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satirical spirit, and abounds in what were then regarded as most audacious attacks on religion, social order, the court, and female reputation. Even at this distance of time it is impossible not to admire the boldness, the vivacity, and the severity of the satire. According to the almost universal practice of the old Romance poets, the story is put into the form of a dream or vision; and the principal allegoric personages introduced, as Hate, Felony, Avarice, Sorrow, Elde, Pope-Holy, Poverty, Idleness, &c., are of the same kind as usually figure in the poetical narratives of the age. Lover, the hero, is alternately aided and obstructed in his undertakings, the principal of which is that of culling the enchanted rose which gives its name to the poem, by a multitude of beneficent or malignant personages, such as Bel-Accueil, Faux-Semblant, Danger, Male-Bouche, and Constrained-Abstinence. Chaucer's translation, which is in the octosyllabic Trouvère measure of the original, and consists of 7699 verses, comprehends the whole of the portion written by Lorris, together with about a sixth part of Méun's continuation; the portions omitted having either never been translated by the English poet in consequence of his dislike of the immoral and anti-religious tendency of which they were accused, or left out by the copyist from the early English manuscripts. The translation gives incessant proof of Chaucer's remarkable ear for metrical harmony, and also of his picturesque imagination; for though in many places he has followed his original with scrupulous fidelity, he not unfrequently adds vigorous touches of his own. Thus, for example, in the description of the Palace of Elde, a comparison between the original and the translation will show us a grand image entirely to be ascribed to the English poet:
Travail et Douleur la herbergent,
With hir Labour and Travàile
(ii.) The Court of Love is a work bearing, both in its form and spirit, strong traces of that amorous and allegorical mysticism which runs through all the Provençal poetry, and which seems to have been developed into substantive institutions in the Cours d'Amour of Picardy and Languedoc, whose arrêts form such a curious example of the refining scholastic subtleties of mediæval theology transferred to the fashions of chivalric society. It is written in stanzas of seven lines, each line being of ten syllables; the first and third rhyming together, as do the second, fourth, and fifth, and again the sixth and seventh. It is written in the name of “ Philogenet of Cambridge,” clerk (or student), who is directed by Mercury to appear at the Court of Venus. The above designation has induced some critics to suppose that the poet meant under it to indicate himself, and have drawn from it a most unfounded supposition that Chaucer had studied at Cambridge. The poet proceeds to give a description of the Castle of Love, where Admetus and Alcestis preside as king and queen. Philogenet is then conducted by Philobone to the Temple, where he sees Venus and Cupid, and where the oath of allegiance and obedience to the twenty commandments of Love is administered to the faithful. The hero is then presented to the Lady Rosial, with whom, in strict accordance with Provençal poetical custom, he has become enamoured in a dream. We then have a description of the courtiers, two of whom, Golden and Leaden Love, seem to be borrowed from the Eros and Anteros of the Platonic philosophers. The most curious part of the poem is the celebration of the grand festival of Love on May-day, when an exact parody of the Catholic Matin service for Trinity Sunday is chanted by various birds in honor of the God of Love.
(iii.) In the Assembly of Fowls we have a poem not very dissimilar in form and versification to the preceding. The subject is a debate carried on before the Parliament of Birds to decide the claims of three eagles for the possession of a beautiful formel (female or hen) of the same species, which perches upon the wrist of Nature. The principal incidents of this poem were probably borrowed from a fabliau to which Chaucer has alluded in another place, and the popularity of which is proved by the existence of several versions of the same subject, as for instance, Hueline et Eglantine, Le Jugement d'Amour, and Florence et Blancheflor.
