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Bold was hire face, and fayre and rede of sey of marriages. The experienced
wife, who has journeyed through lifa She was a worthy woman all hire live; Housbondes at the chirche dore had she had with five husbands, knows the art of five,
taming them, and related how she perWithouten other compagnie in youthe. secuted them with jealousy, suspicion, In all the parish wif ne was ther non,
grumbling, quarrels, blows given and That to the offring before hire shulde gon, And if ther did, certain so wroth was she,
received; how the husband, check. That she was out of alle charitee."* mated by the continuity of the tempesti What a tɔngue st.e has ! Impertinent, and turned the domestic mill like a
stooped at last, accepted the halter Iull of vanity, bold, chattering, unwidled, she silences' everybody, and conjugal and resigned ass: bulds forth for an hour before coming “ For as an hors, I coude bite and whine , to her tale. We hear her grating,
I coude plain, and I was in the gilt. ... high-pitched, loud, clear voice,
I plained first, so was our werre ystint.
They were ful glad to excusen hem ful blive with she deafened her husbands. She Of thing, the which they never agilt hi continually harps upon the same ideas,
live.. repeats her reasons, piles them up and I swore that all my walking out by night
Was for to espien wenches that he dight. confounds them, like a stubborn mule
For though the pope had sitten hem beside, who runs along shaking and ringing I wold not spare hem at hir owen bord. . his bells, so that the stunned listeners But certainly I made folk swiche chere, remain open-mouthed, wondering that
That in his owen grese I made him frie
and for veray jalousie. a single tongue can spin out so many By God, in erth I was his purgatorie, words. The subject was worth the For which I hope his soule be in glorie.” * trouble. She proves that she did well she saw the fifth first at the burial of to marry five husbands, and she proves the fourth : it clearly, like a woman who knew it, because she had tried it:
“ And Jankin oure clerk was on of tho:
As helpe me God, whan that I saw him go * God bad us for to wex and multiplie ;
Aftir the bere, me thought he had a paire That gentil text can I wel understond ;
Of legges and of feet, so clene and faire, Eke wel I wot, he sayd, that min husbond That all my herte I yave unto his hold. Shuld leve fader and moder, and take to me;
He was, I trow, a twenty winter old, But of no noumbre mention made he,
And I was fourty, if I shal say soth. Of bigamie or of octogamie ;
As helpe me God, I was a lusty on, Why shuld men than speke of it vilanie ? And faire, and riche, and yonge, and well be Lo here the wise king dan Solomon, I trow he hadde wives mo than on, (As wolde God it leful were to me
“Yonge,” what a word! Was human To be refreshed half so oft as he,)
delusion ever more happily painted ? Which a gift of God had he for alle his How life-like is all, and how easy the wives?
tone. It is the satire of marriage. Blessed be God that I have wedded five. Welcome the sixthe whan that ever he You will find it twenty times in Chaushall.
cer. Nothing more is wanted to exHe (Christ) spake to hem that wold live par haust the two subjects of French
fitly, And lordings (by your leve), that am nat I; mockery, than to unite with the satire I wol bestow the four of all myn age of marriage the satire of religion. In th' actes and he fruit of mariage.
We find it here; and Rabelais is An husbond we have, I wol not lette, Which shal 2 oth my dettour and my Chaucer paints is a hypocrite, a olly
not more bitter. The monk wom thrall, And have his tribulation withall
fellow, who knows good inns and Upon his flesh, while that I am his wif.” † jovial hosts better than the poor and
the hospitals : Ilere Chaucer has the freedom of Molière, and w; possess it no longer.
“ A Frere there was, a wanton and a mery. His gpod wife justifies marriage in
Ful wel beloved, and familier was te
With frankeleins over all in his contrec, terms just as technical as Sganarelle.
