Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Poetry for Book Club

For Book Club this month we're celebrating Beth's brother-in-law's poem publication "Bemidji Blues" in the prestigious Poetry magazine.  As a result, I have poetry on the brain and a $4.00 copy of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer translated into "modern English" by J. U. Nicolson with pen and ink illustrations by Rockwell Kent was a logical buy at the Bottom Shelf. The book was apparently passed over by Nancy.

One of the characters I remembered liking, the Cook, is described in this translated prologue as a grim figure from which Kent must have gotten this impression. I wouldn't want this chap to touch my food.

The Cook
"And he could roast and seethe and broil and fry,
And make a good thick soup, and bake a pie.
But very ill it was, it seemed to me
That on his shin a deadly sore had he..."

The actual Cook's Tale contains a description of a much more attractive person: 

"There lived a 'prentice, once, in our city,
And of the craft of victuallers was he;
Happy he was as a goldfinch in the glade,
Brown as a berry, short and thickly made,
With black hair that he combed right prettily.
He was as full of love, I may aver
As is a beehive full of honey sweet;
Well for the wench that with him chanced to meet. "
Who knew that "seethe" was actually a culinary term at one time? Wouldn't stove settings be infinitely more interesting with the addition of this temperature... say somewhere between "medium" and "high"?I love the sound of "seething" something until done. 

Geoffrey Chaucer (1343 – 25 October 1400), known as the Father of English literature, is widely considered the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages and was the first poet to have been buried in Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey. While he achieved fame during his lifetime as an author, philosopher, alchemist and astronomer, composing a scientific treatise on the astrolabe for his ten year-old son Lewis, Chaucer also maintained an active career in the civil service as a bureaucrat, courtier and diplomat. Among his many works, which include The Book of the Duchess, the House of Fame, the Legend of Good Women and Troilus and Criseyde, he is best known today for The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer is a crucial figure in developing the legitimacy of the vernacular, Middle English, at a time when the dominant literary languages in England were French and Latin.

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