Mother of God, and Virgin undefiled,
seems to be correctly described as "Oratio Gallfridi Chaucer"; and in "Chaucers A. B. C., Called La Priere de Notre Dame," a translation by him from a French original, we have a long address to the Blessed Virgin in twenty-three stanzas, each of which begins with one of the letters of the alphabet arranged in proper succession. Nor, apart from this religious sentiment, had men yet altogether lost sight of the ideal of true knightly love, destined though this ideal was to be obscured in the course of time, until at last the "Mort d'Arthure" was the favourite literary nourishment of the minions and mistresses of Edward IV's degenerate days. In his "Book of the Duchess" Chaucer has left us a picture of true knightly love, together with one of true maiden purity. The lady celebrated in this poem was loth, merely for the sake of coquetting with their exploits, to send her knights upon errands of chivalry--
into Walachy, To Prussia, and to Tartary, To Alexandria or Turkey.
And doubtless there was many a gentle knight or squire to whom might have been applied the description given by the heroine of Chaucer's "Troilus and Cressid" of her lover, and of that which attracted her in him:--
For trust ye well that your estate royal, Nor vain delight, nor only worthiness Of you in war or tourney martial, Nor pomp, array, nobility, riches, Of these none made me rue on your distress, BUT MORAL VIRTUE, GROUNDED UPON TRUTH, THAT WAS THE CAUSE I FIRST HAD ON YOU RUTH.
And gentle heart, and manhood that ye had, And that ye had (as methought) in despite Everything that tended unto bad, As rudeness, and as popular appetite, And that your reason bridled your delight, 'Twas these did make 'bove every creature, That I was yours, and shall while I may 'dure.
And if true affection under the law still secured the sympathy of the better-balanced part of society, so the vice of those who made war upon female virtue, or the insolence of those who falsely boasted of their conquests, still incurred its resentment. Among the companies which in the "House of Fame" sought the favour of its mistress, Chaucer vigorously satirises the would-be-lady-killers, who were content with the REPUTATION of accomplished seducers; and in "Troilus and Cressid" a shrewd observer exclaims with the utmost vivacity against
Such sort of folk,--what shall I clepe them? what? That vaunt themselves of women, and by name, That yet to them ne'er promised this or that, Nor knew them more, in sooth, than mine old hat.