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And on the morrow for their sake,
A month and days three.
For the folk that he had i-lore.1 Ilis doughter came in rich pall, On knees she 'gan before him fall,
And said, with sighing sore : Father,' she said, “let me be his wife, That there be no more strife,' &c.
The Soudan gathered a host unride,
The king of Tars to assail.
All that he might of send ;
Of that maiden hend.2
Ne longer nold they lend.
Upon that king to wend.
With the king of Tars to fight;
Of helins leamed light.3
With mony a Christian knight.
That grisly was of sight,
With weapons stiff and good.
They fought as they were wood.
In hand he hent 4 a spear,
Adown he 'gan him bear.
Comen him for to weir ,
That no man might him der.7
For wrath and for envy.
*Mahoun help !' he 'gan cry.
And saddles mony empty ;
Of the Christian company.
But fleeth to his own city.
Our Christian men so free.
That ruth it was to see ; 1 Unreckoned.
2 That gentle maid. 8 Gleamed with light.
4 Took. 6 Blow. Defend. 7 Hurt. 8 Red coal.
[Extract from the Squire of Low Degree.] [The daughter of the king of Hungary having fallen into melancholy, in consequence of the loss of her lover, the squire of low degree, her father thus endeavours to console her. The passage is valuable," because," says Warton," it delineates, in lively colours, the fashionable diversions and usages of ancient times."
To-morrow ye shall in hunting fare?
1 Lost. Go a hunting. 8 Go. Figured. 5 Spiced wine. 6 A drink of wine, honey, and spic 7 Course. 8 Household.
With cloth of arras pight to the ground, nunnery of Hampole, four miles from Doncaster. With sapphires set of diamond.
He wrote metrical paraphrases of certain parts of A hundred knights, truly told,
Scripture, and an original poem of a moral and Shall play with bowls in alleys cold,
religious nature, entitled The Pricke of Conscience; Your disease to drive away ;
but of the latter work it is not certainly known that To see the fishes in pools play,
he composed it in English, there being some reason To a drawbridge then shall ye,
for believing that, in its present form, it is a transTh' one half of stone, th other of tree;
lation from a Latin original written by him. One A barge shall meet you full right,
agreeable passage (in the original spelling) of this With twenty-four oars full bright,
generally dull work is subjoined :-
What is in Heaven.]
Ther is lyf withoute ony deth,
And ther is youthe without ony elde ;1 With much mirth and more liking.
And ther is alle manner welthe to welde : Your blankets shall be of fustian,
And ther is rest without ony travaille ; Your sheets shall be of cloth of Rennes.
And ther is pees without ony strife, Your head sheet shall be of pery pight,
And ther is alle manner lykinge of lyf :
And ther is bright somer ever to se,
And ther is nevere wynter in that countrie :
And ther is more worshipe and honour,
Then evere hade kynge other emperour.
And ther is grete melodie of aungeles songe, Frankincense and olibanum,
And ther is preysing hem amonge. That when ye sleep the taste may come ;
And ther is alle manner frendshipe that may be,
And ther is erere perfect love and charite ; And if ye no rest can take,
And ther is wisdom without folye, All night minstrels for you shall wake.
And ther is honeste without vileneye.
