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The General Prologue - Geoffrey Chaucer, Notes to the Canterbury Tales (Works vol. 5) 
The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, edited from numerous manuscripts by the Rev. Walter W. Skeat (2nd ed.) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1899). 7 vols. Vol. 5.
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43.Knight. It was a common thing in this age for knights to seek employment in foreign countries which were at war. Cf. Book of the Duchesse, 1024, and my note. Tyrwhitt cites from Leland’s Itinerary, v. iii. p. cxi., the epitaph of a knight of this period, Matthew de Gourney, who had been at the battle of Benamaryn, at the siege of Algezir, and at the Battles of Crecy, Poitiers, &c. See note to l. 51.
worthy, worthy, is here used in its literal signification of distinguished, honourable. See ll. 47, 50. Pron. (wur·dhi).
For notes on the dresses, &c. of the pilgrims, see Todd’s Illustrations of Chaucer, p. 227; Fairholt’s Costume in England, 1885, i. 129; and Saunders, on the Canterbury Tales, where some of the MS. drawings are reproduced. Also Warton, Hist. Eng. Poetry, sect. 17.
45.chivalrye (chiv·alrii·ǝ), knighthood; also the manners, exercises, and exploits of a knight.
47.in his lordes werre, i.e. in the king’s service. ‘The knight, by his tenure, was obliged to serve the king on horseback in his wars, and maintain a soldier at his own proper charge,’ &c.; Strutt, Manners and Customs, iii. 15. werre, war.
48.therto, moreover, besides that; see l. 153 below. ferre, the comp. of fer, far. Cf. M. E. derre, dearer (A. 1448); sarre, sorer, &c.
49.hethenesse, heathen lands, as distinguished from Cristendom, Christian countries. The same distinction occurs in English Gilds, ed. Toulmin Smith, p. 36, l. 1.
50. Pron. (ǝnd ae·vr onuu·red for iz wur·dhines·sǝ).
51.Alisaundre, in Egypt, ‘was won, and immediately after abandoned in 1365, by Pierre de Lusignan, King of Cyprus’; Tyrwhitt. Froissart (Chron. bk. iii. c. 22) gives the epitaph of Pierre de Lusignan, king of Cyprus, who ‘conquered in battle . . the cities of Alexandria in Egypt, Tripoli in Syria, Layas in Armenia, Satalia in Turkey, with several other cities and towns, from the enemies of the faith of Jesus Christ’; tr. by Johnes, vol. ii. p. 138. ‘To this I may add, from “Les Tombeaux des Chevaliers du noble Ordre de la Toison d’Or,” the exploits recorded on a monument also of a French knight, who lived in Chaucer’s age, and died in 1449, Jean, Seigneur de Roubais, &c. “qui en son temps visita les Saints lieux de Ierusalem, . . . S. Iacques en Galice, . . . et passa les perils mortels de plusieurs batailles arrestées contre les Infidels, c’est a sçavoir en Hongrie et Barbarie, . . . en Prusse contre les Letaux, . . . avec plusieurs autres faicts exercice d’armes tant par mer que par terre,” ’ &c.—Todd, Illust. of Ch., p. 227. wonne (wunnǝ), won.
52.he hadde the bord bigonne. Here bord = board, table, so that the phrase signifies ‘he had been placed at the head of the dais, or table of state.’ Warton, in his Hist. of Eng. Poetry, ed. 1840, ii. 209 (ed. 1871, ii. 373), aptly cites a passage from Gower which is quite explicit as to the sense of the phrase. See Gower, Conf. Amantis, bk. viii. ed. Pauli, iii. 299. We there read that a knight was honoured by a king, by being set at the head of the middle table in the hall.
The context shews that this was at supper-time, and that the knight was placed in this honourable position by the marshal of the hall.
Further illustrations are also given by Warton, ed. 1840, i. 174, footnote, shewing that the phrases began the dese (daīs) and began the table were also in use, with the same sense. I can add another clear instance from Sir Beves of Hamptoun, ed. Kölbing, E. E. T. S., p. 104, where we find in one text (l. 2122)—
where another text has (l. 1957) the reading—
See also the New Eng. Dictionary, s. v. Board; Hartshorne’s Metrical Tales, pp. 72, 73, 215, 219; Early Popular Poetry, ed. Hazlitt, i. 104; Todd’s Illustrations, p. 322. Even in Stow’s Survey of London, ed. Thomas, p. 144, col. 2, we read how—‘On the north side of the hall certain aldermen began the board, and then followed merchants of the city.’
Another explanation is sometimes given, but it is wholly wrong.
53, 54.Pruce. When our English knights wanted employment, ‘it was usual for them to go and serve in Pruce, or Prussia, with the knights of the Teutonic order, who were in a state of constant warfare with their heathen neighbours in Lettow (Lithuania), Ruce (Russia), and elsewhere.’—Tyrwhitt. Cf. Gower, Conf. Amant. ii. 56.
The larger part of Lithuania now belongs to Russia, and the remainder to Prussia; but in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the natives long maintained their independence against the Russians and Poles (Haydn, Dict. of Dates).
reysed, made a military expedition. The O. F. reise, sb., a military expedition, was in common use on the continent at that time. Numerous examples of its use are given in Godefroy’s O. F. Dict. It was borrowed from O. H. G. reisa (G. Reise), an expedition. Pron. (reized).
Warton, Hist. Eng. Poetry, ed. 1840, ii. 210, remarks—‘Thomas duke of Gloucester, youngest son of Edw. III, and Henry earl of Derby, afterwards Henry IV, travelled into Prussia; and, in conjunction with the grand Masters and Knights of Prussia and Livonia, fought the infidels of Lithuania. Lord Derby was greatly instrumental in taking Vilna, the capital of that country, in the year 1390. Here is a seeming compliment to some of these expeditions.’ Cf. Walsingham, Hist., ed. Riley, ii. 197. Hackluyt, in his Voyages, ed. 1598, i. 122, cites and translates the passage from Walsingham referred to above. However, the present passage was written before 1390; see n. to l. 277.
In an explanation of the drawings in MS. Jul. E. 4, relating to the life of Rd. Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick (born 1381, died 1439), I find—‘Here shewes how erle Richard from Venise took his wey to Russy, Lettow, and Velyn, and Cypruse, Westvale, and other coostes of Almayn toward Englond.’—Strutt, Manners and Customs.
56–8.Gernade, Granda. ‘The city of Algezir was taken from the Moorish King of Granada in 1344.’—T. The earls of Derby and Salisbury assisted at the siege; Weber, Met. Rom. iii. 306. It is the modern Algeciras on the S. coast of Spain, near Cape Trafalgar.
Belmarye and Tramissene (Tremezen), l. 62, were Moorish kingdoms in Africa, as appears from a passage in Froissart (bk. iv. c. 24) cited by Tyrwhitt. Johnes’ translation has—‘Tunis, Bugia, Morocco, Benmarin, Tremeçen.’ Cf. Kn. Tale, l. 1772 (A. 2630). Benmarin is called Balmeryne in Barbour’s Bruce, xx. 393, and Belmore in the Sowdone of Babylon, 3122. The Gulf of Tremezen is on the coast of Algiers, to the west.
Lyeys, in Armenia, was taken from the Turks by Pierre de Lusignan about 1367. It is the Layas mentioned by Froissart (see note to l. 51) and the modern Ayas; see the description of it in Marco Polo, ed. Yule, i. 15. Cf. ‘Laiazzo’s gulf,’ Hoole’s tr. of Ariosto’s Orlando; bk. xix. l. 389.
Satalye (Attalia, now Adalia, on the S. coast of Asia Minor) was taken by the same prince soon after 1352.—T. See Acts xiv. 25.
Palatye (Palathia, see l. 65), in Anatolia, was one of the lordships held by Christian knights after the Turkish conquest.—T. Cf. Froissart, bk. iii. c. 23.
59.the Grete See. The Great Sea denotes the Mediterranean, as distinguished from the two so-called inland seas, the Sea of Tiberias and the Dead Sea. So in Numb. xxxiv. 6, 7; Josh. i. 4; also in Mandevile’s Travels, c. 7.
60.aryve, arrival or disembarkation of troops, as in the Harleian and Cambridge MSS. Many MSS. have armee, army, which gives no good sense, and probably arose from misreading the spelling ariue as arme. Perhaps the following use of rive for ‘shore’ may serve to illustrate this passage:—
be = ben, been. Cf. ydo = ydon, done, &c.
62.foghten (fǫuhten), pp. fought; from the strong verb fighten.
63. ‘He had fought thrice in the lists in defence of our faith’; i. e. when challenged by an infidel to do so. Such combats were not uncommon. slayn, slain. hadde must be supplied from l. 61.
64.ilke, same; A. S. ylca.
65.Somtyme, once on a time; not our ‘sometimes.’ See l. 85.
66.another hethen, a heathen army different from that which he had encountered at Tremezen.
67.sovereyn prys (suv·rein priis), exceeding great renown.
