Eye Candy (24)

By: Peggy Nelson
December 10, 2019

Ich mote contreue to kepe Krystmasse abak!

Reading Middle English is an experience of the uncanny — the language is new enough to be mostly decipherable by today’s English-speakers, especially if you sound the words out phonetically and pronounce any “weird letter” as “th”; while old enough to be, at first and often repeated glances, a foreign country. A foreign country shimmering on the edge of the uncanny valley; one perhaps located just south of Who-ville and north of Mount Crumpit…

In the spirit of the season, Eye Candy would like to direct your attention to our favorite festive character, The Grinch. Of course such a classic creature would have a deep historical and linguistic pedigree. The Twitter account @agrinchtherwas, created and translated by medieval Arthurian scholar Dr. Paul Moffett, takes up this challenge, offering the Dr. Seuss favorite with a twist: it tweets out the tale in Middle English each year, a few rhymes a day, starting on December 1.

We’ve re-posted the beginnings of the poem here; check @agrinchtherwas on Twitter for the latest. And if you imagine it read by Boris Karloff, so much the better:

Uch Wight bilooghe þat woned in Wight-toun
Wiþ Krystmasse was clene baldely quemed
Bote nat þe Grinch þat north Wight-toun nestled.

Þe Grinch was wiþ Krystmasse grillenet and grucched
So þe Grinch hated Yul, al Yul-tide streit spised
Quere nat “querfore?” I kenne nat þe cause

Paraventure his pate was nat propreli pinned
Paraventure his patins war too peti
Bote I deme þat þe liclyest grounde
of al
In toun I here aperte
Þe cause of his fal
Mot nedeli be his herte
Was two lengþes two smal

He kenned uch Wight þat in Wight-toun woned
Nou was gret gnagging an mistelta gerlond
“And þey gnaggen hir stockes,” he snerled with an snurte.

“Tomorne is Krystmasse! Hit cometh right quik
so neare
This Krystmasse þat ich hate
Full lately wil appeare
And time runneþ so late
Now hit is most-what here!”


Ðe Grinch on Twitter
Dr. Paul Moffett on Twitter
Dr. Seuss (Theodore Seuss Geisel)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (book)
Boris Karloff’s narration in the 1966 TV special
Middle English (from the British Library; see also historyofenglish dot com)