental faculties that are thought to be God-given. It is through observation of the movement of the spheres that Boethius propounds Aristotelian love cosmology. This idea of love arises from the problem of motion astronomers contend with at the time. They believed firmly in the Primus Mobile, but still the question remained of how the sphere of the unmovable mover caused motion in all descending spheres. It is argued that the Primus Mobile is also in motion, but this has its own inherent problem. If the Primus Mobile is in motion, there must be some other sphere beyond it causing it to move, ad infinitum, spiraling out of control into an endless series of moving spheres. Thus, Aristotle proposes that there is indeed a final sphere, the Primus Mobile, which does not move, but coaxes the spheres below it into motion. One might ask how Aristotle would explain the way this task is accomplished:
Aristotle distinguished two immaterial substances associated with each celestial orb: a soul and a separate intelligence. The former is an integral part of its orb, whereas the latter is distinct from its orb. .it follows that as each orb moves around with uniform circular motion, its soul also moves around with it. Hence the soul of a celestial orb is necessarily in motion. But the soul of an orb is not the direct cause of the orbs motion.


15
Motion arises because of the souls intellectual desire and love for the separate intelligence that is also associated with the same orb. The direct cause of motion is therefore the separate intelligence, which causes the soul to love and desire it so that the soul will move its orb around and around.
(Grant 516-517)
Boethius, reflecting the goal of medieval narrative to encourage the reader to absorb spiritual lessons, describes the motion of the cosmos. In doing so, he also creates a space for science and theology to intermingle. The source of cosmic motion, as stated above, is love; love for the divine intelligence inherent in each sphere which finds its origins in God. He calls Love the ruler of the sky and explains how inexorably linked it is to unity and harmony of all things: if Love relaxed the reins/all things that now keep peace/would wage continual war/and wreck the great machine/which unity maintains/with motions beautiful (Boethius 45). Again, the activity of the spheres is closely associated with the activity of humans. The chaos that would ensue if love did not exist within the spheres to motivate them is put into terms of human warfare that exists in the absence of love on Earth. He goes on to relate law, marriage, and international agreements, all human institutions and ideas, to the harmony of the spheres, and thus to love, further establishing the connection between humans and the universe; between humans and the divine.
All human experience in this text is interpreted through a cosmic lens and all cosmic experience is interpreted through a human lens. These two perspectives substitute one another with a frequency that suggests they are not different perspectives (excepting Gods perspective). The form thus is unified with the content of the text. Whether it is describing an eclipse of understanding or the Love that bonds humans in friendship, literary devices such as symbol, metaphor, and simile operate to represent the human experience as a cosmic structure and vise
versa.


16
Structure and message are also unified in this text by its reflecting the circularity with which the universe moves. As Lady Philosophy says in Book I, the beginning of all things is God and the end purpose of things and the goal to which the whole of Nature is directed is God (Boethius 19). Boethius is visited by the Lady in the beginning because he has lost his ability to be mindful of the universe and therefore has lost the ability to attain knowledge of the divine. The book ends with the philosopher regaining his mental faculties and reaching a point in his re-growth, as facilitated by Lady Philosophy, where he can again have access to that knowledge of the divine. The texts interpretation of circularity shows its awareness in reflecting the cosmos. Circularity, for this text, does not mean coming back around to the beginning and starting again. It means coming around to a point that positions you to continue moving forward, each circular motion building off of the previous one; a kind of spiral.
This idea of building off of what came before is important to medieval literary culture. The bookish or clerkly character of medieval society as described by C.S. Lewis is full of writers who respond culturally to manuscripts: every writer, if he possibly can, bases himself on an earlier writer, follows an auctour as books are of such great importance to this medieval culture (Lewis 5). Taking a story and thinking about it not in terms of what it means, but what it could mean is a technique adopted by the writers of this period. Boethius is certainly an example of a writer who uses this technique. His cosmology and philosophy have a clear foundation in Plato and Aristotle.
Writers of a previous age also influence subsequent ages of writers through the translation of their work. Geoffrey Chaucer, who translated Boethius Consolation (entitled Boece) is a perfect example. As stated before, medieval authors explore meaning in the stories of writers before, often creating their own understanding of a text that is influenced by their present-day culture, politics, religion, and education. A translation in the medieval period,


17
therefore, is not necessarily a verbatim transcript of a work; it is more of an interpretation of that
work. Chaucers Boece is no exception. In his article, Method and Medieval Translation: The
Example of Chaucers Boece, Tim Machan posits:
Though Chaucer referred to his composition as a translacion of Boece de Consolacione, his actual method involved. .translating from what might be called the Consolation tradition. .to the Middle Ages, the Consolation was a work of moral philosophy, and then as now any intelligent and knowledgeable individual had a personal stake in moral philosophy. .medieval readers grew less interested in the form of the Consolatio than in its content and that the content of Boece de Consolacione came to include a variety of reworkings of and commentaries and glosses on Boethius thought. .Chaucer clearly was interested in understanding Boethius ideas and in exploring language. .
(Machan 190-91)
Since Chaucer translated, or rather interpreted, Boethius Consolation, it is no surprise to find the Ptolemaic-Aristotelian cosmological model functioning literarily throughout a good many of his works. His treatise on astronomy, Astrolabe, is his more scientific endeavour; his literal translation of the movements of stars and planets and discussion of the mathematics behind the exploration of the heavens. Where his understanding of the cosmos particularly shines, however, is in his stories. Troilus and Criseyde, The Book of the Duchess, and The Canterbury Tales, for example, all contain astronomical and astrological allusions to enliven their narratives through cosmological symbol and metaphor.
The Canterbury Tales has the cosmological structure embedded into the very fabric of its design. In this work, the spheres of the celestial realm are reflected in the stories through the metaphorical and allegorical uses of the planets and stars and the spheres themselves. They also influence the structure of the text in its hierarchy of characters and tales, all culminating in the author, Geoffrey Chaucer, as the Primus Mobile of his own universe. In order to properly


18
explore these cosmological ideas, representations, and influences in The Canterbury Tales, it is important to start small; to start within the spheres of the stories and characters within the frame tale, moving on later to the overall structure of the tales as a whole.
Beginning with the small, there are several passages in The Man of Laws Tale that prove the story to be a microcosm of everyday human experience. The tale highlights an existential problem discussed earlier as addressed by Boethius: there is a profoundly deep division between the order of the spheres and the harmony inherent in them, and the chaotic and random reality observed by individuals of the earth. In this particular tale, Chaucer uses astrology, its symbols a system of divine language, as a means to understanding divine knowledge. Understanding that knowledge also allows the characters to gain a sense of place within the divine order of the cosmos amid utter mayhem.
The orderly linguistic scheme of the stars spells out the Sultans fate in this tale. Having fallen in love with Custance, a Christian, he seeks advice as to whether or not he should convert from Islam to Christianity in order to marry her. Our storyteller waxes cosmological, saying . in thilke large book/which that men clepe the hevene ywriten was/with sterres, whan that he his birthe took/that he for love sholde han his deeth, foreshadowing the death of the Sultan in his decision to side with love (MLT, 190-3). In the context of plot, this sidereal language from the storyteller is portentous, warning the reader of future happenings in the story. Giving small details of the storys outcome, however, does not serve the plot alone. By likening the heavens to a book and the arrangement of the stars to that of words with prescient qualities, the Man of Law deems the Sultans fate part of Gods ultimate, divine plan. These words, unlike those of Earthly books, cannot be erased or changed, being in the sphere of the fixed stars, the canvas of the divine. Though this Sultans fate seems to be harsh, absurd even, its permanence brings forth stability to an otherwise chaotic situation. That it is known places his fate within the context of a


19
greater, divine plan which replaces disorder with order. The division between human and divine experience gamers attention here and is reconciled in Gods terms by way of the divine language of the fixed stars.
To further express fate in terms of a divinely sidereal language, the Man of Law continues: for in the sterres, clerer than is glas/is writen, God woot, whoso koude it rede/the deeth of everyman, withouten drede (MLT, 194-6). Fate is here, too, concretized in astral tongue. The fate that is written in the stars, however, is not exclusive to any one individual.
This stellar language lends itself to a communal sentiment in its position as a memento mori; it reminds us of our own individual mortality, but also reminds us that mortality is something we all share. Death is thus an equalizer of humanity in its ineluctability. The language in which ones death is read also serves to bridge the divide between earthly and heavenly realms, bringing the divine meaning of life to the masses for us to interpret for ourselves. In this way, the symbols provided by the stars synchronize the disorder of human existence with the tidiness of the divine.
Along with its service to reconcile the incongruent experiences of the divine and the earthly, the divinely ordered cosmos of this particular story can function as both a literal and figurative reading. For instance, in one circumstance Custance releases such dreadful cries upon the news that she must wed the Sultan that the Man of Law incorporates his own pleas to God for her sake in his tale: O firste moevyng with thy diurnal sweigh that. hurlest al from est to occident/that naturelly wolde holde another way (MLT, 295-98). This plea has a dual function of literal and figurative nature, as stated above. The storytellers words can be read as allegorical for the immovability of the Heavens through human force. The steady force comes from the sphere of the Primus Mobile (the firste moevyng). This immovability extends to the scheme of


20
the divine plan. No matter the fervor with which an individual protests against the fate ascribed them by God, the plan cannot be altered. Just as the Heavens move strictly in one direction, so too does human life have a strict adherence to the divine plan. This reading is the figurative interpretation. In the same vein as Boethius, Chaucer decides to deepen the meaning of place within the universe and thicken the consistency of this story by tending to interpret the human experience through a cosmological lens and vise versa.
This interchangeability of lenses is revealed by the simultaneously existant literal interpretation of the plea from our Man of Law. The complexity of the then believed motions of the spheres in relation to the text is as follows:
The Primum Mobile revolves from east to west, completing its circle every twenty-four hours. The lower spheres have. .a far slower revolution from west to east, which takes 36,000 years to complete. But the daily impulse of the Primum Mobile forces them daily back, as with its wash or current, so that their actual movement is westward but at a speed retarded by their struggle to move in the opposite direction.
(Lewis 102)
Hence, the same resistance to divine motion experienced by the spheres under the pressure of the momentum provided by the Primus Mobile is tantamount to the defiance of humans to adhere to the divine plan when faced with their fate. Try as one might to be unmovable, the motion of the universe, the divine plan, is ultimately the victor. Here, Chaucer uses the external universe in its literal form to inform the reader of a deeper, internal resistance on the human level: the resistance of human free will. Just as the opposition to universal motion is the reality of the spheres, according to Chaucer, refusal of a divine plan is the reality of human experience.
Permitting the cosmos to further express human reality, our author makes use of simile to evaluate the vicissitudes of existence in terms of the oceans tides. The Man of Law says, but


21
litel while it lasteth, I yow heete/joye of this world, for tyme wol nat abyde/fro day to nyght it changeth as the tyde (MLT, 1132-34). Our storyteller, through his cosmological link between human life and the changing of the tides, reminds us that just as the tides are pulled and pushed by the moon, so too are human lives powerlessly directed by other forces. For the medieval time period in particular, they are other divine forces. The tide may be chaotic, wild, and dangerous, or it may be calm and comforting. Regardless of how hectic or tranquil, there is a reason for it and constancy in it (reminiscent of Fortunes wheel in the Consolation). The apparent disorder of this reality is in fact part of the order of the heavenly spheres. The internal figurative universe and the external literal universe are each a part of a greater, more organized arrangement which consoles the mind that observes the chaos in everyday reality.
In much the same way as The Man of Laws Tale, The Knights Tale acknowledges divine order through the internal-external cosmological interchangeability of which Boethius and Chaucer are so greatly fond. This tale also harbors a direct link from Chaucer to Boethius through his use of the Aristotelian love cosmology discussed earlier, though it is used within a different framework in this story. To begin, Theseus, after Arcite is killed during a battle against his brother to win Emelye, presents the Prime Mover (Firste Moevere in Middle English) and celestial motion as an allegory for the ebbs and flows of human life. As in Boethius, Aristotles Love cosmology becomes a focus of reasoning. He says:
For with that faire cheyne of love he bond The fyr, the eyr, the water, and the lond In certeyn boundes, that they may nat flee.
That same Prince and that Moevere, quod he,
hath stablissed in this wrecched world adoun Certeyn dayes and duracioun To al that is engendred in this place


