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Saturday, 3 April 2021

Saturday Rave: Prologue from The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.

 Many of us are locked down at the moment, but Spring has been filling people with a yearning to make journeys for...ever. Perhaps there's some ancient link to when our ancestors were birds. Or reindeer. Or butterflies. Or humpback whales...

This verse doesn't go as far back as that, but it's about the oldest substantial piece of work in a language that's more or less Modern English. It was written by Geoffrey Chaucer, whom I suppose you would call a senior civil servant, in about 1400. It's wonderful: funny and sad, and full of vivid characters.

Here's the very beginning. I've updated the language slightly to make it a bit easier for those whose first language isn't English.

And for those whose first language is!

When April with his showers sweet

The drought of March has pierced to the root

And every vein has soaked up every shower

As brings forth blossoming the flower

When Zephirus with his sweet breath

Has sprouted every field and heath

With tender crops, and the young sun

Rises halfway through the starry ram

And little birds make melody

That sleep all night with open eye

(As Nature tells them at her college)

Then folk they long to go on pilgrimage.

I can't go far, today, but my pilgrimage will show me many impossibly wonderful things.

And so will yours. 

If you can but see them.

Word To Use Today: pilgrimage. The word pilgrim comes from the Provençal pelegrin, from the Latin peregrīnus, foreign, from per, through, and ager field or land. It's basically the same word as peregrine.

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