The Parliament of Fowls

Chaucer, Geoffrey (c.1343–1400), translated by Kline, A.S., (contact-email)

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Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Parliament of Fowls is a 700-line poem from the late 14th century, utilising a dream vision to expound on the themes of love and choice. It opens with the narrator reading Cicero, seeking truth, but falls into a dream led by Scipio Africanus through celestial realms to an imposing gate, reminiscent of Dante’s depiction of the entrance to the Inferno of Hell. Inside, he witnesses a parliament overseen by Nature, where birds choose their mates. The narrative centres on three male eagles vying for a female, whose opportunity to choose is granted a deferral for a year by Nature, highlighting the value of free will. The other birds are then allowed to mate, and the poem concludes with a welcoming of spring, leaving the dreamer to ponder upon his vision, unresolved in his quest. The parliament is convened on St. Valentine’s Day - the poem being notable for its early, likely original, association of romance with St. Valentine.

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Kline, A.S.,

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