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GEOFFREY CHAUCER. 1328-1400.

- That renowned Poet Dan Chaucer, Well of English undefyled, On Fame's eternall bead roll worthie to be fried.

SPENSER

That noble Chaucer, in those former times, Who arst enriched our English with his rhymes, And was the first of ours that ever broke Into the Muse's treasures, and arst spoke Io mighty numbers; delving in the pine of pertet knowledge

WORDSTORIH.

Gw come to one of the brightest names in English literature to him 1s been distinctively known as The Father of English poetry"

Chaucer. Warton, with great beauty and justice, has compared the ance of Chaucer in our language to aa premature day in an English after which the gloom of winter returns, and the buds and blossoms have been called forth by a transient sunshine, are nipped by frosts

and images of beauty, and whose great succeis was dubtless a spur to his ambition to attain a like enviable fame.

On bis return home, the friendship and patronage of the reigning monarch were continued to him. He was made controller of the customs of wine and wool, the revenue from which office, together with a pension that was granted to him, gave him a liberal support. During the whole of the reign of Edward III, his genius and connections ensured to him prosperity, and also during the period of John of Gaunt's influence in the succeeding reign of Richard II., 1377—1399. But during the waning fortunes of that nobleman, Chaucer also suffered, and was indeed imprisoned for a short time; but on the return of the Duke of Lancaster from Spain, 1389, he had once more a steady protector, and on the accession of Henry IV., he had an additional annuity conferred upon him. But he did not live long to enjoy this accession to his fortune, for he died on the twenty-fifth of October, 1400, and was interred in Westminster Abbey.

We know little of Chaucer as a member of society; but we know that he had mingled with the world's affairs, both at home and abroad. Accomplished in manners and intimately acquainted with a splendid court, he was at once the philosopher who had surveyed mankind in their widest sphere, the poet who haunted the solitudes of nature, and the elegant courtier whose opulent tastes are often discovered in the graceful pomp of his descriptions. The vigorous yet finished paintings, with which his works abound, are still, notwithstanding the roughness of their clothing, beauties of a highly poetical nature. The ear may not always be satisfied, but the mind of the reader is always filled.

Chaucer's genius, like Cowper's, was not fully developed till he was advanced in years; for it was not until he was about sixty, in the calm evening of a busy life, that he composed his great work on which his fame chiefly rests, his CANTERBURY TALES. He took the idea, doubtless, from the Decameron of Boccacio,? at that time one of the most popular of books. He Bupposes that a company of pilgrims, consisting of twenty-nine 6 sundry folk," meet together at the Tabard inn, Southwark,s on their way to the shrine of Thomas á Becket," at Canterbury. While at supper they agreed, at the suggestion of their host, not only to pursue their journey together the next morn. ing, but, in order to render their way the more interesting, that each should divert the others with a tale, both in going and returning, and that whoever told the best, should have a supper at the expense of the rest; and that the landlord should be the judge.

It will thus be seen that the plan of Chaucer is vastly superior to that of Boccacio. His characters, instead of being youthful and from the same city,

ered by storms."
Jer was born probably about the year 1328, though all attempts to fix
Ise vear have utterly failed. His parentage is unknown, nor is there
Einty where he was educated. His great genius early attracted the
L e reigning sovereign, Edward III., and he soon became the most
Jersonage in the brilliant court of that monarch. It was in this circle
I shat he became attached to a lady whom he afterwards married,
Pyknard. She was maid of honor to the queen Philippa, and a

of the wife of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. By this
I therefore, Chaucer acquired the powerful support of the Lancas.
I and during his life his fortune fluctuated with theirs. To his

plishments he added much by foreign travel, having been comby the king in 1372 to attend to some important matters of state at bile in Italy he became acquainted with Petrarch,' and probably bio whose works enriched his mind with fresh stores of learning

If freedon the chosen, bed in thralle

Freedom all solace to man gives;
He lives at ease that freely lives.
A noble heart may have no case,
Nor aught beside that may it please,
If freedom ad-for 'tis the choice,
More than the chosen, man enjoys.
Ab, he that ne'er yet lived in thrall,
Knows not the weary pains which gall
The limbs, the soul, or him who plains
In ala very's foul and festering chains.
Il these he knew, I ween right soon
He would seek back the preciou boon
or theedom, which he then would prize
More than all wealth beneath the skies.

