Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Reminiscing III

This is the third and last of the reminiscences. It's intended as complete nonsense. I could have improved the writing, but I'm giving you just what I was capable of at the time. So, here it is.

Chaucer was really the king of England. He traveled incognito / he liked flying in airplanes / but preferred traveling by car. When he was in France he always spoke English. When he was in Italy he always spoke French that way no one on the Continent ever knew what he was saying & they couldn't steal the plot for his next book.
     He lived on the royalties from his books and had the legal entries about being a customs worker, etc. placed in the records to confuse historians. He bribed the record keepers to make the entries by giving them 1/2 of his daily wine allotment. He also had a stable of horses and used to rent them out to pilgrims who were going to St James Compostela. After a while, he ran out of horses because they didn't swim well enough to get the pilgrims across the English Channel.
     He & his wife never got along, that's one reason he made all those trips. Of course the reason they started not to get along was because he went on the trips & refused to take her with him. She wanted to visit her mama in Switzerland & Chaucer had a fear of heights but wouldn't admit it. That fact was only recently discovered in a secret diary of his that was discovered behind some books in the library at Westminster Abbey. And besides, it also said he couldn't stand his mother-in-law & his wife's 8 sisters who all still lived at home with Mama.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Reminiscing II

The is the second of three "exercises" I did in the 1980s just to let off steam. The first was fictional. This one is really a record of how I felt. The book about the Host, that I talk about, wasn't published until 1998--after a long search for a publisher.

Dear Geoffrey Chaucer,
I hope you don't mind my using a comma instead of a colon. I feel I know you well enough for a comma. Try not to think me forward.
     I have read most of your works and find you the most fascinating author I've known. Other authors are entertaining, paint great pictures, introduce interesting characters, have clever story lines--but you do all these things and so much more. The depth, the complexity I felt almost from the first moment was a strange and new experience. It remains to this day the most stimulating intellectual experience of my life. [And in 2015, I still feel the same way.]
     I am sorry to admit that I have so much difficulty explaining what I see to others. But I guess that is as it should be. Your genius put it together. It should be very difficult to take all the pieces apart one at a time and still be able to have someone recognize all these bits and pieces as your work of art.
     I'll keep trying. I so want someone else to enjoy what I see. Do you suppose if I give them a pretty good outline, over all description, analysis--whatever--that others will be able to continue, enlarge, discover the things remaining that I don't mention or haven't seen myself? I sure hope so. For one reason, because I can't do the whole job--I don't have the time [I was almost 60], nor do I have training in all the fields that you knew. (What, in your world, did you not know?) Was there anything that did not interest you? Was there any area of life of which you were totally ignorant? I doubt there were any.
     That's one of the most amazing things--but, if I think about it, why shouldn't it be? Each person today knows about many things in many areas of life. The remarkable thing about you is that you seemed to fit the whole world into your writing. I have trouble just trying to organize the proper details, sufficient background, adequate description. I seem to have to labor over a simple scene, work it over and over just to get minimal interest into it. Did you work and rework your verses? I don't see how you could have had time.
     I'm quite sure that you have three layers of a story line running through the CT. I'm so anxious to finish the book about the Host, and the book about Pilgrim Chaucer and the Host, so I can work on the pilgrims. You must have been spellbound by your own ideas. How amazing! How all the little pieces fit together--it overwhelms me thinking of it. Did you have a chart to keep it all straight? Or was you memory so powerful (photographic memory before photographs?) that it all stayed in order and emerged as you needed it?
     I have to say that I don't intend to just rush through the Host book to get it finished. I plan to do as good a job as I possibly can. (Pray for me.) What is it I'm really trying to express? Let me see . . . I am anxious for others to know what I know so they can be even more amazed with your writing. And I am anxious to know more and more myself. And you don't go on to the next task before you finish with the first. So, in the end, what I am feeling is the excitement in store when I start to learn more about the pilgrims. But I just want everything NOW.   :)
     I'm sure there is a pattern in the pilgrim descriptions, but chances are it is not a simple and consistent pattern. Perhaps there is one pattern for the constellations, and another for the planets--that makes a lot of sense because you'd want to point out particular stars as an identifying clue and I already know you did that in several places.--You see, there I go getting carried away when I have two long jobs to do before I get to sort out all those wonderful gems you left for us. It truly overwhelms me to know that I understand--even though I don't have all the information I need yet.
     Anything you can do to help me, I would really appreciate. I really want to do a good job. I want people to get excited about your writing. And I want them to have a new interest in the Middle Ages. I'm sure there is so much there, just waiting to be discovered. You knew it, many writers knew it. It's time to let the secrets out.
 Respectfully yours,
Dolores Cullen

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Reminiscing I

While looking through an old file for something, I came across a folder I'd forgotten about. Thought you might find the contents of interest. It comes from the 1980s. It was a time when my dear friend and mentor, Virginia Adair,  had moved out of the area; she would return a few years later. A note attached to the papers sets the scene. The first "exercise" follows.