69. ‘As courteys as any mayde’; Arthur, ed. Furnivall (E. E. T. S.), l. 41. Cf. B. 1636.
70.vileinye, any utterance unbecoming a gentleman. Cf. Trench, English Past and Present, ch. 7, on the word villain.
71.no maner wight, no kind of person whatever. In M. E. the word maner is used without of, in phrases of this character.
72.verray, very, true. parfit, perfect; F. parfait. gentil, gentle; see D. 1109–1176.
74. ‘His horses were good, but he himself was not gaudily dressed.’ Hors is plural as well as singular. In fact, the knight had three horses; one for himself, one for his son, and one for the yeoman. Perhaps we should read—‘but hé ne was not gay,’ supplying ne from Hl. and Hn. This makes he emphatic; and we may then treat the e in god-e as a light extra syllable, at the caesural pause; for doing which there is ample authority.
75.fustian; see Babees Book, ed. Furnivall, p. 224. gipoun (jipuu·n), a diminutive of gipe, a tight-fitting vest, a doublet; also called a gipell, as in Libeaus Disconus, 224. See Fairholt, s. v. fustian, and s. v. gipon. The O. F. gipe (whence F. jupe) meant a kind of frock or jacket. wered is the A. S. werede, pt. t. of the weak verb werian, to wear. It is now strong; pt. t. wore. See l. 564.
76. This verse is defective in the first foot, which consists solely of the word Al. Such verses are by no means uncommon in the Cant. Tales and in the Leg. of Good Women. Pron. (al· bismut·erd widh·iz ha·berjuu·n). ‘His doublet of fustian was all soiled with marks made by the habergeon which he had so lately worn over it.’ Bismotered has the same sense as mod. E. besmutted.
habergeoun, though etymologically a diminutive of hauberk, is often used as synonymous with it. ‘It was a defence of an inferior description to the hauberk; but when the introduction of plate-armour, in the reign of Edward III, had supplied more convenient and effectual defences for the legs and thighs, the long skirt of the hauberk became superfluous; from that period the habergeon alone appears to have been worn.’—Way, note to Promptorium Parvulorum, p. 220.
See the Glossary to Fairholt’s Costume in England, s. v. Habergeon; and, for the explanation of gipoun, see the same, under gipon and gambeson. For a picture of a gipoun, see Boutell’s Heraldry, ed. Aveling, p. 67.
77, 78. ‘For he had just returned from his journey, and went to perform his pilgrimage’ (which he had vowed for a safe return) in his knightly array, only without his habergeon.
79.squyer=esquire, one who attended on a knight, and bore his lance and shield. See Strutt, Sports and Pastimes, Introd. § 8. ‘Esquires held land by the service of the shield, and were bound by their fee to attend the king, or their lords, in the war, or pay escuage.’—Strutt, Manners and Customs, iii. 15. And see Ritson, Met. Romances, iii. 345.
As to the education and accomplishments of a squire, see note to Sir Topas, B. 1927.
80.lovyere, lover. The y in this word is not euphonic as in some modern words; lovyere (luv·yer) is formed from the verb lovi-en, A. S. lufian, to love.
bacheler, a young aspirant to knighthood. There were bachelors in arms as well as in arts. Cf. The Sowdone of Babylone, 1211.
81.lokkes, locks (of hair). crulle (krull’), curly, curled; cf. Mid. Du. krul, a curl. In mod. E., the r has shifted its place. In King Alisaunder, ed. Weber, 4164, we find—‘And his lokkes buth noght so crolle.’ as they, &c., as if they had been laid in an instrument for curling them by pressure. Curling-tongs seem to be meant; or. possibly, curling-papers. For presse, cf. l. 263.
82.yeer. In the older stages of the language, year, goat, swine, &c., being neuter nouns, underwent no change in the nom. case of the plural number. We have already had hors, pl., in l. 74.
I gesse, I should think. In M. E., gesse signifies to judge, believe, suppose, imagine. See Kn. Tale, l. 192 (A. 1050).
83.of evene lengthe, of ordinary or moderate height.
84.deliver, active. Cotgrave gives: ‘delivre de sa personne, an active, nimble wight.’
85.chivachye. Fr. chevauchée. ‘It most properly means an expedition with a small party of cavalry; but is often used generally for any military expedition.’—T. We should call it a ‘raid.’ Cf. H. 50.
87.born him wel, conducted himself well (behaved bravely), considering the short time he had served.
88.lady grace, lady’s grace. Here lady represents A. S. hlæfdigan, gen. case of hlæfdige, lady; there is therefore no final s. See l. 695, and G. 1348. Cf. the modern phrase ‘Lady-day,’ as compared with ‘Lord’s day.’
89. ‘That was with floures swote enbrouded al’; Prol. to Legend of Good Women, l. 119; and cf. Rom. Rose, 896–8. Embrouded (embruu·ded or embrǫu·ded), embroidered; from O. F. brouder, variant of broder, to embroider; confused with A. S. brogden, pp. of bregdan, to braid. mede, mead, meadow.
91.floytinge, playing the flute. Cf. floute (ed. 1532, floyte), a flute; Ho, of Fame, 1223. Hexham gives Du. ‘Fluyte, a Flute.’
96. ‘Joust (in a tournament) and dance, and draw well and write.’
97.hote, adv. hotly; from hoot, adj. hot. nightertale, night-time, time (or reckoning) of night. So also wit nighter-tale, lit. with night-time, Cursor Mundi, l. 2783; on nightertale, id. 2991; be [by] nychtyrtale, Barbour’s Bruce, xix. 495. The word is used by Holinshed in his account of Joan of Arc (under the date 1429), but altered in the later edition to ‘the dead of the night’; it also occurs in Palladius on Husbandry, ed. Lodge, bk. i. l. 910; and in The Court of Love, l. 1355. Cf. Icel. náttar-tal, a tale, or number, of nights; and the phrase á náttar-þeli, at dead of night.
98.sleep, also written slep, slepte. Cf. weep, wepte; leep, lepte, &c.; such verbs, once strong, became weak. See l. 148; and Kn. Ta. 1829 (A. 2687).
100.carf, the past tense of kerven, to carve (pp. corven). The allusion is to what was then a common custom; cf. E. 1773; Barbour’s Bruce, i. 356. biforn, before; A. S. biforan.
101.Yeman, yeoman. ‘As a title of service, it denoted a servant of the next degree above a garson or groom . . . . The title of yeoman was given in a secondary sense to people of middling rank not in service. The appropriation of the word to signify a small landholder is more modern.’—Tyrwhitt. In ed. 1532, this paragraph is headed—‘The Squyers yoman,’ so that he (in this line) means the Squire, as we should naturally suppose from the context. Tyrwhitt, indeed, objects that ‘Chaucer would never have given the son an attendant, when the father had none’; but he overlooks the fact that both the squire and the squire’s man were necessarily servants to the knight, who, in this way, really had two servants; just as, in the note to l. 74, I have shewn that he had three horses. Warton, Strutt, and Todd all take this view of the matter, as might be expected. For further information as to the status of a yeoman, see Blackstone; Spelman’s Glossary, s. v. Socman; Strutt, Manners and Customs, iii. 16; the Glossary to the Babees Book, ed. Furnivall; Waterhous, Comment. on Fortescue’s De Laudibus Legum Angliæ, ed. 1663, p. 391; &c.
na-mo, no more (in number). In M. E., mo relates to number, but more to size; usually, but not always; see l. 808.
102.him liste, it pleased him. liste is the past tense; list, it pleaseth, is the present. See note on l. 37.
103. Archers were usually clad in ‘Lincoln green’; cf. D. 1382.
104.a sheef of pecok-arwes, a sheaf of arrows with peacocks’ feathers. Ascham, in his Toxophilus, ed. Arber, p. 129, does not say much in favour of ‘pecock fethers’; for ‘there is no fether but onely of a goose that hath all commodities in it. And trewelye at a short but, which some man doth vse, the pecock fether doth seldome kepe vp the shaft eyther ryght or level, it is so roughe and heuy, so that many men which haue taken them vp for gaynesse, hathe layde them downe agayne for profyte; thus for our purpose, the goose is best fether for the best shoter.’ In the Geste of Robyn Hode, pr. by W. Copland, we read—
‘In the Liber Compotis Garderobæ, sub an. 4 Edw. II., p. 53, is this entry—Pro duodecim flechiis cum pennis de pauone emptis pro rege de 12 den., that is, For twelve arrows plumed with peacock’s feathers, bought for the king, 12 d. . . . MS. Cotton, Nero c. viii.’—Strutt, Sports and Pastimes, bk. ii. ch. i. § 12. In the Testamenta Eboracensia, i, 419, 420 (anno 1429), I find—‘Item lego . . . j. shaffe of pakokfedird arrows: also I wyte them a dagger harnest with sylver.’ The latter phrase illustrates l. 114 below. See further in Warton’s note on this passage; Hist. E. Poet. 1840, ii. 211.
