"..from every shires ende / Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende"
February 5, 2020 9:18 AM   Subscribe

The University of Saskatchewan has released an app (link to web version; iTunes and Google play versions also available) that will read you the General Prologue to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in the original Middle English, for those who want to hear how it would have sounded in the 14th century. Plans are afoot for at least two more apps, covering the Miller's Tale and other stories. This is one of the last academic projects that the late Chaucer scholar and some-time comedian Terry Jones worked on before his death a couple of weeks ago.
posted by hanov3r (27 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
Sipping my coffee, wearing my UofS bunnyhug, smiling with pride.

Once more for Mr. Jones.
posted by Twinge at 9:20 AM on February 5 [5 favorites]

I had to memorize the prologue in Middle English in high school. Even at age 43 I can still recite the damn thing.
posted by mykescipark at 9:26 AM on February 5 [15 favorites]

I was gonna snark about this being an app but the web presentation is really nice, with original manuscripts and transcriptions displayed alongside the recording.
posted by Nelson at 9:43 AM on February 5 [6 favorites]

As greet as it had been a thonder-dent!
posted by benzenedream at 9:47 AM on February 5 [5 favorites]

I adored learning this in college. I can still recite the prologue too.
posted by Miko at 9:53 AM on February 5

I love this guy's voice, too. It fleshes out the character of the narrator, a gregarious and curious and bemused people person.
posted by Miko at 9:55 AM on February 5

My college prof loved & taught Chaucer and also the literature of the 1920s,: he had a fine, broad sense of humor.

And yes, I can still remember him tolling out those first lines with joy.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:12 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]

a great comment in the Terry Jones thread regarding Chaucer's Knight
posted by exogenous at 10:19 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]

Why an app?
posted by mhoye at 10:30 AM on February 5

I had to memorize the prologue in Middle English in high school.

Same. This lead to one of my more memorable Thanksgivings. I don't even remember how it came up, but my aunt mentioned she had it memorized, and we both started rattling it off. My great grandmother, who wasn't totally following the conversation prior to that, all of a sudden found us speaking in tongues. Took her a while to be talked down from that.
posted by SpiffyRob at 11:00 AM on February 5 [7 favorites]

At first I was like, "huh, I can totally understand spoken middle English", then I looked away from the screen (and thus the text) and thought, "why did he suddenly start speaking gibberish?".
posted by thedward at 11:08 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]

Also memorized for a college course. When my prof asked how I had managed to nail the accent I told him I had combined Spanish and Yiddish pronunciation. I doubt it became standard advice.
posted by Botanizer at 11:28 AM on February 5 [5 favorites]

Why an app?

Heh. Speaking as someone who had to lug around The Riverside Chaucer and The Riverside Shakespeare as an undergrad (I had same-day back-to-back Chaucer and Shakespeare classes three days a week one semester), I can't really question this.

In addition to doing some really interesting feminist readings of The Canterbury Tales, the prof I had that semester put a great deal of emphasis on us learning to read Middle English aloud. It was a great course, and the textbook was supplementary weight training.

"We were so pleased that Terry was able to see and hear this app in the last weeks of his life. His work and his passion for Chaucer was an inspiration to us," said Robinson, whose work on the Tales has been supported by USask and by the federal Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). "We talked a lot about Chaucer and it was his idea that the Tales would be turned into a performance."

Aw. Dang.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:29 AM on February 5 [5 favorites]

This was delightful. Thanks for sharing it!
posted by seinwave at 11:31 AM on February 5

I'm surprisingly pleased to discover that my pronunciation is still pretty spot-on even after all these years (although I did change the emphasis in a couple of spots; that is of course simply because I am an unrecognized poetic genius).
posted by aramaic at 2:17 PM on February 5

I can recite the opening verses to the Canterbury tales in middle English. It's my one party trick :)
posted by captain afab at 4:18 PM on February 5

...did we all go to the same highschool? I thought it was a strange thing to have to do for a class. But it worked. Haven't forgotten in all these years.
posted by captain afab at 4:19 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]

This'll give me a start on reciting this favorite classic.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:49 PM on February 5

I had to memorize the prologue in Middle English in high school. Even at age 43 I can still recite the damn thing.

We used a 20th-century translation, but yeah, I can still remember the prologue to The Summoner's Tale I had to memorize.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:01 PM on February 5

dang i wish i were made to memorize the prologue, all i remember is having to draw various characters (either in 11th grade english or 12th grade AP eng lit), which seems as fruitless an exercise in retrospect as it did at the time.
middle english sounds... swedish?
posted by LeviQayin at 6:28 AM on February 6

Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote... etc.

Think I only memorised the first six lines for my English A Level (plus assorted other lines from the Prologue and one of the tales, can't even remember which at this distance), but that was plenty.
posted by penguin pie at 8:04 AM on February 6

ll i remember is having to draw various characters (either in 11th grade english or 12th grade AP eng lit), which seems as fruitless an exercise

Really? That seems pretty engaging to me, and a good way of practicing reading for detail and comprehension, contributing imagination to a text, and differentiating characters.
posted by Miko at 8:16 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]

We did this in school in the ‘90s, and so did my mother—many miles, years, and mindsets away. I wonder if it was a teaching fad in, say, the ‘30s.

Another teacher who had actually studied Middle English came and read for us, and I remember how enchanting that was.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:26 PM on February 6

Well, I can only say that my English professor taught this because it was canon and because you can’t understand the course of English lit without it, and than speaking it aloud makes it a lot more Comprehensible and easier to read, and also sets you up to learn a little bit about the evolution of spoken and written English. So I don’t know if it was ever a fad so much as it’s one of those things everyone learns if you go far enough into advanced English lit coursework.
posted by Miko at 8:05 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]

Clearly it’s foundational—I just meant a fad in the sense that high school teachers en masse started having students memorize the prologue. I certainly think it’s worthwhile! I can still pronounce it, and sometimes, when the birds are loud in the spring again, I think of smale foweles maken melodye.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:19 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]

What I mean is that it's good, classic pedagogy, one that teachers intentionally draw on from the 100+-year tradition of teaching English literature, not just something teachers randomly started doing.
posted by Miko at 7:29 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]

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