23 Jan 2019

MA English Part.1 Classical Poetry Paper.1 Punjab University Chaucer s' Humanism

Chaucer s’ Humanism
Write A Note on Chaucer s’ Humanism
Answer: Chaucer was the first poet and social reformer in English literature who revealed the truth about life as he saw it. Chaucer was the first English poet who did not follow the heroic and alliterative verse. He brought a fresh wind into the mansion of English Poetry.

Chaucer is the representative poet of England of the fourteenth century, but be is also one of England's representative poets of all time. "He is the evening star of the medieval day and the Morning star of the Renaissance”, Says Mathew Arnold.

He is rightly called the Father of modern English Poetry. Chaucer's work can be divided into three periods, French, Italian and English. During the English period he wrote, "The Canterbury Tales" , his greatest poetic achievement. The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories related by the pilgrims. It still appeals the modern readers.

Chaucer is the first painter and creator of characters in English Literature. He observed life very minutely during his career as a diplomat, soldier, controller of customs and courtier. That is why his characters are real and life like. Realism is the very basis and foundation of his art of characterization. He has chosen his characters from every walk of life.
The knight with his son, the squire and the Yeoman represents the War-like elements. The Doctors of Physic, The man of Law, and The Clerk of Oxford give us the glimpses of the liberal profession. Commerce is represented by the Merchant and the Shaman. The agricultural classes are represented by a Ploughman, a Miller, a Reeve, and a Franklin. Chaucer's pilgrims talk of "their purse, their love affairs or their private feuds.

This is the typical vision of the common people which is realistically presented by Chaucer. Chaucer also employs the technique of contrast to deepen the vividness of his characters. He compares two portraits having different and contrasted features and qualities. For example, the very first character of the Knight is quiet opposite to his lustful son, The Squire, in the same way; the oxford Clerk is quite different from The Monk.

Chaucer has breathed the spirit of the Renaissance to a large extent thought he is born in middle Ages. Therefore he gives individual traits to his different characters along with certain typical characters.

In his characterization, as in other fields of poetry, we find a happy blend of the medieval and modern elements. His characters are universal.
All the pilgrims are so vividly drawn that they create a permanent impression on our memory. The detail of their physical appearance, their social status and characters are so artistically presented that the whole of man and women come alive before our eyes.
The different pilgrims in the Canterbury tales represent different professions. Like Shakespeare Chaucer's characters are three dimensional i.e. having length breathed and depth. Chaucer's art of characterization is much like a novelist and dramatist.
Indeed his art of characterization is superb and he made "The Prologue" a wonderful picture gallery. He was deeply interested in all aspects of life and wanted to drink the cup of life to its very dregs.

Geoffrey Chaucer lived at a time when first seeds of Renaissance were germinating in Italy. Humanism was a gift of Renaissance. Chaucer is the first poet who described human characters in his poetry in a lovely and delicate manner. Into this reading his knowledge, his heart is full of the milk of human kindness.

He observes every man and women whether he or she is good or bad natured. Even he embraces rascals and rogues with cheerfulness, and we find no sign of displeasure. Throughout" The Prologue" we see that his mission or slogan is "Love for all, hatred for none.”He does not touch the stage of exaggeration when he satirizes their weakness or short comings.

The Prologue gives us a vivid picture of the church. Chaucer is aware of the weaknesses of the churchmen, their love of money, corruption, and materialism. The Monk, The Friar, The Summoned, The Pardoner , and the Prioress are the examples of the corrupt clergy.

Evil is also satirized or ridiculed by him. As we see in the Shipman's portrait.

Chaucer is an eminent humorist .A humorist is a great humanist, because he loves mankind in spite of its follies and weaknesses. Even while gently unmakes the roguery of the knaves and fools. He feels grateful to them as they give him pleasure. Even his satire is in the form of tender shafts of irony which neither hurt nor destroy, Chaucer may be regarded as the first great English great Humorist. He has catholicity and tolerance of spirit which save it from slipping into satire.
In the Canterbury Tales some of the facts are quite trivial in themselves but become amusing, e. g .the hat of the wife of bath weighing 10 1bs, the Reeve's thin legs, the Franklin's weakness for sharp sauce etc.
Chaucer's work reflects all forms and shades of humor.
His humor is natural and spontaneous.
Tolerance, indulgence and capacity for enjoying life are thus the main springs of Chaucer's humor, his skill, in narrative and characterization is mingled with his surpassing gift of many sided humor.

Now we take very brief glimpses of some portraits.
The knight is an embodiment of the chivalric code of medieval knighthood. He grips our attention as be stands at the entrance to the gallery.
Chaucer says at the start of his portrait:
"To riden out , he loved chivalrie,
Trouthe and honour , freedom and curteisie"
Chaucer describes the portrait of the young squire who is the son of the knight .
"Syngynge he was, or floytynge , al the day;
Hw was as fressh as is the monthe of May."
Chaucer seems to us quenching the thirst of love by the means of humor, mild irony satire and funny remarks. He wants to makes us laugh. He humorous remarks are expressed through his similes, as in the Clerk's portrait,
As leene was his hors as is a rake,
And he nas not right fat , I undertake"
The same situation we find with the Monk, he says;
"His heed was balled that shoon as any glas,"
Evil is also satirized or ridiculed by him. As we see in
The Shipman's portiart;
"Ful many a draught of wyn hadde he y-drawe
Fro Burdeux- ward , whil that the chapman sleepe"
Here thought Shipmans's activity is a revealing evil because he knows that sin should be after all, he is human being.

His love of God is unconsciously revealed by him in the portrait of the Plough man,
"God loved he best , with al his hole herte"
Being a psychologist and lover of the human beings, Chaucer also observes every inch of the personality of his characters. His keen observation is present in every portrait.
In the Wife of Bath's portraits , he says:
"She was a worthy woman al hir lyve,
Housbondes at chriche dore she hadde fyve"
In the portrait of the prioress he says:
She was so charitable and so pitous
She wolde wepe, if that she saugh a mous"
   Chaucer's description of the Prioress and the Wife of Bath throws a flood light on the upper class womanhood of England of the fourteenth century.
In short like Pope and Tennyson, Chaucer also painted the life of his time in in his poetry. He takes interest in this world and in this life. His poetry expresses an essentially modern attitude towards life.

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