15 Pages

The Ambassador

ALTHOUGH we have nothing important dating from before his thirtieth year, we know from Chaucer's own words that he wrote many It Balades, Roundels, and Virelays" which are now lost; or, as he puts it in his last rueful Retractation, It many a song and many a lecherous lay." These were no doubt fugitive pieces, often written for different friends or patrons, and put abroad in their names. Besides these, we know that he translated certain religious works, including the famous It Misery of Human Life" of Pope Innocent the Third. Piety and Profanity, prayers and curses, jostle each other in Chaucer's early life as in the society round him: we may think of his own Shipman, thoroughly orthodox after his simple fashion, but silencing the too Puritanical parson with a rattling oath at close range, and proceeding to It clynken so mery a belle" that we feel a sort of treachery in pausing to wonder how such a festive tale could be brought forth for a company of pilgrims as a pill to purge heterodoxy!