By Bernard Felix Huppe
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Extra info for A Reading of the Canterbury Tales
Although I had not seen my friend's book until he sent it to me, it provided precisely what I had need of. My first chapter can stand as an introduction to his Preface, and his Preface as an indispensable introduction to my Reading. Professor Robertson refers to our conversations about Chaucer when we were colleagues some time ago. His book began then, and so did mine. There are differences of detail in some of our interpretations, I perceive, and I am looking forward to a time when the two of us can argue out these differences.
Reflection, however, forces the recognition that "convention" is something a great poet uses for his own purposes and that rhetoric is only empty when it has no function. Hemingway has his own rhetoric, and it springs from the conventions of the twentieth century. "Convention" explains nothing, except as it may help to suggest what Chaucer may have had in mind when he wrote the way he did, and in the manner he did, granted the models he had in mind. Chaucer has a little joke about himself in the Prologue to the Legend of Good Women, where he is defended against the charge of defaming the God of Love: But for he [Chaucer] useth bokes for to make, And taketh non hed of what matere he take, Therfore he wrot the Rose and ek Crisseyde Of innocence, and nyste what he seyde.
This paraphrase with its several sentences obscures the fact that Chaucer begins his poem with an introductory adverbial clause of eleven lines; the main body of the sentence begins only at line twelve with "Thanne", and continues through line eighteen. " Conventional expectation leads us to expect something of line twelve. All Spring is moving; only man is missing. We are prepared for the "folk", and we are prepared that they should be "longing"but that they should be longing "to goon on pilgrimages'' is a sinking, an anticlimax to which we have been led by our anticipations of Page 15 thoughts of love"In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns .
A Reading of the Canterbury Tales by Bernard Felix Huppe