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Saturday, March 26. 2011
Saturday Verse: A Spring Break trip to Canterbury
The author begins -
Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
Not aprill yet, but almost. A "palmer" is someone who wears a palm leaf as testimony of having taken a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I am posting a "modern English" translation below the fold, but bearing in mind that Chaucer wrote in the closest thing to modern English at the time - some say invented modern English in literature. The British Isles had many languages and language variants at the time; Anglo-Saxon, French, Gaelic, Welsh, etc. Just consider how many Norman-French words he uses. What the literate and well-educated Jeff Chaucer wrote was and is pretty much modern English - and fine job he did with it.
When April with his showers sweet with fruit
The drought of March has pierced unto the root
And bathed each vein with liquor that has power
To generate therein and sire the flower;
When Zephyr also has, with his sweet breath,
Quickened again, in every holt and heath,
The tender shoots and buds, and the young sun
Into the Ram one half his course has run,
And many little birds make melody
That sleep through all the night with open eye
(So Nature pricks them on to ramp and rage)-
Then do folk long to go on pilgrimage,
And palmers to go seeking out strange strands,
To distant shrines well known in sundry lands.
And specially from every shire's end
Of England they to Canterbury wend,
The holy blessed martyr there to seek
Who helped them when they lay so ill and weal
Befell that, in that season, on a day
In Southwark, at the Tabard, as I lay
Ready to start upon my pilgrimage
To Canterbury, full of devout homage,
There came at nightfall to that hostelry
Some nine and twenty in a company
Of sundry persons who had chanced to fall
In fellowship, and pilgrims were they all
That toward Canterbury town would ride.
The rooms and stables spacious were and wide,
And well we there were eased, and of the best.
And briefly, when the sun had gone to rest,
So had I spoken with them, every one,
That I was of their fellowship anon,
And made agreement that we'd early rise
To take the road, as you I will apprise.
But none the less, whilst I have time and space,
Before yet farther in this tale I pace,
It seems to me accordant with reason
To inform you of the state of every one
Of all of these, as it appeared to me,
And who they were, and what was their degree,
And even how arrayed there at the inn;
And with a knight thus will I first begin.
Posted by Bird Dog in Saturday Verse at 05:00 | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)
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The fella on the horse is on his way to the local acromegaly clinic
Nah, the horse is one them small English breeds (welsh, shetland, etc)
Just wanted to say how grateful I am for MF! Hope my last message to Barrister was not discouraging to you folks--you do a magnificent job!
You did a service --barrister is a nice guy who often makes the same cognitive error that so very many of us make --the same cognitive error that flips on and off like a strobe in my own mind --that these people are merely misguided, error-prone, wrong-thinking, overly-this or underly that.
What you were saying is just hard to hold in mind --that this bunch knows exactly what it's doing, and what it's doing is preserving deniability behind the ruse of 'stupidity' while intentionally collapsing the Dollar, the economy, the social structure, the nation, and liberty itself.
Gotta give Barrister credit for keeping himself distant enough from Hell that he has difficulty internalizing the concept.
I am posting a "modern English" translation below the fold, but bearing in mind that Chaucer wrote in the closest thing to modern English at the time - some say invented modern English in literature.
So, it could be said that Chaucer performed the same function for English that Dante did for Italian. When I read Inferno several years ago, I asked a friend w an MA in Italian about the relative changes in current Italian and English compared to what Dante and Shakespeare wrote. The reply was that Italian had changed less.
I am surprised at how readable the original Chaucer is, though I would appreciate a "modern version" alongside to check my interpretation of the original Chaucer.
I am too lazy to check out how many Norman-French words he uses, but imagine it was close to current percentages.
First fell in love with this when my English Lit teacher read the whole prologue aloud in the original - back then Chaucer's language was called "Middle English".
Reading "modern" versions of it shows just how much you are probably losing in ANY translation of metrical/strophic material.
Consider how much greater the difference is when translating from another language.
As the prologue illustrates, the difference between Modern, Early Modern, and Middle English is as much in the references than in recognising the words. We can see that foweles = fowl, but might not get that it means all birds. And "Hath in the ram his halve cours yronne," needs a gloss even if you get what words are being used.
The distances add up: slight spelling changes, slight meaning changes, different cultural references, and perhaps choice of topic most of all, add up to ME being only on the edge of our understanding, not really understood without some training.
Cf. Dutch "Ik heb al zoveel over u gehoord." - I have heard so much about you. It looks farther away than the ME above, but the pronunciation changes and the likelihood of the phrase in modern times might give you the hint that we actually would adjust to a Dutch speaker a little more quickly than a 14th C English one.