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This illustration shows “The Old Tabard” as it existed previous to its demolition in 1874, and the illustration on page 57 shows the Tabard Inn as it appeared in the seventeenth century. This, however, was not the inn in which Chaucer's Pilgrimage company found such excellent accommodation. That hostelry must have been completely destroyed in the Southwark fire of 1676. There is little doubt, however, that the people of the Borough of that time would be careful to rebuild it as like the old one as possible; unlike those of our own day, who have allowed the building to be replaced by a commonplace publichouse.
THE OLD TABARD.
HE morning of the eighteenth of April, in some one of the years between 1380 and 1390, must have been a very busy one in the Old Tabard Inn, in the Borough of Southwark, close to the sign of the Bell. The pilgrims would be early astir—the Host would see to that, as he had been their “alther cok”; they would leave their bedrooms, opening on to the gallery surrounding the central courtyard; and, in pleasant anticipation of what was to be to them a notable holiday, they would bustle about, in but a labyrinth of streets and houses more or less commonplace, until it came to the Watering of St Thomas, a mile or so out from Southwark, probably the place which still bears the name of The Fountain. Here the Host found it necessary to call a halt, in order to arrange the company and at once proceed to business. He reminded them of their promise of the previous evening; hoped they were still of the same mind as then; repeated his terrible threat against any one who should be foolish enough to act the rebel, and proposed that they should draw cuts to see who was to tell the first tale, the one who drew the shortest cut to have the “honour.” “Sir Knight,” said he, “my Lady Prioress, and you, Sir Clerk, who seem so much absorbed in your own fancies, do proceed to business, and show an example to the others by at once coming forward to draw your cuts.” We all pressed forward to do so, and were specially pleased when, whether by Providence or chance, the shortest cut fell to the Knight, who at once, with ready courtesy, acquiesced in the result, and proceeded to tell his tale in the manner of one who knew that he had something pleasant and profitable to say.
order that nothing requisite was omitted; the Host,
Harry Bailly, would be everywhere at once, attending to the comfort of his guests; a choice and plentiful breakfast would be discussed; and then they would all get ready to proceed on their way. The horses would be brought out from the stables surrounding the inner court; the young Squire would do his devoirs to the two ladies; the Friar, with an eye to business, would attend to the Wife of Bath; and by-and-by, when all was ready, they would file out of the central archway into the street, some of them, perhaps, feeling a little scandalised, though at the same time amused, when they found themselves heralded by the Miller with his bagpipes. Although the Tabard was a well-known rendezvous for pilgrims, yet the company on this occasion was so large that many of the neighbours would, no doubt, be waiting outside to see them start, and would give evidence of the kindly interest they took in this company of pleasure-seekers—a holiday being then as dear to the Londoners' hearts as now. The cavalcade would proceed along the Greenwich road, between fresh green hedgerows, and across clear flowing streamlets, where there is nothing now
THE KNIGHTES TALE: PALAMON AND ARCITE
This is the grandest of all the tales, and exhibits in the highest degree the gifts for which, as a raconteur, Chaucer was specially distinguished— splendid descriptive powers, genial humour, and lifelike portraiture. The story is founded on Boccaccio's Teseide, but by far the greater part is Chaucer's own." It established itself at once as one of the favourite middle age tales, and later on was more than once dramatised; the Great Master himself, in all likelihood, with kindly supervision and active help, contributing to the success which attended the work of some younger playwright, probably Fletcher, when it was put on the stage as “The Two Noble Kinsmen.” The substance of it is this:— In the ancient heroic Greek days, when Theseus was Duke of Athens, he found himself compelled to make war on Hypolita, the Queen of the Amazons, whom he defeated, but to whom he himself became subject by the strongest of all bonds, * In the Teseide, Boccaccio meanders on through 12,000 lines, introducing much which has little connection with the plot. Chaucer, on the contrary, reduces the tale to about 2000 lines;
and he is careful to preserve the continuity of the story, and thus to comply with the requisite dramatic unity of action.