Reading Chaucer's poems

11th August 2015

News, Student news, Alumni news

Read Chaucer’s poems, guided line by line by Wadham Emeritus Fellow, leading poet and medievalist Bernard O’Donoghue.

  • Reading Chaucer's poems

Reading Chaucer’s Poems: A Guided Selection is an accessible new selection of poems by Geoffrey Chaucer, the Father of English Literature. The book includes a linking commentary on the chosen texts, together with a comprehensive line-for-line glossary that makes it an approachable and accessible introduction to Chaucer.

I have been teaching Chaucer for forty years and I have always felt it was hard to catch the essence of his wit and wisdom. This short book of extracts is another attempt to get to him - my favourite poet.

Bernard O'Donoghue

Bernard O'Donoghue was born in Cullen, Co Cork in 1945 and joined Wadham to teach Medieval English and Modern Irish Poetry. He has published six collections of poetry, including Gunpowder, winner of the 1995 Whitbread Prize for Poetry, and Farmers Cross (2011). He has published a verse translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Penguin Classics 2006), and is currently translating Piers Plowman for Faber.

Geoffrey Chaucer’s observant wit, his narrative skill and characterization, his linguistic invention, have been a well from which the language's greatest writers have drawn: Shakespeare, Pope, Austen, Dickens among them. A courtier, a trade emissary and diplomat, he fought in the Hundred Years War and was captured and ransomed; his marriage into the family of John of Gaunt ensured his influence in political society. For more than a decade, he was engaged on his most famous work of all, The Canterbury Tales, until his death around 1400; there is no record of the precise date or the circumstances of his demise, despite vivid and colourful speculation.

Reading Chaucer’s Poems: A Guided Selection is published by Faber and will be available from 18 August, for £14.99.

  • Bernard O'Donoghue

    Emeritus Fellow, Bernard O'Donoghue
    (Photo from Faber)