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Listen to me recite the first 18 lines of the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales in the Original Middle English
The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales
Geoffrey Chaucer (1340(?)–1400)
WHAN that Aprille with his shoures soote 1
The droghte 2 of Marche hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich 3 licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth 5
Inspired hath in every holt 4 and heeth
The tendre croppes, 5 and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne, 6
And smale fowles maken melodye,
That slepen al the night with open ye, 10
(So priketh hem nature in hir corages: 7
Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmers for to seken straunge strondes, 8
To ferne halwes, 9 couthe 10 in sondry londes;
And specially, from every shires ende 15
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
The holy blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seke. 11
Why do I know this?
The Canterbury Tales are a collection of stories told by a group of people making a pilgrimage to Canterbury, England. Each night, one person in the group tells a story. Some of the stories are very, very dirty. These opening lines, however, are not.
When I was in high school, my English teacher had us memorize the first eighteen lines. She didn't bother to wait until we asked why we needed to memorize and recite Middle English: she told us.
She said, "It will make you fascinating at cocktail parties."
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I'm Lady Ristretto, writing under a pseudonym. My pseudonym has a pseudonym.