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She sighe ' the swete floures sprynge,
She sigh beastes in her kynde,
The buck, the doo, the hert, the hynde,
And so began there a quareled
She sigh, clad in one suit, a route
On fayre ' ambulende hors thei set,
The sadels were of such a pride,
So riche sighe she never none;
With perles and golde so wel begone,
Thei were clothed all aliche ',
Her * bodies weren longe and small,
' There mai none erthly thing defence :
The kynges doughter, whiche this sigh,
At length she sees riding in the rear of this splendid troop, on ahorse 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."
i Follow. ' Their groom. (r
" Of love, that thei be not idell,
" And bid hem thinke of my bridell."
All clean out of the ladies sight ".
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 Conressm AMANTIS. In the eighth book, our author's lovers are crowned with the Flower and Leaf. A
Myn eie I caste all aboutes,
To knowe amonge hem who was who:
As he which was a capitayne
Before all others on the playne,
Stode with his route wel begon :
Her heades kempt, and thereupon
Some of the Igfi, some of the stoure,
The new guise of Beme " was there, &c '.
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 lLOVE: for Gower, in a sort of Epilogue to the CONFESSIO AMANTlS, 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,
For thy, now in his dale: olde,
Thou shalt hym tell this meffige,
To sette an ende of all his werke
As he, which is myne owne clerke,
As thou hast done thy SHRIFTE above :.
Chaucer at this time was sixty-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 Lovzs COURTE, by judgement " the name beare of paciant '." The confessor declares, that many persons are condemned for disclosin-g secrets, " In " Lovzs COURTE, as it is said, that lette their tonges- gone " untide'." By 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'z and Chaucer, in that TALE, apparently censures Gower, for his manner of relating the stories of Canace and Apollonius in 't'he third 'and eighth books of the CONFESSIO AMANTis'. 'The WIFE or BA'rrres 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 iudiciously departed from the fable, in converting Sicily into the more POPular court of king Arthur.
' Conf. Amant. Lib. ii f. 30. b. co'l. 2. " Lib. i. f. 8. b. col. 1. .See particularly, ibid. f. 3 . b. col. 2. a. ' Lib. iii. s. 51, a. col. 1. col. I. And compare Ch. AN or L.T. * Lib. iii. s. 52. a. col. 1. See supr. v. 5505. " Some men wold sayn, are." vol. i. p. 460. In the same strain, we That is, Gowan. haveCupid'aanmm. Lib. viii. f. '187. " *See Chaucer, v. 4500. And b. col. 2. Cons. Amant. Lib. f. 48. a. culi 1. eq.
1 Lib. viii. s. '90.b. col. 1.,
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 sae 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 ctof paffion 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 overbalanced 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 prose. seq. Lib. viii. s. 175. a. col. a. seq. I from French intoEnglish,andprinted in the have just discovered, that the favonrite story black letter, by Wynkyn de Worde, A. D. of Apollonius, having a peared 'm ancient He' o. 4to. " Kynge Appolyn of Thyre."