The Canterbury Tales (Day 4: Lines 16-20)

We return for another Chaucerian investigation, so buckle up and let the Middle English fun commence! Today, since I want to begin looking at slightly larger sections in future installment, we will be looking at simply three lines.

                Our passage reads:

Of Engelond to Caunterbury they wende,
The holy blisful martyr for to seke
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke. (3)

                Such a brief passage is easy to figure out and so a literal translation would look like this:

Of England they went
The holy blissed martyr for to seek
That them have helped when that they were sick.

                A bit clunky, yes, but modern readers can at least understand the point of the passage—English pilgrims are travelling to Canterbury to seek the favor of a saintly martyr. Even without a literal or professional translation, we can understand the thesis of the original ME without a whole lot of guesswork. So, that being said, let’s see how professionals do translate these passages.

                Or, I would, at any rate, had each translators translated the passage in an unorthodox manner. But this isn’t the case: Wright, Ecker, and Tuttle all, more or less, did a reliable and unremarkable translation; some words, yes, were substituted for others in an odd fashion, but not so odd as to render commentary relevant.

                So, it looks like this investigation ended very shortly. But this was always the point; the next time I post an entry in this investigation, I hope to look at a greater textual selection. I figure that if I am not going to publish many posts with the phonetic inscription or scan the lines, then I can make up for the lack of additional explorations by giving a larger pan of the mother text.

                Until then, farewell!