Chaucer's Contribution

Topics: Literature, Geoffrey Chaucer, English language Pages: 9 (3111 words) Published: October 23, 2011
Father of verse! who m immortal song
First taught the Muse to speak the English tongue.
It is somewhat idle to talk of "fathers" in the history of literature, for it is questionable if a particular person can be wholly credited with in the founding of a new literary genre.

Literature is generally subject to the 'law of evolutionary development. And though a man may do more than others by way of contributing to this development we should be chary of inferring upon him the medal of fatherhood. When it is said that Chaucer is the father of English poetry, and even the father of English literature we broadly mean that his contribution to the evolution of English poetry or literature is much more significant than that of his contemporaries and predecessors, and to be similarly rated is his introduction of so many novel features into it. That Chaucer was a pioneer in many respects should be readily granted. "With him is born our real poetry," says Matthew Arnojd. He has been acclaimed as the first realist, the first humorist, the first narrative artist the first great character-painter, and the first great metrical artist in English literature. Further, he has been credited not only with the "fatherhood" of English poetry but has also been hailed as the father of English drama before the drama was bom, and the father of English novel before the novel was born. And, what is more, his importance is not due to precedence alone, but due to excellence. He is not only the first English poet, but a great poet in his own right. Justly has he been called "the fountain-source of the vast stream of English literature." Contribution to Language:

Well does Lowell say that "Chaucer found his English a dialect and left it a language." Borrowing Saintsbury's words about the transformation which Dryden effected in English poetry, we may justly say that Chaucer found the English language brick and left it marble. When Chaucer started his literary career, the English speech, and still less, the English of writing was confusingly fluid and unsettled. The English language was divided into a number of dialects which were employed in different parts of the country. The four of them vastly more prominent than the others were: (i) The Southern

(ii) The Midland
(iii) The Northern or Northumbrian
(iv) The Kentish
Out of these four, the Midland or the East Midland dialect, which was spoken in London and its surrounding area, was the simplest in grammar and syntax. Moreover, it was the one patronised by the aristocratic and literary circles of the country. Gower used this dialect for his poem Confessio Amantis and Wyclif for his translation of the Bible. But this dialect was not the vehicle of all literary work. Other dialects had their votaries too. Langland in his Piers Plowman, to quote an instance, used a mixture of the Southern and Midland dialects. Chaucer employed in his work the East midland dialect, and by casting the enormous weight of his genius balance decided once for all which dialect was going to be the standard literary language of the whole of the country for all times to come. None after him thought of using any dialect other than the East Midland for any literary work of consequence. It is certain that if Chaucer had adopted some other dialect the emergence of the standard language of literature would have been considerably delayed. All the great writers of England succeeding Chaucer are, in the words of John Speirs, "masters of the language of which Chaucer is, before them, the great master." Not only was Chaucer's selection of one dialect out of the four a happy one, but so was his selection of one of the three languages which were reigning supreme in England at that time-Latin, French, and English. In fact. Latin and French were more fashionable than the poor "vernacular" English. Latin was considered "the universal language" and was patronised at the expense of English by the Church...
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