Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Middle English Lit ...

For a couple of days this week, we could look about us and think ...

"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;"

How singularly appropriate that words written on the road to Canterbury, England, describing this week in April, more than 600 years ago, would suit an afternoon on the road to Rankin, Texas, today.

Thank you, Geoffrey Chaucer!

Chaucer, who lived from 1343 (maybe) - 1400, was an author and poet, bureaucrat (or courtier - the two were interchangeable back then) and diplomat, and a philosopher. Some say, he was also something of a patriot. Though he is credited with having written many works, he is best remembered for an unfinished piece - "
The Canterbury Tales" ... sort of like Schubert, who is best-known, to some, for his 'Unfinished Symphony.'

It was in the writing of the Tales that Chaucer made a significant impact on Western literature ... and earned him the title of 'patriot' to some readers. You see, Tales was written in (Middle) English, the vernacular, the language of England's people ... but not necessarily the language of England's court, which still bore some of the marks of the Norman conquest of England, 300 years earlier, and still spoke French or Latin.

For some, "vernacular" = "vulgar" ... something that Chaucer and others of his era (the "Pearl" and "Gawain" poets) proved ain't necessarily so. At the same time, though, Chaucer's Tales brought forth some characters and actions that - at least, on the surface - were a little lowbrow for courtly tastes.

Might someone like Chaucer have taken to the Blogosphere as readily as he took the road to Canterbury? It's possible ... some might say, likely. Someone has done more than just speculate what shape and direction that blog might have assumed at
Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog. Think blogging is, at times, difficult? Try it in Middle English!

With thanks to Frank at
BOOKS, INQ. for the heads-up ...


Cowtown Pattie said...

Ugh, remembrances of senior high school english class, but the link is quite cool!


*In class, we were always fascinated by the...ahem... wanton ladies on the Canterbury road...

Jeff said...

Miss Pattie, thanks for visiting.

My wife has, probably, the best memories of Chaucer in high school lit class. Her Mom, who - even after 30 years in America - still retained her Scottish brogue, would read from "The Tales" ... I'm told they sounded wonderful ...