Chaucer: A Great Poet
Chaucer is called the father of English poetry. It is he who founded English language and poetry alike. He is always remembered for his humour, realism, characterization, humanism and narrative art.
HUMOUR: Chaucer is the father of English humour also. He made it the life and soul of his writings. His humour is allied to his humanism. It is healthy device to penetrate into human heart. It is not sarcastic, bitter and pungent. But it is marked by tolerance, charity, forgiveness and sympathy. These qualities make his humour genial. With the help of this humour, the poet laughs at the frailties and foibles of mankind.
REALISM: As the first great realist Chaucer presents the true picture of the 14th century England. He plays the role of a true social chronicler. By choosing a pilgrimage framework He has given a realistic touch to the setting of ' The Canterbury Tales'. He sees things and paints them as he sees. He portrays men and women truthfully. He gives us minute details of their behaviour, personality and dress. Thus Chaucer is a realist in true sense of the term.
CHARACTERIZATION: Chaucer is the first great painter of character in English literature. His characters are timeless creations. They are both individuals and types. They are not puppets but living human figures. All the characters of 'The Prologue' have their individual traits. At the same time they are the typical figures of the 14th century. Each character is representative of his own class. Thus in his ' The Prologue' the characters are vividly real and life like. In fact, they are dynamic.
HUMANISM: Chaucer takes delight in the large prospects of humanity. He has a wide sympathy and charity for all. He is equally interested in man and nature. The opening of 'The Prologue' clearly justifies this statement. Chaucer is always free from personal bias. He looks at life as it is. He teaches us how to enjoy it. In short, Chaucer is very sensitive to the resurgence of life in spring and brings man in tune with it.
NARRATIVE ART: As a narrator in verse Chaucer is superb. His narration is magical. It is full of action and variety. His narrative art holds the reader's attention. With the help of this unique art he tells a story with point and precision. His narrative method is characterised by straightforward directness and simplicity. The ending of his tales is as suggestive as the opening. Digression is one of the important features of his art. 'The Canterbury Tales' reveal his dramatic power. His stories, plots, characterisation, dialogue and setting have dramatic essence. His contribution to the art of novel is also significant. Plot, character, dialogue and description are major elements of a novel. These all are found in his tales.
LANGUAGE AND VERSIFICATION: Chaucer is the founder of modern literary language of England. He found English a dialect and left it a language. As the first national poet of the England, he gave to the people a language. It became an instrument to express national life and thought. He paid particular attention to versification. He stuck a modern note in versification. He discarded irregular lines, alliteration and complicated stanza form. He introduced 'heroic couplet' into English verse and invented rhyme royal. These forms are marked by variety and flexibility.
CONCLUSION: Thus Chaucer is a great poet of English poetry. His contribution to English poetry is memorable. He is the English Homer, the father of English poetry and a great national poet. His place in English literature is more important than that of any writer.