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About Hesperian student / (Lincoln [Neb.]) 1872-1885 | View Entire Issue (Feb. 1, 1875)
. urtVCiA ,
Vnlvn'sity of tYrbrasi(t.
ul non rollolt. Dultoit.
Sinu. Tiitnnm at tuf. norm or vi.'o,"
Heron to Glnucus.
Mm;. though at tho hour or dying,
smile, though the -win days lo dying,
I.-iush. iioisl the wholo world bo crying,
.oo. though each truo lmtrt bo nlghlng.
On oxory Up Uonth lnvf tho rou
On cvorv Mfc tho day shall cloto;
To eory hope. I bo Worlil Is old.
To if ry llo. tho luwrt idiall boltl.
Sine, than, whilo tho wlno I- flowing,
Smile, then, while tho vino Is growing,
Ungh. then, while tlu' wind-" are blowing.
l.o,c. then, while onr heart aro glowing.
Death I only dreaming.
Day- aro only scorning.
Life I a nhmlow.
Tlu- praise of litis great poet and stales
man has been sting long and loud. For
live hundred years, he has been held as Un
acknowledged "lather" of the English
verse, and, to n great extent, the reformer
him. Chaucer lived and wrote under those
peculiar circumstances, whieh eome to men
only in the lapse of ages and the polilieal
history of nations, lie lived at that period,
when the grt hues of a nobler civlliza
lion wore beginning lo fret the horizon, af.
tor the long dark night of the middle ages;
when the band, that had been tightening
about free thought and action, for centuries,
gave signs of a speedy dissolution. Creey
and Pniclicrs, stimulating the national pride
and exciting envy against France, had in
creased the steadily growing breach be
tween England and Home; while the igno-
ranee, greed and immorallity of the priels
and monks were arousing the people to a
sense of the inherent rottenness of a system
whieh was gradually passing into active tyr
anny and stagnant vice. With this revolu.
lion of the church began, also, a revolution
of the state. Education received a new
impulse; college.-, were founded at Oxford,
Cambridge and Winchester. As the peo
ple were educated they began to see
more clearly lite evils oi pnesterau;
,f ilio Vnirlisli tonmie. While, sonic ofi
the ablest minds of England and America I uml ,1,c P'"" P"-tey Pop-rmised
have paid high tribute to the memory of
the worth poet, yet, it seems to me that
upon one point, they have erred. Until a
very recent period all have agreed in this
statement, that a leading aim of the poet
was the expouro of the corruptions of the
church. Mr. Morris goes o far as to say,
that, "if the whole series of the Talcs had
been completed, this object would have
been satisfactorilly accomplished." This
must be a matter of opinion.
I shall attempt to show that, this
the patriotism of the politicians. Though
Langland by his "Vision of Piers Plow.
man" and "Wvclifle by his translation of
the Bible, had struck an almost fatal blow
to the authority of the church; yet, the
time had not come and the Reformation
was delayed for a century.
Another tmmiinenl feature of the
! times in which Chaucer lived, was
I their degrading and exclusive feudal
ism. Chivalry still existed in the
court. Class Mill stood against chiss.
' . ,. . ....... ....,.....
wasnol-iftffi'ft0!iMi with the poet; and , umgiami s protest agauisi ai i
alo that, by not taking a more decided ,' P"' of an age scarcely yet realized
stand in such matters, is just where he fail-1 England. Injure not the landman,"
cd to Improve the great opportunities of He exclaims; "tnougu toy en uii rami u
Chaucer was no lev, a tateman than a
poet; and it is not probable that, his active
and exciting duties as a statesman gave
him much opportunity for the considera
tion of the more earnest and subtle ques
tions connected with the church. Hut had
he found ample time and been incline;! to
such a work, it is scarcely probable that he
would have dared a bold opposition to the
opinions of those with whom he was so in
timate and whose favors he sought to gain.
Nor i, thi-i all. Chaucer was essentially a
dramatist. By far the greater portion of
may be thy master in heaven '. Chaucer
express the same sentiment, though in
different form, in his oft quoted passage:
"Tis silllanyihnt makes the .Mian,
Ami by hln dueds a churl If twin;
Hut understand thai 1 intend
To doom no man, In any age,
Gi'ntk for hi" lineage;
Though ho lie not highly bom,
lie is gentle il ho doth
What 'longetu to a gontlomnii."
But with regard to those questions of a
higher and more lasting importance, those
questions of national interest and national
pride, I do not feel at liberty to say .
careful and earnest study duo to his genius
and the circumstances of hi day, il would
certainly have been more clearly set
foi th in his " Canterbury Tales". So far as
1 understand them, the whole tenor of these
tales is that of gaily; and to me they bear
the stamp of a mind .free from care ami
inspired with that freshness which the
sports of May alone can give. But Lang
land's mind had received a different impe
tus; the iron had entered deep into his soul
before he wrote.
While I hold that Chaucer did not ac
complish what a man of his genius, sur
rounded by such circumstances, might
have accomplished, yet I shall not bo rash
enough to accuse him of indilfcrence to
the events and influences of his time, or
that he was insensible to the depraved con
dition of the church. All that I have at
tempted to show is, that he did not hold
that decided opinion with regard to the
church which has been credited to him.
Mrs. Browning has said:
"Old Chaucer with hie Infantine
Familiar clasp of thing divine,
That r tain von hi tips h tri"
However, the proof is by no means certain
that he was immoral or intemperate to ex
cess; though we have his word for it, that
he loved good liquor. But with the few
facts wc have at our command, with regard
to Chaucer's moral character, it is, perhaps,
better to leave that matter to the poet and
The idea that we should discard Chaucer,
because he wrote when the language was
essentially different, is a grosscrror;buthe
should rather be regarded as the sire of his
nation's minstrelsy and as such is worthy
of candid consideration.
