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hoved him to polish up his tongue, for the purpose of procuring a handsome collection afterwards, wherein he was successful. Therefore, in the anticipation of it, he would sing like a blackbird after rain.

“ Thus have I related to you the list, the calling, the array, and the purport, of that assembly's being collected at the above-mentioned inn in Southwark, called the "Tabard.'”

The picture of the Host of that inn, and his plan of the amusements of the journey, is a worthy sequel to this graphic description of the people of the olden time.

“ Our host set before us, at supper, an excellent entertainment; the food and the wine were of the best quality. He was a comely man, large in person, with sunken

eyes, and worthy to have been created marshal in a hall : the whole ward of Cheap cannot boast a fairer citizen,- bold and manly, plain and sensible in his speech, at the same time merry withal. He thus addressed the company, after we had all paid our reckoning: 'Now, my masters, permit me to welcome you heartily to our inn; for, by my troth, I have not this year seen so honourable a company as is now seen beneath this roof: fain would I contribute to your amusement were it in my power. In proof of this, a thought has just struck me, which will cost you nothing. You are all about to journey to Canterbury ; God and the blessed Martyr reward you. Well, as you travel along, you will be for whiling the way with gossip and glee ; for, truly, there is little comfort in journeying as dull as a stone. If, therefore

you will abide by my judgment, and proceed tomorrow as I shall direct, whip off my head, if I don't make you a merry company! Without more ado, hold up your hand, if you agree to my proposal ?'

“ Our consent was not long to seek, seeing that there was no occasion for much deliberation. We, therefore, granted him his terms, and bade him speak


«• To come to the point, then, my masters, each of you on the way to and from Canterbury shall relate two adventures, and whoso shall acquit himself the best, that is, in tales of most mirth and judgment, shall have a supper here at the general expense upon your return from Canterbury ; and to contribute to your entertainment, I will myself ride with you at my own cost, and be your guide. Furthermore, let me make a condition, that whosoever shall call my judgment in question he shall bear the whole cost of the journey. If you grant me my condition, say so at once, and I will early prepare for my undertaking.'

“ We cheerfully bound ourselves to abide by his terms, at the same time engaging him to be our governor, to sit in judgment upon the merit of our stories, also to provide a supper at a stated price per head, and that we would, both high and low, be ruled by his decision. All this, and the wine at the same time, having been discussed, without longer delay we all went to roost.”

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There is not, in the same compass, any description that so fully places the people of the olden time before the minds of modern readers. Any one any."

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reading this succession of pictures, must feel that they have the individuality of portraits. Well has it been said, “ His poetry reads like history. Every thing has a downright reality ; at least in the narrator's mind. A simile, or a sentiment, is as if it were given in upon evidence.*

Fox, the Martyrologist, has said, that “ Chaucer was a right Wickliffian, or else there never was

And though that has been deemed an exaggerated estimate of the protestantism of Chaucer, yet no one can read his description of the worldly pleasure-taking “ Monk,” loving his horse, and dogs, and good living; the subtle “Friar," seeking the money rather than the souls of the people; the “ Summoner," with his fiery visage, doubtless a character well known as often summoning the hapless Lollards to cruel tribunals; the “ Pardoner," with his wallet of indulgences for those who could pay for them, and his rubbish of relics to work on the superstition of the devout, - without feeling assured such true pictures must have had their influence for good on the awakening mind of the people; while the portrait of a “poor parson,” the faithful minister of Christ, has all the beauty of apostolic simplicity in itself, and all the force of contrast to rouse the attention of the reader. Those have a poor and false idea of poetry who

* Hazlett's “Lectures on Poetry.”


hold that is only intended to please the ear, and minister to the imagination. Its true work is to guide the spirit of the age, and lead it forward in the march of sound opinion and steady progress. Chaucer did this, not perhaps with so direct a purpose, but with nearly as great ultimate suc*cess, as Wickliffe himself.

Contemporary with Chaucer was Gower, celebrated as “the moral Gower;" a more ostensible moral design, but far less force, universality, and genius being manifest in his writings. Gower and Chaucer became acquainted at Oxford in their early days. The contemporary voice was loudest in praise of Gower, though posterity has long since reversed that judgment. A terrible stigma of ingratitude attaches to Gower. He forgot the benefits the hapless Richard II. heaped on him, and was among the first to congratulate the successful usurper Henry IV., and to pour contempt on his fallen patron and monarch. Chaucer, though a family connexion of the new monarch, practised no such meanness; and he must have shrunk, with deep sorrow, from the treachery of his friend and brother poet.

Gower wrote several minor and three longer poems, or rather a long poem in three distinct parts. The latter were composed in three different languages — Latin, French, and English. The first, “Speculum Meditantis," is a moral poem,

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recommending, from various historical examples, conjugal purity and affection. The second, “ Vox Clamantis,” is a poetical chronicle of the insurrection of the commons in the reign of Richard II. Confessio Amantis” is written in English at the desire of Richard II., and is a poetical system of morality, illustrated by amusing tales. This last is the only one of the three poems that has been printed. Gower certainly was in no sense such a national benefactor as Chaucer. The latter chose our English language only, as the vehicle of his thoughts, though doubtless he often wove foreign, particularly French, words into his poems. When the poet Spenser speaks of Chaucer,

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he must refer, not merely to the actual words the poet used, but to his practice of composing in the vernacular tongue, which he amplified and enriched by grafting many foreign words upon it, that helped him to render his meaning more fully.

Chaucer died in 1400, having outlived Wickliffe fifteen years. Gower, who was the senior of

. both by a few years, died in 1402. Apart from the intrinsic value of their writings, and the mission of their lives, these three men had demonstrated the power of the English language, and increased its capabilities. No writer from their

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