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c. 1350-c. 1557








THE AGE OF CHAUCER But now, struck through with sorrows strong,

Its loss my burning breast must feel.
John Barbouri

Yet heard I ne'er so sweet a song

As the still hour let to me steal. c. 1316-1396

Strange thoughts their shapes but half

reveal, FREEDOM

As I muse on its colour, all clad in clay. (From T'he Bruce,2 c. 1375)

O mould! thou marrest a wondrous jewél,

My precious pearl that hath slipped away. Ah! Freedom is a noble thing!

225 Freedom makes man to have liking;: Freedom all solace to man giveth,

Lo! there sweet spices needs must spread He liveth at ease that freely liveth.

Where so much wealth to earth has run; A noble heart may have no ease,

Flowers golden, blue, and red, May have naught else that may him please, Shine full sheen against the sun. If freedom fail'th; for free liking

Never may fruit and flower fade Is yearned for o'er all other thing.

Where my pearl sank down in the earth-mould Nay, he that aye has lived free

dun; May not know well the propertie,

For each grass must grow from seed-grain dead, The anger, nay, the wretched doom


No wheat were else for harvest won; That coupled is to foul thraldóme,

From good each good is aye begun; But if he had assayėd it

So precious a seed must perish not; Then all perforce he should it wit;'

Spices must spring from this chosen one, 35 And should think freedom more to prize

From this precious pearl without a spot. Than all the gold in world that is.

Thus contrar thingės evermore
Disclosers of the other are.

To this spot that I in speech expoun
I entered, in that arbour green,

In August, in a high sesóun,

When corn is cut with sickle keen.
(c. 1370)

On a mound where once my pearl rolled down
Fell shadows of flowers shining and shcen, -

Gillyfleur, ginger, and gromyloun,
Pearl, princes prize, and men essay

And peonies powdered all between. To safely close in gold most clear!

If it were seemly but to be

seen, Of Orient pearls, I surely say,

Still sweeter the scent it gave, I wot, Never was found its precious peer;

Where dwells that blesséd one I ween, So round, so radiant in array,

My precious pearl without a spot.
So small, so smooth its surface fair.
Whenever I judged of jewels gay
I set it singly in singlére.?

Prone in that place, wild hands I pressed, Alas! I lost it in an arbére: 3

Clutched as with freezing cold, I fought; 50 Through grass to ground it from me got. 10

Grief grew to tumult in my breast, I droop, death-stricken by love-daungére,

Reason nor calm, nor comfort brought.
For my own pearl without a spot.

I plained my pearl that earth possessed,
And vainly strove with struggling thought.

Though Christ's compassion offered rest, 55 Since in that spot it from me sprung,

My wretched will against it wrought. Ost have I waited, wishing that weals

I fell upon the flowery ground, That once was wont dispel my wrong, 15 Sweet odours o'er my senses streamed, Lift up my lot, my spirit heal.

Till, sunk in depths of sleep profound, 1 John Barbour, a Scottish contemporary of Chaucer, About my spotless pearl I dreamed. 60 was Archdeacon of Aberdeen. : The Bruce, a poem in twenty books, celebrates the

VI deliverance of Scotland from her foreign oppressor, under the leadership of her national hero Robert Bruce.

From thence my soul sprang far in space, * His wish.

4 Know. My body on ground abode in sweven.8 1 The Pearl was written by an unknown poet in the

My ghost is gone by Goddės grace, West of England. A number of stanzas, dealing chiefly with matters of religious doctrine, have been omitted.

Through ways unknown and wondrous driven. : Apart. 3 Arbor. * Bondage. • Bliss.

6 Declare. 7 Gromwell, a small plant. & Sleep.





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Adornéd was each hilly side
With crystal cliffs of clearest kind.
The forests fair about them bide
With tree-bolls blue as blue of Ind;
Their leaves, like silver's burnished pride,
A-flutter in the fragrant wind
With glinting gleams show glorified,
In shimmering splendors half-defined.

The gravel, that each foot may grind,
Was precious pearl of Orient,
Sunlight itself seemed dull and blind
Beside that land of wonderment.





Far more of bliss glowed in such guise
Than I could tell if time I had;
For mortal heart may not suffice

For tenth part of that rapture glad.
I thought in truth that Paradise
Lay just beyond those bright banks brade. 12
The waters, methought, as bounds arise
Twixt garden and garden, between them made.

