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Home » , » Chaucer's successors and imitators
Chaucer's influence on English poetry, even after his death, appears almost unparalleled in the history of English Literature . In fact,immediately after him, there was a trend to follow and imitate him and to produce literary works on his model.Of course,his successors and imitators were not quite successful in their imitation of their mighty master. In fact,the standard achieved by them is found below Chaucer's.


Of Chaucer's immediate followers and imitators,John Lydgate is considered the most remarkable literary figure. He is even given a rank very near to his great master.But actually his literary achievements are nothing exceptional.His literary works have never the recognition of Chaucer's. 

Lydgate is taken as the most prolific author of the fifteenth century, rather of the whole of the middle English period. His composition is found to include about 1,43,000 lines.Lydgate's longest poems are The Storie of Thebes and The Troy Book,both of which are taken from notable French romances. His other works include Fall of Princes or Tragedies of John Bochas, adopted from Boccaccio's De Casibus Illustrium Virorum. The Temple of Glass and The Assembly of Gods are written in an allegorical vein.Lydgate is also the author of another voluminous work -The Pilgrimage of the Life of Man-which is sort of translation from the French works of Guillaume De Guileville. This iis also a sort of allegory and may be taken as forerunner of Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress.Of course, Lydgate has noting of Bunyan's moral conviction,character -painting and vigorous description. The best and most poetical among Lydgate's enormous works is,perhaps, The Life of Our Lady, containing several lives of the saints. This appears to bear the Cynewulfian tradition to versify the lives of saints.

Lydgate has some shorter verses, not at all of a high order,but well indicative of his poetical genius. Of them two of his bestiaries -The Churl and the Bird and The Horse, the Sheep and the Goose-may be mentioned as quite lively works. These two works are somewhat fables, written on the modelof Aesop.Chaucer's influence is noted here, though Lydgate never attained the chaucer-as-chronicler height.

Lydgate's literary woks are, no doubt, bulky, but least chaucerian in any aspect.His imitation has own days for a twofold reason. First,he carried on the tradition of story telling in verse,so much popular in the age. Second ,he provided the common readers with the numerous stories of varied interests in a simple and straightforward manner.


Among the English Chaucerians,Thomas Hoccleve is not as prolific an author as Lydgate, But like him, he is found to imitate Chaucer's, without any noticeable success.

Hoccleve is particularly noted for his Regement of Princes, based on the Latin work De Regimina Principum. The poem,of course a long one, contains some 5500 verses dealing with the matters of varied interests -political, ethical,ecclesiastical, and so on. The poem reveals his gift of story -telling, imitated from Chaucer.There are,no doubt, some dissertations,with illustrations,that make the work didactic.

Some other Literary Names

Besides Hoccleve aand Lydgate,the best known English Chaucerians,therw are a number of other followers and imitators.They include Benedict Burgh,George Ashby,John Walton and Henry Bradshaw.Their verses,mainly didactic, illustrate amply the decadence that came over Chaucer's imitators.

In addition to those imitators,there are several poems,written by other poets but there is no definite indication of authorship here.Of such poems,bearing Chaucerian traits, may be mentioned The Second Merchants Tale.a verse narrative, La Belle Dame Sans Merci ,a French translation, The Cuckoo and The Nightingale ,an allegory ,The Court of Sapines ,The Assembly of Ladies and The Flower and the Leaf. The last named work,is also a finely conceived allegory ,the flower is the symbol of gay and transitory element and the leaf stands for the virtue of endurance .

The last important name among the English chaucerians is Stephen Hawes .He wrote towards the end of the fifteenth century and in the opening of the sixteenth, at aa time when the courtly poetry of the Chaucerian tradition had become almost antiquated. In fact,in Stephen Hawes is found the last exponent of that great tradition. 

Hawes,who had his education at Oxford ,is the author of several works.His most important works is the The pastime(passetyme) of pleasure (written about 1505-06).The theme here is both allegorical and didactic .The next important works include The Example of Virtue ,probably  written much earlier(in 1503-04).This is also allegorical and didactic. The work presents a complete allegory of the life of man from his youth to age .The conversion of Swearess written a little before a noble work. of course ,from the technical standpoint, by Hawes.The authors is also didactic here.

Hawes's other works include A Joyful Meditation to all England of the Coronation of Henry the Eighth( 1509) and The Comfort of Lovers (date unknown).Both these works bear out his technical sophistry as also didactic note.

Hawes's poetry, no doubt ,has medieval limitations ,such as long digressions ,debates and moralization .But the allegorical and symbolic aspects ofvhid poetry is noteworthy and it anticipates in some way Spenser. His versification is exclusively Chaucerian with rarely occasional variations. His couplets are quite popular. occasionally decasyllabic couplets.although they are not always as much balanced as Chaucer's. 
The Scottish Chaucerians
Chaucer's literary influence in his age was not confined to England only.It extended to scotland and proved instrumental to the emergence of the golden age of Scotish poetry in the 15th century .As a matter of fact,the Scottish poets,inspired by Chaucer.are found to limitate and follow their master with greatest success than their English counterparts .King James I,Henryson,Dunbar and Douglas appear much truer abler descendants of Chaucer, than Lydgate,Hoccleve and even Hawes.

The first of the Scottish poet to show the Chaucerian inspiration is a king, James I.Of course ,these are double about the authenticity of his literary acquirement .yet he is generally accepted as the authors of The Kings Quair or The King's Book.Its inspiration mainly lies in Chaucer Knightes Tale. Bearing the reminiscences of Chaucer's The Knightes Tale,The King's Quair is a delightful romance in verse.

A more original Scottish Chaucerian is Robert Henryson,a school master.His poetry is ,however ,found promoted by Chaucer's influence. His most noted work-The Testament of Cresseid -is a sequel to Chaucer's celebrated Troilus and Criseyde.Henryson is also found influenced by Aesop in his  longest and ,in some way,most popular work,Morall Fabillis of Esope .In this respect. his gift of story -telling is revealed particularly in his entertaining poem-The Town Mouse and The Field Mouse.

William Dunbar is generally given the highest position among the Scottish Chaucerians. Dunbar's works include The Golden Targe,The Thrissil and the Rois, The  Freiries of Berwick ,Tidings from the session. The Dance of sevin Deidlie synnis .Flyting of Dunbar and Kannedie. The Lament for the Makaris,  and so on. These are mainly allegorical although some of themhave some occasional episodes as the motif.

A prominent literary figure among the Scottish Chaucerians is Gavin (Gawin) Douglas, who was a chauchman -a bishop ,of the works, written by Douglas, The Palice of Honour, supposed to be his earliest work,is long (about 2166 lines),successful and popular .This is modelled after Chaucer's Hous of Fame,and shows him as an intimate follower of Chaucer.Douglas's next important work King Hart is also an allegorical work,although it is considered much better than his previous work,The Palice of Honour.

Among the Scottish Chaucerians,an early Scottish poet,Henry, better known as Blind Harry (blind from his birth)is to be mentioned. He has a chronicle romance Wallace to his credit. This is almost a parallel to Barbour's The Bruce.Henry's hero.however, is no historical personality like Robert Bruce.He is a semi - legendary and semi- historical figure and seems to possess something of English Robin Hood in his activities and objectives.

The Scottish Chaucerians are not found simply imitative.Their literary fidelity to Chaucer is sincere, but their literary production is no blind imitation,without any mark of originality.They are found to have grasped Chaucer well.catching often his sentiments with a remarkable well balanced, showing both devotion and inspiration and better appreciation of the great master.


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