Can Amor Truly Vincit Omnia? Chaucer Doth Advise Our favorite 14th-century poet and advice columnist Geoffrey Chaucer is back with sage words for lovers and beloved alike this Valentine's Day. And pictures of cats, "for cattes plese al folke."

Can Amor Truly Vincit Omnia? Chaucer Doth Advise

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Chaucer promo crop
The Art Archive

Editor's Note: At Christmas we ran a holiday advice column from the Internet's own Chaucer Doth Tweet. It was such a hit, we've brought him back to dish out wisdom on that ancient pastime, love. And yes — Middle English is involved.

Gentil folke, yt ys wyse and profitable to seeke advyce and counsel yn all thinges. And advyce ys moost certaynly nedeful when the fayre yet ferocious Daye of Valentynes ys upon us. Aye, that one special daye dedicatid to loves joyes and tribulaciouns and awkward first sweatye hand-holdinges at poorly-chosen filmes.

Ich am Geoffrey Chaucer, and my litel poeme the Parliament of Foweles was the first to combyne the peanut buttir of Februarye the XIVth wyth the milk chocolate of wooing. And so Ich feel responsible to helpe wyth sum advyce on thys daye. Ich am heere wyth my bookes of lore and romaunce to answer yower questions, the which NPR hath pluckid from the great churninge ocean of sense and nonsense that on mappes of old ys called "The Twytter."

@LeVostreGC @nprbooks Best book to give as a gift to a lover? #ChaucerLoveAdvice

— Rebecca Schneider (@epic_rebecca) February 1, 2015

Lo, whanne first yn love al folke do interpret choyces and signals more carefullye than the protagonists of Dan Browne novels. Everye flower that thou dost sende, everye word yn everye voycemaile, everye pastrye that thou dost order yn the presence of the belovid ys turnid over and over agayne for secret meaninge (note: a bearclawe ys alwayes a good signe).

A picture of a catte, for cattes plese al folke. hide caption

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A picture of a catte, for cattes plese al folke.

And thus it is wyth bookes. What to do? First, avoyde the obvious: For thy lover, nevir buye enythinge called "THE LOVE POEMS OF..." That ys lyke wearinge the bandes t-shirt to the concert of the bande. Yn stead, buye a booke that best embodieth what maner of person thy lover doth wisshe to be. Yf thy lover doth aspyre to sophisticacioun, buye a booke about unusual cocktailes. Yf thy lover doth wisshe to be a mover and shaker, buye a booke of biographye of a powirful historical figure lyke Kynge Edward III. Yf thy lover doth desire no thinge more than to be a constantlye growinge and ever-vexing chaos of moral teachinge and obfuscatory allegory, buye a copy of Piers Plowman. Indeed, a booke ybought for a lover sholde be as a fayre and gentil mirrour that doth reflect the best and moost desyred self. And yf thou art reallye at a loss maybe just buye a collectioun of cute pictures of cattes, for cattes plese al folke.

My hoostes wif ys stealing ynto my bedchambre and attempting to seduce me. What ys proper courtly protocol? #ChaucerLoveAdvice

— Luke Oldfield (@Itisindeedluke) February 1, 2015

Art thou on a quest? Ich woulde wager lyke ten shillinges that thou art on a quest, by cause thys kynde of situacioun ys usuallye quest-relatid.

Probablye thou wast chillinge yn the court of thy kinge and sum maner of straunge knight came yn and proclaimed a bet involvinge 1) a contest and 2) grievous physical harme. Lyke peraventure checkers and running across coals or maybe axe throwinge and sudoku. As part of the bet, this knight dyd make thee promyse to meet hym a year and a daye latir yn sum mysterious locacioun that doth sounde lyke the name of an ecologist goth bande. (Ridge of Uncertaintye, Perilous Grove, Deciduous Forest of Certain Maiming, etc.)

Now, on the waye to thys locacioun, thou hast gotten lost yn the wylderness and thou hast come to a straunge castle. The lord at this castle ys surprisinglye hospitable, but whanevir he doth leave the castle to hunt hys wyfe doth runne ynto thy bedchamber and trye to get HBO wyth thee ful fast and furiouslye. Am Ich right? Thys, my frende, hath no thinge to do wyth love and everythinge to do wyth fairy tale motifs. Yt ys, pure and simple, a trappe. Yn the future, protect thyself against such treacherye and purchase the booke Ten Scammes that Magical Trickster Figures Use Against Questing Knightes and How to Avoid Them by Sir Oftmisled of Whoops.

@LeVostreGC @nprbooks: Dear Geoff: Re: Amor Vincit Omnia: doth Omnia encompysse snorynge, eke chewinge wyth ye Mouth open?

— Margaret E. Atwood (@MargaretAtwood) January 31, 2015

The answere to yower question is: yis! For amor vincit omnia doth signifye "Love Doth Conquer All Thinges." And so yt doth. Yet love hath a special maner of conqueringe, for yt doth not conquer as a catapult doth conquer, wyth force and large projectiles and muchel crashing and breaking of walles and devastacioun. That maner of conqueringe is for seasonal allergies, not love.

Nay, the power of love ys to bynde thinges ful softely wyth patience and humilitye, and so love doth conquer lovinglye. For the great philosopheres wryte that love ys indeed the eternal bonde of the elementes, that doth kepe the stars within their courses, and doth bynde the hot and the cold, the sea and the mountayne. And so to followe love we nede not ryde out on great adventures or seeke to slaye dragons, but onlye to lyve yn the spirit of the love that giveth joye day aftir daye. The which is a great task!

To fighte for love ys noble, peraventure, but to run inconvenient errands for love, and to sleepe next to love while yt doth snore, and to witness the dodgye table-manners of love and still looke upon love wyth love, those perilous taskes are the greatest servyce of love and the heighest achievement of any lover. And eke, good folk, remembir that the trewe lover kepeth mind not onlye of the Daye of Valentynes, but of al dayes as dayes of remembraunce of love — even Arbor Daye.

Maye ye have a joyous Arbor Daye, goode folke, and love as ye do wisshe to love,

Le Vostre GC