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A.D. 1359)

123 Queen, and the dead ladies were all carried over the sea for burial within a royal abbey. There, as the dead lay in state, a bright bird perched on the hearse of the Queen and sang three sweet songs. An old knight, by a sudden movement of his hand, startled the bird, which, in its haste to fly out, beat itselt dead against a painted window. Other birds gathered outside with noise of lament. One presently brought a green flowerless herb. The herb grew suddenly, flowered, and yielded seed. One of the seeds was put by a bird into the beak of the dead songster, who at once stood up and pruned himself. The abbess, with the other seeds, restored the dead Prince, Queen, and ladies to life. There was, three months after this, a marriage festival; and all, except the Poet, had been thus happily married, when, during a whole day, they besought of the Poet's Lady grace for him also. She yielded, and their marriage was to be that night. Then the happy poet was led by the host of the happy in joyous procession into a great tent that served for church, and there was solemn service, with rejoicing afterwards, of which the loud sound woke him from his dream. He was alone then, in the old forest lodge, where he had slept, and was lest in grief to pray that his Lady would give substance to his dreaming, or that he might go back into his dream and always serve her in the Isle of Pleasaunce. He ended his verse with a balade, bidding his innocent heart go forth to her who may “ give thee the bliss that thou desirest oft.”

This is one of the poems of which Chaucer's authorship has been denied. Of it, as of the “ Court of Love,” no early MS. has been found, and through the intervention of copyists it has not come to us just as it left Chaucer's hand. But, even as it stands, there is no strong case against its authenticity. Who else could have written it? Destructive criticism is not always right, and where it mainly rests upon opinon its utmost power should be to raise a doubt. If the poem was by Chaucer, and if it had any personal reference at all, it must have been written for the pleasure of Philippa, daughter of Sir Paon de Rouet, of Hainault, who was king-at-arms for the province of Guienne. This young lady was in the service of Philippa Queen of England, who also was of Hainault. Queen Philippa was the daughter of a Count of Hainault, and after her, following a common fashion of loyalty, the lady who became the wife of Chaucer seems to have been named.

18. Five months after John of Gaunt's marriage Chaucer

bore arms. Laurence Minot did not live to include among his war-poems a celebration of the Battle of Poitiers, fought in September, 1356. In May of the next year the Black Prince entered London in triumph, with John King of France his honoured guest and prisoner. France was distracted by the Jacquerie, bred of the utter misery and ruin of her peasantry, and by the contending factions of her nobles. • But the regency of France refused to endorse her captive king's assent to the hard conditions of peace offered by his conqueror, and at the end of October, 1359, Edward III. sailed again to France, with the largest and best army raised in England for more than a century. In the ranks of that army every able-bodied courtier must have been compelled to march. Geoffrey Chaucer was enrolled in it, and then he first bore arms.

Evidence of this fact is associated with a statement upon which those critics rely who do not accept the year 1328 as the date of Chaucer's birth, but hold that he was born many years later. There was in Chaucer's time a long suit, still famous in heraldic records, between Richard Lord Scrope, of Bolton, and Sir Robert Grosvenor, of Cheshire, as to the right of bearing certain arms; azure, a bend or. The Constable and Marshal of England pronounced, in 1390, a decision, with a saving clause which permitted the loser of the suit, in consideration of the goodness of his case, to bear the disputed arms within a bordure argent. This was disallowed by the king. Record remains that at one of the many sittings of the heralds to hear evidence upon this much ado about nothing, Geoffrey Chaucer was a witness. He gave his evidence on the 12th of October, 1386, when his age, if he died in 1400 at the age of seventy-two, was fifty. eight. But in the record of his evidence he is described as “ Geffray Chaucere, Esquier, del age de xl ans et plus, armeez par xxvij ans” (aged forty and more, and having borne arms for twenty-seven years). Here it will be observed that upon the point essential to the cause the record is exact. Chaucer was asked how long he had borne arms, and his answer is precisely entered, twenty-seven years. According to that reckoning 'his bearing of arms dated from 1359, and the evidence he proceeded to give on Scrope's behalf aid, in fact, go back to what he saw in the year 1359, when he was with Edward's army in Brittany, and before he was taken prisoner. But the Scrope and Grosvenor Roll is no safe authority for the age of " forty and more" assigned to Chaucer in October, 1386. Sir George Bryan was TO A.D. 1369) THE BOOK OF THE DUCHESS

125 entered as sixty "et pluis” when his age was over eighty. Sir Richard Bingham, aged sixty-six, was said to be fifty" et pluis." Sir Robert Marny is said to have been fifty-two (without any " pluis "), and first armed at the first relief of Stirling-that is to say, when he was two years old. Sir Bernard Brocas, when his age was really fifty-six, was put at forty, while the record adds that he was first armed at La Hogue, so that the Roll itself represents him as having gone to the wars when he was not yet one year old. John Schakel also, said to be forty-five in 1386, and to have been first armed in the year of the battle of Morlaix, must (if this record be decisive) have gone to the wars aged one.

