Page images
PDF
EPUB

II ALF-HOURS

WITII

OUR SACRED POETS.

[graphic]

RICHARD ROLLE, called also Richard de Hampole, was an eremite of the order of St. Augustine. He devoted his

life to study and seclusion in a retreat in the neighbourhood of the pleasantly situated Priory of Hampole, three or four miles from Doncaster. Here he produced

an English version of the Psalms, as well as Commentaries, and Translations of other parts of the Sacred Writings. He attacked the vices of the clergy, and threatened the sins of the nation generally with future war, pestilence, and famine. “He was,” says the Britannia Sancta, "illustrious for sanctity and learning; and a heavenly unction runs through all his writings.” He was much honoured in his lifetime; and after death, he enjoyed canonization, if not formally from the church, at least from the gratitude and reverence of the people. His principal pieces of English rhyme are a Paraphrase of part of the Book of Job, of the Lord's Prayer, of the Seven Penitential Psalms, and the Pricke of Conscience. From the last of these, which is ordinarily a somewhat tedious and dull performance, are presented two specimens, where, favoured by the grouping capabilities of the subjects, he is exceptionally happy and picturesque.

THE DAY OF JUGGEMENT.

Men call that day
The day of grete delyveraunce,
The day of wreke and of vengaunce,
The day of wrathe and wrechednes,
The day of bale and bitternes,
The day of playnyng and of accusyng,
The day of answere

and of reckenyng,
The day of Juggement without eny lysse, *
The day of anger and of anguysse,
The day of drede and of tremblyng,
The day of greteyng and of waylyng,
The day of crying and dolefull dynne,
The day of sorowe that never shal blynne,t
The day of mournyng and of grete affray,
The day of departyng from Crist away,
The day of lowryng and of grete derkenesse,
The day that es last and most of swartnesse,
The day that Crist shal make an ende of alle-
The day on this wyse may men calle.

OFF THE BLYSSE THAT ES IN HEVENE.

Ther es ever lyf withoute eny deth, And alle joyes that beth spoken with one breth, And ther es ever youthe without eny elde, I And ther es al manere welthe that men may welde, ş

* Romission, + Cease. | Old age. § Wield, manage.

And ther es ever reste withoute eny travayle,
And ther es al manere good that never shal fayle,
And ther es ever pees withoute eny stryf,
And ther es al manere lykyng* of lyf,
And ther es ever, withoute derknesse, lyght,
And ther es ever day and never nyght,
And ther es ever somer bryght for to se,
And ther es no wynter in that contre,
And ther es ever worschip and more honoure,
Than ever here hadde kyng or emperoure,
And ther es al manere power and myght,
And ther wol God our wonnyng dyght.
And ther es joy and blysse ever lastynge,
And ther es ever myrthe and lykynge,
And ther es parfyte joy the whuch es endeles,
And ther es grete blysfulhede of pees,
And ther es swetnesse the whuch es certayn,
And ther es a dwellyng withoute turnyng agayn,
And ther es grete melodye and aungeles songe,
And ther es ever preysyng and thankyng amonge,
And ther es al manere frendschip that may be,
And ther es ever parfyte love and charyte,
And ther es ever good acorde and onhede,
And ther es yeldyng of mede for eche good dede,
And ther es a loutyngs with grete reverence,
And ther es ever buxomnesses and obedyence,
And ther es al thynge that es good at.wylle,
And ther es no thynge that may be ylle, T
And ther es wysdom withoute folye,
And ther es al honestee withoute vylonye,
And ther es al bryghtnesse and beaute,
And ther es al goodnesse the whuch may be.

* Pleasure. + Deck or fit up our dwelling. Onehood, unity. § Bowing

!! Acquiescence. III.

[graphic][subsumed][merged small]

The early circumstances of the life of Chaucer, whom Denham calls the "morning star” of our literature, and who is more popularly recognized as the “father of English poetry," are veiled in obscurity. An inscription on his tombstone, to the effect that he died in 1400 at the age of seventy-two, identifies 1328 as the year of his birth; which event, it is pretty certain from a passage in his “ Testament of Love,” took place in London. Conjecture and dispute have failed to establish conclusively either the nobility or the humbleness of his origin. It is probable, however, that his father was a gentleman. In an early poem, written at eighteen, he speaks of himself as “Philogenet of Cambridge, clerk;" and from this it is inferred that he studied at that University. On the other hand, Anthony à Wood, in his account of Thomas Richard, incidentally but undoubtingly mentions Chaucer

our famous poet of Oxford;" and in another place records a tradition, that “when Wickliff was guardian or warden of Canterbury College, he had to his pupil the famous poet called Jeffry Chaucer, who, following the steps of his master, reflected much upon the corruptions of the clergy.” Some of his biographers have, therefore, courageously affirmed that Chaucer, having received the rudiments of his education at Cambridge, migrated to Oxford, where he completed his studies at Merton Col.

as

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

lege, the college of his friends, the "moral" Gower and the “philosophical” Strode. Be this as it may, we have the testimony of Leland, and indeed the evidence of his own writings, that he came from one of the Universities, or from both, an adept in logic, rhetoric, philosophy, mathematics, and theology. After travelling in France and the Low Countries, he returned to enter himself of the Middle Temple, with a view to study the municipal law; the only voucher for which, however, is Speght's assertion that a Mr. Buckley had seen a fugitive, dateless record, setting forth that “Geffrey Chaucer was fined two shillings for beating a Franciscane frier in Fleet Street." Certainly his law practice was of the slenderest. His true vocation was the court.

He obtained the favour of Edward III., to whom he was principally recommended through the good offices of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. Before this time he had married Philippa, sister of the famous Catharine Swinford, who afterwards became the duke's third wife. Through the gradations of rank and office Chaucer Fose in 1372 to the dignity of scutifer noster, squire to the king; and of ambassador, jointly with two others, to the Republic of Genoa. This mission furnished the poet with an opportunity of visiting Petrarch at Padua. For his diplomatic services he was rewarded with divers pensions and perquisites, and with the Controllership of the Customs of the Port of London; the duties of which office, as expressly stipulated in the patent, he was to perform in person and not by deputy. They were not, however, of so exacting a nature as to prevent him from indulging in poetical recreations.

Some time after, misfortunes came upon him so thickly that he is found praying the king, Richard II., for

protection against his creditors. Little is known of the cause of his troubles; but it is probable that, having taken part in the disturbances which agitated the City of London, le

B

« PreviousContinue »