And eke with worthy wimmen of the toun. . It behoves us to turn the pages quickly, Full swetely herde he confession, and follow in the lump only this Odys
Ard pleasant was his absolution. * Canterbury Tales, ii. Prologue, p. 14, 1.460. • Ibid. ii. p. 179, l. 5968-6072. + Ibid. ii. Wife of Bath's Prologue, p. 168, | Ibid. Wife of Bath's Prologue, p. 6 5610-5789.
He was an esy man to give penance, farmer, and can go to work more quick
ments ended, he thinks of the sub-
inquire after the state of his soul : As for to delen with no swich pouraille, 6. I wol with Thomas speke a litel throw : But all with riche and sellers of vitaille.
Thise curates ben so negligent and slow For many a man so hard is of his herte, He may not wepe, although him sore smerte.
To gropen tendrely, a conscience. . Therfore in stede of weping and praieres,
Now, dame,' quod he, jeo vous die same Men mote give silver to the poure freres." *
Have I nat of a capon but the liver, This lively irony had an exponent be
And of your white bred nat but a skuer fore in Jean de Meung. But Chaucer
And after that a rosted pigges hed
(But I ne wolde for me ac beest were ded) pushes it further, and gives it life and Than had I with you homly cuffisar.ce. motion. His monk begs from house
I am a man of litel sustenance, io house, holding out his wallet:
My spirit hath his fostring in the Bible.
My body is ay so redy and penible “In every hous he gan to pore and prie,
To waken, that my stomak is destroied ". And begged mele and chese, or elles corn. . . • Yeve us a bushel whete, or malt, or reye,
Poor man, he raises his hands to heav. A Goddes kichel, or a trippe of chese, en, and ends with a sigh. Or elles what you list, we may not chese ; The wife tells him her child died a A Goddes halfpeny, or a masse peny ; fortnight before. Straightway he manOr yeve us of your braun, if ye have any, A dagon of your blanket, leve dame,
ufactures a miracle ; could he earn his Our suster dere (lo here I write your money in any better way? He hac name).
a revelation of this death in the “dor And whan that he was out at dore, anon, tour” of the convent; he saw the child He planed away the names everich on.” |
carried to paradise; he rose with his He has kept for the end of his circuit, brothers, “ with many a tere trilling on Thomas, one of his most liberal our cheke,” and they sang a Te Deum : clients. He finds him in bed, and ill ; here is excellent fruit to suck and
“For, sire and dame, trusteth me right wel,
Our orisons ben more effectuel, squeeze :
And more we seen of Cristes secree thinges in God wot, quod he, ' laboured have I ful
Than borel folk, although that they be
kinges. sore, And specially for thy salvation,
We live in poverte, and in abstinence,
And borel folk in richesse and dispence. Have I sayd many a precious orison.
Lazer and Dives liveden diversely, I have this day ben at your chirche at
And divers guerdon hadden they ther And ther I saw our dame, a, wher is she" The dame enters :
Presently he spurts out a whole ser.
mon, in a loathsome style, and with an “This frere ariseth up ful curtisly,
interest which is plain enough. The And hire embraceth in his armes narwe, And kisseth hire swete and chirketh as a sick man wearied, replies that he has alsparwe.” §.
ready given half his fortune to all kinds Then, in his sweetest and most caress- fers. Listen to the grieved exclama
of monks, and yet he continually suf ing voice, he compliments her, and
tion, the true indignation of the mendi. says:
cant monk, who sees himself threaten • Thanked be God that you yaf soule and lif, ed by the competition of a brother of
Yet saw I not this day so fáire a wif the cloth to share his client, his reve. In all the chirche, God so save me.'” ||
nue, his booty, his food-supplies : Ifave we not here already Tartuffe
“ The frere answered: 'O Thorias, dost thor and Elmire? But the monk is with a
so? * Canterbury Tales, prologue, ii. p. 7, l. 208, What nedeth yo:1 diverse freres to seche ? s passim.
What nedeth hi n that hath a parfit leche, Ibid. Tho Sompnoures Tale, ii. p. 220, 2.
