What is it about the language of Surrey's "The soote season" that is of special interest?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The language of Surrey's sonnet, "Description of Spring," or "The soote season," is most interesting because he imitates a dialect from a much earlier time in London's history. England had (indeed has) many dialects. The one that came to dominate was the dialect of London. Geoffrey Chaucer, writing in the latter part of the 1300s, spoke and wrote in the Middle English version of the London dialect. Surrey, who wrote in the early 1500s, was a Londoner, thus spoke and wrote in the much later London dialect of contemporaries Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser and Sir Philip Sidney.

Though writing about 150 years after Chaucer, during an era when the London dialect reflected vast linguistic change, Surrey imitated Chaucer's earlier dialect in this sonnet (and others). Since many words of Chaucer's dialect had grown obsolete or undergone changes in pronunciation and spelling, it was a challenge for Surrey to learn and use the earlier dialect. Examples of this challenge are the words {soote, eke, make, brake, mings and bale}. Courtesy of Luminarium.com's Anniina Jokinen, these words would have been known to Surrey (as to us) as {sweet, also, mate, antlers, mixes and bane).

The buck in brake his winter coat he slings ;
  The fishes flete with new repairèd scale ;
  The adder all her slough away she slings ;
  The swift swallow pursueth the fliës smale ;
  The busy bee her honey now she mings ;
  Winter is worn that was the flowers' bale.

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