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shire for the important County of Kent. In this capacity he probably gave offence to the Court of Richard by his support of the turbulent party of John of Gaunt, his patron and connection ; for we find, from the entries in the Rolls, that he was soon after dismissed from all his offices, which, exclusive of the many perquisites attached to them, yielded him an income, as Mr. Bell observes, equal to the salaries of the Chief Baron of the Exchequer and the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. It has been generally supposed that he was at this time imprisoned in the Tower, and that he informed against his associates to procure his own liberation. This supposition is founded on some particularities introduced into his philosophical work in prose, entitled The Testament of Love; but whatever may be the meaning of the allusions in that work, Sir Harris Nicolas has clearly shewn, by documents now in existence, that during the whole of the period when he is supposed to have been in prison, he was, with his own hands, receiving his pensiou half-yearly. In 1389, Thomas of Woodstock, the political rival of John of Gaunt, was dismissed ; Chaucer is immediately appointed clerk of the works to the King, an office for which many allusions in his poetry, displaying a taste for architecture, shew that he was qualified. It is pleasing to find the name of the greatest poet of the day associated with one of the best specimens of contemporary art. A commission, dated 12th July, 1390, appoints him to superintend certain repairs in St. George's Chapel in the Castle of Windsor.
The poet, diplomatist, statesman, and architect now appears in the character of a natural philosopher. In his astronomical work, call d Conclusions of the Astrolabie, the experiments are all calculated for the year 1391 ; and it seems to us so natural that a lecturer should use the current year for such a purpose, that we have no difficulty in assigning it to this period. This treatise, in which one is pleased to find Chaucer declaring his utter disbelief in judicial astrology as being contrary alike to reason and the Catholic faith, is addressed to his son Louis, in a preface so pleasing and characteristic, that we must extract it :
“ Little Louis my son, I perceive well bi certain evidences thine ability to learn sei. cr.ces touching numbers and proportions, and also well consider I thy busy prayer in espe. cial to learn the Treatise of the Astrolabie. Then, for as much as a philosopher saith he wrappeth himn in his friend that condescendeth to the rightful prayers of his friend, therefore I have given thee a sufficient astro. labie for our horizon, compounded after the latitude (longitude ?) of Oxenford, upon the which, by mediation of this little triatise I purposu to teach thee a certain number of conclusions pertaining to this same instrument. . • • In the treatise, divided into three parts, will I sher the wondrous light (easy) rules, and naked words in English, for Latin no canst thou not yet but small, my little son. . . Now will I pray meekly every person discreet that readeth or herrcil this little treatise, to have my rule intenting (meaning) excused, and my superfuity of words, for two canses : The first cause is, for that curious enditing and hard sentences is full heavy at once for such a child to learn ; and the second cause is this, inc scemeth better :owrite unto a child twice a good sentence, than he forget it once. And Louis, if it so be that I shew thee in my lytlıc English as true conclusions toaching this matter, and not only as true, but as many and subtle conclusions, as been yslieved in Latin in any common treatise of the astrolabie, conne ine the more thanks, and pray God sare the King that is lord of this lan. guage, and all that him faith beareth and obeyt th, every in his degree, the more and the less. But consideretl: well that I ne usurp not to have found this work of iny labour or of my engine (ingenium); I n'am but a lewd (unlearned) coinpilatour of the labour of other astrologians, and have it translated in miae English, only for thy doctrine. And with this sword sball I slay Envy.”
To say that this language is either barbarous or obsolete is absurd.
We now come to his last and greatest work, the Canterbury Tales, a work which was probably begun many years before this, but which occupied the latter years of his life, and still remained unfinished at his death in the year 1400. Like the Decameron, it consists of a collection of stories related by different personages, and connected by a dialogue between them ; but here the resemblance ends. Boccaccio's characters all belong toone class of society, and that the highest, which presents the least variety or interest. Chaucer's comprise every grade, from the knight and the dignified churchman and decorous prioress, to the cook, the miller, and the lois
terous wife of Bath. Boccaccio's tales, though admirable in their way, are remarkable for a simplicity of style which often borders upon baldness; they seem often like the argument or heading of a story rather than the story itself. Chaucer's are worked up with the greatest care, and abound with minute descriptions, broad contrasts, and strokes of dramatic skill; in the former the interest is concentrated on the incidents--in the latter, on the characters. The Decameron represents the dreamy, voluptuous, epicurean tone of the Italian mind; the Canterbury Tales, the rough, practical, sometimes coarse, but always real and manly spirit of the Anglo-Saxon.
