By Edward Albert
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Extra resources for A History of English Literature
His English prose works include The Lyfe of John Picus, The Historie of Richard III, and a number of tracts and letters. He writes ably and clearly, but with no great distinction of manner. He is the first writer of the middle style. THE DEVELOPMENT OF LITERARY FORMS 1. Poetry.
The style has a sombre energy, an intense but crabbed seriousness, and an austere simplicity of treatment. The form of the poem is curious. It is a revival of the Old English rhymeless measure, having alliteration as the basis of the line. The lines themselves are fairly uniform in length, and there is the middle pause, with (as a rule) two alliterations in the first half-line and one in the second. Yet in spite of the Old English metre the vocabulary draws freely upon the French, to an extent equal to that of Chaucer himself.
In many of the documents of the time Chaucer's name is mentioned with some frequency; and these references, in addition to some remarks he makes regarding himself in the course of his poems, are the sum of what we know about his life. The date of his birth is uncertain, but it is now generally accepted as being 1340. He was born in London, entered the household of the wife of the Duke of Clarence (1357), and saw military service abroad, where he was captured. Next he seems to have entered the royal household, for he is frequently mentioned as the recipient of royal pensions and bounties.