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For this with golden spurs the chiefs are graced, With pointed rowels arm’d, to mend their haste; For this with lasting leaves their brows are bound; For laurel is the sign of labour crown'd,

" Which bears the bitter blast, nor shaken falls to

ground: From winter winds it suffers no decay, For ever fresh and fair, and every month is May. Even when the vital sap retreats below, Even when the hoary head' is hid in snow, The life is in the Leaf, and still between The fits of falling snows appears the streaky green. Not so the Flower, which lasts for little space, A short-lived good, and an uncertain grace : This way and that the feeble stem is driven, Weak to sustain the storms and injuries of heaven. Propp'd by the spring, it lifts aloft the head, But of a sickly beauty, soon to shed; In summer living, and in winter dead. For things of tender kind, for pleasure made, Shoot up with swift increase, and sudden are de

cay_d.With humble words, the wisest I could frame, And proffer'd service, I repaid the dame; That, of her grace, she gave her maid to know The secret meaning of this moral show. And she, to prove what profit I had made Of mystic truth, in fables first convey'd, Demanded till the next returning May, Whether the Leaf or Flower I would obey ? I chose the Leaf; she smiled with sober cheer, And wish'd me fair adventure for the

year, And gave me charms and sigils, for defence Against ill tongues that scandal innocence :But I, said she, my fellows must pursue, Already past the plain, and out of view.

We parted thus; I homeward sped my way,
Bewilderd in the wood till dawn of day;
And met the merry crew, who danced about the

Then late refresh'd with sleep, I rose to write
The visionary vigils of the night.

Blush, as thou may’st, my little book, for shame,
Nor hope with homely verse to purchase fame;
For such thy maker chose, and so design'd
Thy simple style to suit thy lowly kind,



The original of this tale should probably be sought in some ancient metrical romance. At least, we know, that there exists a ballad connected with the Round Table romances, entitled The Marriage of Sir Gawain,” which seems to have been taken, not from Chaucer, but some more ancient and romantic legend. Gower also had seized upon this subject, and wrought it into the tale, entitled “ Florent,” which is the most pleasing in his dull Confessio Amantis. But what was a mere legendary tale of wonder in the rhyme of the minstrel, and a vehicle for trite morality in that of Gower, in the verse of Chaucer reminds us of the resurrection of a skeleton, reinvested by miracle with flesh, complexion, and powers of life and motion. Of all Chaucer's multifarious powers, none is more wonderful than the humour, with which he touched upon natural frailty, and the truth with which he describes the inward feelings of the human heart; at a time when all around were employed in composing romantic legends, in which the real character of their heroes was as effectually disguised by the stiffness of their manners, as their shapes by the sharp angles and unnatural projections of their plate ar

Dryden, who probably did not like the story worse, that it contained a passing satire against priests and women, has bestowed considerable pains upon his version. It is, perhaps, not to be regretted, that he left the Prologue to Pope, who has drawn a veil

a over the coarse nakedness of Father Chaucer. The tale is characteristically placed by the original author, in the mouth of the buxom Wife of Bath, whose mode of governing her different husbands is so ludicrously described in the Prologue.






In days of old, when Arthur fill’d the throne,
Whose acts and fame to foreign lands were blown,
The king of elves, and little fairy queen,
Gambolld on heaths, and danced on every green ;
And where the jolly troop had led the round,
The grass unbidden rose, and mark'd the ground.
Nor darkling did they dance ;* the silver light
Of Phoebe served to guide their steps aright,
And, with their tripping pleased, prolong'd the

the night. Her beams they follow'd, where at full she play'd, Nor longer than she shed her horns they staid, From thence with airy flight to foreign lands

convey'd. Above the rest our Britain held they dear; More solemnly they kept their Sabbaths here, And made more spacious rings, and revell’d half

the year.

* Derrick, glance.

I speak of ancient times; for now the swain,
Returning late, may pass the woods in vain,
And never hope to see the knightly train;
In vain the dairy now with mints is dress'd,
The dairy-maid expects no fairy guest
To skim the bowls, and after pay the feast.
She sighs, and shakes her empty shoes in vain,
No silver penny to reward her pain;
For priests, with prayers, and other godly gear,
Have made the merry goblins disappear;
And where they play'd their merry pranks before,
Have sprinkled holy water on the floor;
And friars, that through the wealthy regions run,
Thick as the motes that twinkle in the sun,
Resort to farmers rich, and bless their halls,
And exercise the beds, and cross the walls :
This makes the fairy quires forsake the place,
When once 'tis hallow'd with the rites of grace.
But in the walks, where wicked elves have been,
The learning of the parish now is seen ;
The midnight parson, posting o'er the green,
With gown tuck'd up to wakes; for Sunday next,
With humming ale encouraging his text;
Nor wants the holy leer to country-girl betwixt.
From fiends and imps he sets the village free,
There haunts not any incubus but he.
The maids and women need no danger fear
To walk by night, and sanctity so near;
For by some haycock, or some shady thorn,
He bids his beads both even-song and morn.*



* The disappearance of the Fairies, which Chaucer ascribes to the exercitation of the friars, a later bard, in the same vein of irony, imputes to the Reformation :

By which we note the fairies,

Were of the old profession ;
Their songs were Ave Maries ;

Their dances were procession.

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