THE SECOND NUN'S TALE
A MODERN ADAPTATION OF THE SECOND NUN'S TALE FROM CHAUCER'S CANTERBURY TALES
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THE SECOND NUN'S PROLOGUE
At this point, though the gambling
"But you must wait," the nun said. "There's a list
With just one person still, as I believe."
"That person will give way, if I insist,"
The second nun replied. "You can just leave
It all to me. I know you can't conceive
Of being rude in God's own interest, though
The tale may save some souls, as well you know."
The farmer finished; the bartender then said,
"We have one more to tell a tale, then all
The telling's done, and we may move ahead
To judge or not the best, as is my call."
"But wait!" the second nun said. "A favor small
I have to ask, for those who've come in late.
We, too, might have some tales to relate."
"That may be," the bartender replied.
"But we don't have all night. We could go on
Forever as more gamblers come inside.
So let's just do what we've agreed upon --
One more tale, and then the telling's done.
It's your turn," he concluded, turning to
The buyer. "Now the telling ends with you."
"But wait!" again the nun said. "First let's see
Whether we agree with what you say.
Let's vote instead of acting by decree,
And settle this the democratic way!"
"Here! Here!" some said, just newly come from play,
Not knowing much of what was going on,
But hearing words they all agreed upon.
"OK, OK," the bartender agreed.
"How many wish to hear this woman's tale?"
A lot of hands shot up, so that indeed
It seemed the loud protester would prevail.
"And how many not?" It seemed that side would fail,
Since what had been a group was now a crowd,
Becoming swiftly boisterous and loud.
"Tell your tale and be damned!" he cried,
Then realized that she was a nun and blushed.
"I'm sorry, Sister," he apologized,
Seeing that the bar was suddenly hushed.
The second nun just glared, her enemy crushed.
"I'll tell my tale now," she then intoned.
The bartender sat down again and groaned.
THE SECOND NUN'S TALE
This tale is true. It happened to a
"God forgive you!" she said to them, "as I
Forgive you and will pray for you. Your sin
Will be washed clean by love, and by and by
We'll meet in Heaven, spiritual kin
Joined by faith in God and love within.
For the Father and the Son I gladly die,
And here and now forgive you for your lie."
At this they wept, and some tried to recant,
But they were quickly slain upon the spot.
A few, possessed by fear, began to rant
Against the nun, repeating what was not,
And cursed her that they might improve their lot.
But when their captors said that they must spit
On her, they could not stomach it.
So they as well were slain, and then the nun
Was dragged before a camera and once more
Asked if she'd converted anyone,
Which she again denied. Forced to the floor,
She said she now knew what her life was for,
And thanked God for the chance, a piece of dust,
To die for Him, as now she knew she must.
She asked God to forgive those who had raped
And tortured her, and those who even now
Prepared her for beheading, as they draped
A hood over her head, and had her bow
Down to them, and like a willing cow
Stretch her neck that they might easily
Find the place where they might set her free.
"Forgive them," then she prayed, just as the knife
Entered her thin neck with a great stroke.
But instead of taking her poor life,
As though it found a rod of steel, it broke,
Its shattered pieces hot and veiled in smoke.
"Allah be merciful!" they cried in fear,
Leaping away, afraid of coming near.
Cecelia bled profusely from her neck,
Lying on the ground in shock and pain.
She used her shirt to keep the blood in check,
Pressing hard upon the open vein
Until she could somehow advantage gain.
Eventually, the bleeding slowed. She lay
There unattended, and began to pray.
"Dear Lord," she said. "I do not know what You
Intended by this miracle, but please
Give me strength that somehow I might do
Your will." And then she got up on her knees
Slowly, and by delicate degrees.
Seeing which, her torturers soon fled,
Not knowing if she was alive or dead.
The camera was still rolling as she knelt
In front of it, as if to it she prayed,
And when she raised her head, the bloody welt
On both sides of her neck was well displayed,
Deep chasm into which a mouse might wade.
Next door three jihadists watched the screen
Rapt with wonder at what they had seen.
"Forgive them, Lord," she pleaded once again.
"They know not what they do. Perhaps someday
All people will know love, and in Your name
Be good to one another. This I pray."
And then she died, and out of camera lay.
The three jihadists watching were amazed
At the miracle on which they gazed.
They came into the room as to a shrine,
As did the shepherds on a Christmas night,
Looking on what happened as a sign
Of something that did all their deeds indict,
Something more than which belief was right.
And then they prayed as Muslims pray, but to
A God the nun Cecelia also knew.
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