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EDITED BY

W. J. LINTON AND R. H. STODDARD

CHAUCER TO BURNS

NEW YORK
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

1883

HARVARD
UNIVERSITY

LIBRARY
JAN 26 1959

COPYRIGHT, 1883, BY
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

Trow's
PRINTING AND BOOKBINDING COMPANY
201-213 East Twelfth Street

NEW YORK

INTRODUCTION.

The origins of English Verse are to be sought in various directions, recondite as well as obvious; for while there is no difficulty in following it from Chaucer down, we must remember that when it reached Chaucer it was not a rill but a river,-a river whose volume had been increased by many affluents, each with a spring or well-head of its own. The first singers were the minstrels, or glee-men, who chanted at feasts and festivals and accompanied themselves on the harp. Who they were and what they sung we have to conjecture, for their names and their songs have alike perished. We only know that their profession was a recognized one, and that grave dignitaries of the Church thought it an honor to be skilled therein. The first poet whose name has reached us is Cædmon. There is a touch of the marvellous in his story as it is related by Bede, and a touch of the romantic as it is related by Morley. What appears to be authentic in it is that he lived in the seventh century, and was a tenant on some abbey lands at Whitby. He was so much less instructed than his equals, Wright tells us, that he had not even learned any poetry, and when the harp was

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