22
Over the whiche day they may nat pace A1 mowe they yet tho dayes wel abregge
(KT In 2991-2999)
By establishing the order of the cosmos, the order of divine creation, Theseus rationalizes Arches death and also his next action as a character and ruler. Love bonds the very foundation of human existence: the elements earth, air, fire, and water. It also has the power to form, as seen in the above passage, the days, their duration, and thus wields control over all beings who must submit to the motions of the sun and stars out of necessity. Obedience to these divine movements is vital to maintaining their harmony. So vital in fact that if one should try to meddle with the regular motions of the spheres, the spheres will only shorten the days, thus making time move faster, and thus shortening the human life span.
Theseus use of celestial motion is for a far more egocentric means than for that of Boethius use. This ruler compares the divine structure of the cosmos and the role of the Primus Mobile to his kingdom and to himself as a ruler respectively. He wants for his people to view themselves as a part dirryveth from his hool for no partie or cantel of a thyng/but of a thyng that parfit is and stable, suggesting that they are created by him and therefore subject to his every whim (KT In 3006-3009).
To be sure, his subjects are not the only ones to be dominated under his rule. His own daughter, Emelye, is forced to marry Arcites brother, Palamoun. Neither party is consulted, naturally. Emelye is denied the space for an opinion about her future marriage. Since Palamoun has been pursuing her for quite some time, and in fact fought Arcite for her, Theseus knows that he will not refuse the opportunity to take vows with Emelye even if given the option for refusal. Theseus does not only assume that this marriage will take place, he decrees it. His stern rule is like that of the motions of the spheres, unending and unchallengeable. His message is almost


23
threatening. It is more like a warning to his subjects to not disrupt the order he has established. In this tale, the celestial motions are here related to Theseus very human position as a leader in an allegorical function to serve him, rather to serve his power, as a rational justification for his rule and the control he wields through that ruling power.
Using the heavenly spheres as an allegory for tyrannical rule and vice versa provides an interesting arena in which to explore and personify the meaning of the cosmos and Gods rule over it. Though this exploration may seem heretical given the time period, authorities of the day would have welcomed the challenge. Rather, they would have welcomed it to a point. In 1272, it was decreed by university authorities in Paris (and later spreading throughout Europe, ultimately effecting Galileo and his findings in 1633) that no one had the right to assume the responsibility of asking theological questions by employing the vehicle of natural philosophy. The only exception at the time was if perchance a question should be considered that touched both philosophy and faith, the question had to be resolved in favor of the faith (Grant 50). If it appeared that a question was not going to be resolved in favor of the faith, the inventor of the question had to renounce his findings and concede that they were absolutely false (Grant 50). Being an artistic endeavour and not officially one of natural philosophy, it is unlikely that The Canterbury Tales would have been perceived as profane against divinity, particularly due to the fact that the text does not make an attempt to renounce faith or God, but merely offers striking social commentary on the church, its congregation, and belief. Snarky, yes. Heretical, no.
Heresy aside, examining the structure of the spheres as used in allegory for tyrannical rule in The Knights Tale lays nice groundwork with which to ascend into the outermost sphere: the sphere of the Primus Mobile, the sphere of Geoffrey Chaucer as author. Some of the most vital participants in this literary structure of the spheres are, of course, the storytellers; the


characters that bring the tales to life for the reader in their service to the author and indeed establish the author in the outermost sphere.
24
Looking down from the position of Chaucer the author, one can see a sphere for each character. Each serves its own purpose as a fabliau, a morality tale, a courtly romance, and so on, while their movements, order, humor, and alignment are dictated by the author himself. Each character seems alive as the spheres in Aristotelian cosmology, moving about one another, harmonious in their circular progression. Chaucer, though seated securely outside the realm of their individual spheres, emanates through the language and structure of the text, using the characters as catalysts for his inspiration; catalysts for movement. Each story has been written by him, each character a product of his imagination. He is essentially the divinity of this universe of which he is the Creator.
The two key characters of his creation are the Host and the Narrator. The Hosts sphere is placed beyond the other characters (save the Narrators) spheres. He does not engage in storytelling himself, but in fact directs the others to tell their tales (all the while being directed himself by Chaucer the author), interrupting a telling if the need arises. On the other hand, although the Narrator does engage in storytelling (albeit unsuccessfully), he is an observer of the pilgrimage. It is through his perspective that the reader gets to know the other characters. Thorough him it is revealed that the reader, too, has his or her own respective sphere, for it is through the Narrators words and perspective that the reader is moved; moved to laugh, moved to speculate, moved to cringe, moved to another story, or whatever the case may be. He is essentially the embodiment of the realm of the fixed stars. He is this sphere as depicted in The Man of Laws Tale. His language, through its origins in Chaucer the author, is what we as


readers of the text interpret just as the language of the stars, through its origins in the Primus Mobile, is what Custance and the Sultan interpret as readers of a heavenly text.
25
Though the narrators name is Chaucer, I do not think that the author and the character are the same person. Caroline D. Eckhardt disagrees. She employs the assumption that Chaucer the narrator is Chaucer the author, pointing to a moment in the General Prologue when the narrator miscounts the number of pilgrims in the troupe. The Narrator counts nyne and twenty in a compaignye, but in the end there are 33 pilgrims in all (GP In 24). For her there is no distinction between the author and the narrator. The narrators miscount is the authors miscount. As this work is unfinished, she speculates that this inconsistency boils down to either numerology, more specifically the numerological meaning behind the number of tales told and the number of pilgrims, or Chaucers sense of humor:
He [Harry Bailly] has before him a group of thirty-one pilgrims. Since he does not know that the Canons Yeoman will be joining them later, he must be understood as proposing a total of 124 tales. By implication, the Host is playing God, is planning to direct an entire Creation, since the sum of the integers of 124 is seven, the number of universality or of Creation itself.
(Eckhardt 176)
Eckhardt continues to draw on this idea, finally concluding that the reason for the inconsistency is Chaucers sense of humor. It develops the character of the Narrator (who is not distinguished from the author) as fallible and one to make hasty judgments, developing a more relatable, yet unreliable narrator while it positions the Host as a Creator figure.
While there is no doubt that numerology plays a key role in the literature of this time period (i.e., Dante), and indeed in Chaucers literature, it may be that it has a smaller part to play in this instance. This theory, as stated before, though not explicitly in the quote used, is based on


26
the idea that Chaucer the author and Chaucer the Narrator are the same character/person. The confusion comes out of this assumption: why would Chaucer purposefully (or accidentally, which is hard to believe) miscount the number of pilgrims in his own tale? I would here like to further expound on the idea of Chaucer the author as Primus Mobile of the literarily cosmological system of The Canterbury Tales.
The Narrator as a fallible character only serves to increasingly distinguish him from the author. Residing within the frame tale, the Narrator is only a part of the whole of the text, whereas the author stands outside of it. Chaucer the author, through distinction between him and the Narrator, allots himself space beyond the characters and stories he has created; he creates distance between himself and his creations. He essentially establishes himself as the Primus Mobile surrounding the universe of The Canterbury Tales.
Inserting his own name as a character serves a means for Chaucer to divide the character from the author instead of conflate them. Seeing Chaucers name as a pilgrim distracts a reader of the Tales from thinking about an author function that lies beyond the parameters and momentum of the work. Just as the Primus Mobile, Chaucer the author is unknowable and is not seen by the characters in the book. They merely move in reaction to him and to each other in a manner reflective of the cosmic model. Imagining each character, as earlier, moving in his respective spheres instead of the planets, the hierarchical system of characters with the Host and Narrator in the outermost spheres, and finally Chaucer the author present as the Immoveable Mover beyond them all helps to illuminate the cosmologically reflective nature of the text. The structure of this frame tale is born out of the cosmological model.
Another reason to think of the structure of The Canterbury Tales in this manner is that in the medieval period, it is important to create art not only for the eyes of man, but for the eyes of


27
God; if no one else saw a devotional detail, God did (Eckhardt 179). The characters created by Chaucer are often in a social position where honesty, integrity, and ethical standards are expected of them and are rarely ever executed appropriately by them. Members of the clergy, for example, and people who work in the legal system who are supposed to be the most upstanding citizens are in reality the most corrupt; a profound, ironic, and humorous commentary on society. Through reflection on societal hypocrisy and structuring the Tales after the model of the spheres, Chaucer is creating a space for deep examination on the part of a reader and also showing God that he can see through the corruptibility of human beings. In unifying form and content, he is servicing both God and the literate community.
Engaging in this same service to God and community, though through a very different storytelling form, is John Milton in his Paradise Lost. Though this author enters the literary scene a good amount of time after Chaucer, around 200 years after, in fact, and a great deal longer than that after Boethius, he is important to an examination of the function of cosmology in literature because of the time period in which his epic poem was written. His work occupies a unique position in history where scientific inquiry is beginning to shift. What is known about the universe is transformed thanks to the Copernican Revolution which moves the cosmological model from a geocentric model of the universe to a heliocentric model. Knowledge about the cosmos expands greatly in this period between the 16th and 17th centuries, deepening our understanding of place within the universe.
Illustrating that expansion in Paradise Lost, Milton employs different ideas about space and how it can be used as a literary device. Space, the cosmos, for this author is viewed as a geographical place, a personified figure (Chaos), and a psychological phenomenon, widening the potential for use of the cosmos as symbol, metaphor, and allegory. Along with the scientific


28
implications, the spiritual implications of this shift are also numerous and are reflected in Miltons verse. He is able to blend these very different ideas together in order to glorify the Christian god. Adding Milton into the mix helps to illustrate the complexity of this area of interest. This work is a fitting addition to the previous two texts discussed here in that although it is incorporating more ideas and newer ideas of the universe, the cosmos purpose within the literature remains just as rich and just as important, arguably even more so. Before examination of the cosmos in Paradise Lost can begin, a brief overview of the astronomy of Nicolaus Copernicus and what it did for scientific study is in order.
Before the 16th century, the universe was understood to be a geocentric structure. The Earth was seated at the center of all things celestial. Rotation of stars, planets, and the sun occurred around it. Copernicus, with the publication of his De revolutionists orbium coelestium in 1543, uprooted the foundation of what was then modem astronomy with a heliocentric model of the universe. The sun usurped Earths position and was placed at the center with the planets and stars, Earth among them, rotating around it: the solar system. This idea displaced Earth and humans from the center of divine rotation of the spheres and instead included us in that rotation. The diagrams below show the shift from pre-Copernican/Aristotelian cosmos to post-Copemican cosmos:


