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poor, and gives it utterance; he speaks with a scorn which Voltaire only has equalled, and a revolutionary fearlessness surpassing that of D'Alembert or Diderot. His book was absolutely the only cheerful book of his time."
For two hundred and fifty years this allegory, the "Roman de la Rose," was the most popular poem in France. Nor was its popularity confined within the boundaries of its native country. It was recited and admired throughout Europe. Clément Marot published an edition of it in the sixteenth century; and Étienne Pasquier declared that he preferred it to the "Divine Comedy" of Dante. It was the source "whence its readers drew their maxims of morality, their science, their history, and even their religion." It was translated into at least one other tongue, and was imitated to some extent by the most popular poets of the next two centuries.
But, aside from its intrinsic merits and any other influence which it exerted upon the literature and the thought of the age, the "Roman de la Rose" possesses a special interest to the student of English literature. It was to this allegory that Geoffrey Chaucer1 owed much of his earlier inspiration; and it is to him that the "Romaunt of the Rose," an English
1 Geoffrey Chaucer, "the father of English poetry," was born in London. The date of his birth is not positively known, some placing it in 1328, others in 1340. He was a page in the royal household, served in the army, and was taken prisoner in France in 1359. He was afterwards a squire to King Edward III, and was the royal commissioner to Italy in 1372. In 1386 he was elected to Parliament from Kent. His old age was full of misfortune, and he died poor in 1400. His greatest work was the series of poems known as the "Canterbury Tales." He wrote, also, many shorter poems, some of which are noticed more fully in the following pages.
translation of a large portion of the famous French poem is generally attributed.1 The "Romaunt" is a close rendering of the original, following it almost line for line and word for word, with only an occasional omission or now and then a slight expansion for the sake of greater clearness. It includes the whole of the part written by Guillaume de Lorris and about one-fifth of Jean de Meung's addition. If it is the work of Chaucer, it must have been written near the beginning of his literary career, certainly not later than the close of the third quarter of the fourteenth century.
The allegory begins, as do almost all such poems, with a dream with a May morning and a walk among springing leaves and budding flowers, the birds singing in the trees and the joyous sun just beginning his daily
In time of love and jolité
That all thing 'ginneth waxen gay,
1 Many of the later and abler critics contend that this is not a work of Chaucer's. They found their opinion chiefly upon some peculiarities of rhyme, etc., wherein it differs from any of the known works of Chaucer. But Humphry Ward says: "Translate the 'Romaunt' he certainly did, and the impression it made upon him was deep and lasting. On the one hand it furnished him with a whole allegorical mythology, as well as with his stock landscape, his stock device of the Dream, and even (we may at least imagine) confirmed him in the choice of the flowing eightsyllabled couplet for the 'Hous of Fame'; and, on the other, it furnished him with those weapons of satire which he used with such effect in the Pardoner's prologue and elsewhere." 2 bush.
The chelaundre1 and popinjay. . . .
The dreamer is conducted to the Garden of Delight, a square garden, "as long as it was large." The garden contains all kinds of trees, which are set in rows "five fathom or six" apart; there are "wells" in great number, which water the entire place, so that the earth is "of such grace that it of flowers hath plenty" both in summer and winter. The most remarkable of all these "wells" or fountains is that which had served as a mirror for Narcissus. Whosoever looked into it might see everything that was in the garden. The dreamer, looking into it, saw, among a thousand other things,
A roser charged full of roses
That with an hedge about encloses.
Being resolved to pluck one of the roses for himself, he hastened towards the rose-tree, but was so smitten by
8 El tems amoreus plein de joie,
Li papegans et la Kalandre. . . .
Moult a dur cuer qui en Mai n'aime,
Quant il ot chanter sus la raime
As oisiaus les dous chans piteus. — Roman de la Rose.
the "savour" of the flowers that he was obliged to stay his hand. Then Love, who was standing by a fig-tree, bent his bow and pierced him with his arrows. The dreamer thenceforth became the Lover, and his pursuit of the Rose is the all-absorbing topic of the story. Every reader of the poem is at liberty to interpret the allegory as he likes. One sees in the Rose the holy Church; another supposes that it symbolizes the Virgin Mary; another, that it is the Philosopher's Stone. Clément Marot, who lived1 a hundred and fifty years later than Chaucer, said it was a Papal Rose, "made of gold on account of the honor and reverence due to God, and scented with musk and balm to symbolize our duties to our neighbors and our obligation to hold our souls clear and precious above all worldly things." It might represent the state of grace to which all men should aspire; it might, like the rose which the Queen of Sheba gave to Solomon, signify eternal happiness. The Lover may also be regarded as symbolizing a variety of characters. "He is the child born into the light," says Molinet; "he is born in the month of May, when the birds sing; and the singing of the birds is the preaching of the holy doctors!" It is scarcely necessary to recount more of his adventures. He meets, at various times, those virtues, vices, and follies which are supposed to have most influence upon human action. Good Reception cheers him forward; Authority restrains him from rashness; False Semblant preaches to him and deceives him; Reason instructs him; Jealousy taunts and persecutes him; Danger warns him of evil; Wicked Tongue slanders him; Abstinence teaches him self-denial; and Love supports 1 1495-1544.
him through every discouragement. To modern readers the allegory is full of tedious verbiage; but there are occasional passages which will well repay the reading.
EXTRACTS FROM THE "ROMAUNT OF THE ROSE."1
Good heart maketh the good thought;
Whoso took a wether's 2 skin,
He would them worry, and drink the blood,
For since they couldë not perceive
His treachery and crueltý
They would him follow, although he fly.
If there be wolves of such hue
Amongst these apostles new,
Thou, holy church, thou mayest be wailed
1 So far as is possible without injury to the metre, the spelling has been modernized.