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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,
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
Had dried up the lusty liquor new,
Upon their stalkes gonin* for to spread,
And by a river forth I gan costay §
Had made herself; covered eke aloft
With boughis green, the flowers for to cure,
The air attempre, and the smoothe wind
So wholesome was, and nourishing by kind,
§ To coast.
That smalle buddis, and round blossoms lite,
To give us hope that there fruit shall y-take
There saw I growing eke the fresh haw-thorn
The gravel goldn; the water pure as glass;
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,
Maie, with all thy floures and thy grene,
In paraphrasing this admirable description, Dryden has very judiciously adhered almost to the very words and rhythm of the first two couplets 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
* Groves or bushes.