The Complete Poetical Works of Geoffrey Chaucer: Now First Put into Modern English

The Complete Poetical Works of Geoffrey Chaucer: Now First Put into Modern English

The Complete Poetical Works of Geoffrey Chaucer: Now First Put into Modern English

The Complete Poetical Works of Geoffrey Chaucer: Now First Put into Modern English

Excerpt

Chaucers's entire poetic works have never before been put into modern English. Parts of them, especially of the Canterbury Tales, have been retold in one place or another in both prose and verse, some of the latter by pens so great as Wordsworth's, Pope's, and Dryden's; but hitherto a more nearly adequate idea of a marvelously individual and many-sided poet could be obtained only through his original text. That such is the best way to obtain it the present editors would be the first to urge. But most readers need not be told that it can be so acquired only by dint of somewhat thorough study; even more thorough than the casual reader can realize, for yet more baffling than frankly obsolete words are the countless words and idioms which have subtly changed their meaning. And undoubtedly such study at first may form a mist between the reader and a sympathetic comprehension of the poet. The melody of his verse, too, which the modernizer is so grieved to disturb, can be heard only by the practised ear. It is believed, therefore, that the present volume will be welcome to a good number of cultivated people everywhere.

The editors have striven always to paraphrase as little and to be as faithful to the original as they could; certainly never to misrepresent it. They have departed from it only to save their version from one or another of four possible stumbling- blocks: rhyme and excessive rhythm, obscurity, extreme verbosity, and excessive coarseness. Their rare omission of words or short passages for the last reason has not been indicated; in the still fewer cases where a whole episode is incurably gross or voluptuous (yet Chaucer is never merely vicious), its omission is shown by asterisks. Proper names are almost always given in their true or their familiar modern form. A few short lyrics which otherwise would have lost too much have been versified in the original metrical form. The editors have tried to keep . . .

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