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Bold was hire face, and fayre and rede of | sey of marriages. The experienced
She was a worthy woman all hire live;
Withouten other compagnie in youthe.
What a congue she has! Impertinent, All of vanity, bold, chattering, unbridled, she silences everybody, and holds forth for an hour before coming to her tale. We hear her grating, high-pitched, loud, clear voice, wherewith she deafened her husbands. She continually harps upon the same ideas, repeats her reasons, piles them up and confounds them, like a stubborn mule who runs along shaking and ringing his bells, so that the stunned listeners remain open-mouthed, wondering that a single tongue can spin out so many words. The subject was worth the trouble. She proves that she did well to marry five husbands, and she proves it clearly, like a woman who knew it, because she had tried it:
"God bad us for to wex and multiplie ;
Why shuld men than speke of it vilanie?
Blessed be God that I have wedded five.
Welcome the sixthe whan that ever he
He (Christ) spake to hem that wold live par fitly,
And lordings (by your leve), that am nat I;
In th' actes and he fruit of mariage.
wife, who has journeyed through life with five husbands, knows the art of taming them, and related how she persecuted them with jealousy, suspicion, grumbling, quarrels, blows given and received; how the husband, checkmated by the continuity of the tempest, and turned the domestic mill like a stooped at last, accepted the halter conjugal and resigned ass:
"For as an hors, I coude bite and whine, I coude plain, and I was in the gilt. I plained first, so was our werre ystint They were ful glad to excusen hem ful blive Of thing, the which they never agilt hi live.
I swore that all my walking out by night Was for to espien wenches that he dight... For though the pope had sitten hem beside, I wold not spare hem at hir owen bord.. But certainly I made folk swiche chere, That in his owen grese I made him frie For anger, and for veray jalousie. By God, in erth I was his purgatorie, For which I hope his soule be in glorie." she saw the fifth first at the burial of the fourth:
"And Jankin oure clerk was on of tho:
As helpe me God, whan that I saw him go
"Yonge,” what a word! Was human delusion ever more happily painted? How life-like is all, and how easy the tone. It is the satire of marriage. You will find it twenty times in Chaucer. Nothing more is wanted to exhaust the two subjects of French mockery, than to unite with the satire of marriage the satire of religion.
We find it here; and Rabelais is not more bitter. The monk whom
Which shaloth my dettour and my Chaucer paints is a hypocrite, a olly
And have his tribulation withall
Upon his flesh, while that I am his wif." t Iere Chaucer has the freedom of Molière, and we possess it no longer. His good wife justifies marriage in terms just as technical as Sganarelle. It behoves us to turn the pages quickly, and follow in the lump only this OdysCanterbury Tales, ii. prologue, p. 14, 7. 460. ↑ Ibid. ii. Wife of Bath's Prologue, p. 168, 5610-5739.
fellow, who knows good inns and jovial hosts better than the poor and the hospitals:
"A Frere there was, a wanton and a mery.
Ibid. ii. p. 179, l. 5968-6072. Ibid. Wife of Bath's Prologue, p. :8% & €177-6188.
He was an esy man to give penance, Ther as he wiste to han a good pitance: For unto a poure ordre for to give Is signe that a man is wel yshrive. And knew wel the tavernes in every toun, And every hosteler and gay tapstere, Better than a lazar and a beggere.. It is not honest, it may not avance, As for to delen with no swich pouraille, But all with riche and sellers of vitaille. For many a man so hard is of his herte, He may not wepe, although him sore smerte. Therfore in stede of weping and praieres, Men mote give silver to the poure freres."* This lively irony had an exponent before in Jean de Meung. But Chaucer pushes it further, and gives it life and motion. His monk begs from house to house, holding out his wallet:
"In every hous he gan to pore and prie,
And begged mele and chese, or elles corn. . . 'Yeve us a bushel whete, or malt, or reye, A Goddes kichel, or a trippe of chese, Or elles what you list, we may not chese; A Goddes halfpeny, or a masse peny ; Or yeve us of your braun, if ye have any, A dagon of your blanket, leve dame, Our suster dere (lo here I write your name).'
And whan that he was out at dore, anon, He planed away the names everich on." ↑ He has kept for the end of his circuit, Thomas, one of his most liberal clients. He finds him in bed, and ill; here is excellent fruit to suck and squeeze :
"God wot, quod he, laboured have I ful sore,
And specially for thy salvation,
Have I sayd many a precious orison.