In the Prologue with which the piece opens, the poet describes the occasion of his meeting with the several pilgrims, and introduces them to the reader. On a fine day in spring, he is tempted by the beauty of the weather, and the desire of change after the long confinement of winter, to join in one of the fashionable pilgrimages to the shrine of St. Thomas a-Becket at Canterbury ; and with a view to an early start next morning, he sleeps at the Ta bard Inn, in the borough of Southwark.
This Inn still exists. It is situated about three hundred yards beyond London Bridge. A narrow gateway leads to its court-yard, surrounded by gal. leries. Into these open the chambers which are approached by an external stair-case. We visited it last rummer, and drank a glass of Southwark ale in honour of the immortal band of pilgrims, who, under the guidance of the jolly Host, issued from its portal four hundred years ago. But that choice spirit is no more. No more does he wheedle or overawe the bullying miller, or bandy jokes with the young priest, or win upon the reserve of the prioregs by his scrupulous and respectful gallantry. His bold, broad face lies with Yorick's skull; and the “ gentle hostelry," of which he was once the informing spirit, is presided over by a thin-lipped, vixenish landlady, who draws thin beer for the stupid Kentish carriers whose waggons block the court-yard.
The poet here meets a company of nine-and-twenty pilgrims of every rank, trade, and variety of charac
ter, all bent upon the same errand of piety or amusement as himself ; and the description which he gives of them is perhaps the most curious picture of contemporaneous manners that exists in any language. Every particular of each person's appearance, manner, and costume, is produced with the breadth and firmness of Albert Durer's pencil. We all know the merchant, with the broad-brimmed hat, “who speaks his reasons full solemnly ;' who is perfectly up to all the tricks of the stock-exchange, and keeps up the show of a substantial trader even to the eve of his bankruptcy. “There wisté no man that he was in debt, So estately was he of governance.” The sergeant of law may be seen walking down Chancery-lane with a blue bag, any day during term-time, in a vast hurry to be in time before his cause is called on—for No where so busy as man as he there n'as,
(ne was) And yet he scenéd busier than he was.
The host, who by no means contents himself with carrying in the first course, but knows that it is for his interest that his guests should enjoy their trip, proposes that the pilgrims should beguile the road by relating stories as they ride, and that the best story-teller should have a supper at the common cost on their return. This is unanimously agreed to, and “ The Canterbury Tales” consist of the stories told in pursuance of this agreement, connected by a humourous discourse among the company. The Knight relates a charming tale of chivalry, rather founded upon, than translated from, Boccaccio's Theseide. The Squire's tale is the unfinished history of “ Cambuskan bold, and Algarsife;" the two nuns who are of the party recite legends of the saints, which are by no means the least meritorious of the collection ; the other characters tell tales characteristic of their tastes ; and the Parson closes the whole with a sermon founded, we believe, on Robert Grosseteste's treatise De Septem Vitiis et Remediis.
We have no doubt that it was a common thing in the middle ages for the travellers who used to ride in troops to fairs, tournaments, or favourite shrines, to while away the
time by telling stories. It has often occurred to us that the travellers in railway carriages would be better employed in this way than in sitting “ dumb as a stone," and casting suspicious glances at each other from under their fur-caps; but our manners are too exclusive and reserved for this. In America, the young swarm of Anglo-Saxons, which is there engaged in constructing its combs and developing its character, seems to have gone back to the earlier manners of its parent hive in this respect. In the following picture of American travelling, the analogy of “ The Canterbury Tales” is followed even to the treating of the best story-teller at the expense of the company. In a steam-boat on Lake Champlain, “ There were a hundred passengers, including a sprinkling of the fair sex. The amusements were slory-telling, whittling, and smoking. The two latter could not have formed part of the amusements of the Canterbury pilgrims, unless they had whittled their horses' manes, and smoked cabbageleaves.) Fully half the stories told began with “There was a 'cute 'coon down east ;" and the burden of nearly all was some clever act of cheating-“ sucking a green-horn,”as the phrase is. (This is pretty much the character of the fabliaus told by Chaucer's lower characters.] There were occasional anecdotes of “ busting up” on the southern rivers, “ making tracks" from importunate creditors, of practical jokes, and glaring impositions. There was a great deal of “ liquoring-up” going on the whole time. The best story-teller was repeatedly called upon to liquor some.' "-English woman in America.
