The Faerie Queene "Chaucer, Well Of English Undefiled"

Edmund Spenser

"Chaucer, Well Of English Undefiled"

Context: Sir Blandamour, riding in company with Paridell, comes upon Sir Ferraugh, who is in the company of the counterfeit Florimell. Sir Blandamour vanquishes Sir Ferraugh in combat and takes Florimell from him. After a time the situation of Florimell's being Sir Blandamour's love irritates Paridell, as Paridell and Blandamour had an agreement to share any prizes they might take. They engage in a fight for the lady, and when both are bleeding freely from their wounds, they are joined by the Squire of Dames, who tells them that there is to be a tournament, the prize to be Florimell's girdle, which Satyran had found and worn until the jealousy of other knights forced him to arrange the contest. As they therefore all go towards the place of the tourney, they are met by the two fast friends, Cambell and Triamond, and their ladies, Canacee and Cambine. There then ensues the stanza in the poem in which Spenser refers to Chaucer as the well of English undefiled. It was a popular Elizabethan idea that Chaucer was the founder of the English language, but Spenser does not say so: what he does say is that Chaucer wrote pure and unblemished English. The stanza containing Spenser's reference to him is as follows (a "beadroll" is a list):

Whylome, as antique stories tellen vs,
Those two were foes the fellonest on ground,
And battell made the dreddest daungerous,
That euer shrilling trumpet did resound;
Though now their acts be no where to be found,
As that renowmed Poet them compyled,
With warlike numbers and Heroicke sound,
Dan Chaucer, well of English vndefyled,
On Fames eternall beadroll worthie to be fyled.
Bur wicked Time, that all good thoughts doth waste,
And workes of noblest wits to nought out weare,
That famous moniment hath quite defaste,
And robd the world of threasure endlesse deare,
The which mote haue enriched all vs heare.
. . .