106.takel, lit. ‘implement’ or ‘implements’; here the set of arrows. For takel in the sense of ‘arrow,’ see Rom. Rose, 1729, 1863. ‘He knew well how to arrange his shooting-gear in a yeomanlike manner.’ Strutt, Sports and Pastimes, bk. ii. c. 1. § 16, quotes a ballad in which Robin Hood proposes that each man who misses the mark shall lose ‘his takell’; and one of the losers says—‘Syr abbot, I deliver thee myne arrowe.’ Fairholt (s. v. Tackle) quotes from A Lytell Geste of Robyn Hood—
In the Cursor Mundi, l. 3600, Isaac sends Esau to hunt, saying:—‘Ga lok thi tacle be puruaid.’ Cotgrave gives—‘Tacle, m. any (headed) shaft, or boult whose feathers be not waxed, but glued on.’ Roquefort says the same.
107. The sense is—‘His arrows did not present a draggled appearance owing to the feathers being crushed’; i.e. the feathers stood out erect and regularly, as necessary to secure for them a good flight.
109.not-heed, a head closely cut or cropped. Cf. ‘To Notte his haire, comas recidere’; Baret’s Alvearie, 1580. Shakespeare has not-pated, i.e. crop-headed, 1 Henry IV, ii. 4. 78. Cooper’s Thesaurus, 1565, has:—‘Tondere, to cause his heare to be notted or polled of a barbour’; also, ‘to notte his heare shorte’; also, ‘Tonsus homo, a man rounded, polled, or notted. Cotgrave explains the F. tonsure as ‘a sheering, clipping, powling, notting, cutting, or paring round.’ Florio, ed. 1598, explains Ital. zucconare as ‘to poule, to nott, to shave, or cut off one’s haire,’ and zuccone as ‘a shauen pate, a notted poule.’ And more illustrations might be adduced, as e.g. the explanation of Nott-pated in Nares’ Glossary. In later days the name of Roundhead came into use for a like reason. Cf. ‘your nott-headed country gentleman’; Chapman, The Widow’s Tears, Act i. sc. 4.
110. ‘He understood well all the usage of woodcraft.’
111.bracer, a guard for the arm used by archers to prevent the friction of the bow-string on the coat. It was made like a glove with a long leathern top, covering the fore-arm (Fairholt). See it described in Ascham’s Toxophilus, ed. Arber, pp. 107, 108. Cf. E. brace.
112. For a description of ‘sword and buckler play,’ see Strutt’s Sports and Pastimes, bk. iii. c. 6. § 22; Brand, Pop. Antiquities, ed. Ellis, ii. 400.
114.Harneised, equipped. ‘A certain girdle, harnessed with silver’ is spoken of in Riley’s Memorials of London, p. 399, with reference to the year 1376; cf. Riley’s tr. of Liber Albus, p. 521. ‘De j daggar harnisiat’ xd.’; (1439) York Wills, iii. 96. ‘De vj paribus cultellorum harnesiat’ cum auricalco. xvjd.’; ibid. ‘A dagger harnest with sylver’; id. i. 419. And see note to l. 104.
115.Christofre. ‘A figure of St. Christopher, used as a brooch. . . . The figure of St. Christopher was looked upon with particular reverence among the middle and lower classes; and was supposed to possess the power of shielding the person who looked on it from hidden dangers’; note in Wright’s Chaucer. This belief is clearly shewn by a passage in Wright’s History of Caricature. It is of so early an origin that we already meet with it in Anglo-Saxon in Cockayne’s Shrine, p. 77, where we are told that St. Christopher ‘prayed God that every one who has any relic of him should never be condemned in his sins, and that God’s anger should never come upon him’; and that his prayer was granted. There is a well-known early woodcut exhibiting one of the earliest specimens of block-printing, engraved at p. 123 of Chambers’ Book of Days, vol. ii, and frequently elsewhere. The inscription beneath the figure of the saint runs as follows:—
Hence the Yeoman wore his brooch for good luck. St. Christopher’s day is July 25. For his legend, see Mrs. Jameson’s Sacred and Legendary Art, ii. 48; &c. shene; see n. to l. 160.
116. Riley, in his Memorials of London, p. 115, explains baldric as ‘a belt passing mostly round one side of the neck, and under the opposite arm.’ In 1314, a baldric cost 12d. (same reference). See Spenser, F. Q. i. 7. 29.
117.forster, forester. Hence the names Forester, Forster, and Foster.
118. ‘A nunne, y wene a pryores’; Rob. of Brunne, Hand. Synne, 7809.
120. In this line, as in ll. 509 and 697, the word se-ynt seems to be dissyllabic. Six MSS. agree here; and the seventh (Harleian) has nas for was, which keeps the same rhythm. Edd. 1532, 1550, and 1561 have the same words, omitting but.
seynt Loy. Loy is from Eloy, i.e. St. Eligius, whose day is Dec. 1; see the long account of him in Butler’s Lives of the Saints. He was a goldsmith, and master of the mint to Clotaire II., Dagobert I., and Clovis II. of France; and was also bishop of Noyon. He became the patron saint of goldsmiths, farriers, smiths, and carters. The Lat. Eligius necessarily became Eloy in O. French, and is Eloy or Loy in English, the latter form being the commoner. The Catholicon Anglicum ( 1483) gives: ‘Loye, elegius (sic), nomen proprium.’ Sir T. More, Works, ed. 1577, p. 194, says: ‘St. Loy we make an horseleche.’ Barnaby Googe, as cited in Brand, Pop. Antiq. i. 364 (ed. Ellis), says:—
There is a district called St. Loye’s in Bedford; a Saint Loyes chapel near Exeter; &c. Churchyard mentions ‘sweete Saynct Loy’; Siege of Leith, st. 50. In Lyndesay’s Monarchè, bk. ii. lines 2299 and 2367, he is called ‘sanct Eloy.’ In D. 1564, the carter prays to God and Saint Loy, joining the names according to a common formula; but the Prioress dropped the divine name. Perhaps she invoked St. Loy as being the patron saint of goldsmiths; for she seems to have been a little given to a love of gold and corals; see ll. 158–162. Warton’s notion, that Loy was a form of Louis, only shews how utterly unknown, in his time, were the phonetic laws of Old French.
Many more illustrations might be added; such as—‘By St. Loy, that draws deep’; Nash’s Lenten Stuff, ed. Hindley, p. xiv. ‘God save her and Saint Loye’; Jack Juggler, ed. Roxburgh Club, p. 9; and see Eligius in the Index to the Parker Society’s publications.
We already find, in Guillaume de Machault’s Confort d’Ami, near the end, the expression:—‘Car je te jur, par saint Eloy’; Works, ed. 1849, p. 120.
The life of St. Eligius, as given in Alban Butler’s Lives of the Saints, contains a curious passage, which seems worth citing:—‘St. Owen relates many miracles which followed his death, and informs us that the holy abbess, St. Aurea, who was swept off by a pestilence, . . was advertised of her last hour some time before it, by a comfortable vision of St. Eligius.’ See also Mrs. Jameson’s Sacred and Legendary Art, 3rd ed., p. 728.
There is, perhaps, a special propriety in selecting St. Loy for mention in the present instance. In an interesting letter in The Athenæum for Jan. 10, 1891, p. 54, Prof. Hales drew attention to the story about St. Eligius cited in Maitland’s Dark Ages, pp. 83–4, ed. 1853. When Dagobert asked Eligius to swear upon the relics of the saints, the bishop refused. On being further pressed to do so, he burst into tears; whereupon Dagobert exclaimed that he would believe him without an oath. Hence, to swear by St. Loy was to swear by one who refused to swear; and the oath became (at second-hand) no oath at all. See Hales, Folia Literaria, p. 102. At any rate, it was a very mild one for those times. Cf. Amis and Amiloun, 877:—‘Than answered that maiden bright, And swore “by Jesu, ful of might.” ’
121.cleped, called, named; A. S. cleopian, clypian, to call. Cf. Sir David Lyndesay’s Monarchè, bk. iii. l. 4663:—
122. ‘She sang the divine service.’ Here sér-vic-è is trisyllabic, with a secondary accent on the last syllable.
123.Entuned, intoned. nose is the reading of the best MSS. The old black-letter editions read voice (wrongly).
semely, in a seemly manner, is in some MSS. written semily. The e is here to be distinctly sounded; hertily is sometimes written for hertely. See ll. 136, 151.
124.faire, adv. fairly, well. fetisly, excellently; see l. 157.
125.scole, school; here used for style or pronunciation.
