Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages
“Prologue to The Canterbury Tales”, Chaucer 1343–1400When in April the sweet showers fall And pierce the drought of March to the root, and all The veins are bathed in liquor of such power As brings about the engendering of the flower, When also Zephyrus with his sweet breath Exhales an air in every grove and heath Upon the tender shoots, and the young sun His half-course in the sign of the Ram has run, And the small fowl and making melody That sleep away the night with open eye (So Nature pricks them and their heart engages) Then people go on pilgrimages
(Below right: Zephyrus, Greek god of the West Wind and Spring; and the Nymph Chlorisof Spring, flora and proliferation, who became his wife. Wiki photo).
I’ve been reciting the above lines every April, since 1970! At school the Middle Ages and pronunciation of Middle English with its alveolar trill (good singing warm up exercise!) always fascinated me and was wonderfully reproduced by one of my English masters.
I read most of the characters’ tales before we studied the very moral Knight’s Tale, considered suitable for students. In an exam, the essay question I chose was “Has human nature changed since Chaucer’s time?” It was very tempting just to put “No.” as my answer, such was my sense of humour! Instead, I wrote a detailed thesis naming well-known public current and historical characters/politicians/religious icons etc – the corrupt, lascivious, debauched and the hypocrites – and compared them directly with specific characters in Chaucer’s Prologue! I didn’t receive the usual top marks for my English Literature for that particular work and I believe it was because my blatant accuracy was not exactly popular amongst the board of school examiners! It didn’t matter to me at age 16, I enjoyed the absorption process of writing it. Marks, either way, were never of interest to me.
My last visit to Canterbury was when I attended an audition for a part in a modern adaptation of The Wife of Bath’s Tale (part of her tale is related by me on VOICEREEL page above). Thousands of women up and down the country had tried their luck to act alongside Julie Walters to play the role of nurse (although I originally thought the audition was for the role of WoB). Of the 100 or so auditionees in Canterbury, only 50% had the opportunity to play the nurse as we had to audition in pairs and the other 50% (me among them) had to play the Wife of Bath already cast. I was, nevertheless, pleased at least that my acting partner, of all the many women, got the part. Her photograph was on the tv website, saying how thrilled she was about the opportunity and I was later very excited to watch the television programme to see her when it aired. But she wasn’t in it! The part had been dropped altogether from the script. As the leading actress played an actress, she complained in the play that they’d changed the script! A way of explaining to us budding thespians?Large hips, her heels spurred sharply under that, In company she liked to laugh and chat And knew the remedies for love’s mischances, An art in which she knew the oldest dances.
Pilgrimages daily I do make – not of the religious kind to “Jerusalem thrice” or Compostella, Spain like the WoB; – but locally, making visits to beautiful tree lined lanes along the Thames, the longest river in England (second in the UK) or to Richmond Park. The sacred air and looking at everything outdoors gives me spiritual sustenance.
I hope you’ll enjoy gazing at the photographs below wherever you roam, explore or free yourself to bathe in Spring light this April on the wings of Zephyrus. With blue-green blessings, Dawn