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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume II. The End of the Middle Ages.

VII. Chaucer

§ 9. The House of Fame

The House of Fame is one of the most puzzling of Chaucer’s productions. There are divers resemblances to passages in Dante (“the great poet of Itaile,” as Chaucer calls him in another place), and some have even thought that this poem may be the “Dant in English,” otherwise unidentified, which was attributed to him by Lydgate; but perhaps this is going too far. In some respects, the piece is a reversion—in metre, to the octosyllable; in general plan, to the dream-form; and, in episode, to the promiscuous classical digression: the whole story of the Aeneid being most eccentrically included in the first book, while it is not till the second that the main subject begins by a mysterious and gorgeous eagle carrying the poet off, like Ganymede, but not to heaven, only to the House of Fame itself. The allegorical description of the house and of its inhabitants is brilliantly carried on through the third book, but quite abruptly cut short; and there is no hint of what the termination was to be. The main differentia of the poem, however, is besides a much firmer and more varied treatment of the octosyllable, an infusion of the ironic and humorous element of infinitely greater strength than in any previous work, irresistibly suggesting the further development of the vein first broached in the character of Pandarus. Nothing before, in this respect, in English had come near the dialogue with the eagle and parts of the subsequent narrative.