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Born 1329_Died 1400. Chaucer is the first true poet in the English language. Before the era of his writings we can discover but very few compositions even in the form of verse; and those few are of a character as unpoetical as can well be conceived. Previous to the Norman Conquest the Saxon language had been poetically cultivated, especially in popular ballads in praise of the heroes of England. The influence of that event upon the national tongue was like that of a great inundation, which at first buries the face of the landscape under its waters, but which at last subsiding leaves behind it the elements of new beauty and fertility.

Poetry in an English form begins to dawn between the eleventh and twelfth centuries, till in the thirteenth the writings of Chaucer present us with its morning brilliancy. After him we pass through a long and barren interval before we are admitted enjoy the genius of Spenser. The appearance of the former is beautifully compared by Warton, the historian

English poetry, to a premature day in an English spring: after which the gloom of winter returns, and the buds and blossoms, which have been called forth by a transient sunshine, are nipped by frosts and scattered by storms.'

His antiquated dialect, and far more than that, the manner in which his words are spelt, making them appear to the eye of a modern extremely uncouth, have given to his poetry an air of strangeness and distance, which prevents us from duly appreciating its beauty. It is not till the taste has been cultivated by a long familiarity with the writers of more modern times-not till we have arrived at a ripe acquaintance with the spirit and the language of the poets from Spenser downwards, that we can go to the pages of Chaucer with a true, easy relish for their various excellenee. He

was educated probably at the university of Cambridge. He enjoyed during his life the patronage of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, whose sister-in-law he married, and

through whose influence he obtained the favor both of King Edward III, and his successor Richard II. His prosperity was clouded for a short time during the early part of Richard's reign by his connexion with the followers of Wickliffe; but his old age was passed in uninterrupted ease. He was interred in Westminster Abbey.

Chaucer excels in the description both of human character and of natural scenery. His descriptions of character and manners are distinguished for their rich humour, and for their minute and graphic delineation. They seem like pictures drawn from real life, rather than inventions of fancy. His descriptions of natural objects are fresh and beautiful. His poetry sometimes exhibits sublimity and true pathos. Yet its moral tendency is too generally sensual and degraded ; insomuch that we may rejoice, notwithstanding its various excellence, that its obsolete dialect and its frequently tedious prolixity, remove it from the perusal of any persons, whose taste and moral principles are not firmly established, or whose susceptible minds might be injured by its influence.

A good man ther was of religioun,
That was a pourèl Persone2 of a toun:
But riche he was of holy thought and werk.
He was also a lerned man, a clerk,
That Christès gospel trewely wolde preche.
His parishens devoutly wolde he teche.
Benigne he was, and wonder diligent,
And in adversitie ful patient;
And swiche3 he was ypreved4 often sithes.5
Ful lothe wore him to cursen for his tithes,
But rather wolde he yeven6 out of doute
Unto his

pourè parishens aboute
Of his offring, and eke of his substance.
He could in litel thing have suffisance.
Wide was his parish, and houses fer asоnder,
But he ne left nought, for no rain ne thonder,
In sickness and in mischief to visite
The ferrest7 in his parish, mochel0 and lite,8
Upon his fete, and in his hand a staf.
This noble ensample to his sheep he yafy
That first he wrought, and afterward he taught.
Out of the gospel he the wordès caught,

* In this extract the vowels marked with the accent are to be pronounced as separate syllables in reading; otherwise the measure is imperfect.

Poor. 2Parson. 3Such. 4Proved. 5Times. 6Given. Most distant. 8Little. Gave. 10Much, in the sense of great.

And this figure he added yet therto-
That if gold rustè, what should iren do?
For if a preest be foule, on whom we trust,
No wonder is a lewèd9 man to rust.
Wel ought a preest ensample for to yeve, 1
By his clenenessé, how his sheepe should live.

He settè not his benefice to hire
And lette his shepe accombred2 in the mire
And ran unto London, unto Seint Poules,
To seken him a chanterie for soules,
Or with a brotherhede to be withhold:
But dwelt at home, and keptè wel his fold,
So that the wolf ne made it not miscarrie.
He was a shepherd, and no mercenarie.
And though he holy were, and vertuous,
He was to sinful men not dispitous, 3
Ne of his spechè dangerous4 ne digne,5
But in his teching discrete and benigne.
To drawen folke to Heven with fairinesse,
By good ensample, was his besinesse ;
But it were any persone obstinat,
What so he were of high or low estat,
Him wolde he snibben6 sharply for the nones.?-
A better preest I trow that nowher8 non is.
He waited for no pompe ne reverence,
Ne maked him no spiced conscience;
But Christès love, and his Apostles twelve
He taught, but first he folwed it himselve.


Born 1553-Died 1599.

SPENSER was born at London, of an ancient and honorable family, and was educated at the university of Cambridge. He was the friend of Sir Philip Sidney, and through his influence, together with that of his other patrons, Lord Grey and the Earl of Leicester, obtained from Queen Elizabeth, in 1582, a large grant of land in Ireland. His residence there was romantic and pleasant. He was visited in his retreat by Sir Walter Raleigh, to whom he recited his poetical compositions, and by whom he was accompanied to London, introduced to Queen Elizabeth, and persuaded immediately to publish the

1Give. 2Be encumbered. 3Angry or unmerciful. 4Rash. 5Disdainful. 68nub, reprove. For the occasion. Nowhere. 9A common man, one of the populace.

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