"A Fool Cannot Be Still"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In this allegorical romance, the poet Chaucer dreams that he is led by an ancient hero of Cicero's Dream of Scipionis into the court of birds. The occasion is Saint Valentine's Day, and Dame Nature decrees that all birds shall choose their mates. The tercel eagle, the first bird of the kingdom, chooses Dame Nature's own formel eagle; his choice raises a clamor, settled only by the formation of the court. The divisions of the birds, suggesting the hierarchy of society, speak to the cause, the falcons or nobility suggesting that the best knight win. The duck and the goose, representing the folk in their wisdom, make wry comment. The goose feels certain that the eagle need not merely love another eagle, for "a love may change even if she is constant." To this observation she adds, "But she wol love him, lat him love another!" Or in modern English, "unless she will love him, let him love another!" This may be the origin of the expression "a silly goose" or "silly as a goose," since the sparrow hawk replies:

"Lo, swich hit is to have a tongue loose!
. . .
Hit lyeth not in his wit nor in his wille
But sooth is sayd, 'A fol can noght be stille.'"