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English poet, if we except Shakspeare, ever exhibited such striking instances of comic and tragic powers united in the same mind. His humor and wit were also of the brightest and keenest character; his pathos too was tremendous, and his descriptive powers were of the highest order of excellence.

Of Chaucer's minor poems, after the Court of Love, the principal are, The Flower and Leaf, a spirited and graceful allegorical poem, The House of Fame, and Troilas and Cresseide ; from the latter of which we quote the following passages chiefly for the sake of the delicate and beautiful similes which they contain.

But right as floures through the cold night

Inclosed stoupen in hir stalke lowe,
Redressen hem ayen the sunne bright,

And spreden in hir kindlie course by rowe;

Right so began his eyen up to throw
This Troilas, and seth, O Venus dere,
Thy might, thy grace, yheried be it here.
But right as when the sunne shineth bright

In Marche that changeth ofttimes his face,
And that a cloud is put with winde to flight

Which oversprad the sunne, as for a space

A cloudy thought gan through her soule to pace,
That overspread her bright thoughts all,
So that for fear almost she gan to fall.
And as the new-abashed nightingale,

That stinteth first when she beginneth sing,
When that she heareth any herdes tale,

Or in the hedges any wright stirring.

And after sicker, doth her voice outring;
Right so Cresseide, when that her dread slent,
Opened her heart, and told him her intent.
Have ye not seen some time a pale face

(Emong a prus) of him that hath been lad
Toward his deth, wher as him get no grace,

And soch a colour in his face hath had

That men might know his face that was bestad
Emonges all the faces in that rout;
So standeth Castance, and loketh her about.

But the best and most durable monument of Chaucer's genius is the Canterbury Tales. This is clearly a narrative poem, and the model upon which it was constructed was evidently the Decameron of Bocaccio, though our poet greatly improved upon the original. He supposes a company of pilgrims, consisting of twenty-nine sundry folk,' to meet together in fellowship at Tabard Inn, Southwark, all being bent upon a pilgrimage to the shrine of Thomas-à-Becket at Canterbury. The poet himself is one of the party. They all sup together in the large room of the hostelrie, and after great cheer, the landlord proposes that they shall travel together to Canter bury; and to shorten the way, that each shall tell a tale, both in going and

returning, and whoever told the best should have a supper at the expense of the rest. The company assent, and ‘mine host' who was both

Bold of his speech, and wise and well taught, is appointed judge and reporter of the stories.

The characters compo sing this social party, are inimitably drawn and discriminated. We have a knight, a mirror of chivalry, who had fought against the Ileathenesse in Palestine; his son a gallant young squire with curled locks, laid in presse, and all manner of debonnair accomplishments; a nun, or prioresse, beautifully drawn in her arch simplicity and coy reserve; and a jolly monk, who boasted a dainty, well-caparisoned horse :

And when he rode, men might his bridle hear
Jingling in a whistling wind as clear

And eke as loud as doth the chapel bell. A wanton prior is also of the party,—full of sly and solemn mirth, and well beloved for his accommodating disposition :

Full sweetly heard he confession,

And pleasant was his absolution. We have a pardoner from Rome with some sacred relics, such as a part of the sail of St. Peter's ship, and who is also

Brim full of pardons come from Rome all hot. In satirical contrast to these merry and interested churchmen, we have a poor parson of a town,

Rich in holy thought and work, and a clerk of Oxford also, who was skilled in logic:

Sounding in moral virtue was his speech,

And gladly would he learn, and gladly teach. Among the other characters are a doctor of physic, a great astronomer and student, whose study was but little on the Bible;' a purse-proud merchant; a sergeant-at-law, who was always busy, yet seemed busier than he was ; and a jolly Franklin, a freeholder, who had been a lord of sessions, and who was fond of good eating :

Withouten baked meat never was his house,
Of fish and flesh, and that so plenteous;

It snowed in his house of meat and drink. This character is a fine picture of the wealthy rural Englishman, and it shows how much of enjoyment and hospitality was even then associated with this station of life. The Wife of Bath is another lively national portrait : she is shrewd and witty, has abundant means, and is always first with her offering at church.

Besides these, there are many humbler characters, which, combined with those already noticed, form so genuine a Hogarthian picture that we may well exclaim with Campbell, “What an intimate scene of English life in the fourteenth century do we enjoy in these tales, beyond what history displays

by glimpses through the stormy atmosphere of her scenes, or the antiquary can discover by the cold light of his researches. Yet with all the inimitable description and truth to nature with which the Canterbury Tales abound, we are constrained to confess that we have looked in vain throughout the entire poem for any thing that inculcates an important moral lesson.

The following brief extracts are all that our space will allow us to introduce from this great work, the last extract, the Good Parson, being somewhat modernized :


A poore widow, somedeal stoop’n in age,
Was whilom dwelling in a narwé cottage
Beside a grove standing in a dale.
This widow, which I tell you of my Tale,
Since thilke day that she was last a wife,
In patience led a full simple life,
For little was her cattle and her rent,
By husbandryl of such as God her sent
She found herself and eke her daughters two.
Three large sowes had she, and no mo,
Three kine, and eke a sheep that highte? Mall :
Full sooty was her bower and eke her hall,
In which she ate many a slender meal,
Of poignant sauce ne knew she never a deal ;3
No dainty morsel passed through her throat;
Her diet was accordant to her cote :
Repletion ne made her never sick;
Attemper5 diet was all her physic,
And exercise, and heartes suffisance :
The goute let6 her nothing for to dance,
Ne apoplexy shente? not her head,
No wine ne drank she neither white nor red;
Her board was served most with white and black,
Milk and brown bread, in which she found no lack,
Seindes bacon, and sometime an egg or tway,
For she was as it were a manner dey.9


Swelleth the breast of Arcite, and the sore
Encreaseth at his hearte more and more.
The clottered blood for any leche-craft 10
Corrupteth, and is in his boukl ylaft,
That neither veine-blood ne ventousing, 12
Ne drink of herbes may be his helping.

