chaucer as the father of english poetry

Chaucer as the Father of English Poetry, Literature and Language

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Chaucer is referred not only as father of English poetry but also as father of English language and literature. Even today English literature is incomplete without reading him. Every student when get admission in English literature he has to read poetry from the very beginning. For this, he reads Chaucer’s poetry in detail especially his book “The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales”. Chaucer, if is known today, then its reason is his poem “The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales”. It was the first book/poem in English language.

This article is divided into three parts:

  • Chaucer as the father of English poetry.
  • English poetry and its characteristics.

Languages Before Chaucer:

Two common languages before Chaucer were Latin and French. Chaucer started writing at that time when there was no proper English dialect. He was not the first poet in literature, however, he was first among English writers. At that time, English people were interested in reading literature especially poetry but poetry in their language was not available. It was because, English language was not developed to that extent that a poet could write poetry in it.

Chaucer as the Father of English Poetry:

Chaucer took that responsibility of providing literature in English language. It is astonishing that he did not study English literature nor did he learn anything from anyone because English literature was not available at that time. Still his work makes him a brilliant poet. We must say that he was a brilliant man and had a God gifted quality of writing poetry. He gathered vocabulary of Middle English dialect and started writing poetry in it due to which we call Chaucer father of English poetry, language and literature. “The Canterbury Tales” is remarkable example of it. It fulfills every characteristic of poetry and entitles Chaucer as “Father of English Poetry”.

English poetry and its characteristics:

In order to prove that Chaucer is the father of English poetry, we must first know what is English poetry. Is Chaucer a poet? if he is then what characteristics make him the first poet of English literature.

English poetry has certain characteristics which differentiate it from other forms of literature (other forms are drama, novel, short stories, prose etc.). We we will judge Chaucer in view of his famous poem “The Canterbury Tales”. If this poem fulfills all the requirements then we may call Chaucer as father of English poetry. Certain Characteristics of English poetry are:

  • Rhyme,
  • Rhythm,
  • Stanza

Poetry has been developed too much. These ingredients of poetry are much older. In Chaucer’s time, these were essentials for poetry, no matter in which language it was being written.


Rhyme is the name of choosing similar words while writing a poem. Modern poets do not write poetry in rhyming scheme. Milton was perhaps the first who used blank verse, which is un-rhyming type of poetry. However, basically it was important in Chaucer’s era to write poetry in rhyming scheme. Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” is in rhyming. In fact, Chaucer knitted every word of this poem with great efforts. Nowhere, poem “The Canterbury Tales” lacks rhyming. When readers read poem, it seems that they are singing a song due to the rhyming scheme used in it.

In short, Chaucer uses beautiful rhyming scheme in “The Canterbury Tales”. It is one of the major characteristics of basic poetry that qualifies Chaucer as a poet. His descendants followed him in using rhyming scheme. However, he was the first and he taught the world how to write poetry in English language. So Chaucer may be called father of English poetry.


It is very closed to rhyme. Rhyme is the name of choosing same sounding words, whereas the definition of rhythm is: continuation of a sound effect or pattern. Geoffrey Chaucer has continuously followed “Rhythm” in his poem “The Canterbury Tales”. In Chaucer’s era, there was rhythm in French and Latin poetry, however, it was much difficult for Chaucer to maintain it in English language. Chaucer somehow managed to create rhythm and taught the world a method of writing poetry. Due to this very basic reason we may call Chaucer as father of English poetry.


It is a method through which a writer presents his poetry to his readers. A stanza is a group of verses. In other words, it may be called a paragraph in poetry. Number of verses may vary from poem to poem. It depends on the writer how many verses he wants in a stanza. Chaucer maintained it too in “Canterbury Tales”. His successors followed him. He was the first who introduced it in English poetry, therefore, he wins the title of “‘Father of English Poetry”.

“Canterbury Tales” and Chaucer as Father of English Poetry:

Is “The Canterbury Tales” worth reading? Every time we read Chaucer’s book, we ask this question to ourselves. Answer to this questions is positive. Yes, Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” is worth reading. It is because, it gives us idea how much English language is developed. Today, it is much difficult for us to read English of Chaucer’s era. It has changed so much that we need an old dictionary to read it. However, “The Canterbury Tales” is a finest kind of poetry. Chaucer was the first English poet. So, we may know very basics of poetry from “The Canterbury Tales”.

Conclusion: (Indeed Chaucer is father of English Poetry):

In every sense, Chaucer becomes father of English poetry. Firstly, he introduced English language to the world, however, most of the words were included from Latin and French. Secondly, he has the ability to write poetry. He knows basics of it. We have proved it in view of the basic ingredients of poetry. Thirdly, he was the first but finest poet in English literature. It is the reason that we are reading him today. Chaucer is necessary to read because he is father of English poetry. Chaucer may have some weaknesses like lack of seriousness, not lyrical but no one can deny his efforts of creating a new language and introducing poetry in that specific language. Due to all above said reasons, John Dryden rightly regarded Chaucer as father of English poetry, literature and language.

Also Read:

Chaucer’s Realism in “The Canterbury Tales”.