The Greatest of Geoffreys writes in his most famous of works, incomplete though it is, that
Whan that Aprille with his shoures sote
The droghte of Marche hath perced to the rote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,
And smale fowles maken melodye,
That slepen al the night with open yë,
(So priketh hem nature in hir corages):
Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages
(And palmers for to seken straunge strondes)
To ferne halwes, couthe in sondry londes;
And specially, from every shires ende
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
The holy blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seke.
Now is April come, and though no showers fall upon any given patch of ground, and though March was no drought for many places, still do I hearken to the call of the Greatest of My Name, who did have many problems in his life and was the cause of no few of them, yet still stands as emblem and encapsulation of the time and place in which he lived. For today is Whan That Aprill Daye, upon which those of us who know celebrate again the older languages we have studied, both those whose heirs yet live and those that have perished without issue yet are still kept in memory and regarded with wonder and amazement by those who serve as votaries to them in a secular priesthood that makes too many martyrs.
Though I am expatriate or exile from a country that I have loved but that will not accept me, one of many cast upon the waves to drift across strange currents, still do I look to the words written in days long gone by, seeing in them wisdom to be spoken again today and every day, though perhaps in words made new, since more move ahead than look behind, as if in fear that something will break upon them in pursuit and not relax until it takes them into itself and makes them other than they are. But I know myself not to be enough; I will never suffice if I remain as I am, and I wonder if the future has a place for me, or if I ought to let the past overwhelm me.
There remains virtue to be found in the works of the past, though many will not think so, and many others will look to them not for virtue, but to justify the corruption of the world they would instantiate and extend. There remains much in them that is to the bad, of course, but that is not less true of today’s works than of those that precede them; all are equally the products of human hands and minds, and there are none of us pure in all of ourselves. On this day, when we are exhorted to look to the past, it is a thing that bears remembering–for we cannot truly move ahead until we know whence it is that we have come, until we understand the forces that have shaped us from before we could be aware of them, looking at what has formed us awry that we may set it aside, gathering to us more of what has been good, that we may be the better for it.