By Bernard Felix Huppe
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Extra resources for A Reading of the Canterbury Tales
W. Robertson's Preface to Chaucer (Princeton, 1962) is of major importance, as noted in my Preface, in giving magisterial authority to the summary statement of this introduction, and B. F. Huppé and D. W. , Fruyt and Chaf (Princeton, 1963), Chap. I, provides a brief survey of the Augustinian tradition. Page 12 Chapter 2 The General Prologue A. The Spring Song: Lines 118 Medieval poems have a way of beginning with a statement of theme. The Canterbury Tales does not, at first glance, seem to do so.
Sometime about 1387 Chaucer began the Canterbury Tales. In composing them he used material which he had already written. He continued to work on the Tales, adding and revising, but when he died he left the work unfinished, a series of fragments, not even in definite order. The most reasonable supposition is that the order of fragments found in the early and excellent Ellesmere MS is the order of the tales as he left them, but this supposition leaves problems. There is a very little one, which has seemed very big: Sittingbourne, mentioned in Fragment III, is forty miles from London; Rochester, mentioned in Fragment VII, is only thirty miles from London.
Page 9 We need look no further than the dominant position of allegory in medieval literature to see how medieval writers were influenced by the theory. " No matter-of-fact, "realistic" reading of the Canterbury Tales will reveal what Chaucer meant by this statement of intention. It must be read with a full savoring of its sense, but with the expectation that the sense is designed richly to embody a sentence, an underlying meaning in accord with Christian truth. The garner of literary pleasure comes from the perception of the sentence through the amplitude, the psychological realism of the senseor so the Augustinian tradition would have it.