Friday, January 22, 2010

Geoffrey Chaucer, Ezra Pound, B.P.E.

Reading Joan Acocella’s piece “All England,” on renderings of The Canterbury Tales in “translation” (that is, in modernized English), made me remember this observation, which as an undergrad I wrote in pencil on the inside front cover of my Chaucer:

Anyone who is too lazy to master the comparatively small glossary necessary to understand Chaucer deserves to be shut out from the reading of good books forever.

Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading (New York: New Directions, 1960), 99.
I remember that I used a large paper clip to hold together the thirty or forty pages preceding the glossary, which was, yes, small. The clip made it easier to flip to the glossary and not be shut out from the reading of good books forever. It was life B.P.E. (Before the Post-it Note Era). The nationwide sale of Post-it Notes began in 1980.

Acocella’s piece appears in the December 21, 2009 issue of The New Yorker (online for subscribers only).

comments: 3

Slywy said...

If Chaucer is difficult to read, what of Walter Scott?

Bardiac said...

I keep my first Chaucer text, which has a gloss of "eke" on the verso facing the first page of the general prologue (along with some other words). It's a good reminder that Middle English isn't my native language either, and that I need to help my students learn to enjoy and feel the beauty of the language along with getting the literary aspects.

Elaine said...

Oh, my. My sister is 4 years older than I. Her freshman English course at Emory University included _The Canterbury Tales._ With GREAT relish, I read them all, and (I don't know whose it was, but WOW) especially the one with the naughty wife who put her bum out the window for a kiss....

Geoffrey Chaucer, centuries later I have thee to thank for my "education." You know, where there is a will, there is a translation.... and may God bless the 14 year old one-track brain!