Chaucer


Into that society Geoffrey Chaucer was born and he died without seeing it return to the way he knew it, partly through his agency. One can imagine the sight of the Peasants drawn up outside the walls of the city, throwing fear into the hearts of King Richard and his nobles, of which Chaucer was one and barely escaped with his life after the reprisals that followed hard upon the unwillingness of privilege to dispense with its ornaments! Fortunately Sir John Fastolf, then a judge in the courts, was a good friend of Chaucer's, or the poet might not have lived to produce the works he did. As it was, of the 120 projected Tales, Chaucer managed to complete only a handful, and it is on these that his reputation rests; and when the Plague like a guided missile struck down half of London, it did so by bypassing the city's Chief Customs Inspector. As Chaucer escaped both the Plague and the Rebellion of the Peasants, so I escaped not knowing you, etc. etc.


Charles North, New and Selected Poems, Sun & Moon Press, 1999.