I have this day ben at your chirche at
Then, in his sweetest and most caressing voice, he compliments her, and says:
Thanked be God that you yaf soule and lif, Yet saw I not this day so faire a wif In all the chirche, God so save me."" || Have we not here already Tartuffe and Elmire? But the monk is with a
Canterbury Tales, prologue, ii. p. 7, l. 2c8, ot possim.
Ibid. The Sompnoures Tale, ii. p. 220, l. 7319-7340. Ibid. p. 221, 7. 7356.
Ibid. p. 221, l. 7384.
farmer, and can go to work more quick ly and directly. When the compli ments ended, he thinks of the substance, and asks the ady to let him talk alone with Thonias. He must inquire after the state of his soul:
"I wol with Thomas speke a litel throw :
Have I nat of a capon but the liver,
(But I ne wolde for me nc beest were ded)
My spirit hath his fostring in the Bible.
To waken, that my stomak is destroied. ".
Poor man, he raises his hands to heav en, and ends with a sigh.
The wife tells him her child died a fortnight before. Straightway he manufactures a miracle; could he earn his money in any better way? He had a revelation of this death in the "dortour "of the convent; he saw the child carried to paradise; he rose with his brothers, "with many a tere trilling on our cheke," and they sang a Te Deum : "For, sire and dame, trusteth me right wel, Our orisons ben more effectuel,
And more we seen of Cristes secree thinges
We live in poverte, and in abstinence,
Presently he spurts out a whole ser
What nedeth you diverse freres to seche ?
#Ibid. p. 22297397-7429.
↑ Ibid. ii. The Sompnoures Tale, p. 223, ¿ 7450-7460.
Your inconstance is your confusion.
Recognize the great orator; he em-
husbands, mishaps in inns, accidents in bed, cuffs, kicks, and robberies, these suffice to raise a loud laugh. Side by side with noble pictures of chivalry, he gives us a train of Flemish grotesque figures, carpenters, joiners, friars, summoners; blows abound, fists descend on fleshy backs: many nudities are shown; they swindle one another out of their corn, their wives; they pitch one another out of a window; they brawl and quarrel. A bruise, a piece of open filthiness, passes in such society for a sign of wit. The summoner labour al for being rallied by the friar, gives hi
A, yeve that covent half a quarter otes;
And yeve that frere a peny, and let him go:
We have descended now to popular farce: when amusement must be had at any price, it is sought, as here, in brad jokes, even in filthiness. We car se how these two coarse and vigorous plants have blossomed in the rng of the middle age. Planted by tae sly fellows of Champagne and Ilede-France, watered by the trouvères, they were destined fully to expand, speckled and ruddy, in the large hands of Rabelais. Meanwhile Chaucer plucks his nosegay from it. Deceived * Canterbury Tales, ii. The Smpnoures Tale, p. 226, l. 7536-7544.
+ Ibid. p. 226, 7. 7545-7553. Ibid. p. 230, 7. 7685-7695.
tit for tat:
"This Frere bosteth that he knoweth helle,
And as an angel lad him up and doun,
Wher is the nest of Freres in this place.
It is high time to return to Chaucer himself. characteristics which settle his place in Beyond the two notable his age and school of poetry, there are others which take him out of his age and school. If he was romantic and gay like the rest, it was after a fashion of his own. He observes characters, notes their differences, studies the coherence of their parts, endeavors to describe living indi vid. ualities,-a thing unheard of in his time, but which the renovators in the sixteenth century, and first among them Shakspeare, will do afterwards. it aiready the English positive common sense and aptitude for seeing the inside of things weich begin to appear A new spirit, almost manly, pierces through, in literature as in painting
* Ibid. Prologur, p. 217, l. 7254 7270.
He never yet no vilanie ne sayde
With lockes crull as they were laide ir. pressa
Embrouded was he, as it were a mede
Wel coude he sitte on hors, and fayre ride.
