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sors down to Shakspeare. His power of the direct simple pathetic has been exhibited in the few lines extracted from Troilus and Creseide, though there is a moral pathos, and calm sustained dignity, in the Tale of Griselde, which places it as a work of genius and of art, even above this affecting lovestory.
Chaucer's perception of the beauty of the external world is shown in numerous instances throughout his works. It was happy and lively, delighting more in sunshine than gloom, in beauty rather than wildness or grandeur—often picturesque, seldom sublime. But though great in every walk, in the painting of living manners he has no preceding nor contemporary, and scarcely any succeeding rival. His genius has the accuracy of instinct in penetrating the hidden recesses of character. His Wife of Bath has more genuine humour than Dame Quickly, and more truth of character. The Knight is a model of the noble-minded soldier and gentleman of the age of Chaucer; and the accomplished Squire, a Sir Philip Sydney of twenty-one nurturing “high thoughts in a heart of courtesy.” It would be a compliment to the fine lady of modern times, to liken her to the nicely-bred, pious, tender-hearted, and agreeably-affected young Prioress, who mingles religion and sentiment so delicately, wearing on her bracelets the motto Amor vincit omnia beneath a crowned A, even on this vowed pilgrimage, and lavishing her caresses, the softness of her tender heart, on “small houndes” and other pets. Chaucer's voluptuous Monk, the buck-parson of that day—who loved hunting, hawks, and hounds, rode a palfrey “ as brown as a berry," fastened his hood with a curiously-wrought gold pin in a “love-knotte," and loved “ a fat swan best of any rost”-has been happily amplified in Prior Aymer in Ivanhoe: he certainly existed previously in the Canterbury Tales. The Clerk, the Miller, the Wife of Bath, with very slight modifications, are among us yet. The Franklin has either been driven to remote places or across the Atlantic,but the breed survives. The same bustling lawyer still attends the courts ; the learned doctor may yet be found in many villages and small towns; the pardoner and friar have disguised their mirth under a thicker cloak,—the name and the costume are changed, but the character remains fixed, or nearly so. The poor Parson, “ rich in holy thoughts and good works,”_" whose parish is wide, and houses far asunder,"_" who dwelt at home, and keptè well his fold,”_is still to be found in all his original apostolic simplicity and heavenlymindedness, in many a remote parish of these three kingdoms, whether as Romish priest, English curate, or Scottish presbyter; and near him we may still find his brother the Ploughman, notwithstanding the increase of wealth, the turnip-hus. bandry, and the thrashing-machine.
The stories related by the characters in the Can. terbury Tales comprehend poetical merit of all kinds :-the humorous, the comic, the gaily-satiric, the moral, the pathetic, the romantic, the dramatic, and, above all, the descriptive, verge here to one point. This exuberance and richness of material is disposed with inimitable judgment and discrimination, the different individuals of the party with a kind of harmonious incongruity setting off each other. Thus the refined and somewhat affected but amiable Prioress receives relief and imparts softness to the genial Wife of Bath ;-the noble and chivalrous Knight is contrasted by the burly and coarse Miller ;-the pragmatical Clerk by the gal. lant young Squire, to whom is given the story of Cambuscan, that singular mixture of wild Arabic romance and Gothic chivalry which drew forth Milton's spirited invocation to the shade of Chaucer :
Call him up who left half-told
All the Tales are allotted with equal propriety and happiness to the different members of the group of Pilgrims; but it is to be regretted that this extensive design was never concluded. Only a limited number of the Pilgrims tell each a story, though these are the most prominent persons of the company. Some of these tales have been modernized by names very eminent in literature :--the Knight's Tale by Dryden, and also that of the Nun's Priest. Pope has given us a spirited version of January and May. Dryden has also preserved to modern readers Chaucer's beautiful Allegory of the “ Flower and the Leaf ;” and Pope a less interesting though inge
nious one in the “ House of Fame.” Both poets have been more successful in the lofty and serious than in the comic or pathetic; and whoever would truly relish the beauties of Chaucer must master the few difficulties of his language, and read his own thoughts in his own words. Mr Wordsworth has recently made a version of the Tale of the Prioress so feelingly and so faithfully, that it is to be hoped he will not stop here :- The Clerk's Tale, that of Griselde, one of the most pathetic that Chaucer has left, is a subject equally worthy of his powers; and as his poetical creed approaches much nearer to Chaucer's than did that of either Dryden or Pope, more confidence might be placed in his version, both in the simplicity of the letter and in the integrity and fine humanity of the spirit.
But the reader has been kept too long in the porch of the Tabard, whence the Pilgrims are issuing:
Whanne that April with his shourès sote (a)
(c) Such. (e) Run.
So priketh hem (a) nature in hir (6) corages; (c)
Befelle, that, in that seson on a day,
And shortly, whan the sonne was gone to reste,
But natheles, while I have time and space,
A Knight ther was, and that a worthy man,
(a) Them. (6) Their. (c) Inclination. (d) To keep. (e) Holydays. (f) Known. (8) Go. (h) Sick. (i) Fallen. (k) Would. (2) Every one.