Books: Lollipop Chaucer

THE CANTERBURY TALES (528 pp.)—A New Translation by Nevlll Coghill—Penguin ($1.25).

Like hosts of other schoolboy scholars, Nevill Coghill tackled Chaucer in his teens, and found the venerable verses too quaint to be much fun. In time—when Coghill himself had become a relatively venerable (47) fellow of Exeter College, Oxford—he set out to de-quaint The Canterbury Tales.

Modernizer Coghill was too much of a poet to follow the patchwork method, i.e., simply to insert modern words where the old ones are unintelligible. He kept Chaucer's rhyme schemes, except where they no longer rang true to the modern ear. And he concentrated particularly...

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