Geoffrey Chaucer was able to live in the world but not be of it. He was born into an at-that-time unrecognized middle class and traveled widely, experiencing the world from a number of viewpoints that proved useful to his poetic art—especially notable in the rich characterization of the pilgrims in The Canterbury Tales.
Chaucer (ca. 1343-1400) was born to a financially successful wine-merchant and spent his early years in the wine-merchandizing section of London known as the London Vintry, where he interacted with the lower classes. Because of the quality of education his father’s wealth would have afforded him, he ably absorbed the atmosphere without becoming part of it.
From his middle class roots and lower class associations, he was sent in his early teens to serve as a page at the court of Lionel of Antwerp, son of Edward III, the reigning king. The rest of his life the poet was to spend in the company of royalty in various capacities, from serving as an envoy to France and Italy to soldiering in France where he was captured by the French during one of Edward’s skirmishes on the continent.
Despite the many occupations that kept him busy running errands for the court, Chaucer was able to forge a substantial literary career. Of course, his most famous work is The Canterbury Tales, with Troilus and Criseide, his longest poem, a close second. According to E. Talbot Donaldson and Alfred David, “Even if he had never written the Canterbury Tales, Troilus would have secured Chaucer a place among the great English poets.”
After six hundred years, Geoffrey Chaucer remains attractive to poetry readers, scholars, and critics. Societies devoted to fostering his works and those of his era are constantly springing up. One such society is "The New Chaucer Society," which offers a wide variety of online sources, including a commentary on the question: Why is Chaucer still read? The answer to that question would be as varied as the individuals asked, but scholar Robert Meyer-Lee has offered a useful and thorough answer in his award-winning essay, "The Allure of the Phantom Popet."
Another useful site is Harvard University’s Geoffrey Chaucer site for their core program in English, which includes a link to lessons to "Teach Yourself to Read Chaucer's Middle English."
Modern scholarship has revealed much more about Chaucer than it has about Homer, but still his biographers have had to piece together many remnants of information mostly from official records to provide something resembling a complete picture of Geoffrey Chaucer. Nevertheless, the Chaucer enthusiast is greeted with a rich variety of sources for study.