Saturday, 28 March 2009

The Canterbury Tales ver 1.3

Yesterday, you may recall, we met Sir John Betjeman, and speculated on the way modern technology might have influenced his poetry. Today, I'm going back a bit further; to the 14th century, in fact. I have read (and enjoyed) Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, both in modern and middle English. So, I wondered, how would the poet have viewed one of our present-day computer users? Read on, but first an apology. I don't regard computer users as geeks, necessarily. But the word 'Geake' leds itself so well to Middle English.

Would Chaucer have used a computer, had there been one available? Probably. A laptop would be far easier to use on the back of a horse than the conventional quill pen; no need to carry around the water, oak galls, iron nails and gum arabic necessary to make the ink; and no need for a bag of pounce to prepare the parchment for writing. But he might have had a problem using Microsofte Worde; Middle English spelling was rather random, so I think a spell-checker would have been out of the question.

I've done now. Oh, but a quick note on Middle English pronunciation. You pronounce every letter. For example, 'manne' is pronounced 'mann-er'; 'lappe-toppe' is 'lapper-topper'; and so on. Otherwise the verse doesn't scan properly. Now I've really done.

A Geake ther was, a manne from neare Brightonne
That ynto cybere systemes had y-gone.
His cloothe was chepe, a teeshirte clad his breste
Wyth Thunderbirds are Go writ on the cheste.
A payre of Convers traynours dyd he weare
Than semeth hadd ben maulyd by a beare.
His breeches wer ful lowe, and dyd hys arse
Shine lyk the Moone to folke that dyd y-passe.
And now that I do thinke it, sooth to saye
This moost hav bene a dressen-downe daye.
A lappe-toppe holden he in honde
And typen texte that no wight understonde.
Hys conversatioun was nat for me
It was in trewth like talkynge wyth a tre.
He spook in Englysshe, but with wordes straunge
As 'Blog' and 'Twitter' like a manne deraunge.
This worthie man hath fiftie poundes a yeare
But sooth to sayn had naught betwixte his eare.
This wight dyd not to Caunterburie go
To seek the Hooly Blisful Martir; no.
Hys purpose was but pagan I recalle
He wended there a netwoork to installe.
But, nathelees he kepte our companie
Unto the inne at holy Caunterbrie.
Herein we dyd essaye to mak hem drinke
But he was jooste a lyte-weet, I doe thinke.
For after only oon smal disshe of ale
He turnyd grene and vomit yn the payle.

8 comments:

mo.stoneskin said...

Easier perhaps, but not easy. A laptop is fiddly enough when your bum is on the couch, using it on a horse would be a nightmare!

Comedy Goddess said...

Dude, I am out of my league with this one. You are amazing! Microsofte Worde, love it! Is that what you get installed for free on a Walmart brand laptop?

This could be my favorite post!

Rob Inukshuk said...

Oh I am lauffing my arser orffe!
Well done you. Not quite as tedious as the real thing and far more amusing. Who's next?

chris hale said...

Mo - I feel sure the medieval user would have designed a leathern slynge or similar, all the better to hold it with!

CG - Ah, not forgetting Wyndowes. And, prithee, what is this Wallle Marte of which thou speakest?

Rob - Wait till we get to the archaic letter 'S', that was written or printed like an 'f', thus: Oh I do like to be befide the feafide! What a filly fod I've become! Who'f next, you afk? Watch thif fpace...

Raph G. Neckmann said...

I do like this, Chris! I think it should be set to music of the era too!

chris hale said...

Raph - What a great idea! All we need are a couple of sackbuts, some shawms, and a pair of nakers. I kid you not!

Derrick said...

Hi Chris,

I have not read Chaucer in modern or middle English but if it is anything like this, it should be a hoot! I tugge mye forelocke right welle to thee.

chris hale said...

Gode morowe, wel-beloved Derrick!

If my poem hath yeve yow plesour,
Soth to seyn tis gode as tresour!

In other words...if you liked it...ta!