To sechen other leches in the toun ? 7319-7340.
Ibid. p. 221, l. 7356. p. 221, 1. 7384.
* Ibid. p. 21. , ' 7397-7429. i 1bid. : The Sompnoures Tale, p. 222, I. Ibid. ii. The Sompionowes Tals, B. 223. a 138
Your inconstance is your confusion.
husbands, mishaps in inns, accidents la Hold than me, or elles our covent, bed, cuffs, kicks, and robberies, these To pray for you ben insufficient? Thomas, that jape n' is not worth a mite,
suffice to raise a loud laugh. Side by Your maladie is for we han to lite.'" * side with noble pictures of chivalry, he
gives us a train of Flemish grotesque Recognize the great orator; he empluys even the grand style to keep the figures, carpenters, joiners, friars, sum. snpplies from being cut off :
moners ; blows abound, fists descend
on fleshy backs : many nudities are A, yeve that covent half a quarter otes ; shown; they swindle one another out And yeve that covent four and twenty of their corn, their wives; they pitch
grotes ; And yeve that frere a peny, and let him
one another out of a window ; they Nay, nay, Thomas, it may no thing be so. brawl and quarrel. A bruise, a piece of What is a ferthing worth parted on twelve open filthiness, passes in such society Lo, eche thing that is oned in himself Is more sticng, than whan it is yscatered for being rallied by the friar, gives hiza
for a sign of wit. The summoner Thou wolist han nougiat, " +
tit for tat : Chen he begins again his sermon in a ** This Frere bosteth that he knoweth helle, cuder tone, shouting at each word,
And, God it wot, that is but litel wonder,
Freres and fendes ben but litel asonder, quoting examples from Seneca and the
For parde, ye han often time herd telle Classics, a terrible fluency, a trick of How that a Frere ravished was to helle ais trade, which, diligently applied, In spirit ones by a visioun, must draw money from the patient.
And as an angel lad him up and doun, He asks for gold,
To shewen him the peines that ther were, . to make our clois
And unto Sathanas he lad him doun. tre,”
(And now hath Sathanas,' saith he, "a tay!
Broder than of a Carrike is the sayl.) "... 'And yet, God wot, uneth the funda
Hold up thy tayl, thou Sathanas, quod he,
and let the Frere see Parfourmed is, ne of our pavement
Wher is the nest of Freres in this place. N’ is not a tile yet within our wones ;
And er than half a furlong way
space, By Gol, we owen fourty pound for stones. Right so as bees out swarmen of an hive, Now help Thomas, for him that harwed
Out of the devils . . . ther gonnen to drive. helle,
A twenty thousand Freres on a route, For elles mote we oure bokes selle,
And thurghout hell they
swarmed al aboute, And if ye lacke oure predication,
And com agen, as fast as they may gon.' Than goth this world all to destruction. For who so fro this world wold us bereve.
Such were the coarse buffooneries of So God me save, Thomas, by your leve, the popular imagination. He wold bereve out of this world the sonne.'” 1
V. In the end, Thomas in a rage promises
It is high time to return to Chaucer him a gift, tells him to put his hand in himself. Beyond the two notable the bed and take it, and sends him characteristics which settle his place in away duped, mocked, and covered with his age and school of poetry, there are Gilth.
others which take him out of his We have descended now to popular age and school. If he was romantic farce: when amusement must be had and gay like the rest, it was after a at any price, it is sought, as here, in fashion of his own. He observes orvad jokes, even in filthiness. We characters, notes their differences, ar: sve how these two coarse and vig. studies the coherence of their parts, brous plants have blossomed in the endeavors to describe living indi vid. ding of the middle age. Planted by ualities,-a thing unheard of in his tae siy fellows of Champagne and Ile- time, but which the renovators in the de-France, watered by the trouvères, sixteenth century, and first among them tiey were destined fully to expand, Shakspeare, will do afterwards. Is speckled and ruddy, in the large hands it aiready the English positive common of Rabelais. Meanwhile Chaucer sense and aptitude for seeing the inplucks his nosegay from it. Deceived side of things woich begin to appear * Canterbury Tales, ii The Smpnoures | A new spirit, almost manly, pierces Tale, p, 226, 1: 7536-7544,
through, in literature as in painting 1 lbid. p. 226, 1. 7545-7590. Ibid. p. 230, 7. 7685-7695.
