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commonly fall so awkward and unexpectedly as dropping from the clouds by some machine or miracle. Chaucer found an Herculean labour on his hands, and did perform to admiration. He seizes all Provencal, French, or Latin, that came in his way, gives them a new garb and livery, and mingles them amongit our £nglish, turns out English gowty or superannuated, to place in their room the foreigners fit for service, trained and accustomed to poetical discipline.
And a little further. Chaucer threw in Latin, French, Provencal, and other languages, like new stumi to raise a fermentation: in Queen Elizabeth's time it grew fine, but came not to an head and spirit, did not shine and sparklę, till Mr. Waller set it a running.
Mr. Dryden in the preface to bis Fables. As he [Chaucer) is the Father of English poetry, so I hold him in the same degree of veneration as the Grecians held Homer or the Romans Virgil: he is a per. petual fountain of good sense, learned in all sciences, and therefore speaks properly on all subjects: as he knew what to say, so he knows also when to leave off.
Chaucer followed Nature every where, but was never so bold to go beyond her. The verse of Chaucer, I confeís, is not harmonious to us, but ’ris like the eloquence of one whom Tacitus commends,
was auribus iftius temporis accommodata : they who
lived with him, and some time after him, thought it musical, and it continues so even in our judgment, if compared with the numbers of Lydgate and Gower his contemporaries. There is the rude fweetness of a Scotch tune in it, which is natural and pleasing, tho' not perfect. 'Tis true I cannot go so far as he who published the last edition of him ; for he would make us believe the fault is in our ears, and that there were really ten syllables in a verse where we find but nine; but this opinion is not worth confuting ; ’tis so gross and obvious an er rour that common sense must convince the reader that equality of numbers in every verse which we call Heroick was either not known or not always practised in Chaucer's age. It were an easy matter to produce some thousands of his verses which are lame for want of half a foot, and sometimes a whole
and which no pronunciation can make otherwise. We can only say that he lived in the infancy of our poetry, and that nothing is brought to perfection at the first.
Ard further. He (Chaucer]must have been a man of a most wonderful comprehensive nature, because, as it has been truly observed of him, he has taken into the compass of his Canterbury Tales the various manners and humours (as we now call them) of the English nation in his age; not a single character has escaped him: all his Pilgrims are severally distinguished from each other, and not only in their inclinations but in their
very phyfiognomies and persons. Baptista Porta could not have described their natures better than by the marks which the poet gives them. The matter and manner of their tales, and of their telling, are so suited to their different educations, humours, and callings, that each of them would be improper in any ocher mouth. Even the grave and serious characters are distinguished by their several sorts of gravity; their discourses are such as belong to their age, their calling, and their breeding, such as are becoming of them, and of them only. Some of his persons are vicious, and fume vertuous; some are unlearned, or (as Chaucer calls them) lewd, and some are learned. Even the ribaldry of the low characters is different; the Reeve, the Miller, and the Cook, are several men, and distinguished from each other as much as the mincing Lady Prioress and the broad-speaking sap-toothed Wife of Bath.
From Mr. Hayly's Elay of Epick Poetry.
End of Tejiimonies.
Testimonies of learned men concerning Chaucer
END OF VOLUME THIRTEENTH.