24 April 2013

April is NPM: Chaucer

English poet Geoffrey Chaucer modeled his long poem on an Italian prose work, The Decameron.  In Chaucer's version, the motely crew is on pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral.  Unfortunately, posterity hasn't preserved the entire work so it is grouped in ten fragments.  I've chosen to post the beginning of the General Prologue although my favorite tale is told by the Wife of Bath.

Now, reading in Middle English isn't all that hard - just read it aloud to get the hang of it then consult a footnote or two for those words you're not sure of.

Here bygynneth the Book of the Tales of Caunterbury

       Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
5Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
10That slepen al the nyght with open eye-
(So priketh hem Nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
15And specially from every shires ende
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke
That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seeke.
       Bifil that in that seson, on a day,
20In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay
Redy to wenden on my pilgrymage
To Caunterbury with ful devout corage,
At nyght was come into that hostelrye
Wel nyne and twenty in a compaignye
25Of sondry folk, by aventure yfalle
In felaweshipe, and pilgrimes were they alle,
That toward Caunterbury wolden ryde.
The chambres and the stables weren wyde,
And wel we weren esed atte beste;
30And shortly, whan the sonne was to reste,
So hadde I spoken with hem everichon
That I was of hir felaweshipe anon,
And made forward erly for to ryse
To take our wey, ther as I yow devyse.

(ok, fine, have mercy - check out the Librarius site to see a side-by-side translation and listen to audio tracks)

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