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STUDIES IN POETRY.
Born 1323-Died 1400.
CHAUCER is the first true poet in the English language. Before the era of his writings we can discover but very few compositions even in the form of verse; and those few are of a character as unpoetical as can well be conceived. Previous to the Norman Conquest the Saxon language had been poetically cultivated, especially in popular ballads in praise of the heroes of England. The influence of that event upon the national tongue was like that of a great inundation, which at first buries the face of the landscape under its waters, but which at last subsiding leaves behind it the elements of new beauty and fertility.'
Poetry in an English form begins to dawn between the eleventh and twelfth centuries, till in the thirteenth the writings of Chaucer present us with its morning brilliancy. After him we pass through a long and barren interval before we are admitted to enjoy the genius of Spenser. The appearance of the former is beautifully compared by Warton, the historian of English poetry, to a premature day in an English spring; 'after which the gloom of winter returns, and the buds and blossoms, which have been called forth by a transient sunshine, are nipped by frosts and scattered by storins.'
His antiquated dialect, and far more than that, the manner in which his words are spelt, making them appear to the eye of a modern extremely uncouth, have given to his poetry an air of strangeness and distance, which prevents us from duly appreciating its beauty. It is not till the taste has been cultivated by a long familiarity with the writers of more modern times-not till we have arrived at a ripe acquaintance with the spirit and the language of the poets from Spenser downwards, that we can go to the pages of Chaucer with a true, easy relish for their various excellence.
He was educated probably at the university of Cambridge. He enjoyed during his life the patronage of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, whose sister-in-law he married, and
through whose influence he obtained the favor both o Edward III, and his successor Richard II. His pro was clouded for a short time during the early part of Ri reign by his connexion with the followers of Wicklif his old age was passed in uninterrupted ease. He was
red in Westminster Abbey.
Chaucer excels in the description both of human cha and of natural scenery. His descriptions of charact manners are distinguished for their rich humour, and for minute and graphic delineation. They seem like pi drawn from real life, rather than inventions of fancy. descriptions of natural objects are fresh and beautiful. poetry sometimes exhibits sublimity and true pathos. Y moral tendency is too generally sensual and degraded; much that we may rejoice, notwithstanding its variou cellence, that its obsolete dialect and its frequently te prolixity, remove it from the perusal of any persons, v taste and moral principles are not firmly established, or v susceptible minds might be injured by its influence.
CHARACTER of a good PARSON.*
A GOOD man ther was of religioun,
That Christès gospel trewèly wolde preche.
And swiche3 he was ypreved1 often sithes.5
The ferrest in his parish, moche10 and lite,8
That first he wrought, and afterward he taught.
* In this extract the vowels marked with the accent are to be pr nounced as separate syllables in reading; otherwise the measure imperfect.
1Poor. 2Parson. 3Such. 4Proved. 5Times. 6Given. 7Most
And this figure he added yet therto-
Wel ought a preest ensample for to yeve,1
He settè not his benefice to hire
And lette his shepe accombred2 in the mire
Him wolde he snibben6 sharply for the nones.7—
Born 1553-Died 1599.
SPENSER was born at London, of an ancient and honorable family, and was educated at the university of Cambridge. He was the friend of Sir Philip Sidney, and through his influence, together with that of his other patrons, Lord Grey and the Earl of Leicester, obtained from Queen Elizabeth, in 1582, a large grant of land in Ireland. His residence there was romantic and pleasant. He was visited in his retreat by Sir Walter Raleigh, to whom he recited his poetical compositions, and by whom he was accompanied to London, introduced to Queen Elizabeth, and persuaded immediately to publish the
1Give. 2Be encumbered. 3Angry or unmerciful. 4Rash. 5Disdainful. 68nub, reprove. 7For the occasion. 8Nowhere. 9A common man, one of the populace.