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Troilus and Criseyde

 
 
Khethil
 
Reply Sat 7 Feb, 2009 03:51 pm
I enjoyed this epic poem in a very peculiar way. I had at first thought not to try and "review it" (read: Pass it along) since it's but a long work of poetry, but as I'm in the midst of yet another classic poem I know I *will* want to review [1], I thought what the heck. Beyond any doubt, I am no expert; and shall give due advance apologies for any disservice I do to the art Chaucer's work represents. Nonetheless, I thought it appropriate that no collection of classic reviews be without at least its mention.

Troilus and Criseyde
Geoffrey Chaucer
Middle English Version: From "The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer", Oxford University Press. Modern English Version: Translation by Phillip Krapp, Copyright 1932, Random House Publishing. Side-by-Side printing From "Great Books of the Western World"
ISBN: 0-85229-163-9
Publisher: Encyclopedia Britannica
Online for Viewing in many places (One is here)

OVERVIEW: For anyone not familiar with Geoffrey Chaucer, he was a poet who lived in England from about 1340 to about 1400. Having led a very interesting life, he is perhaps more popularly-known for his Canterbury Tales. Having read both, I enjoyed this the more. The story is ostensibly a love story between a man and woman, of opposing lineage, during the siege of Troy (Troilis himself cast as Priam's son). I found it a graceful read, although I must admit to some difficulty - at times - understanding the middle English "rhyme" style. Without this, it's not much more than a romance poem about conflicting loyalties and the harsh reality of what can happen in love during wartime. In fact, Shakespeare did an adaptation play, based on this some time later.

But to give you a flavor of what middle English is, I'd like to contrast them below (given the work I read from, I enjoyed the pleasure of being able to read both side by side; the middle English and modern), here's an excerpt from the work Book 1, #35:

Excerpt in the Original Middle English Rhyme[INDENT]"That this be sooth, hath preved and doth yit;
For this trowe I yet knowen, alle or some,
Men reden not that folk hath gretter wit
Than they that han be most with love y-nome;
And strengest folk ben therwith overcome,
The worthiest and grettest of degree;
This was, and is, and yet men shal it see"
[/INDENT]Same Excerpt from Modern English Translation
[INDENT]"That this is true hath oftentimes be proved,
For well you know, and in wise books may read,
That men of greatest worth have deepest loved,
And none so powerful in word or deed,
But he the greater power of love must heed,
For all his fame or high nobility;
Thus hath it been and ever shall be"
[/INDENT]So yea; this is soaring, grand talk given by one who weaves some extremely creative methods of spelling, rhyme and cadence together to convey particular emotions and themes. He does well and I'd recommend this to anyone who has the both patience and interest in love-poetry of the finest ancient Anglican tradition.

PRO:

  • Graceful prose with deep undertones of vast emotion
  • Masterfully crafted poetry
  • Each scene's setting was cleverly in tune with the direction of the scene's progression.
  • Intimate thoughts of characters were often compared and contrasted; nice touch
  • The rhythm of the word kept flowing - though in no strict compression - throughout the work

CON:

  • Either you can sense the beauty in such a style, nowadays, or not. It's not for everyone
  • Many themes, as they struck me, came as banal
  • One needs a sense of the historical context for it to have much value; or to be very much open minded.
  • I didn't like the ending; I was bummed, thusly.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Illustration of Love's Power (pp5, 8)
  • Beauty Defined (pp 6)
  • Learning from the Mistakes of Others (pp 13)
  • Full of Sorrow and Dispair (pp 14, 124)
  • Suffering in Solitude (pp 15)
  • From the Femme, '...shall I trust?' (pp 35)
  • Foolish Things (pp 38)
  • The Pain of Love's Anticipation (pp 40)
  • Stewing in one's own Grief (pp 126)
  • 'Nothing Ventured' quote (pp 135)


My RATING: 8.3

NOTABLE QUOTES
(given in the "modern English" style for clarity):[INDENT]Book 2, #91: "A whetstone is no carving instrument,
And yet it maketh sharp the carving tool;
And if you see my efforts wrongly spent,
Escheew that course and learn out of my school;
For thus the wise may profit by the fool,
And edge has wit, and grow more keen and weary,
For wisdom shies opposed to its contrary"

Book 5, #32: "...Where are her arms and where her eyes so clear,
Which yesternight were solace to my care?
Now I must weep alone in dark despair,
And blindly grope, but nothing in this place,
Except a pillow, find I to embrace?"
[/INDENT][INDENT]Book 5, #112, "... She seemed to carry something on her mind,
Some loss to which she could not be resigned,
"But still, " he said, "to try is worth the pains,
For he who nothing ventures, nothing gains"

[/INDENT]~~~~~~~~~~~~~
[1] Paradise Lost, John Milton
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Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Sat 7 Feb, 2009 04:17 pm
@Khethil,
God I love Chaucer. I took a year long course in him in college. We read Troilus and Criseyde aloud as a class in the middle English with traditional pronunciation, all in one sitting.
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Sat 7 Feb, 2009 04:46 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes wrote:
God I love Chaucer. I took a year long course in him in college. We read Troilus and Criseyde aloud as a class in the middle English with traditional pronunciation, all in one sitting.


Oi!

For me, where it "gelled", the effect was quite moving. Where it didn't, I had the feeling of random words floating in the air. Did that particular style do much for you?
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Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Sat 7 Feb, 2009 07:58 pm
@Khethil,
Chaucer's style? I love it. I've read much of the Canterbury Tales, some parts more than once, and he has a different style for each voice.

The other poet from the period who has a stunning style is the poet who wrote Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Pearl. His writing is a bit more difficult, because he wasn't from near London like Chaucer was. Gawain of course is an epic Arthurian poem, and the Pearl is a dream vision. Cool stuff. In a Middle English Lit course we read a lot of other writers and works from the period, like Havelock the Dane and Athelston. When you read some of the less known poets, you get a sense of why Chaucer was truly great.
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Sun 8 Feb, 2009 06:09 am
@Aedes,
Aedes wrote:
The other poet from the period who has a stunning style is the poet who wrote Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Pearl...


Good, added to my poetry "to read" list.

Good prose is so rare. I believe it takes a certain sensibility (often, and unfortunately not so much extolled in my society's popular culture) to appreciate such things. For me, also, I get a sense of 'making touch' with my ancestry (not British, specifically, but broadly western-european). In those places where we can - for an instant - grasp a sense of how our ancestors felt; well, it's just good stuff Smile

Thanks again
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Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Sun 8 Feb, 2009 09:32 pm
@Khethil,
In modernity good prose absolutely abounds. Of course it depends what you consider good, but there's no shortage of it, and there are all sorts of examples. Of writers from past eras, I guess Shakespeare is the obvious example of an English writer who was an unparalleled master of prose.

In antiquity (and even the early modern period), I find verse somehow bridges the gap more. I read a prose middle english document about a Viking raid on a convent in northern England, in which everyone was slaughtered by the Vikings. The prose is less captivating than the good poets, because the cadence of their speech has been lost over the centuries, but the notions of rhythm and rhyme have not.
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