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such an assemblage. When will another princely nuptials be so graced !-When from scenes of this kind we fancy Chaucer proscribed, a fugitive, the inhabitant of a prison, with increasing years and declining fortune, his knowledge of life seems to include all that man can learn from human experi.
.-But to contemplate at this period the revival of literature in Italy, the predominance of chivalry and gallantry over all Europe, the magnificence of princes, the increase of commerce, and the general progress of the liberal and useful arts which ameliorate society, is to gaze on the brightest points of a picture which has a confused and gloomy ground. Though the manners and condition of middle life were improved, and the ferocity of the preceding reigns was somewhat mitigated, the face of English society was still deformed by many a foul blot. A corrupt priesthood, a fierce and dissolute nobi). ity, a puerile philosophy, a superstitious faith, an unequal and partial administration of justice, and an unsettled succession, were evils that more than counterbalanced all the splendours and victories of the Third Edward's reign.
The first productions of Chaucer were allegories ; for such was the taste of the period in which he lived ; and his “ Flower and the Leaf” will survive while the language endures as the fairy dream of a youthful poet. But Chaucer was eminently what the old romances call " a man of middle earth ;” and nature soon reclaimed his genius from the regions of pure fancy to a field better worthy of his energetic powers. Before the full vigour of his matured and enriched intellect was displayed in the Canterbury Tales, and at a much earlier period of his life, Chaucer wrote the love-story of Troilus and Creseide, for which he had found some meagre materials in the writers of Italy : for, like Shakspeare, he often gleaned the outline of his poems from some furtive and obscure source, which he afterwards moulded into his own impress, and en. riched and adorned with the affluence of his genius. Troilus and Creseide, which Chaucer calls a Litel Tragedy, is said to have been the favourite poem of Sir Philip Sydney; and “ was probably,” says Mr Campbell, “ next to the Canterbury Tales, the most popular poem in England till the reign of Elizabeth.” It contains more true pathos than all the love-stories which were composed for two centuries after its appearance.
Troilus is supposed to have first seen Creseide in a temple ; and in the solitude of his chamber, in ruminating on her charms, he thus deepens their fatal impression :
And when he in his chamber was alone,
(a) Delay; hinderance.
confessing her love amidst a scene of felicity has been pointed out in succession by Warton, and all his followers through the fields of English poetry :
And as the newe abashid nightingale, That stinteth(a) first when she beginneth sing, When that she heareth any herdis tale, Or in the hedges any wight stirring, And after sicker(6) doth her voice outring; Right so Creseidè, when that her dreade stent(c) Opened her herte, and told him her intent. The grief of Troilus, who, in his bed, is lamenting the departure of his mistress, is equally fine, and more impassioned :
Where is mine owne ladie, luf and dere? Where is her white brest-where is it--where? Where been her armès, and her eyen clere, That yesterday this time with me were ? Now may I weepe alone, with many a teare, And graspe about I may ; but in this place, Save a pillowe, I find nought to embrace. Another specimen of Chaucer's power of the simple pathetic is deservedly pointed out by War. ton. Troilus, seeing Creseide in a swoon, imagines her dead, and draws his sword to kill himself, first addressing a farewell to Troy and his family. The whole scene is delicately touched.
And thou, citie, in which I live in wo,
(a) Stops, ceases.
(6) Assurance. (d) Together.
Receivè now my spirit, would he say,
But as God would, of swough (a) she abraide, (6)
Toke her in armis two, and kist her oft,
This scene is worthy of the lover whom Shakspeare two centuries afterwards, to heighten the enchantments of a moonlight night favourable to love, pourtrays as stealing to the ramparts of Troy to gaze on the Grecian tents
-Sighing his soul towards the Grecian camp
Where Creseide lay that night. But the full scope of Chaucer's matured powers was reserved for the Canterbury Tales, which, in the refinement of the nineteenth century, possess the same freshness and captivation that have rendered them the delight of the many generations that have intervened.
Before, however, noticing this production, it may be proper to glance at the progress of society and literature before the birth, and during the previous
(6) Then awaked.
lifetime of Chaucer, who had now lived sixtythree years, and been known as an author for more than half of that time.
The birth of Chaucer, about the year 1328, is not much below the period when the complete amalgamation of the Norman and Saxon races took place, and when the new language, superseding both the Norman and the Danish-Saxon, became the common dialect of all ranks both in writing and discourse. To English poetry, the name Englishman, and the modern language of England, we may thus assign nearly the same date.
The native English poetry, if it deserve the name, before the age of Chaucer, is comprehended by versified homilies and moral rhapsodies, something like the rudiments of the heroic ballad, and a few rude love-songs. There are also some attempts at satire directed even thus early against the corruptions of the clergy. The lispings of the Gothic muse, even at this early period, are, how ever, more pleasing than her subsequent dull scholastic pedantry, as the prattle of an ingenuous child is more delightful than the conceited display of a precocious school-boy. The earliest love-song, which Warton quotes and places about the year 1200, is not destitute of beauty. It has a chorus,
Blow, northern wynd, send
Northern wynd, blow, blow, blow. Every charm is ascribed to the person of his mistress by the poet. She is, moreover, the ruby of