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Bu it were any persone obstinat,
To obviate the difficulties arising from this source, various attempts have been made to translate Chaucer into modern English. The portions modernized by Pope and Dryden are indeed splendid pieces of com. position, worthy of the distinguished fame of their authors, but cannot be looked upon as the poems of Chaucer; not only the diction being wholly original, but in many instances the ideas being new. Several similar essays by inferior hands are still more objectionable. The most successful attempt to modernize Chaucer is that made by Wordsworth, Leigh Hunt, R. H. Horne, and others, in 1841. In this work, the spelling is modernized almost entirely, and a few of the obsolete words are replaced by others of kindred meaning now in use. Such other changes are also made in the verse as are rendered necessary by those just named, in order, under the new spelling, to maintain the metre and the rhyme. In this work we have, not imitations of Chaucer, nor even translations, but Chaucer himself, modernized indeed so far as to be intelligible to the common reader, but still retaining all his venerable simplicity, all his exquisite touches of nature, all his quiet humour, all his sweetness, truth, and unaffected pathos The specimens given in the present compilation are from the edition just describeil.
They comprise the most of the Prologue to the Tales, and contain a pleasing and instructive picture of the state of manners aniong our ancestors five hundred years ago.
THE CANTERBURY TALES.
WHEN that sweet April showers with downward shoot
It fell, within that season on a day
Ready to wend upon my pilgrim route
And shortly when the sun was gone to rest,
A KNIGHT there was, and that a worthy man,
At Alexandria was he when 't was won. Full oft the wassail board he had begun, Above the bravest warriors out of Prusse; In Lithuania had he serv'd, and Russe; No Christian man so oft of his degree. At Algeziras, in Granada, he Had join'd the siege; and ridden in Belmarie: At Layas was he, and at Satalie When they were won; and, borne on the Great Sea, At many a noble fight of ships was he. In mortal battles had he been fifteen, And fought for our true faith, at Tramissené, In the lists thrice-and always slain his foe. And this same worthy Knight had been alsó In Anatolia sometime with a lord, Fighting against the foes of God his word; And evermore he won a sovereign prize. Though thus at all times honour'd, he was wise, And of his port as meek as is a maid. He never yet a word discourteous said In all his life to any mortal wight: He was a very perfect gentle knight.
But for to tell you of his staid array, His horse was good, albeit he was not gay. He wore a fustian cassock, short and plain, All smutch'd with rust from coat of mail, and rain. For he was late return'd; and he was sage, And cared for nought but his good pilgrimage.
His son, a young SQUIRE, with him there I saw; A lover and a lusty bachelor; With locks crisp curl'd, as they'd been laid in press: Of twenty years of age he was, I guess.
He was in stature of the common length,
Embroider'd was he, as it were a mead
gown, with sleeves right long and wide;
Courteous he was, modest and serviceable, And cary'd before his father at the table.
A YEOMAN had he; and no page beside: It pleased him, on this journey, thus to ride; And he was clad in coat and hood of green. A sheaf of peacock arrows, bright and keen, Under his belt he bare full thriftily: Well could he dress his tackle yeomanly; His arrows droopéd not with feathers low; And in his hand he bare a mighty bow. His head was like a nut, with visage brown. Of wood-craft all the ways to him were knows. An arm-brace wore he that was rich and broad, And by his side a buckler and a sword; While on the other side a dagger rare Well sheathed was hung, and on his breast he bare