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UNKNOWN, Classic and heavenly, c. 1575

UNKNOWN, Classic and heavenly, c. 1575

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111



Chaucer:



The Critical Heritage vol. 1



fame and virtue are equally great and all alike recognised

in earth and heaven. Text from the MS, but cf. ‘The

Chaucer Review’, II (1968), pp. 136–7.



Thy dearest dearlinges death oh howe,

canst thow (O Brytayne) brooke,

wher is thy springe of learninge nowe,

Syth fates thy Tullie tooke.



4



Brytayne put one thy wailinge weedes.

byd thow adue to mearth,

Seinge wormes, wher learninge was, now fe[eds]

within the dankishe earth.



8



You spytefull fates, how durst you tuitch

his fatal twyne with kniffe,

Your envyous rancour ay is such,

to spoile the good of liffe.



12



Tho you

that

You can

that



16



ecclipse his mortall daies,

to your will were bound,

not dym his splendent prayes

in the heavens doe sounde.



Brute blowes in Trvmp of lastinge fame

his glittringe laudes well woonn

as phoebus rayes doth shyne, his name

aboute the world doth roonn.



20



oute of his bones nowe putryfyed,

his ffame doth dailie sproote,

his biased brute in Realmes doth ryde

that first from him tooke roote.



24



His prayes the world scarce comprehen[d]

his fame so thicklie raignes.

The earner, that those lavdes furth send,

in slender tombe contaynes.



28



Wherone thees verses gravd in gould

in marble shuld be sett,

Least that in earth his cyndred mould

thou Brytayne shuld forgett.

Heere Geffrey Chaucers carcasse lyes,

whylom of greate renoune;



f. 94v



32



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Chaucer:



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his earned prayes, his roome supplyes,

nowe Death hath prest him doune;



36



Brytayne his famous corps retaynes,

his freshe fame beares record,

his soule (god send) in heauen Remaynes,

whith the euerlyuing Lorde.



40



Alyue he learning did encrease,

that wailes his Destenye,

And chaunging liffe, his soule doth please,

The supreme god one hye.



44



A pierles poet he lyued one earth,

and subiect yet to fate,

his soule a heauenlie poet in mearth

Lyues, whith coelestiall state.



48



39. MEREDITH HANMER, GOOD DECORUM OBSERVED

1576



Educated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, Hanmer (1543–

1604) became a clergyman and eventually held many Irish

benefices, where he occupied himself with historical

research, controversy, and a translation of ‘The Auncient

Ecclesiasticall Histories’, 1577 (from which the extracts

are taken), which became very popular. Like many religious

writers of the sixteenth century he contrasts Chaucer as a

secular author with more religious works, but shows a

balanced sense of the merit of secular writings. The notion

of ‘decorum’ as a literary merit is Neoclassical, being

first recorded as used by Ascham, in ‘The Scholemaster’,

1563, of Latin authors. Extract (a) is from the Dedication,

dated 1576, Sig. A iii; (b) is from p. 408. Chaucer’s

‘Prophesie’ was first printed by Caxton, though not

attributed to Chaucer, and subsequently by Thynne in the

edition of 1532 and in the later sixteenth-century

editions. It became part of the sixteenth-century interest

in prophecy. The second quotation is from Chaucer’s poem

‘Lak of Stedfastnesse’.



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Chaucer:



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(a)



Many nowe adayes had rather reade the stories of Kinge

Arthur: The monstrous fables of Garagantua: the Pallace of

pleasure: the Dial of Princes, where there is much good

matter: the Monke of Burie full of good stories: Pierce

ploweman: the tales of Chaucer where there is excellent

wit, great reading and good decorum obserued, the life of

Marcus Aurelius where there are many good Morall precepts:

the familiar and golden Epistles of Antonie Gwevarra where

there is both golden witt & good penning: the pilgremage

of Princes well penned and Clerckly handeled: Reinard the

Fox: Beuis of Hampton: the hundred mery tales: skoggan:

Fortunatus: with many other infortunate treatises and

amorous toies wrytten in Englishe, Latine, Frenche,

Italian, Spanishe, but as for bookes of diuinitie, to

edifie the soule, and instructe the inwarde man, it is the

least part of their care, nay they will flatly answere it

belongeth not to theyr calling to occupie their heades with

any such kinde of matters, It is to be wished, if not all,

at leaste wise that some part of the time which is spente

in readinge of suche bookes (althoughe many of them

contayne notable matter) were bestowed in reading of holy

Scripture or other such wrytinges as dispose the mind to

spirituall contemplation.

