Understanding Old English

Another great article from, Nicholas 😃

Nicholas C. Rossis

Chaucer | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's book
Geoffrey Chaucer, 1340-1400

How far back in history could you go until you could no longer understand the English language?Stanislava Suplatovich has the answer in Quora. To answer this question, she uses three examples.Here’s the first one:

“See ye not yon twa bonny boys,
As they play at the ba?
The eldest of them is Marischal’s son,
And I love him best of a’;
The youngest of them is Henrie’s son,
And I love him none at a’ “.

It’s an excerpt from “Queen Eleanor’s Confession,” a ballad known as early as the 1500s, but which is believed to be even older. It is written in Early Modern English. Do you understand it? Apart from more or less free word order and some unusual spelling, it’s quite understandable.

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote,
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every…

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