29
Circular motion is still in play for the Copernican model, the only change being the placement of the Earth and sun. Though it seems like a small and logical step toward cosmological understanding, the Ptolemaic model is, at this point in history, the dominant model and has been for 1500 years. A slight shift in this case causes a huge wave and Copernicus shift in cosmological thinking kick-started the scientific revolution of the 16th century.
From this heliocentric model, the work by Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler helped to clarify the movement of the stars and the orbital motion of the planets (Keplers Three Laws of Planetary Motion), effectively eradicating the Ptolemaic-Aristotelian model and its celestial spheres for good. Unlike the medieval period, the post-revolution scientific challenge is found to not be reconciling everyday chaos with divine order, but instead reconciling the descriptions of the universe and creation in the Bible with the observations of a universe that vastly differs from those descriptions. Planets do not move in a perfect circle, the Earth is not at the center of Gods creation which leaves room to question his perfection: if God is perfection and his creations are perfect because they are created by him, what does the reality of imperfections observed in the cosmos say about perfect divinity? An expanded idea of the universe may arouse terror, or bewilderment or vague reverie causing these perturbing questions to arise (Lewis 99). The cosmos is much larger and uncertain here than in the medieval period where the spheres of the old present us with an object in which the mind can rest, overwhelming in its greatness but satisfying in its harmony (Lewis 99). This new, vastly expanded notion of space is anxiety-producing for a public that is accustomed to an orderly worldview.
Expanding the idea of space also expands the opportunities for its literary usage. These changes in cosmological thought leave a great amount of material as fodder for a writer like John Milton who takes it upon himself to assert Eternal Providence/and justify the ways of God to


30
men in an effort to resolve the division between observation and scripture (Milton I; 25-26). They allow him to amalgamate the old ideas with the new and create exciting possibilities for the design of the cosmos, and eventually, its origins.
Not seen in the Consolation or in the Tales, the creation of the universe is of particular importance to Paradise Lost. Milton uses different characters to introduce different ideas about creation and the universe. In Book III, Uriel addresses this issue in surprisingly theoretically modem terms. He says I saw when at his Word the formless mass / this worlds material mold, came to a heap (Milton III; 708-9). These lines suggest that the universe was not created out of nothing. There was something already existent from which God brought forth the vast expanse of space. Although these ideas have been debated for some time at this point in scientific history, they have not yet been addressed in quite the same way through narrative. This notion of something out of something simultaneously challenges common belief of the time and smoothes over any conflict. For example, one may be tempted to think that Milton is suggesting that God was not the only thing in existence at the time of creation (he created something out of something instead of something out of nothing). This suggestion would certainly be controversial in his time. In Biblical terms, nothing precedes God. However, in defense of the omnipotence of God, Milton dates Heavens creation before the time of the universe and sets its location outside of the universe (reminiscent of the position of the Primus Mobile). Heaven is a separate creation altogether, which has allowed for Uriel to be witness to the creation of the universe with Earth in it.
What Milton retains in his idea of the origin of the universe is the importance of humankind as Gods creation. The universe, in this case, is essentially created for human


existence to be possible. In the chaotic explosion of creation, God creates a fully functional space which is conducive to human life:
31
Confusion heard His voice and Wild uproar stood ruled, stood Vast Infinitude confined till at His second bidding darkness fled light shone, and order from disorder sprung
(Milton III 710-13).
Having a 1,500 year old cosmological model that positions humans at the center of gods creation challenged by a model that depicts the sun as the center of Gods creation can be disorienting both physically and spiritually. Milton thus cleverly employs multiple ideas at once in order to soothe those spiritual fears. God can still confine infinity and does in fact create and maintain order. The shift in cosmological thinking, in other words, does not change Gods divinity, control, or love for the human race.
Gods divine authority is also maintained through the use of Uriels description of the rift
between how human beings can physically view or comprehend space and how God and the
Heavenly beings can view it. He says
this ethereal quintessence of Heavn flew upward, spirited with various forms that rolled orbicular and turned to stars numberless, as thou seest, and how they move
(Milton III; 716-19).
Being situated within the universe that God has just created, human beings perception of it is a seemingly infinite space. Their size is miniscule compared to the size of the physical universe. The inability to see boundaries from the inside creates the illusion of infinity and places God at the helm of creation in the unreachable distance. This sentiment is echoed in Adams
questioning of creation:


32
When I behold this goodly frame, this world of heavn and earth consisting and compute their magnitudes, this earth a spot, a grain an atom with the firmament compared and all her numbered stars that seem to roll spaces incomprehensible.
(Milton VIII; 15-20).
He is expressing the perception of someone looking out from the interior. God is positioned outside of the human universe (realm) and can see its boundaries, while the human eye cannot see the boundaries of the universe, effectively blending older cosmology, Ptolemaic and Aristotelian specifically, with the new Copemican view. The dual perspectives of the universe are relative to the observers position in relation to the universe.
Although these new ideas of spacial surroundings may seem chaotic, there is a purpose, a
divine order in all things, still reminiscent of the old cosmology:
He [Milton] invented a most ingenious device for retaining the old glories of the budded and finite universe yet also expressing the new consciousness of space. He enclosed his cosmos in a spherical envelope from which all could be light and order, and hung it from the floor of Heaven. Outside that, he had Chaos, the infinite abyss, the unessential Night, where length, breadth and highth And time and place are lost.
(Lewis 100)
This divine order, as pointed to in Milton by C.S. Lewis above, clearly has its roots in Aristotelian cosmology. Miltons God made sure that swift to their several quarters hasted then / the cumbrous elements, earth, flood, air, fire (Milton). God has already planned out a proper place for everything, placing him in the position of an architect who must place everything just so in order to ensure safety of a structures inhabitants, and also to give the structure a distinctive look that is distinctly his. God is leaving his particular mark on the structure of space by


33
partitioning and delimiting... space into more intelligible places.. .Boundaries, limits and enclosures are essential to facilitate knowledge and growth in gods creatures (Theis 4).
This partitioning and ordering harkens back to the structure of the celestial spheres.
Every celestial body had its place in the heavens, instituting harmony in creation and in the motions of the stars. That the spaces created are more intelligible also speaks to Aristotles model in that each sphere had its own intelligence whose movements were encouraged by its love of the Creator. It is a complex task to enclose spaces in a way that makes the intelligible places yet still encourages the potential for growth and change found in larger, chaotic spaces (Theis 5). God is the only one who can possibly accomplish this task, therefore there must be a God and order must be maintained.
Not only are the spaces created more intelligible, as in Aristotelian cosmology, they are also not vacuous. The universe in Paradise Lost has substance and density. The elements of earth, wind, fire, and air that are the makeup of the universe exploded outward in the creation from Chaos. It is described as a fluid mass through which God pushed vital warmth (Milton VII; 236-37). Chaos is essentially the substance from which the universe was made, surprisingly similar to the modern day Big Bang Theory. It was already a prominent part of the heavenly cosmos pre-human universe, and within its energy and volatility lies its creative capacity.
A DIAGRAM SUGGESTING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN GOD, WHO IS INFINITE LIGHT, AND TOTAL SPACE WITH


34
The universes creation out of Chaos also functions as a symbol for reconciling the inconsistencies between the Biblical universe and human observation. It creates a cycle of order and chaos, beginning and ending with order. To clarify, God, or divinity, precedes chaos and in fact imposes order on it through the creation of Earth and manorder, disorder, order. Human experience of existence seems chaotic, but has a divine origin; it has its roots in divine structure. Positioning Chaos as a vital link in a divinely organized chain of order and disorder smoothes out the irregularities in the scripture vs. human observation debacle, addressing the spiritual fears of society at large as mentioned earlier.
Miltons character, Raphael, also serves this same purpose. In Book VIII, he describes to Adam the cosmos in terms of human observation and the fallibility of human knowledge. He says first:
To ask or search I blame thee not for heavn
Is as the book of God before thee set
. .the Great Architect
Did wisely to conceal and not divulge
His secrets to be scanned by them who ought
Rather admire
(Milton VIII; 66-75)
Humans, according to Raphael, are an innately curious species. They were in fact created by God to be as such. However, they are not permitted the capacity to comprehend the divine plan. This plan is as concealed as the sphere of the Primus Mobile. This point highlights yet another major difference between Paradise Lost and the previous two works discussed. For both The Consolation of Philosophy and The Canterbury Tales, gaining knowledge about the universe leads you closer to, though never arriving at, divine knowledge. It is a pathway to understanding the mind of God and His divine plan.


35
With Miltons work, Gods mind is so unknowable to the human race that any attempt to understand their surroundings is laughable. Raphael conveys this idea with:
. .If they list to try
Conjecture He his fabric of the heavns Hath left to their disputes perhaps to move His laughter at their quaint opinions wide Hereafter when they come to model heavn And calculate the stars, how they will wield The mighty frame, how build, unbuild, contrive To save appearances, how grid the sphere With centric and eccentric scribbled oer Cycle and epicycle, orb in orb.
(Milton VIII; 75-84)
Seen in this passage are very different ideas of the cosmos. Orbs and spheres (older cosmology) are pitted against cycles and epicycles (newer cosmology). Both ideas, however, are placed on a level field through this idea of the unattainable quality of divine knowledge. Though astronomical endeavours are an expression of that inherent human curiosity touched on previously by Raphael, astronomers are specifically ridiculed by him as the builders of cosmological models that have no foundation in divine knowledge. Any model developed by a human therefore lacks credibility and makes a mockery of the divine plan. Human observation is thus innately flawed. No matter what we humans see or experience for ourselves, the Biblical universe reigns supreme as it is the word and work of God which is unknowable to the mortal world. Humans can rest assured that divine order rules all in face of the chaos of human reality.
Although the reality of the universe of Paradise Lost is unknowable to humans, the expansion of the very concept of space is reflected in how it is utilized outside of its


36
geographical characteristic. In other words, the universe is not only a geographical element in which life can cultivate, it is also a psychological phenomena. Satan creates a space for Hell within himself which is separate from the physical place of Hell where he is banished to from Heaven. He laments, horror and doubt distract / his troubled thoughts and from the bottom stir / the Hell within him, for within him Hell / he brings and round about him, nor from Hell / one step no more than from himself can fly / by change of place (Milton IV; 18-22). The space of Hell within him is a place from which he cannot escape. It is all-consuming. Though he is away from the physical location of Hell, the suffering is so much his that even distance cannot offer him respite. His rebellion has corrupted him internally and so he must carry the space of Hell within him at all times.
Of great importance to this mental space of Hell within Satans form is that it has the capacity to stretch infinitely. He says, now conscience wakes despair / that slumbered, wakes the bitter memory / of what he was, what is, and what must be / worse: of worse deeds, worse suffering must ensue (Milton IV; 23-26). With each worse deed that he engages in, the space within him expands. It is a space that he can go farther into, but can never navigate a way out of. Satans mind is more powerful than what he seems able to control. It is able to create a psychological space which precludes boundaries it is essentially infinite. The interior, psychological Hell he experiences has the very real potential to grow larger than the Hell in which he physically lives. The mind in this case is a reflection of how advances in cosmological modeling effect its symbolic uses in literature. Having an expanding concept of the universe widens the variety of ways the cosmos is expressed through symbol and metaphor within a text.
The universes appearance within works of literature reflects our continual intrigue with its existence and what meaning we can gain about our own existence from our knowledge of it. Modern cosmology has expanded such that our art grapples with what it means to exist within


37
the enormity of infinity. Older cosmologies of Ptolemy and Aristotle emerge slightly differently in literature as a means to reconcile the chaos of human experience with the divinely ordered structure of the cosmic spheres. Later on with the Copernican model of the universe, the cosmos manifests in literature as symbol in order to quell the existential fears of disconnect between divinity and humanity. Some of the most perceptive and probing expressions of these ideas come from Boethius, Geoffrey Chaucer, and John Milton. Their works, as explored in this paper, are charged with the directive of making sense of this perceived disconnect in order to gain a better understanding of the meaning of human existence within an ever-expanding concept of the cosmos.


