Thursday, 20 May 2010

Top lines from Chaucer No. 2


Ther nas no dore that he nolde heve of harre,
Or breke it, at a renning, with his heed.

(There was no door he couldn't heave off its hinges
Or, running at it, smash it with his head.)

Geoffrey Chaucer (?1340-?1400): The Canterbury Tales, Prologue.

Five or six years ago I was invited to Montpellier to take part in an English literature evening hosted by a French cultural association. To put everything into context they'd made a time-line of Eng. Lit. giants to put on the wall. Eng. Lit. giants included William Beckford (who?), Barbara Cartland and Agatha Christie.

First on the list, however, was Geoffrey CHANCER. I expect he would have been proud to be associated with this spirit of adventurous spelling. He would also have enjoyed our hosts' attempt to cultivate the ambience of a typical English gathering of literary giants. Among other things they served jelly, not made in the usual way with boiling water and left to set in moulds or little dishes: they simply served jelly cubes straight from the pack with cocktail sticks stuck in them.

19 comments:

Sarah said...

How quaint!

Like the look of those doors...are they in you garden?

Vicus Scurra said...

That Chaucer, eh? Part of English literature studies for so many, yet look at his spelling.

I, Like The View said...

stuck into a half grapefruit covered in tin foil?

Dave said...

William Beckford, 1760-1844: eccentric English dilettante. In 1782 he wrote in French his oriental romance, The History of the Caliph Vatlick, which appeared in English, translated by the Rev. Samuel Henley, in 1786 and has taken its place as one of the finest productions of luxuriant imagination. Such writers as George Gordon, Lord Byron, and Stéphane Mallarmé acknowledged his genius. He also is renowned for having built Fonthill Abbey, the most sensational building of the English Gothic revival.

Christopher said...

Quaint, Sah, just the word. No, not our doors, although they do look as if they'd come from a place we sometimes go to a little over the Spanish border called Antic Center (antic = antiques in Catalan) which specialises in such things, not necessarily distressed by head-butting.

Vicus: Very true. And just look at Shakspere! Couldn't even spell his own name.

Jax: No, such Brit sophistication hadn't yet penetrated. They just wobbled about on a plate.

Davepedia: Thank you. Vathek, surely? - which is well-known in France tho' no one's ever heard of it in the UK.

Dave said...

That's what it's now known as, yes. The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica gives it as I quoted.

http://beckford.c18.net/wbbeckfordbio1.html

Christopher said...

What an extraordinary thing, Davc! To the best of my knowledge it was never known as anything other than Vathek. Clearly the Enc. Brit. sub has read the 'h' as 'li' and the 'e' as 'c'. Someone who used to push the sweet trolley round HM Treasury as a sideline, maybe.

Rog said...

I would LOVE Jelly served like that ... takes me back to being 7 years old!

I believe Sir David Cuttandpaste was an expert on so many things his mind eventually exploded.

Christopher said...

Rog: Absolutely. But they only served yellow jelly cubes (sorry, if anyone from China is trying to read this out loud) and I really prefer strawberry or blackcurrant flavours. But we had robust tastes then. Remember trying to suck Oxo cubes?

As regards Sir D. Cuttandpaste, there's a nice balance of outside pressures threatening implosion with, as you say, interior pressures threatening explosion. He's bound to have some 1911 Enc. Brit. wisdom about Newtop's Lavs of Physics to quote us.

Sarah said...

Ah...do you enjoy depot vent-ing as well? when we had a house in normandy it used to give me as much pleasure as trailing around Villedieu les Poêles weekly market. With all the rabbits in baskets and little men with 1 punnet of raspberries and a bunch of basil....anyway I digress...I came home once with a hip bath and a metal day bed strapped to the roof of the car.
Too much information?sorry!

Z said...

I like jelly cubes.

Christopher said...

Sah: Curiously, I've just finished an article about French markets and little men with rabbits to be published here:

http://www.frenchconnections.co.uk/en/guide/blog/99316-campbells-diary

on May 28th. Depôt venting? Yes, at one time, but the family champion is my daughter Patroclus.

Z: *makes note on sinister shirt cuff*

patroclus said...

This is in very fact true: I once almost made a living from buying mirrors in French depots-vente and selling them on eBay to Brits, to whom I delivered them personally in my big white van. In the end I couldn't resist the siren lure of writing brochures about personnel management software, though.

I still miss that van.

Geoff said...

Chaucer always reminds me of my first taste of mulled wine at the Young Vic. He was alright for a Geoffrey.

Z said...

I await my unrest cure with interest.

Christopher said...

Patroclus: Sinks too, if I remember right, but maybe this is a story for which the world is not yet prepared?

Geoff: A distant wordsmith ancestor, maybe? After all Chaucer lived in NE Kent (Eltham?) for a while: the connection's plain.

Snowy Z: Watch for suspicious movement (especially from short dapper men) in the shrubbery.

Spadoman said...

Just checking in. I haven't the slightest idea of what any of you are talking about. I did see jelly cubes. I think, if they are the same thinmgs we have here in Wisconsin USA, we call them Jello, (a brand name), or gelatin cubes. I don't like them, but that is just personal taste.
I do know a guy who sells clawfoot bathtubs on Ebay though. Like Petrocius mentions. These are heavy objects, but in demand. He makes nearly all his profit in the shipping costs.
In any event, hope all are doing well.

Peace.

Christopher said...

Good of you to drop in, Spadoman. I'm sorry if you're not sure what we're on about. Please don't worry about it: neither are we. We were just thinking of having a little root beer in the shrubbery and I,LTV is coming round for a swim and a gasper and a glass of port later on - won't you join us?

Pax vobiscum.

mig said...

What sort of jelly was it?
My father-in-Law used to steal jelly cubes and eat them secretly. Consequently Mother-in Law stored them in strange hiding places in the kitchen which she then forgot.