Yasuko and I were walking this evening. “From all your Chaucer reading … what did you learn?” she asked.
It was a good question!
On January 28 I started memorizing The Miller’s Tale and its prologue, in Middle English. The whole thing is 745 lines. After I got that more or less down pat, I started memorizing the General Prologue, which is 858 lines. It’s a lot harder to remember than The Miller’s Tale because it’s not one cohesive story, rather, it’s the introduction to all the characters, with a description of each.
A couple of days ago I finished it, and now I can recite both, all 1,603 lines. It takes about two hours at a normal pace, but if I hurry I can cram it into an hour forty.
Every day I’d get up, memorize a few lines, forget a few lines, recite a few lines, and then get on with my day. Not that there is any purpose to it. I mean, what do you do with 1,603 lines of Middle English? About the only thing I can think of is that you go ahead and start memorizing the entire Tales, which run about 17,000 lines.
Now there is a Race Across Middle English for you.
Maybe you could do it in five or six years, but more like ten. And then you’d literally be repeating from the moment you awoke to the moment you slept. People might think you had a problem. In fact, when I stroll the neighborhood, they already do, muttering to myself as I am in an incomprensible, metered jumble of mumble. In fact, reciting the whole Tales would take about 20-25 hours.
Which is kind of a long time, and might not all fit on Instagram.
But back to the question, “What did you learn?”
Well, at least this: Nothing has changed.