The Hoccleve Portrait of Chaucer


Thomas Hoccleve (born c. 1368, died c. 1450) knew Chaucer personally and claims (perhaps metaphorically) that Chaucer tried to teach him how to write verse (he adds, in a Chaucerian touch, "But I was dul, and lerned lite or naught"). His poems do indeed show the heavy influence of Chaucer; for a sample see his translation of Christine da Pisan's Epistle of Cupid (1402). In his Regiment of Princes (1412) he includes several passages in praise of Chaucer and the portrait reproduced above. Here is a transcription of the text accompanying the portrait:

[On Previous page: O now thyn help and thy promocioun;
To god thy sone make a mocioun,]

How he thy servant was, mayden Marie,
And lat his love floure and fructifie.

Althogh his lyf be qweynt, the resemblance
Of him hath in me so fressh lyflynesse,
That to putte othir men in remembrance
Of his persone, I have heere his liknesse
Do make to this ende, in soothfastnesse --
That they that han of him lost thoght and mynde,
By this peynture may ageyn him fynde.

The ymages that in the chirches been
Maken folk thynke on god and on his seintes
Whan the ymages they beholde and seen;
Where ofte, unsighte of hem causith restreyntes
Of thoghtes goode; whan a thyng depeynt is
Or entaillid, if men take of it heede,
Thoght of the liknesse it wole in hem breede.

(Thomas Hoccleve, Regiment of Princes, vv. 4988-5005)