TRANSLATIONS OF THE QUOTED MATERIAL - Chaucer (Ackroyd's Brief Lives) - Peter Ackroyd

Chaucer (Ackroyd's Brief Lives) - Peter Ackroyd (2005)


There came a stealthy thief named Death, that in this country all the people slayeth.

He was singing or fluting all the day, he could write the words and music of songs.

… the roaring of the stone, when it is propelled from the device. Of them that make the martial sound of trumpet, horn and bugle; for in fighting and bloodshed the clarion call is employed with delight.

Of masters he had more than thrice ten that were expert and knowledgeable in law.

“Ha! ha!” he cried, “For the passion of Christ this miller received a sharp reply to the question of lodgings!”

O true light of eyes that are blind, o true object of desire for those who labour or who are in distress …

It is the Romance of the Rose, in which I include all the arts of love. Though we call them mermaids in English, as is our custom, in France they are called sirens. Generosity was always in her mind so that she was both honourable and liberal in her conduct. She was another Alexander, she derived most pleasure, in fact, when she gave a present and said “Take this.”

For the love of God don’t believe that I say anything from any evil intent. But I must repeat all of their tales, whether better or worse … Do not blame me if you make the wrong choice.

She was so gracious that she was the most constant, and had the most gentle and moderate disposition, that I have ever encountered—so entirely patient was her mind.

For when your work is done, and you have finished all your sums, instead of getting rest and entertainment you go back home straight away and there, dumb as any stone, you sit down to another book until you are quite out of it.

“In the suburbs of a town,” he said, “lurking in bye-ways and blind alleys, where thieves and robbers instinctively live secretly and in fear.”

The keeper of the gates began to call out to the people who were outside the gates, and instructed them to drive in their animals or else spend the night out there.

Yes, God knows, you yourself have sixty books both old and new—all of them filled with excellent stories.

And if old books did not exist, then the key to memory itself would be lost. For out of old fields, as men say, comes all the new corn from year to year.

All his books, great and small, including a treatise on astronomy, were kept on shelves at the head of his bed.

Great Barnabo Visconti from Milan, the god of pleasure and the scourge of Lombardy. And be not like the tyrants of Lombardy.

“But he seemed to be a man of great authority …”

Of trust, of fear, of jealousy, of judgement, of success, and of folly.

It was of gold and shone so brightly that men had never seen such a sight—it was as if the sky had won another golden sun, so shone the bright feathers of the eagle, and now it began gently to descend.

Now listen everyone that can understand English.

You go to great trouble to praise his skill, although you play no part in it.

I saw him put a windmill under a walnut shell.

I have no such intention, I promise you! I am quite content that no man has possession of my name. I know best how I stand.

The art of poetry would be displayed here, if the verse were not so facile and uncouth …

For you have lost the taste of love, I suppose, as a sick man can no longer distinguish between the sweet and the bitter. But nevertheless although you are out of action, you can say even if you cannot do. Many men like to watch the wrestling even if they could not take part in the contest.

The life is short, and the art so hard to learn, the attempt is so hard, the victory so difficult.

The goose, the cuckoo and the duck all cried out, “Kek kek!,” “Cuckoo!” and “Quack! Quack!” … Now welcome summer with your soft sun that has overcome the winter storms, and driven away the long dark nights!

Reserved their shrillest cries when they were killing the Flemings.

O stormy people! unstable and always untrue! as injudicious and as changing as a weather-vane! delighting in any new sensation. Like the moon you wax and wane!

You stand very high in her judgement, in a place worthy of your virtue …

Men say—I do not—that she gave him her heart.

You know the concealed qualities of things, about which people often wonder.

The nearer the fire the hotter it becomes—I believe everyone in this company knows this. In truth I have never heard it mentioned in a story before—and no-one here has, I bet.

You, reader, you can well understand how my abilities cannot describe such misery … Adam the scribe, if ever it so happens that you are asked to write out a new copy of Troilus or Boethius, you must transcribe more correctly my words—or else I wish you to get the scab under your long hair.

Go little book, go my little tragedy, and I hope that God sends your maker the strength to write a comedy before he dies. Little book do not contend with any others but be a willing subject of poetry itself. Kiss the steps where you see walk Virgil, Ovid, Homer, Lucan and Statius.

And when this book is completed present it on my behalf to the queen, either at the palaces of Eltham or of Sheen.

Here’s Deptford, and it’s already seven thirty in the morning! And here’s Greenwich, where live many a shrew. It is high time you began your tale.

O prince, desire to be honourable. Cherish your people and hate extortion.

Here is no home, here is nothing but a wilderness: Go forth, pilgrim! Go forth, beast, out of your stall!

And greet Chaucer warmly when you meet him. He is my disciple and my poet.

And so you may see an example; trust no one in love—no one, that is, but me. And if there is a false lover in this house—well, he behaved in the same way.

“Get lost, Jason! Now your horn is blown!” And if you want to know who has travelled with him, go and read the Argonauticon—you will find a long enough story there.

But he is used to writing books and does not really care what subject matter he uses. That is the way he wrote the Romance of the Rose as well as Troilus and Cressida—he was an innocent, and didn’t know what he was saying. In any case someone asked him to compose those two books, and he dared not refuse.

And so we agreed to get up early, to make our way there as I will now explain to you.

And if you wish to relieve him of his burden, pray his best friend from his nobility of character that he may attain to some better estate.

Love has struck my name from his slate, and in turn he has been taken off my books for good; there is no other way. And since from love I am escaped so plump, I have no thought of being incarcerated in his narrow prison; since I am free I don’t think he’s worth bothering with.

At the end of which stream I am as good as dead, forgotten in this lonely wilderness.

Yet I appeal to you who read what I write. And so whoever does not want to hear it, just turn the page and choose another tale.

I pray you, read the Wife of Bath on the subject we are now discussing.

So he could draw up and write out a document, and there was no one who could find fault with what he had done. I cannot tell you any profitable story that Chaucer, albeit he can only handle metre and rhyme in a slovenly way, has not already narrated in the best English he can muster.

You look as if you are searching for a hare, for I always see you staring upon the ground.

In Southwark at the Tabard Inn as I lay. This world is but a thoroughfare of woe, and we are all pilgrims passing to and fro.

“For I will speak or else go my own way.” And our host answered, “Go on, and the devil take you! You are a fool, and your wit is soaked in drink.” “Now listen,” said the Miller, “all of you!”

The night was as black as pitch or as a piece of coal. And out of the window she put her hole.

Far in the north—I can’t tell where. I expect our Manciple will be dead, so ache the teeth in his head. He had a wife who for appearance sake kept a shop, but she had sex to make her money.

Experience, although it is not considered to be an authority in this world, is good enough for me to speak of all the trouble that comes with marriage.

“No. That is where you are lying, Summoner!” said the Friar. “Peace,” exclaimed our host, “for Mary’s sake!”

The slack skin about his neck shook when he sang, so did he chant and croak.

He was born in a far country, in Flanders, way beyond the sea, in a place called Poperyng. His father was a great man, and was the lord of that country according to God’s grace.

I will complain to you, my purse, and to no one else, for you are my dear lady. I am so sorry to see you in such a light condition … I am shaved as close as any friar.