sholary of Italy of the fourteenth century sere, DasTe, (1265110L Italian poetry, PETRARCH, (1304 1374,) the reviver of ancient learning, and

Read Hippisley's Early English Literature: also, Todd's Murtrations of Gower and Chmucer. "I take Doceasing delight in Chaucer. His manly cheerfulness is especially delicious in my old age. How Exquisitely tender he is." --Coleridge's Table Talk. Read, also, Chaucer Modernized, 1 vol. 12mo, with 3 well-written introduction on English poetry by R. H. Horne, and versifications by Wordsworth, Leigh Hant, and others.

! Boccacio supposes that when the plague began to abate in Florence, (1348, ten young persons of both sexes retired to the country to enjoy the fresh air, and pa88 TEN DAYS agreeably. (Hence the uane DECAMEROX, from the Greek dera (deka) “ten," and pepa (hemera) "a day." Their princt pal amusement was in telling taler In turn; and as each of the ten told a story a day, and as they continued together ten days, the Decameron consists of one hundred tales. * Opposite the city of London, on the Thames.

For the murder of this famous archbishop in the reign of Henry 11., A.D. 1171, see Tutory of kugland, Canterbury iy 53 miles south-east from London.

Ile Fonds which he theme'n the skies. sfere, Dastk. (1260m2, and

any considerable library of ancient bterature: and Boccar'. (1919

d collector of any considerable library of ancient ni. modern Italian prose

are of matured experience, from various places, and are drawn from different classes of mankind, and consequently are, in their rank, appearance, manners, and habits, as various as at that time could be found in the several departments of middle life; that is, in fact, as various as could, with any probability, be brought together, so as to form one company; the highest and lowest ranks of society being necessarily excluded. But what gives us the greatest admiration of the poet, is the astonishing skill with which he has supported his characters, and the exquisite address that he has shown in adapting his stories to the different humors, sentiments, and talents of the reciters. He has thus given us such an accurate picture of ancient manners as no contemporary writer has transmitted to posterity, and in the Canterbury Tales we view the pursuits and employments, the customs and diversions of the reign of Edward III., copied from the life, and represented with equal truth and spirit. It has been justly remarked, that it was no inferior combination of observation and sympathy which could bring together into one company the many colored conditions and professions of society, delineated with pictorial force, and dramatized by poetic conception, reflecting them. selves in the tale which seemed most congruous to their humors. The fol. lowing are some select characters, as portrayed in the Prologue.

THE PROLOGUE.
Whenné that April, with his showrés sote, 3
The drouth of March hath piercéd to the rote, 4
And bathéd every vein in such licoúr,
Of which virtúe engendred is the flow'r;
When Zephirus eké, with his soté3 breath,
Inspired hath in every holt5 and heath
The tender croppés, and the younge sun
Hath in the Ram his halfe course yrun,
And smallé fowlés maken melody,
That sleepen allé night with open eye,
So pricketh them nature in their courages,7
Then longen folk to go on pilgrimages,
And palmers for to seeken strangé strands,
To servé hallows8 couth in sundry lands;
And 'specially from every shiré's end
Of Engleland to Canterbury they wend, 10

1 Read D'Israel's Amenities of Literature, 3 vols. 8vo.

2 In a subsequent age, the great work of Chaucer exerted a powerful influence in helping on tho great cause of the Reformation. So much was Cardinal Wolsey offended at the severity with which the papal clergy were treated in the Pilgrim's Tale, that he laid an interdict upon its ever being printed with the rest of the work, and it was with dificulty that the Ploughman's Tale was per mitted to stand. John Fox, (1517-1587,) the historian of the martyrs, thus writes: “But much inore I mervaile to consider this, how that the bishops condemning and abolishing all maner of English bookes and treatises, which might bring the people to any light of knowledge, did yet authorize the Workes of Chaucer to remaine. So it pleased God to blind then the eles of them, for the mure commodoty of his people." a Sote-sweet.

Rote--root.