He seems to have embodied all those
qualities those finer sensibilities as well
as a keen observance of nature and of char
acter which go to make up the poet of to
-. 1 1 1 ... tntw.1i it)1ftrrflwt 41u
his writings are of ibis stamp; and I am "inuccr uas m-pi-.,.-., .. ." - -
:..i:.w..i ... .i, i...i:..c .!... 4i.:., ..,.. .i. i some oi ms comeiniiimunr', -
magnetic force that led him into tho pro
duction of tho "Canterbury Talus". He
was conscious of his power to individual
ize his own ideas, and he has proven it by
Ilia nftinHnwitiiMu rtii11 Jt1 miltr ! 4lit mnri I
modern Shakespeare. It is very probable l-H.. I"gli rnctly wS--"-e
il with the opinions oi !' wleuraieu visum ... .
- ., 1 i
the contrary. While Uiauccr ami uuww
were busy with the concerns of the court
and with foreign missions, r.ud while Wye
lUl'e was engaged with his great work at
Luttcmuirth, far away amid the Malvern
that he sympathized
"WycliHe: but it is by no means curtain Unit
he accepted them all. I am aware that the
former view is strongly argued by the con
trust he has drawn between tho monastic
cjiaractcrs and the Pcrsonne, the only sec
ular clergyman among them all; but I can
seo no more distinction than was proper
for him to make, and do not think that ho
gives u sufficient prominence to justify us
in saying that it was a leading aim with
him famous while History siian v.
True, the priesthood had grown into distrust
with many, and served for the jest of tho
careless; and in this manner Chaucer treats
them. He well understood the opinions of
the masses, and, equally as well, how to
please them. It seems lo me, then, that
this may at least partially account for his
introducing so many of the monastic char
acters. If he had given this subject the
Inter Colleffinte Contests.
The beginning of this year was marked
by one event in educational history that
will piolml ly prove a point of new depar
ture in literary culture. On the 7th of
January there was held in the city of New
York a literary contest between repru.
tentative of seven or eight eastern col
leges for the prizes "moratory aim critical
essay writing. Some of the colleges rep
resented ate leading ones in the East; but
it must be also admitted that some of the
most renowned schools have not yet given
this new method their indorsement. As
nothing is so successful as success, there
can be little doubt, but the success and
enthusiasm resulting from the Into literary
trial will eventually draw most of the
Eastern Colleges into the field of rivalry
for the belt of liteiary championship.
For sonic years the rivalry lor excellence
between various Colleges has been physi
cal. To produce the most muscular
athlete, especially in boating, has seemed
to some as their being's end and aim.
Tom Brown alias Thomas Hughes at
Oxford, has seemed to some students
as the beau ideal of culture. Ho was sent
to that famous University, not for gaining
vast treasures ot literary lore, but to cul
ture his physical and moval qualities in
the midsts of large numbers, whose alms
were substantially his own. His father's
last Interview, and Ills parting injunctions
breathe nolhing but fondness for manly
sports, and that frank ni'-gnnniinity.which
lie lils an Englishman of comfortable, cir
cumstances in life. Charles Ivingsley has
also lent Iho aid of hi3 graceful and facilu
pen lo promote the same love of athletic
sports, and in his vocation as clergyman
to commend the importance of" Muscular
Thai this studious praise and tin- prac
tice of sports has had the expected retlex
action to give any more vigorous physique
to students in general, or to quicken the
mass or individuals with greater intellec
tual vigor is not yet proven. The result, it
seems to me, is far short of what as ex
pected, and for obvious reasons. First,
but few are inclined lo engage in such
sports, on account of expense, loss of tune
and diversion from the aim of study men.
tal culture. Again, the superiority that
might be thus attained is not of the high
est order. We do not live in an age when
physical powers can be brought for a
moment into comparison with intellectual
achievements. Mien prefer to be Homer
rather than Achilles.
" I'aulum sepulUu dlftatiu inerti
Besides intellectual superiority is more
The story of Herodotus reading his
incomparably simple narrative at the Oly-
. . -l-V.ll..
mpic games, wnen me youuuui usiciiur
Thucvdides was eflccted to tears, will be
remembered and handed down forever.
But the names of pugilists, racers, horse or
man, have passed from the history of those
things which men care to remember. It
Pindar has celebrated Ore prof undo" the
exploits of horse and man, their names are
such as men willingly let die.
This attempt therefore to reproduce
even with faint imitation, the past will
prove a signal failure.
As an anlithisis, the intellectual strife,
and competition for public applause, have
just been inaugurated. Not precisely in
the spirit in which Abelard or Admirable
Crlchton Indulged their polemical passion
in various European cities, followed by
admiring multitudes, do the young men of
our colleges propose ayearly reunion, the
chief attraction of which shall be of a liter
ary character, such as to stimulate scholar
ship, and promote good fellowship and
acquaintance among students of widely
It is not e.isy to forecast the probable
result of any enterprise however humble,
much less of one undertaken for such
ends, and by persons filled with youthfu.
enthusiasms and ambitions.
Itscemp quite feasible so to extend tho
scope of the competition, as to cmbraco
subjects of science and practical art, as
well as oratory and criticism. If this
shall bo done, the nucleus of the American
University will be formed and the solution
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