His literary career, part of which certainly belongs to the reign of Henry V, has some resemblance to Chaucer's, though it is less regular and less consistent with itself; and several of his poems bear more or less distinct traces of Chaucer's influence.
The incident is precisely like Palamon's first sight of Emily in Chaucer's Knight's Tale, and almost in the very words of Palamon the poet addresses his lady: Ah, sweet, are ye a worldly crëatúre Or heavenly thing in likeness of natúre? Or are ye very Nature, the goddéss, That have depainted with your heavenly hand This garden full of flowrës as they stand?
LIFE OF CHAUCER. For our convenience the life of Chaucer is divided into three periods. The first, of thirty years, includes his youth and early manhood, in which time he was influenced almost exclusively by French literary models. The second period, of fifteen years, covers Chaucer's active life as diplomat and man of affairs; and in this the Italian influence seems stronger than the French.
Instead of Chaucer's motley and splendid throng, I only saw a group of wagoners and stable-boys enjoying a circulating pot of ale; while a long-bodied dog sat by, with head on one side, ear cocked up, and wistful gaze, as if waiting for his turn at the tankard.
In the year of King Richard II's accession , according to a trustworthy calculation based upon the result of that year's poll-tax, the total number of the inhabitants of England seems to have been two millions and a half. A quarter of a century earlier in the days of Chaucer's boyhood their numbers had been perhaps twice as large.
And this without anything grotesque in the collocation, such as is involved in the notion of men telling anecdotes at a funeral, or forgetting a pestilence over love-stories. Chaucer's dramatis personae are a company of pilgrims, whom at first we find assembled in a hostelry in Southwark, and whom we afterwards accompany on their journey to Canterbury.
From these points of view, in the days of Chaucer's youth, there was no rival to the "Roman de la Rose," one of those rare works on which the literary history of whole generations and centuries may be said to hinge.
Amidst so many grounds for doubting, if I might be allowed to hazard an opinion, I should say, that I think I can perceive the mind of Shakspeare in a certain ideal purity, which distinguishes this piece from all others of Fletcher's, and in the conscientious fidelity with which the story adheres to that of Chaucer's Palamon and Arcite.
Leland, who lived nearest to Chaucer's time of all those who have wrote his life, was commissioned by king Henry VIII, to search all the libraries, and religious houses in England, when those archives were preserved, before their destruction was produced by the reformation, or Polydore Virgil had consumed such curious pieces as would have contradicted his framed and fabulous history.
We have seen that the "Inglis" of Scotland differed from Chaucer's English, and the language of the north of England differed from it just as much. But when printed books increased in number quickly, when every man could see for himself what the printed words looked like, these differences began to die out. Then our English, as a literary language, was born.