6 Holt-grove, forest. 6 To make this line consistent with the first. It should read Bull instead of Ram, for he says that "he time of this pilgrimage was when the showers of April had pierced into the root the dronght of March, so that April, which corresponds to the constellation of the Bull, must have been far advanced Read, Tyruokill's Introduction to Carterbury Taks. 1 Courages-hearts, spirits.

9 Hallows-holiness.

9 Couth--known. 10 Wena- go, make way.

of matured experience, from various places, and aro drawn from different Asses of mankind, and consequently are, in their rank, appearance, man

and habits, as various as at that time could be found in the several artments of middle life; that is, in fact, as various as could, with any prowil, be brought together, so as to form one company; the highest and 1st ranks of society being necessarily excluded. But what gives us the lest admiration of the poet, is the astonishing skill with which he has orted his characters, and the exquisite address that he has shown in ng his stories to the different humors, sentiments, and talents of the re

He has thus given us such an accurate picture of ancient manners as ::emporary writer has transmitted to posterity, and in the Canterbury we view the pursuits and employments, the customs and diversions of an of Edward III, copied from the life, and represented with equal ud spirit. It has been justly remarked, that it was no inferior combiof observation and sympathy which could bring together into one y the many-colored conditions and professions of society, delineated torial force, and dramatized by poetic conception, reflecting them

The fol the tale which seemed most congruous to their humors.

The holy blissful martyr for to seek
That them hath holpen when that they were sick.

Befell that in that season on a day,
In Southwark at the Tabard 1 as I lay,
Ready to wenden on my pilgrimage
To Canterbury with devout courage;
At night was come into that hostelry
Well nine-and-twenty in a company
Of sundry folk, by aventure yfall
In fellowsliip, and pilgrims were they all
That toward Canterbury woulden ride.
The chambers and the stables weren wide, a
And well we weren eased' atté best,

re some select characters, as portrayed in the Prologue.?

THE PROLOGUE. Whenné that April, with his showrés sote, I The drouth of March hath piercéd to the rote," And bathéd every vein in such licoúr, Of which virtúe engendred is the flow'r; When Zephirus eké, with his sotés breath, Inspiréd hath in every holt and heath The tender croppés, and the younge sun Hath in the Ram his halfé course yrun, And smallé fowlés maken melody, That sleepen allé night with open eye, So pricketh them nature in their courages,? Then longen folk to go on pilgrimages, And palmers for to seeken strangé strands, To servé hallow s8 couth in sundry lands; And 'specially from every shiré's end Of Engleland to Canterbury they wend, 10

THE KNIGHT AND SQUIRE.
A Knight there was, and that a worthy man
That from the time that he first began
To riden out, he loved chivalry,
Truth and honour, freedom and courtesy.
Full worthy was he in his lordés war,
And thereto had he ridden, no man farre.5
As well in Christendom as in Heatheness,
And ever honour'd for his worthiness.

With him there was his son, a younge Squire,
A lover and a lusty bachelor,
With lockés curl'd as they were laid in press;
Of twenty years of age he was I guess.
Of his statúre he was of even length,
And wonderly deliver,6 and great of strength;
And he had been some time in chevachie,
In Flaunders, in Artois, and in Picardie,
And borne him well, as of so little space,
In hope to standen in his lady's grace.

Embroider'd was he, as it were a mead
All full of freshé flowrés white and red :
Singing he was or floyting all the day;
He was as fresh as is the month of May:
Short was his gown, with sleevés long and wide;
Well could he sit on horse, and fairé ride:
He couidé songés make, and well endite,
Joust and eke dance, and well pourtray and write:
So hot he loved, that by nightertalelo
He slept no more than doth the nightingale:
Courteous he was, lowly and serviceable,
And cary'd before his father at the table.

