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“THE KNIGHT AND THE SQUIER."
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
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 :
“TIE KNIGHT AND THE SQUIER."
FROM THE PROLOGUB OF THE
A KNIGHT ther was, and that a worthy man,
This ilke worthy knight hadde ben also
alle his lif, unto no manere wight.
[kind of person
THE FLOUR AND THE LEFE."
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,
(nimble And he hadde be somtime in cherachie,
THE FLOUR AND THE LEFE.”
As harpes, pipes, lutes, and sautry
Gower's poetic rank. His death. Confessio Amantis.
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.
FROM GOWER'S “CONFESSIO AMANTIS.”
In a Croniq I fynde thus,
How that Caius Fabricius