38
Works Cited
Aristotelian Spheres. Image 1. 10 Mar. 2013.
http: //faculty. vas sar, edu/brvannor/ Asi a3 5 0/ptol emy, html Aristotles Universe. Image 2. 10 Mar 2013.
http://starchild.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/StarChild/universe level2/cosmology.html Aristotelian Universe, faculty.vassar.edu. n.d. n.p. Web. 21 Mar 2013.
Boethius. The Consolation of Philosophy. Trans. V.E, Watts. New York: Penguin, 1999. Print Chaucer, Geoffrey. General Prologue (GP). The Riverside Chancer. Ed. Larry D. Benson. New
York: Oxford, 2008. 23-36. Print.
Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Knights Tale (KT). The Riverside Chaucer. Ed. Larry D. Benson. New York: Oxford, 2008. 37-66. Print.
Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Man of Laws Tale (MOL). The Riverside Chaucer. Ed. Larry D.
Benson. New York: Oxford, 2008.89-104. Print.
Eckhardt, Caroline D. The Number of Chaucers Pilgrims. Essays in the Numerical Criticism of Medieval Literature. Lewisburg. Bucknell, 1980. Print.
Grant, Edward. Planets, Stars, & Orbs: The Medieval Cosmos, 1200-1687. New York: Cambridge, 1996. Print.
Lewis, C.S. The Discarded Image. New York: Cambrige, 1964. Print.
Machan, Tim. Editorial Methods and Medieval Translations: The Example of Chaucers Boece. Studies in Bibliography. 41 (1988): 188-19. JStor. Web. 21 Apr. 2013.
Milton, John. Paradise Lost. ed. Gordon Teskey. New York: Norton, 2005.
Miltons Cosmology. Image 4. 10 Mar. 2013


39
The Copernican Universe. Image 3.10 Mar. 2013
http://starchild.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/StarChild/universe level2/cosmology.html Theis, Jeffrey S. Miltons Principles of Architecture. English Literary Renaissance 35.1 (2005): 102-22.
Weber, Wendolyn. Translation Choices and Cultural Topographies: The Uses of Boethius's -Consolation of Philosophy- in the Dutch Renaissance". Carmina Philosophiae. 21 (2012): 95-111. Web. 26 Apr. 2013.


Full Text

PAGE 1

The Literary Cosmos: Symbol, Metaphor, and Reflection in the Medieval Universe by Kimberley Harrer An undergraduate thesis submitted in partial completion of the M etropolitan State University of D enver Honors Program May 2013 Dr. Wendolyn Weber Dr. Pamela Troyer Dr. Megan Hughes Zarzo Primary Advisor Second Reader Honors Program Director

PAGE 3

! ! #$%!&'(%)*)+!,-./-.0!1+/2-34!5%(*6$-)4!*78!9%:3%;('-7!'7!($%!5%8'%<*3!=7'<%).%! 2+!>'/2%)3+!?*))%)

PAGE 4

! @ The mysteries of the cosmos have intrigued human kind for millennia. Much of our art and literature reflects our attempt to understand hu man's place within the cosmos, to sort out what it means to exist in a vast realm of unknown space. Among many others, s eries such as Star Trek and literature such as Frank Herbert's Dune take us on futuristic journeys to other planets, introduce us to ne w species, and often use time travel or inter dimen sional voyages to illustrate our insignificance against the backdrop of infinity. These stories employ very modern concepts of the universe in order to expand the reader's/viewer's sense of place within t he cosmos. What then of other, older expressions of these same puzzles ? As cosmological thought advances and expands from late antiquity, to the medieval period, and then into the R enaissance so, too does the space (literally and literarily ) for the writ er and reader in their explorations of meaning and self. Writers and thinkers such as Boethius, Geoffrey C haucer, and John Milton explore the perceptible disconnect between the ordered nature of the divine and the chaos of everyday human life in their res pective works, The Consolation of Philosophy, The Canterbury Tales, and Paradise Lost They utilize cosmological symbol and metaphor to reflect the unive rsal structure known to them to make sense of this division, grasping for a greater awareness of the p lace for human existence and meaning in an ever expanding notion of the universe. In preparation for my argument it will be helpful at this juncture to examine the cosmological models these authors examined and accepted In the medieval and ea rly modern periods, c osmology and astronomy ( what would today be categorized as hard sciences ) as well as astrology ( now a pseudo science ) were all included in a field of study known as natural philosophy' Just as in modern day scientific fields of this nature, this stretch of time is rich with competing perspectives on the nature of the universe: its origins, its measurements and its

PAGE 5

! A overall structure In stark contrast to our use of the scientific method, here evidence is required to back religious b elief. The most influential viewpoint on the structure of the universe during this period however, is based on the geocentric Ptole maic and Aristotelian models of astronomy dating as far back as the first century, and accepted all the way into the 17 th century The entire concept of this cosmological model is based on the notion of divine perfection in the form of circles The persp ective that these models offer is one of a highly ordered system of motion. Motion is afforded to a hierarchical arrangeme nt of spheres There is one sphere allotted to each of the five planets known at the time (Saturn, Jupit er, Mars, Venus, and Mercury). T he moon, the sun, and the fixed stars (celestial sphere, or firmament) each has its own sphere. Divine power resides in the outermost sphere, the sphere of the Primus Mobile (Prime Mover), furthest from Earth. Earth is made up of the elements earth, air, water, and fire. The spheres beyond Earth are made up of the element ether, often associated with their motion. T he re was some contention during this time among astronomers as to how many spheres exist in the scheme. Although "all were agreed that the planets and fixed stars together accounted for at least eight concentric orbs or heavens", a s observations of celestial movement become more detailed and accurate, more ideas emerge about the existence of a greater number of spheres to account for the sometimes inexplicable motions of celestial bodies and to maintain the evidence supporting belief principle (Gr ant 315) As with so much in this field of scientific study, such a complex and unfamiliar structure requires a visual aid to assist in understanding it The image below shows the spheres (10 in all for this particular rendering) with the Earth at t he center made up of the four elements earth, air, water, and fire (faculty.vassar.edu) Of note in this image is a space beyond the Primus Mobile.

PAGE 6

! B Natural philosophers questioned whether there were more spheres or anything at all, beyond that boundary. Th ere were many questions about the structure of the cosmos at the time which, for the purposes of this paper, do not need to be detailed, merely mentioned to elaborate on the c omplexities and variety of ideas regarding this subject which surface in the literature to be discussed. Though there were many variations of the id ea of the spheres, each reflected its culture's need for harmony and order in all things. It was imperative that the heavens remain tidy and regulated so as to reflect the perfection of God. A sphere is considered a perfect' shape which provides regularity in its motion. Since God is perfection, all he creates must adhere to divine standards of that perfection. Here lies the dilem ma: the reality lived by humans "is incessant change. .things happened on the whole' or for the most part'. .but the world studied by astronomy seemed quite different. .celestial bodies were permanent. .the more you studied them, the more perfect ly regular their movements seemed to be" (Lewis 3 4). Though the highly ordered structure of the universe reflects the "bookish character of their culture" in its systematic nature, there is a religious pursuit i n this endeavour as well (Lewis 11). Thus, the directive of astronomy within the field of natural philosophy was to reconcile everyday experience of irregularity with observations of a highly structured and ordered syste m of divinely regulated spheres; a system of spheres controlled by God. Just one of the many ways in which this attempt manifests is through literature. Being concerned with structure, order, and knowledge as learned through books, medieval writers ascribe Plato's philosophy of unity in form and content to their works In other words, the organization of their work reflects the meaning and ideology which it purports. T hey use the very format of their writi ng to physically represent their ideas. Ideas' is the operative word in

PAGE 7

! C the goal of literature from this period. The facts are not as important as the story The mode of writing for them suggests that "allegory and analogy were not for the Middle Ages a way of abstracting, but rather a way of internalizing, making personal, and thus humanizing all that was otherwis e lost outside them. .it was a process of mental incorporation" (Peck 33). These methods show the inherent richness of literary work in this time period. They reveal the spiritual and intellectual imperative contained within the frame of literature, an d the space it allows the reader and writer to inspect reality in terms of theology, thought, and observation through narrative One literary figure whose work exemplifies these character istics is Boethius (AD 480 524) Though he had many works that ca n be referenced, consideration will be given here to his Consolation of Philosophy This text's unique placement in time consists of a period between late antique and early medieval, lending a unique cultural and historical perspective. Commenting on its placement in history, Dr. Wendolyn Weber writes: The Consolation of Philosophy may be one of the best examples of a text perfectly placed and perfectly composed for longevity within a multitude of receptive possibilities. In cultural and historical terms, the text balances on a critical nexus point, a meeting place of classical and medieval, pagan and Christian worldviews. Perched on the crumbling remains of the Roman Empire, standing at the edge of the classical era and on the cusp of the medieval, it rea ches in both directions. (Weber 95) The influence of this work reaches beyond its own time period, surviving many political, cultural, spiritual, and scientific changes. One characteristic of its survival, examined in this paper, is that the cultural and historical crossroads of time in which this text is found lends itself to unique uses of cosmological symbol, metaphor, and allegory.

PAGE 8

! D The Boethian figure of Lady Philosophy is one of these particular ly important symbol s When she first appears to Boethius in his prison cell, her form is difficult for him to comprehend visually and intellectually. He says, "it was difficult to be sure of her height, for sometimes she was of average human size, while at other times she seemed to touch the very sk y with the top of her head, and when she lifted herself even higher, she pierced it and was lost to human sight" (Boethius 4). The cosmological model is key to establishing the symbolism of this character. Firstly, Lady Philosophy introduces herself as i nherently liminal. She has the ability to alter her height, allowing her to move freely in between the divine and the earthly. In addition to the capability of moving in between these spaces, she is able to penetrate the divine realm. She is able to mov e beyond the sphere of the fixed stars and into the unknown sphere of the Primus Mobile. Her growth spans all spheres and thus her character as a symbol encompasses all of space and time and all ideas about space and time. All questions, theories, belief s, and intellectual pursuits are unified under the umbrella of philosophy through her act in traveling the distance between all spheres. This act of shape shifting also reflects the notion of the time period that understanding the universe through reflect ion, contemplation, and through scientific inquiry is a means to understanding God in the order of His creation The mind as a means to divine comprehension is a continuing theme directed by Lady Philosophy. Shortly after he encounters her, she acknowled ges the philosopher's sad and distorted state of mind, pointing out that a mind filled with earthly cares cannot contemplate the questions of the universe: "so sinks the mind in deep despair/and sight grows dim ; when storms of life/inflate the weight of ea rthly care/the mind forgets its inward light/and turns in trust to the dark without" (Boethius 5 ) This statement shows

PAGE 9

! E the cultural importance of cosmological scru tiny and divine understanding by suggesting that when one loses the ability to pr obe the cosmos, one loses connection with divine knowledge. This verse also introduces the complexity of the mind as a tool for understanding the cosmos Not only does the mind hold the capability to comprehend the universe, it also has the ability to w ork against itself. It can compromise an individual's intellectual pursuit by disrupting the harmony among mind, spirit, and the divine. It can clog itself with worries of mortal being, thus distracting one from divine being. The mind, which is internal is the light. All that is external is "darkness" (Boethi us 5). This idea suggests that the universe is an internal experience. The divine is the universe, knowledge is divine, and the mind, being internal, is what is used to seek and acquire knowledge The universe is explored with the mind which can percei ve divine order, thus internalizing the "light" of divine knowledge (Boethius 5) Lady Philosophy is quick to expound upon the importance of utilizing mental faculties to investigate the world. S he reminds the prisoner, herself, and the reader of what he once had the capacity for : ! This was the man who once was free To climb the sky with zeal devout To contemplate the crimson sun The frozen fairness of the moon Astronomer onc e used in joy To comprehend and to commune With planets on their wandering ways. This man, this man sought out the source Of storms that roar and rouse the seas The spirit that rotates the world The cause that translo cates the sun

