Sunday, August 2, 2009

Readings: A Worthy Pilgrim

I am currently reading The Canterbury Tales in Nevill Coghill’s modern English translation. I struggled through Chaucer in the original Middle English in my student days, but want to read it now for pleasure and sense, rather than for language study.

That said, while reading the famous Prologue, I was struck by how Chaucer’s characterization of The Parson, “a holy-minded man of good renown,” seemed to serve as a commentary on the Buddhist poem by “Pickup” that was the centerpiece of my previous post. I first considered presenting the excerpt below in the modern English translation. But I decided that since it’s quite short, I’d let the greater wallop of the original present the message:

This noble ensample to his sheep he yaf,
That first he wroughte, and afterward he taughte;
Out of the Gospel he tho wordes caughte;
And this figure he hadded eek therto,
That if gold ruste, what shal iren do?
For if a preest be foul, on whom we truste,
No wonder is a lewed man to ruste;
And shame it is, if a preest take keep,
A shiten shepherde and a clene sheep.
Wel oghte a preest ensample for to yive,
By his clennesse, how that his sheep sholde live.

I think that even you non-English majors can get the gist of "shiten?"