Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Parliament of Fowls!

The following is a brief tribute to Geoffrey Chaucer's ode to love: Parliament of Fowls

The Parliament of Fowls is perhaps the first St. Valentine's Day poem ever written. It has been suggested that it was begun in May of 1382 and finished for Valentine's day in 1383. In this famous poem, Chaucer sets forth his love-vision. What follows is a very brief summation of the story of this delightful occasion poem. Alceste says of Chaucer, that he wrote "many an ympne for [Love's] holydayes."

In the opening verses the poet declares himself to be without direct experience of the ways of the God of Love. "I knowe nat Love in dede." But, as he goes on to explain, he has learned of the subject from books.. Actually he goes to books for all kinds of knowledge. Of late he has been reading a very helpful book, the Somnium Scipionis, and he relates at some length how the elder Africanus appeared to Scipio the younger in a dream, and took him up into the heavens, where he showed him the mysteries of the future life.

The poet goes on to say that night comes and he puts his book to rest. After falling to asleep, he dreamed that this same Africanus came to him too and stood at his bedside. To reward him for the study of his "olde book totorn," the Roman took him to a beautiful park, where he saw the temple of Venus, and then to a hillside, where all the birds were assembled before the goddess of Nature on Saint Valentine's Day.

The birds had come, following Nature's order, to choose their mates, and then to fly away. The first choice belonged to the royal tercel eagle, who claimed the lovely formel eagle on the goddess's hand. At once and with little delay a second and a third tercel, both of lower rank, disputed the first one's claim, and the three noble suitors pleaded their causes before Nature. Then the issue was debated by the general parliament of the birds. Finally Nature ruled that the choice should rest with the formel eagle herself, and she asked for a year's delay before making her decision.

There you have it in a nutshell! Now if you want to listen to the poem in podcast, read the poem in old English and /or generally know more about the subject of St. Valentine’s Day click on the appropriate links at this address (click here).

The Parliament of Fowls (PDF)

Perhaps you want to read a more up-to-date translation of Chaucer's famous love poem (click here).

Happy Valentine’s Day, ron

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