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Dan Chaucer, the first warbler, whose sweet breath

Preluded those melodious bursts that fill
The spacious times of great Elizabeth

With sounds that echo still.- Tennyson. Biography.-Born in London, 1328,—the city of London, that is to me so dear and sweet in which I was forth-grown'; studied at Cambridge, then at Oxford; acquired all branches of scholastic and elegant literature, Latin, Italian, English, and French; was page in the royal household; served in the army, was taken prisoner in France; again at the court of Edward III, the most splendid in Europe, surrounded by the wit, beauty, and gallantry of chivalry; marries the queen’s maid of honor, wondering that Heaven had fashioned such a being

And in so little space
Made such a body, and such face;
So great beauty and such features

More than be in other creatures!

thus brother-in-law of the heir apparent to the throne, Duke of Lancaster, strengthening their political bond by a family alliance; an ambassador in open or secret missions to Florence, Genoa, Flanders; takes part in pomps of France and Milan; converses with Petrarch, perhaps with Boccaccio and Froissart; is high up and low down,- now a placeholder, now disgraced, now the admired of the Court, now an exile dreading to see the face of a stranger, now incarcerated in the Tower, and again basking in the sunshine of kingly favor; at one time occupied with ceremonies and processions, at another secluded in his lovely retreat at Woodstock; finally, weary of the hurry and turmoil of the varied and brilliant world, retiring to the country quiet of Donnington Castle; then, bowed beneath the weight of years, dying in Palace-yard on the 25th of October, 1400,- his earthly friendship dissolved, - himself the only withered leaf upon a stately branch, He was the first buried in what is now famous as the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey.

What an education was that, with its splendor, varieties, contrasts! What a stage for the mind and eyes of an artist !

Appearance.—Of middle stature, late in life inclining to


corpulency,- a point upon which the Tabard host takes occasion
to jest with him:

Now ware you, sirs, and let this man have place;
He in the waist is shaped as well as I;

This were a poppet in armes to embrace.'
Of full face, indicative of health and serenity; of fair complexion,
verging towards paleness; of dusky yellow hair, short and thin,
with small round-trimmed beard; of aquiline nose, of expansive
marble-like forehead, and drooping eyes,- a peculiarity likewise
noticed by the host:

""What man art thou," quoth he,
"That lookest as thon wouldest find a hare?

Forever on the ground I see thee stare.",
His ordinary dress consisted of a loose frock of camlet, reaching
to the knee, with wide sleeves fastened at the wrist; a dark hood,
with tippet, or tail, which indoors hung down his back, and
outdoors was twisted round his head; bright-red stockings, and
black, horned shoes.

Diction.--As to the ancient accentuation, we are much in the dark. Certainly it was not in all respects like that of our own day. It is slightly different even in Shakespeare and his contemporaries from what it now is. For example, aspect, which in their time was always accented on the last syllable, is now accented on the first. A short composition is now called an essay, but a century ago it was called an essúy. Thus Pope,

*And write next winter móre essays on mán.' At an earlier period, this change was much more active. There was no recognized standard of accidence, and the modes of spelling, as of emphasis, were extremely irregular. It will render the approach to Chaucer's poetry easier, to remember:

1. That the Romance canons of verse, which were adopted as the laws of poetical composition, tended to throw the stress of voice

upon the final syllable, contrary to the Saxon articulation, which inclined to emphasize the initial syllable. Hence the pronunciation would oscillate between the two systems. Thus Chaucer has lángage in one line, langage in another, as the verse may require.

2. The ed at the end of verbs, and the es, when it is the plural or possessive termination of a noun, should generally be sounded as distinct syllables.

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3. The presence of their Anglo-Saxon root is often denoted by an n at the end of words; as, “Thou shalt ben quit' (be), 'withouten doubt' (without), 'I shall you tellen' (tell).

4. Not infrequently two negatives are used; as, 'I n'ill nat go' (will not), 'I n'am nat sure' (am not), 'I ne owe hem not a word' (do not owe).

5. Forms of the personal pronouns are exhibited in the following declension:

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6. Final e (with us totally inoperative upon the syllabication) is usually pronounced, --silent before h or a vowel; as Aprillë, swootë.

