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Home » » Give a brief account of Chaucer's main poetical achievements in his successive literary stages or periods
Three distinct periods or stages are discernible in Chaucer's poetical works , so vast and so varied . It is , however , not at all possible to ascribe any of his particular work to any specific period or stage . Some tales of The Canterbury Tales , for instance , were written by him in some earlier phase or time . But these are found grouped and arranged in the final stage .

These three Chaucerian periodss are the French , the Italian and the English . This division is based on the three distinct phases of Chaucer's literary career . But such a division is neither exact nor all fair . Chaucer works , attributed to the Italian period , thus , are marked with French influences . These works are liable to be construed as the works of his French period . This classification , made on the basis of distinct literary influences , is to be taken not too scrupulously .

The influence of French literature is remarkably patent in Chaucer's works all through . The Italian romances are found to inspire his story - telling in verse .  His acute observations on English social life and conduct are definitely discernible in his literary inspiration and success in the final phase of his literary career . as a matter of fact , a better appreciation of Chaucerian literature needs a close acquaintance with these three distinct influences .

To the French period of Chaucer belong some of his earlier works , which are mainly allegorical . Some of his love lyrics , marked with grace and tender sentiments. are the product of this period . Of course , most if these lyrics are at present no longer extant . The best known of such lyrics is the Romaunt of the Rose , a translation from the popular medieval love poem Roman de la Rose of France . The poem is rather long , and contains , in octo-syllable couplets , a graceful allegorical presentation of the whole course of love and reveals much of Chaucer"s originality . But there are controversies as to Chaucer's  exact personal contribution to the translation .

The most remarkable Chaucer's  works of the French period is The Boke of Blanche , the Duchesse , a courtly and aristocratic elegy , written about 1368-69 , to commemorate the death of Blanche , the first wife of Chaucer's patrin , John of Gaunt . This work is mainly allegorical , although it bears out decisively Chaucer's lyricism . The allegorical element of the poem carries a note of praise for beauty , signified by the late duchess . The longest of his early poems , this does nowhere appear abstract , although it has much of traditional elements-dream , mythology , fancy , and so on . It contains enough substance of reality in the character of the Duchess herself and in the deep grief for her death .

Two other important works , The Parlement of Foules and The Hous of Fame, generally attributed to Chaucer's Italian period , bear actually the French influence , and should be included in his French period . Both these poems are in the pattern of French allegorical poetry,  and stand out as Chaucer's significant contribution to English allegorical literature .

In the former work, the allegory is based on a parliament,  held by nature, in which different fowls participate .Big and mighty fowls are shown to dominate the entire deliberation.  The whole account is amusingly presented.  and allegories the working of the actual parliament , dominated by big bosses and influential people . Chaucer's allegory,  however, is something more than the characteristic medieval allegory,  like The Owl and the Nightingale , which is mainly moral in effect . His work has a social outlook and a genuinely comic spirit.In the other work,  the capricious ways, in which fame spreads,are signified allegorically. The poet shows here, through the image of different apartments in the house of fame, how fame passes through different phases in human life.

Both the poems,  built in the dream convention,  indicate Chaucer's highly realistic sense and his power to blend allegory with realism .Moreover, his enjoyable sense of wit and humour is well borne out in these works,  too. In fact,  they remain quite vigorous, engaging and original allegorical,  under the French influence , and are found to inspire the works of Spenser.Of course,  in The Hous of Fame,  the influence of the Divina Commedia of the celebrated italian poet , Dante,  is also perceived.

Chaucer was immensely influenced by great Italian masters. The Italian influence on him is specifically felt in his two famous romances-The Knights Tale and Troilus and Criseyde . For the subject matter of these romances , his  indebtedness goes to Boccaccio, the celebrated Italian story-teller. Both of them deal with the romance of love and adventure , with the spirit of heroism and the sense of devotion. Of course , Chaucer is no imitation of Boccaccio,  and remains fresh and original all through . His artistic genius turns the simple tales of Boccaccio into the diverting and impulsive love poems of immense potency. He is found to learn from Boccaccio, but not blindly,  and to take from him what seems appropriate to his literary ventures . Of these two works,  again,  Troilus and Criseyde, written probably in 1380,reveals , in particular , Chaucer's poetical genius . His keenness , as a story-teller in verse , psychologist and metrical technician is here triumphantly demonstrated.  Chaucer seems to have used here his varied powers together in an absolute harmony.

The Italian influence on Chaucer is also evident in The Clerkes Tale, The Complaint to Pity and The Complaint of Mars.  These are more fanciful,  revealing Chaucer's genius as a story-teller as well as lyricist . Another poem, called The Complaint of Venus , is a translation from French. In The Legende of Good Women , which could not be finished by Chaucer, is found another masterly work of his Italian period. His inspiration here is the Italian legends of the noble and fair women who were martyr for love.The work is not allegorical and only the Prologue is actually an allegory . The poem,  too, is based on a vision which forms the Prologue in which the poet dreams to have received the stern instruction from the god of love to write , as a sort of penance , in praise of beautiful , faithful and loving women.  Chaucer's account include such well known women characters , as Cleopatra , Medea, Lucree, Ariadue , Philomela and others . Perhaps,  he got tired of heaping the same sort of praises on feminine virtues and left his collection of legends unfinished.

The English period of Chaucer , which covered only a few years,contains,  however, his greatest work-The Canterbury Tales. This work is the crowning piece of Chaucer's creative literary art. Written in different times of his life and ultimately left unfinished,  The Canterbury Tales proves a unique work in English literature for all times to come. Chaucer's creative mastery,which is manifested decisively in his sense if realism,  gift of wit and humour,art of characterisation and power of narration, is nowhere so diverting and triumphant as in The Canterbury Tales.The various strands of his rare genius are drawn together here. There can be hardly anything more perfect in conception and execution,  in the mingling of life and literature,  than what is perceived and enjoyed in the The Canterbury Tales- a collection of true-to-life pilgrims,  drawn from every class of the contemporary Englishmen. They, in course of their arduous journey,  entertain themselves by telling tales that are most appropriate to their individual characters and mental drives. Chaucer is a unique genius , and his literary achievement in all the periods deserve unquestioning commendation . He is a great master in his treatment of the French model, the Italian ideal, or English realism .

Chaucer's Literary Expansion :Three PeriodsPeriods

Middle English Period -Modern English Period

(I)French Period :Lyrical and allegorical poems

(ii)Italian Period : Allegorical poems and Romances.

(iii)English Period :Social ,realistic, humorous Comedy 


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