(iv.) The Cuckow and the Nightingale, though of no great length, is one of the most charming among this class of Chaucer's productions: it describes a controversy between the two birds, the former of which was among the poets and allegorists of the Middle Ages the emblem of profligate celibacy, while the Nightingale is the type of constant and virtuous conjugal love. In this poem we meet with a striking example of that exquisite sensibility to the sweetness of external nature, and in particular to the song of birds, which was possessed by Chaucer in a higher degree, perhaps, than by any other poet in the world; as witness the following inimitable passage:
“ There sat I downe among the faire floures,
And sawe the birdes trippe out of hir boures,
They proyned hem, and maden hem right gay,
That mighte ben yheard of any man.” (v.) The Flower and the Leaf is, like the preceding poems, an allegory related in the form of a chivalric and pastoral adventure. A lady, unable to sleep, wanders out into a forest on a spring morning - an opening or mise en scène which often recurs in poems of this age — and seating herself in a delicious arbor, listens to the alternate song of the goldfinch and the nightingale. Her reverie is suddenly interrupted by the approach of a band of ladies clothed in white, and garlanded with laurel, agnus-castus, and woodbine. These accompany their queen in singing a roundel, and are in their turn interrupted by the sound of trumpets and by the appearance of nine armed knights, followed by a splendid train of cavaliers and ladies. These joust for an hour, and then advance to the first company, and each knight leads a lady to a laurel to which they make an obeisance. Another troop of ladies now approach, habited in green and led by a queen, who do reverence to a tuft of flowers, while the leader sings a “bargaret,” or pastoral song, in honor of the daisy, “si douce est la Marguerite.” The sports are broken off, first by the heat of the sun which withers all the flowers, and afterwards by a violent storm of thunder and rain, in which the knights and ladies in green are pitifully drenched; while the white company shelter themselves under the laurel. The queen and ladies in white then comfort and refresh the green band, and the whole retire to sup with the party of the white; the nightingale, as they pass along, flying down from the laurel to perch upon the hand of the white queen, while the goldfinch settles upon the wrist of the leader of the green party. Then follows the explanation of the allegory: the white queen and her party represent Chastity; the knights the Nine Worthies; the cavaliers crowned with laurel the Knights of the Round Table, the Peers of Charlemagne, and the Knights of the Garter, to which illustrious order, then recently founded, the poet wished to pay a compliment. The queen and ladies in green represent Flora and the followers of sloth and idleness. In general the flower typifies vain pleasure, the leaf, virtue and industry; the former being “a thing fading with every blast,” while the latter “abides with the root, notwithstanding the frosts and winter storms.” The poem is written in the seven-lined stanza, and contains many curious and beautiful passages.
(vi., vii.) The two poems entitled Chaucer's Dream, and the Book of the Duchess, though now found to be separate and distinct works, were long confounded together. This error was caused by the similarity of
their style and versification (for they are both written in the octosyllabic Trouvère measure, the same as that employed in the Romaunt of the Rose), and in some degree also by the connection of their subject with John of Gaunt, Chaucer's friend and patron, and the marriage of that nobleman with Blanche, heiress of Lancaster. This prince, then bearing the title of Earl of Richmond, was united to his cousin in 1359, and the Duchess dying ten years after, John was married a second time, in 1371, to Constance, daughter of Peter the Cruel, King of Spain. Both poems are allegorical; and allude, though sometimes rather obscurely as regards details, to the courtship of John of Gaunt, and his grief, under the person of the Black Knight, at the loss of his first wife. There may be traced in the Dream allusions to Chaucer's own courtship and marriage, to which we have referred in our biographical remarks, and which took place about 1360.
(viii.) For its extraordinary union of brilliant description with learning and humor, the poem of the House of Fame is sufficient of itself to stamp Chaucer's reputation. It is written in the Trouvère measure, and under the fashionable form of a dream or vision, gives us a vivid and striking picture of the Temple of Glory, crowded with aspirants for immortal renown, and adorned with myriad statues of great poets and historians, and the House of Rumor, thronged with pilgrins, pardoners, sailors, and other retailers of wonderful reports. The Temple, though originally borrowed from the Metamorphoses of Ovid, exhibits in its architecture and adornment that strange mixture of pagan antiquity with the Gothic details of mediæval cathedrals, that strikes us in the poetry and in the illuminated MSS. of the fourteenth century: and in the description of the statues of the great poets we meet with a curious proof of that mingled influence of alchemical and astrological theories perceptible in the science and literature of Chaucer's age. In richness of fancy it far surpasses Pope's imitation, The Temple of Fame.
