Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Geoffrey Chaucer
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  • Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote,
  • The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
  • And bathed every veyne in swich licóur
  • Of which vertú engendred is the flour;
  • Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
  • Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
  • The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
  • Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,
  • And smale foweles maken melodye,
  • That slepen al the nyght with open ye,
  • So priketh hem Natúre in hir corages,
  • Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
  • And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
  • To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
  • And specially, from every shires ende
  • Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
  • The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
  • That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.

Modern English Translation (by Vincent Foster Hopper)

  • When April with his showers sweet
  • The drought of March has pierced to the root
  • And bathed every vein in such liquor,
  • Of whose virtue engendered is the flower;
  • When Zephyrus too with his sweet breath
  • Has quickened, in every grove and heath,
  • The tender sproutings; and the young sun
  • Has in the Ram his half-course run,
  • And small fowls make melody,
  • [While] sleeping all the night with open eye
  • (So Nature pricks them in their hearts);
  • Then folks long to go on pilgrimages
  • And palmers to seek strange shores
  • To far-off shrines, known in sundry lands;
  • And, [e]specially, from every shire’s end
  • Of England, to Canterbury they wend,
  • The holy blessed martyr to seek,
  • Who has helped them when they were sick.

Geoffrey Chaucer (c.1343–1400) Known as the Father of English literature, this English poet and philosopher is also recognized, with Dante, to be one of the greatest poets of the Middle Ages (and certainly the greatest English poet of that time) and one of the great writers of all time. Because of his Canterbury Tales, a series of stories framed within the context of a pilgrimage to the tomb of the martyr St. Thomas Becket (1119-1170), and other poetic works penned in Middle English, Chaucer almost singlehandedly established English vernacular as a legitimate medium for literature — which at that time was mostly written in French or Latin. He thereby pioneered the way for the rise of other great masters of English poetry and prose who people the English literary canon today.

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