Beyond the brook, by slope and shade, 141
Stands the Holy City, beyond the shore.
But the water was deep, I durst not wade,
And ever my longing grew more and more.

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The woods are rich in radiant guise,
Where'er by Fortune led, I fare,
And shining glories glad mine eyes,
That no man may with tongue declare. 100
I wander on in happy wise,
For steepest cliff seems harmless there.
The farther I fared the fairer 'gan rise
Meads bright with bloom, and spice, and pear,

Green-bordered brooks, and river fair, 105
Its banks as thread of finest gold.
Win I at last to a water rare;
Dear Lord! 'twas lovely to behold.

Mair and mair, and yet much mair 145
I longed beyond that stream to stand;
For if 'twas fair where I did fare
Far fairer gleamed that farther land.
Stumbling I strove, looked here and there
To find a ford, on every hand;

150 But of greater perils I grew aware The longer I searched that shining strand.

And yet, it seemed I must burst the band,
So strong was the call of that distant shore.
When lo! the sight mine eyes next scan-

Stirred my strained spirit more and more.



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A marvel 'gan my ghost confound;
I saw, beyond that merry mere,
A cliff, from whose clear depths profound
Streamed lights that lit the golden air. 160
Beneath, a child sate on the ground,
A maid of mien full debonair;
White, shining garments girt her round;-
I knew,- I had seen her other-where.

As gold in threads that men may shear, 165
So sheen she shone upon that shore.
The longer I looked upon her there
The surer I knew her, more and more.

11 Flows.

12 Broad.



And as I fed on her fair face,
And searched her child-like figure o'er, 170
Pure gladness did my soul embrace,
That I had lacked so long before.
To call her would I fain find grace,
But stunned I stood, bewildered sore;
I saw her in so strange a place,
That dazed the sight no meaning bore.

She lifts her brow, well-known of yore,
Her face as smooth as ivory;
My wild dismay grows more and more,
My soul is stung with what I see.

Since into grass you slipped from sight.
Pensive, oppressed, I pine sore pained,
While you, at rest in realm of light,
In Paradise a home have gained.

What Weird has thither my gem con

strained, And brought me this grief and great daun

gére! Since we in twain were torn and twained, I have been a joyless jewelér.”






That jewel there, with jewels graced,
Lifted her face with eyes of grey,
Her crown of orient pearl replaced,
And grave and slow did sweetly say:-
“Sir, you mistake and speak in haste
To say your pearl is all away;
In coffer is it safely placed,
Shut safe within this garden gay,

To dwell forever there, and play
Where sin and sorrow come never near,
This spot were thy treasure house, parfay,
If thou wert a gentle jewelér.


Stronger than longing, fear arose;
I stood quite still and durst not call;
Wide-eyed I wait, my lips I close,
As mute as hooded hawk in hall.
That sight so strange, so spectral rose,
I feared the end that might befall;
The dread lest she escape me grows,
Or vanish ere I could forestall.

Then she, whose shining lightened all,
So soft, so smooth, so pure, so slight, 190
Rose up robed in array royál,
A pearl, in precious pearlės dight.



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“But jeweler gentle, if thou dost give 265
Thy joy for a gem thou deemed'st dear,
In sooth thou dost but thyself deceive,
Vexed in vain with a foolish fear.
For you lost but a rose, you may well believe,
That must flower and fade with the fading year,
Yet so wondrous a dust did that rose receive 271
That it proved a pearl in this shining sphere.

Though thou called'st thy Weird a thief,

'tis clear From nought it has gained the great treas

úre; To blame the hand that has helped thee

here Shows thee a thankless jewelér." 276



(After the Dreamer has been urged to be patient, he sees the Maiden in Heaven and is filled with a great longing to join her.]




All rich in pearls that rare one bright
Drew near the shore beyond the flood;
From here to Greece no gladder wight
Than I, when by the brink she stood.
Nearer than niece or aunt, of right
I found in her my joy and good.
Then low she bowed her figure slight,
Cast by her crown in happy mood,

And as I looked, I understood,
And heard her greet me full of grace.
Dear Lord! who me with life endued
'Twas worth it all to see her face.


