« הקודםהמשך »
She fighe 'the swete floures sprynge,
The kynges doughter, whiche this figh,
And helde hir close undir the bough. At length she fees riding in the rear of this splendid troop, on a horse lean, galled, and lame, a beautiful lady in a tattered garment, her saddle mean and much worn, but her bridle richly studded with gold and jewels : and round her waist were more than an hundred halters. The princess asks the meaning of this strange procession ; and is answered by the lady on the lean horse, that these are spectres of ladies, who, when living, were obedient and faithful votaries of love. “ As to myself, she adds, I am now receiving my “ annual penance for being a rebel to love.”
For I whilom no love had ;
The princess then asks her, why she wore the rich bridle, fo inconsistent with the rest of her furniture, her dress, and horfe? The lady answers, that it was a badge and reward for having loved a knight faithfully for the last fortnight of her life.
« Now have ye herde all mine answere ;
« Of love, that thei be not idell,
My readers will easily conjecture the change which this spectacle must naturally produce in the obdurate heart of the princess of Armenia. There is a farther proof that the FLOURE AND LEAFE preceded the Confessio AMANTIs. In the eighth book, our author's lovers are crowned with the Flower and Leaf.
Myn eie I caste all aboutes,
I believe on the whole, that Chaucer had published most of his poems before this piece of Gower appeared. Chaucer had not however at this time written his TESTAMENT OF Love: for Gower, in a sort of Epilogue to the Confessio AMAntis, is addressed by Venus, who commands him to greet Chaucer as her favourite poet and disciple, as one who had employed his youth in composing songs and ditties to her honour. She adds at the close,
in A shadow, Exsa, umbra. Lib. iv. f. 70. feq. P Lib. viii. f. 188. a. col. 1. See supr. vol. i. p. 466.
• Boeme. Bohemia.
For thy, now in his daies olde,
So that my court it maie recorde. Chaucer at this time was fixty-five years of age. The Court of Love, one of the pedantries of French gallantry, occurs often. In an address to Venus, “ Madame, I am a “ man of thyne, that in thy Courte hath served long'.” The lover observes, that for want of patience, a man ought
amonge the women alle, in Loves Courte, by judgement “ the name beare of paciant?” The confeffor declares, that many persons are condemned for disclosing secrets, “ In “ Loves Courte, as it is said, that lette their tonges gone “ untide." By Thy SHRIFTE, the author means his own poem now before us, the Lover's CONFESSION.
There are also many manifest evidences which lead us to conclude, that this poem preceded Chaucer's CANTERBURY'S Tales, undoubtedly some of that poet's latest compositions, and probably not begun till after the year 1382. The Man or LAWES TALE is circumstantially borrowed from Gower's CONSTANTIA": and Chaucer, in that Tale, apparently censures Gower, for his manner of relating the stories of Canace and Apollonius in the third and eighth books of the CONFESSIO AMANTIS". The WIFE OF BATHES TALE is founded
on Gower's Florent, a knight of Rome, who delivers the king of Sicily's daughter from the incantations of her stepmother?. Although the GESTA ROMANORUM might have furnished both poets with this narrative. Chaucer, however, among other great improvements, has judiciously departed from the fable, in converting Sicily into the more popular court of king Arthur.
Perhaps, in estimating Gower's merit, I have pushed the notion too far, that because he shews so much learning he had no great share of natural abilities. But it should be considered, that when books began to grow fashionable, and the reputation of learning conferred the highest honour, poets became ambitious of being thought scholars; and fax crificed their native powers of invention to the ostentation of displaying an extensive course of reading, and to the pride of profound erudition. On this account, the minstrels of these times, who were totally uneducated, and poured forth spontaneous rhymes in obedience to the workings of nature, often exhibit more genuine strokes of passion and imagination, than the professed poets. Chaucer is an exception to this observation : whose original feelings were too strong to be suppressed by books, and whose learning was over balanced by genius.
This affectation of appearing learned, which yet was natural at the revival of literature, in our old poets, even in those who were altogether destitute of talents, has lost to posterity many a curious picture of manners, and many a romantic image. Some of our antient bards, however, aimed at no other merit, than that of being able to versify; and attempted nothing more, than to cloath in rhyme those sentiments, which would have appeared with equal propriety in profe. feq. Lib. viii. f. 175. a. col. 2. feq. from French into English, and printed in the have just discovered, that the favourite story black letter, by Wynkyn de Worde, A.D. of Apollonius, having appeared in antient 1510. 4to.Kynge Appolyn of Thyre. Greek, Latin, Saxon, barbarous Greek, [See fupr. vol i. p. 350.] A copy is in and old French, was at length translated
*Lib. i. f. 15. b. col. 2,