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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."
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,
A marquys whilom duellid in that lond,
Therwith he was, as to speke of lynage,
I blame him thus, that he considered nought
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,
(Or ellis that the lord wolde best assent
“O noble marquys, youre humanite
“And have I nought to doon in this matere
“For certes, lord, so wel us likith yow
“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