01 April 2009

Ram's Course Half Run

It is April Fool's Day and thus commences my annual foolish thing to do by reading the perfect poem for the season followed by the ongoing foolish attempt to read the whole thing in the original language by going back and forth between Middle English and the modern version of same. After decades, I'm getting pretty good as the memory slowly absorbes another way of saying the same beautiful, sad, wise, or funny thing in The Canterbury Tales

If you have never read Chaucer's Canterbury Tales or if you would like to try this same side by side reading and don't have your own copy, you can do it tale by tale here, but just to keep it simple here is the prologue and introduction to the Knight's Tale.

Here Begins the Book of The Tales of Canterbury

When in April the sweet showers fall
That pierce March's drought to the root and all
And bathed every vein in liquor that has power
To generate therein and sire the flower;
When Zephyr also has with his sweet breath,
Filled again, in every holt and heath,
The tender shoots and leaves, and the young sun
His half-course in the sign of the Ram 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 folk do long to go on pilgrimage,
And palmers to go seeking out strange strands,
To distant shrines well known in distant lands.
And specially from every shire's end
Of England they to Canterbury went,
The holy blessed martyr there to seek
Who helped them when they lay so ill and weak

It happened that, in that season, on a day
In Southwark, at the Tabard, as I lay
Ready to go on pilgrimage and start
To Canterbury, full devout at heart,
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 I will to you apprise.

But none the less, whilst I have time and space,
Before yet further in this tale I pace,
It seems to me in accord with reason
To describe to you the state of every one
Of each of them, as it appeared to me,
And who they were, and what was their degree,
And even what clothes they were dressed in;
And with a knight thus will I first begin.

Canterbury Cathedral

Geoffrey Chaucer


John said...

April Fool? I wish I'd realised this morning. I would've posted something funny :-(

Mags said...

I haven't read Canterbury Tales in so long-I remember loving it in high school. I'll have to pick up a copy.

carol g said...

Ah... The last time I was at the library and searched through the table of books on sale, I picked up a paperback copy of these tales... hmmmm... now to just find it.

And, although I do not understand the words, I love the lilting melodies.

Anonymous said...

Jamie, I'm always taken by what a nice blog you keep. I wish you'd link it a TM daily.

When we lived in California, the next to the last house we owned was on Chaucer St. I have fond memories and this was a nice reminder.

Thanks, Chloe

Linda said...

Happy April First to you!

This is a lovely way to start the month and Carol is right, the lilting melodies are quite lovely even if you don't quite 'get' all the words!

Travis said...

I read some of the tales in high school and didn't appreciate them. The entire work is on my list of classics to revisit.

BTW - I love seeing the picture of that beautiful mountain when I come by. Soon I'll be able to see it just about every day from the office as we get clear days.