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That Silent Moon
What is That, Mother?
STUDIES IN POETRY.
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.
CHARACTER OF A GOOD PARSON.*
pourè parishens aboute
* 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-
He settè not his benefice to hire
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.