Thomas Usk, The Testament of Love: Summary
Summary of The Testament of Love
(from Stephen Medcalf , pp. 229-31)
Usk dedicates the book to Margaret . . . by the prayer formed in the initial letters of its chapters, MARGARETE OF VIRTW HAVE MERCI ON THIN VSK. From this point on I shall include in my chapter-references to the Testament these initials, since I have found this practice useful in recalling the book's sequence of thought, which is as follows:
A formal apologia for the book, and especially for writing in English.
Usk in prison laments the absence of Margaret,
and is visited by the lady Love,
to whom he confesses in an allegory of a ship voyage how she showed him the
pearl Margaret: but two difficulties destroy his hopes of Margaret, first false
slanders and secondly her preciousness compared with his unworthiness.
Love assures him of her help.
Usk outlines the slanders against him in a fairly literal account of his dealings with Northampton.
Love assures him that these slanders are no barrier between himself and Margaret.
As for his unworthiness, Love assures him of the dignity of man,
and of the value of ill fortune in discriminating virtue and truth.
Usk outlines the book to come, and speaks of a future book in which he will praise Margaret.
Love sings of her (i.e., Love's) rejection in the Church and the world.
She and Usk together praise women and lament the faithlessness of men.
Usk's early life is analysed as an attempt to achieve love by means of riches, dignities,
power, and renown, all four of which Love shows to be external and false means.
Love exalts the harmony of heaven as the lover's true end, and assures Usk that
he is now in the true way to it,
which is by virtue and reason,
of which Margaret is the source.
Through Margaret comes good, which is a participation in God, while evil is only negation.
Usk's fortunes are retold in a parable (based on Proverbs) of a lover led astray by "fayned
love" but delivered.
The three books of the Testament are shown by Usk to correspond to the three
ages of the world, Error, Grace, and Joy, and the subject of the whole book to be
involved in other triads, such as Law, Philosophy, and Love.
Love promises Usk that he will be rewarded for his good service, which she shows
to be good acts freely chosen and performed with a good heart.
She shows how the will is free in relation to necessity and eternity.
In the image of a tree, the interdependence of free will, love and grace is shown, and
how love is its own reward. The lady Love enters Usk's heart.
Usk recapitulates in his own voice what love has taught him about the workings
of grace and will in love, truth, and righteousness.
Go To Thomas Usk, The Testament of Love, Prologue