126.Frensh. Mr. Cutts (Scenes and Characters of the Middle Ages, p. 58) says very justly:—‘She spoke French correctly, though with an accent which savoured of the Benedictine convent at Stratford-le-Bow, where she had been educated, rather than of Paris.’ There is nothing to shew that Chaucer here speaks slightingly of the French spoken by the Prioress, though this view is commonly adopted by newspaper-writers who know only this one line of Chaucer, and cannot forbear to use it in jest. Even Tyrwhitt and Wright have thoughtlessly given currency to this idea; and it is worth remarking that Tyrwhitt’s conclusion as to Chaucer thinking but meanly of Anglo-French, was derived (as he tells us) from a remark in the Prologue to the Testament of Love, which Chaucer did not write! But Chaucer merely states a fact, viz. that the Prioress spoke the usual Anglo-French of the English court, of the English law-courts, and of the English ecclesiastics of the higher rank. The poet, however, had been himself in France, and knew precisely the difference between the two dialects; but he had no special reason for thinking more highly of the Parisian than of the Anglo-French. He merely states that the French which she spoke so ‘fetisly’ was, naturally, such as was spoken in England. She had never travelled, and was therefore quite satisfied with the French which she had learnt at home. The language of the King of England was quite as good, in the esteem of Chaucer’s hearers, as that of the King of France; in fact, king Edward called himself king of France as well as of England, and king John was, at one time, merely his prisoner. Warton’s note on the line is quite sane. He shews that queen Philippa wrote business letters in French (doubtless Anglo-French) with ‘great propriety.’ What Mr. Wright means by saying that ‘it was similar to that used at a later period in the courts of law’ is somewhat puzzling. It was, of course, not similar to, but the very same language as was used at the very same period in the courts of law. In fact, he and Tyrwhitt have unconsciously given us the view entertained, not by Chaucer, but by unthinking readers of the present age; a view which is not expressed, and was probably not intended. At the modern Stratford we may find Parisian French inefficiently taught; but at the ancient Stratford, the very important Anglo-French was taught efficiently enough. There is no parallel between the cases, nor any such jest as the modern journalist is never weary of, being encouraged by critics who ought to be more careful. The ‘French of Norfolk’ as spoken of in P. Plowman (B. v. 239) was no French at all, but English; and the alleged parallel is misleading, as the reader who cares to refer to that passage will easily see.
‘Stratford-at-Bow, a Benedictine nunnery, was famous even then for its antiquity.’—Todd, Illustrations of Chaucer, p. 233. It is said by Tanner to have been founded by William, bp. of London, before 1087; but Dugdale says it was founded by one Christiana de Sumery, and that her foundation was confirmed by King Stephen. It was dedicated to St. Leonard.
unknowe, short for unknowen, unknown.
127.At mete. Tyrwhitt has acutely pointed out how Chaucer, throughout this passage, merely reproduces a passage in his favourite book, viz. Le Roman de la Rose, ed. Méon, l. 13612, &c., which may be thus translated:—‘and takes good care not to wet her fingers up to the joints in broth, nor to have her lips anointed with soups, or garlic, or fat flesh, nor to heap up too many or too large morsels and put them in her mouth. She touches with the tips of her fingers the morsel which she has to moisten with the sauce (be it green, or brown, or yellow), and lifts her mouthful warily, so that no drop of the soup, or relish or pepper may fall on her breast. And so daintily she contrives to drink, as not to sprinkle a drop upon herself . . . she ought to wipe her lip so well, as not to permit any grease to stay there, at least upon her upper lip.’ Such were the manners of the age. Cf. also Ovid, Ars Amatoria, iii. 755, 756.
129.wette, wet; pt. t. of wetten. depe, deeply, adv.
131. Scan—‘Thát | no dróp | e ne fill | e,’ &c. The e in drópe is very slight; and the caesura follows. Fille is the pt. t. subjunctive, as distinct from fil, the pt. t. indicative. It means ‘should fall.’
132.ful, very. lest = list, pleasure, delight; A. S. lyst.
133.over, upper, adj. ‘The over lippe and the nethere’; Wright’s Vocab. 1857, p. 146. clene (klae·nǝ), cleanly, adv.
134.ferthing signifies literally a fourth part, and hence a small portion, or a spot. In Caxton’s Book of Curtesye, st. 27, such a spot of grease is called a ‘fatte ferthyng.’
sen-e, visible, is an adjective, A. S. gesēne, and takes a final -e. This distinguishes it from the pp. seen, which is monosyllabic, and cannot rime with clen-e. The fuller form y-sen-e occurs in l. 592, where it rimes with len-e.
136. ‘Full seemlily she reached towards her meat (i. e. what she had to eat), and certainly she was of great merriment (or geniality).’
Mete is often used of eatables in general. raughte (rauhtǝ), pt. t. of rechen, to reach.
137.sikerly, certainly. siker is an early adaptation of Lat. securus, secure, sure. disport; mod. E. sport.
139–41. ‘And took pains (endeavoured) to imitate courtly behaviour, and to be stately in her deportment, and to be esteemed worthy of reverence.’
144.sawe, should see, happened to see (subjunctive).
146.Of, i. e. some. houndes (huundez), dogs. ‘Smale whelpes leeve to ladyse and clerkys’; Political, Relig. and Love Poems, ed. Furnivall, p. 32; Bernardus de Cura Rei Familiaris, ed. Lumby, p. 13.
147.wastel-breed. Horses and dogs were not usually fed on wastel-breed or cake-bread (bread made of the best flour), but on coarse lentil bread baked for that purpose. See Our English Home, pp. 79, 80. The O. F. wastel subsequently became gastel, gasteau, mod. F. gâteau, cake. Cf. P. Plowman, B. vi. 217, and the note; Riley, Memorials of London, p. 108.
148. The syllable she is here very light; she if oon constitutes the third foot in the line. After she comes the caesural pause. weep, wept; A. S. wēop.
149.men smoot, one smote. If men were the ordinary plural of man, smoot ought to be smiten (pl. past); but men is here used like the Ger. man, French on, with the singular verb. It is, in fact, merely the unaccented form of man. yerde, stick, rod; mod. E. yard. smerte, sharply; adv.
151.wimpel. The wimple or gorger is stated first to have appeared in Edward the First’s reign. It was a covering for the neck, and was used by nuns and elderly ladies. See Fairholt’s Costume, 1885, ii. 413; Ancren Riwle, ed. Morton, p. 420.
pinched, gathered in small pleats, closely pleated.
152.tretys, long and well-shaped. From O. F. traitis, Low Lat. tractitius, i. e. drawn out; from L. trahere. Chaucer found the O. F. traitis in the Romaunt of the Rose, and translated it by tretys; see l. 1216 of the E. version. Cf. fetis from factitius; l. 157. eyen greye. This seems to have been the favourite colour of ladies’ eyes in Chaucer’s time, and even later. Cf. A. 3974; Rom. Rose, 546, 862; &c. ‘Her eyen gray and stepe’; Skelton’s Philip Sparowe, 1014 (see Dyce’s note).
156.hardily is here used for sikerly, certainly; so also in E. 25. undergrowe, undergrown; i. e. of short, stinted growth.
157.fetis literally signifies ‘made artistically,’ and hence wellmade, feat, neat, handsome; cf. n. to l. 152. M. E. fetis answers to O. F. faitis, feitis, fetis, neatly made, elegant; from Lat. factitius, artificial.
war, aware; ‘I was war’=I percelved.
159.bedes. The word bede signifies, (1) a prayer; (2) a string of grains upon which the prayers were counted, or the grains themselves. The beads were made of coral, jet, cornelian, pearls, or gold. A pair here means ‘a set.’ ‘A peire of bedis eke she bere’; Rom. Rose, 7372.
‘Sumtyme with a portas, sumtyme with a payre of bedes.’
Bale’s King John, p. 27; Camden Soc.
gauded al with grene, ‘having the gawdies green. Some were of silver gilt.’—T. The gawdies or gaudees were the larger beads in the set. ‘One payre of beads of silver with riche gaudeys’; Monast. Anglicanum, viii. 1206; qu. by Rock, Church of our Fathers, iii. i. 403. ‘Unum par de Iett [jet] gaudyett with sylver’; Nottingham Records, iii. 188. ‘A peyre bedys of jeete [get], gaudied with corall’; Bury Wills, p. 82, l. 16: the note says that every eleventh bead, or gaudee, stood for a Paternoster: the smaller beads, each for an Ave Maria. The common number was 55, for 50 Aves and 5 Paternosters. The full number was 165, for 150 Aves and 15 Paternosters, also called a Rosary or Our Lady’s Psalter; see the poem on Our Lady’s Psalter in Horstmann, Altenglische Legenden, Neue Folge, 1881, pp. 220–4. ‘Gaudye of beedes, signeau de paternoster.’—Palsgrave. Gower (Conf. Amant., ed. Pauli, iii. 372) mentions ‘A paire of bedes blacke as sable,’ with ‘gaudees.’ See Gaudia and Precula in Ducange. Gaudee originally meant a prayer beginning with Gaudete, whence the name; see Gaudez in Cotgrave.
160.broche=brooch, signified, (1) a pin; (2) a breast-pin; (3) a buckle or clasp; (4) a jewel or ornament. It was an ornament common to both sexes. The brooch seems to have been made in the shape of a capital A, surmounted by a crown. See the figure of a silver-gilt brooch in the shape of an A in the Glossary to Fairholt’s, Costume in England. The ‘crowned A’ is supposed to represent Amor or Charity, the greatest of all the Christian graces. ‘Omnia uincit amor’; Vergil, Eclog. x. 69. Cf. the use of AMOR as a motto in the Squyer of Lowe Degree, l. 215.
heng, also spelt heeng, hung, is the pt. t. of M. E. hangen, to hang. Cf. A. S. hēng, pt. t. of hōn, to hang.
shene (shee·nǝ), showy, bright. Really allied, not to shine, but to shew. Cf. mod. E. sheen, and G. schön.
