We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Chaucer, the Londoner who is credited with the invention of modern literary English, was well-educated and became rich importing wine from France. Writing was his hobby. He invented English iambic pentameter - all credit to him for that gift. He had read Bocaccio too, which probably gave him ideas.
I fondly remember reading Chaucer out loud in class, using the dialect our teacher thought was most likely accurate. Great fun. It still rings in my ears.
Lots of footnotes were necessary. Word meanings change.
In high school, we kids made a bee-line to the city library to obtain the unabridged version of Canterbury Tales. The Reeves Tale was my favorite:
"O speak, sweet bird, I know not where thou art."
This Nicholas just then let fly a fart
As loud as it had been a thunder-clap,
And well-nigh blinded Absalom, poor chap;
But he was ready with his iron hot
And Nicholas right in the arse he got.
Off went the skin a hand's-breadth broad, about,
The coulter burned his bottom so, throughout,
That for the pain he thought that he should die.
And like one mad he started in to cry,
"Help! Water! Water! For God's dear heart!"
As an undergrad I had a copy of Chaucer's Bawdy which explained all the risqué humor. As with learning a fully foreign language, it is an excellent introduction to fluency. One picks up rules and conventions fairly quickly working with those idioms.
Assistant Village Idiot
You might wish to check out "Katherine" by Anya Seton. The Katherine in the title is the sister of Phillippa (de) Roet who was the wife of Geoffrey Chaucer.
Way back in college I had to take either Chaucer or Milton. Glad I chose Chaucer. Once you get the hang of middle-English, the stories are delightful, funny as hell, and sometimes bawdy. When I first read the passage that Snopercod quoted I blew coffee out my nose and stained an expensive volume of The Complete Works Of Geoffrey Chaucer. Still have the book, stains and all.
I too read Chaucer in the "original" English. Very challenging at the time, with a professor who was a total geek and did not get that it was possible for a 20 year old to struggle with the language. Got through because the stories were so good....
I was a grad lit student in the 70-80's time period, just as deconstruction appeared to tear apart -- literally -- so many things I loved. (That was part of my motivation to leave the profession, but not the driving force.)
I've always been amused by the anguish over Middle English. It's relatively easy to get a handle on what's happening if one: reads the text aloud, pronounces all the consonants, and gives vowels their continental values. So pronounce that "k" in knight and pretend that the great vowel shift never happened.
Fleming was a prominent scholar after my time, but was fortunate to have studied with Robertson. Lucky man! That said, the review feels a bit lifeless to me. Chaucer has so very much life and vitality! I didn't get much hint of that, alas.