Chaucer's Retraction  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Epilogue to the Decameron by Boccaccio

Chaucer's Retraction is the final section of The Canterbury Tales. It is written as an apology, where Chaucer asks for forgiveness for the vulgar and unworthy parts of this and other past works, and seeks absolution for his sins.

Wherfore I biseke yow mekely, for the mercy
Of God, that ye preye for me that crist have
Mercy on me and foryeve me my giltes;/ and
Namely of my translacions and enditynges of
Worldly vanitees, the whiche I revoke in
My retracciouns:/ as is the book of Troilus;
the book also of Fame; the book of
The xxv. Ladies; the book of the duchesse;
The book of seint valentynes day of the parlement
of briddes; the tales of counterbury,
Thilke that sownen into synne;/ the book of the
Leoun; and many another book.

It is not clear whether these are sincere declarations of remorse on Chaucer's part, a continuation of the theme of penitence from the Parson's Tale or simply a way to advertise the rest of his works. It is not even certain if the retraction was an integral part of the Canterbury Tales or if it was the equivalent of a death bed confession which became attached to this his most popular work.

Retractions, often called palinodes, were common in works of this era and the bawdy nature of some of Chaucer's works possibly needed forgiveness. The book of the Leoun seems to be an unknown work by Chaucer. With the retraction he manages to call an end and complete what is otherwise regarded as an unfinished work. It concludes as a prayer:

That thanke I oure lord Jhesu Crist
and his blisful mooder, and alle the seintes of hevene,
bisekynge hem that they from hennes forth unto my lyves ende
sende me grace to biwayle my giltes,
and to studie to the salvacioun of my soule,
and graunte me grace of verray penitence, confessioun and satisfaccioun
to doon in this present lyf,
thurgh the benigne grace of hym that is kyng of kynges and preest over alle preestes,
that boghte us with the precious blood of his herte;
so that is may been oon of hem at the day of doom that shulle be saved.
Qui cum patre et spiritu sancto vivit et regnat deus per omnia secula. Amen.

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