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Paris, in their disgust and despair, had almost broken off all negotiations with the French government; and they even endeavored to open communications with the British ministry. But the British government, elated with the first successes of Burgoyne, refused to listen to any overtures for accommodation. But when the news of Saratoga reached Paris the whole scene was changed. Franklin and his brother commissioners found all their difficulties with the French government vanish. The time seemed to have arrived for the house of Bourbon to take a full revenge for all its humiliations and losses in previous wars. In December a treaty was arranged, and formally signed in the February following, by which France acknowledged the Independent United States of America. This was, of course, tantamount to a declaration of war with England. Spain soon followed France; and, before long, Holland took the same course. Largely aided by French fleets and troops, the Americans vigorously maintained the war against the armies which England, in spite of her European foes, continued to send across the Atlantic. But the struggle was too unequal to be maintained by this country for many years; and when the treaties of 1783 restored peace to the world, the independence of the United States was reluctantly recognized by their ancient parent and recent enemy, England.
VERYONE wishes to know something of the first of the really great English writers, the one who has gained and richly deserves the title of Father of English Poetry, but the information we have about him is
vague and unsatisfactory. We know that he was born about the year 1340 in the city of London and lived in comparative ease. As a youth he studied in both Oxford and Cambridge and was a page in the house of one of the royal family. For a while he served with the army in France and was taken prisoner there. He was at one time Comptroller of the Port of London, at another was a member of Parliament, and in the course of his life he held a number of other important offices. He died in the year 1400 and was the first poet honored by burial in the “Poets' Corner" of Westminster Abbey. He was a stout and jovial man, with fine, soft eyes peering out of a bright face, and by his gracious manners he gained the warm friendship of most of the leading men of his time. To quote Lowell, “If character may be divined by works, he was a good man, genial, sincere, hearty, temperate of mind, more wise, perhaps, for this world than the next, but thoroughly human, and friendly with God and man."
His best writing was done between the years 1381 and 1389, during which time he wrote The
House of Fame, Legend of Good Women, and the best part of the Canterbury Tales. It is upon this last work that his fame chiefly rests.
The plan of the Canterbury Tales is as follows: Chaucer imagined that there met at the Tabard Inn in Southwark, England, about thirty people representing nearly all classes of society and types of men. Different as these persons were, they were united by one common interest: all were pilgrims to the tomb of Thomas à Becket at Canterbury. It was proposed that they should travel together, and to while away the time each person was to tell to the others two stories, one on the journey to the shrine and another while returning. The teller of the best tale was to be feasted by the others. Chaucer did not complete his work, and but two dozen of the stories now exist.
The best part of the Tales is the Prologue, in which Chaucer describes one by one the persons who make up his party. These descriptions are bright and keen and in them Chaucer shows marvelous power of penetration into character and has given us just such types of humanity as exist today. He has drawn them so perfectly that they are for all time. They seem like the people we know around us, for human nature is the same in all ages. The knight would be still a very perfect gentleman, and the manners of the nun would be as faultless now as they were in the fourteenth century. One of the finest characters is the parish priest. A good man was ther of religioun, And was a poure Persoun? of a toun;
1. Parson, the parish priest.
But riche he was of holy thought and werk.
2. A scholar educated in the University.
5. It was hateful for him to excommunicate any of his flock because they did not pay their tithes.
6. The voluntary contributions he received from his parishioners. 7. Income. 8. He did not stop. 9. Misfortune. 10. Great and small. 11. Ignorant. 12. Take heed.
The Canterbury Tales are written in heroic meter; that is, in rhymed couplets of iambic pentameter. But there are many irregularities ard inaccuracies in the meter; so many, in fact, that Chaucer has been mercilessly criticised for his careless verse. The better class of critics, however, give
13. He did not let his curacy to a stranger.
14. He did not run to London, to St. Paul's, where he could find a better paying employment in singing masses for souls, and be maintained by a brotherhood.