"O CONQUEROUR OF BRUTES ALBYON"
More is known about the "Complaint to His Purse" than about Chaucer's other short poems: the audience, the exact date of its presentation, the events referred to in the envoy, and the consequences of the writing. About 30 September 1399 he presented the three rhyme- royal stanzas of complaint to his purse followed by an apostrophe to the newly elected Henry IV, and three days later he received an additional stipend of forty marks, with renewal of former grants. In December following he took a fifty-three-year lease on a house within the precincts of Westminster Abbey, and died ten months later.1
The three rhyme-royal stanzas of complaint to his purse as his dear lady appear in some manuscripts without the envoy, and Chaucerians have regarded them as an earlier work, to which the envoy was added in 1399.2 The charm with which the conventional request for money is cast in the form of a lover's complaint, echoing familiar rhymes of a song and fulfilling the demands of one genre while belonging at the same time to another, has frequently been remarked. The envoy apostrophizing the king is in a metrical form not elsewhere employed by Chaucer. He has taken the final four lines of the rhyme-royal stanza and added a line with the b rhyme: b b c c b. The device is not unlike the one which he employs for the roundel at the end of the Parlement of Foules in which an apostrophe to St. Valentine and a three-fold apostrophe to summer are contrived within the rhyme scheme of the three final lines of a rhyme-royal stanza, repeated. As the roundel with its four apostrophes is harmoniously inserted before the final rhyme-royal stanza of the love vision, so the envoy apostrophizing the king completes the complaint in a stanza somewhat altered in form.
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Publication information: Book title: Studies on Chaucer and His Audience. Contributors: Mary Elizabeth Giffin - Author. Publisher: Editions L'Eclair. Place of publication: Hull, England. Publication year: 1956. Page number: 89.
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