Al these a man may joyes of hevene call :
Ac yutte the most sovereyn joye of alle
Is the sighte of Goddes bright face, Hitherto, we have seen English poetry only in the
In wham resteth alle mannere grace. forms of the chronicle and the romance: of its many other forms, so familiar now, in which it is employed
ROBERT LANGLAND. to point a moral lesson, to describe natural scenery,
The Vision of Pierce Ploughman, a satirical poem to convey satiric reflections, and give expression to
red our of the same period, ascribed to ROBERT LONGLANDE, refined sentiment, not a trace has as yet engaged our attention. The dawn of miscellaneous poetry, as
a secular priest, also shows very expressively the
She progress which was made, about the middle of the these forms may be comprehensively called, is to be faintly discovered about the middle of the thirteenth
fourteenth century, towards a literary style. This century, when Henry III. sat on the English throne,
poem, in many points of view, is one of the most and Alexander II. on that of Scotland. A consider
important works that appeared in England previous able variety of examples will be found in the volumes
to the invention of printing. It is the popular re
presentative of the doctrines which were silently of which the titles are given below.* The earliest that can be said to possess literary merit is an elegy
bringing about the Reformation, and it is a peculiarly
national poem, not only as being a much purer on the death of Edward I. (1307), written in musical
specimen of the English language than Chaucer, and energetic stanzas, of which one is subjoined :
but as exhibiting the revival of the same system of Jerusalem, thou hast i-lore 2
alliteration which characterised the Anglo-Saxon The flour of all chiralerie,
poetry. It is, in fact, both in this peculiarity and Nou Kyng Edward liveth na more,
in its political character, characteristic of a great Alas! that he yet shulde deye!
literary and political revolution, in which the lanHe wolde ha rered up ful heyge 3
guage as well as the independence of the AngloOur baners that bueth broht to grounde; Saxons had at last gained the ascendency over those Wel longe we mowe clepet and crie,
of the Normans.* Pierce is represented as falling Er we such a kyng han y-founde!
asleep on the Malvern hills, and as seeing, in his
sleep, a series of visions ; in describing these, he The first name that occurs in this department of exposes the corruptions of society, but particularly our literature is that of LAWRENCE MINOT, who, the dissolute lives of the religious orders, with much about 1350, composed a series of short poems on the bitterness, victories of Edward III., beginning with the battle of Halidon Hill, and ending with the siege of Guines
[E.xtracts from Pierce Plowman.] Castle. His works were in a great measure unknown until the beginning of the present century,
[Mercy and Truth are thus allegorised.] when they were published by Ritson, who praised | Out of the west coast, a wench, as me thought, them for the ease, variety, and harmony of the ver Came walking in the way, to hell-ward she looked ; sification. About the same time flourished RICHARD | Mercy hight that maid, a meek thing withal, ROLLE, a hermit of the order of St Augustine, and A full benign burd,2 and buxom of speech ; doctor of divinity, who lived a solitary life near the Her sister, as it seemed, came soothly walking,
Even out of the east, and westward she looked, 1 Inlaid with pearls. Edward had intended to go on a crusade to the Holy Land. Age.
Burd, i. e, a maiden. 8 High. 4 Call.
* A popular edition of this poem has been recently published * Mr Thomas Wright's Political Songs and Specimens of Lyric by Mr Wright. The lines are there divided, as we believe in Poetry composed in England in the reign of Eduard I. Reliquiæ strictness they ought to be, in the middle, where a pause is Antique, 2 vols.
A full comely creature, truth she hight,
tractions which followed, and the paucity of any
[Covetousness is thus personified.]
[The existing condition of the religious orders is delineated in the following allegorical fashion. It might be supposed that the final lines, in which the Reformation is predicted, wag an interpolation after that event; but this has been ascertained not to have been the case.]
Ac now is Religion a rider, a roamer about,
altars. In many places there they be parsons by hemself at
Chaucer was a man of the world as well as a And beat you, as the Bible telleth, for breaking of
f student; a soldier and courtier, employed in public your rule,
affairs of delicacy and importance, and equally acAnd amend monials, monks, and canons,
quainted with the splendour of the warlike and And put hem to her penance
magnificent reign of Edward III., and with the
bitter reverses of fortune which accompanied the And then shall the Abbot of Abingdon, and all his
subsequent troubles and convulsions. He had parissue for ever
taken freely in all; and was peculiarly qualified to Hare a knock of a King, and incurable the wound.
excel in that department of literature which alone can be universally popular, the portraiture of real
life and genuine emotion. His genius was not, inGEOFFREY CHAUCER.
