Posted on 2 Comments

The Sweet Showers of April

Michael McLure at Last Waltz concert, 1976, reading from The Canterbury Tales

Watch and listen to U.S. poet Michael McClure (above) recite an excerpt from the General Prologue to Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. The poem, from the late 1300s, is one of the first great works of literature when English as we know it was taking shape.

I love the strangeness of the language, the odd pronunciations, the French cast to the words, the rhythm and musicality of Middle English poetry. 

McClure’s performance was in an unusual context: on the stage of the Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco, November 26, 1976. It was the last concert performed by The Band, along with guests like Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, and Muddy Waters.

There was a pause in the music when McClure walked onstage, found a microphone, and began intoning the ancient lines. In the words of The Atlanta Poetry Review, he “lilted, rolled, and seduced the audience into the lyric tonality of Middle English.”

Whan that Aprille …

When the month turns to April, I find myself reciting the words:

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote, 
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote, 
And bathed every veyne in swich licóur 
Of which vertú engendred is the flour

Hard words to pierce. They’re like another language from a different time. But they’re all too human.

When April, with its sweet rains,
Has pierced the drought of March to the root
And bathed every (plant) vein in such liqueur
That engenders the flower

It speaks of the land awakening from a cold, dark winter. How the West Wind breathes life into every wood and field, giving new life to the trees and flowers. The birds, that sleep all night with open eyes, begin to sing of this renewal.

An Ode to Joy Chorale

We’re in Chaucer’s moment right now. The sap stirs in our Garry Oak and cherry trees, whose branches fill with new leaves and blossoms. On bake days, I rise in the dark and silence. The birdsong starts when the morning light first shows itself. It crescendoes into a full-on “Ode to Joy” chorale by the time the first loaves are coming out of the oven. Choirs of croaking frogs rise from the creeks at the corner of the property.

Nature’s renewal fills the hearts of people, too. The characters of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales set out on pilgrimages to holy shrines, where they seek the intervention of martyrs and saints to cure their sickness and suffering.

Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages
...
The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.

I don’t feel the need to visit the shrine of St. Thomas á Beckett, as Chaucer’s pilgrims do, but I do seek a cure of sorts. I want to move outdoors, to breathe in the air, see the green colouring in the flat brown and grey of the woods, to welcome the flowers and greet the birds. My connection to nature is the cure, the purification.

Swimming in the clear waters of Boundary Pass, these days, is my purification, my salvation!

Thanne longen folk …

The Canterbury Tales are a collection of 24 stories told by members of a group of pilgrims traveling from London to Canterbury, the resting place of the martyred St. Thomas.

Chaucer, the narrator

There is plenty of time for talk on the three-day journey. Each storyteller is an archetype of some aspect of medieval life, a miller, priest, knight, a “wife,” cook, lawyer, sailor.

The stories are often cartoon-like. They provoke comments and criticisms from other characters. Together they reveal divisions in some of the moral, ethical, religious aspects of English society in the 14th century. They are bawdy, humorous, thought-provoking, and profoundly human.

Bring a flagon of ale!

Apart from fighting with the Middle English, The Canterbury Tales was a pure delight when I first read it. It was a revelation to see these characters, although two dimensional, reach out of the middle ages and come to life. It felt as if I could have a conversation with each of them, drinking a glass of ale.

But it is those few opening lines that come forward to me each Spring when the sap stirs, and the birds sing, and smell of fresh bread coming out of the Mildrith the wood-fired oven.


What are your favourite medieval films?

It was my love of The Canterbury Tales that inspired an enduring interest in the Middle Ages, a period of great upheaval and innovation that formed many of the cornerstones of modern society.

I love films that realistically depict the Middle Ages. That is, movies that dramatize historical events, or that depict medieval life or ideas with some accuracy.

If you’re looking for something other than the usual Netflix fare, here are a few of my all-time favourite films set in the Middle Ages:

  • The Name of the Rose
  • The Reckoning
  • Beckett
  • The Seventh Seal
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • Henry V (1989)

There are many more! Let me know what your choices would be!


Happy Monk Tidings - November 15, 2023  BAKER'S CHOICE this week: Olive Sourdough Loaf; AND: An Emotional Weather Report [ See LinkTree in Profile ] 🍞

Happy Monk Tidings - November 15, 2023 BAKER`S CHOICE this week: Olive Sourdough Loaf; AND: An Emotional Weather Report [ See LinkTree in Profile ] 🍞 ...

