This book is about the philosophic, linguistic, and moral implications of the juxtaposition between the actual road to a shrine and the potential pavement to the grace it figures. The putative power to transform the pilgrim's path from vernal mud to eternal gold figures the power of grace to transform Canterbury into heaven, and the pilgrims' hard pedestrian step into a soul's aery float. The magical force figures the creative logos which reifies a divine idea into an organization of things and signs and the writer's transformation of his thought into word and into the structure of story. Most important for this study, it figures the love which makes new life out of old.
Chaucer is a love poet; that is, Chaucer conceives of love as the philosophic principle behind the ontological fact of creation. Man's art, like the road built across the hills of Kent, is a figure of the love that mediates man's will. Figures of love inform nature, poetry, and books. They link worlds of things with worlds of deeds and thoughts. At the beginning of the pilgrimage road is the worldly London whose Tabard Inn is a sign of worldly appetite; at its terminus is the spiritual Canterbury with its shrine of Thomas à Becket. The path that links the two is a way to leave and return, an escape path from the city of sin and a return route to the haven of God's presence. It is Saint Cecile's "wey to blinde," a track of restoration of spirit to its pristine purity.