(ix.) The Legend of Good Women is supposed, from many circumstances, to have been one of the latest of Chaucer's compositions, and to have been written as a kind of amende honorable or recantation for his unfavorable pictures of female character; and in particular for his having, by translating the Roman de la Rose, to a certain degree identified himself with Jean de Méun's bitter sarcasms on the sex. Though the matter is closely translated, for the most part, from the Heroides of Ovid, the coloring given to the stories is entirely Catholic and mediæval. The misfortunes of celebrated heroines of ancient story are related in the manner of the Legends of the Saints, and Dido, Cleopatra, and Medea are regarded as the Martyrs of Saint Venus and Saint Cupid. The poet's original intention was to compose the legends of nineteen celebrated victims of the tender passion; but the work having been left incomplete, we possess only those of Cleopatra, Thisbe, Dido, Hypsipyle, Medea, Lucretia, Ariadne, Philomela, and Phillis. The poem is in ten-syllable heroic couplets, the rhymed heroic measure, and exhibits a consummate mastery over the resources of the English language and prosody, and many striking passages of description interpolated by Chaucer. A few droll anachronisms also may be noted, as the introduction of cannon at the Battle of Actium.
(x.) The poem which the generations contemporary with, or succeeding to, the age of Chaucer placed nearest to the level of the Canterbury Tales, was unquestionably the Troilus and Creseide ; and this judgment will be confirmed by a comparison of the two works; though the wonderful variety and humor of the Tales has tended to throw into the shade, for modern readers, the graver beauties of the poem we are now about to examine. The source from which Chaucer drew his materials for this work was indubitably Boccaccio's poem entitled Filostrato. The story itself, which was extremely popular in the Middle Ages (and its popularity continued down to the time of Elizabeth, Shakespeare himself having dramatized it), has been traced to Guido di Colonna, and to the mysterious book entitled Trophe of the equally mysterious author Lollius, so often quoted in Chaucer's age, and respecting whom all is obscure and enigmatical. Some of the names and personages of the story, as Cryseida (Chryseis), Troilus, Pandarus, Diomede, and Priam, are obviously borrowed from the Iliad; but their relative positions and personality have been most strangely altered; and the principal action of the poem, being the passionate love of Troilus for his cousin, her ultimate infidelity, the immoral subserviency of Pandarus, all of which became proverbial in consequence of the popularity of this tale, - all details, in short, bear the stamp of mediæval society, and have no resemblance whatever to the incidents and feelings of the heroic age, a period when the female sex was treated as it is now in Eastern countries, and when consequently that sentiment, which we call chivalric or romantic love, could have had no existence. Chaucer has frequently adhered to the text of the Filostrato, and has adopted the musical and flowing Italian stanza of seven lines; but in the conduct of the story he has shown himself far superior to his original, the characters of Troilus, Pandarus, and Creseide in the Filostrato, contrasting very unfavorably with the pure, noble, and ideal personages of the English poet, whose morality, indeed, is far higher and more refined than that of his great Florentine contemporary. I may remark in conclusion, that this beautiful poem is of great length, nearly equal in this respect to the Æneid of Virgil, and that it abounds in charming descriptions, in exquisite traits of character, and in incidents which, though simple and natural, are involved and developed with great ingenuity.
$ 7. Chaucer's greatest and most original work is, beyond all comparison, the Canterbury Tales. It is in this that he has poured forth in inexhaustible abundance all his stores of wit, humor, pathos, splendor, and knowledge of humanity: it is this which will place him, till the remotest posterity, in the first rank among poets and characterpainters.
The exact portraiture of the manners, language, and habits of society in a remote age could not fail, even if executed by an inferior hand,