Drawn by delight of eye and ear,

My yearning mood to madness grows;
I would be with my dear one there,
Though swift the severing current flows.
Nothing will harm me if on I fare,
Or lame me, methought, by baffling blows;
If I only the plunge in the stream can dare
I will swim the space though the waves oppose,

Or die in the deed. Yet a thought arose 1161
Ere I plunged perverse in that water chill,
That stilled my impatience and brought re-

For I knew it was not my Prince's will.



“O Pearl,” I cried, "in pearlės dight,
Art thou that pearl that I have plained 13
Much missed by me alone, at night?
What longing have I long sustained

13 Bewailed.

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(From the same) Now wends he his way through the wild tracts

of Logrés, Sir Gawayne on God's hest, and no game he

thought it. Oft alone he alights, and lies down at night-fall Where he found not before him fare to his liking. O'er field and in forest, no friend but his horse, No comrade but God for counsel had he, Till at length he draws near to the land of

North Wales. All Anglesey's isles on the left hand he leaves, And fares o'er the fording hard by the foreland, Over at Holy-head, till he had journeyed To Wirral'sź wilderness, where few are dwelling Who God or man with good hearts regard. Fain would he find from men that he met with News of a Knight in that neighborhood dwelling Who garbed him in green, or of a green chapel. All denied him with “nay,” saying not in a lifetime

706 Wist they ever a wight that was of such hués

Of green.
The Knight rode ways most strange,
The rocky banks between,

And oft his cheer3 doth change,
Ere he that church hath seen.




THE SEASONS (From Sir Gawayne and the Green Knight,

c. 1370) For the Yule-tide had yielded, and the year

after, And each several season ensued after other. Thus after Christmas came crabbėd Lent-time, That affords fish for flesh, and food the most

simple. But then the world's weather with winter is

warring; Winter withdraws himself, white clouds uplift; Soft descendeth the rain in showers full warm, They fall on fair fields and the flowers are show

ing, Both the ground and the grove now with green

are arrayed, Birds bestir them to build, and bravely are sing

ing For solace of summer ensuing thereafter 510

On bank,
And blossoms bud and blow
On hedge-rows rich and rank,
And noble notes enow

Are heard in woodlands dank.
Then comes the season of summer, bathed in

soft breezes, Breezes that breathe themselves into secdling

and herbage, Blithesome, in truth, is the blossom that bloom

eth therefrom, When the drenching dews drip down from the

leavės, Biding the blissful beams of the bright sunnė. Next harvest hies him, and hardens the grain, He warns it ere winter to wax full ripe; The dust of the drought he driveth aloft, From the face of the fields it flies full high; 524 Wild winds of the welkin war with the sunnė, The leaves of the woodland lie low on the

ground, And all grey is the grass that all green was so

lately. Then all ripens and rotteth that rose up in flower,

528 And thus yieldeth the year to yesterdays many: To know winter is nearing, now need we to tell us


Many cliffs he climbed over in countries far

distant; As out-cast, cut off from companions, he rides. At each way through the water where he crossed over,

715 He a foe found before him,-but phantom it

was, So foul and so fell that to fight it behoved him. So many a marvel in these mountains he

findeth, 'Twere tedious to tell the tenth of those wonders. Now with serpents he struggles, and strives with wolves also,

720 Satyrs sometimes assail him, strange shapes

from the rocks, Both with bulls and with bears, and with boars

otherwhiles, Or with monsters that meet him, huge men of

the fells. He was fearless, unfalt'ring and faithful to God, Or he doubtless had died, for death threatened him oft.

1 Sir Gawayne and the Green Knight, one of the many romances dealing with King Arthur and his Knights, is a poem of over 2,500 lines. In it, as in other early Arthurian Stories, Sir Gawayne is a noble and knightly figure, very different from the despicable Sir Gawayne of Malory's Morte d' Arthur, or Tennyson's Idylls.

725 1 Logres, here=England. According to Geoffrey of Moninouth, Brutus divided Britain among his three

The portion (afterwards England) which fell to the eldest son Locrine, was “called afterwards from his name Loegria (or Logres).". Ilistory of Britain, Bk. II, ch. 1.

? Wirral (Wirhael) old English name of the land be tween the Dee and the Mersey.

