By Edward Albert
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Extra resources for A History of English Literature
As a story-teller Chaucer employs somewhat tortuous methods, but his narrative possesses a curious stealthy speed. His stories, viewed strictly as stories, have most of the weakness of his generation: a fondness for long speeches, for 39 pedantic digressions on such subjects as dreams and ethical problems, and for long explanations when none are necessary. Troilus and Criseyde, heavy with long speeches, is an example of his prolixity, and The Knight's Tale, of baffling complexity and overabundant in detail, reveals his haphazard and dawdling methods; yet both contain many admirable narrative passages.
In his Garlande of Laurell Skelton gives a list of his own works, most of which have perished. This poem itself is a dreary effort, stilted in style and diffuse in treatment. It is in satire that Skelton appears at his best. His satirical poems, in spite of their shuffling and scrambling metres, are usually sharp, often witty, and nearly always alive. Why come ye nat to Court? is addressed to Wolsey, and for jeering impertinence it is hard to find its equal, at that time at least; The Tunnynge of Elynour Rummynge is realism indeed, for it faithfully portrays the drunken orgies of a pack of women at an ale-house.
And the tabernacle is viij fote long and v fote wide, and xj fote in heghte. And it is not longe sithe the sepulcre was all open, that men myghte kisse it and touche it. But for pilgrymes that comen thider peyned hem to breke the ston in peces, or in poudr; therefore the Soudan1 hath do make a wall aboute the sepulcr that no man may towche it. But in the left syde of the wall of the tabernacle is well the heighte of a man, is a gret ston, to the quantytee of a mannes hed, that was of the holy sepulcr, and that ston kissen the pilgrymes that comen thider.
A History of English Literature by Edward Albert