Chaucer's position, so far as we know, has no parallel in literary history. His poems are not in a foreign language - hardly in our own. They present to the eye terms that are familiar, and terms that are uncouth. The use of a glossary wearisome; the intermingling of sunshine and shadow, in which the reader is uncertain how long the clearness will continue, and how soon the obscurity will recur, is vexatious. He is the star of a misty morning.

Versification.-- Chaucer composed several pieces in octosyllabic metre iambic tetrameter; but by far the most considerable

part of his poetry was written in our present heroic measure - iambic pentameter in rhymed couplets or stanzas. tice, spondees ( - - ), trochees ( - u), and anapæsts (uu - ) are often introduced. To vary the position of the accents prevents monotony; to reduce their number, as from five to four, quickens the movement of the line. A line may be catalecticwanting a syllable; or hypercatalectic — lengthened by a syllable or even two, which gives a lifting billowy rhythm. By a little attention to the law of the verse, the difficulties of pronunciation will greatly diminish, and the air of archaism will rather enhance the effect. Thus of the death of Arcite:

In prac


And with that word his spéche faíle gán;
For fró his feéte 1p toó his brést was come
The cold of déth that hadde him overnóme

And yet moreóver in his ármes twoó
The vítal strength is lóst, and ál agoó.
ónly the intellect, withouten móre,
That dwélled in his hérte wik and sore,

Gan fáyle when the hérte félte déth.'
The poet himself seems anxious that transcribers and reciters
should not violate his metre. Thus, gracefully bidding adieu to

he adds:
And for there is so grete dyversite
In English and in writynge of our tonge,
So preye I God that non miswrite thee

Ve thee mismetre for defaute of tonge.'
His stanza -called rhyme royal, from the circumstance of its
being used by a royal follower was formed from the Italian
octave rhyme by the omission of the fifth line. It thus consists
of seven lines, three on each side of a middle one, which is the
last of a quatrain of alternate rhymes, and first of a quatrain of
couplets. Thus:

""Nay, God forbede a lover shulde channge!"
The turtel seyde, and wex for shame al reed:
"Thooghi that hys lady evermore be strange,
Yet let hym serve hir ever, tyl he be deed.
Forsoth, I preyse noght the gooses reed;
For thongh she deyed, I wolde noon other make;

I wol ben hirs til that the deth me take."'
It remained a favorite with English poets down to the reign of

In rhythmic history, Langland terminates the ancient period, and Chaucer begins the modern. The first presents the Anglo


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Saxon type 600, but with the accent at the second time

unit of the bar instead of the first.


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shop - e

a shep The second presents the same, with the last two of the eighthnotes joined together into a quarter-note; as if in music we should write where the slur unites two sounds in one

precisely equivalent to P. Hence for the predominant form

we have the predominant form 3



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Writings. Like all the rest, Chaucer begins as a copyist,
and, turning with greatest sympathy to those in whom the
romantic element is strongest, translates the Romaunt of the
Rose, an allegorical love poem, built up by the troubadours into
colossal proportions, one of the most famous in the fashionable
literature of the time. Under the figure of a rose in a delicious
garden, it portrays the trials of a lover, who in the attainment of
his desire, has to traverse vast ditches, scale lofty walls, and force
the gates of castles. These enchanted fortresses are inhabited
by visible divinities, some of whom assist and some oppose. The
garden itself is enclosed with embattled masonry, whereon are
the emblematic Hatred, Avarice, Envy, Sorrow, Old Age, and
Hypocrisy. Within are the smiling dancers, and, by way of con-
trast, Danger, who starts suddenly from an ambuscade, and sad
Travail, who forever mingles with the merry company. All this,
as usual, is seen in a dream, a dream of May, with its mantling
green and gladsome melody of birds:
• That it was May me thoughten tho,

it is five year or more ago,
That it was May thus dreamed me
In time of love and jollity. ...
And then becometh the ground so proud
That it woll have a newe shrowd,
And make so quaint his robe and fair
That it had hews an hundred pair,
of grass and floures Ind and Pers,

(Indian, Persian
And many hewes full diverse.
The birdes, that han left their song
While they had suffered cold full strong
In weathers gril, and derk to sight,

Been in May for the sunne bright
Se glad, that they shew in singing
That in their heart is such liking,

at they mote singen and been light. ...
Then younge folk intenden aye

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