with every blast, are such as looke after beautie and worldly pleasure. But they that honour the leafe, which abideth with the root, notwithstanding the frosts and winter storms, are they which follow vertue and during qualities without regard of worldly respects.” While a prisoner in the Tower, Chaucer wrote, in imitation of Boethius, his longest prose work, called The Testament of Love

In closing our sketch of Geoffrey Chaucer, the recorded opinions of a great poet and a great critic are well worthy of remembrance. While Spenser says,

That renowned Poet
Dan Chaucer, well of English undefyled,
On Fame's eternall beadroll worthy to be fyled,

no less a literary judge than Hallam classes him with Dante and Petrarch in the great poetic triumvirate of the Middle Ages.

The following are specimens of Chaucer's verse :




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A KNIGHT ther was, and that a worthy man,
That fro the time that he firste began
To riden out, he loved chevalrie,
Trouthe and honoúr, fredom and curtesie.
Ful worthy was he in his lordes werre,
And therto hadde he ridden, no man ferre,
As wel in Cristendom as in Hethenesse,
And ever honoured for his worthinesse.

This ilke worthy knight hadde ben also
Somtime with the lord of Palatie,
Agen another hethen in Turkie:
And evermore he badde a sovereine pris.
And though that he was worthy he was wise,
And (if his port as meke as is a mayde.
He never yet no vilanie ne sayde

alle his lif, unto no manere wight.
He was a veray parfit gentil knight.
But for to tellen you of his araie,
His hors was good, but he ne was not gaie.


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Of fustian he wered a gipon,

[a short cassock Alle besmotred with his habergeon.

(smutted For he was late ycome from his viage,

[voyage And wente for to don his pilgrimage.

With him ther was his sone a yongé SQUIER,
A lover, and a lusty bacheler,
With lockes crull as they were laide in presse.

Of twenty yere of age he was I gesse.
Of his stature he was of even lengthe,
And wonderly deliver, and grete of strengthe.

(nimble And he hadde be somtime in cherachie,

[an expedition
In Flaundres, in Artois, and in Picardie,
And borne him wel, as of so litel space,
In hope to stonden in his ladies grace.
Embrouded was he, as it were a mede

Alle ful of fresshe floures, white and rede.
Singing he was, or floyting alle the day, [playing on the flute
He was as fresshe as is the moneth of May.
Short was his goune, with sleves long and wide.
Wel coude he sitte on hors, and fayre ride.
He coude songes make, and wel endite,

Juste and eke dance, and wel pourtraie and write.
So hote he loved, that by nightertale

[the night-time
He slep no more than doth the nightingale.
Curteis he was, lowly, and servisable,
And carf before his fader at the table.


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As harpes, pipes, lutes, and sautry
Alle in greene; and on their heades bare
Of divers floures made full craftely,
All in a sute goodly chapelets they ware;
And so dauncing into the mede they fare,
In mid the which they found a tuft that was
All oversprad with floures in compas.
Whereto they enclined everichone
With great reverence, and that full humbly;
And, at the last, there began, anone,
A lady for to sing right womanly,
A bargaret in praising the daisie ;
For as me thought among her notes swete,
She said “Si douce est la Margarcte."


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Gower's poetic rank. His death. Confessio Amantis.
His family and calling. Three chief works. Opinion of Ellis.
His patron. His French sonnets. Illustrative extract.

THOUGH ranking far below the great Father of English Poetry, “the moral Gower,” as his friend Chaucer calls him in the “Troilus and Creseide,” yet holds an honoured place among our earlier bards. We know very little of his personal history. He was, perhaps, born in 1325. One of the most illustrious houses in the realm now bears his name; and even in the far-off days of the poet's birth the family was of noble blood. Supposed to have been a scion of the gentle Gowers, resident in the twelfth century at Stittenham in Yorkshire, he seems to have studied at Merton College, Oxford, and to have adopted the law as his profession. Indeed there is a story to the effect that he was a judge of the Common Pleas. But evidence is not forthcoming to prove that Sir John Gower the judge and John Gower the poet were one and the same man. Like Chaucer, with whom he was long very intimate, although it is said that their friendship cooled at last, Gower espoused the cause of one of King Richard's uncles. His patron was the Duke of Gloucester, whose, mysterious murder at Calais is one of the darkest spots in a miserable reign. Fired, no doubt, with the strong suspicion, perhaps with the certain knowledge, that his friend and patron was slain by a royal order, Gower seems to have been right glad when the luxurious king was hurled from his throne to die in Pontefract. During the last nine years of his life, Gower was blind (1399– 1408.) He died rich, leaving to his widow the then large sum of £100, along with the rents of two manors, one in Nottinghamshire

62 Gower's THREE works.

and one in Suffolk. His tomb in the Church of St. Saviour, Southwark, which was called in the fourteenth century St. Mary Overies, represents the poet pillowed upon three volumes, in memento of his three great works. His grave face, framed with a mass of long auburn hair, well befits his name of “Moral Gower.” Gower's three great works were called, Speculum Meditantis, Vox Clamantis, and Confessio Amantis. Of these, the first, said to have been in French, has been lost; the second, in Latin, is still preserved in manuscript, but has never been printed; the third is that work of the poet which has entitled him to an enduring place in our literature, for it is nearly all in English. There is, in the library of the Duke of Sutherland at Trentham in Staffordshire, a volume, in which there are many French love sonnets, written by Gower when young, so full of sweetness and feeling as to have drawn the warmest praises from Warton. The plot of the Confessio Amantis is rather odd. A lover holds a dialogue with his confessor, Genius, who is a priest of Venus. The priest, before he will grant absolution, probes the heart of his penitent to the core, trying all its weak spots. He plies him with moral tales in illustration of his teaching, giving him, en passant, lessons in chemistry and the philosophy of Aristotle. After all the tedious shrift, when our hero seems to be so arrayed in a panoply of purity and learning as to render his victory a certain thing, we suddenly find that he is now too old to care for the triumph suffered for and wished for so long. Ellis, in his “Specimens of the Early English Poets,” characterizes the narrative of Gower as being often quite petrifying. And although this poet's place, as second to Chaucer during the infancy of our literature, cannot be disputed, still it must be confessed that old John is often prosy, and sometimes dull.


In a Croniq I fynde thus,

How that Caius Fabricius
Wich whilome was consul of Rome,
By whome the lawes yede and come, [went

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