Langland and Chaucer II.
Both WL and Chaucer inherited the tradition of the French octosyllabic, but whereas Chaucer aimed to reproduce in English an approximation of this meter, WL, conscious of the denser texture of his poem than that of de Deguileville’s Pèlerinage, could never have been satisfied with this metrical form. More than any other ME poet, WL shows that stress and alliteration are distinct, not necessarily related phonetic features; his versification is musically more complex than Chaucer’s, while with regard to syntax, he identified the caesural pause in its grammatical character as a function of meaning. WL’s control of pace seems more striking than Chaucer’s, but this is partly a function of the fact that his poem has no governing time scheme. WL shows nothing of Chaucer’s versatility in the representation of his personages and the quality of their speech, but is unsurpassed in his ability to vitalize allegorical personifications. WL’s style functions as a mode of meaning more obtrusively than Chaucer’s. WL wrote for an educated clerical audience anxious for reform, Chaucer for a more mixed group of aristocrats (male and female), savants, and professionals.