Imatges de pàgina


CHAP. him unexpectedly, and fawns upon him with the familiarity of an old acquaintance, he is led, through a beautiful valley, enamelled with flowers, adorned with trees, and peopled with all kinds of gay and sportive animals, to a large oak, at the foot of which is seated a knight, of noble appearance, clothed in black, and seemingly immersed in disconsolate and melancholy contemplations. This knight is John of Gaunt. In a little while, though Chaucer represents himself as wholly a stranger to the knight, they enter into conversation. That they have no previous acquaintance, is apparently feigned, that the illustrious mourner may with the greater probability and propriety enter into the history of his sorrows.


Affliction of John of Gaunt.

Chaucer dwells emphatically and elaborately upon the depth of his friend's sufferings and anguish. While as yet he had only remarked him unobserved, Chaucer exclaims,

It was grete wonder that nature
Might suffre any créature

To have soche sorow', and he not ded.

ver. 467,

And Gaunt, venting his anguish in soliloquy, CHAP


is made to say,

Alas, o dethe! what eyleth the,

That thou n'oldest have taken me,
Whan that thou toke my lady swete?

When he had uttered his complaint, his spirits seemed suddenly to fail him, and his blood retreated to his heart ;

and that made al

His hewé chaunge, and wexen grene
And pale.

ver. 481.


ver. 496.

Chaucer accosts, and expresses a wish to console, him; for which the knight courteously thanks the poet, but adds,

⚫ wouldest not.

No man ne may my sorowe glade,
That mak'th my hewe to fal and fade,
And hath myn understanding lorne,
That me is wo, that I was borne.

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Me's wo, that I live hourés twelve !
And who so wol assaye him selve,
Whether his hert can have pité

Of any sorowe, let him se me;

I wretche, that dethe hath made al naked

Of al the blisse that er was maked;


I wretche, the wersté of al wightes,
That hate my dayés, and my nightes;
My lyfe, my 'lustés, be my "lothe:

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After many exclamations of this disconsolate nature, the hero at length grows more composed, and, to gratify the curiosity of the poet, enters into the history of his loves. He describes the person and accomplishments of Blanche, the coyness and modesty with which she received his courtship, her slow

ver. 563.

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and timorous consent, and the happy nuptials CHAP. with which his wishes were ultimately crowned. He expatiates with enthusiasm upon the felicity of his marriage state. Many of these passages have been already quoted. The poem then draws to a conclusion.

Sir, quod I, and where is she now?
Now, quod he, andystinte anone,
Therwith he woxe as dedde as stone,
And saied, Alas, that I was bore!
That was the losse, that here before
I toldé the that I hadde lorne.
Bethinke the how I saied beforne,
"Thouwoste full litel what thou menest,
For I have loste more then thou wenest."
God wot, alas! right that was She!

Alas, sir, how? what maie that be?
She is dedde! Naie!-Yes, by my trouthe.—
Is that your losse? By God, 'tis " routhe!


ver. 1298.

At this moment the party of hunters returns ;

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CHAP. and "this kyng," as Chaucer now styles him, mounting his horse, rides homeward,



Defects of

the poem.

Unto a place was there beside,

Whiche that was from us but a "lite,
A long castell, with wallés white,
On a riche hill..

ver. 1316.


There are several passages in this poem the death of the duchess, which mark in no common degree the crudeness of taste of the times in which Chaucer wrote. It is scarcely worth while again, as we did in examining the Troilus and Creseide, to quote single lines which are trite, vulgar and impotent; such as where Chaucer makes his hero say, exclaiming upon fortune,

for she is nothing stable, Nowe by the fyre, nowe at the table. ver. 645. The present poem has much more considerable deformities. Nothing can be in a poorer


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