I’m learning about Chaucer, for no real reason. I’ve never read Chaucer. In high school it was sort of like you somehow ended up either reading Canterbury Tales or the Decameron, and I read the Decameron. But I love medieval history so much and so when a popular-press book about the really rough year Chaucer had in 1386 comes out, I’ll make my library purchase it and I’ll read it in fits and starts, in between also reading Beowulf, which is of course much older than Chaucer.
Beowulf was written sometime between the 8th-11th centuries (hilariously huge possible date-spread, it’s like the Iliad or the Bible, where people are like “I don’t know, maybe sometime between a billion years ago and half a billion years ago”), so, no matter which way you slice it, several hundred years before Canterbury Tales, which was written in this dreadful year of 1386, where Chaucer was stuck living above this terrible loud soldier-gate and his “window” (3-foot-deep arrow-slit in wall of solid stone) directly overlooked a moat filled with dead dogs (not a colorful joke–the moat was actually known as Houndsditch for this very reason) and of course the requisite human shit that covered every surface of the earth in 1386 (“how do you know he’s a king?” “He’s the only one who hasn’t got shit all over him”). I feel like in Beowulf times there weren’t the dead-dog rivers and piles of human shit because western culture still lived in some sort of degree of harmony with nature, also there just literally weren’t as many people on the earth, and there weren’t cities really. Then again, hardly anybody knows hardly anything about the Vikings or what their lives were like, except that they liked to disembowel one another a lot (who doesn’t, though)
It’s funny reading Beowulf and then getting to this book about Chaucer and being like “windows? second-stories? WOOL MERCHANTS?? What gleaming sci-fi future is this?” In Beowulf it’s more dragons and glimmering gold, and a dude swimming naked for 9 days and 9 nights and killing a bunch of sea monsters. By the time you get to Chaucer it’s mostly, like, shipping receipts.
There are 493 existing documents about Chaucer in the entire world, and ALL of them are about his business and parliamentary transactions. Nothing about his literary pursuits! We only know he wrote poems because the poems exist. Pretty epic.
It’s also reminiscent of Pepys’s diary (from 300 years later) in that people are always running into the King. If you were even vaguely wealthy or well-connected you apparently saw the King all the time. “Oh hello sire” as you pass him strolling by the river or whatever.
I have to go to school today to do one 20 minute task, which is very annoying, but I have spent the morning well, listening to some of the millions of contemporary compositions I need to be familiar with, and working on a bibliography. I am finally at a place in time where I can make my SUMMER READING LIST, and of course it is filling me with a rank and savage joy. Soon, so soon, I will be carting home 50 books and reading them, and thinking and writing, instead of grading, grading, ceaselessly grading! And course prepping! I am at that point of the semester where I am letting my classes out early and kind of feeling like “why did I put this stuff on the syllabus, even”
For the rest of the weekend I have to grade, so this morning was very beautiful to me. Yesterday it poured rain, which is a nice change from all the blizzards, and anyway as you know I love rain. Springtime! The radiators are off and we’re back to wiping off snoopy feet every time we come back inside.
The snoop is sleeping like a bejeweled prince upon his embroidered pillow, all his many feet in one big pile. He smells terrible but to me the worse he smells the better I like it. He is truly such a beautiful beast. I was thinking today about how amazing it is that we just trust him to never get up on the pieces of furniture he’s not allowed on. It never crosses our minds to even wonder if he’s been up on the couch or up on our bed while we’ve been gone. He just would never. He’s even learned not to get up on a chair that he USED to be allowed on. He’s just a real solid little pal, very trustworthy and reliable, and always up for adventure or napping, whichever you prefer. If you put a plate with a cookie on it or something down on the coffee table he’ll come right up to it and put his nose a fraction of a centimeter away from it and sniff it for so long, and then after many many seconds of passionate smelling he’ll just take a little lick. He would never bite it or grab it. But if you don’t watch him, he will give it a lick. It cracks me up. He’s not made of stone. Today he ran into me because he was sniffing the air so hard he wasn’t looking where he was going. He’s such a rat.
Please also enjoy my old man’s “FUCK YOU” pajamas, which he purchased online from Spencer Gifts and of which he is very proud and speaks often in tones of reverent delight
My old man is out of town, so last night I got my own plain cheese pizza and was very excited about it, then realized that this is the exact same thing that Kevin does in “Home Alone,” except he is an 8 year old child and I am a grown-ass woman with knee arthritis. I guess the appeal of one’s own cheese pizza simply never fades, and is the great equalizer. As humans, we have always loved to get our own cheese pizza.
Sumer is Icumen in