Amenitin e Literature, 3 vols. 8vo.

the great work of Chaucer exerted a powerful inflaenae in helping on the Reformation. So much was Cardinal Wolsey odended at the severity with which

treated in the Pilgrim's Tale, that be lald an interdict upon its ever being site of the work, and it was with didiculty that the Ploughman's Tale was per ohn Yor. (1517-1587,) the historian of the martyrs, thus writes: "But much consider this, how that the blahops condemning and abolishing all maner of meatises, which might bring the people to any light of knowledge, did yet auChapeer to remaine. So it pleased God to blind then the eles of them for the

1 That is the inn called “The Tabard." The Tabard was a "jacket, or sleeveless coat, worn in times past by noblemen in the wars, but now only by heralds, and is called their coat of arms in service."-Speget Wenden-go, make way. 3 Wide--spacious. - Eased atté bestcontuodlously lodged. 6 Farre-farther. 6 Wonderly deliver--wonderfully active: from the French lidre, free. Chevachie, (French, chevauchee,) & military expedition. & Conducted biraxell well, considering the short time that he had served, Floyting-fluting, playing on thu Eute, whistling. The squire would not, in all probability, have a flute always with him. I woula Cherefore prefer the reading that he whistled all the day;" as being a more natural touch ni charas Ver, as well as in keepiuk with the hilarity of youth. 10 Nightertale--night-time.

is people. , Bote-root. should read Band med into the root

6 Holt-grove, forest loh the first, it should read Bull Instead of Ran, for he says that when the showcry of April had pierced into the root the drought of

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de to the constellation of the Bull, must have been for advanced

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consistent with the first, it should read wage was when the showcry of April hich corresponds to the constellation of the R shon to Corterary Tales.

Hallos -holiness.

THE CLERK." A Clerk? there was of Oxenford also, That unto logic haddé long ygo.3 As leané was his horse as is a rake, And he was not right fat I undertake, But lookéd hollow, and thereto soberly. Full threadbare was his overest courtepy; For he had gotten him yet no benefice, Nor was nought worldly to have an office For him was leverá have at his bed's head Twenty bookés clothéd in black or red Of Aristotle and his philosophy, Than robés rich, or fiddle or psaltry: But all be that he was a philosopher Yet haddé he but little gold in coffer, But all that he might of his friendés hent, On bookes and on learning he it spent, And busily 'gan for the soulés pray Of them that gave him wherewith to scholay? Of study took he mosté cure and heed; Not a word spake he more than was need, And that was said in form and reverence, And short and quick, and full of high sentence :S Sounding in moral virtue was his speech, And gladly would he learn and gladly teach.

THE WIFE. A good Wife was there of besidé Bath, But she was some deal deaf, and that was scathe. Of cloth-making she haddé such a haunt 10 She passed them of Ypres and of Ghent. In all the parish, wife ne was there none That to the off'ring before her shouldé gone, And if there did, certain so wroth was she, That she was out of allé charity. Her coverchiefs11 weren full fine of ground; I dursté swear they weigheden a pound, That on the Sunday were upon her head : Her hosed weren of fine scarlet red, Full strait ytied, and shoes full moistia and new: Bold was her face, and fair and red of hew. She was a worthy woman all her live; Husbands at the church door had she had five.18

I In the Interesting character of the “clerk" or scholar, whose poverty, delight in study, and in. attention to worldly affairs are eminently conspicuous, Warton thinks that Chaucer glanced at the nattention paid to literature, and the unprofitableness of philosophy.

That is, a scholar. 8 Ygo-part. pust, gone. 1 Overest courtepy-uppermost short cloak. 3 Lever-rather. Hent-catch hold of. 7 Scholay-study. 8 High sentence-1. e. lofty period. Scathe-harm, damage. 10 Haunt-custom. 11 Head-dress. 12 Moist-fresh

13 This alludes to the old custom of the parties joining hands at the door of the church before they went up to the altar to consummate the union; and this jolly dame and good housewife to repre seated as having gone through that interesting ceremony five timer.

THE CLERK. A Clerk there was of Oxenford also, That unto logic haddé long ygo.3 As leané was his borse as is a rake, And he was not right fat I undertake, But lookéd hollow, and thereto soberly. Full threadbare was his overest courtepy; For he had gotten hiin yet no benefice, Nor was nought worldly to have an office For him was lever have at his bed's head Twenty bookés clothéd in black or red Of Aristotle and his philosophy, Than robés rich, or fiddle or psaltry: But all be that he was a philosopher Yet haddé he but little gold in coffer, But all that he might of his friendés heng,6 On bookes and on learning he it spent, And busily 'gan for the soulés pray

Of them that gave him wherewith to scholay Of study took he mosté cure and heed; Not a word spake he more than was need, And that was said in form and reverence, And short and quick, and full of high sentence: 9 Sounding in moral virtue was his speech, And gladly would he learn and gladly teach.

