For out of olde feldes, as men seyth, Cometh al this newe corn from yer to yere

Chaucer, of course. Beautiful. Used as a chapter heading by C. S. Lewis in his The Discarded Image; you should read it. But it turns out that a fuller quote (from the prologue to the Parliament of Fowls) is
For out of olde feldes, as men seyth,
Cometh al this newe corn from yer to yere;
And out of olde bokes, in good feyth,
Cometh al this newe science that men lere. 
And that isn't so good. For those with poor early-English skilz, that is:
For out of old fields, as old wives say,
Comes the new corn from year to year,
Just so do old books, seen with new eyes
yield all that is new, that we call Science.
And that I gather was indeed how they thought in those days: the old ways are the best. It's all very Platonic. Nowadays, we regard science as grounded in experiment. Unless you're a string theorist, of course. Wiki provides a dream-like summary, which suggests PoF is about the importance of freedom of will, which would be good. Maybe I'll read it some time. But that brings me to the start of Pof:
The lyf so short, the craft so longe to lerne.
Th’ assay so hard, so sharp the conquerynge,
The dredful joye, alwey that slit so yerne;
Al this mene I be love.
That too is hard, but I'm going to leave it untranslated (there's a version here if you like). The last line tells us it is about love, but it doesn't have to be.


David B Benson said...

Cosmologists back patch it out of nearly whole cloth. There are always some holes, black and otherwise.

wereatheist said...

Nitpick: isn't Chaucer's idiom 'middle English'?
You know modern German, I suppose?

This is 'old German' (Strasbourg oaths, 842 CE):

Oba karl then eid then er sinemo bruodher ludhuuuige gesuor geleistit indi ludhuuuig min herro then er imo gesuor forbrihchit ob ih inan es iruuenden ne mag noh ih noh thero nohhein then ih es iruuenden mag uuidhar karle imo ce follusti ne uuirdhit.

This is middle high German:

Under der linden
an der heide,
dâ unser zweier bette was,
dâ muget ir vinden
schône beide
gebrochen bluomen unde gras.

The latter is still mostly understandable to modern Germans, especially if declamated.

David B Benson said...

I was taught that Chaucer used Middle English. Also largely intelligible, especially if declamanted.

William Connolley said...

You have found me out. In my defense, I said "early" not "Early" and Chaucer is arguably early from a current viewpoint. Meanwhile, my German is poor but Google comes to the rescue for your old German.

Russell Seitz said...

How do you say 'hedgehog sharknado' in Old Norse?


wereatheist said...

my German is poor but Google comes to the rescue for your old German.
My French is a but rusty, but this looks legit. Especially with the Old French version, with swapped Seigneurs, present.

Charles said...

The first line of the final quote from the prologue of Parliament of Fowls is from Section 1.1 of Aphorisms by Hippocrates (http://classics.mit.edu/Hippocrates/aphorisms.1.i.html). The Romans rendered it in Latin as Ars longa, vita brevis.

"Life is short, and Art long; the crisis fleeting; experience perilous, and decision difficult."

Hippocrates was observing that it takes a long time to become proficient. A perennial lament for those living in complex times (ancient or modern). It is actually a precise summary of the tragedy that the mean time to achieve wisdom > the mean life span.