Saturday, May 1

Jason is the man

I posted the text of Chaucer's General Prolgue in Middle English that I had to learn in college over on Kith and Kin. Jason sent their website this email that he copied me on:

Dear Librarius editors,

I like your site very much; thank you for the hard work that went into it.

That said, I wonder what the basis is for the textual variant I see in line 17. Your version runs, "The hooly blisful martir for the seke." I'm used to seeing it rendered, "The hooly blisful martir for to seke." I'm pretty sure the second version is preferable. Here's why:
1. As your glossary notes, "seke" in this case is a verb meaning "visit." Of course, it is also a variation of "seeke," meaning "sick," but that would have Chaucer building his rime riche on a single word. While that's not unheard-of, it seems to me that he normally prefers something like the clever couplet from The Merchant's Tale, "For sondry scoles maken sotile clerkis; / Womman of manye scoles half a clerk is."
2. If "seke" is construed as "sick" in line 17, Chaucer is reduced to writing, "The holy, blissful martyr of the sick / Who helped them when they were sick." I cannot believe he would do that.
3. If "seke" is construed as "visit," the construction "for the seke" certainly seems nonstandard, as "for to" has the precedent of "for to seken straunge strondes" in line 13. This construction is also attested in line 33, "And made forward erly for to ryse."

I'm familiar with the complicated manuscript situation faced by editors of Chaucer. How did you come to use this version of the line?

Jason Streed
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