Sunday, November 16, 2014

Computer rehab!

My trusty 7 year old Mac has serious problems. It’s been trying to keep up with the competition, but its memory has been failing. It’s headed for rehab in a couple of days. Don’t know how long it will be before it shapes up. . . . sigh . . . I’ll miss it. I just hope I still recognize it when it comes back.
         I’ll be thinking about Chaucer while it’s gone and gathering some new ideas to share with you. Until then, peace be with all of you.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Cock-a-doodle who?

A couple of entries back (Oct 9) I said we'd find another bird concealed among the pilgrims. Now is the time.
     The General Prologue, that introduces all the pilgrims, begins with two trios of travelers. We've already seen the Knight, Squire, and Yeoman as a trinity; the third person is a peacock. The Prioress, the Second Nun and their accompanying Priest also make up a trinity and, again, as a parody of the Catholic Trinity, we'll find a bird masquerading in the third person--the Nun's Priest.
     We're told nothing about the Priest-Pilgrim until he is called upon to tell his tale. Recall that at the surface we see transportation is by horse, but at the covert level what is said of the transport can also divulge something about the Pilgrim. Instead of being respectful, the Host speaks rudely to the Priest calling his "horse" foul and lean. That's the first "bird" clue, and foul will be used again. When the Priest had his tale attamed/atamed, it can mean he began his story, but it can also say he controlled his tail!    
     After the Priest tells the very entertaining story of Chaunticleer (a rooster), the Host has much to say about the Priest's tendencies and appearance, often reflecting the fictional rooster's attributes. It has long been assumed the the Host is poking fun at a "man" with bird terminology. That works on the surface, but we aim to see the identity at a second level hidden within the pilgrim disguise.
     If the Priest had been a secular, he'd have been a trede-foul (there's foul again) meaning he'd have been a sexually active bird. Chaunticleer had seven hens for his pleasure, but this character would need seven times seventeen hens! His "braun" is admirable; the word refers to flesh as meat. Chaunticleer was described stretching his neck; this priest also has a great neck and a large breast, as well, to add to his bird portrait. His eyes are bird eyes, like those of a hawk. Now add a splash of color to the picture. Where Chaunticleer had a comb redder than fine coral, we learn that no dye is needed for this Priest's features because they are naturally bright red. Visualize a cockscomb and wattle.
     Once you picture this priest as a rooster a couple of other lines yield a second meaning. The bird role mimics the Catholic image of "Victim and Priest." Roosters were the victims in pagan augury. They would be sacrificed and their entrails examined to determine whether the future would bring good fortune--or no. Chaucer provides hints of augury.
     To begin with, the Priest declares he must always be merry or he will be blamed. A happy outcome is always desired or the sacrificed bird will be the bearer of bad news! Then, during the story, Chaunticleer he is distressed, fearful. And what does Pertelote, his wife, recommend for her rooster husband? Take a laxative! That will improve the condition of his entrails which, in turn, will brighten the future.
     (That's enough for here. But, if you want more details of how Chaucer wove extensive pagan elements into this trinity, see Chaucer's Pilgrims, pages 278-299.)