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“Then you compared a woman's love to Hell,
To barren land where water will not dwell,
And you compared it to a quenchless fire,
The more it burns the more is its desire
To burn up everything that burnt can be.
You say that just as worms destroy a tree
A wife destroys her husband and contrives,
As husbands know, the ruin of their lives. ”
― Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales
The Canterbury Tales are collection of stories by Chaucer, each attributed to a fictional medieval pilgrim.
THE object of this volume is to place before the general readerour two early poetic masterpieces — The Canterbury Tales andThe Faerie Queen; to do so in a way that will render their"popular perusal" easy in a time of little leisure and unboundedtemptations to intellectual languor; and, on the same conditions,to present a liberal and fairly representative selection from theless important and familiar poems of Chaucer and Spenser.There is, it may be said at the outset, peculiar advantage andpropriety in placing the two poets side by side in the mannernow attempted for the first time.
Although two centuries dividethem, yet Spenser is the direct and really the immediatesuccessor to the poetical inheritance of Chaucer.
Those twohundred years, eventful as they were, produced no poet at allworthy to take up the mantle that fell from Chaucer's shoulders;and Spenser does not need his affected archaisms, nor hisfrequent and reverent appeals to "Dan Geffrey," to vindicate forhimself a place very close to his great predecessor in the literaryhistory of England. If Chaucer is the "Well of Englishundefiled," Spenser is the broad and stately river that yet holdsthe tenure of its very life from the fountain far away in otherand ruder scenes.
The Canterbury Tales, so far as they are in verse, have beenprinted without any abridgement or designed change in thesense.
But the two Tales in prose — Chaucer's Tale ofMeliboeus, and the Parson's long Sermon on Penitence — havebeen contracted, so as to exclude thirty pages of unattractiveprose, and to admit the same amount of interesting andcharacteristic poetry.