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EXAMPLES OF HIS GOOD ENGLISH POETRY.
in the vernacular dialect, and the next sixty-four lines, which are not inferior to them are in English.
The “Address to Edinburgh” of fifty-six lines, with its grand and graphic description of the Castle and of Holyrood, is English.
“The contrast,” says Lockhart, “ between his own “worldly circumstances and intellectual rank, was never
more bitterly nor loftily expressed than in some of the
stanzas of Man was made to Mourn,'” which is a dirge of eighty-eight lines, entirely English ; in which, also, are
the vigorous couplets” written at the Fall of Fyers, and at the inn at Kenmore, which the same competent critic commends as “among his best English heroics."
And also the lines on scaring waterfowl at Loch. Turit, ending
“Or, if man's superior might,
Dare invade your native right,
The charming song of forty lines, “Now westlin" winds and slaughtring guns,” is essentially English.
Of “The Vision,” the first nine stanzas are vernacular, of the next fourteen the greater part is English, while the whole of the Second Duan, of twenty-four stanzas, including the finest part of the poem, is English.
The last, and not least, instructive example to which I will refer, is the “Cotter's Saturday Night,” which begins in the vernacular, but at the solemn call' to. worship, the Poet throws off, indeed, his Doric mantle, but only that he may soar aloft, and, in pure English, the celestial melody is rapturously prolonged to the close.
CHAUCER AND BURNS.
Chaucer, the Father of English Poetry, who lived from 1328 to 1400, abounds with peculiar beauties. But his works are so voluminous, and contain so much which the refined taste of this age rejects, that we are glad to read what is pure, simple, and beautiful, in judicious abridgements of them. The quaint old dialect is his proper costume, and, with a glossary, it is about as readily understood as the Scotch of Burns, a large portion of whose poems need no glossary, but help to explain the context. Indeed, the difficulty of understanding him has been much exaggerated, and would vanish on a second or third perusal, which, with such poetry, is not a task but a delight.
The minute and accurate delineation of Chaucer is like the painting of Holbein, or the Brothers Van Eyck, and as true to nature. He loved the daisy as Burns did, and thus he describes that “wee, modest, crimson-tipped flower” in the prologue to the “Legend of Good Women.”
“As I said erst, when comen in the May,
That in my bed there daweth me no day,
That well by reason men it call may,
The emprise and flowre of flowres all.”
CHAUCER AND BURNS.
the flower and the leaf, about “the springing of the
Long ere the brighte sun uprisen was,
Some very red, and some a glad, light green.” Then he minutely describes a woodland path, and the arbour to which it leads
“And to the arbour side was adjoining -
The nightingale with so merry a note
CHAUCER AND BURNS.
Whereof I had so inly great pleasure,
Thus Chaucer, who had studied at both the English Universities, who was a courtier of Edward the Third, and brother-in-law of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, was of kindred, by divine poesy, with the Ayrshire ploughman; and not only when describing the spring, and the grove, and its charming songsters, but also those fairest works of creation who kindled his poetic ardour, his countrywomen of every degree.
The heroine of the “Book of the Duchess" is described by Chaucer at length and with graphic touches, which produce a life-like picture of a lady of rank of the 14th century.
“I saw her dance so sweetely,
And laugh and play so womanly,
I have no wit that can suffice To comprehend her beauty,
But this much I dare say, that she
So pure suffrant was her wit,
The “Canterbury Tales” are Chaucer's masterpiece, graphic, lively, humorous, and pathetic. The following sketches were evidently taken from the life. Of the Friar he says
“Full sweetely heard he confession,
The Pardoner, his bulls, wonder-working relics, and preaching are partly but vividly described in these lines