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CANTERBURY TALES.

75

“By this gaude have I wonnen year by year,
A hundred marks since I was Pardoner,
I stande like a clerk in my pulpet,
And when the lewed* people is down yset.
I preache so as ye have heard before,
And tell a hundred false japest more;
Then pain I to stretchen forth my neck,
And east and west upon the people I beck,
As doth a dove sitting upon a barn;
My handes and my tongue gone so yearn, #
That it is joy to see my business,
Of avarice and suche cursedness,
Is all my preaching for to make them free,
To give their pence, and namely unto me;
For mine intent is nought but for to win,
And nothing for correction of sin.”

Here is a picture of a corpulent monk in motion

“Fat as a whale, and walked as a swan.”

Long suffering patience in woman is set forth with exquisite tenderness and beautiful simplicity in the story of Griselda, which Chaucer obtained from Petrarch when he went to visit him in Italy, The young Marquis of Saluzzo was petitioned by his numerous vassals and dependents to marry, lest his estates should pass to a stranger. He chose the daughter of one of them-a poor, old villager. He had often seen her, modest and beautiful, engaged in her domestic duties, and with tender and zealous care ministering to the wants of her aged father. The consent of both was readily obtained to Griselda's marriage and unexpected elevation to the rank of Marchioness, but first, the Marquis required a promise of implicit, uncomplaining submission to his sovereign will.

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76

STORY OF GRISELDA.

66

Wond’ring upon this thing, quaking for dread,
She saide : Lord indigne and unworthy,
Am I to thilk honour that ye me bid,
But as ye will yourself, right so will I,
And here I swear that never willingly
In work nor thought I will you disobey,
For to be dead, though we were loth to die.”

Griselda wears her honours meekly, is as good and faithful a wife as she had been a daughter, and the happiness of the Marquis and his wife is crowned by the birth of a girl. He is soon tempted to try how far she will keep her vow of obedience, and while she is happily nursing her infant, he tells her, on some pretext, that it must be taken from her, and his mandate is sternly executed by an officer, who is directed to take the babe to Boulogne secretly, to be kept and educated by his sister, the Countess of Pavia.

“But at the last to speaken she began,
And meekely she to the sergeant pray'd
(So as he was a worthy gentleman)
That she might kiss her child ere that it died;
And in her barme,* this little child she laid,
With full sad face and gan the child to bliss,
And lulled it, and after gan it kiss,
And thus she said in her benigne voice,
Farewell, my child, I shall thee never see.”

She hid her heart's grief, never alluded to her lost darling, but went sadly about her home duties to all appearance as before. Four years afterwards, a boy was born, which gave great joy to all, and for two years it was uninterrupted; but again her domestic tyrant dealt with her son as he had done with her daughter, and she bore the severe trial as meekly. His vassals murmured against him, suspecting that he had murdered his children; but he was stirred up to further acts of

* Lap.

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capricious tyranny. He contrived to get a dispensation from the Pope to put away his wife, on the false plea that her ignoble birth caused “rancour and dissension between his people and him.” And she, leaving her ring, jewels, and clothing, was dismissed to her poor father's cottage barefoot, wretched, forlorn.

“Though clerkes praisen women but a lite, *
There can no man in humblesse him acquite
As women can, ne can be half so true
As women be, but it be fall of new.”+

But that ingenious and insatiable tormentor of a patient wife would not desist, till she had fulfilled her vow to the uttermost farthing. It was announced that a new and young bride was to arrive at the castle, accompanied by a younger brother. A banquet was to be given to welcome her, and the Marquis required Griselda to superintend the arrangements for her reception, and she was brought in and asked by the Marquis

“How liketh thee my wife and her beauty ?”

Thus finishing his long course of mental vivisection. Griselda replied

“A fairer never saw I none than she,

'I pray to God give you prosperity.'
One thing beseech I you, and warn also
That ye ne pricke with no tormenting
This tender maiden, as ye have done me.”

“This is enough, Griselda mine (quod he),
Be now no more aghast or evil afraid,
I have thy faith and thy benignity,

* Little.

+ If it were, it would be a novelty.

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As well as ever woman was assayed,
In great estate and poorely arrayed,
Now know I, dear wife, thy steadfastness,
And her in armes took and gan to kiss.

*

This is thy daughter, which thou hast supposed
To be my wife; that other faithfully
Shall be mine heir, as I have aye disposed.
Take them again, for now may'st thou not say
That thou hast lorn none of thy children tway.”

“When she this heard, aswoone down she falleth

For piteous joy; and after her swooning
She both her younge children to her calleth,
And in her armes piteously weeping,
Embraceth them, and tenderly kissing,
Full like a mother, with her salt tears
She bathed them, both their visage and their hairs."

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"O! many a tear on many a piteous face,
Down ran of them that stooden her beside,
Unnethe* abouten her might they abide."

After all this wantonly afflicted penance, the meek Griselda is allowed to be happy with her husband and her children—"All's well that ends well.” And Chaucer tells us that the moral of his tale is not that all wives should be Griseldas, for that were impossible, and moreover inexpedient.

“ But for that every wight in his degree

Shoulde be constant in adversity.

*

* Scarcely.

SPENSER AND BURNS.

79

For since a woman was so patient
Unto a mortal man; well more we ought,
Receiven all in gree* what God us sent.”

These accurate and vivid pictures of natural scenery, of female loveliness in form and feature, and character, awakening tender emotions of love and pity, these touches of sly, sarcastic humour had their counterpart centuries later in the pages of Burns, partly in a language not unlike that of the old English bard, and as intelligible to the modern English reader, who will delight in them, notwithstanding the quaint old English or modern Scotch, if only he have the mind to appreciate and the heart to feel the sentiments which are not peculiar to any age or nation.

Spenser wrote, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, his “Faery Queene,” in the language of the time of Chaucer. His great poem is a compound allegory, and even simple allegory is, sometimes often difficult for an author to sustain, and for a reader to follow. The path in the Pilgrim's Progress is so plain, and so illuminated by heavenly light, that old and young, learned and unlearned, follow it with pleasure and instruction.

Spenser chose Fairyland for the scene of his marvellous adventures, and the twelve cardinal virtues personified for his heroes; and these heroes are Prince Arthur and his knights contending with the opposite vices in the chivalrous style of knight-errantry, which Italian and Spanish writers illustrated, and which Cervantes so successfully ridiculed.

But while there are Holiness, and Temperance, and Justice, with their appropriate knightly personifications, and Despair, and Pride, and the Sirens, and Prince Arthur, in quest of the Faery Queene, there is a double allegory_in which that visionary personage becomes Queen Elizabeth or Gloriana, and her attendants in fairy land are those grave statesmen and gay courtiers,

* De bon gre, in good will.

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