161.write is short for writen (writ·en), pp. of wryten (wrii·ten), to write.
The Nonne and Three Preestes.
163.Another Nonne. It was not common for Prioresses to have female chaplains; but Littré gives chapelaine, fem., as an old title of dignity in a nunnery. Moreover, it is an office still held in most Benedictine convents, as is fully explained in a letter written by a modern Nun-Chaplain, and printed in Anglia, iv. 238. See also N. and Q. 7 S. vi. 485; The Academy, Aug. 23, 1890, p. 152.
164. The mention of three priests presents some difficulty. To make up the twenty-nine mentioned in l. 24, we only want one priest, and it is afterwards assumed that there was but one priest, viz. the Nonnes Preest, who tells the tale of the Cock and Fox. Chaucer also, in all other cases, supposes that there was but one representative of each class.
The most likely solution is that Chaucer wrote a character of the Second Nun, beginning—
and that, for some reason, he afterwards suppressed the description. The line left imperfect, as above, may have been filled up, to stop a gap, either by himself (temporarily), or indeed by some one else.
If we are to keep the text (which stands alike in all MSS.), we must take ‘wel nyne and twenty’ to mean ‘at least nine and twenty.’
The letter from the Nun-Chaplain mentioned in the last note shews that an Abbess might have as many as five priests, as well as a chaplain. See Essays on Chaucer (Ch. Soc.), p. 183. The difficulty is, merely, how to reconcile this line with l. 24.
165.a fair, i. e. a fair one. Cf. ‘a merye’ in l. 208; and l. 339.
for the maistrye is equivalent to the French phrase pour la maistrie, which in old medical books is ‘applied to such medicines as we usually call sovereign, excellent above all others’; Tyrwhitt. We may explain it by ‘as regards superiority,’ or, ‘to shew his excellence.’ Cf. ‘An stede he gan aprikie · wel vor the maistrie’; Rob. of Glouc. l. 11554 (or ed. Hearne, p. 553).
In the Romance of Sir Launfal, ed. Ritson, l. 957, is a description of a saddle, adorned with ‘twey stones of Ynde Gay for the maystrye’; i. e. preëminently gay.
Several characteristics of various orders of monks are satirically noted in Wright’s Political Songs, pp. 137–148.
166.out-rydere, outrider; formerly the name of an officer of a monastery or abbey, whose duty was to look after the manors belonging to it; or, as Chaucer himself explains it, in B. 1255—
In the Visitations of the Diocese of Norwich, 1492–1532, ed. Jessop (Camden Soc.), pp. 214, 279, the word occurs twice, as the name of an officer of the Abbey of St. Benet’s, Hulme; e.g. ‘Dompnus Willelmus Hornyng, oute-rider, dicit quod multa edificia et orrea maneriorum sunt prostrata et collapsa praesertim violentia venti hoc anno.’
The Lat. name for this officer was exequitator, as appears from Wyclif, Sermones, iii. 326 (Wyclif Soc.). I am indebted for these references and for the explanation of out-rydere to Mr. Tancock; see his note in N. and Q. 7 S. vi. 425. The same vol. of Visitations also shews that, in the same abbey, another monk, ‘Thomas Stonham tertius prior’ was devoted to hunting; ‘communis venator . . . solet exire solus ad venatum mane in aurora.’ There is also a complaint of the great number of dogs kept there—‘superfluus numerus canum est in domo.’ In the Rolls of Parliament (1406), vol. iii. p. 598, the sheriffs collect payments for the repair of roads and bridges ‘par lour Ministres appellez Outryders’; N. and Q. 8 S. ii. 39. Note that this fully explains the use of outryders in P. Plowman, C. v. 116.
venerye, hunting; cf. A. 2308. ‘The monks of the middle ages were extremely attached to hunting and field-sports; and this was a frequent subject of complaint with the more austere ecclesiastics, and of satire with the laity.’—Wright. See Strutt’s Sports and Pastimes, bk. i. c. 1. §§ 9, 10; Our Eng. Home, p. 23. From Lat. uenari, to hunt.
168.deyntee, dainty, i.e. precious, valuable, rare; orig. a sb., viz. O. F. deintee, dignity, from Lat. acc. dignitatem. Cf. l. 346.
170.Ginglen, jingle. (The line is deficient in the first foot.) Fashionable riders were in the habit of hanging small bells on the bridles and harness of their horses. Wyclif speaks of ‘a worldly preest . . in pompe and pride, coveitise and envye . . with fatte hors, and jolye and gaye sadeles, and bridelis ryngynge be the weye, and himself in costy clothes and pelure’ [fur]; Works, ed. Arnold, iii. 519, 520.
In Richard Cuer de Lion, l. 1517, we read of a mounted messenger, with silk trappings—
‘With fyve hundred belles ryngande.’
And again, at l. 5712—
‘His crouper heeng al full off belles.’
‘Vincent of Beauvais, speaking of the Knights Templars, and their gorgeous horse-caparisons, says they have—in pectoralibus campanulas infixas magnum emittentes sonitum’; Hist. lib. xxx. c. 85 (cited by Warton, Hist. E. P. i. 167). See B. 3984; and Spenser, F. Q. i. 2. 13; also Englische Studien, iii. 105.
172.Ther as=where that. keper, principal, head, i.e. prior. celle, cell; a ‘cell’ was a small monastery or nunnery, dependent on a larger one. ‘Celle, a religious house, subordinate to some great abby. Of these cells some were altogether subject to their respective abbies, who appointed their officers, and received their revenues; while others consisted of a stated number of monks, who had a prior sent them from the abby, and who paid an annual pension as an acknowledgment of their subjection; but, in other matters, acted as an independent body, and received the rest of their revenues for their own use. These priories or cells were of the same order with the abbies on whom they depended. See Tanner, Pref. Not. Monast. p. xxvii.’—Todd, Illustrations of Chaucer, p. 326. Cf. note to l. 670, and especially the note to D. 2259.
173.The reule (rule) of seint Maure (St. Maur) and that of seint Beneit (St. Benet or Benedict) were the oldest forms of monastic discipline in the Romish Church. St. Maur (Jan. 15) was a disciple of St. Benet (Dec. 4), who founded the Benedictine order, and died about 542.
174. Note that streit, mod. E. strait, A. F. estreit, from Lat. strictus, is quite distinct from mod. E. straight, of A. S. origin.
175. The Harl. MS. reads, ‘This ilke monk leet forby hem pace’ (error for leet hem forby him pace?), ‘This same monk let them pass by him unobserved.’ hem refers to the rules of St. Maur and St. Benet, which were too streit (strict) for this ‘lord’ or superior of the house, who preferred a milder sort of discipline. Forby is still used in Scotland for by or past. pace, pass by, remain in abeyance; cf. pace, pass on, proceed, in l. 36. hem, them; originally dat. pl. of he.
176.space, course (Lat. spatium); ‘and held his course in conformity with the new order of things.’
177.yaf not of, gave not for, valued not. yaf is the pt. t. of yeven or yiven, to give.
a pulled hen, lit. a plucked hen; hence, the value of a hen without its feathers; see l. 652. In D. 1112, the phrase is ‘not worth a hen.’ Tyrwhitt says, ‘I do not see much force in the epithet pulled’; but adds, in his Glossary—‘I have been told since, that a hen whose feathers are pulled, or plucked off, will not lay any eggs.’ Becon speaks of a ‘polled hen,’ i. e. pulled hen, as one unable to fly; Works, p. 533; Parker Soc. It is only one of the numerous old phrases for expressing that a thing is of small value. See l. 182. I may add that pulled, in the sense of ‘plucked off the feathers,’ occurs in the Manciple’s Tale; H. 304. And see Troil. v. 1546.
text, remark in writing; the word was used of any written statement that was frequently quoted. The allusion is to the legend of Nimrod, ‘the mighty hunter’ (Gen. x. 9), which described him as a very bad man. ‘Mikel he cuth [much he knew] o sin and scham’; Cursor Mundi, l. 2202. It was he (it was said) who built the tower of Babel, and introduced idolatry and fire-worship. All this has ceased to be familiar, and the allusion has lost its point. ‘We enjoin that a priest be not a hunter, nor a hawker, nor a dicer’; Canons of King Edgar, translated; no. 64. See my note to P. Plowman, C. vi. 157.
179.recchelees (in MS. E.) means careless, regardless of rule; but ‘a careless monk’ is not necessarily ‘a monk out of his cloister.’ But the reading cloisterless (in MS. Harl.) solves the difficulty; being a coined word, Chaucer goes on to explain it in l. 181. See the quotation from Jehan de Meung in the next note.
