Imatges de pàgina
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CHAP. queror; in his domestic character he was

amiable and mild, and even in his military transactions we do not fail to meet with occasional traits of gentleness and humanity.

Still however it was the gentleness and humanity of a ferocious robber, the course of whose march' might be traced by wasted fields, and flaming granaries, and half-extinguished ruins : those who desired to escape the miserable consequences of his hostility, were obliged to purchase their safety at an extravagant price. The generosity of Edward III. vented itself in a few gallant and courteous actions, in a liberal treatment of his prisoners, and in taking no unauthorised advantage of the knights and warriors with whom he had to contend : the very principle of the campaign upon which he had entered, was by devastation and the destruction of the resources of France to reduce the country to his

mercy This was the scene which Chaucer witfrom the nessed. He did not visit it as a spectator military professian. merely : he ranked among the heroes who

had enlisted for the conquest of an empire.

Chaucer withdraws

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We may be satisfied that what he saw pro- CHAP. duced a very deep impression upon his mild and well-tempered spirit. It is thus that the philosopher should be educated; it is thus that the poet should learn the great and fundamental lessons of moral truth. Having already seen Chaucer, after a short experiment, throwing off the garb of a lawyer, we shall not wonder that he did not persist to cultivate the military profession.

With the peace of Bretigni Chaucer closed his military career. The war with France was not renewed till after the lapse of nine years ; and, neither in the expeditions of John of Gaunt, his patron, during that war, nor in the previous campaign for the restoration of Peter king of Castille in 1367 in which John of Gaunt took a considerable share, do we find any trace of his having been accompanied by Chaucer. On the contrary, we shall meet with strong presumptive circumstances to convince us that, while his patron was abroad in these employments, Chaucer remained tranquilly in England.

The yocation of our author for the cultiva

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His pacific

disposition.

chap. tion of the poetic art was decisive ; and,

though he was prevailed upon by the spirit
of the times, once to assume the character
of a soldier,' and to grace himself with that
profession which was then esteemed above all
others, we may believe that he welcomed
with no small pleasure the return of that
peace which was to restore him to his chosen
and customary occupations.

His soul had no delight in the alarms and
enterprises of the field. Military glory, the
universal mistress at that time of the enter,
prising and the bold, never captivated his
heart. Chaucer is emphatically the poet of
peace; and, while the romance-writers of the
twelfth and thirteenth centuries are not less
exuberant than Homer in the description of
blows and wounds and fighting fields, Chau:
eer has not prostituted one line to the praise
of the fashionable pursuit. If, in compli-
ance with the mode which universally pre-
vailed, he has occasionally introduced feats of
chivalry, we clearly discern that he dwells
- upon them with no earnest partiality, and
willingly leaves - them for softer and more

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innocent topics. In his poem the story of CHAP . which is involved with the destruction of Troy, almost the whole tenour of his work reminds us rather of domestic and quiet scenes. And, when he compliments his patrons in what

may

be called his laureat compositions, it is a courtship or a marriage, a personal misfortune or a death, which he selects for his topic ; and not achievements in

arms, or the robbery and desolation of unoffending thousands. We shall be guilty of great injustice to Chaucer, if we do not recollect, among his most honourable commendations, the feature by which he is thus singularly distinguished from the whole band of the Greek and Roman bards his masters, the trouveurs and troubadours his contemporaries, and the Italian poets who came after him and who constitute the principal glory of the sixteenth century.

Early in the year 1361 died Henry duke of Lancaster, father-in-law to the earl of Increasing Richmond, a victim to the plague'; and, John of

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wealth of

Gaun:.

Knighton, ad ann.

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CHA P. about twelve months after, without issue,

Maud duchess of Bavaria ", coheiress with the lady Blanche his consort. By these two unexpected demises, the patron of Chaucer

1361.

" Knighton, A. D. 1362. This monastic historian, upon whose animosity to John of Gaunt we shall have repeatedly occasion to comment, has thought proper in direct terms to insinuate that poison was administered to the duchess of Bavaria, for the sake of restoring to the inheritance of her father its full integrity.” The insinuation is repeated by honest Joshua Barnes (Book III, Chap. vii, g. 8), in a spirit very contrary to his usual reverence for royal blood, and improved with the addition, that this was thought to be done “ that the inheritance might not be divided among foreigners." Barnes did not consider that, at the time of this prudent precaution, she was without issue, and, as Dugdale and Collins have affirmed, a widow. In that affirmation however these authors are erroneous, Dugo dale boldly refers to the Inquisitio post Mortem taken on the decease of the duchess. But I have found Dugdale frequently careless in his authorities; and it is well known that, when a mistake has once been made by a writer of this sort, it is copied by all his successors. Matilda is styled in the record uxor and not nuper uxor, Wilhelmi. William, her husband, was one of the younger sons of Lewis IV of Bavaria, emperor of Germany, by Margaret of Hainault, elder sister of queen Philippa. He succeeded, in right of his mother, to the earldom of Hainault, Holland and Zealand, and the lordship of Friesland. He fell into a state of mental derangement in 1358, in consequence of which it seems probable that his wife returned to England;

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