unknown. Gulliver in the next century, will be as obfcure as Garagantua; and Hudibras and the satire Menippeè cannot be read, without voluminous commentaries.

THE WIFE OF BATH, is the other piece of Chaucer which POPE selected to imitate: One cannot but wonder at his choice, which perhaps nothing but his youth could excufe. Dryden, who is known not to be nicely fcrupulous, informs us that he would not verfify it on account of its indecency. POPE however has omitted or foftened the groffer and more offenfive paffages. Chaucer afforded him many subjects of a more serious and fublime fpecies; and it were to be wished, POPE had exercised his pencil on the pathetic story of the patience of Grifilda, or Troilus and Creffida, or the complaint of the black knight; or, above all, on Cambuscan and Canace. From the accidental circumstance of Dryden and POPE's having copied the gay and ludicrous parts of Chaucer, the common notion feems to have arifen, that

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Chaucer's vein of poetry was chiefly turned to the light and the ridiculous *. But they who look into Chaucer, will foon be convinced of this prevailing prejudice, and will find his comic vein, like that of Shakespear, to be only like one of mercury, imperceptibly mingled with a mine of gold.

CHAUCER is highly extolled by Dryden, in the spirited and pleafing preface to his Fables; for his prefaces, after all, are very pleasing, notwithstanding the opposite opinions they contain, because his profe is the moft numerous and fweet, the most mellow and generous, of any our language has yet produced. His digreffions and ramblings, which he himself fays he learned of honeft Montaigne, are interefting and amufing. In this preface is a paffage worth particular notice, not only for the juftnefs of the criticism, but because it contains a cenfure

* Cowley is faid to have despised Chaucer. I am not furprized at this ftrange judgment Cowley was indif putably a Genius, but his tafte was perverted and narrowed. by a love of witticisms.



pf Cowley. "Chaucer is a perpetual fountain of good sense; learned in all sciences; and therefore speaks properly on all subjects: As he knew what to say, so he also knows where to leave off; a continence, which is practifed by few writers, and fcarcely by any of the ancients, excepting Virgil and Horace. One of our late great poets is funk in his reputation, because he could never forgive any Conceit that came in his way; but fwept, like a drag-net, great and small. There was plenty enough, but the dishes were ill-forted; whole pyramids of sweet-meats for boys and women; but little of folid meat, for men. All this proceeded not from any want of knowledge, but of judgment; neither did he want that, in difcerning the beauties and faults of other poets; but only indulged himself in the luxury of writing; and perhaps knew it was a fault, but hoped the reader would not find it. For this reason, though he must always be thought a great poet, he is no longer esteemed a good writer; and for ten impreffions which his works have had

in fo many fucceffive years, yet at present a hundred books are fcarcely purchased once a twelvemonth." It is a circumftance of literary history worth mentioning, that Chaucer was more than 60 years old when he wrote Palamon and Arcite, as we know Dryden was 70, when he verfified it. The lines of POPE, in the piece before us, are spirited and eafy, and have, properly enough, a free colloquial air. One paffage, I cannot forbear quoting, as it acquaints us with the writers who were popular in the time of Chaucer. The jocofe old woman says, that her husband frequently read to her out of a volume that contained,

Valerius whole; and of Saint Jerome part;
Chryfippus, and Tertullian, Ovid's art,
Solomon's proverbs, Eloifa's loves ;

With many more than fure the church approves *.

POPE has omitted a stroke of humour; for in the original, fhe naturally mistakes the rank and age of St. Jerome: the lines muft be transcribed.

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Yclepid Valerie and Theophraft,

At which boke he lough alwey full fast ;
And eke there was a clerk fometime in Rome,
A cardinal, that hightin St. Jerome,
That made a boke agenst Jovinian,
In which boke there was eke Tertullian,
Chryfippus, Trotula, and Helowis,
That was an Abbefs not ferr fro Paris,
And eke the Parables of Solomon,

Ovid' is art, and bokis many a one *.

In the library which Charles V. founded in France about the year thirteen hundred and seventy-fix, among many books of devotion, aftrology, chemistry and romance, there was not one copy of Tully to be found, and no Latin poet but Ovid, Lucan and Boethius; fome French tranflations of Livy, Valerius Maximus, and St. Auftin's City of God. He placed thefe in one of the towers of the old Louvre, which was called the tower of the library. This was the foundation of the prefent magnificent royal library at Paris,

THE tale to which this is the Prologue, has been verified by Dryden; and is fupVer. 671,


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