The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer – The General Prologue
I’ve probably grown overly ambitious, but I’ve decided to read the Canterbury Tales and to post on them piecemeal here. Mine is the Penguin Classics version, and it’s written in our modern equivalent of Middle English. This is the poetry of that age, and is written in almost perfect (as near as I can tell at this early point) iambic pentameter, the rhyming scheme in what eventually came to be called doublets, i.e., each succeeding pair of lines ends in a rhyme. There are no stanzas; instead, the text goes on continuously without the breaks we normally see in modern poetry.
This first segment on the Tales sets up the rest: Chaucer, in his own voice, supposedly, has a dry wit and an acerbic view of his fellow pilgrims. His is part of a group traveling from Southwark to Canterbury. In the Middle Ages, it was a more than common sight to see such groups of pilgrims traveling to the various holy sites, each site supposedly home to relics considered sacred to these early Christians. As they travel, to pass the time, they regale themselves with tales – some possibly true-to-life, other considerably wild.
It doesn’t seem proper to list Chaucer’s fellow pilgrims; each will have the author’s spotlight on him/her as the group travels. So I won’t waste words on that here. From this initial reading, it’s evident that German and French – and to some degree Latin, have made their way into the Middle English tongue. Each section is well annotated, but some expressions and words are far from modern English usage.
My rating: 15 of 20 stars