PAGE 10

! F From shining East to watery West (Boethius 5) Boethius was once able to consider the mysteries of the universe. Through his quest for knowledge, divine order came to life for him. The planets came to life. H e could "commune" with them and follow them on their path through the heavens (Boethius 5). His pursuit allowed him to traverse the incline of the spheres as a hiker climbing a mountain, the summit being the realm of the Primus Mobile, referred to in this verse as "the spirit that rotates the world" (Boethius 5). There is much emphasis on the fact that Boethius is a man, a mortal. Knowledge permits him the opportunity as a human to explore and interpret divine order in the universe. He has access to each sphere, inferred by his following of the planets, and just as Lady Philosophy, he can move freely through each sphere. Though he cannot penetrate the divine sphere of the Primus Mobile, by engaging his mental faculties he is allowed to approach it. This ability establishes lim inality within the pursuit of knowledge. It allows one to bridge the divide between divine and human, the unknown and the known. Thought in essence is a spiritual journey through the physical world, collapsing the separation between the two areas in orde r to gain divine knowledge Understanding the universe is intrinsically linked to human knowledge of the divine. Just as the cosmos is used to acquire divine knowledge, it is also used as a metaphor for knowledge itself through the use of simile In ver se III of Book I, Boethius illustrates the experience he has in regaining his sight (faculties of mind, i.e. the ability to pursue knowledge) through the assistance of Lady Philosophy's initiative in wiping his eyes with her dress. He says:

PAGE 11

! G ! The night was put to flight, the darkness fled And to my eyes their former strength returned Like when the wild west wind accumulates Black clouds and stormy darkness fills the sky The sun lies hid before the hour the stars Should shine, a nd night envelops all the earth But should the North wind forth from his Thracian cave Lash at the darkness and loose the prisoner day Out shines the sun with sudden light suffused And dazzles with its rays and blinking eye. (Boethius 7) Night and darkness are both here used as symbols for state of mind, one in which an individual embeds himself in ignorance or refusal to gain knowledge. It is essentially a state of immobility immobility of mind through paralyzing one's momentum on the path through the cosmic spheres (i.e. knowledge). The lack of momentum also freezes the movement of the spheres and darkness obscures the sun. In other words, it obscures God, divine knowledge, human underst anding and capability of obtaining that knowledge. Darkness and ambiguity swallow up the light of the stars and all of the earth, making it impossible to see the spheres beyond. They hold knowledge prisoner until one comes to his senses, letting go of e arthly concerns, liberating himself to begin again the journey of understanding. He scatters the clouds letting the sun through which illuminates the motion of the spheres, and allows him to resume his pursuit of dazzling divine knowledge (Boethius 7) Once again, the external universe metaphorizes an internal mindscape The individual has the capability to hide himself from knowledge, to hide himself from the divine truth found in the cosmic system through focusing on everyday conflicts and c oncerns of earthly nature through isolating himself from the deep connection to the universe. Human understanding is in

PAGE 12

! "H this passage equated with cosmic understanding. The mind, just as the highly ordered system of spheres, has periods of darkness and l ight, obscurity and clarity. Figuring out the divine order of the world, opening oneself up to the lessons of it permits one to comprehend the universe in terms of divine knowledge and the human's place in the divine plan in terms of the structure of the cosmos. Cosmology in The Consolation of Philosophy also serves as a means of reconciling human reality (chaos) with the divine structure or plan (order). Boethius in Book I voices his observations of disorder and general tumult in the reality of human li fe around him. In order to elucidate the matter, he makes the point that criminals are found to be innocent of crimes while the innocent are found guilty of others crimes. This reality has become such that ones who commit crimes in fact expect to be foun d innocent, while those who obey the laws expect to be found guilty of something at some point. It appears to Boethius that there is a palpable disconnect between the divine order of the world and his human experiences. Prompted by his convictions about this subject, he makes a plea to God saying, "thy power turns the moving sky/and makes the stars obey fixed laws. .thou Evening Star dost make/rise cold and clear in early night. .all things obey their ancient laws", illustrating the systematic motion provided by divine power (Boethius 15). Yet again the human mind is put into cosmic terms with his statement "bright virtue lies in dark eclipse/by clouds obscured", reiterating ignorance as a self inflicted separation from the world, this time not as an individual, but as a society at large (Boethius 16). He asks that God secure the motions of human kind as he does "with the bond thou rul'st the stars" (Boeithius 16). In defense of the divine Lady Philosophy reminds Boethius that human kind i s also a part of God's creation along with the cosmos There is no difference between the movement of

PAGE 13

! "" the heavens and his experience on Earth. She discusses this idea in terms of seasons, crops, and harvests, all of which are intricately associated with the movement of the stars and of the sun. The Lady then says, "for God has fixed the seasons' tasks/and each receives its own/no power is free to disarray/the order God has shown/should then some being precipitate/aspire to quit its place/the Lord would n ot allow success/its mutiny to grace" (Boethius 18 19). She implores Boethius to remember his belief that the universe is run on rational movement and that nothing happens irrationally because God is a rational being. Recalling that a sphere is a perfect and therefore divine shape, r ational movement is associated with circular motion. Fortune is given as a symbol of rational motion in the circularity of her wheel which reflects the circularity of celestial motion of the spheres. The philosopher discusse s Fortune in terms of the turmoil and unfairness described earlier. She is simultaneously credited with happiness and the upheaval of said happiness From the human perspective, her purpose, indeed her very essence, is chaos. Lady Philosophy, however, c ounters this argument by putting Fortune's motion in terms of the cosmic scheme: "change is her normal behavior, her true nature. .in the very act of changing she has preserved her own particular kind of constancy towards you" (Boethius 23). Fortune her self says "I never cease to play as I turn my wheel in its ever changing circle", restating the importance of circular motion (Boethius 25). The seemingly irrational motion of this cycle in the human experience is rationalized in Lady Philosoph y's statement that "the world stays rarely the same/so great its instability. .in law eternal it lies decreed/that naught from change is ever freed (Boethius 29). What this statement from the Lady achieves is placing human reality in terms of divine mo tion. What seems to be mayhem and disorder from a human perspective is in actuality an intricate, and not

PAGE 14

! "@ separate, part of the divine plan. Just as the cosmos have a very particular pattern or cycle, so, too does life on Earth, preserving God's stabilit y and divine harmony. Further connecting human experience to the divine structure of the universe, Lady Philosophy uses the grand scheme of the cosmos compared to the size of the Earth to make a point about ethical living; in particular, to make a point about the inconsequentiality of fame. It is important here to pause for a moment in order to briefly resurrect and expand on an im portant function of literature during the medieval period mentioned before in this paper According to C.S. Lewis, there is little to no mention of the cosmological structure by spiritual writers. He says that, "spiritual books are wholly practical in purpose, addressed to those who ask direction. .only the order of Grace is relevant", meaning that narrative is the main sour ce of any type of deep exploration into the meaning of the universe and its divine structure as related to human experience (Lewis 114). Understanding is essentially derived from the middle ground between science and theology that story provides. Instead of mere externalized instruction, t he reader' s mind is engaged in a narrative and encourag ed to internalize its message which is almost always spiritual/ethical in nature and is a major goal of medieval narrative. It makes sense then that Boethius would turn to literary devices such as symbol, metaphor, and allegory in order to teach important lessons and encourage profound reflection in his readers. It follows logically that he would discuss human reality in terms of cosmological structure to explore the connection among Earthly and divine realms. This example of the futility of fame as described by Lady Philosophy is no exception. Humans, according to her, seem to be under the impression that fame provides one with immortality and unchalleng ed importance. She identifies this notion as a fallacy by the very structure of the universe which includes time. Earth's time is finite and so cannot be compared

PAGE 15

! A to divine time, which is eternal. She says, "if you think of the infinite recesses of eter nity you have little cause to take pleasure in any continuation of your name. .a single second can be compared with ten thousand years. .but ten thousand years. .cannot be c ompared with unending eternity" to illustrate the futility of fame and thus n arcissis m (Boethius 42). She continues, however protracted the life of your fame, when compared with unending eternity it is shown to be not just little, but nothing at all" (Boethius 42). This explanation provided by the Lady is a guide to ethical, hum ble living. Gaining fame is a waste of time in terms of eternity. The cosmological model used in the Consolation supplies the distance required for the different experiences of time between Earth and Heaven. On Earth, finite time is the reality in which humans live. Each sphere beyond the Earth pushes farther and farther into the vast and largely unknown distances of this period. The sphere of the Primus Mobile is the farthest realm and can only be detected through the motions of the descending spheres (if the sky moves, it follows logically that there must be something initiating that motion). This position in the farthest realm grants God ample height from which to view all things. Time for God is thus: eternal, not perpetual. Stric tly speaking, He never foresees' He simply sees. Your future' is only an area, and only for us a special are a, of His infinite Now. He sees (not remembers) your yesterday's acts because yesterday is still there' for Him ; he sees (not foresees) your t omorrow 's acts because He is already in tomorrow. As a human spectator, by watching my present act, does not at all infringe its freedom, so I am none the less free to act as I choose in the future because God, in that future (His present) watches me acting. (Le wis 89) Eternity can only be experienced at a great distance from finite time. The order of the spheres is able to maintain the large gap necessary for keeping such a long distance between Earth and

PAGE 16

! "B Heaven. This distance also, as seen in the quote above from C.S. Lewis provides humans with free will Through the structure of the cosmos, the distance from humans with which it provides God (the spheres stand between them) ethical reasoning manifests itself in this literature by means of illustrating the consequences of human narcissism as fame in terms of finite time. It also manifests in an ethical God who remains as such by providing free will through the distance existent in the universe between human and divine He is "a spectator from on high of all things" (Boethius 137) Boethius also recognizes the role, if not the responsibility of human k ind to be spectators as well, n ot on the same level as God is a spectator, but on the level of viewing the world through our mental faculties that are thought to be God given. It is through observation of the movement of the spheres that Boethius propounds Aristotelian "love" cosmology. This idea of love arises from the problem of motion astronomers contend with at the time. They believed firmly in the Primu s Mobile, but still the question remained of how the sphere of the unmovable mover caused motion in all descending spheres. It is argued that the Primus Mobile is also in motion, but this has its own inherent problem. If the Primus Mobile is in motion, t here must be some other sphere beyond it causing it to move ad infinitum spiraling out of control into an endless series of moving spheres. Thus, Aristotle proposes that there is indeed a final sphere, the Primus Mobile, which does not move, but coaxes the spheres below it into motion. One might ask how Aristotle would explain the way this task is accomplished: Aristotle distinguished two immaterial substances associated with each celestial orb: a soul and a separate intelligence. The former is an integral part of its orb, whereas the latter is distinct from its orb. .it follows that as each orb moves around with uniform circular motion, its soul also moves around with it. Hence the soul of a cel estial orb is necessarily in mot ion. But th e soul of an orb is not the direct cause of the orb' s motion.

PAGE 17

! "C Mot ion arises because of the soul's intellectual desire and love for the separate intelligence that is also associated with the same orb. The direct cause of motion is therefore the separate i ntelligen ce, which causes the soul to lov e and desire it so that the soul will move its orb around and around (Grant 516 517) Boethius, reflecting the goal of medieval narrative to encourage the reader to absorb spiritual lessons describes the motion of the cosmos. In doing so, he also creates a space for science and theology to intermingle. The source of cosmic motion, as stated above, is love; love for the divine intelligence inherent in each sphere which finds its origins in God. He calls Love the r uler of the sky and explains how inexorably linked it is to unity and harmony of all things: "if Love relaxed the reins/all things that now keep peace/would wage continual war/and wreck the great machine/which unity maintains/with motions beautiful" (Boeth ius 45). Again, the activity of the spheres is closely associated with the activity of humans. The chaos that would ensue if love did not exist within the spheres to motivate them is put into terms of human warfare that exists in the absence of love on E arth. He goes on to relate law, marriage, and international agreements all human institutions and ideas, to the harmony of the spheres, and thus to love further establishing the connection between humans and the universe; between humans and t he divine All human experience in this text is interpreted through a cosmic lens and all cosmic experience is interpreted through a human lens. These two perspectives substitute one another with a frequency that suggests they are not different perspecti ves (excepting God's perspective). The form thus is unified with the content of the text. Whether it is describing an eclipse of understanding or the Love that bonds humans in friendship, literary devices such as symbol, metaphor and simile operate to r epresent the human experience as a cosmic structure and vise versa.

