The fall of Lucifer was a popular topic in medieval literature and art, as both this 14th century painting by an artist now known only as the Master of the Rebel Angels and this excerpt from Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, written in the last decades of the 14th century, attest. Chaucer’s lilting original from “The Monk’s Tale” appears on top; J.U. Nicholson’s modernized version, from Great Books of the Western World (ed. Robert Maynard Hutchins [Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1952]), appears beneath.

Original Version

At Lucifer, though he an angel were,
And nat a man, at him I wol biginne;
For, thogh fortune may non angel dere,
From heigh degree yet fel he for his sinne
Doun in-to helle, wher he yet is inne.
O Lucifer! Brightest of angels alle,
Now artow Sathanas, that maist nat twinne
Out of miserie, in which that thou art falle.

Modern Version

With Lucifer, though he was angel fair
And not a man, with him will I begin;
For though Fortune may not an angel dare,
From high degree yet fell he for his sin
Down into Hell, and he lies yet therein.
O Lucifer, brightest of angels all,
Now art thou Satan, and thou may’st not win
From misery wherein thou far did’st fall!