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Chaucer does not need the "Chaucer for dummies" approach
on 26 October 2014
Having decided to reread The Canterbury Tales after many years and having a paperback of the poem in original spelling, I thought I would download this to my Kindle to have as a side-dish as it were to see me through more difficult passages. I find it useless for my purposes. The "original" text in plain font here (the so-called plain English translations being in italic) is a mixture of original and updating of words to make them easier to understand. This may be useful but means one is not actually presented with the original beside a translation, but a kind of hybrid modernisation text with enough of the antique to give it "flavour". And it can't be trusted to be exact.
From the prologue for instance my paperback Laurel Poetry Series version of the original has
Bifel that in that season on a day
In Southwerk at the Taberd as I lay
Redy to wenden on my pilgrimage
To Caunterbury with ful devout corage
At night was come in-to that hostelrye
Wel nyne and twentye in a companye
Of sondry folke by aventure y-falle
In felawshipe and pilgrims wer they alle
That towards Cauntebury woulden ryde;
The "original" in this kindle version becomes
Befell that season on a day
In Southwark at the Tabard as I lay
Ready to wenden on my pilgrimage
To Canterbury with devout corage
At night was come into that hostelry
Well nine and twenty in a company
Of sundry folk, by aventure y-fall who had by chance fallen
In fellowship, and pilgrims were they all, into company.
That toward Canterbury would ride.
What is a phrase glossing the meaning of "aventure -y-fall" is as shown put in as if part of the text, causing a mess. The "translation" proper that follows reduces what is in fact a quite unambiguous piece of verse anyhow to
Now it happened that one day in that season
As I stayed at the Tabard in Southwark
Ready to go on my pilgrimage
To Canterbury in great high spirits
At night there came into that inn
A group of twenty-nine
Diverse people, who had by chance
Fallen in with each other, and they were all pilgrims,
That wanted to ride to Canterbury.
So, "the story" if that's what you want in "plain English".Not a full translation with details missed and a generalised free verse simply giving the impression of full verse translation without it being such.
The quotes should help people make up their own mind, and some mightn't see any problem. My own copy though is deleted from my Kindle as it annoys me in its unreliability of text and rewriting of "translation" in sections where original passages have a meaning that is perfectly clear and better put in the poetry itself.
I will look elsewhere for a translation for my purposes.