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and 900 lines. The Prologue to the Wife of Bath's Tale is fully as long. All the twenty-four tales are complete, except only the Cook's Tale, of which we have only a few lines, the Squire's Tale, which remains 66 half-told," and the burlesque Tale of Sir Thopas, which is designedly broken off in the middle. Of the nineteen complete tales in verse, the longest are the Knight's Tale of 2250 verses, the Clerk's Tale of 1156, and the Merchant's Tale of 1172.* The entire work, with the exception of the prose tales and the Rime of Sir Thopas (205 lines), is in decasyllabic (or hendecasyllabic) verse, arranged either in couplets or in stanzas.

The few extracts we can give cannot, of course, convey any notion of this vast and various poem to those who are not acquainted with it; but those who are may have their recollection of it refreshed, and the curiosity of other readers may be excited, though not satisfied, by the two or three passages we shall now subjoin.

The general Prologue is a gallery of pictures almost unmatched for their air of life and truthfulness. Here is

one of them :—

There was also a nun, a Prioress,

That of her smiling was full simple and coy,
Her greatest oathe n'as but by Saint Loy; a

* Some of the old editions add the following spurious tales: The Cook's Tale of Gamelyn, in 1787 short verses; the Ploughman's Tale, with a short prologue, in 1383 alternative rhyming verses; and the Merchant's Second Tale, or the History of Beryn, in 3289 lines, preceded by the prologue of the Pardoner and Tapster, in 729 lines. These are all rejected by Tyrwhitt.

That is Saint Eloy or Eligius. Oathe here, according to Mr. Guest, is the old Saxon genitive plural, meaning of oaths. We doubt this discovery.

And she was cleped Madame Eglantine.
Full well she sange the service divine,
Entuned in her nose full sweetely;
And French she spake full fair and fetisly
After the school of Stratford atte Bow,
For French of Paris was to her unknow.d
At meate was she well y-taught withal;
She let no morsel from her lippes fall,
Ne wet her fingers in her sauce deep;
Well could she carry a morsel and well keep
Thatte no drop ne fell upon her breast:
In curtesy was set full much her lest.e
Her over-lippe wiped she so clean
That in her cuppe was no ferthing seen
Of grease when she drunken had her draught:
Full seemely after her meat she raught.
And sickerly she was of great disport,
And full pleasant and amiable of port,
And pained her to counterfeiten cheer
Of court, and been estatelich of manere,
And to been holden digne) of reverence.


But for to speaken of her conscience,
She was so charitable and so pitous
She wolde weep if that she saw a mouse
Caught in a trap, if it were dead or bled.
Of smale houndes had she that she fed
With roasted flesh, and milk, and wastel bread;
But sore wept she if one of them were dead,
Or if men smote it with a yerde smart:
And all was conscience and tender heart.

b Called. e Pleasure. h Surely.

Full seemely her wimple y-pinched was;
Her nose tretis, her eyen grey as glass;
Her mouth full small, and theretom soft and red;
But sickerly she had a fair forehead;
It was almost a spanne broad, I trow;
For hardily" she was not undergrow."

k Yard, rod.

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f Smallest spot.
i Took pains.


m In addition to that.

d Unknown.

g Reached.

j Worthy.

1 Long and well proportioned. n Certainly.

Undergrown, of a low stature.

Full fetise P was her cloak, as I was ware.
Of smale coral about her arm she bare
A pair of beades gauded all with green;
And thereon heng a brooch of gold full sheen,
On which was first y-written a crowned A,
And after, Amor vincit omnia.

As a companion to this perfect full length, we will add that of the Mendicant Friar :

A Frere there was, a wanton and a merry,
A limitour," a full solemne man;


In all the orders four is none that can
So much of dalliance and fair langage.
He had y-made full many a marriage
Of younge women at his owen cost;
Until his order he was a noble post.
Full well beloved and familier was he
With franklins over all in his countree,
And eke with worthy women of the town;
For he had power of confessioun,
As said him selfe, more than a curat,
For of his order he was a licenciat.
Full sweetly hearde he confession,
And pleasant was his absolution.
He was an easy man to give penance
There as he wist to han a good pitance;d
For unto a poor order for to give
Is signe that a man is well y-shrive;
For, if he gave, he durste make avant
He wiste that a man was repentant;
For many a man so hard is of his heart
He may not weep although him sore smart;
Therefore, instead of weeping and prayeres,
Men mote give silver to the poore freres.

His tippet was aye farsed full of knives
And pinnes for to given faire wives:

P Neat.

Having the gauds or beads coloured green. · Hung. a A friar licensed to beg within a certain district. b Unto. • Freeholders of the superior class. Where he knew he should have a good pittance or fee. g Stuffed.

e Shriven.

f Boast.


And certainly he had a merry note;
Well could he sing and playen on a rote.h
Of yeddings i he bare utterly the pris.j
His neck was white as is the flower de lis ;*
Thereto he strong was as a champioun,
And knew well the taverns in every town,
And every hosteler and gay tapstere,
Better than a lazar or a beggere ;
For unto swich a worthy man as he
Accordeth nought m as," by his facultee,
To haven with sick lazars acquaintance;
It is not honest, it may not avance,P
As for to dealen with no such poorail
But all with rich and sellers of vitail.
And, over all, there as " profit should arise,
Curteis he was, and lowly of service;
There n'as no man no where so virtuous
He was the beste beggar in all his house;
And gave a certain ferme for the grant
None of his brethren came in his haunt;
For, though a widow hadde but a shoe,
So pleasant was his In principio,
Yet would he have a ferthing or he went;
His purchase was well better than his rent.
And rage he could as it had been a whelp:
In lovedays then could he mochel help;
For there was he nata like a cloisterere
With threadbare cope, as is a poor scholere;
But he was like a maister or a pope:
Of double worsted was his semi-cope,


P Profit.

• Victual.

i Stories, romances. 1 Such.

n So?

A musical instrument so called. j Prize. Fleur de lis, lily. m It suits not, is not fitting. Having regard to his quality or functions? q So? r Poor people. • In addition to. u Wherever.


▾ Courteous.

w Farm.

* What he got by begging and the exercise of his profession.

y Days formerly appointed for the amicable settlement of


z Much.

a Not.

That round was as a bell out of the press.
Somewhat he lisped for his wantonness,
To make his English sweet upon his tongue;
And in his harping, when that he had sung,
His eyen twinkled in his head aright,
As don the sterres in a frosty night.
This worthy limitour, was clep'd Huberd.

It may be observed in all these extracts how fond Chaucer is of as it were welding one couplet and one paragraph to another, by allowing the sense to flow on from the last line of the one through the first of the other, thus producing an alternating movement of the sense and the sound, instead of making the one accompany the other, as is the general practice of our modern poetry. This has been noticed, and a less obvious part of the effect pointed out, by a living poet, who has shown how well he feels Chaucer by something more and much better than criticism. "Chaucer," observes Leigh Hunt," took the custom from the French poets, who have retained it to this day. It surely has a fine air, both of conclusion and resumption; as though it would leave off when it thought proper, knowing how well it could recommence."* It is so favourite a usage with Chaucer, that it may be sometimes made available to settle the reading, or at least the pointing and sense, of a doubtful passage.

The following is the first introduction to the reader of

b Not understood. described as out of the

Is it the bell or the semicope that is press ?

As do the stars.

*Preface to Poetical Works, 8vo. Lon. 1832. See also Mr. Hunt's fine imitation and continuation of the Squire's Tale in the Fourth Number of the Liberal. Lon. 1823.

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