|WHAN that Aprille with his shoures soote 1|
|The droghte 2 of Marche hath perced to the roote,|
|And bathed every veyne in swich 3 licour,|
|Of which vertu engendred is the flour;|
|Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth||5|
|Inspired hath in every holt 4 and heeth|
|The tendre croppes, 5 and the yonge sonne|
|Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne, 6|
|And smale fowles maken melodye,|
|That slepen al the night with open ye,||10|
|(So priketh hem nature in hir corages: 7|
|Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,|
Read the rest of the prologue to Geoffrey Chaucer's masterpiece here on Bartleby.com or in a million other places, but these first 12 lines of The Canterbury Tales need to be known by every English speaker as well as any other dozen lines of poetry ever written in our language.
Learn more about the annual celebration of dead languages known as #WhanThatAprilleDay17 by checking in with @LeVostreGC on Twitter or reading this interview with Geoffrey that appeared on Pacific Standard yesterday.
And how can you fully appreciate the opening lines of the great long English poem of the early 20th century without familiarity with the great long poem written at the tail end of the 14th century?
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.