30 2
Happy Monk Tidings - November 1, 2023 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Sourdough Sandwich Loaf; BLOG: Don't Let That Wonder Lawyer Tell You It's Not Real Bread! [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - November 1, 2023 🍞 - BAKER`S CHOICE: Sourdough Sandwich Loaf; BLOG: Don`t Let That Wonder Lawyer Tell You It`s Not Real Bread! [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

29 0
Dylan Thomas, one of my muses, would have been 109 years old this Friday, Oct. 27. One of a small-handful of poets whose words are cherished and summoned often for their music and wisdom. They soothe, they sing, they evoke. I'll be thinking of him this bread day, under "the mustardseed sun"….. and the "switchback sea"…. as he "celebrates and spurns his driftwood thirty fifth wind turned age."
.
.
.
.
#dylanthomas #poetsofinstagram #poetrylovers #poetryisnotdead #poetryofinstagram #poets #poetryislife #poetrylove #poetrydaily #poetryworld #poetryinstagram #bakerpoets #poetryforbakers #southpenderisland #penderisland 

Happy Monk Tidings - October 25, 2023 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE - Sprouted Emmer Sourdough; BLOG: Happy Birthday, Dylan Thomas! [See LinkTree in Profile ]

Dylan Thomas, one of my muses, would have been 109 years old this Friday, Oct. 27. One of a small-handful of poets whose words are cherished and summoned often for their music and wisdom. They soothe, they sing, they evoke. I`ll be thinking of him this bread day, under "the mustardseed sun"….. and the "switchback sea"…. as he "celebrates and spurns his driftwood thirty fifth wind turned age."
.
.
.
.
#dylanthomas #poetsofinstagram #poetrylovers #poetryisnotdead #poetryofinstagram #poets #poetryislife #poetrylove #poetrydaily #poetryworld #poetryinstagram #bakerpoets #poetryforbakers #southpenderisland #penderisland

Happy Monk Tidings - October 25, 2023 🍞 - BAKER`S CHOICE - Sprouted Emmer Sourdough; BLOG: Happy Birthday, Dylan Thomas! [See LinkTree in Profile ]
...

25 3
Happy Monk Tidings - October 18, 2023 - 🍞: BAKER's CHOICE: Seedy Spelt and Rye Bread; BLOG: It Starts With Wonder? What's That?

Happy Monk Tidings - October 18, 2023 - 🍞: BAKER`s CHOICE: Seedy Spelt and Rye Bread; BLOG: It Starts With Wonder? What`s That? ...

8 0
Happy Monk Tidings - October 11, 2023  BAKER'S CHOICE: Potato Rosemary Bread; BLOG: Swimming with Otters 🍞

Happy Monk Tidings - October 11, 2023 BAKER`S CHOICE: Potato Rosemary Bread; BLOG: Swimming with Otters 🍞 ...

26 0
Happy Monk Tidings - BLOG: Abundance: Season of Apples; Baker's Choice: Pender Island Apple Bread with Pender Apples and Twin Island Cider - October 4, 2023 🍞 [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - BLOG: Abundance: Season of Apples; Baker`s Choice: Pender Island Apple Bread with Pender Apples and Twin Island Cider - October 4, 2023 🍞 [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

21 0
Happy Monk Tidings - September 27, 2023 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE THIS WEEK: Harvest Bread; BLOG: Positively Fourth Avenue - [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - September 27, 2023 🍞 - BAKER`S CHOICE THIS WEEK: Harvest Bread; BLOG: Positively Fourth Avenue - [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

22 0
Happy Monk Tidings - September 20, 2023 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Garlic Levain Bread; BLOG: Harumph! Author Says Leave the Baking to the Professionals! [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - September 20, 2023 🍞 - BAKER`S CHOICE: Garlic Levain Bread; BLOG: Harumph! Author Says Leave the Baking to the Professionals! [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

25 1
A hefty Country Miche, formula from Breadlines published by Bread Bakers Guild of America. Hefty in size, hefty in flavour. Four flours (Sifted Metchosin Wheat, Rye, Buckwheat, Spelt), a super-active levain and an intense crust colour. I think I’m addicted! It’s kind of finicky, though, and trying to work out a reasonable schedule to produce 40 loaves for Happy Monk customers.
.
.
.
.
. #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderislands #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakingcompany #wholegrainbread #breadhead #michebread #realbread #rusticbread #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries

A hefty Country Miche, formula from Breadlines published by Bread Bakers Guild of America. Hefty in size, hefty in flavour. Four flours (Sifted Metchosin Wheat, Rye, Buckwheat, Spelt), a super-active levain and an intense crust colour. I think I’m addicted! It’s kind of finicky, though, and trying to work out a reasonable schedule to produce 40 loaves for Happy Monk customers.

.

.

.

.

. #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderislands #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakingcompany #wholegrainbread #breadhead #michebread #realbread #rusticbread #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries
...