The providence that God hath seen beforn, So strong it is, that, though the world had
sworn The contrary of a thing, by sea and nay, Yet some time it shall fall upon a day, That falleth not oft (1) in a thousand year. For certainly our appetites here, Be it of war, of peace, or hate, or lore, All is it ruled by the sight above. This mean I now by mighty Theseus, That for to hunté is so desirous, And, namely, the greaté hart in May, That in his bed there daweth him no day That he n'is clad and ready for to ride, With hunt and horn, and houndés him beside. For in his hunting hath he such delight That 't is his love and his appetite, To be himself the greaté harté's bane, For after Mars he serreth now Diane. Clear was the day, as I have told e'er this? And Theseus, with allé joy and bliss, With his Hippolita, the fairé queen, And Emilía, clothed all in green, On hunting be they ridden royally. And to the wood that stood there fasté by, In which there was an hart, as men him told, Duke Theseus the straiglité way hath hold, And to the lawn he rideth him full right, Where was the hart y-wont to have his flight, And over a brook, and soforth in liis way. This Duke will have of hin a course or trey With houndés, which as him lust to command. And wlien this Duke was come into the laund,
(lawn) Under the sun he looketh; right anon lle was ware of Arcite and Palamon, That foughten breme (3) as it were boarés two. The briglité swordés wenté to and fro So hideously, that with the leasté stroke It seemed as it wolde fell an oak. But what they were nothing yet he wote. This Duke with spurrés his coursér he smote, And at a start he was betwixt them two, And pulled out a sword, and cried • Ho! No more, on pain of losing of your head; By mighty Mars, anon he shall be dead That smiteth any stroke that I may see !"
We fear that even the Canterbury Tales are not so familiar to our readers as that a few extracts, illustrative of Chaucer's different styles, will not prove acceptable. The discovery by Theseus of Palamon and Arcite engaged in single combat in the forest, is a good example of his heroic manner :
Here we think we see Theseus riding into the forest glade, and when he hears the hacking of the swords of Palamon and Arcite, putting up his hand over his eyes to look “under the sun.” Then seeing the two men fighting, he puts spurs to his horse, and “at a start" he is between them, and beats down their guards with his sword.
One more extract, and we have done. In the following light but effective touches, we have the medieval “Stiggins" to the life. The Sompnour, an officer of the archdeacon's court,
The destiny, minister general,
(1) Afterwards. (?) Fiercely.
who bears a deadly enmity to the mendicant friar exempted by special license from his jurisdiction, thus describes the manner in which one of the obnoxious brotherhood insinuates himself into the family circle :So long he wenté house by house, till he Came to an house where he was wont to be Refreshed more that in an hundred places. Sick lay the husbandman whose that the
Bedridden on a couché low he lay. “ Deus hic,” quoth he ; " Oh, Thomas
friend, good day," Saidé this friar all courteously and soft; "Oh, Thomas, (God yield it you) full oft Have I upon this bench y-fared full well; Here have I eaten many a merry nieal." And from the bench he drove away the cat, And laid adown his potent (%) and his hat, And eke his scrip, and sat bim soft adown.
This worthy man was lord of that villáge.
this? I see full well that something is amiss; Ye look as though the wood were full of
thievés! Sit down anon and tell me what your grief is, And it shall be amended, if that I may." " I have," quoth hc, "had a dispite to-day, God yieldé you, adown in your villago That in this world is no so poor a page That he n'old have abomination Of that I have received in your town; And yet ne grieveth me no thing so sore, As that this oldé churl, with lockés hoar, Blaspheméd hath our holy convent eke." “Now, master," quoth this lord, “ I you
biseke" () “No master, sir,” quoth he, “but servitor, Though I have had in schoolé such honour, God liketh not that Rabbi men us call Neither in market nor in your largé hall."
Surely this newly found humility in the friar, just at the very moment he is smarting under a sense of offended dignity, is a master-stroke worthy of Shakespeare.
We had intended to extract some passages from the Clerk of Oxenford's “ Tale of Griselda,” and the Man of Law's “ Tale of Constance,' illustrative of Chaucer's pathetic powers ; but it is time that we should bring this article to a close.
We have endeavoured briefly to draw our reader's attention to the first formation of our national literature, a subject which has always appeared to us to be full of interest, and more particularly to that poet who did for it what Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio did for the literature of Italy. But the genius of Chaucer differed wldely from that of any of the illustrious Italian triad. He has none of the sæva indignatio, the bitter scorn of Dante ; nor what has been happily called “the hard and brilliant enamel" of Petrarch ; and he certainly excels Boccaccio in reality and depth of feeling. His poetry is the outpouring of a genial spirit, with all the amiable weaknesses, but also with some of the highest virtues of humanity. Even when we cannot wholly approve, we yet love the man.