THE PARSON."
A good man there was of religión,
That was a pooré Parson of a town,
But rich he was of holy thought and work,
He was also a learned man, a Clerk,
That Christés gospel truly wouldé preach;
His parishensa devoutly would he teach;
Benign he was, and wonder diligent,
And in adversity full patiént,
And such he was yprovéd often sithés ;3
Full loth were him to cursen for his tithés;
But rather would he given out of doubt
Unto his pooré parishens about
Of his off'ring, and eke of his substánce;
He could in little thing have suffisance: 4
Wide was his parish, and houses far asunder,
But he ne left nought for no rain nor thunder,
In sickness and in mischief, to visit
The farthest in his parish much and lite5
Upon his feet, and in his hand a staff:
This noble ’nsample to his sheep he yaf,6
That first he wrought, and afterward he taught,
Out of the gospel he the wordés caught,
And this figúre he added yet thereto,
That if gold rusté what should iron do?
For if a priest be foul on whom we trust,
No wonder is a lawéd7 man to rust;
And shame it is, if that a priest take keep
To see a “fouléd” shepherd and clean sheep:
Well ought a priest ensample for to give
By his cleanness how his sheep should live.

He setté not his benefice to hire,
And let his sheep accumbred in the mire,
And ran unto London unto Saint Poule's
To seeken him a chanteryo for souls,
Or with a brotherhood to be withold ; 10
But dwelt at home and kepté well his fold,
So that the wolf ne made it not miscarry;
He was a shepherd and no mercenary;
As though he holy were, and virtuous,
He was to sinful men not dispitous,"
Ne of his speeché dangerous12 ne digne ; 13
But in his teaching díscreet and benign.

THE WIFE. A good Wife was there of besidé Bath, But she was some deal deaf, and that was scathe.9 Of cloth-making she haddé such a haunt 10 She passed them of Ypres and of Ghent, In all the parish, wife ne was there none That to the off ring before her shouldé gone, And if there did, certain so wroth was she, That she was out of allé charity. Her coverchiefs weren full fine of ground; I dursté swear they weigheden a pound, That on the Sunday were upon her head: Her hosed weren of fine scarlet red, Full strait ytied, and shoes full moistha and new Bold was her face, and fair and red of hew. She was a worthy woman all her live: Jusbands at the church door had she had five.18

1 In describing the sanctity, simplicity, sincerity, patience, industry, courage, and conscientious Impartility of this excellent parish-priest, Chaucer, as Warton observes, has shown his gooi senne and good heart. Is not Goldsmith indebted to it for some of the beautiful tralts in the character of has Village Preacher, in the Deserted Village !

" Parisbens--parishioners. 3 Sithes--times. 4 Suffisance-suficiency. 6 Much and lite-great and smil. Yal--kave. 7 Lewed-ignorant. 8 Accumbred-encumbered.

Chantery. An endowment for the payment of a priest to sing mass agreeably to the appointbent of the founder. There were thirty-five of these chantries established at St. Paul's, which were werved by fifty-four priests.Dugdak, Hist. pref. p. 41. 10 Withold-withholden, withheld u Dapitons-Inexorable, angry to excesy. 12 Dangerous-sparing. 12 Digne-prou.l, disdainu

character of the "clerk" or scholar, whose poverty, delight in study, and in attatrs are eminently conspicuous, Warton thinks that Chaucer glanced at the terature, and the unprofitableness of philosophy,

wow cone, Overest courtepy-uppermost short clork, Ich hold of 7 Bcholay--study. High sentence e. lofty

10 Haunt-custom, u Head-dress, 29 Motst-fresh

harm, damage. 10 Haunty old custom of the parties joining hands at the door of the church before they o consummate the union; and this jolly dance and good housewife Wren through that Interesting ceremony nee times.

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