(b)

But (God be praised for it) we are able to report farre

better of England, that there are of the nobilitie, valiant

men, vertuous, godly, studious, politicke, zealous, of

auncient houses, and blood neuer stayned. There is hope the

dayes shall neuer be seene when the prophesie of Chaucer

shall take place where he sayth:

When fayth fayleth in priestes sawes,

And Lordes hestes are holden for lawes,

And robberie is holden purchase,

And lecherie is holden solace.

Than shall the land of Albion

Be brought to great confusion.

And to the end our wished desire may take effect, let vs

hearken what exhortation he geueth vnto the chiefe

magistrate, his wordes are these:

Prince desire to be honorable,

Cherishe thy folke and hate extortion,



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Chaucer:



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Suffer nothing that may be reproueable,

To thine estate done in thy region.

Shewe forth the yarde of castigation.

Dreade God, doe lawe, loue trueth and worthinesse.

And wedde thy folke ayen to stedfastnes.



40. GEORGE WHETSTONE, SIR CHAUCER’S JESTS

1578



Whetstone (1544?–87?), of unknown education, a dissipated

gentleman, soldier, adventurer and literary hack, among

other productions wrote a bad play, ‘The Right excellent

and famous Historye of Promos and Cassandra’, 1578, which

shows that for him Chaucer meant bawdy tales. (Text follows

Spurgeon, I, 116; ‘Promos’, Part I, Act I, Sc. 3, Sig

Biii.)



La[mia].......

And can then the force of lawe, or death, thy minde of

loue bereaue?

In good faith, no: the wight that once hath tast the

fruits of loue,

Untill hir dying daye will long, Sir Chaucers iests to

proue.



41. EDMUND SPENSER, DAN CHAUCER, WELL OF ENGLISH VNDEFILED

1579, 1590–6, 1599 (1609)



The poet Spenser (c. 1552–99), was a sizar at Pembroke

College, Cambridge, where he met Gabriel Harvey (see No.

45). He entered the household of the Earl of Leicester,

and finally held an important civil post in Ireland.

Chaucer is of the greatest significance as a source of

pure English and of inspiration to him in a characteristic



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Chaucer:



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Cambridge way. In Spenser’s first important publication,

the pastoral poem, ‘The Shepheardes Calendar’ (1579)

Chaucer figures, not without a debt to Skelton, but in

style, after the artificial manner of classical eclogue,

as the ‘shepherd’ Tityrus in several eclogues, as here, in

June (a lament of love) fol. 24 (a); in ‘The Faerie

Queene’, work of Spenser’s maturity, Book IV, canto 2,

stanza xxxii (edition of 1609) (b); and in his last work

‘The Mutabilitie Cantos’, ‘The Faerie Queene’ Book VII,

canto 7, stanza ix, printed posthumously, 1609 (c),

Chaucer is the type of the great English poet, an

inspiration and a model. The reproachful apostrophe to

Death goes back to Hoccleve (No. 7) doubtless via Surigo

(No. 15). In Spenser’s attitude to Chaucer generally we

see the traditional Gothic and Cambridge loving admiration

assimilated to a fairly superficial Neoclassical model.



(a)

The God of shepheards Tityrus is dead,

Who taught me homely, as I can, to make.

He, whilst he lived, was the soueraigne head

Of shepheards all, that bene with loue ytake:

Well couth he wayle his Woes, and lightly slake

The flames, which loue within his heart had bredd,

And tell vs mery tales, to keep vs wake,

The while our sheepe about vs safely fedde.

