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The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, edited by the Rev. W. W. Skeat, Litt.D. Seven vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1894.

1 The Hous of Fame, vv. 1365–7.

2 The Persones Tale, § 104, 1085.

3 The Knightes Tale, vv. 2129–54.

4 Ibid. 2156-86.

5 Ibid. 1035-55.

The Clerkes Tale. Tercia pars, vv. 598-602, and Quinta pars, vv. 897-903 and 911-14.

7 Ibid., Pars sexta, vv. 1145-6 and 1138-40.

8 Prologue, vv. 44–50 and 67–72.

9 Ibid., vv. 119-26 and 143-50.

11 Ibid., vv. 477-528, and 533–5.

10 Ibid., vv. 167-72.

12 Legend of Good Women, Prologue, vv. 30-9.

13 Romaunt of the Rose, vv. 70-89.


Legend of Good Women, Prologue, vv. 41-50.



EVEN for poets it is an honour for the English Bayard to be reckoned of their fraternity. He himself never denied his vocation, though, after the manner of the age, he apologized for 'having, I know not by what mischance, in these my not old years and idlest times, slipped into the title of a poet'.1 His own period enthusiastically acknowledged his poetic merits. By the ordinary modern reader, while his name for chivalrous virtues and accomplishments has become a proverb, he is not regarded as a poet at all.

The indiscriminateness of the neglect is the more surprising for the character of the fugitive pieces, which he scattered among his friends and associates, never heeding whether they died, or lived, and under whatever name. They are commonly of the bright and joyous character which might have been expected to echo long. Take for instance:

O faire! O sweete! when I do look on thee,
In whome all joyes so well agree,

Heart and soul do sing in me,

Just accord all musicke makes;

In thee just accord excelleth,

Where each part in such peace dwelleth,
One of other beautie takes,

Since, then, truth to all mindes telleth
That in thee liues harmonie,

Hart and soule do sing in me.2

I should have supposed that the address to Love even was too airy, too unsubstantial, for the heavy foot of Time to overtake and crush it :

Ah, poore Love, whi dost thou live,
Thus to see thy service lost?
Ife she will no comforte geve,

Make an end, yeald up the goaste;
That she may at lengthe aprove
That she hardlye long beleved,
That the hart will die for love

That is not in tyme relieved.
Ohe that ever I was borne,
Service so to be refused,
Faythfull love to be foreborne !
Never love was so abused.3

The mere sauciness ought to have guaranteed against superannuation the repeated entreaties to the crossgrained babe to sleep, and let its mother keep her tryst, not, I am afraid, with the infant's father. So too with the mocking at a faint-hearted lover:

Doth she chide thee? 'Tis to shew it
That thy coldness makes her do it;
Is she silent? is she mute?

Silence fully 'grants thy sute;
Doth she pout, and leave the room ?
Then she goes to bid thee come;
Is she sick? why then be sure
She invites thee to the cure;
Doth she cross thy sute with No?
Tush, she loves to hear thee woo;

Doth she call the faith of man

In question? nay, 'uds-foot, she love thee than ; He that after ten denialls

Dares attempt no farther tryals,

Hath no warrant to acquire

The dainties of his chaste desire.4

Later generations have not in any case had the curiosity to ransack hospitals of literary foundlings, on the chance of identifying the dainty creatures of his imagination. They

knew, and had tired, of the subtlety and intricate thoughtfulness of the poems he acknowledged. The neglect has for centuries been a waste of precious matter; for he never wrote without striving to put into his work the best of himself according to his prevailing mood and subject. When his pen and they really suited each other, the result is exquisite in its own sort. The Arcadia, amid a mass of preposterous affectation, often breaks into loveliness. How charmingly, for instance, a shepherd's suspicion of sorcery becomes a tribute of adoration to the fascination of the

sorceress :

When I see her, my sinewes shake for feare,

And yet, deare soule, I know she hurteth none;
Amid my flocke with woe my voice I teare,

And, but bewitch'd, who to his flocke would mone?

Her chery lips, milke hands, and golden haire

I still doe see, though I be still alone.5

Lovers twain, the one incapable of surviving the other, could not have been mourned more fittingly :

His being was in her alone;

And he not being, she was none.

They joy'd one joy, one grief they griev'd;
One love they lov'd, one life they liv'd.

The hand was one, one was the sword
That did his death, her, death afford.
As all the rest, so now the stone

That tombes the two is justly one."

Zelmane's extraordinarily detailed inventory of Philoclea's charms in some hundred and fifty verses, ends with the prettiest analysis of the fair one's hand:

Of my first love the fatall band,

Where whitenesse doth for ever sit;
Nature herselfe enameld it;

For there with strange compact doth lie
Warme snow, moist pearle, soft ivorie;
There fall those saphir-coloured brookes,
Which conduit-like with curious crookes
Sweet ilands make in that sweet land.
As for the fingers of the hand,
The bloudy shafts of Cupid's warre,
With amatists they headed are.

Thus hath each part his beautie's part;
But how the graces doe impart
To all her limmes a speciall grace,
Becomming every time and place,
Which doth even beautie beautifie,
And most bewitch the wretched eye :-
How all this is but a faire inne

Of fairer guests, which dwell therein :—
Of whose high praise and praisefull blisse
Goodnesse the penne, heaven paper is;
The inke immortall fame doth lend :-
As I began so must I end:

No tongue can her perfections tell,

In whose each part all tongues may dwell."

But Astrophel and Stella is the production by which Sidney may most adequately claim in these times to be judged as a poet; and there by its main constituents. In the ten songs interspersed the wooer is delightfully ingenious in arriving by as many different roads at one same conclusion :

This small wind, which so sweete is,
See how it the leaves doth kisse;
Each tree in his best attiring,

Sense of love to love inspiring.

Love makes earth the water drink,
Love to earth makes water sinke;
And, if dumbe things be so witty,
Shall a heavenly grace want pitty ?


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