19. The great army with which Geoffrey Chaucer marched, when he first bore arms in 1359, laid unsuccessful siege to Rheims, advanced on Paris, of which it burnt the suburbs, and there suffered famine so severe that it was forced to a retreat, hasty as flight, towards Brittany, leaving a track of dead upon its way. Over the 'suffering host then broke, near Chartres, a great storm, in which King Edward vowed to God and the Virgin that he would make peace. It was in Brittany that Chaucer became prisoner to the French. King Edward fulfilled his vow. The Peace of Bretigni was signed in May, 1360, and solemnly ratified at Calais in the following October. The peace would cause release of prisoners ; but nothing is known of Chaucer's lise for the next seven years. At the end of that time, in 1367, when he was thirty-nine years old, he was still attached to the king's household, and he received in that year a salary of twenty marks for life, or until he should be otherwise provided for, in consideration of his former and future services. The buying power of money changes with the course of time ; and Chaucer's twenty marks under Edward III. would be worth about £140 under Victoria.

20. In 1369 John of Gaunt lost his mother, his brother Lionei. and his wife. In service of her mistress, Queen Philippa, the Philippa to whom Chaucer was married had obtained, three years before the queen's death, a pension of ten marks. The death of John of Gaunt's wise, Duchess Blanche, in September, 1369, after ten years of marriage, was lamented by Chaucer in his Book of the Duchess, a court poem, in eight-syllabled rhyming verse, with the customary dream, May morning, and so forth, the romance figure of Emperor Octavian, from the tale of Charlemagne, and a chess play with Fortune imitated, almost translated, from a favourite passage of the “Roman de la Rose.” Thus far a follower of

the court fashions, Chaucer is in this poem himself a celebrater of that home delight of love over which Alcestis was queen under Venus. It is faithful wedded love that the “ Book of the Duchess" honours. We have here also the individual portrait of a gentlewoman who had been the poet's friend, and in whom he had seen a pattern of pure womanly grace and wifely worth. The Duchess Blanche left one son, about three years old, who became King Henry IV. To him, in his childhood, Chaucer must have been familiar as his father's household friend, and, doubtless, often welcome as a playfellow.

21. In the spring and summer of 1370 Chaucer was abroad on the King's service. In 1370 John of Gaunt married again. Enriched by the inheritance of his first wife, he had become, after her father's death in the Plague of 1361, the greatest landowner in England, with estates in eighteen English counties, besides several in Wales, and the most beautiful of English palaces, that of the Savoy, which his late father-in-law had rebuilt from the ground. Then he was made Duke of Lancaster, was Earl also of Richmond, Leicester, Lincoln, and Derby. By right of his second wife he claimed new dignity, and called himself a king. Pedro the Cruel, whom the Black Prince, at the cost of his own health and life, replaced on the throne of Castile and Leon, had been unable to retain it. He was assassinated. His throne was usurped; but he left two daughters in Aquitaine, the elder of whom, Constance, was his lawful heir. Her John of Gaunt married, and at once called himself, as her husband, King of Castile and Leon. His brother Edmund secured at the same time the reversion of this chance of a throne by marrying Isabel, the other daughter of King Pedro. Chaucer and his wife were both in the service of the titular King and Queen of Castile. Of Castile and Leon, John of Gaunt had the title of a king without the rule ; but of England, he obtained the rule without the royal title, and while this power of his lasted his goodwill made Chaucer prosperous.

In November, 1372, Chaucer-henceforth entitled an esquire -was made one of a Commission that was to proceed to Italy and treat with the duke, citizens, and merchants of Genoa for the choice of some port on the English coast at which the Genoese might establish a commercial factory. Upon such business he was in Italy, both at Florence and Genoa, in the year 1373. This was a year before the death of Petrarch : the year also in which Petrarch wrote that moralised Latin version


127 of Boccaccio's tale of Griselda, which was afterwards followed by Chaucer in his “ Clerk's Taie," and of which he made his Clerk say that it was“ learned at Padua of a worthy clerk ... Francis Petrarch, the laureate poet." Chaucer is likely to have sought speech with so great a master of his art. He might also, during this visit to Italy, have spoken with Boccaccio, then living at Venice, and within but two years of his death, for Petrarch died in 1374, Boccaccio in 1375. Our own poet was home again at the close of November, 1373, and was paid for his service and expenses £92, which would be worth more than £900 in present value. In April of the next year, 1374, on St. George's Day, a grant was made to Chaucer of a daily pitcher of wine from the hands of the king's butler. This he received till the accession of Richard II., when, instead of the wine, twenty marks a year were paid as its money value. Less than two months after the grant of daily wine, Chaucer owed also to John of Gaunt's goodwill a place under Government as Comptroller of the Customs and Subsidy of Wool, Skins, and Tanned Hides in the port of London. The rolls of his office were to be written with his own hand, and none of his duties might be done by deputy. Only three days after he had been enriched with this appointment, John of Gaunt made in his own name a personal grant to Chaucer of £10 (represented now by £100) a year for life, payable at the manor of Savoy, in consideration of good service rendered by Chaucer and his wife Philippa to the said duke, to his consort, and to his mother the queen. In November of the following year, 1375, Chaucer received, from the crown, custody of a rich ward, Edmund Staplegate, of Kent; and this wardship brought him a marriage fee of £104, represented now by ten times that amount. Two months later Chaucer obtained another wardship of less value ; and in another half-year he was presented with the fine paid by an evader of wool duties, a gift worth more than £700 of our money.

22. This was just after the death of the Black Prince, who had used some of his last remaining strength in opposition to his father's government as wielded by his brother John. He had been in opposition, partly because he shared the popular dislike of the court party, and resented his father's vassalage to Alice Perrers, partly because he felt the interests of his son Richard to be crossed by the ambition of his brother John. The foreign wars had been costly and disastrous, the people had made John of Gaunt answerable for England's failure and distress. A Par

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