Last semester I took a course about Geoffrey Chaucer, medieval poet (in Chaucer’s words, a “maker”) and forger of the English language. I’d never read his work and only had a passing knowledge of The Canterbury Tales, thus entering his canon with little want or expectation.
I fell in love.
Rarely had I encountered a work that I could describe as literal genius (cf. https://thirtyshortyears.wordpress.com/2015/06/19/dancing-dancing/) as I could with Chaucer’s oeuvre, Troilus and Crisyede in particular. The following poem is written in that’s work’s scheme — ABABBCC, or “rhime royal.” It’s a pale imitation, but an imitation worth making.
Dare I disturb the universe?
Trembling with pen in hand,
scribble another line of curse
against, running through my fingers, sand
marking time in a bygone land
that I may not truly forget,
however much I myself let.
If it be laughter, if it be shame,
if I avert mine own eyes,
the work will come out all the same.
This is but a mere screening guise
for all of time’s fools and all her wise;
we are a gathering of troubled thought
which has these lines begot.
Do you think this a light task?
Is the world growing ever madder
as you draw tight a grimacing mask?
Here’s my work — but it’s no matter.
I’m of the former, not the latter.
But whether what I have written is true–
that, in fact, is up to you.