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we are ftruck by the uncommon ease and readiness of the verfe, the fuitableness of the expreffions, and the fpirit and happiness of the whole.
I think Dr. Warton injudiciously cenfures the verfe, which appears to me to be very fuitably employed.
Pope has introduced triplets in many places, no doubt for greater effect, which they certainly have. There is generally two together, ended with an Alexandrine; this is common in Dryden's fables, on which Pope evidently formed his ftyle in thefe narrative pieces.
When I say that Dr. Warton injudiciously objects to the verfe, it should be remembered that there is a mock-elevation in the speeches, defcriptions, &c. of this ftory, (and even Poetry in the fairy revels,) for which the versfification Pope has chosen is more proper, than it would be, for Prior's burlesque, and lefs poetical, ribaldry.
The mixture of claffical and gothic imagery, such as Chaucer uses, in making Pluto and Proferpine (instead of spirits, like Oberon and Titania) the king and queen of the yellow-skirted Fays," is very common in our early Poets, who derived the combination from the old romances, and Ovid. Jafon and Hercules, in Lydgate, are received with all the honours of the old Knights of Chivalry, at the Caftle of the King of Colchis: "This mighty man Jason
Affigned was by the King anon,
For to fettle at his own borde,
And Hercules, that was fo great a Lord,
Was fette alfo by his fide.”.
But the most curious affemblage of diffimilar imagery is, where the fairies are introduced in Milton to attend the Perfonages of Ariftotle's ten Categories:
"Good luck befriend thee, Son, for at thy birth,
See Warton's Milton, p. 312.
HE Wife of Bath is the other piece of Chaucer which Pope felected 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 verify it on account of its indecency. Pope, however, has omitted or foftened the groffer and more offenfive paffages. Chaucer afforded him many fubjects of a more fublime and ferious fpecies; and it were to be wifhed 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 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.
Mr. Hughes withdrew his contributions to a volume of Mifcellaneous Poems, published by Steel, because this prologue was to be inferted in it.
"The want of a few lines," fays Mr. Tyrwhitt, "to introduce The Wife of Bath's Prologue, is perhaps one of thofe defects which Chaucer would have fupplied, if he had lived to finish his work. The extraordinary length of it, as well as the vein of pleasantry that runs through it, is very fuitable to the character of the speaker. The greatest part must have been of Chaucer's own invention, though one may plainly see that he had been reading the popular invectives against marriage and women in general; fuch as the Roman de la Rofe, Valerius ad Rufinum de non ducendâ uxore, and particularly Hyeronymus contra Jovi. nianum. The holy Father, by way of recommending celibacy, has exerted all his learning and eloquence (and he certainly was not deficient in either) to collect together and aggravate whatever he could
could find to the prejudice of the female fex. Among other things he has inferted his own tranflation (probably) of a long extract from what he calls, Liber aureolus Theophrafti de nuptiis. Next to him in order of time was the treatife, entitled, Epiftola Valerii ad Rufinum de non ducendâ uxore, ns. Reg. 12. D. iii. It has been printed (for the fimilarity of its fentiments I suppose) among the works of St. Jerome, though it is evidently of a much later date. Tanner (from Wood's MSS. Collection) attributes it to Walter Map. (Bib. Brit. v. Map.) I should not believe it to be older; as John of Salisbury, who has treated of the fame subject in his Polycrat. 1. viii. c. xi., does not appear to have feen it. To thefe two books Jean de Meun has been obliged for fome of the fevereft ftrokes in his Roman de la Rose; and Chaucer has tranf fufed the quinteffence of all the three works (upon the subject of matrimony) into his Wife of Bath's Prologue and Merchant's Tale," WARTON