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ePub The Canterbury Tales download

by harriet & sophia lee

ePub The Canterbury Tales download
harriet & sophia lee
HarperSanFrancisco (1989)
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1551 kb
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Book by lee, harriet n sophia
  • The OBG Classics edition published September 11, 2017, claims to be "the new translation." But IF it is somehow new -- and, by the way, no translator is identified -- what exactly has been translated? What is new about it? It is still written in the difficult-to-understand Middle English Chaucer used, and apart from spelling (or misspelling?) "his" as "hise" in line-1 [see NOTE at end] and throwing in some extra commas, this is pretty much the standard version. It is handsomely formatted and has an active TOC, but no introduction, no clarifications of archaic words, nothing but the seemingly original Middle English text. Calling itself "the new translation" strongly suggests this has been translated into easier-to-understand Modern English, but such is not the case here. Chaucer certainly rates 5-stars, but I have deducted one for the misrepresentation.

    FYI: An excellent Modern English version will be found in the Kindle Store for $.99 by A. S. Kline.

    NOTE: The first line normally reads: "Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote...." The words "shoures" and "soote" are each two syllables in Middle English pronunciation; thus the entire line rightly has the number of accented syllables Chaucer intended. If "his" (a one-syllable word) were improperly changed to "hise" (turning it into a two-syllable word, pronounced his-uh) -- as is done here -- that adds an unintended and, therefore, unacceptable extra syllable. I have to assume this is merely a typo; but how many other such errors are contained herein?

  • If you are going to read The Canterbury Tales, this is the way to go. The Middle-English may seem intimidating at first, but it is easier than one might think to sound out and understand. Of course, the annotation helps quite a bit too. These tales and their frame perfectly capture medieval life with it's lively characters and various settings. Ranging from poetic diversions, to dramatic, to adventures, all the the way to gruesome fables, and plenty of very funny (and memorable) bawdy humor. This earthy group of classic stories has something for everyone. The modern translation is also worth having as a companion, but this fine paperback is the one for authenticity.

  • Let's get this clear at the start: This is a review of Jill Mann's edition of the Canterbury Tales in its Kindle version. (It's a shame that Amazon can't distinguish between different editions of the classics when posting reviews! -- hint!) About the Tales themselves, I'll say only that they are both a classic and a blast, and if you can handle the Middle English, you have to read them in that language. Jill Mann's editorial work is smart and thorough, too. The print edition is a bargain at the price -- again, if you're OK reading Middle English. The Kindle edition, though was a little clumsy to use -- though, to be fair, I don't see how all the glosses and notes could have been presented better in a e-book. Wait, yes I can. The glosses on individual words and expressions are easy to find; the more extensive notes, which are very valuable, are not. It shouldn't have been hard to add a marginal symbol to reference a Note. Hence it's only four stars, not five. But it may well be the best e-book version on the market.

  • The canterbury Tales, translated by David Wright.
    This is the best translation yet of the famous medieval work. I own the Coghill translation (Penguin), as well as the Norton Edition which is glossed and annotated. And the Oxford by Wright, an older version that is exactly the one reviewed here: same number of pages, same introduction, different cover artwork. To the issue at hand: Chaucer's poetry in the Canterbury Tales was direct, earthy, and sensual whenever his characters were thus, so it really betrays the poetry and the poet to translate his work as some sort of tea party where all the participants, including the Miller and the Wife of Bath, were prone to use euphemisms when the conversation got raunchy. But the Middle Ages were far raunchier than many of us think, and Chaucer was a man of his times, only more so. That is why I like this translation by Wright. His modern version flows quite naturally and the characters use words that do fit their personalities. However, the much-praised, but mediocre translation by Coghill does this with the Wife of Bath (Penguin, page 267):

    Be sure, old dotard, if you call the bluff,
    You'll get your evening rations right enough.

    This is euphemism pure and simple, and euphemism of the bad kind, because in the original Chaucer NEVER mentions "evening rations." This "evening rations" nonsense is a term that Coghill put there because he could not bring himself to write the exact, modern term for the original "queynte." (And, no, contrary to some opinions, queynte does not mean "pretty little thing" or belle chose.) I don't blame him, since it would have been probably censored --I'm pretty sure Amazon would censor that word if I were to write it here. But it grates me that so many people have praised Coghill's version of the Tales as "the best" in modern English. No, it isn't. It's barely OK but it's not the best. The best is Wright's rendition. Let's see the original (Norton Critical Edition, page 113, lines 331-2):

    For certeyn, olde dotard, by youre leve,
    Ye shul have queynte right y-nough at eve.

    We can clearly appreciate how Coghill has rewritten Chaucer's verse and the Wife's expressions until they correspond with somebody's idea of propriety (Coghill's), but certainly not Chaucer's or his sex-loving Wife of Bath's. Coghill kept the word "dotard," but decided not to keep the modern "queynte." He even goes so far as to invent "if you call the bluff" and "right enough" in order to force a rhyme. What does Wright do? Wright remains far closer to the original, as we expect a good translator to do (Oxford, page 227):

    Don't worry, you old dotard--it's all right,
    You'll have cvnt enough and plenty, every night.

    I have misspelled the key word in order to filter through the censorship, but I hope you get the meaning. Wright also adds certain words and rearranges the lines so that they rhyme, as Coghill did. However, Wright is closer to Chaucer and to the speaker, the Wife of Bath, than Coghill ever was. There are no "evening rations" here. There is a woman who tells her husband that he'll get plenty of sex from her every night. Wright allows us to hear the Wife, and the Miller, and the other characters as Chaucer wanted them to be heard. His pilgrims came from all walks of life, with different experiences and different ways of expressing their hopes, sorrows, happiness and desires. This translation into modern English by Wright doesn't betray the poet by changing his characters' expressions for empty polite talk and euphemisms (although, admittedly, Chaucer made the Wife use some euphemisms, he also made her direct in several occasions; this is one of them). Wright has brought Chaucer and his wonderful Tales closer to us, and he deserves to be praised.