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Book of the Duchess


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A dream‐poem in 1,334 lines by Chaucer, probably written in 1369, in octosyllabic couplets. It is believed to be an allegorical lament on the death of Blanche of Lancaster, the first wife of John of Gaunt.

The love‐lorn poet falls asleep reading the story of Ceix (Seys) and Alcyone and follows a hunting party. He meets a knight in black who laments the loss of his lady. The knight tells of her virtue and beauty and of their courtship, and in answer to the dreamer's question declares her dead. The hunting party reappears and a bell strikes twelve, awakening the poet who finds his book still in his hand. The poem, one of Chaucer's earliest works, has great charm and accomplishment. It is founded on the French tradition of the dream as a vehicle for love poetry.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Early and Medieval).


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