Cycles of Time
The passage of time for people in the fourteenth century was not nearly as finely marked as it is in the modern world. The rural majority most often reckoned time by the daily cycle of natural events: the time of day was perceived in relationship to cockcrow, dawn, sunrise, midday, sunset, dusk or twilight, and midnight. For such people, the closest thing to a clock would be the bells of the village church, so if some precision was needed, time would be reckoned according to the "canonical hours," the traditional schedule of the monastic cycle of daily prayer: Prime, Terce, Sexte, None, Vespers, and Compline. Each of these hours referred both to the time at which that period of prayer began, and to the space of time from that hour to the next; thus, "Prime" could mean either 6 a.m., or the period from 6 to 9. The canonical hour could also be subdivided: "half Prime" was halfway though Prime (roughly 7:30 a.m.), "whole" or "high Prime" the latter end of Prime. The system was
|The Canonical Hours|
|Lauds (around 3 a.m.)|
|Prime: 6-9 a. m. (sunrise and early morning)|
|Underne (Terce): 9-12 a.m. (morning)|
|Sexte: 12-3 p.m. (afternoon)|
|None: 3-6 p. m. (late afternoon) or noon|
|Vespers (Evensong): 6-9 p.m. (evening)|
|Compline: 9 p.m. (roughly the time of curfew)|
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Publication information: Book title: Daily Life in Chaucer's England. Contributors: Jeffrey L. Singman - Author, Will McLean - Author. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1995. Page number: 61.
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