Admiration is not to be sought for Chaucer by way of alms, with a kind of compassionate indulgence for him as phenomenal for his period. For work like the Prologue, the Knight's and Clerk's Tales, enthusiasm is a right. If I speak Of the writing rather than always of the writer, it is that I prefer to economize miracles. Such creations, not leaves and blossoms alone, but ripe fruit also, would have been impossibilities had they not been maturing beneath the surface. They issued from no wilderness. The soil was of courtly manners, of chivalrous, high-bred sentiment. Norman exclusiveness, in crumbling into Saxon mother-earth, had carried thither dignity and grace. Though English literature hitherto had reckoned for little, French was accessible to Englishmen. The language itself was daily being embroidered with French diction and its larger ideas. Besides, there was always Italy. Dante had just been. Petrarch and Boccaccio were. Every hungry Italian prelate, every wandering friar, every returned noble, pilgrim, and merchant was an evangelist of the new gospel of letters. Centuries were to pass before writers, Of whatever race, were ashamed to borrow plots and thoughts. Chaucer, as he tells us everywhere, drank deep of the open fountains, and gloried in his draughts from them.