Imatges de pàgina
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XXVIII.

1369.

duced by the monkish historian, which is CHAP. entitled to be noticed, as affording a clue to explain many subsequent parts of the history. He states that, while the two armies thus spent their time in inaction, Thomas Beauchamp earl of Warwick, with a small number of followers, suddenly came over from England, and expressed great indignation at the dastardly conduct of his countrymen. He said, that his companions should not have time to digest the first bread. they ate in France, before they gained some signal trophy from the opposite party. The valiant ear! however was disappointed. The French army no sooner heard of the arrival of this wonder-working knight, than they struck their tents with dişmay, and fled with the utmost precipitation; so that, when the new comer went out after dinner for the accomplishment of his promise, he found nothing on every side but solitude and silence P. Seldom has the history of any

eminent

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XXVIII

1369.

Campaign in the south,

CHAP: character been more atrociously misrepre

sented than that of John of Gaunt; and accordingly we find those who have pretended to record it, endeavouring to fasten disgrace upon it in the first page, as it were, of the series. We shall have abundant occasion in the sequel to detect their falshoods, and to expose the motives in which they originated.

The Black Prinçe achieved nothing memorable in this campaign. The principal exertions on the side of the French were directed against Aquitaine ; but such was the vigilance of the prince, and his illustrious coadjutor, lord Chandos, that they gained no substantial success, and, notwithstanding the advantage in point of time, which they derived from their perfidy, the posture of the English affairs in the south was not less favourable at the close of the campaign, than it had been before the commencement of the

war. Death of queen Phi. lippa.

If the year 1369 was marked with no trophies of great military success against us, it was not however undistinguished by domestic and private calamities. Queen Philippa,

XXVIII.

1369.

duchess

caster.

whose merits have been already described, CHAP: expired on the fifteenth of August ?; and Blanche, the consort of John of Gaunt, to- of the ward the close of the year". The celebrated of LanChandos, the most illustrious of all the mili- of lord tary subjects of Edward III, fell obscurely in an accidental rencounter with a small

party of French, before the commencement of the ensuing campaign.

Chandos

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CHAP. XXIX.

CHAUCER'S POEM ENTITLED THE BOOK OF THE

DUCHESS.-HIS MARRIAGE.

XXIX.

poem.

CHAP. ON occasion of the death of the duchess

Blanche, Chaucer produced an epicedium, or 1369. Plan of the funeral poem, entitled the Book of the

Duchess. The plan of this poem is chiefly historical, and many passages of it have already been inserted in our narrative of the courtship of John of Gaunt with the heiress

of Lancaster. It is however given in the Alcyone. form of a vision ; and is beautifully prefaced

with a recital of the pathetic tale of Ceyx and Alcyone, from the eleventh book of Ovid's Metamorphoses, which Chaucer feigns himself to have read immediately before he fell asleep. A parallel is thus silently produced between the untimely fate of Ceyx

Ceyx and

XXIX.

1369.

Chaucer,

who was shipwrecked, and of Blanche, who cha P. died in the flower of her life, being under thirty years of age ; as well as between the exemplary conjugal affection and sorrow of Alcyone, and the anguish excited in the breast of John of Gaunt for the loss of his duchess.

Having perused this tale of the Roman Vision of poet, Chaucer falls asleep; but, though sleeping, recollects the preceding circumstances, and considers himself as in bed. He dreams that he is roused from his slumbers by the blowing of a horn, the trampling of horses, and the confused voices of men, preparing for a great hunt. Chaucer rises to join in the chace, and finds that it is the hunting of the emperor Octonyen, or Octavien, the hero of one of the romances of chivalry. The hunt lasts a long time : it being over,

Chaucer wanders from the rest of the company; and, following a whelp, who comes up to

a Percy on Ancient Metrical Romances, No. 19, apud Reliques, Vol. III.

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