PAGE 18

! "D S tructure and message are also unified in this text by its reflecting the circularity with which the universe moves. As Lady Philosophy says in Book I, the beginning of all things is Go d and "the end purpose of things and the goal to which the whole of Nature is directed" is God (Boethius 19). Boethius is visited by the Lady in the beginning because he has lost his ability to be mindful of the universe and therefore has lost the ability to attain knowledge of the divine. The book ends with the philosopher regaining his mental faculties and reaching a point in his re growth, as facilitated by Lady Philosophy, where he can again have access to that knowledge of the divine. The text's int erpretation of circularity shows its awareness in reflecting the cosmos. Circularity, for this text, does not mean coming back around to the beginning and starting again. It means coming around to a point that positions you to continue moving forward, ea ch circular motion b uilding off of the previous one; a kind of spiral. This idea of building off of what came before is important to medieval literary culture. The "bookish or clerkly character" of medieval society as d escribed by C.S. Lewis is full of writers who respond culturally to manuscripts: "every writer, if he possibly can, bases himself on an earlier writer, follows an auctour as books are of such great importance to this medieval culture (Lewis 5). Taking a story and thinking about it not in terms of what it means, but what it could mean is a technique adopted by the writers of this period. Boethius is certainly an example of a writer who uses this technique His cosmology and philosophy have a clear foundation in Plato and Aristo tle. W riters of a previous age also influence subsequent ages of writers through the translation of their work. Geoffrey Chaucer, who translated Boethius' Consolation (entitled Boece ) is a perfect example. As stated b efore, medieval authors explore mea ning in the stories of writers before, often creating their own understanding of a text that is influenced by their present day culture, politics, religion, and education A translation in the medieval period,

PAGE 19

! "E therefore, is not necessarily a verbatim tran scr ipt of a work; it is more of an interpretation of that work. Chaucer's Boece is no exception In his article, "Method and Medieval Translation: The Example of Chaucer's Boece ", Tim Machan posits : Though Chaucer referred to his composition as a "transl acion of Boece de Consolacione," his actual method involved translating from what might be called the Consolation tradition .t o the Middle Ages, the Consolation was a work of moral philosophy, and then as now any intelligent and knowledgeable indivi dual had a pers onal stake in moral philosophy. medieval readers grew less interested in the form of the Consolatio than in its content and that the content of "Boece de Consolacione" came to include a variety of reworkings of and commentaries and glosse s on Boethius' thought. Chaucer clearly was interested in understanding Boethius' ideas and in exploring language. (Machan 190 91) Since Chaucer translated, or rather interpreted, Boethius' Consolation it is no surprise to find the Ptolemaic Aristotelian cosmological model functioning literarily throughout a good many of his works. His treatise on astronomy, Astrolabe, is his more scientific endeavour; his literal translation of the movements of stars and planets and discussion of the mathematics behind the exploration of the heavens Where his understanding of the cosmos particularly shines, however, is in his stories. Troilus and Criseyde, The Book of the Duchess, and The Canterbury Tales, for example, all contain astronomica l and astrological allusions to enliven their narratives through cosmological symbol and metaphor. The Canterbury Tales has the cosmological structure embedded into the very fabric of its design. In this work, the spheres of the celestial realm are refl ected in the stories through the metaphorical and allegorical uses of the planets and stars and the spheres themselves. T hey also influence the structure of the text in its hierarchy of characters and tales, all culminating in the author, Geoffrey Chaucer as the Primus Mobile of his own universe. In order to properly

PAGE 20

! "F explore these cosmological ideas, representations, and influences in The Canterbury Tales, it is important to start small; to start within the spheres of the stories and characters within th e frame tale moving on later to the overall stru cture of the tales as a whole Beginning with the small, there are s everal passages in "The Man of Law's Tale" that prove the story to be a microcosm of everyday human experience. The tale highlights a n ex istential problem discussed earlier as addressed by Boethius : there is a profoundly deep division between the order of the spheres and the harmony inherent in them, and the chaotic and random realit y observed by individuals of the earth. In this particula r tale, Chaucer uses astrology, its symbols a system of divine language as a means to unders tanding divine knowledge. Understanding that knowledge also allows the characters to gain a sense of place within the divine order of the cosmos amid utter mayhem. The orderly linguistic scheme of the stars spells out the Sultan 's fate in this tale. Having fallen in love with Custance a Christian, he seeks advice as to whether or not he should convert from Islam to Christianity in order to marry her. Our storyteller waxes cosmological, saying ". in thilke large book/which that men clepe the hevene ywriten was/with sterres, whan that he his birthe took/that he for love sholde han his deeth", foreshadowing the death of the Sultan in his decision to side with love (M LT, 190 3). In the context of plot, this sidereal language from the storyteller is portentous, warning the reader of future happenings in the story. G iving small details of the story's outcome however, does not serve the plot alone. B y likening the heavens to a book and the arrangement of the stars to that of words with prescient qualities the Man of Law d eems the Sultan's fate part of God's ultimate divine plan. These words, unlike those of Earthly books, cannot be erased or change d being in the sphere of the fixed stars the canvas of the divine Though this Sultan's fate seems to be harsh, absurd even its permanence brings forth stability to an otherwise chaotic situation That it is known places his fate within the context of a

PAGE 21

! "G greater, divine plan which replaces disorder with order. The division between human and divine experience garners attention here and is reconciled in God's terms by way of the divine language of the fixed stars To further express fate in terms of a d ivinely sidereal language, the Man of Law continues: "for in the sterres, clerer than is glas/is writen, God woot, whoso koude it rede/the deet h of everyman, withouten drede" (ML T, 194 6). Fate is here, too, concretized in astral tongue. The fate that is written in the stars however, is not exclusive to any one individual. This stellar language lends itself to a communal sentiment in its position as a memento mori ; it reminds us of our own individual mortality, but also reminds us that mortal ity is something we all share Death is thus an equalizer of humanity in its ineluctability. The language in which one's death is read also serves to bridge the divide between earthly and heavenly realms, bringing the divine meaning of life to the masses for us to interpret for ourselves. In this way, the symbols provided by the stars synchronize the disorder of human existence w ith the tidiness of the divine Along with its service to reconcile the incongruent experiences of the divine and the earthly, the divinely ordered cosmos of this particular story can function as both a literal and figurative reading For instance, in one circumstance Custance releases such dreadful cries upon the news that she must wed the Sultan that the Man of Law incorporate s his own pleas to God for her sake in his tale : "O firste moevyng with thy diurnal sweigh that hurlest al from est to occident/that natu relly wolde holde another way" (M LT, 295 98) This plea has a dual function of literal and figurative natu re, as stated above. The storyteller's words can be read as allegorical for the immovability of the Heavens through human force. The steady force comes from the sphere of the Primus Mobile (the firste moevyng'). This immovability extends to the scheme of

PAGE 22

! @H the divine plan. No matter the fervor with which an individual protests against the fate ascribed them by God, the plan cannot be altered. Just as the Heavens move strictly in one direction, so too does human life have a strict adherence to the divine plan. This reading is t he figurative interpretation. In the same vein as Boethius, Chaucer decides to deepen the meaning of place within the universe and thicken the consistency of this story by tending to interpret the human experience through a cosmol ogical lens and vise versa. This interchangeability of lenses is revealed by the simultaneously existant literal interpretation of the plea from our Man of Law. The complexity of the then believed motions of the spheres in relation to the text is as follows: The Primum Mobile revolves from east to west, completing its circle every twenty four hours. The lower sp h eres have. .a far slower revolution from west to east, which takes 36,000 years to complete. But the daily impulse of the Primum Mo bile forces them daily back, as with its wash or current, so that their actual movement is westward but at a speed retarded by their struggle to move in the opposite direction. (Lewis 102) Hence, the same resistance to divine motion experienced by the spheres under the pressure of the momentum provided by the Primus Mobile is tantamount to the defiance of humans to adhere to the divine plan when faced with their fate Try as one might to be unmovable, the motion of the universe, the divine plan, i s ultimately the victor. Here, Chaucer uses the external universe in its literal form to inform the reader of a deeper, internal resistance on the human level: the resistance of human free will. Just as the opposition to universal motion is the reality o f the spheres, according to Chaucer, refusal of a divine plan is the reality of human experience Permitting the cosmos to further express human reality our author makes use of simile to evaluate the vicissitudes of existence in terms of the ocean's tides T he Man of Law says, "but

PAGE 23

! @" litel while it lasteth, I yow heete/joye of this world, for tyme wol nat abyde/fro day to nyght it changeth as the tyde" (MLT, 1132 34) Our storyteller, through his cosmological link between human life and the changing of th e tides, reminds us that just as the tides are pulled and pushed by the moon, so too are human lives powerlessly directed by other forces. For the medieval time period in particular, they are other divine forces. The tide may be chaotic, wild, and danger ous, or it may be calm and comforting. Regardless of how hectic or tranquil, there is a reason for it and constancy in it (reminiscent of Fortunes wheel in the Consolation) The apparent disorder of this reality is in fact part of th e order of the heavenly spheres. The internal figurative universe and the external literal universe are each a part of a greater, more organized arrangement which consoles the mind that observes the chaos in everyday reality In much the same way as "The Man of L aw's Tale", "The Knight's Tale" acknowledges divine order through the internal external cosmological interchangeability of which Boethius and Chaucer are so greatly fond This tale also harbors a direct link from Chaucer to Boethius through his use of the Aristotelian love cosmology discussed earlier, though it is used within a different framework in this story. To begin, Theseus, after Arcite is killed during a battle against his brother to win Emelye, presents the Prime Mover (Firste Moevere in Middle E nglish) and celestial motion as an allegory for the ebbs and flows of human life. As in Boethius, Aristotle's Love cosmology becomes a focus of reasoning. He says: For with that faire cheyne of love he bond The fyr, the eyr, the water, and the lond In certeyn boundes, that they may nat flee. That same Prince and that Moevere, quod he, "hath stablissed in this wrecched world adoun Certeyn dayes and duracioun To al that is engendred in this place

PAGE 24

! @@ Over the whiche day they may nat pace Al mowe they yet tho dayes wel abregge (KT ln 2991 2999) ! By establishing the order of the cosmos, the order of divine creation, Theseus rationalizes Arcite's death and also his next action as a character and ruler. Love bonds the very foundation of human existence: the elements earth, air, fire, and water. It also has the power to form as seen in the above passage, the days, their duration, and thus wields control over all beings who must submit to the motions of the sun and sta rs out of necessity. Obedience to these divine movements is vital to maintaining their harmony. So vital in fact that if one should try to meddle with the regular motions of the spheres, the spheres will only shorten the days, thus making time move faste r, and thus shortening the human life span. Theseus' use of celestial motion is for a far more egocentric means than for that of Boethius' use. This ruler compares the divine structure of the cosmos and the role of the Primus Mobile to his kingdom and to himself as a ruler respectively. He wants for his people to view themselves as a "part dirryveth from his hool" for "no partie or cantel of a thyng/but of a thyng that parfit is and stable" suggesting that they are created by him and therefore subject to his every whim (KT ln 3006 3009). To be sure, his subjects are not the only ones to be dominated under his rule. His own daughter Emelye is forced to marry Arcite's brother, Palamoun Neither party is consulted, naturally. Emelye is denied the space for an opinion about her future marriage. Since Palamoun has been pursuing her for quite some time, and in fact fought Arcite for her, Theseus knows that he will not refuse the opportunity to take vows with Emelye even if given the option for refusa l Theseus does not only assume that this marriage will take place, he decrees it. His stern rule is like that of the motions of the spheres, unending and unchallengeable. His message is almost

