Category Archive 'Geoffrey Chaucer'

22 Jan 2015

Geoffrey Chaucer in 1386

, ,

Chaucer
Geoffrey Chaucer from the Ellesmere Manuscript.

Stevie Davies reviews Paul Strohn’s microbiography: Chaucer’s Tale: 1386 and the Road to Canterbury in The Independent.

Strohm centres on a single year, 1386, at the end of which Chaucer “suddenly found himself without a patron, without a faction, without a dwelling, without a job … without a city.”

Exiled from London and his literary circle, Strohm’s Chaucer lost an audience, in an age before the printing press, when poetry in manuscript was read aloud in performance. The book’s compelling thesis is that Chaucer’s loss generated the invention of a “portable audience” within The Canterbury Tales: the pilgrims themselves. …

One of Chaucer’s overarching themes is the volatility of fortune, whose reversals – if we are wise – teach us “to maken virtu of necessitee”. Strohm’s Chaucer is essentially a small player in a world of venal power politics, “a politician of limited gifts, and not much of a factionalist either”. A loyalist of Richard II, he’d risen by espousing the long-term losing party. Esquire to the king, Chaucer had made an advantageous marriage. But he and his higher-ranking wife, Philippa de Roet, sister to John of Gaunt’s mistress, Katherine Swynford, lived apart and his association with the loathed Gaunt jeopardised him.

Deployed by his political masters to the post of controller of wool custom, Chaucer had the unenviable job of monitoring the activities of “some of the richest and best connected and least scrupulous crooks on the face of his planet”. Strohm’s portrait of the collector of the lucrative wool custom, corrupt magnate Nicholas Brembre, is formidable. When the royalist faction secured Chaucer’s election to the 1386 Parliament, and Brembre’s wheel came thundering down, so did Chaucer’s. His grace and favour apartment was forfeit. Strohm assesses Chaucer’s withdrawal from public life as “a matter of constrained choice”. Chaucer became “a wanderer in Kent, with no fixed job and insufficient income”. …

Losing “that thick and involving texture of London life” meant forfeit not only of discomfort but of stimulation and conviviality. The listening audience Chaucer now lacked he invented as a fellowship of pilgrims: “Chaucer’s varied cast of rogues, pitchmen, scammers … divines, social snobs, humble toilers [is] a miracle of imaginative inclusion.” …

From the misfortune of 1386, Chaucer moved towards a sense of authorial identity, preparing his literary legacy for generations to come. The pilgrims mediated “between Chaucer and the extended public he has begun to imagine”. The poet’s humiliated exile, Strohm compellingly suggests, is part of the deep story of how The Canterbury Tales came into being.

18 Apr 2013

“Whan That Aprill”

, , , ,

Today in Literature:

On this day (or possibly the next) in 1394, Geoffrey Chaucer’s twenty-nine pilgrims met at the Tabard Inn in Southwark to prepare for their departure to Canterbury. Chaucer’s poem condenses the four to five day trip into one, and scholars have used various textual references and astrological calculations to establish that day as the day before Easter, thus allowing the pilgrims to arrive at Canterbury Easter morning, after a fifty-five-mile hike through a pleasant English springtime.

Here begins the Book
of the Tales of Canterbury

1: Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
2: The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
3: And bathed every veyne in swich licour
4: Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
5: Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
6: Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
7: Tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
8: Hath in the ram his halve cours yronne,
9: And smale foweles maken melodye,
10: That slepen al the nyght with open ye
11: (so priketh hem nature in hir corages);
12: Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
13: And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
14: To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
15: And specially from every shires ende
16: Of engelond to caunterbury they wende,
17: The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
18: That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.
19: Bifil that in that seson on a day,
20: In southwerk at the tabard as I lay
21: Redy to wenden on my pilgrymage
22: To caunterbury with ful devout corage,
23: At nyght was come into that hostelrye
24: Wel nyne and twenty in a compaignye,
25: Of sondry folk, by aventure yfalle
26: In felaweshipe, and pilgrimes were they alle,
27: That toward caunterbury wolden ryde.
28: The chambres and the stables weren wyde,
29: And wel we weren esed atte beste.
30: And shortly, whan the sonne was to reste,
31: So hadde I spoken with hem everichon
32: That I was of hir felaweshipe anon,
33: And made forward erly for to ryse,
34: To take oure wey ther as I yow devyse.

——————————-

My favorite quotation:

NPT 2805 Sir, sey somwhat of huntyng, I yow preye.


Your are browsing
the Archives of Never Yet Melted in the 'Geoffrey Chaucer' Category.








Feeds
Entries (RSS)
Comments (RSS)
Feed Shark