Wednesday, April 11, 2018


In a poem called The  House of Fame, Chaucer exercises his imagination in another dream. This time he takes us—or rather he is taken--on a trip through space! A splendid golden eagle swoops down, grasps the poet with his talons and off they go. Eventually, they arrive at a place called The House of Fame, but, in the meantime, Chaucer makes an up close acquaintance with celestial figures he knows well.

The poet is amazed and fearful as he is whisked through the air, and surprised when the Eagle addresses him by name! He assures Chaucer, “Have no fear. No harm will come to you. I am your friend.” This gifted bird then provides a scientific digression comparing properties of water and air: the result of a pebble being tossed into water generates ever-widening circles; the sound of speech generates ever- widening circles in the air!  
     Then, continuing to soar, the attentive Eagle again inquires of Chaucer, “How are you?” When Chaucer replies “I’m well,” he’s instructed to, “Look down and see the forests, cities, rivers and ships.” As they climb steadily upward, the Earth becomes a distant speck.
     “Now look up,” Chaucer is told. “Here dwell the Milky Way and the celestial beasts (constellations).” Ascending still further, the zodiac, the clouds, and winds are now below them. And, as they near the House of Fame, a loud roar, like the sound of waves crashing on rocks, is heard as a result of the ever-widening circles of sound!
     The Eagle flies near to the House of Fame, gently sets Chaucer on his feet and leaves him to investigate the structure of the House. After the poet wanders a while, he sees the golden bird perched on a nearby stone and approaches him. The Eagle lifts him with his talons again and transports him to the center of the House where a great throng of people is gathered. About 125 lines later, just as a famous man is about to be introduced, the poem breaks off. Chaucer never finished the dream.

The House itself is quite remarkable with Chaucer’s considerations of the meaning and acquiring of “fame.” Perhaps we’ll make that a subject later.

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