f. 161 Merciless Beauty can probably be read on different levels, which would not be unusual for a poem. On the face of it, the three parts, like the panels of a triptych, describe the intense love of the poet for a woman, his coming to terms with her lack of mercy, and finally his repudiation of love itself. Because of this repudiation of Love – note the capitalisation – it has been assumed to be a late work, composed when Chaucer was about fifty years old. But if Chaucer had transferred his religious allegiance to a goddess whose feet stand on the Earth and whose head touches the heavens, as in Boethius's The Consolation of Philosophy and in his own House of Fame, and one who, like the goddess in the House of Fame, has no sense of justice or mercy, just like nature, but only an intense beauty, just like nature, and who has control over his life and death, just like nature, then perhaps Love, the God of Love, whom Chaucer may have recognised from the Roman de la rose as a parody of the Christian God, is the one who has been repudiated by Chaucer, not love with a small l.
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