Friday 25 March 2011

Chaucer parodying the argument from authority

Original Middle English then done into modern English by yours truly:


From The Nonnes Preestes Tale, by Geoffrey Chaucer

Lo Catoun, which that was so wys a man,

Seyde he nat thus, `ne do no fors of dremes`?

"Madame," quod he, "graunt mercy of youre loore,

But nathelees, as touchyng Daun Catoun,

That hath of wysdom swich a greet renoun,

Though that he bad no dremes for to drede,

By God, men may in olde bookes rede

Of many a man moore of auctorite

Than evere Caton was, so moot I thee,

That al the revers seyn of this sentence,

And han wel founden by experience

That dremes been significaciouns

As wel of joye as of tribulaciouns

That folk enduren in this lif present.

Ther nedeth make of this noon argument,

The verray preeve sheweth it in dede.

Oon of the gretteste auctours that men rede

Seith thus...


My (very free) modern translation…


Thus Cato, who was so wise

Said “take no note of dreams”


Thank you, dear Madam, for such instruction.

Yet concerning Cato of such great renown

For wisdom, and such reputation,

Although he told us not to dread a dream,

By God! In older books I read

Many writer of more, much more, authority

Than ever Cato was, who seem,

If I may say, to state

The reverse opinion – they say

Dreams are hints

Of happy or sad future states

We suffer in this life.

I need no formal test of this, dear wife

Our own experience is proof in practice.

One of the most eminent authors ever…

(Who was it now? Maybe Cicero?

I forget, Or maybe he never…

But anyway someone greater

than Cato)

Said as follows…


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