31 0
REMINDER: Happy Monk is on Summer Break! We're off on our annual late summer respite. Next bread day is Sept. 22. See you then! (photo by Davy Joel Rippner)

REMINDER: Happy Monk is on Summer Break! We`re off on our annual late summer respite. Next bread day is Sept. 22. See you then! (photo by Davy Joel Rippner) ...

27 0
Happy Monk Tidings - August 30, 2023 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE:  Mountain Rye Bread; BLOG: Making Bread and Art With A Message; NOTE: Happy Monk is on Holiday for the Next Two Weeks - https://mailchi.mp/ae234548bd1a/happy_monk_tidings_aug30

Happy Monk Tidings - August 30, 2023 🍞 - BAKER`S CHOICE: Mountain Rye Bread; BLOG: Making Bread and Art With A Message; NOTE: Happy Monk is on Holiday for the Next Two Weeks - https://mailchi.mp/ae234548bd1a/happy_monk_tidings_aug30 ...

26 0
Happy Monk Tidings - August 23, 2023 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Bold Beer Bread; BLOG: Cheese Karma; More Happy Monk holidays coming soon! https://mailchi.mp/783a72739071/happy_monk_tidings_aug23

Happy Monk Tidings - August 23, 2023 🍞 - BAKER`S CHOICE: Bold Beer Bread; BLOG: Cheese Karma; More Happy Monk holidays coming soon! https://mailchi.mp/783a72739071/happy_monk_tidings_aug23 ...

25 0
Happy Monk Tidings - August 9, 2023 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Sesame Sourdough; BLOG: Say A Prayer For The Perfect Loaf; ANNOUNCEMENT: Happy Monk Summer Holiday Schedule https://mailchi.mp/99197a16b166/happy_monk_tidings_aug9

Happy Monk Tidings - August 9, 2023 🍞 - BAKER`S CHOICE: Sesame Sourdough; BLOG: Say A Prayer For The Perfect Loaf; ANNOUNCEMENT: Happy Monk Summer Holiday Schedule https://mailchi.mp/99197a16b166/happy_monk_tidings_aug9 ...

33 1
Happy Monk Tidings - August 2, 2023 🍞 - BLOG: The Great Laugh (a poem); Baker's Choice: Honey Whole Wheat Sandwich Loaf; [Campaign URL]

Happy Monk Tidings - August 2, 2023 🍞 - BLOG: The Great Laugh (a poem); Baker`s Choice: Honey Whole Wheat Sandwich Loaf; [Campaign URL] ...

16 0
Happy Monk Blog - July 26, 2023 🍞 - Swimming the Neighbourhoods; how John Cheever's short story, The Swimmer, made more sense to kids in the summertime. [See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Blog - July 26, 2023 🍞 - Swimming the Neighbourhoods; how John Cheever`s short story, The Swimmer, made more sense to kids in the summertime. [See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

13 0
Happy Monk Tidings - July 19, 2023 🍞
Baker's Choice: Cinnamon-Raisin Bread; BLOG: Coffee, Tea and Hot Chocolate [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - July 19, 2023 🍞
Baker`s Choice: Cinnamon-Raisin Bread; BLOG: Coffee, Tea and Hot Chocolate [ See LinkTree in Profile ]
...

26 0
Happy Monk Blog - July 12, 2023 🍞 - "Nothing I Cared in the Lamb White Days" - Climate change and watching the moon rise over the Salish Sea. [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Blog - July 12, 2023 🍞 - "Nothing I Cared in the Lamb White Days" - Climate change and watching the moon rise over the Salish Sea. [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

36 0
Happy Monk Tidings - July 5, 2023 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Olive Sourdough; ReBLOG: Salvador Dalí and the Art of Bread [ Click LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - July 5, 2023 🍞 - BAKER`S CHOICE: Olive Sourdough; ReBLOG: Salvador Dalí and the Art of Bread [ Click LinkTree in Profile ] ...

22 0
Happy Monk Tidings - June 28, 2023 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Spelt and Honey Sourdough; BLOG: Black Robe and Rise of the Machine [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - June 28, 2023 🍞 - BAKER`S CHOICE: Spelt and Honey Sourdough; BLOG: Black Robe and Rise of the Machine [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

29 2
Stately, plump German Rye loaves that even Buck Mulligan would love. This day June 16, Happy Bloomsday all!

Stately, plump German Rye loaves that even Buck Mulligan would love. This day June 16, Happy Bloomsday all! ...

41 3

2 thoughts on “The Sweet Showers of April

  1. […] The Pilgrim’s Road, used by pilgrims who traveled from London to Canterbury (including Chaucer’s pilgrims of The Canterbury Tales), passes by not far from the […]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.