So hote he loved, that by nightertale
with Chaucer as with Van Eyck, with both at the same time; no longer the childish imitation of chivalrous life * or monastic devotion, but the grave spirit of inquiry and craving for deep truths, whereby art becomes complete. For the first time, in Chaucer as in Van Eyck, the character described stands out in relief; its parts connected; it is no longer an unsubstantial phantom. You may guess its past and foretell its future action. Its externals manifest the personal and incommunicable details of its inner nature, and the infinite complexity of its economy and motion. To this day, after four centuries, that character is individualized, and typical: it remains distinct in our memory, like the creations of Shakspeare and Rubens. We observe this growth in the very act. Not only does Chaucer, Ilke Boccaccio, 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 nation, the germ of the domestic novel as we write it to-day. Think of the portraits of the franklin, the miller, the mendicant friar, and wife of Bath. There are plenty of others which show the broad brutalities, the coarse tricks, and the pleasantries of vulgar life, as well as the gross and plentiful feastings of sensual life. Here and there honest old swashbucklers, who double their fists and tuck up their sleeves; or contented beadles, who, when they have drunk, wil' speak nothing but Latin. But by the side of these there are some choice characters; the knight, who went on a crusade to Granada and Prussia, brave and courteous :
"And though that he was worthy he was wise, And of his port as meke as is a mayde.
See in The Canterbury Tales the Rhyme of Sir Topas, a parody on the chivalric histories. Each character here seems a precursor of Cervantes.
"Ther was also a Nonne, a Prioresse,
That of hire smiling was ful simple and coy
Ful semely after hire mete she raught.
Prologue to Canterbury Tales, ii. p. 3, ¿ 68-72. + Ibid. 79-100. Ibid. p. 4, l. 138-141
Are you offended by these provincial | suited to the teller: the young saire 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 monastic smile. We inhale a delicate are bound together, and that much feminine perfume, preserved and grown better than by Boccaccia, by little old under the stomacher: veritable incidents, which spring from the characters of the personages, and such as we light upon in our travels The horsemen ride on in good humo. in the sunshine, in the open country The miller has drunk they converse.
"But for to speken of hire conscience, She was so charitable and so pitous, She wolde wepe if that she saw a mous Caughte in a trappe, if it were ded or bledde. Of smale houndes hadde she, that she fedde With rosted flesh, and milk, and wastel
But sore wept she if on of hem were dede,
And all was conscience and tendre.herte."
Many elderly ladies throw themselves inte such affections as these, for lack of others. Elderly what an objectionable word have I employed! She was not elderly:
"Ful semely hire wimple ypinched was,
Hire nose tretis; hire eyen grey as glas; Hire mouth ful smale, and thereto soft and red;
But sikerly she hadde a fayre forehed.
Ful fetise was hire cloke, as I was ware.
A pretty ambiguous device, suitable either for gallantry or devotion, the lady was both of the world and the cloister of the world, you may see it in her dress; of the cloister, you gather it from "another Nonne also with hire hadde she, that was hire chapelleine, and Preestes thre;" from the Ave Maria which she sings, the long edifying stories which she relates. She is like a fresh, sweet, and ruddy cherry, made to ripen in the sun, but which, preserved in an ecclesiastical jar, has become candied and insipid in the
too much ale, and will speak, “and for no man forbere." The cook goes to sleep on his beast, and they play prac tical jokes on him. The monk and the summoner get up a dispute about their respective lines of business. The host restores peace, makes them speak or be silent, like a man who has long presided in the inn parlor, and who has often had to check brawlers. They pass judgment on the stories they lis ten to: declaring that there are few Griseldas in the world; laughing a the misadventures of the tricked car penter; drawing a lesson from the moral tale. The poem is no longer, ast in the contemporary literature, a mere procession, but a painting in which the contrasts are arranged, the attitudes chosen, the general effect calculated, so that it becomes life and motion; we forget ourselves at the sight, as in the case of every life-like work; and we long to get on horseback on a fine sunny morning, and canter along green meadows with the pilgrims to the shrine of the good saint of Canter bury.
Weigh the value of the words 'general effect." According as we plan it or not, we enter on our mat rity or infancy? The whole future nea in these two words. Savages or half savages, warriors of the Heptarchy or knights of the middle age; up to this period, no one had reached to this point. They had strong emotions, tender at times, and each expressed them according to the original gift of his race, some by short cries, others by continuous babble. But they did not command or guide their impressions they sang or conversed by impulse, at random, according to the ben of thei disposition, leaving their ideas to pre