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Chaucers Wordes unto Adam, His Owne Scriveyn

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Adam scriveyn, if ever it thee bifalle,
Boece or Troylus for to wryten newe,
Under thy long lokkes thou most have the scalle,
But after my makyng thow wryte more trewe;
So ofte adaye I mot thy werk renewe,
It to correcte and eke to rubbe and scrape,
And al is thorugh thy negligence and rape. (Lines 1-7)


Although one of Chaucer's shortest works, "Wordes unto Adam, His Owne Scriveyn" reveals a wealth of information about who Chaucer's scribes might have been. Documents from the time period show there was a scribe by the name of Adam Pinkherst, and it is very likely that this Adam was the scribe of whom Chaucer is referring.

Critical Commentary

In “Wordes unto Adam, his own Scriveyn,” Chaucer critiques his scribe’s copying abilities. Several different interpretations of the poem exist; these include a superficial interpretation concerning only what is apparent from the text, an allegorical interpretation of Original Sin and Redemption, a quest to relate the poem to a real-life scribe working under Chaucer, and a philosophical interpretation concerning the mutability of texts. Compared to Chaucer’s other works, “Wordes unto Adam” was largely ignored by scholars until recently, as more historical information concerning the scribe Adam Pinkherst has been found. Prior to this, the poem was rarely discussed, perhaps receiving a quick read and a chuckle before scholars moved on to seemingly more interesting and important works by Chaucer. Thus, much of the early work that does tackle the poem does so only at a superficial level. However, the poem has come under closer scrutiny lately, as more has been found about Adam Pinkhurst and his connections to Chaucer. This new information helps put to rest certain doubts that “Wordes unto Adam” was not even written by Chaucer.

Links to Other Resources

eChaucer Translation of "Wordes unto Adam"

A Literary Analysis of "Wordes unto Adam" A critical analysis of the poem and history surrounding it

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