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Then the buildings of the High street were spaciously placed, with room for field and hedgerow; to-day they are huddled as closely together as the hand of man can set them, and the verdure of grass and tree is unknown.Nor is it otherwise with the inn itself, for its modern representative has no points of likeness to establish a kinship with the structure visualized in Chaucer's lines.Preface and contents Unique among the quaint maps of old London is one which traces the ground-plan of Southwark as it appeared early in the sixteenth century.It is not the kind of map which would ensure examination honours for its author were he competing among schoolboys of the twentieth century, but it has a quality of archaic simplicity which makes it a more precious possession than the best examples of modern cartography.More than two centuries had passed since Thomas a Becket had fallen before the altar of St.Benedict in the minster of Canterbury, pierced with many swords as his reward for contesting the supremacy of the Church against Henry II.The passing years have wrought a woeful and materializing change.

The murder sent a thrill of horror through all Christendom Becket was speedily canonized, and his tomb became the objective of countless pilgrims from every corner of the Christian world.It is true the poet describes the inn more by suggestion than set delineation, but such hints that it was that its rooms and stables were alike spacious, that the food was of the best and the wine of the strongest go further with the imagination than concrete statements.Giving faith for the moment to that theory which credits the Canterbury Tales with being based on actual experience, and recalling the quaint courtyard of the inn as it appeared on that distant April day of 1388, it is a pleasant exercise of fancy to imagine Chaucer leaning over the rail of one of the upper galleries to watch the assembling of his nine-and-twenty in cassock and coat of mail, with his curly-headed squire beside him, fresh as the May morning, and behind them the brown-faced yeoman in his coat and hood of green with a mighty bow in his hand.It was from that direction assault was most likely to come.From the western and southern counties of England, and, above all, from the Continent, this was the high road into the capital. As London Bridge was the only causeway over the Thames, and as the High street of Southwark was the southern continuation of that causeway, it followed that diplomatic visitors from the Continent and the countless traders who had business in the capital were obliged to use this route coming and going.

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