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The tales that follow the “ Prologue”. the whole number was never completed -- are admirably adapted to the character of the narrators. They include the whole circle of mediæval literature, — the romance of chivalry, the legends of saints, the apologue and allegorical story, the theological treatise, and the coarse tale of immorality and cunning. The tales are told with ease, rapidity, and grace. They abound in humor and pathos; and among all the works composed on the same general plan, the
Canterbury Tales " is greatest.
ADDENDUM ON CHAUCER'S DICTION AND
The language of Chaucer exhibits the fusion of Teutonic and French elements. Dropping most of the Anglo-Saxon inflections, it passes from a synthetic to an analytic condition, in which the relations of words are expressed, not by different terminations, but by separate words. It is essentially modern, but the following peculiarities are to be noted. The plural of nouns is usually formed by the ending es, which is pronounced as a distinct syllable; but in words of more than one syllable, the ending is s. Instead of es, we sometimes meet with is and us. Some nouns which originally ended in an have en or n; as, asschen, ashes; been, bees; eyen, eyes. The possessive or genitive case, singular and plural, is usually formed by adding es; as, his lordes werre (wars); foxes tales. But en is sometimes used in the plural; as, his eyen sight. The dative case singular ends in e; as, holte, bedde. The adjective is inflected. After demonstrative and possessive adjectives and the definite article the adjective takes the ending e; as, the yonge sonne; his halfe cours. But in adjectives of more than one syllable this e is usually dropped. The plural of adjectives is formed by adding e; as, smale fowles. But adjectives of more than one syllable, and all adjectives in the predicate, omit the e.
The comparative is formed by the addition of er, though the Anglo-Saxon form re is found in a few words; as, derre, dearer; ferre, farther. The personal pronouns are as follows:
thou (thow, tow)
The present indicative plural of verbs ends in en or e; as, we loven or love. The infinitive ends in en or e; as, speken, speke, to speak. The present participle usually ends in yng or ynge. The past participle of strong verbs ends in en or e, and (as well as the past participle of weak verbs) is often preceded by the prefix y or i, answering to the Anglo-Saxon and modern German ge; as, ironne, yclept. The following negative forms deserve attention : nam, am not; nys, is not; nas, was not; nere, were not; nath, hath not; nadde, had not; nylle, will not; nolde, would not; nat, not, noot, knows not. Adverbs are formed from adjectives by adding e; as, brighte, brightly; deepe, deeply.
The vowel sounds are closely akin to French and German. · They may be indicated as follows: a long = a in father; a short = a in aha. E long
= a in date; e short = e in bed. I long = ee in sleep; i short i in pin. O long = o in note; o short = o in not. U long
French u or German ü; n short = u in full. Ai, ei ei in veil. Au, aw = ow in now. Ou, ow = ou in tour.
VERSIFICATION. — The prevailing metre in the “Canterbury Tales” is iambic pentameter in rhyming couplets. Occasionally there are eleven syllables in a line, and sometimes only nine. Short, unemphatic syllables are often slurred over; as,
“Sche gad | ereth flour | es par | ty white / and rede.” Words from the French usually retain their native pronunciation; that is, are accented on the last syllable. Final e is usually sounded as a distinct syllable except before h, a following vowel, in the personal pronouns oure, youre, hire, here, and in many polysyllables. The ed of the past indicative and past participle, and the es of the plural and of the genitive, form separate syllables.
In exemplification of the foregoing rules, the opening lines of the “ Prologue” are here divided into their component iambics :
“Whan that | April | le, with | his schow | res swoote
The drought | of Marche | hath per | ced to the roote,
Whan Ze | phirus | eek with his swe | te breethe
FIRST CREATIVE PERIOD.
PRE-ELIZABETHAN. William Caxton (1422-1491). First English printer, edited and printed ninety-nine works.
Sir Thomas More (1478–1535). Lord Chancellor, author of “Utopia" (1516) and “ History of King Edward V.” (1513).
Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1517-1547). Poet who introduced blank verse and the sonnet into English poetry.
Sir Thomas Wyat (1503-1542). Poet, satirist, sonneteer, strictly following Italian models.
ELIZABETHAN PROSE. -Roger Ascham (1515-1568). Tutor to Queen Elizabeth, author of “ Toxophilus” (1545) and the “Scholemaster" (1570).
John Lyly (1553-1606). Author of " Euphues" (1580), and dramatist.
Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586). Author of “ Arcadia" (1590) and “ The Defense of Poesie" (1595).
Richard Hooker (1553-1600). Clergyman, and author of “ Ecclesiastical Polity" (1592).
Sir Walter Raleigh (1552–1618). Soldier, sailor, courtier, statesman, historian, poet. Author of “Discovery of Guiana" (1596) and “ History of the World" (1614).
POETRY. Thomas Sackville, Earl of Dorset (1536-1608). Author of “ Mirror for Magistrates” (1563) and of first English tragedy, “Gorboduc,” acted before Queen Elizabeth at Whitehall in 1561.
Samuel Daniel (1562-1619). Author of “ Civil Wars ” (1595-1604), a poetical history of the Wars of the Roses.
Michael Drayton (1563-1631). Author of "Polyolbion " (16131622), a poem in thirty books descriptive of the topography of England.