Chaucerian Investigation (Day 5: Lines 20-27)

Welcome back to another installment of “Me muddling my way through Chaucerian Middle English!” Always a fun show. Anyways, to re-cap—previously, I had finished the first movement on the first page of the poem (I felt so proud of myself!). Now I take aim at finishing said page and getting along a tad on the next page. Will I complete my goal, will I master my lines? Only one way for you to find out!

                So, the text reads
Bifel that in that sesoun on a day,
In Southwerk at the tabard as I lay,
Redy to wenden on my pilgrimage
To Caunterbury with ful devout corage,
At night was come into that hostelrye
Wel nine and twenty in a compaignye
Of sondry folk, by aventure yfalle
In felaweshipe, and pilgrims were they alle,
That toward Caunterbury wolden ride (3-4)

                A literal translations would read

To leave that in that season on a day,
In Southwark at the Tabard where I stay,
Ready to depart on my pilgrimage
To Canterbury with full devout courage,
At night was come into that inn
Well nine and twenty in a company
Of separate folk, by chance befall
In fellowship, and pilgrims were they all,
That toward Canterbury would ride.

                So, David Wright translates this passage as follows

It happened at this season, that one day
In Southwark at the Tabard where I stayed
Ready to set out on my pilgrimage
To Canterbury, and pay devout homage,
There came at nightfall to the hostelry
Some nine and twenty in a company,
Folks of all kinds, met in accidental
Companionship, for they were pilgrims all;
It was to Canterbury that they rode (3)

                Well, first off, I am happy that my own translation wasn’t actually too far off from Wright’s own; it means that my efforts, though confused and winding, were actually on the right track (I wasn’t off in space). Regardless, it is interesting that Wright chose to keep the word ‘hostelry’ unchanged; my dictionary defines it as an “inn,” so I wonder why he choose to keep it as is? I assume because of some rhyming potential he saw (“nightfall”?). Likewise, my dictionary lists ‘bifel’ as something along the lines of “to leave” or “to depart,” so it is also odd that Wright decided to translate it as “It happened.” Line 23, meanwhile, I simply fudged in my literal translation, though I should have seen it coming and perhaps would have gotten it to a more accurate linguistic locale had I spent a tad more effort on my word look-up. Other than that, Wright’s translation proves excellent, as always.
                This is the part in my investigation where I would go on and comment on other translators. But, I have to be honest. I am cutting this post short; I can’t keep doing these investigations.

                Presently, I have many different ongoing projects and just can’t find the time to learn Middle English, not with all of the other efforts which are gobbling up my energies. Though I do enjoy writing these investigations, once I bypass the initial bout of lethargy, I need to prioritize my efforts for the time being; when I think of the undertakings which are most prevalent, these investigations ranks fairly low on my list.

                So, when it comes to the Geoffrey Chaucer: Life and Works notes, I am simply going to start posting them up as single posts, no more copulation with these investigations. Today will be the last copulation of ‘Notes’ and ‘Investigation’ content. 

I am sorry to anyone who sincerely enjoyed these investigations.

                The good news is, however, that I have no by any means abandoned my struggle to learn Middle English—not by a long shot. It is just that right now is a hectic time with all of the different projects I have going, so I am putting these investigations on the backburner while I finish some other projects.

                In the future, I definitely plan on resuming these investigations. Presently, I find there being little to no point in forcing myself to do the occasional investigation in-between bouts of inactivity on anything related to Middle English. In the future, when I am able to dedicate large swathes of time to learning, I will come back with gusto. Until then, however, please enjoy some of my other content, such as my ‘Let’s Reads,’ Gonzo military posts, or one of my reviews.