deed, fully developed till he was advanced in years. With these imperfect models as his only native
His early pieces have much of the frigid conceit and
pedantry of his age, when the passion of love was guides, arose our first great author, GEOFFREY CHAUCER, distinctively known as the Father of
erected into a sort of court, governed by statutes,
and a system of chivalrous mythology (such as the English poetry. Though our language had risen into
poetical worship of the rose and the daisy) supplanted importance with the rise of the Commons in the time of Edward I., the French long kept possession of the
the stateliness of the old romance. In time he threw court and higher circles, and it required a genius
off these conceitslike that of Chaucer-familiar with different modes
He stoop'd to truth, and moralised his song. of life both at home and abroad, and openly patronised by his sovereign-to give literary permanence
When about sixty, in the calm evening of a busy and consistency to the language and poetry of Eng
life, he composed his Canterbury Tales, simple and land. Henceforward his native style, which Spenser
varied as nature itself, imbued with the results terms “the pure well of English undefiled," formed
of extensive experience and close observation, and a standard of composition, though the national dis
coloured with the genial lights of a happy temperament, that had looked on the world without austerity,
and passed through its changing scenes without los. i Hanging wider than his chin.
in the ing the freshness and vivacity of youthful feeling ? As the mouth of a bondman or rural labourer is with the
and imagination. The poet tells us himself (in his bacon he eats, so was his beard beslab bered-an image still
Testament of Love) that he was born in London, and familiar in England.
$ Loveday is a day appointed for the amicable, settlement of the year 1328 is assigned, by the only authority we differences.
possess on the subject, namely, the inscription on 4 A male servant. 8 Nuns.
| his tomb, as the date of his birth. One of his poems
is signed “ Philogenet of Cambridge, Clerk," and And right anon as I the day espied, hence he is supposed to have attended the Univer No longer would I in my bed abide, sity there; but Warton and other Oxonians claim I went forth myself alone and boldely, him for the rival university. It is certain that he And held the way down by a brook side accompanied the army with which Edward III. in Till I came to a land of white and green, vaded France, and was made prisoner about the So fair a one had I never in been. year 1359, at the siege of Retters. At this time the The ground was green y-powdered with daisy, poet was honoured with the steady and effective The flowers and the groves alike high, patronage of John of Gaunt, whose marriage with All green and white was nothing else seen.' Blanche, heiress of Lancaster, he commemorates in his poem of the Dream. Chaucer and “time-honoured The destruction of the Royal Manor at Woodstock, Gaunt” became closely connected. The former mar and the subsequent erection of Blenheim, have ried Philippa Pyckard, or De Rouet, daughter of a changed the appearance of this classic ground; but knight of Hainault, and maid of honour to the queen, the poet's morning walk may still be traced, and and a sister of this lady, Catherine Swinford (widow some venerable oaks that may have waved over him, of Sir John Swinford) became the mistress, and ulti- lend poetic and historical interest to the spot. The mately the wife, of John of Gaunt. The fortunes of opening of the reign of Richard II, was unpropitious the poet rose and fell with those of the prince, his to Chaucer. IIe became involved in the civil and patron. In 1367, he received from the crown a grant religious troubles of the times, and joined with the of twenty marks, equal to about £200 of our present party of John of Northampton, who was attached money. In 1372, he was a joint envoy on a mission to the doctrines of Wickliffe, in resisting the meato the Duke of Genoa; and it has been conjectured sures of the court. The poet fled to Hainault (the that on this occasion he made a tour of the northern country of his wife's relations), and afterwards to states of Italy, and visited Petrarch at Padua. The Holland. He ventured to return in 1386, but was only proof of this, however, is a casual allusion in thrown into the Tower, and deprived of his compthe Canterbury Tales, where the clerk of Oxford says trollership. In May 1388, he obtained leave to disof his tale
pose of his two patents of twenty marks each; a Learned at Padua of a worthy clerk
measure prompted, no doubt, by necessity. He obFrancis Petrarch, the laureat poet,
tained his release by impeaching his previous assoHight this clerk, whose rhetoric sweet
ciates, and confessing to his misdemeanours, offering Enlumined all Italy of poetry.
