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valuable relic of the age in which it was performed, and a permanent memorial of the talents and industry of the person by whom it was accomplished. By way of preparation for his Bible, he published a treatise of the Truth of the Scripture," in which, as well as in a prologue or preface to his translation, he held, long before any of our other Reformers, or advocates for the sufficiency of Scripture. that this is the law of Christ and the faith of the Church : that all truth is contained in it, and that every disputation which has not its origin thence, is profane.
“ The truth of the faith," says he “shines the more by how much the more it is known; nor are those heretics to be heard who fancy that seculars ought not to know the law of God, but that it is sufficient for them to know what priests and prelates tell them by word of mouth: for the Scripture is the faith of the church, and the more it is known in an orthodox sense, the better: therefore, as secular men ought to know the faith, so it is to be taught men in whatsoever language is best known to them. Besides, since the truth of the faith is clearer and more exact in the Scripture than the priests know how to express it, it seems useful that the faithful should themselves search out and discover the sense of the faith, by having the Scriptures in a language which they understand. The laws which the prelates make are not to be received as matter of faith, nor are we to believe their words or discourses any farther, or otherwise, than they are founded on the Scripture."
Of the general character of Wickliffe, it is said that he was confessedly learned of his age, and was an acute reasoner. In short, notwithstanding certain errors and imperfections, he may be regarded as a person of extraordinary merit and qualifications, who is entitled to honorable remembrance from every foe to ecclesiastical tyranny and imposture.
GEOFFREY CHAUCER, the father of our English poets, and the first great improver and reformer of our language, was born in London in the second year of Edward III. A. D. 1328. He appears to have been educated at both the Universities. After visiting several foreign countries for his improvement, he became a student of law in the Inner Temple. He relinquished this pursuit to try his fortune at Court, and about the year 1359, obtained the honorable place of page to Edward III.; in which station he gave such satisfaction, that his master bestowed ou him many marks of royal favor. He was next compelled to go abroad, in order to avoid the resentment of the clergy for having espoused the cause of Wickliffe, where - he spent the whole of his estate in supporting himself and his fellow exiles. He returned privately to England, but was taken and committed to prison, from which he was not released till he had disclosed the secrets of his party. He next retired to Woodstock, and by the exertions of his friends, who recovered their influence at Court, obtained several grants from the Crown, which enabled him to spend the latter days of his life in ease and plenty. He died on the 25th of October, 1400, in the full possession of that high reputation which his writings had deservedly acquired, and was buried in Westminster Abbey, in the great south cross aisle.
The following Sonnet or Ode, which he is said to have composed in his last agonies, plainly proves that his senses were perfectly sound, and the faculties of his mind not in the least impaired. It well deserves a place here, as well for the beauty of the piece, as for the extraordinary occasion on which it was written*.
GODE COUNSAILE OF CHAUCER.
Suffice unto thy gode thougb it be small,
Prece hath envy, and wele it brent ore all.
Rede well thyself, that other folks canst rede,
And trouth The shall deliver ; it is.no drede.
In trust of her that tournith as a balle,
Bewara allso to spurre again a nalle,
Demith thyself that demist others' dede,
And trouthe The sball deliver ; it is no drede.
The wrastlyng of this world askith a falle,
For the pilgrim forthe o best out of thy stalle,
Weivith thy luste and let thy ghost The lede,
And trouthe The shall deliver ; it is no drede." Of the various works produced by Chaucer, the most considerable and celebrated is his “ Canterbury Tales.” The scheme of this work is, in every respect, very extraordinary, and of so vast an extent, that, at first sight, one would be apt to pronounce it to be absolutely impracticable, from a persuasion that it must surpass the power of any single mind to paint the different lineaments, and call out to view the various faculties of every mind. Chaucer pretends, that intending to pay his devotions to the shrine of Thomas à Becket at Canterbury, he set up his horse at the Tabard Inn, in Southwark: that he found, in the inn, a number of pilgrims, who severally proposed the same journey; and that they all agreed to sup together, and to set out the next morning in the same party. The supper being finished, the landlord, a fellow of sense and drollery, conformably to his character and calling, makes them this agreeable proposal: that, to divert them on their journey, each of them should be obliged to tell two stories; one going, the other coming back; and that whoever, in the judgment of the company, should succeed best in the art of tale-telling, by way of recompense at their return to his inn, should be entitled to a good supper at the common cost; which proposal being assented to, he promises to be their governor and guide. These tales are various in their subject, heroical and romantic; satirical, humorous, and moral; and the prologue by which they are introduced, is one of the most curious memorials of
* In a MS. in the Cotton Library, OTHO. A. XVII. this title is inserted : “A “ Balade made by GIFFREY CHAUCYER, upon his olethe bedde, lying in his grete unguysse."
the age. It contains a description of all the persons forming the company, among whom are individuals of the most remarkable character, both male and female, of which society is composed. These are delineated with a strength and precision that can scarcely be surpassed, and form a groupe highly interesting to the observer of human nature; in short, they exhibit a review of the private life of the fourtenth century *.
The following short extracts from the prologue to these tales, will shew to what degree of perfection the language had attained during the period in which Chaucer flourished.
“ Whanne that April with his shoures sote
The droughte of Marche hath perced to the rote,
Of Englelond, to Canterbury they wende,
That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seke.
In Southwark at the Tabard as I lay,
And wel we weren esed atte beste.
To take oure way ther as I you devise.
Or that I forther in this tale pace,
* See Dryden's preface to his Fables, which contains some excellent critical remarks on the “ Canterbury Tales."
That fro the time that he firste began
And ever honoured for his worthinesse.
Ful often time he hadde the bord begonne
In listes threes, and ay slain his fo.
Sometime with the lord of Palatie.
His hors was good, but he was not gaie.
That womanhood for mannes' use is made.
Pardie, he fearing it away doth fly." Chaucer may, with great justice, be called the father of English poetry, and, perhaps, the prince of it; for, excepting the unavoidable defects of language, his works have still all the beauties that can be wished for, or expected, in every kind of composition. His works are numerous, his fame ranks high as an original poet, and his industry is no less conspicuous as a translator and imitator from the French and Italian writers. He enriched his native language by new forms of diction and versification; but there is nothing in which he more excels his contemporaries, than in possessing the true poetical
character, of which they are almost wholly destitute. It would draw this article into too great a length, were we to give an account of the various editions of Chaucer's works since that first printed by Caxton : of the more modern ones, it may not be amiss to remark, that by far the best is that published by Mr. Tyrwhitt, in 1776, in four volumes, crown octavo; to which was added, in 1778, a fifth volume, containing a glossary. Prefixed to the fourth volume, is an “Essay on the Language and Versification of Chaucer." This Essay is peculiarly interesting and curious, and throws much light on the literature of this country, both aatecedent to, and at, the time in which Chaucer lived. It shews also very satisfactorily, in opposition to the ill-grounded censures of Verstegan and Skinner, that the corruption (or improvement) of the English language, by a mixture of French, was not originally owing to Chaucer, but was occasioned by the long prevalency of the French language in this country before his time: that language having, at the time of the Conquest, been introduced into the Court of England, and from thence among the people
T. H. K.