179–81. This passage, says Tyrwhitt, ‘is attributed by Gratian (Decretal. P. ii. Cau. xvi. q. l. c. viii.) to a pope Eugenius: Sicut piscis sine aqua caret vita, ita sine monasterio monachus.’ Joinville says, ‘The Scriptures do say that a monk cannot live out of his cloister without falling into deadly sins, any more than a fish can live out of water without dying.’ Cf. Piers Plowman, B. x. 292; and my note.
Wyclif (Works, ed. Matthew), p. 449, has a similar remark:—‘For, as they seyn that groundiden [founded] these cloystris, thes men myghten no more dwelle out ther-of than fizs myghte dwelle out of water, for vertu that they han ther-ynne.’ The simile is very old; in The Academy, Nov. 29, 1890, Prof. Albert Cook traced it back to Sozomen, Eccl. Hist. bk. i. c. 13 (Migne, Patr. Graec. 67. 898):—τοὺς μὲν γὰρ ἰχθύας ἔλεγε τὴν ὑγρὰν οὐσίαν τρέϕειν, μοναχοι̑ς δὲ κόσμον ϕέρειν τὴν ἔρημον. ἐπίσης τε τοὺς μὲν ξηρα̑ς ἀπτομένους τὸ ζῃ̑ν ἀπολιμπάνειν, τοὺς δὲ τὴν μοναστικὴν σεμνότητα ἀπολλύειν τοι̑ς ἄστεσι προσιόντας. And in The Academy, Dec. 6, 1890, Mr. H. Ellershaw, of Durham, shewed that it occurs still earlier, in the Life of St. Anthony (c. 85) attributed to St. Athanasius, not later than 373:—ὥσπερ οἱ ἰχθύες ἐγχρονίζοντες τῃ̑ ξηρᾳ̑ γῃ̑ τελευτω̑σιν· οὕτως οἱ μοναχοὶ βραδύνοντες μεθ’ ὑμω̑ν καὶ παρ’ ὑμι̑ν ἐνδιατρίβοντες ἐκλύονται.
Moreover, the poet was thinking of a passage in Le Testament de Jehan de Meung, ed. Méon, l. 1166:—
i. e. ‘whoever would find them, let him seek them in their cloister; for they do not prize the world at the value of an oyster.’ Chaucer turns this passage just the other way about.
182.text, remark, saying (as above, in l. 177). held, esteemed.
183. ‘And I said.’ This is a very realistic touch; as if Chaucer had been talking to the monk, obtaining his opinions, and professing to agree with them.
184.What has here its earliest sense of wherefore, or why.
wood, mad, foolish, is frequently employed by Spenser; A. S. wōd.
186.swinken, to toil; whence ‘swinked hedger,’ used by Milton (Comus, l. 293). But swinken is, properly, a strong verb; A. S. swincan, pt. t. swanc, pp. swuncen. Hence swink, s., toil; l. 188.
187.bit, the 3rd pers. sing. pres. of bidden, to command. So also rit, rideth, A. 974, 981; fynt, findeth, A. 4071; rist, riseth, A. 4193; stant, standeth, B. 618; sit, sitteth, D. 1657; smit, smiteth, E. 122; hit, hideth, F. 512.
187, 188.Austin, St. Augustine. The reference is to St. Augustine of Hippo, after whom the Augustinian Canons were named. Their rule was compiled from his writings. Thus we read that ‘bothe monks and chanouns forsaken the reules of Benet and Austyn’; Wyclif’s Works, ed. Arnold, iii. 511. And again—‘Seynt Austyn techith munkis to labore with here hondis, and so doth seint Benet and seynt Bernard’; Wyclif’s Works, ed. Matthew, p. 51. See Cutts, Scenes and Characters, &c.; ch. ii. and ch. iii.
189.a pricasour, a hard rider. priking, hard riding (l. 191).
190. Cf. ‘Also fast so the fowl in flyght’; Ywaine and Gawin, 630.
192.for no cost, for no expense. Dr. Morris explains for no cost by ‘for no reason,’ and certainly M. E. cost sometimes has such a force; but see ll. 213, 799, where it clearly means ‘expense.’
193.seigh, saw; A. S. sēah, pt. t. of sēon, to see.
purfiled, edged with fur. The M. E. purfil signifies the embroidered or furred hem of a garment, so that purfile is to work upon the edge. Purfiled has also a more extended meaning, and is applied to garments overlaid with gems or other ornaments. ‘Pourfiler d’or, to purfle, tinsell, or overcast with gold thread,’ &c.: Cotgrave. Spenser uses purfled in the Fairy Queene, i. 2. 13; ii. 3. 26. Cf. note to P. Plowman, C. iii. 10.
194.grys, a sort of costly grey fur, formerly very much esteemed; O. F. gris, Rom. de la Rose, 9121, 9307; Sir Tristrem, l. 1381. ‘The grey is the back-fur of the northern squirrel’; L. Gautier, Chivalry (Eng. tr.), p. 323. Such a dress as is here described must have been very expensive. In 1231 (Close Roll, 16 Hen. III.), king Henry III. had a skirt (iupa) of scarlet, furred with red gris. See Gloss. to Liber Custumarum, ed. Riley, s. v. griseum, p. 806.
In Lydgate’s Dance of Macabre, the Cardinal is made to regret—
The Council of London (1342) reproaches the religious orders with wearing clothing ‘fit rather for knights than for clerks, that is to say, short, very tight, with excessively wide sleeves, not reaching the elbows, but hanging down very low, lined with fur or with silk’; see J. Jusserand, English Wayfaring Life (1889). Cf. Wyclif, Works, ed. Matthew, p. 121.
‘This worshipful man, this dene, came rydynge into a good paryssh with a x. or xii. horses lyke a prelate’; Caxton, Fables of Æsop, &c.; last fable; cf. l. 204 below.
196. ‘He had an elaborate brooch, made of gold, with a love-knot in the larger end.’ love-knotte, a complicated twist, with loops.
198.balled, bald. See Specimens of Early English, ii. 15. 408.
199.anoint, anointed; O. F. enoint, Lat. inunctus.
200.in good point, in good case, imitated from the O. F. en bon point. Cotgrave has: ‘En bon poinct, ou, bien en poinct, handsome: faire, fat, well liking, in good taking.’
201.stepe, E. E. steap, does not here mean sunken, but bright, burning, fiery. Mr. Cockayne has illustrated the use of this word in his Seinte Marherete, pp. 9, 108: ‘His twa ehnen [semden] steappre þene steorren,’ his two eyes seemed brighter than stars. So also: ‘schininde and schenre, of ȝimstanes steapre then is eni steorre,’ shining and clearer, brighter with gems than is any star; St. Katherine, l. 1647. The expression ‘eyen gray and stepe,’ i. e. bright, has already been quoted in the note to l. 152. So also ‘Eyyen stepe and graye’; King of Tars, l. 15 (in Ritson, Met. Rom. ii. 157); and again, ‘thair een steep’; Palladius on Husbandry, bk. iv. l. 800. Cf. stemed in the next line; and see l. 753.
202.stemed as a forneys of a leed, shone like the fire under a cauldron. Here stemed is related to the M. E. stēm, a bright light, used in Havelok, 591. Cf. ‘two stemyng eyes,’ two bright eyes; Sir T. Wiat, Sat. i. 53. That refers to eyen, not to heed.
A kitchen-copper is still sometimes called a lead. As to the word leed, which is the same as the modern E. lead (the metal), Mr. Stevenson, in his edition of the Nottingham Records, iii. 493, observes—‘That these vessels were really made of lead we have ample evidence’; and refers us to the Laws of Æthelstán, iv. 7 (Schmid, Anhang, xvi. § 1); &c. He adds—‘The lead was frequently fixed, like a modern domestic copper, over a grate. The grate and flue were known as a furnace. Hence the frequent expression—a lead in furnace.’ See also led in Havelok, l. 924; and lead in Tusser’s Husbandrie, E. D. S.
203.botes souple, boots pliable, soft, and close-fitting.
‘This is part of the description of a smart abbot, by an anonymous writer of the thirteenth century: “Ocreas habebat in cruribus quasi innatae essent, sine plica porrectas.”—MS. Bodley, James, no. 6. p. 121.’—T. See Rom. of the Rose, 2265–70 (vol. i. p. 173).
205.for-pyned, ‘tormented,’ and hence ‘wasted away’; from pine. The for- is intensive, as in Eng. forswear.
