Whan that Aprille with his showres soote . . .
The opening lines of Geoffrey Chaucer's ''Canterbury Tales'' echo from six centuries ago whenever April comes along. Here his Middle English (left) is accompanied by the 20th-century version by Frank Ernest Hill. WHAN that Aprille with his showres soote The droughte of March hath perced to the roote,And bathed every veine in swich licour, Of which vertu engendred is the flowr; Whan Zephyrus eek with his sweete breeth Inspired hath in every holt and heeth The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne Hath in the Ram his halve cours yronne, And smale fowles maken melodye That sleepen al the night with open ye So priketh hem Nature in hir corages Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages, And palmeres for to seeken straunge strondes To ferne halwes, couthe in sondry londes; And specially from every shires ende Of Engelond to Canterbury they wende . . . WHEN April with his showers hath pierced the drought Of March with sweetness to the very root, And flooded every vein with liquid power That of its strength engendereth the flower; When Zephyr also with his fragrant breath Hath urged to life in every holt and heath New tender shoots of green, and the young sun His full half course within the Ram hath run, And little birds are making melody That sleep the whole night through with open eye, For in their hearts doth Nature stir them so, Then people long on pilgrimage to go, And palmers to be seeking foreign strands, To distant shrines renowned in sundry lands. And then from every English countryside Especially to Canterbury they ride . . .m