In my last post, I featured a video of the Clerk of Oxford reading from the Venerable Bede’s Ecclesiastical History. Wikipedia tells me that Bede completed his opus c.731. Around 1521 (according to JSTOR), John Skelton wrote Speke, Parott which was ‘an attack upon Cardinal Wolsey’. Here is a recording of it by The Skelton Project.
Nearly eight hundred years separate the story of the sparrow and Speke, Parott and my goodness it certainly shows. In fact, the two read like different languages with no relation to each other at all.
I was able to follow Speke, Parott thanks to the subtitles. This doesn’t mean I understood all that was being said – not by a long shot – but I did understand enough to at least have a sense of what was being said from one line to the next (though some were too hard to divine).
Understanding aside, Speke, Parott was a real pleasure to listen to as as the words flowed by by like a gentle stream in the summer. Well, of course, you’ll rightly say, it’s a poem so that’s no surprise! If I want to test the beauty of Middle English, then, I clearly need to look out for a recording of Middle English prose to see how that sounds!