These are "exercises" [3 of them]  I did in the 1980s, just to let off steam. I felt like I'd burst from all I could see in Chaucer and no one would listen.

I was with Master Chaucer this afternoon. He returned from Italy a few days ago. It was a hard journey. He saw many things that filled his mind and heart with pain. Sad and terrible things are happening. It must be that the Lord will soon come and make an end of this foul world. All the signs are there. 
     Master Chaucer and I talked quietly for a long while. He told me of terrors he had seen and heard about. We pray God will not allow such things to come to England.
     He is working carefully on his pilgrimage story. It is wonderful to see. His words are heavy with meaning and yet the lines are so cheery that one might never notice unless they will look deeply for what is stored there as a treasure. There are those who will handle his words and never feel their weight. He is so great a master--it is a gift from God, I have no doubt. 
     When I put my feeble words together and my lines grow, one follows the other and all they hold is clear and plain--how the master does it is a skill beyond my humble ability.
     His skill he uses as it was intended, to say what he knows so that others may benefit from what God has taught him or allowed him to see and hear. He takes these happenings, these truths, and applies his powers to them and--as if by magic--they become creatures of complexity and variety. From one side we see a simple picture; from another a noble truth and--if we are skillful enough--from a third side a message as if the Lord himself is speaking to mankind.
     It is a blessing and a wonder to know Master Chaucer, to hear him speak and to see how he weaves his thoughts into his words.
                                                                     --Master Chaucer's humble servant

Monday, July 13, 2015

Wearin' 'o' the green

Meet a couple of leprechauns. They're just lounging around, not in their formal attire--no green top hats or swallow tail coats.  They've only dropped in for a short visit.
Here's venerable old Finian--

And this is lively young Kilroy.  Don't know what they did with their pot of gold.  hmmmmm

Friday, July 10, 2015

The thrill continued

As I said in the previous entry, "I had something I had to say." The fact that Professor Trigg assumed I "sidestepped" a lot of Chaucer criticism published in the preceding forty years did not mean I was careless or sparing in my searches. It only meant that the books I read almost never connected to more recent scholarship.
     V. A. Kolve is an exception. His The Play Called Corpus Christi provides exciting information. He demonstrates, for example, that action in medieval plays mimics the action of games! Kolve intends to assist today's readers to recognize images that were a "major vocabulary" in the medieval mind-set. This enhances the "possibility of divergent readings" of the Canterbury Tales.
     I pursued other books he'd written. His Chaucer and the Imagery of Narrative has been called "the best and most important book on Chaucer to appear in twenty-five years."
     The name of Augustine seemed to touch everything medieval, all aspects of my research. I needed to know more about him. I could hardly believe he had died in 430 A.D.  That's 1000 years before the death of Chaucer. His influence not only continued uninterrupted through the Middle Ages, but it is still forceful today. What a powerful figure!
     To return to Professor Stephanie Trigg, she sees my reading as dependent on the Middle English Dictionary when I looked for "possible alternative meanings for Chaucer's lines." In truth, the dictionary proved to be a treasure trove. I'll demonstrate with the "outstanding" word I mentioned last time. You'll need a little background first.
     The word is found in the story of Thopas, which is a litany of sexual encounters told in two parts. At the end of part one, Pilgrim Chaucer leaves the decision to continue in the hands of his audience as he offers: If you will [have] any more of it, To tell it will I fonde. In the MED, fonde has ten definitions. Editors choose number seven, which says, "to try or strive to do something." That fits the surface story.
     To understand the startling alternate meaning of the line, however, it is essential to recognize that Chaucer's Host is the covert image of Christ, guide of pilgrims. (The Christic identity is established in great detail in my first book, which deals exclusively with the Host. I coverered that topic first because Christ is the heart of Chaucer's hidden message.)
     Now let's check the first definition of fonde: "to try the patience of God." Astonishing! But knowing that Christ is listening to this bawdy story, the definition comes as no surprise. After only twenty-two lines--in the middle of a sentence--the Host/Christ calls a halt as he says: "No more of this, for you make me so weary . . . My ears ache." That shows unmistakably that Christ's patience is at an end. Fonde foreshadowed the interruption.
     Near the closing of her review, Professor Trigg says "most presses would have insisted on major rewriting to update Cullen's research." She goes on to confide, that, as they exist, few teachers would recommend my Chaucer books to their students. Then, in spite of all her prior objections, the professor muses, "And yet I suspect many such teachers would be secretly quite glad if they could inspire their own students to write a series of three volumes on Chaucer." Professor Trigg is a woman who is not merely echoing Ivory Tower pronouncements. Her seeing an unspoken value in the unconventional can't help but warm this aged heart.   :)

My presentation may not abide by the academic formula, but students will know that research can be an adventure.