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While doing some reading last night, I was reminded of what a great storyteller Chaucer was. Here's his description of a battle between the Greeks and the Trojans from "Troilus and Criseyde." Look how much horror he packs into just four lines:

The longe day, with speres sharpe igrounde,
With arwes, dartes, swerdes, maces felle,
They fighte and bringen hors and man to grounde,
And with hire axes out the braynes quelle.

My inelegant translation:

On that long day, with their spears sharply ground,
With arrows, swords, and maces cruelly stout,
They fight and throw horse and man to the ground
and with their axes bash their foes' brains out.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 1st, 2009 12:06 pm (UTC)
Violence wasn't invented by t.v.or video games? Huh. Next you'll tell me sex existed before these modern evils, too.
May. 1st, 2009 12:18 pm (UTC)
Chaucer was good at that, too, but I'd be embarrassed to post some lines to demonstrate just how good.
May. 1st, 2009 09:44 pm (UTC)
Ooh, yes, so very good :)
May. 1st, 2009 01:26 pm (UTC)
How would Chaucer depict today's warfare?
Butt firmly planted in his chair, "Who do we kill today?"
With keyboard and joystick at arm's reach,
The drone launches 10,000 miles away,
and with precision tears bodies to pieces.
May. 1st, 2009 02:33 pm (UTC)
Re: How would Chaucer depict today's warfare?
That last line is very Chaucerian. Thanks for the comment.
May. 1st, 2009 02:25 pm (UTC)
May. 1st, 2009 02:34 pm (UTC)
Grim stuff.
May. 1st, 2009 09:43 pm (UTC)
I think anything since is doomed to be inelegant, compared to Middle English.
May. 1st, 2009 11:17 pm (UTC)
I can't "hear" the Middle English, so to speak, and as a result can't fully enjoy the sound and rhythm of the words. But man, the Chauce could tell a helluva story.
May. 1st, 2009 11:27 pm (UTC)
Whereas I can't not hear it, I guess. I learned Chaucer from a professor who made us all read it out loud, and after a few weeks of self-conscious giggling at ourselves we (just as he'd predicted, having seen it all before) settled comfortably into the rhythms and stopped having to gloss all the unfamiliar words. It's surprisingly easy, and it made me fall in love with this version of the language in a way I couldn't love any of the others. It's a great blend of the punning wordplay of Old English and the varied influences that came to charaterize modern English.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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