We need hardly point out the effect of the by-play here—the driving away the cat, and taking summary possession of the bench with which were connected so many pleasant recollections and anticipations of “merry meals." After this, we are not astonished at the modest bill of fare which he proposes for his refreshment :“ Now, master," quoth the wise, “ ere that What will yo dine? I will go there about. “Now, Dame," quoth he, “ jeo rous dis sans
doute, Hare I nought of a capon but the lirer, And of your softé breadé but a shiver, And after that a roasted pigge's head (But that I wold for me no beast were dead), Then had I with you liomely suffisance. I am a man of little sustenance, My spirit hath its fostering (?) on the Bible, The body is aye so ready and so penible (3) To waké that my stomach is destroyed.
The sick man, tired out at length by the friar's importunity, plays rather a coarse joke upon him, and the latter posts off to the lord of the village who lives in the manor-house close by. Never was angry man so described :He looked as it were a wildé boar, And grinté with his teeth, so was he wroth. A sturdy pace down to the court he goth, Where as there wonned(1) a man of great
honour, To whom that he was always confessour;
(?) Nourishment. (3) Obedient, subject. ----(4) Dwelt. ----(1) Beseecli.
Like the medieval architect who delighted to embellish the meanest stone of his edifice with a flower or a leaf, and to support the humblest lintel with the head of an angel-he surprizes us by eliciting from the commonest object, from the running of a tap or the spreading of a daisy
to the sun, a train of thought which charms by its natural and unaffected dignity and pathos. He seldom perhaps rises to sublimity ; but while tenderness, dry humour, gay and brilliant fancy, and nervous language have the power of pleasing, Chaucer will be read with delight.
THE FRENCH STORY OF THE WAR.
What is a soldier without a bard to sing his glory? All the world knows that no man is a hero in the eyes of his valet de chambre, and that virtue is viler than seaweed if the standard of its value be not proclaimed by the trumpet of the
tall longsided dame, So wondrous light, y'cleped Fame. It is true, this lady has two trumpets, “ both of clean contrary tones," and the bards, her ministers, if not closely watched, are apt to sound the wrong one, or haply both at once. It was thus that some of our own Cri. mean heroes were used vilely by “ special correspondents," who much marred the glory of a host of welldecorated warriors by their unhappy propensity to tell the truth. They order these matters, however, better in France, where his Imperial Majesty devised a plan whereby a mistake so injurious to the prestige of the great nation might be surely avoided; and yet a pretty strong blast might be blown upon the trumpet of fame in the key suitable to heroic ears. Correspondents, special or ordinary, were strictly excluded from the camp, and M. le Baron de Bazancourt was charged by his Excellency M. Fortoul, the minister of public instruction, with the functions of bard in connexion with the French heroes of the Crimea. In the execution of this mission M. de Bazancourt proceeded to the seat of war in the beginning of January, 1855, accredited by the minister of war, Marshal Vaillant, to the commander-inchief of the army of the East. His commission directed him to collect all the information necessary to the composition of a history of the war, and, following out that object, he tells us that he questioned, listened, wrote. No day passed without its task and
labour, in the course of which he gathered precious knowledge from living sources; examined the localities of events with the advantage of hearing striking episodes recounted upon the spot by those who directed them. The fullest opportunity was afforded to him of learning the truth by an examination of the journals of
he divisions of the army, and those of all the military operations of the campaign, and the fruit is now given to the world in the first part of « The Chronicles of the War in the East,” dedicated to His Majesty the Emperor of the French, which is, says the Baron, to dedicate the book to France and to the army.
Thus introduced and sanctioned, the work of M. de Bazancourt, which he modestly likens to lés epopées rivantes of Villehardouin, Joinville, Commines, and Froissart, acquires an importance, and will possibly attract a degree of attention which its own merits would hardly have secured for it. The exposition of the causes of the war and the narrative of the expedition and siege (@uore gigantesque et inconnue jusqu'alors dans les annales de l'histoire) are unquestionably such as the Emperor thinks it safe and prudent to give to France and to the world, and in that character they demand at least a short notice in our pages. The design of the book is very early disclosed to the attentive reader, and it is adhered to with remarkable consistency throughout. From first to last it is what the marshal minister of war directed it to betoute nationale and so far M. de Bazancourt has fully justified the choice of his patrons. Rather than that France should at any time play a secondary part, he prefers to ascribe the origin of the war to the pious zeal of the French government in defence of the rights of the Latin Church ;