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REVIEWS ]. C. EADE. TheForgottenSky: A Guide toAstrology inEnglishLiterature. Oxford and New York: Clarendon Press, Oxford University Press, 1984. Pp. xiii, 230. $34.50. Medieval and Renaissance authors assumed that their audiences possessed a knowledge of astronomy, astrology, and literary tradition. Formerly this assumption was warranted, but in today's atmosphere of specialization only a few possess expertise in all three areas. ]. C. Eade is one of these few. The Forgotten Sky, which he modestly calls a "handbook," is divided into three sections: a compendium of simple astronomy, an explanation of the mysteries of astrology, and the applica­ tion of both to passages selected from Chaucer and his successors. Eade, whose home base is the Humanities Research Centre of the Australian National University, begins with a section of pre-Copernican astronomical truisms known to most literate people in both the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. These facts, and they are facts, are based on observations made with the naked eye. For instance, one does not need a telescope to learn that the courses of the stars are regular and that the place of the planets can be observed and predicted. The astronomy chapters form a useful prelude to the discussion of astrology, defining azimuth, conjunc­ tion, declination, ecliptic, equinox, latitude, longitude, meridian, oblique ascension, right ascension, tropic, and zodiac. These terms, of course, haverelationships to each other, and the relationships are custom­ arily expressed mathematically. Unlike some scholars of literature, Eade shows no fear of mathematics. He lucidly describes the differences of, say, right ascension from longitude or declination from latitude, and for those who wish to delve further he provides an appendix with the relevant trigonometric equations. Astrology, as Eade points out, is a bogus science. Its basic tenets are illogical, without factual foundation. But given the basic false premises, what follows is entirely rational and so schematic that he who discusses it without proper grounding is in jeopardy of revealing his own lack of expertise. Astrology may be compared to the deepest mysteries of a ritualistic lodge, such as the Loyal and Beneficent Order of Whatever, which exists only to perpetuate its own mysteries and exclude those not conversant with them. Astrology takes off from astronomy: where astron­ omy tells us the past and future positions of celestial bodies, astrology arbitrarily gives them anthromorphic properties on a sliding scale which alters the power of the heavenly bodies as they move from place to place. 181 STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER The various localities of celestial bodies allegedly affect human activity in complex and mysterious ways known only to the competent astrologer. Fortunatelyfor the reader, Eade not only explains astrology but also defines its terms as thoroughly as he does those of astronomy. The astrological definitions include accidental, alchocoden, almuten, antiscion, aspect, cusp, dignity, dragon's head, dragon's tail, essential, exaltation, face, gaudium, horoscope, house, hyleg, lord, mansion, orb, partile, platic, term, and triplicity. An almost infinite number of conditions may be postulated withseven planets believed tobe circling the earth and each at a given time having a varying spatial relationship to the earth and to each of the others. The third section, which is the longest and presumably the most inter­ esting to readers of Studies in the Age ofChaucer, is the application of astronomy and especially astrology to selected literary texts. The first third of this section is devoted to the many astrological passages found in Chaucer. Giving full credit to earlier scholars, Eade analyzes each refer­ ence, casts a horoscope when appropriate, and properly relates the astro­ logical balance thus received to the literary quality ofthe text. This is very valuable information indeed. Eade then applies the same treatment to selections from Lydgate;James I ofScotland;theauthor of TheFlowerand theLeaf, Blind Harry, the minstrel;John Skelton; Sir David Lindsay; John Bellenden, of TheBannatyne Manuscript; GavinDouglas;Robert Greene; Herbert Spenser; Shakespeare;John Webster;John Fletcher; Philip Mas­ singer; John Wilson, the Restoration dramatist; Dryden; Congreve; Hogarth; and Sterne. Occasionally I question Eade's conclusions. In spite of his excellent argument, it still seems hard to believe that in the Prologue to The Man of Law's Tale (lines 1-14) Chaucer confuses the artificial and azimuthal...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 181-183
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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