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Posts Tagged ‘Pilgrims’

Dressing

November 26, 2014 | by

vintageturkey

“Boys, I feel I’m going to a change of climate.” A vintage Thanksgiving card.

As fans of holiday ephemera know, there are several primary genres of weird, old-timey Thanksgiving cards. There is the Greedy Child. There is the Doomed Turkey. There is the Turkey in Vehicle, which is sometimes a corncob car. There is the Anthropomorphic Root Vegetable. It hardly needs saying that Thanksgiving pinups are a thing unto themselves. Sexy Pilgrims, under-dressed squaws, and women cooking in lingerie and filmy cocktail aprons are all fairly ubiquitous. 

By far, my favorite subgenre is that of the Urbane Turkey. This foppish specimen is usually in evening dress, so as to indicate his couth. Needless to say, he sports a top hat. Sometimes a monocle or a cigarette. All in all, he has the trappings of a big-screen, rich nincompoop, which I suppose added a certain glee to his consumption. 

The Urbane Turkey is not always complacent. Sometimes he’s a sharp. He’s in the know. This Urbane Turkey is the turkey who knows where to find the best feed and the keenest peahens. As befits his man-of-the-world air, he smokes a cigar; and his citified duds are less Union Club than pool hall. This tom doesn’t take any wooden nickels; he sees the way the wind’s blowing and he’ll be out on the next train, before the axe is even sharpened. He doesn’t need pardoning; he makes his own luck

You don’t need me to point out how alienated we are from our food sources, to general detriment. Certainly, there couldn’t be anything less urbane than the case of shrink-wrapped butterballs (or even free-range heritage birds) that greets us come late November. I guess it would be easy to say that as a result, we have less respect for our food. But on the other hand, we also don’t dress it in outfits and mock it. 

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Whan That Aprill, with His Shoures Soote…

April 17, 2014 | by

merchant

The Merchant

chaucer

Chaucer

clerk

The Clerk

cook

The Cook

franklin

The Franklin

friar

The Friar

knight

The Knight

manciple

The Manciple

miller

The Miller

monk

The Monk (with dogs)

nun's priest

The Nun’s Priest

Parson

The Parson

physician

The Physician (Note: The Paris Review does not endorse the preparation of pharmaceuticals on horseback)

prioress

The Prioress

reeve

The Reeve

second nun

The Second Nun

shipman

The Shipman

squire

The Squire

summoner

The Summoner

the man of law

The Man of Law

wife of bath

The Wife of Bath

Chaucer scholars have generally settled on April 17, 1387, as the date his pilgrims departed for Canterbury—an historic and storied journey that has been, for more than six centuries, the bane of every student’s existence. A brief refresher: in the Canterbury Tales, twenty-nine pilgrims and a narrator vie to out-perorate one another on what must have been a tedious excursion to Saint Thomas Becket’s shrine, in, yes, Canterbury. Their prize? A free meal at a hotel restaurant.

Thus ensued several thousand lines of fart jokes, prurient asides, murderous Jews, and dubious blancmange, all of it now forever inscribed in the annals of literature.

The Ellesmere manuscript—written shortly after Chaucer’s death, in the early fifteenth century—is considered the definitive version of the Tales. It was produced on vellum, and it features involved, colorful illustrations of many of the pilgrims, pictured above. (None of their more scandalous exploits are depicted, alas, though it may not have been terribly edifying to see a drawing of a man being branded on the buttocks, anyway.)

I had an English teacher who made a shaky but memorable case for the Tales’ contemporary relevance. There were, he avowed, new chapters being written every day. All you had to do was book a long trip on a Greyhound bus or board a transcontinental flight, and you’d find strangers from all walks of life foisting their stories upon you, daring you to one-up them, whether you drew them out or not. Indeed, he said, these stories would hinge on the same crimes of passion that Chaucer’s pilgrims found so enthralling. It wasn’t as if any of us had tired of hearing about adultery. And so we should appreciate Chaucer, he said, because almost nothing in storytelling had changed in the years since the Tales.

Having encountered only this morning a garrulous and kind of lewd fellow-commuter, I can say: my teacher was totally right.

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The Other Election

November 8, 2012 | by

Computers, phones, radios, televisions, and carrier pigeons are chirping with talk of Tuesday’s hard-fought presidential election. The election is a time-honored American tradition. But long before there were exercises of democracy to occupy our collective attention, Americans were preoccupied with a different kind of election entirely.

The Pilgrims brought their belief in predestination with them to Plymouth, and the Puritans planted the doctrine in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Many are called, they argued, but few are chosen. Those chosen by God for salvation receive mercy, while the reprobate receive the justice they deserve.

The question of whether or not one had been elected for salvation filled one’s wakeful days and dreaming nights. Read More »

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