3/17/2019

Geoffrey Chaucer as a representative poet of his age.


Geoffrey Chaucer is the representative poet of his age. He is  often called the father of English poetry, His contribution to English
literature and language is epoch-making. He is considered to be the  greatest poet among other literary artists before William Shakespeare. He is the first poet introducing modern note into English literature. Edward Albert regards Chaucer as the earliest of the great moderns. But Chaucer is not modern in the true sense of the term. He is indeed a medieval poet. Medieval spirit is evident in his works. He belongs to the medieval world in terms of spirit and action. His poetical works fully represents the various aspects of
medieval life. He was associated with many occupations during his lifetime. He was well acquainted with medieval life. He earned numerous experiences. He expressed these aspects in his literary art. In this respect, he is greater than his contemporaries, John Gower
and William Langland. He has  surpassed them in range and variety in poetry. So he is the first national and representative poet of England.

We can divide the literary career of Chaucer into three main phases. They are
1/ The French Period,
2/ The Italian Period
3/ The English Period.

Chaucer rejects the Anglo-Saxon French poetry of his time. His poems of the French group are modelled upon the French originals. They are mostly translations in clumsy and
unformed English. "The Romaunt of the Rose" is one of the most notable of them. It is a lengthy allegorical poem based on "Roman de la Rose". He follows the style of Jean de Meung in this poem. His sense of humour is obvious here. He was greatly influenced by the
Italian poets, Petrarch, Boccaccio and Dante. In the second phase his poetic career, he rises above translation to imitation. His chie
poems of this period are “Troilus and Criseyde”, “The House of Fame", "The Parliament of Fowls", "The Legend of Good Women", “The Story of Grieselda" and "Anelida and Arcite”.

“Troilus and Criseyde” is probably the finest complete work of the poet. In this poem, Chaucer is half-Italian and half-English. It is written in stanzas of Rime Royal. Rime Royal is a form of stanza which has seven iambic pentameter lines rhyming ab ab bcc. In this poem, the poet shows that Troilus is the son of king Priam and the prince of Troy. He does not like the woman sex but falls in love with
the most beautiful woman, Cressida. Cressida who is the daughter to Calchas also loves him. Bul this young widow does not keep her
word and marries other. Chaucer represents Pandarus as her uncle but in fact he is the brother of Cressida. His profound sense of wit
and humour is clearly marked in this poem. His treatment of humour is expressed in the presentation of situation and character. Pandarus is a great humorous character. He seems to be Sir John Falstaff of Shakespeare, Chaucer does not distort his characters in order to produce a humorous effect. In this respect, he is in contrast another English humorist, Charles Dickens.

In the third phase of Chaucer's poetic career, “The Canterbury Tales” is the crowning achievement. It is the merit of his complete wisdom. It is an original work. It is English thorough and thorough. The “Tales" is suffused with the English air. The general idea of this collection of tales is derived from Boccaccio's Decameron. Chaucer
improves upon Boccaccio and gives English Character to the frame work. He has characterised different types of characters in these tales. What he paints is derived from real life. In this respect, Emile Legouis says, "It is more than a literary innovation. It is a change of mental attitude. Poetry turned with tolerant curiosity to the study of man and manners. For the first time, the relation between in and ideas is clearly realised”.

“The Canterbury Tales” is not only Chaucer's masterpiece but also the high point of all English medieval literature. It displays his
superb sense of wit and humour. It is an outcome of his delightful sense of comedy. It is a presentation of the real picture of the English social life of the fourteenth century. It is also a wonderful document of the comedy of human life. It is a perfect example of his skill in story-telling. It is lyrical and allegorical. Chaucer shows his power in thought and imagination in this poem. His other allegories have also a much broader canvas and greater impact. They are not merely moral but social too. His greatness in characterisation is evident in “The Canterbury Tales”.

Versification is skilful in the poetry of Chaucer. It is highly praiseworthy. It is highly illustrative in his medievalism. In his technica pattern, Chaucer shows his mastery. In this regard, he
represents his age. He nicely handles octosyllabic lines in his poetry. He innovates this form of writing. He introduces heroic and blank verse in English poetry. The use of rhyme royal and ten-syllable line is his great contribution. Satire, irony and sense of wit and humour come spontaneously in his poetry for the first time. Realism and modernity in his poetry are found to a great extent. Moreover, Chaucer is able to represent himself as a poet of man. His  contemporaries were unable to uphold them like him. This is proved when we study the poetry of John Gower and William Langland.

In conclusion, we can say that John Gower is representative poet of his age like Geoffrey Chaucer. He begins to write Latin and French verses. Afterwards, he switches on to English, "King's English" probably under the influence of Chaucer. He has written following three poems, "Speculum Meditantis" (in French), "Vox Clamantis" (in Latin) and Confessio Amantis" (in English). But he is more of a moralist than a poet. On the other hand,
William Langland is also one of the best-known poets in the time of Chaucer. He is famous for great poetical work, "The Vision of Piers, the Plowman." This is his greatest allegory. It is his only important writing too. Actually, the poetical works of both Gower and Langland are allegorical and moral. They are not technically as good as the poetry of Chaucer. Chaucer is the sun of the Middle English Period (1066-1500). He gives heat and light on other poets of his own age and the time onwards. So he is undoubtedly the
reprehensive poet of his age like Alfred Tennyson, John Milton and John Dryden.

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