Thursday, 31 March 2011

Meaning of 'He was a veray parfit gentil knight'

The famous line from the General Prologue and something to aspire to for the rest of us.

In terms of meaning 'veray' is clearly 'very', 'parfit' you can understand from the French 'parfait' for 'perfect' and 'gentil' again from the French 'gentil' for 'kind' although some translate it as 'gentle'.

So, 'He was a very perfect gentle knight.'

1 comment:

  1. «In terms of meaning 'veray' is clearly 'very'»

    Clear but not correct.
    The phrase is "a verray, parfit, gentil knyght"
    (http://www.luminarium.org/medlit/knightport.htm, line 72).
    "Verray" is an adjective, not an adverb like Modern English "very",,
    with the meaning still kept by Modern French "vrai",
    namely "true" (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Verray),
    here in the sense of "genuine".

    "Gentil", likewise, is not the same as modern "gentle" 600 years later:
    1. noble (in character); 2. refined, excellent
    (http://www.librarius.com/gy.htm)

    So an accurate (though unpoetic) translation is
    "He was a true perfect knight of noble character"

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