Ian Rawes, curator of London Sound Survey and one of the contributors to chalk: time, sense and landscape, has written a fascinating article on sound as it appears in the poetry of Chaucer. In an acoustical dig through the poem, The House of Fame (1370), Rawes unearths sounds that having once stirred the air, resonate and persist beyond the scope of our earthly ear. The poem begins with a dream in which an Eagle lifts Geoffrey into the air and whispers into his shell like:
Sound is nothing but broken air and every word that is spoken, loudly or softly, wisely or obscenely, is by nature just air. When men pluck harp strings, whether heavily or gently, with this stroke the air breaks as it does when men speak; so now you know what speech is. Now if you throw a stone into water, you know how one circle causes another, propagating outwards by the others’ movement, multiplying until the disturbance reaches the surrounding banks. In the same way, every word, spoken loudly or softly, first moves the air nearby, which in turn moves air that is further away. So in the air, my dear brother, every parcel stirs up the next and bares speech upwards, magnifying and amplifying until it reaches the House of Fame – take it in all seriousness or in fun.
The complete article is available here