Chaucer Meets American Pie

Sunday, February 2, AD 2014

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.

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4 Responses to Chaucer Meets American Pie

14 Responses to Canterbury Dreamin’

  • Greet them ever with grateful hearts.

    This calendar says today is “Armed Forces Day.” “Flag Day” is in June.

    From the movie, “The Sand Pebbles”, Captain Collins (Richard Crenna) addressing the crew:

    “At home in America, when today reaches them, it will be Flag Day. For us who wear the uniform, every day is Flag Day.

    “All Americans are morally bound to die for our flag if called upon to do so. Only we are legally bound. Only we live our lives in a day to day readiness for that sacrifice. We have sworn oaths — cut our ties.

    “It is said there will be no more wars. We must pretend to believe that. But when war comes, it is we who will take the first shock, and buy time with our lives. It is we who keep the Faith.

    “We serve the flag. The trade we all follow is the give and take of death. It is for that purpose that the people of America maintain us. Anyone of us who believes he has a job like any other, for which he draws a money age, is a thief of the food he eats, and a trespasser in the bunk in which he lies down to sleep.”

  • A good comment T. Shaw. It has absolutely zero to do with the subject of my post, but a good comment nevertheless. Perhaps you were projecting into the future your comment on one of my Memorial Day posts next weekend? 🙂

    All future comments to this post, please stay on topic.

  • I thoroughly enjoyed that video and the commentary that followed pretty much says it all!


  • Thank you Tito. The clever folks at History For Music Lovers are an endless source of inspiration.

  • A wonderful post. I took a course on Chaucer as a freshman in college and have loved him ever since. My love of his poetry was all the greater because I learned to recite it in Middle English. How delightful!

  • Be careful about wishing for “a society dominated by a unifying faith” if that unifying faith turns out to be something other than Christianity.

  • I would not put the Prioress up as an exemplary Religious. She seems more like a timeserver, with her lapdogs and her ‘Amor vincit omnia’ necklace. Her tale is in a complex form associated more with ‘courtly love’ and its amorality than with the stories of the saints. She also pretends to a world savvy she does not have – she speaks French, but with an English accent. Her tale is a version of the blood libel against Jews which was popular at the time – but which Pope after Pope had condemned.

  • “Be careful about wishing for “a society dominated by a unifying faith” if that unifying faith turns out to be something other than Christianity.”

    Well actually MR the absence of a unifying faith centered in Catholicism creates a vacumn that other faiths have been busily trying to fill, often with disastrous results. I expect this process to continue as the religious impulse for a society as well as individuals has to be satisfied somehow, hence the desire to make politics into a substitute religion or to proclaim sex as the end of life, or any of the other dead ends that our society has run down since the Reformation. I doubt if the world of medieval Catholicism could be recreated as a practical matter, but that does not mean that we should not bitterly regret the passing of a time when more than 90% of the population was Catholic and to accurately assess the societal pathologies that the absence of this reality has caused in our culture.

  • True points Donna but Chaucer also emphasizes her tender heart and her deep faith. As for the regrettable anti-Semitism of her tale, I doubt if Chaucer personally knew any Jews since they had been expelled from England in 1292 by Edward I. They are summoned on as stock villians to add to the pathos of the tale the Prioress was telling and to emphasize her deep pity for the murder of the child saint.

  • Yes, the Middle Ages produced great saints like St. Francis, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Thomas Becket. But we live in a world that does not want to go back to its Catholic roots. I, for one, try the best I can not to be taken in by the latest monstrosity produced by modern culture. Maybe someday, I will move to the suburbs. And turn off the television at night. And have my children home-schooled.

  • “But we live in a world that does not want to go back to its Catholic roots. ”

    For the time being. Times change, and I think where the Church is concerned time has proven almost always a useful ally.

  • One heart at a time. Remember that Jesus had only twelve people on his side when He started.

  • Very true MR, and three centuries later the Roman Emperor was bowing before the cross. For staying power and success over vast amounts of time no institution, as one would expect, can match the Church founded by Christ.