PAGE 25

! @A threatening. It is more like a warning to his subjects to not di s rupt the order he has established. In this tale, t he celestial motions are here related to Theseus' very human position as a leader in an allegorical function to serve him, rather to serve his power, as a rational justification for his r ule and the control he wields through that ruling power. Using the heavenly spheres as an allegory for tyrannical rule and vice versa provides a n interesting arena in which to explore and personify the meaning of the cosmos and God's rule over it. Thoug h this exploration may seem heretical given the time period, authorities of the day would have welcomed the challenge. Rather, they would have welcomed it to a point. In 1272 it was decreed by university authorities in Paris ( and later spreading through out Europe ultimately effecting Galileo and his findings in 1633 ) that no one had the right to assume the responsibility of asking theological questions by employing the vehicle of natural philosophy. The only exception at the time was if "perchance a qu estion should be considered that touched both philosophy and faith, the question had to be resolved in favor of the faith" (Grant 50). If it appeared that a question was not going to be resolved in favor of the faith, the inventor of the question had to r enounce his findings and "concede that they were absolutely false" (Grant 50). Being an artistic endeavour and not officially one of natural philosophy, it is unlikely that The Canterbury Tales would have been perceived as profane against divinity partic ularly due to the fact that the text does not make an attempt to renounce faith or God, but merely offers striking social commentary on the church, its congregation, and belief. Snarky, yes. Heretical, no. Heresy aside, e xamining the structure of the s pheres as used in allegory for tyrannical rule in "The Knight's Tale" lays nice groundwork with which to ascend into the outermost sphere : the sphere of the Primus Mobile, the sphere of Geoffrey Chaucer as author. Some of the most vital participants in t his literary structure of the spheres are, of course, the storytellers; the

PAGE 26

! @B characters that bring the tales to life for the reader in their service to the author and indeed establish the author in the outermost sphere Looking down from the po sition of Chaucer the author, one can see a sphere for each character. Each serves its own purpose as a fabliau, a morality tale, a courtly romance, and so on while their movements, order, humor, and alignment are dictated by the author himself. Each ch aracter seems alive as the spheres in Aristotelian cosmology, moving about one another, harmonious in their circular progression. Chaucer, though seated securely outside the realm of their individual spheres, emanates through the language and structure of the text using the characters as catalysts for his inspiration; catalysts for movement Each story has been written by him, each character a product of his imagination. He is essentially the divinity of this universe of which he is the Creator. The tw o key characters of his creation are the Host and the Narrator. The Host's sphere is placed beyond the other characters' (save the Narrator's) spheres. He does not engage in storytelling himself, but in fact directs the others to tell their tales (all th e while being directed himself by Chaucer the author) interrupting a telling if the need arises. On the other hand, although the Narrator does engage in storytelling (albeit unsuccessfully), he is an observer of the pilgrimage. It is through his perspec tive that the reader gets to know the other characters. Thorough him it is revealed that the reader, too, has his or her own respective sphere, for it is through the Narrator s words and perspective that the reader is moved; moved to laugh, moved to specu late, moved to cringe, moved to another story, or whatever the case may be. He is essentially the embodiment of the realm of the fixed stars. He is this sphere as depicted in "The Man of Law's Tale". His language through its origins in Chaucer the auth or, is what we as

PAGE 27

! @C readers of the text interpret just as the language of the stars through its origins in the Primus Mobile, is what Custance and the Sultan interpret as readers of a heavenly text. Though the narrator's name is Chaucer, I do n ot think that the author and the character are the same person. Caroline D. Eckhardt disagrees. She employs the assumption that Chaucer the narrator is Chaucer the author, pointing to a moment in the General Prologue when the narrator miscounts the numbe r of pilgrims in the troup e The Narrator counts "nyne and twenty in a compaignye", but in the end there are 33 pilgrims in all (GP ln 24). For her there is no distinction between the author and the narrator. The narrator's miscount is the author's misc ount. As this work is un finished, she speculates that this inconsistency boils down to either numerology, more specifically the numerological meaning behind the number of tales told and the number of pilgrims, or Chaucer's sense of humor: He [Harry Bailly ] has before him a group of thirty one pilgrims. Since he does not know that the Canon's Yeoman will be join ing them later, he must be understood as proposing a total of 124 tales. By implication, the Host is playing God, is planning to direct an entire Creation, since the sum of the integers of 124 is seven, the number of universality or of Creation itself. (Eckhardt 176) Eckhardt continues to draw on this idea, finally concluding that the reason for the inconsistency is Chaucer's sense of humor. It develops the character of the Narrator (who is not distinguished from the author) as fallible and one to make hasty judgments developing a more relatable, yet unreliable narrator while it positions the Host as a Creator figure While there is no do ubt that numerology plays a key role in the literature of this time period (i.e., Dante) and indeed in Chaucer's literature, it may be that it has a smaller part to play in this instance. This theory as stated before, though not explicitly in the quote used, is based on

PAGE 28

! @D the idea that Chaucer the author and Chaucer the Narrator are the same character/person. The confusion comes out of this assumption: why would Chaucer purposefully (or accidentally, which is hard to believe) miscount the numbe r of pilgrims in his own tale? I would here l ike to further expound on the idea of Chaucer the author as Primus Mobile of the literarily cosmological system of The Canterbury Tales. The Narrator as a fallible character only serves to increasingly disting uish him from the author. Residing within the frame tale, the Narrator is only a part of the whole of the text, whereas the author stands outside of it. Chaucer the author, through distinction between him and the Narrator allots himself space beyond the characte rs and stories he has created; h e creates distance between himself and his creations. He essentially establishes himself as the Primus Mobile surrounding the universe of The Canterbury Tales Inserting his own name as a character serves a means for Chaucer to divide the character from the author instead of conflate them. Seeing Chaucer's name as a pilgrim distracts a reader of the Tales from thinking about an author function that lies beyond the parameters and momentum of the work. Just as the Primus Mobile, Chaucer the author is unknowable and is not seen by the characters in the book. They merely move in reaction to him and to each other in a manner reflecti ve of the cosmic model. Imagining each character as earlier, moving in his respecti ve spheres instead of the planets the hierarchical system of characters with the Host and Narrator in the outermost spheres, and finally Chaucer the author present as the Immoveable Mover beyond them all helps to illuminate the cosmologically reflective n ature of the text The structure of this frame tale is born out of the cosmological model. Another reason to think of the structure of The Canterbury Tales in this manner is that in the medieval period, it is important to create art not only for the eyes of man, but for the eyes of

PAGE 29

! @E God; "if no one else s aw a devotional detail, God did" (Eckhardt 179) The characters created by Chaucer are often in a social position where honesty, integrity, and ethical standards are expected of them and are rare ly ever executed appropriately by them Members of the clergy, for example, and people who work in the legal system who are supposed to be the most upstanding citizens are in reality the most corrupt ; a profound, ironic, and humorous commentary on society Through reflection on societal hypocrisy and structuring the Tales after the model of the spheres, Chaucer is creating a space for deep examination on the part of a reader and also showing God that he can see through the corruptibility of human beings. In unifying form and content, he is servicing both God and the literate community. Engaging in this same service to God and community though through a very different storytelling form, is John Milton in his Paradise Lost Though this author enters the literary scene a good amount of time after Chaucer, around 200 years after, in fact and a great deal longer than that after Boethius, he is important to an examination of the function of cosmology in literature because of the time period in which his epic poem was written His work occupies a unique position in history where scientific inquiry is beginning to shift. What is known about the universe is transformed thanks to the Copernican Revolution which moves the cosmological model from a geocentric model of the universe to a heliocentric model. Knowledge about the cosmos expands greatly in this period between the 16th and 17 th centuries, deepening our understanding of pl ace within the universe Illustrating that expansion i n Paradise Lo st, Milton employs different ideas about space and how it can be used as a literary device Space the cosmos, for this author is viewed as a geographical place, a personified figure (Chaos), and a psychological phenomenon widening the potential for use of the cosmos as symbol, metaphor, and allegory Along with the scientific

PAGE 30

! @F implications, t he spiritual implications of this shift are also numerous and are reflected in Milton's verse. He is able to blend these very different ideas together in order to g lorify the Christian g od Adding Milton into the mix helps to illustrate the comp lexity of this area of interest. This work is a fitting addition to the previous two texts discussed here in that although it is incorporating more ideas and newer ideas of the universe, the cosmos' purpose within the literature remains just as rich and just as important, arguably even more so. Before examination of the cosmos in Paradise Lost can begin a brief overview of the astronomy of Nicolaus Copernicus and what it di d for scientific study is in order. Before the 16 th century the universe was understood to be a geocentric structure. The Earth was seated at the center of all things celestial. Rotation of star s, planets, and the sun occurred around it. Copernicus, w ith the publication of his De revolutionibus orbium coelestium in 1543, uprooted the foundation of what was then modern astronomy with a heliocentric model of the universe. The sun usurped Earth's position and was placed at the center with the planets and stars, Earth among them, rotating around it : the solar system This idea displaced Earth and humans from the center of divine rotation of the spheres and instead included us in that rotation. The diagrams below show the shift from pre Copernican /Aristot elian cosmos to post Copernican cosmos:

PAGE 31

! @G Circular motion is still in play for the Copernican model, the only change being the placement of the Earth and sun. Though it seems like a small and logical step toward cosmological und erstanding, the Ptolemaic model is, at this point in history, the dominant model and has been for 1500 years. A slight shift in this case causes a huge wave and Copernicus' shift in cosmological thinking kick started the scientific revolution of the 16 th century. From this heliocentric model, the work by Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler helped to clarify the movement of the stars and the orbital motion of the planets (Kepler's Three Laws of Planetary Motion) effectively eradicating the Ptolemaic Aristote lian model and its celestial spheres for good Unlike the medieval period, the post revolution scientific challenge is found to not be reconciling everyday chaos with divine order, but in stead reconciling the descriptions of the universe and creation in t h e Bible with the observations of a universe that vastly differs from those descriptions Planets do not move in a perfect circle, the Earth is not at the center of God' s creation which leaves room to question his perfection: if God is perfection and his creations are perfect because they are created by him, what does the reality of "imperfections" observed in the cosmos say about perfect divinity? An expanded idea of the universe "may arouse terror, o r bewilderment or vague reverie" causing the se perturbing questions to arise (Lewis 99). The cosmos is much larger and uncertain here than in the medieval period where the spheres of the old present us with an object in which the mind can rest, overwhelming in its greatness but satisfying in its h armony" (Lewis 99). This new, vastly expanded notion of space is anxiety producing for a public that is accustomed to an orderly worldview. Expanding the idea of space also expands the opportunities for its literary usage. These changes in cosmological thought leave a great amount of material as fodder for a writer like John Milton who takes it upon himself to "assert Eternal Providence/and justify the ways of God to

PAGE 32

! AH men" in an effort to resolve the division between observation and scripture (Milton I; 25 26). They allow him to amalgamate the old ideas with the new and create exciting possibilities for the design of the cosmos, and eventually, its origins Not seen in the Consolation or in the Tales t he creation of the universe is of particular impor tance to Paradise Lost Milton uses different characters to introduce different ideas about creation and the universe. In Book III, Uriel addresses this issue in surprisingly theoretically modern terms. He says "I saw when at his Word the formless mass / this world's material mold, came to a heap" (Milton III; 708 9). These lines suggest that the universe was not created out of nothing. There was something already existent from which God brought forth the vast expanse of space. Although these ideas ha ve been debated for some time at this point in scientific history, they have not yet been addressed in quite the same way through narrative. This notion of something out of something simultaneously challenges common belief of the time and smoothes over an y conflict. For example, o ne may be tempted to think that Milton is suggesting that God was not the only thing in existence at the time of creation (he created something out of something instead of something out of nothing). This suggestion wo uld certainly be controversial in his time. In Biblical terms, nothing precedes God. However, in defense of the omnipotence of God, Milton dates Heaven's creation before the time of the universe and sets its location outside of the universe (reminiscent of the position of the Primus Mobile) Heaven is a separate creation altogether, which has allowed for Uriel to be witness to the creation of the universe with Earth in it. What Milton retains in his idea of the origin of the universe is the importance of humankind as God's creation. The universe, in this case, is essentially created for human

