The reule of seint Maure or of seint Beneit,
By-cause that it was old and som-del streit,—
This ilke Monk leet olde thynges pace,
And heeld after the newe world the space.
(= The Benedictine rule, and the rule of St Maurus / Because it was old, and somewhat restrictive / This same Monk let old things pass away / And followed the customs of the modern world.)
The Benedictine Rule (devised by St. Benedict, c.480-c.547) established the tradition of Western monasticism.
His disciple St. Maurus (‘seint Maure’) introduced it to France, from whence it came to England.
Chaucer seems to give us a plausible reason for the Monk not following it— it was old and out of date. Is this really good enough? Perhaps Chaucer the pilgrim is taken in by the Monk’s new ways of living, but there’s definitely at least moderate satire coming from Chaucer the poet. What is a life of monasticism without the Benedictine rule?
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