Monday, August 12, 2013


"The world is too much with us, late and soon,"  says the fussy English poet, William Wordsworth (1770-1850), who did have an eye for such things as man-made conditions causing existential constipation.  This forlorn sonnet is one of the things that drew you to his works, caused you to visit with him to "Lines Written Above Tintern Abbey" and a few others before tiring of his heavy, controlling seriousness.

Like so many tastes and preferences, this is a matter of choice.  Even some of your instructors' insistence that he was major and of incalculable importance did not fan your enthusiasm for him the way it had been ignited by a presence who seemed to you as un-fussy and more insightful.  You refer, of course, to Geoffrey Chaucer (1340-1400), who in his way saw every bit as much as Wordsworth did, nearly four hundred years later, and who, within the confines of "The Miller's Tale" from The Canterbury Tales, spoke of his world as "a world full tickel."

In some ways, he meant in that observation what Wordsworth meant in his sonnet.  So many other nuances of The Canterbury Tales, its composition begun in the 1380's  and never completed, resonated with you to the point where it is one of a handful of works you think about in some detail and revisit with regularity.  

The matter of greatest significance to you is his seeming ability to reflect through dramatic action that sense of "full tickel," meaning to take on the contemporary languages of the time, their cultural clash, their social effects, and the important ways in which meanings needed to be inferred.

"The Miller's Tale" strikes you as the most generous approach of vision that the absurd was in as much conflict then with tradition and social stratification as it is now.  Humor runs through all the tales, both in dramatic action, such as the knight from the opening "Knight's Tale" being more a soldier-of-fortune like the civilian contractors employed in the U.S. invasion of Iraq than a loyal servant of the king (See Richard II or Henry IV).

Not to forget "The Pardoner's Tale" and the straightforward description of that lugubrious fellow, "Ek (I) trow he were a gelding or a mare."

Of equal mirth, the tale of Sir Thopas, thought by many to be Chaucer, putting himself into the poem, being shut down after a line or two by the host, Harry Bailley, who tells him, "Na more, for Goddes worde, thy drasty rhyming is not worth a toord."

Much has changed since, say, 1385, but much in a behavioral and social sense remain recognizable, accurate to recognizable type, and thus a useful metric by which to assess the forward tide of evolutionary progress.

Seeing the world as absurd is often presented to you as evidence of your cynical nature, your wish and your willingness to see things as dark, suspect, rife with self-interest and gluttony.  Such things exist; they are by-products of human behavior.  In many cases, human institutions of power appear to be supportive of such behavior, all the while speaking of global and collegial harmony.  The by-product is not harmony, it is a lively debate among type and class.  You frequently feel caught between colliding cultures and collisions of self-interest, roaming about like bumper cars at amusement zones.  

You also see about you persons of genuine inspiration, thanks to their ability to project an inherent manifest goodness and goodwill to which you aspire and which you attempt to define as a writer, a teacher, a person.  Perhaps you have the wrong order.  In order to be the sort of writer or teacher or, for that matter, editor you wish to be, the top tier of achievement should be a person of manifest goodness and goodwill.

There are numerous possibilities to be a writer, editor, or teacher without having attained the goodness and goodwill plateaus.  Being at that stage does not imply an immediate ability to write, teach, or edit; such things, in part a product of talent, must be perfected as much as goodness and goodwill must be practiced and taken into muscle memory.

"A world full tickel" is the landscape; you share it with all about you, relish its complexities and in particular its large spectrum of irony.

You often catch yourself in odd moments asking your inner self, What new mischief have you concocted or get yourself into this fine day?  Truth to tell, you are every bit as able to generate mischief and "tickel" as you are to be caught up in it, perhaps even seduced by it.

In recent times, you've been drawn to an attractive distraction, which is the concept coming from story just before and certainly during Shakespeare's time, moving well into the Victorian era in 
England.  Comedic ending was a term with a different meaning back in those days.  Look at the stories ending where everyone got married, sometimes across racial and social lines.  "And they all lived happily ever after."

Long before the Victorian era, you might call it the Age of Chaucer, there was "The Wife of Bath" to contend with.  Even though married, either her fourth or fifth, she was no example of comedic endings. Nor, later, was Mary Ann Evans, also known as George Eliot, nor was Thomas Hardy.  For a certainty, Virginia Wolff did not drink that particular Kool-Aid.

You suspect a project coming on, which in its way makes sense.  There are a number of deadlines waving to get your attention.  And someone has lit a fuse to the Summer.

You hear it,sizzling away.

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