also to prove the truth of his information by enter
ing the lists of combat with the accused parties. 'The tale thus learned is the pathetic story of Patient How far this transaction involves the character of Grisilde, which, in fact, was written by Boccaccio, the poet, we cannot now ascertain. He has painted and only translated into Latin by Petrarch. “Why," his suffering and distress, the odium which he inasks Mr Godwin, “ did Chaucer choose to confess curred, and his indignation at the bad conduct of his his obligation for it to Petrarch rather than to Boc- former confederates, in powerful and affecting lancaccio, from whose volume Petrarch confessedly guage in his prose work, the Testament of Love. The translated it ? For this very natural reason-be- sunshine of royal favour was not long withheld after cause he was eager to commemorate his interview this humiliating submission. In 1389, Chaucer is with this venerable patriarch of Italian letters, and registered as clerk of the works at Westminster; to record the pleasure he had reaped from his society." and next year he was appointed to the same office at We fear this is mere special pleading ; but it would Windsor. These were only temporary situations, be a pity that so pleasing an illusion should be dis- held about twenty months; but he afterwards repelled. Whether or not the two poets ever met, the ceived a grant of £20, and a tun of wine, per anItalian journey of Chaucer, and the fame of Petrarch, num. The name of the poet does not occur again must have kindled his poetical ambition and refined for some years, and he is supposed to have retired his taste. The Divine Comedy of Dante had shed a to Woodstock, and there composed his Canterbury glory over the literature of Italy ; Petrarch received Tales. In 1398, a patent of protection was granted his crown of laurel in the Capitol of Rome only five to him by the crown; but, from the terms of the years before Chaucer first appeared as a poet (his deed, it is difficult to say whether it is an amnesty Court of Lore was written about the year 1346); and for political offences, or a safeguard from creditors. Boccaccio (more poetical in his prose than his verse) | In the following year, still brighter prospects opened had composed that inimitable century of tales, his on the aged poet. Henry of Bolingbroke, the son Decameron, in which the charms of romance are of his brother-in-law, John of Gaunt, ascended the clothed in all the pure and sparkling graces of com- throne: Chaucer's annuity was continued, and forty position. These illustrious examples must have in-marks additional were granted. Thomas Chaucer, spired the English traveller; but the rude northern whom Mr Godwin seems to prove to have been the speech with which he had to deal, formed a chilling poet's son, was made chief butler, and elected Speaker contrast to the musical language of Italy! Edward of the House of Commons. The last time that thic III. continued his patronage to the poet. He was poet's name occurs in any public document, is in a made comptroller of the customs of wine and wool lease made to him by the abbot, prior and convent in the port of London, and had a pitcher of wine of Westminster, of a tenement situate in the gardaily from the royal table, which was afterwards den of the chapel, at the yearly rent of 538.4d. commuted into a pension of twenty marks. He was This is dated on the 24th of December 1399; and appointed a joint envoy to France to treat of a mar- on the 25th of October 1400, the poet died in Lonriage between the Prince of Wales and Mary, the don, most probably in the liouse he had just leased, daughter of the French king. At home, he is sup- which stood on the site of Henry VII.'s chapel. He posed to have resided in a house granted by the was buried in Westminster Abbey—the first of that king, near the royal manor at Woodstock, where, illustrious file of poets whose ashes rest in the sacred according to the description in his Dream, he was edifice. Burrounded with every mark of luxury and distinc The character of Chaucer may be seen in his tion. The scenery of Woodstock Park has been works. He was the counterpart of Shakspeare in described in the Dream with some graphic and pic.cheerfulness and benignity of disposition--no eneny turesque touches :