3 Expression,






But war he could wage, yet the winter was The worship of this land, which was doun fallė, 5 worse,

Now stant upright, through grace of thy goodWhen the cold chilling waters, from storm- nessė, clouds down pouring,

Which every man is holdė for to blessé.
Would freeze ere they fell on the fallow beneath.
Near slain with the sleet, he slept in his armour, The highė God, of his justýce alonė,
More nights than enough on the naked rocks, The right which longeth to thy regalyė
While clattering o'er the cliff the cold brook Declared hath to stande in thy personė;
comes down,

And more than God may no man justifyé.
And high o'er his head hard icicles hang.

Thy title is knowė upon thyn auncestryė; Thus in perils and pains and plights the most The londes folk hath eek thy right affermėd; hard,

So stant thy regne, of God and man confirmed. Till Christmas eve cometh, he keepeth alone

His quest.
Humbly the Knight, that tide,

There is no man may say in other wise
Besought of Mary Blest,

That God him-self ne hath the right declarėd;

Whereof the land is boun to thy srvysė,
That she his way would guide

Which for default of help hath longé carėd.
Unto some place of rest.

But now there is no mannės heartė sparėd At morn by a mountain he merrily rideth, 740 To love and serve, and workė thy pleasauncė; Through a woodland full wild that was won- And all this is through Goddės purveyancė. 21

drous and deep, High hills on each hand, with a holt stretching In alle thing which is of God begonnė under

There followeth grace, if it be well governėd; Of hoar oaks full huge, a hundred together; Thus tellen they which oldė bokės connė, And tangled thickets of thorn and of hazel, Whereof, my lord, I wot well thou art lernéd. 25 With shaggy robes of rough ragged mosses; 745 Ask of thy God; so shalt thou not be werned Many birds sit unblithely on the bare twigs,

Of no request (the) which is reasonable;
And piteously pipe for pain of the cold.

For God unto the good is favorable.
The rider on Gringolet rideth beneath them
Through mire and marshes, a man all alone, 749
Perturbed in his toil lest to him 'twere forbidden

Peace is the chief of all the worldės welthė,

And to the heaven it leadeth eek the way; 30 To share in His service, who, on that same

Peace is of soul and life the mannės helthe night, Was born of a maid, all our sorrows to cure.

Of pestilence, and doth the war away.

My liegė lord, tak heed of what I say, Therefore sighing he said: “I beseech Thee, O

If werrė may be left, tak peace on hondė, Lord,

Which may not be withoutė Goddės sondė. 35 And Mary, mildest mother so dear, Some shelter to show me, some spot to hear

With peace stands every créature in restė, And thy matins at morn, this meekly I beg,

Withouté peace there may no life be glad;
And thus promptly I pray, my Paler, and Ave,

Above all other good, peace is the bestė;
And Creed."

Peace hath him-self, whan war is all bestad;?
So as he rode he prayed,

The peace is safe, the war is ever adrad,
And mourned for his misdeed,

Peace is of allé charitie the keye,
The holy sign he made,

Which hath the life and soulė for to weigh.
And said: “Christ's Cross me speed.”

My liegė lord, if that thee list to seché

The sooth ensamples, what the war hath John Gower


Thou shalt well hear, of wisė mennės spechė, 45 c. 1325–1408

That deadly werré tourneth in-to nought.

For if these oldė bokės be well sought,

There might thou see what thing the war hath Unto the Worthy and Noble Kinge Henry the do Fourth

Both of conquést and conqueror alsó. (c. 1399) O noble worthy king, Henry the ferthė,

For vain honour, or for the worldės good,

They that whilom the strongė werrės made, In whom the gladdė fortune is befallė

Where be they now? Bethink well, in thy mood, The people to govérne here upon erthė, God hath thee chose, in comfort of us allė;

The day is goon, the night is dark and fade;

Her crueltė, which made them thannė glade, i The Praise of Peace (or De Pacis Commendatione, as Gower entitled it) was a poem of welcome to Henry IV.,

They sorrow now, and yet have naught the on his accession to the throne in 1399. Gower had been

more; distressed and disappointed by the misgovernment of The blood is shed, which no man may restore. Richard II.; in this poem he greets the new King, as one who, he trusts, will bring in a better time.








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