Until a short while ago Chaucer's work was viewed and judged from the perspective of the Canterbury Tales. These have appealed most to the modern reader; with their humour and realism they seemed almost to be speaking, 'our own language", and they could be understood and relished even by readers not versed in literary history. Indeed, the Canterbury Tales stand out from among the rest of English medieval literature as a remarkably modern work. A good deal of what is considered ‘modern' in the Canterbury Tales is, to be sure, based upon faulty interpretation; yet the past three centuries have produced much evidence1 that this quality of ‘modernity" is precisely what has determined the value and the place which the Canterbury Tales hold in English literature. Furthermore, this same criterion has affected our judgment of Chaucer's early poetry;2 for even up till quite recently his early poems have been thought of not so much as possessing a value and a discipline of their own, but rather as representing a transitional stage, a preliminary step towards the Canterbury Tales. Such a point of view, however, was bound to overlook much; for it involves succumbing to the bias of noticing and praising in the first place whatever seems to foreshadow the Canterbury Tales.