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Geoffrey Chaucer

Chaucer: Illustration from Cassell's History of England, circa 1902.

 
 
  Chaucer's English

Although Chaucer's language is much closer to modern English than the text of Beowulf, it differs enough that most publications modernize (and sometimes bowdlerize) his idiom. Following is a sample from the prologue of the "Summoner's Tale" that compares Chaucer's text to a modern translation:

 

Original

Translation

This frere bosteth that he knoweth helle,

This friar boasts that he knows hell,

And God it woot, that it is litel wonder;

And God knows that it is little wonder;

Freres and feendes been but lyte asonder.

Friars and fiends are seldom far apart.

For, pardee, ye han ofte tyme herd telle

For, pardon, you have often times heard tell

How that a frere ravyshed was to helle

How a friar was taken to hell

In spirit ones by a visioun;

In spirit, once by a vision;

And as an angel ladde hym up and doun,

And as an angel led him up and down,

To shewen hym the peynes that the were,

To show him the pains that were there,

In al the place saugh he nat a frere;

In the whole place he saw not one friar;

Of oother folk he saugh ynowe in wo.

He saw enough of other folk in woe.

Unto this angel spak the frere tho:

The friar spoke to the angel this way:

Now, sire, quod he, han freres swich a grace

"Now sir," said he, "Are friars in such good grace

That noon of hem shal come to this place?

That none of them come to this place?"

Yis, quod this aungel, many a millioun!

"Yes," answered the angel, "many a million!"

And unto sathanas he ladde hym doun.

And the angel led him down to Satan.

--And now hath sathanas,--seith he,--a tayl

He said, "And Satan has a tail,

Brodder than of a carryk is the sayl.

Broader than a large ship's sail.

Hold up thy tayl, thou sathanas!--quod he;

Hold up your tail, Satan!" he ordered.

--shewe forth thyn ers, and lat the frere se

"Show your ass, and let the friar see

Where is the nest of freres in this place!--

Where the nest of friars is in this place!"

And er that half a furlong wey of space,

And before half a furlong of space,

Right so as bees out swarmen from an hyve,

Just as bees swarm from a hive,

Out of the develes ers ther gonne dryve

Out of the devil's ass there drove

Twenty thousand freres on a route,

Twenty thousand friars on a route,

And thurghout helle swarmed al aboute,

And they swarmed all over hell,

And comen agayn as faste as they may gon,

And came again as fast as they had gone,

And in his ers they crepten everychon.

And every one crept back into his ass.

He clapte his tayl agayn and lay ful stille.

He clapped his tail again and lay very still.

 

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Source: Wikipedia

 
 
 
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GEOFFREY CHAUCER

  Father of English Literature

  Chaucer's English

  The Canterbury Tales

MIDDLE ENGLISH

  Middle English Subperiods

  French vs. English

  Geoffrey Chaucer

  Emerging Standard

  More

 

 
 
 
 

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