208.Frere, friar. The four orders of mendicant friars mentioned in l. 210 were:—(1) The Dominicans, or friars-preachers, who took up their abode in Oxford in 1221, known as the Black Friars. (2) The Franciscans, founded by St. Francis of Assisi in 1209, and known by the name of Grey Friars. They made their first appearance in England in 1224. (3) The Carmelites, or White Friars. (4) The Augustin (or Austin) Friars. The friar was popular with the mercantile classes on account of his varied attainments and experience. ‘Who else so welcome at the houses of men to whom scientific skill and information, scanty as they might be, were yet of no inconsiderable service and attraction. He alone of learned and unlearned possessed some knowledge of foreign countries and their productions; he alone was acquainted with the composition and decomposition of bodies, with the art of distillation, with the construction of machinery, and with the use of the laboratory.’ See Professor Brewer’s Preface to Monumenta Franciscana, p. xlv; and, in particular, the poem called ‘Pierce the Ploughman’s Crede,’ and the satirical piece against the Friars entitled Jack Upland, formerly printed with Chaucer’s Works. Several pieces against them will also be found in Political Poems, ed. Wright (Record Series); and there are numerous outspoken attacks upon them in Wyclif’s various works, as, e.g. in the Select Eng. Works, ed. Arnold, iii. 366, and in his Works, ed. Matthew, p. 47. See also the chapter on Friars in the E. translation of Jusserand, Eng. Wayfaring Life; p. 293.
Many of the remarks concerning the Frere are ultimately due to Le Roman de la Rose. See The Romaunt of the Rose, ll. 6161–7698; in vol. i. pp. 234–259.
wantown, sometimes written wantowen, literally signifies untrained, and hence wild, brisk, lively. wan- is a common M. E. prefix, equivalent to our un- or dis-, as in wanhope, despair; towen or town occurs in M. E. writers for well-behaved, well-taught; from A. S. togen, pp. of tēon, to educate.
merye, pleasant; cf. M. E. mery wether, pleasant weather.
209.limitour was a begging friar to whom was assigned a certain district or limit, within which he was permitted to solicit alms; it was also his business to solicit persons to purchase a partnership, or brotherhood, in the merits of their conventual services. See Tyndale’s Works, i. 212 (Parker Soc.); and note to P. Plowman, B. v. 138. Hence in later times the verb limit signifies to beg.
210.ordres foure, four orders (note to l. 208). can, i. e. ‘knows.’
211.daliaunce and fair langage, gossip and flattery. daliaunce in M. E. signifies ‘tittle-tattle’ or ‘gossip.’ The verb dally signifies not only to loiter or idle, but to play, sport. Godefroy gives O. F. ‘dallier, v. a., railler.’
212. ‘He had, at his own expense, well married many young women.’ This is less generous than might appear; for it almost certainly refers to young women who had been his concubines. As Dr. Furnivall remarks in his Temporary Preface, p. 118—‘the true explanation lies in the following extract from a letter of Dr. Layton to Cromwell, in 1535 , in Mr. Thos. Wright’s edition of Letters on the Suppression of the Monasteries (Camden Soc.), p. 58: [At Maiden Bradley, near Bristol] “is an holy father prior, and hath but vj. children, and but one dowghter mariede yet of the goodes of the monasterie, trystyng shortly to mary the reste. His sones be tall men, waittyng upon him; and he thankes Gode a never medelet with marytt women, but all with madens, the faireste cowlde be gottyn, and always marede them ryght well.” ’
214.post, pillar or support, as in Troil. i. 1000. See Gal. ii. 9.
216.frankeleyns, wealthy farmers; see l. 331. over-al, everywhere.
217.worthy, probably ‘wealthy’; or else, ‘respectable.’ Cf. l. 68.
219. The word mór-e occupies the fourth foot in the line; cf. n. to l. 320. It is an adj., with the sense of ‘greater.’
220.licentiat. He had a licence from the Pope ‘to hear confessions, &c., in all places, independently of the local ordinaries.’—T. The curate, or parish priest, could not grant absolution in all cases, some of which were reserved for the bishop’s decision. See Wyclif’s Works, ed. Arnold, iii. 394.
224.wiste to han, knew (he was sure) to have.
pitaunce here signifies a mess of victuals. It originally signified an extraordinary allowance of victuals given to monastics, in addition to their usual commons, and was afterwards applied to the whole allowance of food for a single person, or to a small portion of anything.
225. ‘For the giving (of gifts) to a poor order.’ povre, O. F. povre, poor; cf. pover-ty. See pov-re in l. 232.
226.y-shrive = y-shriven, confessed, shriven. The final n is dropped; cf. unknowe for unknowen in l. 126.
227.he dorste, he durst make (it his) boast, i. e. confidently assert.
avaunt, a boast, is from the O. F. vb. avanter, to boast, an intensive form of vanter, whence E. vaunt.
230.he may not, he is not able to. him sore smerte, it may pain him, or grieve him, sorely.
232.Men moot, one ought to. Here moot is singular; cf. l. 149.
233.tipet, a loose hood, which seems to have been used as a pocket. ‘When the Order [of Franciscans] degenerated, the friar combined with the spiritual functions the occupation of pedlar, huxter, mountebank, and quack doctor.’ (Brewer.) ‘Thei [the friars] becomen pedderis [pedlars], berynge knyues, pursis, pynnys, and girdlis, and spices, and sylk, and precious pellure and forrouris [sorts of fur] for wymmen, and therto smale gentil hondis [dogs], to gete love of hem, and to haue many grete yiftis for litil good or nought.’—Wyclif’s Works, ed. Matthew, p. 12. As to the tipet, cf. notes to ll. 682, 3953.
In an old poem printed in Brewer’s Monumenta Franciscana, we have the following allusion to the dealings of the friar:—
In a poem in MS. Camb., Ff. 1. 6, fol. 156, it is explained that the limitour craftily gives ‘pynnys, gerdyllis, and knyeffs’ to wommen, in order to receive better things in return. He could get knives for less than a penny a-piece. Cf. ‘De j. doss. cultellorum dict. penyware. xd.’; York Wills, iii. 96.
Women used to wear knives sheathed and suspended from their girdles; such knives were often given to a bride. See the chapter on Bride-knives in Brand’s Popular Antiquities.
farsed, stuffed; from F. farcir. Cf. E. farce.
236.rote is a kind of fiddle or ‘crowd,’ not a hurdy-gurdy, as it is explained by Ritson, and in the glossary to Sir Tristrem. Cf. Spenser, F. Q. ii. 10. 3; iv. 9. 6; Sir Degrevant, l. 37 (see Halliwell’s note, at p. 289 of the Thornton Romances). See my Etym. Dictionary.
237.yeddinges, songs embodying some popular tales or romances. In Sir Degrevant, l. 1421, we are told that a lady ‘song yeddyngus,’ i.e. sang songs. For singing such songs, he was in the highest estimation. From A. S. geddian, to sing. Cf. P. Plowman, A. i. 138:—‘Ther thou art murie at thy mete, whon me biddeth the yedde.’
prys answers both to E. prize and price; cf. l. 67.
239.champioun, champion; i.e. a professional fighter in judicial lists. Cf. P. Plowman, C. xxi. 104; and see Britton, liv. i. ch. 23. § 15.
241.tappestere, a female tapster. In olden times the retailers of beer, and for the most part the brewers also, appear to have been females. The -stere or -ster as a feminine affix (though in the fourteenth century it is not always or regularly used as such) occurs in M. E. brewstere, webbestere, Eng. spinster. In huckster, maltster, songster, this affix has acquired the meaning of an agent; and in youngster, gamester, punster, &c., it implies contempt. See Skeat, Principles of Etymology, pt. i. § 238. Cf. beggestere, female beggar, 242.
242.Bet, better, adv.; as distinguished from bettre, adj. (l. 524).
lazar, a leper; from Lazarus, in the parable of Dives and Lazarus; hence lazaretto, a hospital for lepers, a lazar-house.
244. ‘It was unsuitable, considering his ability.’
246. ‘It is not becoming, it may not advance (profit) to deal with (associate with) any such poor people.’ Cf. Rom. of the Rose, 6455, 6462; and note to P. Plowman, C. xiii. 21.
247. The line is imperfect in the first foot.
poraille, rabble of poor people; from O. F. povre, poor.
248.riche, i. e. rich people.
249, 250. ‘And everywhere, wherever profit was likely to accrue, courteous he was, and humble in offering his services.’
251.vertuous, (probably) energetic, efficient; cf. vertu in l. 4.
252, 253. Between these two lines the Hengwrt MS. inserts the two lines marked 252 b and 252 c, which are omitted in the other MSS., though they certainly appear to be genuine, and are found in all the black-letter editions, which follow Thynne. In the Six-text edition, which is here followed, they are not counted in. Tyrwhitt both inserts and numbers them; hence a slight difference in the methods of numbering the lines after this line. Tyrwhitt’s numbering is given, at every tenth line, within marks of parenthesis, for convenience of reference. The sense is—‘And gave a certain annual payment for the grant (to be licensed to beg; in consequence of which) none of his brethren came with his limit.’
ferme is the mod. E. farm; cf. ‘to farm revenues.’
253.sho, shoe; not sou (as has been suggested), which would (in fact) give a false rime. So also ‘worth his olde sho’; D. 708.
The friars were not above receiving even the smallest articles; and ferthing, in l. 255, may be explained by ‘small article,’ of a farthing’s value. See l. 134.
