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thee to mine hostel; and yet many warnings thou madest ere thou list fully to graunt thine home to make at my dwelling place: and now thou comest goodly at thine own vise ( way or direction], to comfort me with words; and so, there through, I begin remember on past gladness." ..' '.
Thus did the imagination of the poet perform the function of philosophy-of which, indeed, a genuine poetic feeling is the brightest emanation !--and conjure up a sweet society in the solitude of his dungeon ; devising consolation for himself, and amusement for posterity, in the midst of poverty, captivity, and the ungrateful desertion of former friends and associates. It was at this time, that he seems to have been under the necessity, for supply of present means, to sell his two grants of 20 marks each. He got leave, however, (1) R. II.) so to dispose of and transfer them. About the same time that this permission was obtained, he seems to have regained his liberty, and shortly after to have been restored to favour; for in the 13th and 14th of Richard II., he was successively appointed clerk of the works at Westminster and at Windsor ; in the 17th, he had the grant of an annuity of £20; though he never seems to have regained his profitable comptrollerships in the customs. In the 21st, a protection was granted to him for two years; and in the 22nd, we find recorded the donation to him of a pipe of wine annually; which respective grants were the next year confirmed to him by the new King, Henry IV., with an additional pension, of 40 marks; which he did not live to enjoy.
But the most important circumstance in the life of Chaucer, both with respect to his fortunes and the employment of his poetic talent, was his connexion with John of Gaunt, the famous progenitor of so many kings—the early patron, and ultimately the fraternal relative of our bard. Chaucer, it seems, was, in the youth of that amorous and aspiring prince, a confidential agent in his amour with Blanche of Lancaster; and “The Black Knight, or heavy complaint of a knight for that he cannot win his lady's grace,” has been universally admitted to have reference to that courtship; as the Booke of the Duchesse (recognized in the early editions by the misapplied title of Chaucer's Dream) has also to the death of that lady. The mourning knight, represented as seated in disconsolate sorrow under an oak, being no other than a representation of “ John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, greatly lamenting the death of Blaunche, the duchesse, who was his first wife.” There are also other of the poems of Chaucer, which, upon more or less foundation, have been supposed to have reference to that lady; of whom the duke, it seems, was passionately fond. But as the black knight seems to have been one of the early effusions of the genius of the poet, it may not be amiss to present the reader
VOL. IX. PART I.
with a specimen from it of that descriptive vein in which the works before us are in many parts so rich and redolent. The reader, however, who would taste the harmony of the versification, must not forget that all the terminative vowels which we have not marked in italics, those excepted, which are immediately followed by a vowel, are to retain their syllabic sound; and if his organs are accommodated to the pronunciation of the e feminine of the French language, with the degree of modernizing we have adopted in the spelling (and which is almost the only liberty we have taken with the text of the earliest and best edition) we trust there will be little difficulty in either reading or enjoying the verses of our author. *
“ In May, when Flora, the fresh lusty queen,
And heartes heavy for to récomfort,
And with a sigh I'gan for to abreide, [awake)
* It should be explicitly stated, once for all, that in our quotations, wherever the rhime and the structure of the verse permit, we reduce the spelling as near as possible to the modern standard, and endeavour to accommodate it to the modern pronunciation : but with this especial reservation, which should be constantly borne in mind, that wherever the terminative vowels are preserved, except where they are followed by another vowel, they must be so pronounced as to preserve a syllabic quantity. The neglect of this consideration, the occasional carelessness of transcribers, and the enormous and accumulating blunders of successive editors, in this respect, are evidently the only circumstances which have occasioned the verses of Chaucer to be stigmatised, as “frequently deficient of a syllable, and even of a foot.” Redundant syllables, however, there frequently are, notwithstanding what Mr. Tyrwhitt may say upon the subject; and so, if we count by our fingers, not by our ears, there also are in all our very best poets to the present day. Wherever an exception necessarily occurs to the rule of pronunciation we have laid down, we mark the mute vowel by an italic.
Had dried up the lusty liquor nerve
And by a river forth 1 gan to stray,
The soil was plaine, smooth and wonder softe,
The air attempre, and the smoothe winde
I saw the Daphne closed under rinde,
The fir also, that weepeth ever of kinde
And me before I saw a little well
The gravel gold, the water pure as glass,
Such is the scene in which our poet supposes himself to be meditating, when he comes to the spot where his patron John of Gaunt, (the black knight) sat bewailing the loss of his duchess.
“ And through a lande as I yed [went] apace,
This arboure was full of flow'res gende [neat]
To Philippa, the sister of Catherine Rouet, afterwards Lady Swinford, one of the suite of the duchess in the above poem lamented, Chaucer by the recommendation of the Duke of Lancaster was married : a union which was ultimately the cause of that affinity between the poet and his patron, to which we have referred. For John of Gaunt, notwithstanding his fondness for his first wife, and his ambitious union with a second, (Constance the daughter and heiress of Peter the Cruel, king of Castile and Leon) had, during the life-time of both, another attachment-namely to the said Catherine Rouet; with whom,
periohip could hoone." Anson of hisand; a
although she became the wife of another man, (from whom, however, she shortly again had separated) he continued to carry on an amour ; and whom (after the death of the Castilian princess, his second wife,) though the attractions and the fires of youth must reciprocally have subsided, he ultimately married. From this amour the Duke of Lancaster had several illegitimate children; from one of which Henry the Seventh was descended.* And thus did the poet Chaucer, by matrimonial affinity, become allied to the royal family of England ; and live to see, in the person of Henry IV., the son of his brother-in-law seated upon the English throne. And if the grandeur of posthumous relationship could confer any additional lustre on the memory of superior genius, it might be remarked that, according to the statements of an elaborate genealogist of the age of Charles I., among those to whom, in the course of descent, this alliance had given collateral affinity to the family of the father of English poetry, there could, at that time, have been enumerated a succession of no less than eight kings, four queens, and five princesses of England ; six kings and three queens of Scotland ; two cardinals ; upwards of twenty dukes, and almost as many duchesses, of England; several dukes of Scotland ; besides many potent princes and eminent nobility in foreign parts.
But the splendour of these incidental relationships would not have secured immortality to the name of Chaucer, or have rescued from oblivion the nobler progeny of his own fruitful mind; but for another (posthumous) alliance, of more cogent and universal influence. His memory might have perished with his works, among the worm-eaten remains of dusty cabinets, as many a noble work we know has perished, and many others also whose very names are not known to us, in all human probability have, but for the timely interference, though after the lapse of about a century, of that mighty engine of preservation, the press—which bids fair to preserve, while the world itself shall last, the progeny of genius from that all devouring gulph, where human pride and pageantry are swallowed up, which brass and marble cannot overarch, and in which monuments themselves shall find a grave. . Shortly after the invention of the art of printing, it was the good fortune of Chaucer, or rather of those who have taste and intelligence to admire the unrivalled versatility of his genius, that a copy (a very imperfect one it seems,) of The Canterbury Tales fell into the hands of the patriarch of the English press,
: * After the marriage the children had been legitimized by Act of Parliament, but with an express exception to the succession to the throne !!!