to mirth and joviality, yet delighting in his books, and studious in the midst of an active life. He was period of their sojourn; and we have thus a hundred an enemy to superstition and priestly abuse, but stories, lively, humorous, or tender, and full of chaplayful in his satire, with a keen sense of the ludi- racteristic painting in choice Italian. Chaucer seems crous, and the richest vein of comic narrative and to have copied this design, as well as part of the delineation of character. He retained through life Florentine's freedom and licentiousness of detail; a strong love of the country, and of its inspiring and but he greatly improved upon the plan. There is invigorating influences. No poet has dwelt more something repulsive and unnatural in a party of fondly on the charms of a spring or summer morn- ladies and gentlemen meeting to tell loose tales of ing; and the month of May seems to have been successful love and licentious monks while the plague always a carnival in his heart and fancy. His re- is desolating the country around them. The tales tirement at Woodstock, where he had indulged the of Chaucer have a more pleasing origin. A compoetical reveries of his youth, and where he was pany of pilgrims, consisting of twenty-nine " sundry crowned with the latest treasures of his genius, was folk,” meet together in fellowship at the Tabard Inn, exactly such an old age as could have been desired Southwark,* all being bent on a pilgrimage to the for the venerable founder of our national poetry. shrine of Thomas à Becket at Canterbury. These
pilgrimages were scenes of much enjoyment, and even mirth; for, satisfied with thwarting the Evil One by the object of their mission, the devotees did not consider it necessary to preserve any religious
Tabard Inn, Southwark. The principal of Chaucer's minor poems are the strictness or restraint by the way. The poet himFlower and Leaf, a spirited and graceful allegorical self is one of the party at the Tabard. They all sup poem, with some fine description; and Troilus and together in the large room of the hostelrie; and after Cresseide, partly translated, but enriched with many great cheer, the landlord proposes that they shall marks of his original genius. Sir Philip Sidney travel together to Canterbury; and, to shorten admired this pathetic poem, and it was long po- | their way, that each shall tell a tale, both in going pular. Warton and every subsequent critic have and returning, and whoever told the best, should quoted with just admiration the passage in which have a supper at the expense of the rest. The Cresseide makes an avowal of her love :
company assent, and “mine host" (who was both
“ bold of his speech, and wise and well taught") And as the new-abashed nightingale,
is appointed to be judge and reporter of the stories. That stinteth first when she beginneth sing,
The characters composing this social party are When that she heareth any herdes tale,
inimitably drawn and discriminated. We have a Or in the hedges any wight stirring,
knight, a mirror of chivalry, who had fought And after, sicker, doth her voice outring ;
against the Heathenesse in Palestine ; his son, a Right so Cresseide, when that her dread stent,
gallant young squire with curled locks,“ laid in Opened her heart, and told him her intent.
presse" and all manner of debonair accomplishments; The House of Fame, afterwards so richly paraphrased a nun, or prioress, beautifully drawn in her arch by Pope, contains some bold imagery, and the ro- simplicity and coy reserve; and a jolly monk, who mantic machinery of Gothic fable. It is, however, boasted a dainty, well-caparisoned horsevery unequal in execution, and extravagant in con
And when he rode men might his bridle hear ception. Warton has pointed out many anachron
Gingling in a whistling wind as clear, isms in these poems. We can readily believe that
And eke as loud as doth the chapel bell. the unities of time and place were little regarded by the old poet. They were as much defied by Shak *" The house is supposed still to exist, or an inn built upon speare; but in both we have the higher qualities of the site of it, from which the personages of the Canterbury true feeling, passion, and excitement, which blind Tales set out upon their pilgrimage. The sign has been con
verted by a confusion of speech from the Tabarda sleeveless us to mere scholastic blemishes and defects. The Canterbury Tales form the best and most
coat worn in times past by noblemen in the wars, but now
only by heralds (Speght's Glossary)—to the Talbot, a species of durable monument of Chaucer's genius. Boccaccio,
hound; and the following inscription is to be found on the in his Decameron, supposes ten persons to have re
spot :-- This is the inn where Geoffrey Chaucer and nine-andtired from Florence during the plague of 1348, and
twenty pilgrims lodged on their journey to Canterbury in 1383 there, in a sequestered villa, amused themselves by The inscription is truly observed by Mr Tyrrwhit to be modern, relating tales after dinner. Ten days formed the and of little authority.”—Godwin's Life Of Chaucer.