Nowe dead he is, and lyeth wrapt in lead,

(O why should death on hym such outrage showe?)

And all hys passing skil with him is fledde,

The fame whereof doth dayly greater growe.

But if on me some little drops would flowe

Of that the spring was in his learned hedde,

I soone would learne these woods, to wayle my woe,

And teache the trees, their trickling teares to shedde.



81



90



(b)

(32)

Whylome as antique stories tellen vs,

Those two [Cambell and Triamond] were foes the fellonest

on ground,

And battell made the draddest daungerous,

That euer shrilling trumpet did resound;



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Chaucer:



The Critical Heritage vol. 1



Though now their acts be no where to be found,

As that renowmed Poet them compiled,

With warlike numbers and Heroick sound,

Dan Chaucer, well of English vndefiled,

On Fames eternall beadroll worthie to be filed.

(33)

But wicked Time that all good thoughts doth waste,

And workes of noblest wits to nought out-weare,

That famous moniment hath quite defac’t,

And robd the world of threasure endlesse deare,

The which mote haue enriched all vs heare.

O cursed Eld! the canker-worme of writs,

How may these rimes (so rude as doth appeare)

Hope to endure, sith workes of heauenly wits

Are quite deuour’d, and brought to nought by little bits?

(34)

Then pardon, O most sacred happy spirit,

That I thy labours lost may thus reviue,

And steale from thee the meed of thy due merit,

That none durst euer whil’st thou wast aliue,

And beeing dead in vaine yet many striue:

Ne dare I like, but through infusion sweet

Of thine owne spirit (which doth in me surviue)

I follow heere the footing of thy feet

That with thy meaning so I may the rather meete.

(c)

So heard it is for any liuing wight,

All her [Dame Nature’s] array and vestiments to tell

That old Dan Geffrey (in whose gentle spright

The pure well head of Poesie did dwell)

In his Foules parley durst not with it mel,

But it transferd to Alane, who he thought

Had in his Plaint of kindes describ’d it well:

Which who will read set forth so as it ought,

Go seek he out that Alane where he may be sought.



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Chaucer:



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42. EDWARD KIRKE, LOADESTARRE OF OUR LANGUAGE

1579



Edward Kirke (1553–1613), friend of Spenser, was like him a

sizar of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, and also became a friend

of Harvey. Kirke introduced and commented on Spenser’s

anonymous ‘The Shepheardes Calender’, 1579, over the

initials E.K., and shared and supported Spenser’s respect

for Chaucer, whose work, like that of Lydgate, he knew

well. Extract from the introductory Epistle directed to

Harvey, Sig. §ii, fol. 7, fol. 21b, fol. 48.



Vncovthe, vnkiste, sayde the olde famous Poete Chaucer:

whom for his excellencie and wonderfull skil in making,

his scholler Lidgate, a worthy scholler of so excellent a

maister, calleth the Loadestarre of our Language: and whom

our Colin clout in his Aeglogue calleth Tityrus the God

of shepheards, comparing hym to the worthiness of the

Roman Tityrus Virgile. Which prouerbe myne owne good

friend Ma. Haruey, as in that good old Poete it serued

well Pandares purpose, for the bolstering of his baudy

brocage, so very well taketh place in this our new Poete,

who for that he is vncouthe (as said Chaucer), is vnkist,

and vnknown to most men, is regarded but of few. But I

dout not, so soone as his name shall come into the

knowledge of men, and his worthines be sounded in the

tromp of fame, but that he shall be not onely kiste, but

also beloued of all, embraced of the most, and wondred at

of the best.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Gride) perced: an olde word

much vsed of Lidgate, but not found (that I know of) in

Chaucer.

[ff. 7–7b] [Glosse to Feb.] Heardgromes.) Chaucers verse

almost whole. [The whole line is:“So loytring liue you little heardgroomes.”]

Tityrus.) I suppose he meane Chaucer, whose prayse for

pleasaunt tales cannot dye, so long as the memorie of hys

name shal liue, the name of Poetrie shal endure.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

There grew) This tale of the Oake and the Brere, he

telleth as learned of Chaucer, but it is cleane in another

kind and rather like to Aesopes fables.



