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returning, and whoever told the best should have a supper at the expense of the rest. The company assent, and ‘mine host' who was both
Bold of his speech, and wise and well taught, is appointed judge and reporter of the stories. The characters compo sing this social party, are inimitably drawn and discriminated. We have a knight, a mirror of chivalry, who had fought against the Heathenesse in Palestine ; his son a gallant young squire with curled locks, laid in presse, and all manner of debonnair accomplishments; a nun, or prioresse, beautifully drawn in her arch simplicity and coy reserve; and a jolly monk, who boasted a dainty, well-caparisoned horse :
And when he rode, men might his bridle hear
And eke as loud as doth the chapel bell. A wanton prior is also of the party,—full of sly and solemn mirth, and well beloved for his accommodating disposition :
Full sweetly heard he confession,
And pleasant was his absolution. We have a párdoner from Rome with some sacred relics, such as a part of the sail of St. Peter's ship, and who is also
Brim full of pardons come from Rome all hot. In satirical contrast to these merry and interested churchmen, we have a poor parson of a town,
Rich in holy thought and work, and a clerk of Oxford also, who was skilled in logic:
Sounding in moral virtue was his speech,
And gladly would he learn, and gladly teach. Among the other characters are a doctor of physic, a great astronomer and student, 'whose study was but little on the Bible;' a purse-proud merchant; a sergeant-at-law, who was always busy, yet seemed busier than he was; and a jolly Franklin, a freeholder, who had been a lord of sessions, and who was fond of good eating :
Withouten baked meat never was his house,
It snowed in his house of meat and drink. This character is a fine picture of the wealthy rural Englishman, and it shows how much of enjoyment and hospitality was even then associated with this station of life. The Wife of Bath is another lively national portrait : she is shrewd and witty, has abundant means, and is always first with her offering at church.
Besides these, there are many humbler characters, which, combined with those already noticed, form so genuine a Hogarthian picture that we may well exclaim with Campbell, “What an intimate scene of English life in the fourteenth century do we enjoy in these tales, beyond what history displays by glimpses through the stormy atmosphere of her scenes, or the antiquary can discover by the cold light of his researches. Yet with all the inimitable description and truth to nature with which the Canterbury Tales abound, we are constrained to confess that we have looked in vain throughout the entire poem for any thing that inculcates an important moral lesson.
The following brief extracts are all that our space will allow us to introduce from this great work, the last extract, the Good Parson, being somewhat modernized :
DESCRIPTION OF A POOR COUNTRY WIDOW.
A poore widow, somedeal stoop'n in age,
THE DEATH OF ARCITE.
Swelleth the breast of Arcite, and the sore
3 Not a bit. 4 Cot, cottage. o Prevented. 7 Injured.
8 Singed. Mr. Tyrwhitt supposes the word 'dey' to refer to the management of a dairy; and that it originally signified a hind. Manner dey' may therefore be interpretod 'a species of hired or day laborer.' 19 Medical skill.
11 Body 12 Ventousing, (Fr.) cupping; hence the term, ' breathing a vein.'
The virtue expulsive or animal,
Naught may the woful spirit in mine heart
Alas the woe! alas the paines strong,
'I have here with my cousin Palamon
And with that word his speeche fail began; For from his feet up to his breast was come
4 He is able for.
3 Ruined, destroyed.
Custance is banished from her husband, Alla, king of Northumberland, in consequence of the treachery of the king's mother. Her behaviour in embarking at sea, in a rudderless ship, is thus described :
Weepen both young and old in all that place,
'He that me kepte from the false blame,
Her little child lay weeping in her arms;
Mother, quod she, and maiden bright, Mary!
* Thou saw'st thy child y-slain before thine eye
"O little child, alas! what is thy guilt,
Therewith she looketh backward to the land,
Victailled was the ship, it is no drede, 4 Abundantly for her a full long space ; And other necessaries that should need She had enow, heriedö be Goddes grace : Fhe wind and weather, Almighty God purchase, And bring her home, I can no better say, But in the sea she driveth forth her way.
THE GOOD PARSON.
A true good man there was, there of religion, Pious and poor
the parson of a town. But rich he was in holy thought and work; And thereto a right learned man; a clerk That Christ's pure gospel would sincerely preach, And his parishioners devoutly teach. Benign he was, and wondrous diligent, And in adversity full patient, As proven oft; to all who lack'd a friend. Loth for his tithes to ban or to contend, At every need much rather was he found Unto his poor parishioners around Of his own substance and his dues to give :Content on little, for himself, to live.
Wide was his cure; the houses far asunder, Yet never fail'd he, or for rain or thunder, Whenever sickness or mischance might call The most remote to visit, great or small, And, staff in hand, on foot, the storm to brave.
This noble ensample to his flock he gave, That first he wrought, and afterward he taught. The word of life he from the gospel caught; And well this comment added he thereto, If that gold rusteth, what should iron do? And if the priest be foul on whom we trust, What wonder if the unletter'd layman lust ? And shame it were in him the flock should keep, To see a sullied shepherd, and clean sheep.