Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale fowles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(So priketh hem nature in hir corages),
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages.
– Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales, General Prologue. The beautiful opening lines describe the setting and plot of the poem’s frame story. It is spring, nature is reawakening, and the people of English go on pilgrimages to Canterbury to pay respects to and seek help from Saint Thomas Becket. The springtime, birds singing and flowers are symbols of spiritual rebirth but also of sexual awakening. Sexual desire and courtly love are strong themes throughout the poem. In the opening lines the basic metaphor is a sexual one, April impregnating March with rain to bring forth from the barren winter earth the vegetation of spring.