Chaucer Meets American Pie

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For out of olde feldes, as men seith,
Cometh al this new corn fro yeer to yere;
And out of olde bokes, in good feith,
Cometh al this newe science that men lere.

Chaucer, Parlement of Foules

 

 

 

Hattip to Mrs. Darwin. Nicholas Jackson has transcribed Chaucer’s version of American Pie:

 

 

A longe longe tyme sithen, and yet yt me remembreth yn what maner that musique was wont to make me smyle.

And Ich wiste wel, hadde Ich a chaunse, thanne Ich mighte maken the folk to daunse, and peraventure thei wolde feele mirthe a litel while

Yet Fevrier did maken me to quake, wyht everye lettir patent Ich did take. Ill tidinges at the gate-hous, and barely Ich koud get oute.

Ne me myndeth whethir Ich wepte, whane Ich knewe of sorwe a widow kepte. But myn inwit did much agrieve, the daye the musique took yts leave

And thei were singinge…

Bye, bye, Englisshe Jakke of Dover, drove my palfrey almoste halfwey but the tourney was over.

And the fayre goode lordes were sippinge ypocras and rhenish, and sayinge thys daye my lyf shal be finisshede.

Hast thou writte the boke of love, and kepestow feyth yn God above, yf the scrypture sayeth so?

And believestow yn rokke and rolle, kan vernacular vers saven thy mortale soule, and kanst thou teache me howe to daunse the saltarello?

Ich knowe thou lovst hym paramours, for Ich sawe yow on the palais floor. Ye doffede yower krakowe shoon, and than did thos trumpetes blowen

A solitarye valet burninge in loves biere, wyth a livery badge and a destrier, & Ich ful wel was yn despayre, the day the musique perisshede

Bye, bye, Englisshe Jakke of Dover, drove my palfrey wel nigh halfwey but the tourney was over.

And the fayre goode lordes were sippinge vernange and rhenish, and sayinge thys daye ower lyves shal be finisshede.

Nowe for X years the kinge nath nat lived on revenue of hys owne, and parlement doth moane and groane, yet that nys nat as yt was wont to be

Whanne the Prince Noir foughte for the kinge and quene, yn a hauberk he borrowid from James Dean, and a voys that came from yow and me

And whil the kyng did nod hys hede, then al the marchauntz strucke hym dede. Yn no place koude good men haunt,  chased out by John of Gaunt.

Whil Wyclif rede a boke of Ockham, the beadles koude how wel to rokke then, & we sange dirges yn the dark then, a-daye the music perisshede.

Bye, bye, Englisshe Jakke of Dover, drove my palfrey almoste halfwey but the tourney was over.

And the fayre goode lordes were sippinge ypocras and rhenish, and sayinge thys daye my lyf shal be finisshede.

 

Hurly burly yn the somer daye, the birdes flewe off of a trebuchet, VIII leagues heigh and fallinge swifte.

On the grass yt landed causing a rift, and the players tryede to forwarde drifte, wyth the Prince Noir from the standes watching yn a shifte

And the entremet was al cornemuse, whil the troubadours did wel amuse – and al steppede up to estampie, yet that honour was denyede me.

For the knights assayed to seyze the feeld & the troubadours refusd to yield. Wit ye wel what was revealid, whanne the musique perisshed?

Bye, bye, Englisshe Jakke of Dover, drove my palfrey to the heighwaye but the tourney was over.

And the fayre goode burghers were sippinge vernange and rhenish, and sayinge thys daye ower lyves shal be finisshede.

And ther we wer, al yn oon liste, a generacioun borne to blisse, wyth no thoughte of starte or ende.

And cometh, Gawayne be nimble, Gawayne be quicke, Gawayne felle almost for ful Greene trickes, for girdles aren the deviles oonlye frende.

And as Ich watchd him kneel to praye, Ich wisshede he wolde hys vowes unsay. No angele borne yn helle, koud breake that Green knights spelle

And als the ladyes came to bange a gong, to call Arthur to Avalon, Ich sawe Odin laugh grim and garisshe –  the daye the musique perisshede.

He was chauntinge: Bye, bye, Englisshe Jakke of Dover, drove my palfrey wel nigh halfwey but the tourney was over.

And the wylde oold lordes were sippinge uisquebaugh and rhenish, and sayinge thys daye ower lyves shal be finisshede

Ich mette a mayde who sange lamentes, and Ich askid her for tidinges of sum contente, yet she but smyled and turnid awaye.

And Ich wente down to the smokye inn, wher Ich had hearde the tunes begin, yet Harry Bailey seyde the musique wolde nat playe.

And yn the streetes the childer yowled, the lovers cryed, and the poetes howled, yet nat a worde was spoken – the vernacular was broken.

& the III folk Ich hold yn admiraunce: Usk, Bocace, and Marie de Fraunce, thei toke a ship to partes hence. The daye the music perisshede.

And thei were singinge…

Bye, bye, Englisshe Jakke of Dover, drove my palfrey almoste halfwey but the tourney was over.

And the fayre goode lordes were sippinge ypocras and rhenish, and sayinge thys daye my lyf shal be finisshede.

 

Chaucer

 

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