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II.

GEOFFREY CHAUCER.

1328-1400.

GEOFFREY CHAUCER is properly designated the Father of English Poetry. He acquires his right to that title not only on the ground of being our earliest poet, but because the foundations he laid still support the fabric of our poetical literature and will outlast the vicissitudes of taste and language. His greatest contemporaries and successors have recognized and confirmed his claim to this distinction. Lydgate calls him the “ chief poete of Bretayne," and the “lode-sterre” (leading-star) of our language and says, that he was the first to distil and rain the gold dewdrops of speech and eloquence into our tongue; Occleve calls him “the fynder of our fayre langage;" Roger Ascham describes him as the "English Homer" and considers “his sayinges to have as much authority as eyther Sophocles or Euripides in Greke;" and Spenser speaks of him as “the pure wellhead of poetry" and "the well of English undefiled."

ROB. BELL in the "Introduction" to his Edition of the “Poetical Works of G. Ch."

London 1854.

CANTERBURY TALES.

THE STORY OF PATIENT GRISILDE.

(That the original of this story was older than Boccaccio's novel admits of no doubt. Petrarch was acquainted with it many years before it was related by Boccaccio, whom he had himself, probably, supplied with the chief incidents. But, while we have many subsequent forms of it, the novel in the Decameron is the earliest now known to exist. The French are entitled to the credit of having first introduced it to the stage, a play on the subject having been produced at Paris in 1393, about nineteen years after Petrarch's death. Dramas were afterwards founded upon 'it in Italy, Germany, and England. Chaucer's tale is the earliest narrative in our language of the woes and virtues of Patient Grissell, since rendered familiar to the English reader by the prominent place it occupies in our ballad literature. Few stories enjoy so wide a popularity. The incredible resignation of the heroine may be said to have passed into a proverb.

Although Chaucer was indebted to Petrarch for his materials, the story acquires originality in his hands from the sweetness and tenderness of expression he has infused into the relation. Charles James Fox, who had never seen Petrarch's version, describes with accuracy the character of this poem when he observes, in one of his letters to Lord Holland, that it closely resembles the manner of Ariosto.]

THER is at the west ende of Ytaile,
Doun at the root of Vesulus the colde,
A lusty playn, abundaunt of vitaile,
Wher many a tour and toun thou maist byholde,
That foundid were in tyme of fadres olde,
And many anothir delitable sight,
And Saluces this noble contray hight.

A marquys whilom duellid in that lond,
As were his worthy eldris him bifore,
And obeisaunt ay redy to his hond,
Were alle his liegis, bothe lesse and more.
Thus in delyt he lyveth and hath don yore,
Biloved and drad, thurgh favour of fortune,
Bothe of his lordes and of his comune.

Therwith he was, as to speke of lynage,
The gentileste born of Lumbardye,
A fair persone, and strong, and yong
And ful of honour and of curtesie;
Discret y-nough his contre for to gye,
Savynge in som thing he was to blame;
And Wautier was this yonge lordes name.

I blame him thus, that he considered nought
In tyne comyng what mighte bityde,
But on his lust present was al his thought,
As for to hauke and hunte on every syde;
Wel neigh al othir cures let he slyde,
And eek he nolde (that was the worst of al)
Wedde no wyf for no thing that might bifal.

Only that poynt his poeple bar so sore, That flokmel on a day to him thay went, And oon of hem, that wisest was of lore,

of age,

(Or ellis that the lord wolde best assent
That he schuld telle him what his poeple ment,
Or ellis couthe he schewe wel such matiere)
He to the marquys sayd as ye schuln hiere.

O noble marquys, youre humanite
Assureth us and giveth us hardynesse,
As ofte as tyme is of necessite,
That we to yow may telle oure hevynesse;
Acceptith, lord, now of your gentilesse,
That we with pitous hert unto yow playne,
And let your eeris my vois not disdeyne.

“And have I nought to doon in this matere
More than another man hath in this place,
Yit for as moche as ye, my lord so deere,
Han alway schewed me favour and grace,
I dar the better ask of yow a space
Of audience, to schewen oure request,
And ye, my lord, to doon right as yow lest.

“For certes, lord, so wel us likith yow
And al your werk, and ever han doon, that we
Ne couthen not ourselve devysen, how
We mighte lyve more in felicite;
Save oon thing, lord, if that your. wille be,
That for to be a weddid man yow list,
Than were your poeple in sovereign hertes rest.

“Bowith your neck undir that blisful yok Of sovereignete, nought of servise, Which that men clepe spousail or wedlok; And thenketh, lord, among your thoughtes wise, How that our dayes passe in sondry wyse; For though we slepe, or wake, or rome, or ryde, Ay fleth the tyme, it wil no man abyde.

“And though your grene youthe floure as yit, In crepith age alway as stille as stoon, And deth manasith every age, and smyt In ech estat, for ther ascapith noon. And as certeyn, as we knowe everychon

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