« AnteriorContinua »
C H A P.
The queen however, offended at the licence he had assumed, or averse to every idea of matrimony, no sooner finds herself at home, than she sends notice to her presumptuous suitor that he must prepare to quit her country. The knight, overwhelmed with this repulse, falls into a swoon. Immediately after, Cupid, God of Love, arrives, with a great and splendid navy, and wounds the queen to the heart. The consequence is such as might be expected : the parties are contracted to each other, and the knight returns to his paternal dominions, that he may bring thence such an attendance as may best do honour to the solemnity of their marriage.
For this purpose he is provided by the queen with a miraculous ship which, without need of mast or rudder, and with a course changed by neither calm nor tempest, sails in any direction at the pleasure of its master. It has the further property of enlarging its dimensions; and, when the knight with sixty thousand attendants comes down to the sea-shore of his native place for the purpose of returning to his princess, it af
fords to every one of them the most perfect CHAP. accommodation. An unexpected calamity however awaits him : he found that his father had died during his absence ; and, the preparation for the splendour of his intended nuptials taking up more time than he foresaw, he exceeds the period stipulated for his reappearance. The
queen, believing that her knight has deceived her, and ashamed to have so lightly yielded her troth, resolves to die, rather than encounter the censures which will fasten upon her good name. The knight on his arrival is informed that she is no more, and immediately strikes his dagger to his heart. The bodies of the lovers, together with their mourners, are transported to the knight's country, and the deceased are lodged in a magnificent abbey there, where it had been usual for the kings, his ancestors, to be buried.
The next morning, a very beautiful bird with feathers of blue and green edged with gold, enters the abbey, alights upon the bier of the queen, and sings successively three songs in a low and melodious voice. At length the little chorister is accidentally dis
CHAP. turbed ; and, attempting to escape, flies with
such force against the window, that he falls to the ground, and immediately expires. Another bird presently after enters the abbey with an herb in his mouth, from which he takes a seed that he puts into the beak of his comrade. The dead bird immediately revives, and they fly away together. The abbess of the monastery, having observed this spectacle, resolves to try the same experiment upon
queen, which is attended with similar success. The queen and knight are both restored to life, and their nuptials are celebrated with every manifestation of splendour and joy.
Mr. Tyrwhit has very idly suggested a doubt whether this poem were really composed on occasion of the marriage of the earl of Richmond with the princess Blanche : for so I understand his assertion, that “ the supposed plan of this poem, prefixed to it by Mr. Speght, is a mere fancy .'
Its historical application.
Account of the Works of Chaucer, prefixed to Tyrwhit's Glossary, f. xi.
incidences however which occur in the course CHAP.
X XII. of the piece are so numerous, as to place its
1359. application beyond all reasonable doubt. In verse 1990 Chaucer tells us expressly that the marriage of his fabulous personages took place in May; and the earl of Richmond was married on May the nineteenth. Many other corroborating circumstances we shall hereafter have occasion to mention c. Indeed there is scarcely one of Chaucer's productions the date and object of which are more clearly ascertained by internal evidence, than the one we are here considering. Beside the mere story
of the poem,
it also contains a number of particulars, essentially illustrating the life of the writer. It is from this performance principally that we have already extracted the passages which tend to ascertain the commencement of his residence at Woodstock d.
But the most interesting articles of intelli- Chaucer's gence introduced by Chaucer into the poem,
« Vol. II, Chap. XXIX.
CHAP. relate to his own amours; and on this point,
whether designedly or not, he has furnished material information. In his piece of the Court of Love, written at eighteen years of age,
represents himself as already smitten by the tender passion, and even as having experienced encouragement and acceptance from the highborn mistress he adored. This was however either a fictitious adventure, or the impulse of a raw and youthful fancy which was immediately after suppressed. In his next subsequent productions he repeatedly assures us that he is a stranger to the passion of love. Thus in the Troilus and Creseide,
For I that God of Love's servauntes serve,
Book I, ver. 15.