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[f. 216] [Glosse to May.] Chevisaunce) sometime of Chaucer

vsed for gaine: sometime of other for spoyle, or bootie,

or enterprise, and sometime for chiefdome.

[f. 48] [Glosse to Nouember.] [Death, overcome by Christ]

is now made (as Chaucer sayth) the grene path way to

lyfe.



43. SIR PHILIP SIDNEY, CHAUCER HAD GREAT WANTS

1581



Sidney (1554–86), soldier, scholar, courtier; hero and nonpareil of the Elizabethan age, was educated at Christ

Church, Oxford. Unlike Cambridge men he shows little

interest in or affection for Chaucer, and no interest in

contemporary linguistic or religious problems as

illustrated by Chaucer, or by works then attributed to him.

He does not include Chaucer in the recommendations of his

‘reading list’ (printed in ‘The Times Literary Supplement’,

24 March 1972, pp. 343–4.)

‘An Apologie for Poetrie’ has great significance. It is

the first appearance in English of a coherent theory and

justification of literature and literary study. As such it

could only, for historical reasons, be Neoclassical, and

derives from the immense European Humanist achievement in

literary studies of the sixteenth century. (Cf. ‘An

Apology’ ed. G.T.Shepherd, 1965.) The dominant criteria of

Neoclassical taste, i.e. regularity, unity of plot and

tone, realism, moral improvement, high seriousness of the

poetic vates, were inevitably unfavourable to Chaucer’s

Gothic mixtures of grave and gay, of fantasy and down-toearth realism, episodic extensiveness, and refusal as a

poet to assert his own superiority over everyone else.

This is most clear when Sidney inevitably condemns that

Gothic drama that Shakespeare was soon to justify so

astonishingly at the very end of its career. The future

of English literature and literary study was to be

Neoclassical and Romantic. Small wonder that Sidney, whose

‘Apologie’ was so prophetic, felt that Chaucer ‘had great

wants’.

Since ‘An Apologie’ is theory, not practical criticism,

criticism is found only in incidental remarks, which are

penetrating and generous, as we would expect from Sidney.



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He reveals a characteristic taste for the noble romances,

‘The Knight’s Tale’ and ‘Troilus’.

The casual reference to Comedies is to ‘The Knight’s

Tale’, I, 886–7, correctly reading,

I have, God woot, a large field to ere

And wayke been the oxen in my plough,



[plough

[weak



But sixteenth-century editions available to Sidney read,

after Thynne,

I haue got wotte/a large felde to ere

And weked ben the oxen in the plowe.

Perhaps Sidney, by unconscious association with the ‘wicked’

oxen, mistook, or punned on, ere as modern err. (Text from

Sig. B ii b, Sig. D iii b, Sig. G iv, Sig. I iv.)



[Poets came before philosophers and historians.] So among

the Romans were Liuius, Andronicus, and Ennius. So in the

Italian language, the first that made it aspire to be a

Treasure-house of Science, were the Poets Dante, Boccace,

and Petrarch. So in our English were Gower and Chaucer.

After whom, encouraged and delighted with theyr

excellent fore-going, others haue followed, to beautifie

our mother tongue, as wel in the same kinde as in other

Arts….

See whether wisdome and temperance in Vlisses and

Diomedes, valure in Achilles, friendship in Nisus, and

Eurialus, euen to an ignoraunt man, carry not an apparent

shyning: and contrarily, the remorse of conscience in

Oedipus, the soone repenting pride in Agamemnon, the selfedeuouring crueltie in his Father Atreus, the violence of

ambition in the two Theban brothers, the sowresweetnes of

reuenge in Medaea, and to fall lower, the Terentian Gnato,

and our Chaucer’s Pandar, so exprest, that we nowe vse

their names to signifie their trades….

