Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A-Z: "B" is for Harry Bailey a.k.a. The Host in Chaucer's CanterburyTales

Day 2 of A-Z here and my "B" is Harry "Bailey" or The Host of the Canterbury Tales.  It seemed fitting that I start with him.  For those that don't know the premise of the Chaucer master tales, the story is based a group of people that are set to travel to Saint Thomas Becket's shrine at the Canterbury Cathedral.  They convene at the inn where the Host, Harry Bailey, happily receives them at the establishment, providing wine and food, easily promoting camaraderie among the group.   

The Host who turns into the tour guide was the man who started all the tale telling. As I said in my previous post, Chaucer has this remarkable ability to describe real-life characters. Obviously not all of these fourteenth century literary characters can translate into our modern world, but take a look at the Host.  In present day I could see him as a local pub owner flipping the channels on the TV, rowdy at times and a man that enjoys his patrons as easily as they come and go.  The Host is a happy-go-lucky, down-home, man's man and a straight-shooter. And like many multifaceted people, he has a somewhat darker side to him.  This is why I love Chaucer. He creates the incredible captivating characters with only a few short words they come alive.   Here's a Modern English snippet online from CanterburyTales.org

749  Great cheer our host gave to us, every one, 
750  And to the supper set us all anon;
751  And served us then with victuals of the best.
752  Strong was the wine and pleasant to each guest.
753  A seemly man our good host was, withal,
754  Fit to have been a marshal in some hall;
755  He was a large man, with protruding eyes,
756  As fine a burgher as in Cheapside lies;
757  Bold in his speech, and wise, and right well taught,
758  And as to manhood, lacking there in naught.
759  Also, he was a very merry man,
760  And after meat, at playing he began,
761  Speaking of mirth among some other things,

If you're a fan, then I know you get what I mean.  So do you have any thoughts about Harry.

Mina B.


Dani said...

I like that picture. I should really read more of Chauncer so I knew more.

J. A. Bennett said...

Very cool, I really like that snippet, I feel like I'm getting smarter reading it ;). Great post!

mshatch said...

He sounds like the perfect innkeeper - I may have to steal him :)

Karen Tamara said...

Love it! I want to start talking like that now. People are gonna hate me, but who cares. Great post!


J.L. Campbell said...

This is going to be a treat, Mina. Didn't even remember there was a host. Looking at yesterday's comment, I saw where Medeia mentioned the Wife of Bath. That's the woman I was talking about.

S. L. Hennessy said...

He's definitely got layers. I always thought he was a great character.

Nick Wilford said...

Sounds like a gregarious character. I need to read some Chaucer.

DayDreamer said...

Chaucer's great, but I only read snippets when studying it at college. I still have my very tatty second hand book in the original which I'm going to dig out to read all.
Harry doesn't sound like he'd stand for any drunken nonsense in his hostelry from this description, though he does sound jolly, too.

Gwen Gardner said...

He definitely knows how to woo his customers. Definitely a people person. Tells them stories, entertains them and drinks with them. Also gives advice. Pretty sure I've met him:)

Hunter Emkay said...

I really like this theme, I remember a BBC production of The Canterbury Tales many years ago, which modernised it, but that's all I really know of some of the tales. So I'll be stopping by to read.

Misha Gericke said...

I really need to sit down and read The Canterbury Tales. Been promising myself to do it since high school.