* Phil. Prologus, p. 217, l. 7254 7270.
with Chaucer as with Van Eyck, with He never y ot no vilanie ne sayde both at the same time; no longer the
In alle his lif, unto no manere wight,
He was a veray parfit gentil knight." childish imitation of chivalrous life * or monastic devotion, but the grave “ With him, ther was his sone, a yonge Squier. spirit of inquiry and craving for deep A lover, and a lusty bacheler, truths, whereby art becomes complete.
With lockes crull as they were laide ir. presse For the first time, in Chaucer as in
Of twenty yere of age he was I
Of his stature he was of even lengthe, Van Eyck, the character described
And wonderly deliver, and grete of streugthe stands out in relief ; its parts are And he hadde be somtime in chevachie, connected; it is no longer an unsub- In Flaundres, in Artois, and in Picardie,
And borne him wel, as o ' so litel space, stantial phantom. You may guess its
In hope to stonden in his ladies grace. past and foretell its future action. Its Embrouded was he, as it were a mede externals manifest the personal and Alle ful of fresshe floures, white and rede. incommunicable details of its inner Singing he was, or floyting alle the day,
He was a fresshe, as is the moneth of May. nature, and the infinite complexity of
Short was his goune, with sleves long and its economy and motion. To this day, wide. after four centuries, that character is Wel coude he sitte on hors, and fayre ride. individualized, and typical : it remains
He coude songes make, and wel endite,
Juste and eke dance, and wel pourtraie and distinct in our memory, like the crea- write. tions of Shakspeare and Rubens. We So hote he loved, that by nightertale observe this growth in the very act.
He slep no more than doth the nightingale.
Curteis he was, lowly and servisable, Not only does Chaucer, llke Boccaccio,
And carf befor his fader at the table." bind his tales into a single history; but in addition—and this is wanting in There is also a poor and learned clerk Boccaccio–he begins with the portrait of Oxford; and finer still, and more of all his narrators, knight, summoner, worthy of a modern hand, the Prioress, man of law, monk, bailiff or reeve,
“ Madame Eglantine,” who as a nun, host, about thirty distinct figures, of every sex, condition, age, each painted and shows signs of exquisite taste.
a maiden, a great lady, is ceremonious, with his disposition, face, costume, Would a better be found nowadays turns of speech, little significant ac- in a German chapter, amid the most tions, habits, antecedents, each main, modest and lively bevy of sentimental tained in his character by his talk and and literary canonesses ? subsequent actions, so that we can discern here, sooner than in any other na
“ Ther was also a Nonne, a Prioresse, tion, the germ of the domestic novel as That of hire smiling was ful simple and coy we write it to-day. Think of the portraits Hire gretest othe n'as but by Seint Eloy ; of the franklin, the miller, the mendi
And she was cleped Madame Eglentine.
Ful wel she sange the service devine, cant friar, and wife of Bath. There are
Entuned in hire nose ful swetely ; plenty of others which show the broad And Frenche she spake ful fayre and fetisly brutalities, the coarse tricks, and the After the sco!e of Stratford-atte-bowe, pleasantries of vulgar life, as well as
For Frenche of Paris, was to hire unknowe.
