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powers of description, to call to our recollection the poems entitled “ The Death and Dying Words of poor Maillie," “ The Auld Farmer's Salutation," “ The Twa Dogs," “ Halloween,” “ The Holy Fair,” and “ The Brigs of Ayr;" and of the still rarer combination of humorous delineation with the terrible and sublime, no more striking illustrations can be required than the “ Address to the Deil,” and “ Tam O'Shanter." Than the last, indeed, I know of no narrative which presents so masterly a display of contrasted talent ; a transition so complete from scenery that would do honour to the pencil of Hogarth, to that which breathes the most awful and heart-harrowing terror.
Having drawn this parallel, in relation to the genius and talents of Chaucer, Dunbar, and Burns, in very general terms, I feel tempted, from its close affinity with the title of these volumes, to enter upon one topic of resemblance amongst these poets more at large, and that is, their peculiar attachment to, and fondness for describing, the Mornings of Spring. Chaucer appears, indeed, at no time more at home than when painting this beautiful period of the day and year, and his landscapes seem glowing as it were with all the dewy freshness of nature. He
tells us, in short, that nothing could withdraw him from his studies, from his beloved books, but the pleasures of a morning in May:
There is game none
That from my bokis maketh me to goen,
But it be seldom, on the holy day;
Save certainly when that the month of May
Is comen, and I hear the fowlis sing ;
And that the floweris 'ginnen for to spring,
Farewell my book and my devotion.
LEGEND OF Good WOMEN.
We cannot, therefore, wonder at the frequent and minute descriptions which he has given us as the result of his early morning rambles at this interesting season. One of these, a perfect transcript from the living scene, I have much pleasure in selecting as a specimen :
I rose anon, and thought I woulde goen
Into the wood, to hear the birdis sing,
When that the misty vapour was agone,
And cleare and faire was the morrowing;
The dew also, like silver in shining,
Upon the leaves, as any baume sweet;
Till fiery Titan with his peccant heat
Had dried up the lusty liquor new,
Upon the herbis in the greene mead;
And that the flowers, of many diverse hue,
Upon their stalkes gonin* for to spread,
And for to splay out their leavis in brede t.
Again the sun, gold-burned : in his sphere,
That down to them y-cast his beamis clear.
And by a river forth I gan costay $
Of water clear as beryl or chrystall,
Till, at the last, I found a little way
Toward a park, enclosed with a wall
In compass round, and by a gate small,
Whoso that would, he freely mighien gon
Into this park, y-walled with green stone.
And in I went to hear the birdis' song,
Which on the branches, both in plain and vale,
So loud y-sang, that all the wood y-rang,
Like as it should shiver in pieces smale;
And as me thoughten that the nightingale
With so great might her voice began out-wrest
Right as her heart for love would all to-brest.
The soil was plain and smooth, and wonder soft,
All over-spread with tapets that nature
Had made herself; covered eke aloft
With boughis green, the flowers for to cure,
That in their beauty they may long endure,
From all assault of Phoebus' fervent fere ||,
Which in his sphere so hot y-shone and clear.
The air attempre, and the smoothe wind
Of Zephyrus among the blossoms white,
So wholesome was, and nourishing by kind,
* Gold-burnished. || Fire.
That smalle buddis, and round blossoms lite,
In manner gan of her breath to delight,
To give us hope that there fruit shall y-take
Against autumn, ready for to shake.
There saw I growing eke the fresh haw-thorn
In white motley, that so sweet doth y-smell ;
Ash, fir, and oak, with many a young acorn,
And many a tree mo than I now can tell ;
And, me before, I saw a little well
That had his course, as I could well behold,
Under a hill, with quick streamis and cold.
The gravel goldn; the water pure as glass;
The bankis round the well environing,
And soft as velvet was the younge grass
That thereupon hastily came springing.
The suit of trees, abouten compassing,
Their shadow cast closing the well around,
And all the herbis growing on the ground.
COMPLAINT OF THE BLACK KNIGHT.
Beautifully and minutely descriptive as these lines certainly are, they are surpassed in poetical spirit by the following address to May, from the Knight's Tale. Than the three opening couplets, indeed, I know of no passage in any poet which, for harmony of versification and splendour of imagery, is entitled to superior praise. Considering the era at which they appeared, we cannot but be astonished at their production.
The merry larke, messenger of the daie,
Saluteth in her song the morrow graie;
And firie Phoebus riseth up so bright,
That all the orient laugheth at the sight,
And with his stremis dryeth in the
The silver droppis hanging in the leves.
And Arcite, that in the court reallt
With Theseus, his squier principall,
Is risen, and looketh on the mery daie,
And for to doen his observances to Maie,
Remembring on the poinct of his desire,
He on his courser, startlyng as the fire,
Is ridden into the fieldes him to plaie
Out of the court, were it a mile or tweie,
And to the grove of whyche I you tolde
By adventure, his way he gan holde ;
To maken him a garlonde of the greves,
Were it of wodbind or hauthorn leves,
And loud he sung agenst the sonne shene,
Maie, with all thy floures and thy grene,
Welcome be thou, faire freshe Maie."
In paraphrasing this admirable description, Dryden has very judiciously adhered almost to the
very words and rhythm of the first twocouplets of Chaucer, conscious that, great master as he was of rhyme, he could not improve them. The third couplet he has deviated from, and for the worse; but the inimitable