Chaucer's small crypt in Westminster Abbey is a striking memento a mori. Standing there looking at the stone box that holds his remains, I thought about how alive he and his characters are in "The Canterbury Tales." In his verse narrative, a prototype for imaginative literature from the English novel to Milton's epics and Shakespeare's plays, he describes an energetic London whose spirit remains in today's swirling streets of sound and color. His bones have lain in the old cathedral for hundreds of years, but walking outside into the city's life, I could imagine him still a part of it, bustling around, hearing snatches of conservation, hurrying to a tavern such as the one he mentions, the Tabard Inn.
Now, with another April arrived, I reread the General Prologue to his famous book, his hymn to the month and the renewal of spring as current today as when he first wrote it in 1386. While his language is archaic, his poetic force surges on, his words still expressing the reader's excitement at spring's arrival.
Chaucer's work is one of the foundations of the English language. He says at the start of his poem "Whan that April with its showers soote/The drought of March hath perced to the roote./And bathed every veine in swich licour, of which vertu engendred is the flowr; ..." His work is the root of English literature.