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Chaucer's forte is description; much of his moral reflection is superfluous; none of his characteristic painting. His men and women are not mere ladies and gentlemen, like those who farnish apologies for Boccaccio's stories. They rise before us minutely traced, profusely varied, and strongly discriminated. Their features and casual manners seem to have an amusing congruity with their moral characters. He notices minute circumstances as if by chance; but every touch has its effect to our conception so distinctly, that we seem to live and travel with his personages throughout the journey.
What an intimate scene of English life in the fourteenth century do we enjoy in those tales, beyond what history displays by glimpses, through the stormy atmosphere of her scenes, or the antiquarian can discover by the cold light of his researches ! Our ancestors are restored to us, not as phantoms from the field of battle, or the scaffold, but in the full enjoyment of their social existence. After four hundred years
have closed over the mirthful features which formed the living originals of the poet's descriptions, his pages impress the fancy with the momentary credence that they are still alive ; as if Time had rebuilt his ruins, and were reacting the lost scenes of existence.
W#anne that April with his shourès sotel
2 Root. 3 Such. 7 Inclination.
6 To keep
4 Run. 5 Them.
6 Their. 9 Holidays.
And specially, from every shirès ende
Befelle, that, in that seson on a day,
And shortly, whan the sonne was gon to reste,
But nátheles, while I have time and space,
5 Every one. 2 Farther. 3 4 Been placed at the head of the table. 5 Travelled. 6 Praise.
A Knight ther was, and that a worthy man, That fro the time that he firste began To riden out, he loved Chevalrie, Trouthe and honour, fredom and curtesie. Ful worthy was he in his lordès werre', And therto hadde he ridden, no man ferre, As wel in Cristendom as in Hethenesse, And ever honoured for his worthinesse.
At Alisandre he was whan it was wonne. Ful often time he hadde the bords begonne* Aboven allè nations in Pruce. In Lettowe hadde he reysed and in Ruce, No cristen man so ofte of his degre. In Gernade at the siege eke hadde he be Of Algesir, and ridden in Belmarie. At Leyès was he, and at Satalie, Whan they were wonne; and in the Gretè see At many a noble armee hadde he be. At mortal batailles hadde he ben fiftene, And foughten for our faith at Tramissène In listès thries, and ay slain his fo. This ilkè worthy knight hadde ben alsò Sometime with the Lord of Palatie, Agen another hethen in Turkie: And evermore he hadde a sovereine pris 6. And though that he was worthy he was wise, And of his port as meke as is a mayde. He never yet no vilanie ne sayde 1 War.
In alle his lif, unto no manere wight.
But for to tellen you of his araie,
With him ther was his sone a yongè Squier,
Embrouded 7 was he, as it were a mede
i Wore a short cassock. 2 Smutted. 3 Coat of mail. 4 Curled. 5 Nimble, 6 Horse skirmishing.
7 Embroidered. 8 Playing the flute.