In the four poems studied together here, Chaucer is seen at work upon a saint's life, a love vision, a romance, and a request for money in lyric form. He addresses respectively: monks, nobles, merchants, and his king. Two poems he intends for the ears of listeners, two for the eyes of readers. For all the poems he employs the rhyme-royal stanza in which he expresses in characteristic fashion religious feeling, warm human sympathy, gay good humor, and sharp irony.
Of the four poems, the Cecile seems the most distant from its audience in its elevated mood and tone. For his translation of the saint's life Chaucer selected, with sure judgment, the text of the Legenda Aurea, whose author had set up the standards of translation for writers on religious subjects by showing in his own translations into the vernacular language no loss of the precise significance or the spiritual tone of the original. Once the selection had been made, Chaucer faced the hazard of critical demands which an audience of religious profession might make at a time when Wyclif's views were dividing opinion in England. The Benedictines of Norwich Cathedral Priory probably possessed complete unity neither of opinion nor of taste. If the poem was written for them, as it seems to have been, other difficulties would have been inherent in the shared memories and knowledge of Adam Easton in his own monastery. That Easton had become cardinal priest of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere after the outbreak of the Schism involved the possibility that an inadvertent word or phrase might alter the relationship between the monastery and the order of which it was a part, or between England and the Curia. Addressing the readers in his prologue, the lay poet says with straightforward