1 Thrift, economy.

2 Called.

3 Not a bit. 4 Cot, cottage. 5 Temperate. o Prevented. 7 Injured.

& Singed. 9 Mr. Tyrwhitt supposes the word 'dey' to refer to the management of a dairy; and that it originally signified a hind. · Manner dey may therefore be interpreted 'a species of hired or day laborer.' 10 Medical skill.

11 Body. 12 Ventousing, (Fr.) cupping; hence the term, 'breathing a vein.'


The virtue expulsive or animal,
From thilke virtue clepedi natural,
Ne may the venom voiden ne expell;
The pipes of his lungs 'gan to swell,
And every lacert? in his breast adown
Is shent 3 with venom and corruption.
He gaineth neither, 4 for to get his life,
Vomit upward ne downward laxative:
All is to-bursten thilke region;
Nature hath now no domination:
And certainly where nature will not werche,5
Farewell physic; go bear the man to church.
This is all and some, that Arcite muste die;
For which he sendeth after Emily,
And Palamon, that was his cousin dear;
Then said he thus, as ye shall after hear:

Naught may the woful spirit in mine heart
Declare one point of all my sorrows' smart
To you my lady, that I love most,
But I bequeath the service of my ghost
To you aboven every creature,
Since that my life ne may no longer dure.

* Alas the woe! alas the paines strong,
That I for you have suffered, and so long !
Alas the death! alas mine Emily!
Alas departing of our company !
Alas mine hearte's queen! alas my wife !
Mine hearte's lady, ender of my life!
What is this world ?-What asken men to have ?
Now with his love, now in his colde grave-
Alone-withouten any company.
Farewell my sweet-farewell mine Emily!
And softe take me in your armes tway
For love of God, and hearkeneth what I say.

'I have here with my cousin Palamon
Had strife and rancour many a day agone
For love of you, and for my jealousy;
And Jupiter so wise my soule gie,?
To speaken of a servant properly,
With alle circumstances truely;
That is to say, truth, honour, and knighthead,
Wisdom, humbless, estate, and high kindred,
Freedom, and all that 'longeth to that art,
So Jupiter have of my soule part,
As in this world right now ne know I none
So worthy to be loved as Palamon,
That serveth you, and will do all his life;
And if that ever ye shall be a wife,
Forget not Palamon, the gentle man.'

And with that word his speeche fail began;
For from his feet up to his breast was come

1 Called. * Work.

He is able for.

2 Muscle.
6 Surely.

3 Ruined, destroyed.
7 Guide.

The cold of death that had him overnome;'
And yet, moreover, in his armes two,
The vital strength is lost and all ago; 2
Only the intellect, withouten more,
That dwelled in his hearte sick and sore,
'Gan faillen when the hearte felte death ;
Dusked his eyen two, and fail'd his breath:
But on his lady yet cast he his eye;
His laste word was, “Mercy Emily!'


Custance is banished from her husband, Alla, king of Northumberland, in consequence of the treachery of the king's mother. Her behaviour in embarking at sea, in a rudderless ship, is thus described :

Weepen both young and old in all that place,
When that the king this cursed letter sent;
And Custance with a deadly pale face
The fourthe day toward the ship she went;
But natheless, 3 she tak’th in good intent
The will of Christ, and kneeling on the strond,
She saide, 'Lord, aye welcome be thy sond.4

He that me kepte from the false blame,
While I was in the land amonges you,
He can me keep from harm and eke from shame
In the salt sea, although I see not how:
As strong as ever he was, he is yet now:
In him trust I, and in his mother dear,
That is to me my sail and eke my steer.'5

Her little child lay weeping in her arms;
And kneeling piteously to him she said-
"Peace, little son, I will do thee no harm :'
With that her kerchief off her head she braid,6
And over his little eyen she it laid,
And in her arm she lulleth it full fast,
And into th' heaven her eyen up she cast.

Mother, quod she, and maiden bright, Mary!
Soth is, that through womannes eggement,
Mankind was lorn, 8 and damned aye to die,
For which thy child was on a cross yrent :9
Thy blissful eyen saw all his torment;
Then is there no comparison between
Thy woe and any woe man may sustain.

'Thou saw'st thy child y-slain before thine eyen,
And yet now liveth my little child parfay:10
Now, lady bright! to whom all woful crien,
Thou glory of womanhood, thou faire May!
Thou haven of refute, 11 bright star of day!
Ruell on my child, that of thy gentleness
Ruest on every rueful in distress.

I Overtaken.
s Guide, helm.
• Torn.

3 Agone.
6 Took.
10 By my faith.

3 Nevertheless.
7 Incitement.
11 Refuge.

4 Message. 8 Undone. 12 Have Pity.

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