‘Ever be giving of somewhat, though it be but a cheese, or a piece of bacon, to the holy order of sweet St. Francis, or to any other of my [i. e. Antichrist’s] friars, monks, canons, &c. Holy Church refuseth nothing, but gladly taketh whatsoever cometh.’—Becon’s Acts of Christ and of Antichrist, vol. iii. p. 531 (Parker Society). And see the Somp. Tale, D. 1746–1751.
254.In principio. The reference is to the text in John i. 1, as proved by a passage from Tyndale (Works, ed. 1572, p. 271, col. 2; or iii. 61, Parker Soc.):—‘Such is the limiter’s saying of In principio erat verbum, from house to house.’ Sir Walter Scott copies this phrase in The Fair Maid of Perth, ch. iii. The friars constantly quoted this text.
256.purchas=proceeds of his begging. What he acquired in this way was greater than his rent or income. ‘Purchase, . . any method of acquiring an estate otherwise than by descent’; Blackstone, Comment. I. iii. For rente, see l. 373.
We find also: ‘My purchas is theffect of al my rente’; D. 1451.
where the F. original has (l. 11760)—‘Miex vaut mes porchas que ma rente.’
257.as it were right (E. Hn. &c.); and pleye as (Hl.). The sense is—‘and he could romp about, exactly as if he were a puppy-dog.’
258.love-dayes. ‘Love-days (dies amoris) were days fixed for settling differences by umpire, without having recourse to law or violence. The ecclesiastics seem generally to have had the principal share in the management of these transactions, which, throughout the Vision of Piers Ploughman, appear to be censured as the means of hindering justice and of enriching the clergy.’—Wright’s Vision of Piers Ploughman, vol. ii. p. 535.
Piers Ploughman, A. xi. 208, ed. Skeat; see also note to P. Pl. ed. Skeat, B. iii. 157. The sense is—‘he could give much help on lovedays (by acting as umpire).’ See ll. 259–261.
As to loveday, see Wyclif, Works, ed. Matthew, pp. 172, 234, 512; and the same, Works, ed. Arnold, ii. 77; iii. 322; Paston Letters, ed. Gairdner, i. 496; Titus Andronicus, i. 1. 491. In the Testament of Love, bk. i. (ed. 1561, fol. 287, col. 2) we find—‘What (quod she) . . . maked I not a louedaie betwene God and mankind, and chese a maide to be nompere [umpire], to put the quarell at ende?’
260.cope, a priest’s vestment; a cloak forming a semicircle when laid flat; the semi-cope (l. 262) was a short cloak or cape. Cf. Pierce the Ploughman’s Crede, ll. 227, 228:—
This line is a little awkward to scan. With a thred- constitutes the first foot; and povre is povr’ (cp. mod. F. pauvre).
261. ‘The kyng or the emperour myghtte with worschipe were a garnement of a frere for goodnesse of the cloth’; Wyclif’s Works, ed. Matthew, p. 50.
263.rounded, assumed a round form; used intransitively. presse, the mould in which a bell is cast; cf. l. 81.
264.lipsed, lisped; by metathesis of s and p. See footnote to l. 273.
for his wantownesse, by way of mannerism.
270.a forked berd. In the time of Edward III. forked beards were the fashion among the franklins and bourgeoisie, according to the English custom before the Conquest. See Fairholt’s Costume in England, fig. 30.
271.In mottelee, in a motley dress; cf. l. 328.
273.clasped; fastened with a clasp fairly and neatly. See l. 124.
274.resons, opinions. ful solempnely, with much importance.
275. ‘Always conducing to the increase of his profit.’ souninge, sounding like, conducing to; cf. l. 307. Compare—‘thei chargen more [care more for] a litil thing that sowneth to wynnyng of hem, than a myche more [greater] thing that sowneth to worchip of God’; Wyclif, Works, ed. Arnold, ii. 383. ‘These indulgencis . . . done mykel harme to Cristen soulis, and sownen erroure ageynes the gospel’; id., iii. 459. Cf. Chaucer’s Doctour’s Tale, C. 54; also P. Plowman, C. vii. 59, x. 216, xii. 79, xxii. 455. The M. E. sb. soun is from F. son, Lat. acc. sonum.
276.were kept, should be guarded; so that he should not suffer from pirates or privateers. ‘The old subsidy of tonnage and poundage was given to the king for the safeguard and custody of the sea 12. Edw. IV. c. 3.’—T.
‘The see wel kept, it must be don for drede.’
A Libell of English Policie, l. 1083.
In 1360, a commission was granted to John Gibone to proceed, with certain ships of the Cinque Ports, to free the sea from pirates and others, the enemies of the king; Appendix E. to Rymer’s Fœdera, p. 50.
for any thing, i. e. for any sake, at any cost. The A. S. thing is often used in the sense of ‘sake,’ ‘cause,’ or ‘reason.’ For in Chaucer also means ‘against,’ or ‘to prevent,’ but not (I think) here.
277.Middelburgh and Orewelle. ‘Middelburgh is still a well-known port of the island of Walcheren, in the Netherlands, almost immediately opposite Harwich, beside which are the estuaries of the rivers Stoure and Orwell. This spot was formerly known as the port of Orwell or Orewelle.’—Saunders, p. 229.
This mention of Middelburgh ‘proves that the Prologue must have been written not before 1384, and not later than 1388. In the year 1384 the wool-staple was removed from Calais and established at Middelburgh; in 1388 it was fixed once more at Calais; see Craik’s Hist. of Brit. Commerce, i. 123.’—Hales, Folia Literaria, p. 100. This note has a special importance.
278. ‘He well knew how to make a profit by the exchange of his crowns’ in the different money-markets of Europe. Sheeldes are crowns (O. F. escuz, F. écus), named from their having on one side the figure of a shield. They were valued at half a noble, or 3s. 4d.; Appendix E. to Rymer’s Fœdera, p. 55. See B. 1521.
279.his wit bisette, employed his knowledge to the best advantage. bisette = used, employed. Cf. Piers Plowman, ed. Skeat, B. v. 297:—
281, 282. ‘So ceremoniously (or, with such lofty bearing) did he order his bargains and agreements for borrowing money.’ A chevisaunce was an agreement for borrowing money on credit; cf. B. 1519; also P. Plowman, B. v. 249, and the note. From F. chevir, to accomplish; cf. E. achieve.
284.noot = ne + woot, know not; so niste = ne + wiste, knew not.
285.Clerk, a university student, a scholar preparing for the priesthood. It also signifies a man of learning, a man in holy orders. See Anstey’s Munimenta Academica for much interesting information on early Oxford life and studies.
Oxenford, Oxford, as if ‘the ford of the oxen’ (A. S. Oxnaford); and it has not been proved that this etymology is wrong.
y-go, gone, betaken himself.
287. Hence ‘Leane as a rake’ in Skelton, Philip Sparowe, l. 913; ‘A villaine, leane as any rake, appeares’; W. Browne, Brit. Past. bk. ii. song 1.
290. ‘His uppermost short cloak (of coarse cloth).’ The syllable -py answers to Du. pije, a coarse cloth; cf. Goth. paida, a coat. Cf. E. pea-jacket. See D. 1382; P. Plowman, B. vi. 191; Rom. Rose, 220.
292. ‘Nor was he so worldly as to take a (secular) office.’ Many clerks undertook legal employments; P. Plowman, B. prol. 95.
293. ‘For it was dearer to him to have,’ i. e. he would rather have.
lever is the comparative of M. E. leef, A. S. lēof, lief, dear.
294. The first foot is defective: Twen|ty bo|kes, &c.
296. In the Milleres Tale, Chaucer describes a clerk of a very opposite character, who loved dissipation and played upon a ‘sautrye’ or psaltery. See A. 3200–20.
fithel is the mod. E. fiddle. sautrye is an O. F. spelling of our psaltery.
297.philosophre is used in a double sense; it sometimes meant an alchemist, as in G. 1427. The clerk knew philosophy, but he was no alchemist, and so had but little gold.
298.Hadde, possessed; as hadde is here emphatic, the final e is not elided. So also in l. 386.
301. Chaucer often imitates his own lines. He here imitates Troil. iv. 1174—‘And pitously gan for the soule preye.’ gan, did.
302.yaf him, ‘gave him (money) wherewith to attend school.’ An allusion to the common practice, at this period, of poor scholars in the Universities, who wandered about the country begging, to raise money to support them in their studies. Luther underwent a similar experience. Cf. P. Plowman, B. vii. 31; also Ploughman’s Crede, ed. Skeat, p. 71.
305. ‘With propriety (due form) and modesty.’
307.Souninge in, conducing to; cf. note to l. 275 above.
The Man of Lawe.
309.war, wary, cautions; A. S. wær, aware. Cf. l. 157.
310.at the parvys, at the church-porch, or portico of St. Paul’s, where the lawyers were wont to meet for consulation. See Ducange, s. v. paradisus, which is the Latin form whence the O. F. parvis is derived. Also the note in Warton, Hist. E. Poet., ed. 1840, ii. 212; cf. Anglia, viii. 453. And see Rom. of the Rose. 7108, and the note.
315.pleyn, full; F. plein, