Tag Archives: Middle English

The Pardoner’s Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer: A New Edition

Geoffrey Chaucer's The Pardoner's Tale Kindle Cover
Geoffrey Chaucer's The Pardoner's Tale Cover

Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Pardoner’s Tale: New Edition Now Available

The Pardoner’s Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer is probably one of the most accessible works of Middle English for modern readers – it features a neat moral parable, bawdy language and a barbed satire of the avarice prevalent in some elements of the medieval Church. The Pardoner’s Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer is also fairly short, and that no doubt makes it a favourite for English Lit classes at school and university level.

But even though Geoffrey Chaucer’s language is not that hard to understand, the very fact that every line or so you have to refer to a glossary or footnote does mean that the experience of reading a poem such as The Pardoner’s Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer can be frustrating and less enjoyable than it might be. Although there are some good prose translations available, I thought it would be useful to make a verse translation of the poem – partly because I thought it would be useful for others – and partly to help me re-engage with the text and get to grips with the meaning (it’s so easy to just read something and get the gist of what it’s about, but actually digging around and working out the meaning can be very rewarding). So to that end I have created an eBook of The Pardoner’s Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer, and a free online version, which feature both the original Middle English text, a parallel Middle and Modern English text in verse and also a Modern English version on its own. The verse translation into Modern English does not scan or rhyme perfectly – to do so would, I think, bend the meaning too much, but I hope it gives some of the flow or the original while also retaining the meaning.

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The Court in English Alliterative Poetry, 1350-1450 – Free on Kindle for Five Days

My University thesis, The Court in English Alliterative Poetry, 1350-1450 is now available as a free download for Kindle for the next five days. I thought I would experiment with the new Kindle Select programme and see what happened!

Here’s a link to the UK version: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B003O86P40

And the US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B003O86P40

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The different styles of Middle English Poetry

At University I studied Medieval History, Language and Literature, which I loved, and I guess it has influenced some of my interests later in life! I went on to do a Masters in Medieval Literature, choosing The Court in English Alliterative Poetry, 1350-1450 as my thesis topic. Why did I choose this subject and what is it for starters? Well if you know anything about Medieval English literature you will no doubt have heard of Chaucer and his Canterbury Tales. Chaucer was from London and wrote in English that was heavily influence by French and Italian poetic styles. His main verse form was called rhyme royal using five stresses per line arranged in rhyming couplets. Chaucer was probably writing for an audience associated with the Royal Court, one linked more to the culture of continental Europe perhaps. In contrast English poetry going back to Anglo-Saxon was traditionally based on an alliterative line with up to four alliterating stressed words per line and not really using rhyme at all. This tradition did survive the Norman Conquest and lived on through poems such as the Twelfth Century Layamon’s Brut.  By the late Fourteenth Century, you might think that it would be fading away, but this was not the case. There were poets, mostly located in the North West of England and North Midlands who kept the art alive and indeed produced wonderful works of art like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which combines the descriptive power of alliterative verse with a finely honed courtly sensibility.

I’ve added a page called The Style of Middle English Alliterative Verse in the Medieval (Middle Ages) History and Literature section of this site which discusses these stylistic differences in more detail.

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Gentilnesse: Middle English Word of the Day

g hacekenti macron brevelnes(se (n.) Also gentelnasseientilnesse.

From Old French. gentillesse

Gentilnesse, or Gentilnes seem to be the most common spellings.

This is the firs of a regular series of posts about the meaning behind Middle English words.

What is gentleness? Is it being kind to people? Does it mean talking quietly to them and not upsetting them.

The word didn’t really take on that meaning until about the 17th century. In the time of Chaucer the word mean that one acted in a way that was appropriate for someone of noble or gentle birth. I.e. you acted like a gentleman. That might mean one acted in a temperate and kind way, but that was the behaviour expected of a noble person or gentle birth and thus the meaning.

Here’s a good example from Chaucer’s Parsons Tale (I. 585):

“He seith hit cometh him of gentilnes of his auncetres.”

Full meanings from the entry at the University of Michigan Middle English Compendium are:

1. (a) Nobility of rank or birth; (b) of animals or birds: excellence of breed or kind; (c) of fruit: excellence; of a bird: beauty, elegance.

2. (a) Nobility of character or manners; generosity, kindness, graciousness, etc.; also, good breeding; (b) as a title of address: your ~; (c) a kind or gracious act; don ~ to, to be kind or generous to (sb.).

3. People of rank, gentry; also, a person of noble rank.

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