Thirdly, that it [Poetry] is the Nurse of abuse,

infecting vs with many pestilent desires: with a Syrens

sweetnes, drawing the mind to the Serpents tayle of sinfull

fancy. And heerein especially, Comedies giue the largest

field to erre, as Chaucer sayth: howe both in other

nations and in ours, before Poets did soften vs, we were

full of courage, giuen to martiall exercises; the pillers

of manlyke liberty and not lulled a sleepe in shady

idlenes with Poets pastimes….



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Chaucer, vndoubtedly did excellently in hys Troylus and

Cresseid; of whom, truly I know not, whether to meruaile

more, either that he in that mistie time, could see so

clearely, or that wee in this cleare age, walke so

stumblingly after him. Yet had he great wants, fitte to be

forgiuen, in so reuerent antiquity.



44. JOHN HIGINS, QUAINT

1585



John Higins produced in 1585 ‘The Nomenclator or

Remembrancer of Adrianus Iunius Physician…conteining proper

names and apt termes for all thinges vnder their conuenient

Titles…in Latine, Greeke, French and other forrein tongues:

and now in English’. Chaucer is apparently the only English

author mentioned in some six hundred pages—as it were, the

D.H.Lawrence of the time: p. 34, col. b. (Information by

courtesy of Mr J.Sibbald.)



Natura, plin. muliebra, Eid. cunnus, Horat. [numerous

further references and an etymology in Greek] Le con.

A womans priuie member called of Chaucer a quaint.



45. GABRIEL HARVEY, EXQUISITE ARTIST AND CURIOUS UNIVERSAL

SCHOLAR



c. 1585, c. 1600



Harvey (1545?–1630) was educated at Christ’s College,

Cambridge and became a Fellow of Pembroke Hall (later,

College), Cambridge, where he was friendly with Spenser,

then a sizar. For a time he was Public Orator, and hoped,

by his writing and scholarship, to advance himself in the

university and the world; in which ambition he was neither

the first nor last to be disappointed. He bought, read and



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annotated books; among a number of references to Chaucer in

his marginalia are those in his ‘Dionysus Periegetes’,

written c. 1585; see ‘Gabriel Harvey’s Marginalia’, ed.

G.C.Moore-Smith, Stratford-upon-Avon, 1913, pp. 160–1, (a);

and those in his copy of Speght’s Chaucer, written c.1598–

60, ed. Moore-Smith, pp. 226–7, (b). His comments emphasise

what an intelligent and learned reader appreciated as the

main point of each poem, and reflect Harvey’s own interest

in science. But Gothic and early Neoclassical taste meet

and are reconciled in the pleasure in variety. The ‘new

Canterbury Tales’ in (b) refers to ‘The Cobler of

Caunterburie’ n.d. (1590).



(a)

The description of Winter, in the Frankleins Tale. In the

beginning of the flowre of Courtesie: made bie Lidgate.

In the beginning of the assemblie of Ladies. In a

ballad 343.

The description of the hower of the day: in the Man of

Lawes prologue. In the tale of the Nonnes preist. In the

parsons prologue.

Notable descriptions, & not anie so artificiall in

Latin, or Greeke.

Ecce etiam personarum, rerumque Iconismi.

The artificial description of a cunning man, or

Magician, or Astrologer, in the Franklins tale.

Two cristall stones artificially sett in the botom of

the fresh well: in the romant of the Rose. 123. The

Natiuitie of Hypermestre: in her Legend.

Fowre presents of miraculous vertu: An horse, & a sword:

a glasse, & a ring: in the Squiers tale.

The natiuitie of Oedipus, artificially calculated in the

first part of Lidgats storie of Thebes: bie the cunningest

Astronomers, & Philosophers of Thebes.

The discouerie of the counterfait Alchymist, in the tale

of the Chanons Yeman.

Other commend Chawcer, & Lidgate for their witt,

pleasant veine, varietie of poetical discourse, & all

humanitie: I specially note their Astronomie, philosophie,

& other parts of profound or cunning art. Wherein few of

their time were more exactly learned. It is not sufficient

for poets, to be superficial humanists: but they must be

exquisite artists, & curious vniuersal schollers.



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