Tag: canterbury tales



Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
Tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(so priketh hem nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of engelond to caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.

It was not to Canterbury I wended, but to rural Pennsylvania and the hills outside of Pittsburgh (distinguishable from the hills inside Pittsburgh primarily by the lack of buildings, roads, and navigable rivers). Nor was it in “Aprill” (though from the rain and the ambient temperature it was hard to distinguish the months) but in mid-June. Not all pilgrimages need be long and arduous, not in today’s world where everything can be reached by car — some need only the effort of a few hours, or a few days. Yet the trips are no less profound for being short in time, for what they lack in arduous work they provide amply in timelessness. In English, we have but one word for Time, and that is Time. We call it by other names, of course, mostly pejorative nicknames (The great thief, the destroyer, one damned thing after another, etc.) but we all know what we mean — The Clock. Yet other languages have multiple concepts of Time. Greek has Chronos-Time, which is The Clock, but they also have Kairos, which is time apart: eternal time, time perpendicular to our own. Chronos has little power here.

One might say that this was my fourth pilgrimage. I had three times visited a monastery not far from my home for weekend retreats, and there Kairos clearly holds sway. The routine of the monks, in daily prayers and services, meal times and readings, and work on the property in the gardens and shops, continues day by day, the eternal rotation of the seasons being interrupted only (but profoundly) by the eternal Kairos of the Hours and Liturgy in which it is said the angelic hosts eternally participate.

Reality TV, 1387 Edition


Imagine yourself, if you will, as an inhabitant of late 14th-century England. You sit somewhere at the lower end of the hierarchy with the king at the top and the villeins and serfs at the bottom. If you’re a man, you’re very likely a farmer, and you and your family live in a two-room (if you’re lucky) house, close by the small patch of land you’re allowed to pretend “belongs” to you. When you’re not tilling and plowing and sowing and reaping there, you’re working just as hard, or even harder, on your Lord’s estate. Or perhaps you work in support of agriculture–perhaps you’re a blacksmith, or a wheelwright, or a cooper.

If you’re a woman, you keep house, you raise your children, and you provide all domestic necessities for your family. If you’re lucky enough that your parents survive to old age, you bring them into your house and care for them, too. If you’re a child, and you live in a village where the Lord of the Manor supports a small school, you attend, and you learn to read and count, and perhaps even to write. If you’re a little higher-class than your neighbors, perhaps you’ll escape a life of quite such grinding labor, and enter the Church, eventually becoming a Brother or a Nun.

And, in the very great majority of cases, you’ll live your entire life within a three-to-five mile radius of the place where you were born. So your circle of acquaintance is pretty much set from the start. It’s very likely that your “lady-love” will be a girl you’ve known all your life. Your community is small, and your interdependence on each other is high; therefore, friendships are important and carefully tended, and enmities are avoided whenever possible, in the interests of community safety and peace.

Quote of the Day: The First Eighteen Lines


I know many of you know them by heart. I’ve seen some of you say so, on Ricochet, over the past nine years. At some point in your lives, you probably had them thrust at you; you might have struggled through them; maybe you cheated with the Cliffs Notes; perhaps you said you couldn’t possibly figure them out; you didn’t believe you could just “read them out loud” and understand them; and when you did, you couldn’t quite believe that your mouth, and your larynx had made such weird sounds; perhaps you memorized them; and very likely you either hated, or you loved, your taskmaster and teacher.

I loved my teacher of forty years ago. And a couple of years after the class in which all of the above thoughts ran through my mind at one point or another, we married each other. I don’t know how far we’ll get into the next forty together, but we’ve had a pretty good run. And now, it’s April again, the Ram has run his “half-course,” the world is greening, and, as happens every year at this time, I’m reminded.

This is for Frank. And Geoffrey. With whom hyt alle bigan. With love.