Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Whan that Aprill: The Preamble

When fair April with his showers sweet,
Has pierced the drought of March to the root's feet
And bathed each vein in liquid of such power,
Its strength creates the newly springing flower;

When the West Wind too, with his sweet breath,
Has breathed new life - in every copse and heath -
Into each tender shoot, and the young sun
From Aries moves to Taurus on his run,
And those small birds begin their melody,
(The ones who 'sleep' all night with open eye,)
Then nature stirs them up to such a pitch
That folk all long to go on pilgrimage

And wandering travellers tread new shores, strange strands,
Seek out far shrines, renowned in many lands,
And specially from every shire's end
Of England to Canterbury they wend
The holy blessed martyr there to seek,
Who has brought health to them when they were sick.

It happened in that season that one day
In Southwark, at the Tabard, where I lay
Ready to travel to that holy site -
To Canterbury, with my spirits bright,
There came at evening to that hostelry
A group of twenty-nine, a company
Of various folk, to new found friendship come
By happy chance - and pilgrims every one
That for the Canterbury shrine were bound.

The bedrooms and the stables were well found.
There for our comfort was none but the best.
And briefly, when the sun had sunk to rest,
Since I spoke to them all in a friendly way,
I was quite soon 'one of the crowd` you might say.
We planned next day to be ready to go
At first light; to where, you already know.

Nevertheless, while I have space and time,
Before I go further in this tale of mine,
I feel the most natural thing to do,
Is to picture each of this group for you,
To tell you how they all appeared to me -
What sort they were and what rank they might be,
And what they wore, the clothes they were dressed in;
And first then with a knight I shall begin.

-- an excerpt from Geofrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales // The Prologue in Modern English (for us non-Old English readers, with the original side-by-side)

Happy April, all!

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