歐美研究季刊第46卷第1期 - page 28

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essentially tasteless; moreover, fame typically comes “randomly,
for little or no reason” (74).
34
Arbitrariness aside, another aspect
that defines fame is its paltry finiteness: when contrasted with “the
infinite stretch of the eons,” the duration of any fame is nothing
(2008: 55).
35
Boethius’s pessimistic tone undoubtedly informs the
House of Fame
, wherein Chaucer hints that whether a work will be
remembered by posterity might hinge only on chance. For both
Boethius and Chaucer, earthly affairs pale into insignificance once
we are allowed to anticipate bliss in the heavenly kingdom.
In this religious climate, Chaucer was undoubtedly aware of
the Christian depreciation of secular fame, which is vividly
illustrated by his depiction of the two groups pleading for
obscurity before Fame. Among the nine batches of people who
come forward to Fame, the fourth and fifth groups are equally
unassuming. Both lots opt out of the pursuit of secular glory, but
are treated in diametrically opposite ways by the fickle Fame. What
is intriguing here is that when they express their indifference to
worldly fame, both groups refer to God’s love as their only cause:
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In some ways, Boethian sentiment over the illusory and arbitrary nature of
worldly fame is prefigured by Euripides, who claims, “Those who have fame by
truth I congratulate; but those by falsehoods, I will not consider that they have,
except by chance to seem wise”
(1994: 43).
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“Let him who hopes for fame consider / the extent of the starry skies / arching
over our small planet. / Can he think of shouting his name / and proclaiming his
pride into the icy / distances looming above him? / Does he rather wish to free /
his neck from mortality's yoke? / Will his name find a home in the mouths of
strangers, / and will death be at all impressed / that welcomes alike the proud
and the humble? / Where are Fabricius’ bones / or those of Brutus or stern Cato?
/ They are reduced now, / those glorious names, to anecdotes. / What can we
know of the dead? / And do you suppose you won’t be forgotten / or that fame
will keep you alive / on the lips of men for even a moment? / Your last day will
take / even this hope from your unclenching / hand in a second death”
(Boethius,
2008: 55-56) Boethius’s foregrounding of the emptiness of temporal life
obviously makes an imprint on the ending of Chaucer’s
Troilus and Criseyde
,
where when the slain Troilus is lifted to the heaven and overlooks the turmoil
below, it dawns on him that all human pursuits, whether of love, fame, wealth,
or anything else, are impolitic and vain.
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