Saturday, October 3, 2009

October 3: Good Enough for Chaucer (Vol. 40, pp. 11-26)

The prologue to "The Canterbury Tales" is today's reading, and it is like literary spinach. I never really liked poetry, but Chaucer is as impenetrable now as he was in high school. Even with the copious footnotes to translate some of his words, it's still gibberish.

The Readers Guide lauds Chaucer as a groundbreaking poet, since he was among the first to write in English when English was considered "a vulgar tongue, fit only for servants and working people." Polite society in England in the 14th century conversed in French.

Scottish dialect was what Chaucer used, and to 21st century eyes, he might as well have written in Babylonian for his poetry bears only a passing resemblance to modern English.

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