The Battalion. (College Station, Tex.) 1893-current, December 01, 1893, Image 4

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appeared. For, art has this advantage
over science : It creates form, and its
creation remains unchanged. The soul
of the artist has passed into it, and looks
forth from it forever beautiful.
It is not going too far to say that
Chaucer was the first among poets to
study differences of character, and note
them with accurate and discreet touches
of portraiture. Emphatically a realist
in art, however gracefully bedewed his
spirit may have been with the morning
freshness of the ideal, he painted in his
really original works the life of the age,
selecting with exquisite judgment from
all he saw around him the most striking
and noteworthy objects.
Although two hundred years in ad
vance of the Elizabethan Age, he is—in
virtue of his human pictures, at once re
cognized by the mind as true individuals,
and at the same time admirable types of
the varieties in humanity—almost an
Elizabethan poet. Certainly he is nearer
to the dramatists of that age in spirit,
and even in language, than the writers
of the preceding or those of the suc
ceeding ages.
The Canterbury Tales—and especially
the Prologue—are written with the care
ful thought and firm, foreknowing labor
of a great artist. Unfortunately for us,
it was the work, and the unfinished
work, of his old age, written in that
short period of restored prosperity which
he was permitted to enjoy. He had been
a favored courtier, employed in numer
ous and important missions, and allied
by marriage, it seems, to the Lancastrian
prince, Great John of Gaunt. He had
fallen suddenly from court favor, and
had been for a time poor and desolate.
These facts make the sunny temper in
which he composed his cha/ming Tales
creditable to him as man and poet.
But, could he have lived to complete
his great work and to write other poems,
after having won consciousness of his
real powers, how great would have been
our debt to him ! For, here, as in so
many other cases, the old paradox proves
true ; the part is greater than the whole.
He had just attained ripeness. Almost
all his earlier work was a sort of training
in his art. The chains of an age of imi
tation, of a language which he had to
shape for himself, and of a people who
had as yet developed no literary skill,
had fettered him too heavily to allow his
passing out at once into the free air of
his own happy invention. Much of his
earlier work v r as in the way of transla
tion, with more or less of parahprase, as
when he turned the famous Romance of
the Rose into English verse. Still, even
in this sort of work, he did inestimable
service to the language.
We all know what a different fortune
the English language had from that of
the other tongues that sprang up in the
Teutonic States of Europe ; how, while
those of the South and the West became
to a great extent modified forms of Latin,
and the dialects of the heart of the con
tinent remained in the main Teutonic,
inflected English underwent less change
than any, until the Norman-French earner-
to cover it out of sight for a time. W<?
all know how great was the change
when it did at last emerge, and how the
forced marriage of the two speeches pro
duced what might almost be called a new
tongue. It is all very well to talk of
the vigorous Saxon speech ; but we owe
a great debt to those other Teutons who
went first to a Romance-speaking country,
before their splendid exploit of master
ing the land of their Low-German