PAGE 33

! A" existence to be possible. In the chaotic explosion of creation, God creates a fully functional space which is conducive to human lif e: Confusion he ard His voice and Wild uproar stood ruled, s tood Vast Infinitude confined till at Hi s second bidding darkness fled light shone, and order from disorder sprung (Milton III 710 13). Having a 1 500 year old cosmological model that positions humans at the center of god's creation challenged by a model that depicts the sun as the center of God's creation can be disorienting both physically and spiritually. Milton thus cleverly employs multiple ideas at once in order to soothe those spiritual fears. God can still confine infinity and does in fact create and maintain order. The shift in cosmological thinking, in other words, does not change God's divinity, control, or love for the human race. God's divine authority is also maintained through the use of Uriel' s description of the rift between how human beings can physically view or comprehend space and how God and the Heavenl y beings can view it. He says this ethereal quin tessence of Heav'n flew upward spirited with various forms that rolled orbicular and tu rned to stars numberless, as thou seest, and how they mov e (Milton III; 716 19). Being situated within the universe that God has just created, human beings' perception of it is a seemingly infinite space. Their size is miniscule compared to the size of th e physical universe. The inability to see boundaries from the inside creates the illusion of infinity and places God at the helm of creation in the unreachable distance This sentiment is echoed in Adam's questioning of cre ation:

PAGE 34

! A@ When I behold this good ly frame, this world of heav'n and earth consisting and compute their magnitude s, this earth a spot, a grain an ato m with the firmament compared and all her num bered stars that seem to roll spaces incomprehensible" (Milton VIII; 15 20). He is expressing the perception of someone looking out from the interior. God is positioned outside of the human universe (realm) and can see its boundaries while the human eye cannot see the boundaries of the universe, effectively blending older cosmology, Ptolemaic and Aristotelian specifically, with the new Copernican view The dual perspectives of the universe are relative to the observer's position in relation to the universe. Although these new ideas of spa cial surroundings may seem chaotic, there is a purpos e, a divine order in all things still reminiscent of the old cosmology : He [Milton] invented a most ingenious device for retaining the old glories of the builded and finite universe yet also exp r essing the new consciousness of space. He enclosed h is cosmos in a spherical envelope from which all could be light and order, and hung it from the floor of Heaven. Outside that, he had Chaos, the infinite abyss' the unessential Night' where length, breadth and highth And time and place are lost. (Lewis 100) This divine order, as pointed to in Milton by C.S. Lewis above clearly has its roots in Aristotelian cosmology. Milton's God made sure that "swift to their several quarters hasted then / the cumbrous elements, earth, flood, air, fire" (Milton ) God has already planned out a proper place for everything, placing him in the position of an architect who must place everything just so in order to ensure safety of a structure's inhabitants, and also to giv e the structure a distinctive look that is distinctly his. God is leaving his particular mark on the structure of space by

PAGE 35

! AA "partitioning and delimitingspace into more intelligible placesBoundaries, limi ts and enclosures are essential to facilitate knowl edge and growth in god's creatures" (Theis 4). This partitioning and ordering harkens back to the structure of the celestial spheres. Every celestial body had its place in the heavens, instituting harmony in creation and in the motions of the stars. Tha t the spaces created are more intelligible also speaks to Aristotle's model in that each sphere had its own intelligence whose movements were encouraged by its love of the Creator. It is "a complex task to enclose spaces in a way that makes the intelligib le places yet still encourages the potential for growth and change found in larger, chaotic spaces" (Theis 5). God is the only one who can possibly accomplish this task, therefore there must be a God and order must be maintained. Not only are the spaces created more intelligible, as in Aristotelian cosmology, they are also not vacuous. The universe in Paradise Lost has substance and density. The elements of earth, wind, fire, and air that are the makeup of the universe exploded outward in th e creation from Chaos. It is described as a "fluid mass" through which God pushed "vital warmth" (Milton VII; 236 37). Chaos is essentially the substance from which the universe was made surprisingly similar to the modern day Big Bang Theory It was al ready a prominent part of the heavenly cosmos pre human universe, and within its energy and volatility lies its creative capacity.

PAGE 36

! AB The universe's creation out of Chaos also functions as a symbol for reconciling the inconsistencies between th e Biblical universe and human observation It creates a cycle of order and chaos, beginning and ending with order. To clarify, God, or divinity precedes chaos and in fact imposes order on it through the creation of Earth and man order, disorder, order. Human experience of existence seems chaotic, but has a divine origin; it has its roots in divine structure Positioning Chaos as a vital link in a divine ly organized chain of order and disorder smoothes out the irregularities in the scripture vs. human observation debacle addressing the spiritual fears of society at large as mentioned earlier. Milton's character, Raphael, also serves this same purpose. In Book VIII, he describes to Adam the cosmos in terms of human observation and the fallib ility of human knowledge. He says first: To ask or search I blame thee not for heav'n Is as the book of God before thee set .the Great Architect Did wisely to conceal and not divulge His secrets to be scanned by them who ought Rather admire (Milton VI II; 66 75) Humans, according to Raphael, are an innately curious species. They were in fact created by God to be as such. However, they are not permitted the capacity to comprehend the divine plan. This plan is as concealed as the sphere of the Primus Mobile. This point highlights yet another major difference between Paradise Lost and the previous two works discussed. For both The Consolation of Philosophy and The Canterbury Tales, gaining knowledge about the universe leads you closer to, though never arriving at, divine knowledge. It is a pathway to understanding the mind of God and His divine plan.

PAGE 37

! AC With Milton's work, God's mind is so unknowable to the human race that any attempt to understand their surroundings is laughable. Raphael conveys this idea with: .If they list to try Conjecture He his fabric of the heav'ns Hath left to their disputes perhaps to move His laughter at their quaint opinions wide Hereafter when they come to model heav'n And calculate the stars, h ow they will wield The mighty frame, how build, unbuild, contrive To save appearances, how grid the sp h ere With centric and eccentric scribbled o'er Cycle and epicycle, orb in orb. (Milton VIII; 75 84) Seen in this passage are very different ideas of the cosmos. Orbs and spheres (older cosmology) are pitted against cycles and epicycles (newer cosmology). Both ideas, however, are placed on a level field through this idea of the unattainable quality of divine knowledge. Though astronomical endeav ours are an expression of that inherent human curiosity touched on previously by Raphael, astronomers are specifically ridiculed by him as the builders of cosmological models that have no foundation in divine knowledge. Any model developed by a human ther efore lacks credibility and makes a mockery of the divine plan. Human observation is thus innately flawed. No matter what we humans see or expe rience for ourselves, the Biblical universe reigns supreme as it is the word and work of God which is unknowabl e to the mortal world. Humans can rest assured that divine order rules all in face of the chaos of human reality. Although the reality of the universe of Paradise Lost is unknowable to humans, the expansion of the very concept of space is reflected in how it is utilized outside of its

PAGE 38

! AD geographical characteristic. In other words, the universe is not only a geographical element in which life can cultivate, it is also a psychological phenomena. Satan creates a space for Hell within himself which is separ ate from the physical place of Hell where he is banished to from Heaven. He laments, "horror and doubt distract / his troubled thou ghts and from the bottom stir / t he Hell within him, for within him Hell / he brings and round about him, nor fro m Hell / one step no more than from himself can fly / by change of place" (Milton IV; 18 22). The space of Hell within him is a place from which he cannot escape It is all consuming. Though he is away from the physical location of Hell, the suffering i s so much his that even distance cannot offer him respite. His rebellion has corrupted him internally and so he must carry the space of Hell within him at all times. Of great importance to this mental space of Hell within Satan's form is that it has the capacity to stretch infinitely. He says, "now conscience wakes despair / that slumbered, wakes the bitter memory / of what he was, what is, and what must be / worse: of worse deeds, worse suffering must ensue" (Milton IV; 23 26). With each worse deed th at he engages in, the space within him expands. It is a space that he can go farther into, but can never navigate a way out of. Satan's mind is more powerful than what he seems able to control. It is able to create a psychological space which precludes boundaries it is essentially infinite. The interior, psychological Hell he experiences has the very real potential to grow larger than the Hell in which he physically lives. The mind in this case is a reflection of how advances in cosmological modeling effect its symbolic uses in literature Having an expanding concept of the universe widens the variety of ways the cosmos is expressed through symbol and metaphor within a text The universe's appearance within works of literature reflects our continual intrigue with its existence and what meaning we can gain about our own existence from our knowledge of it. Modern cosmology has expanded such that our art grapples with what it means to exist within

PAGE 39

! AE the enormity of infinity. Older cosmologies of Ptolemy and Aristotle emerge slightly differently in literature as a means to reconcile the chaos of human experience with the divinely ordered structure of the cosmic spheres Later on with the Copernican model of the universe, the cosmos manifests in literature as symbol in order to quell the existential fears of disconnect between divinity and humanity. Some of the most perceptive and probing expressions of these ideas come from Boethius, Geoffrey Chaucer, and John Milton. Their works, as explored in this paper are charged with the directive of making sense of this perceived disconnect in order to gain a better understanding of the meaning of human existence within an ever expanding concept of the cosmos.

PAGE 40

! AF Works Cited Aristotelian Spheres Image 1. 10 Mar 2013. http://faculty.vassar.edu/brvannor/Asia350/ptolemy.html Aristotle's Universe. Image 2. 10 Mar 2013. http://starchild.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/StarChild/universe_level2/cosmology.html "Aristotelian Universe". faculty.vassar.edu. n.d. n.p. Web. 21 Mar 2013. Boethius The Consolation of Philosophy Trans. V.E, Watts. New York: Penguin, 1999. Print Chaucer, Geoffrey. "General Prologue" (GP). The Riverside Chaucer. Ed. Larry D. Benson. New York: Oxford, 2008. 23 36. Print. Chaucer, Geoffrey. "The Knight's Tale" (KT). The Riverside Chaucer. Ed. Larry D. Benson. New York: Oxford, 2008. 37 66. Print. Chaucer, Geoffrey. "The Man of Law's Tale" (MOL). The Riverside Chaucer. Ed. Larry D. Benson. New York: Oxford, 2008.89 104. Print. Eckhardt, Caroli ne D. "The Number of Chaucer's Pilgrim's". Essays in the Numerical Criticism of Medieval Literature Lewisburg. Bucknell, 1980. Print. Grant, Edward. Planets, Stars, & Orbs: The Medieval Cosmos, 1200 1687 New York: Cambridge, 1996. Pri nt. Lewis, C.S. The Discarded Image New York: Cambrige, 1964. Print. Machan, Tim. "Editorial Methods and Medieval Translations: The Example of Chaucer's Boece ". Studies in Bibliography 41 (1988): 188 19. JStor. Web. 21 Apr. 2013. Milton, John. Paradis e Lost ed. Gordon Teskey. New York: Norton, 2005. Milton's Cosmology Image 4 10 Mar. 2013 < http://images.search.yahoo.com/images/>

PAGE 41

! AG The Copernican Universe Image 3 10 Mar. 2013 http://starchild.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/StarChild/universe_level2/cosmology.html Theis, Jeffrey S. "Milton's Principles of Architecture". English Literary R enaissance 35.1 (2005): 102 22. Weber, Wendolyn. "Translation Choices and Cultural Topographies: The Uses of Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy in the Dutch Renaissance". Carmina Philosophiae. 21 (2012): 95 111. Web. 26 Apr. 2013.