By Peter Brown
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Additional info for A companion to Chaucer
This statement of despair about the father ﬁgure who pre-empts the opportunities of his literary heirs, barring their way to independence and innovation by the lock of his prevenient genius, also asserts Chaucer’s gift to the speakers of ‘oure tunge’, for whom he provides the key of expression (Brewer 1978: i, 73). In this period Chaucer is repeatedly ﬁgured as the poet of new beginnings, of potency and life. In The Life of Our Lady, Lydgate describes Chaucer as the one who ﬁrst made ‘to distille and rayne / The golde dewe dropes of speche and eloquence / Into our tunge, thurgh his excellence / And fonde the ﬂoures, ﬁrste of Retoryke, / Our Rude speche, only to enluymyne’ (Brewer 1978: i, 46).
1998) Who Is Buried in Chaucer’s Tomb? : Michigan State University Press). A provocative and somewhat polemical book that raises many questions about the tradition of editing Chaucer and the principles on which modern editions have been based. Donaldson, E. Talbot (1954) ‘Chaucer the pilgrim’, Proceedings of the Modern Language Association 69, 928–36; repr. in Speaking of Chaucer (London: Athlone; New York: Norton, 1970), 1–12. In distinguishing Chaucer the poet from Chaucer the pilgrim–narrator, Donaldson opened the way for multiple new critical readings of the irony produced by the simultaneous naïveté of the pilgrim and the moral judgement of the author in the pilgrim portraits of the General Prologue.
He is pictured as simultaneously writing within and standing outside of the language he used. In an image that several Renaissance critics later recall, John Lydgate in his Fall of Princes terms Chaucer the lodestar of English: ‘Whom al this land sholde off right preferre, / Sithe off our language he was the lodesterre’ (Brewer 1978: i, 52). Chaucer serves as a guide, a ﬁxed point by which to navigate the possibilities of expression, a ﬁgure both dominating and yet external to the world of ﬁfteenth-century poetry.
A companion to Chaucer by Peter Brown