Thursday, January 26, 2012

Troilus and Criseyde

Before I took a class on Chaucer, I had no idea that he had written anything other than The Canterbury Tales. Don't get me wrong—I'm as big a fan of the Tales as the next guy, but they're incomplete, and Chaucer wrote some other stuff that I think gets neglected. I'm talking about Troilus and Criseyde. This is one of the few times when someone does a better job than Shakespeare at telling a story. Bill's Troilus and Cressida is not even on par with Chaucer's. It's also the only extended work Chaucer ever finished, and it's just some of the best poetry in English.

I'll admit that my first experience with Chaucer was fueled entirely by the language—not the poetry, not the symbolism, not the plot, but his particular dialect of Middle English. I was fourteen and thought I hated poetry. But it was just such a thrill to read through this foreign text and somehow be able to understand it. I read "The Knight's Tale" and didn't complain even though I thought the story was supremely boring. It wasn't until last year when I picked up Troilus and Criseyde that I realized that Chaucer was a great poet. I'm including some of my favorite excerpts:

"So aungelik was hir natif beaute,
That lik a thing inmortal semed she,
As doth an hevenyssh perfit creature
That down were sent in scornynge of nature."

"…And brende hym so in soundry wise ay newe,
That sexti tyme a day he loste his hewe."

"For nevere yet so thikke a swarm of been
Ne fleigh , as Grekes for hym gonne fleen,
And thorugh the feld, in everi wightes eere,
Ther nas no cry but 'Troilus is there'

Now here, now ther, he hunted hem so faste,
Ther nas but Grekes blood—and Troilus.
Now hem he hurte, and hem al down he caste;
Ay wher he wente, it was arayed thus:
He was hire deth, and sheld and lif for us,
That as that day, ther dorste non withstonde
Whil that he held his blody swerd in honde."

"And who may stoppen every wikked tonge,
Or sown of belles whil that thei ben ronge?"

One of my all-time favorites:
"That nyght bitwixen drede and sikernesse,
Felten in love the grete worthynesse."

"O ye loveris, that heigh upon the whiel
Ben set of Fortune…
"And as in wynter leves ben biraft,
Ech after other, til the tree be bare,
So that ther nys but bark and braunche ilaft,
Lith Troilus, byraft of ech welfare,
Ibounden in the blake bark of care,
Disposed wood out of his wit to breyde,
So sore hym sat the chaungynge of Criseyde."

"I, combre-world, that may of nothyng serve,
But evere dye and nevere fulli sterve."

Another one of my favorites:
"O ye loveris, that heigh upon the whiel
Ben set of Fortune, in good aventure,
God leve that ye fynde ay love of stiel,
And longe mote youre lif in joie endure!
But whan ye comen by my sepulture,
Remembreth that youre felawe resteh there;
For I loved ek, though ich unworthi were."

"Endeth than love in wo? Ye, or men lieth,
And alle worldly blisse, as thynketh me."

"Wher ben hire armes and hire eyen cleere
That yesternyght this tyme with me were?"

1 comment:

  1. I am 24 and think I hate poetry. Bill is finally coming around for me, though... Last night I saw the kid's version of The Merchant of Venice, and loved it. Sad, but I think my entry point had to be from the mindset of a 12-year old.

    And about Chaucer...I was unpacking and found Feminizing Chaucer. So yeah....will get that to you shortly.

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