The beauty of this construct lies, as it does at the epi-center of the "Pardoner's Tale," in the word that is not there, the Middle English wummon with "man" within it, just as Mary held Christ within her womb (see Was signe of thin unwemmed
maidenhede , with unwemmed
, "unstained," punned as "one [word] woman" that was "made in Hele," or Hellas, and recalling the central word resygne.
Nothing, for she remains 'unwemmed
', as Shoaf puts it (p.
Cecilia and Valerian are now committed, as the angel tells them, to keep the crowns they have just been given "'with body clene and with unwemmed
[spotless, undefiled] thought'" (225-6).
Through the word "unwemmed
" (unstained, unadulterated), Saint Cecile is associated with the Virgin Mary, who "nobledest so ferforth oure nature" and purified the "contagioun" of the nun's body (137, 47, 40).
(21.) Shoaf sees Custance as "always and everywhere 'unwemmed
': unchanged, unmarked, unaltered, proper:' her movement always checked and predictable, because the narrator-Man of Law is constructed to be "afraid of poetry, its flows and its flaws" (1990, 297).
But, in Chaucer's original poetic argument, the teller's frequent invocations of God's ordering of human events suggest, rather, a distinct ambition to circumvent the limit of human knowing and to make the world a safer place for his apparently "unwemmed" heroine (924).
But blisful Marie heelp hire right anon; For with her struglyng wel and myghtily The theef fil over bord al sodeynly, And in the see he dreynte for vengeance; And thus hath Crist unwemmed kept Custance.