At mete was she wel ytaughte withalle; the gross and plentiful feastings of sen- She lette no morsel from hire lippes falle, sual life. Here and there honest old Ne wette hire fingres in hire sauce depe. swashbucklers, who double their fists Wel coude she carie a morsel, and wel kexe,
Thatte no drope ne fell upon hire brest. and tuck up their sleeves; or contented
in curtesie was sette tul moche hire lest. teadles, who, when they have drunk,
Hire over lippe wiped she so clene, will speak nothing but Latin. But by That in hire cuppe was no ferthing sene the side of these there are some choice
Of grese, whan she dronken hadde aire characters, the knight, who went on a
Ful semely after hire mete she raught. crusade to Granada and Prussia, brave And sikerly she was of grete disport and courteous :
And ful plesant, and amiable of port,
And peined hire to contrefeten here “ And though that he was worthy he was wise, Of court, and ben estatelich üf naneres, And of his port as meke as is a mayde.
And to ben holden digne of reverence.” 1 • Soc in The Canterbury Tales the Rhyme of Sir Topas, a parody on the chivalric his- * Prologue to Canterbury Tales, ii. p. 3, á tories. Each character where seems a precur- 68-72. sor of Cervantes.
* Ibid. p. 4, l. 118-141
Are you offend: by these provincial | suited to the teller : the young couire affectations ? Not at all; it is delight-relates a fantastic and Oriental history; ful to behold these nice and pretty the tipsy miller a loose and comical ways, these little affectations, the wag: story, the honest clerk the touching gery and prudery, the half-worldly half-legend of Griselda. All these tales monustic smile. We inhale il delicate are bound together, and that muc 3 feminine perfume, preserved and grown better than by Boccaccia, by little old under the stomacher:
veritable incidents, which spring from “ But for to speken of hire conscience,
the characters of the personages, and She was so charitable and so pitous,
such as we light upon in our travela
too much ale, and will speak, “and foi
tical jokes on him. The monk and Many elderly ladies throw themselves the summoner get up a dispute about into such affections as these, for lack their respective lines of business. The of others. Elderly! what an objection- host restores peace, makes them speak able word have I employed! She was or be silent, like a man who has long not elderly:
presided in the inn parlor, and who “ Ful semely hire wimple ypinched was,
has often had to check brawlers. They Hire nose tretis ; hire eyen grey as glas ; pass judgment on the stories they lis: Hire mouth ful smale, and thereto soft and ten to: declaring that there are few red;
Griseldas in the world; laughing af
the misadventures of the tricked car For hardily she was not undergrowe. penter; drawing a lesson from the
Ful fetise was hire cloke, as I was ware. moral tale. The poem is no longer, as
in the contemporary literature, a mere
chosen, the general effect calculated, A pretty ambiguous device, suitable so that it becomes life and motion ; we either for gallantry or devotion, the forget ourselves at the sight, as in the lady was both of the world and the case of every life-like work; and we cloister : of the world, you may see it long to get on horseback on a fine in her dress; of the cloister, you sunny morning, and canter along gather it from another Nonne also green meadows with the pilgrims to with hire hadde she, that was hire the shrine of the good saint of Canter chapelleine, and Preestes thre ;” from bury. the Ave Maria which she sings, the long
Weigh the value of the words edifying stories which she relates. She “general effect.” According as we is like a fresh, sweet, and ruddy cherry, plan it or not. we enter on our rati made to ripen in the sun, but which. rity or infancy? The whole future lica preserved in an ecclesiastical jar, has in these two words. Savages or half become candied and insipid in the savages, warriors of the Heptarchy or syrup.
knights of the middle age ; up to this Such is the power of reflection which period, no one had reached to this begins to dawn, such the high art. point. They had strong emotions, Chaucer studies bere rather than aims tender at times, and each expressed at amusement; he ceases to gossip, them according to the original gift of and thinks; instead of surrendering his race, some by short cries, others by himself to the facility of dowing im- continuous babble. But they did not provisation, he plans. Each tale is command or guide their impressions * Prologae to Canterbury Tales, ii. p. 5, l.
they sang or conversed by impulse, at
random, according to the ber of their 1 Tbid. l. 151-160
disposition, leaving their ideas to pre