The Book of the Duchess
DOI link for The Book of the Duchess
The Book of the Duchess book
Chaucer's early work does not spring from some particular inner experience discernible to us in his poems, but rather from an awareness that the poetic equipment at his command fell short of the forms and techniques displayed by French poetry of the period. For Chaucer's early work is addressed to a courtly audience, one to whom so far French rather than English poetry offered an appropriate stock of forms and expressions. If Chaucer was to succeed with his poetry, which in part recalled real occurrences among this courtly society and in part was no doubt commissioned by the court circle, he had to make the style and form of French poetry come alive within the English idiom. The ‘influence' which contemporary French poetry, in particular that of Machaut, exerted upon Chaucer is therefore naturally very marked. But, as we have recently been reminded,1 there was a more extensive influence behind this contemporary one, namely that of the great French poetry of the twelfth century, culminating in Chretien de Troyes. For Chaucer's ver bal resources, the variety and range in the methods of presen tation he chooses, and the rich expressiveness of his style, are evidences that his reading had been extended beyond such restricted and uniform models as Machaut or Froissart. But although we can assume this influence as a ‘formative element', it is virtually impossible to particularize it, to point to specific borrowings and exact parallels. Yet Machaut's influence and that of his contemporaries as far back as the Roman de la Rose is tangible and can be exemplified.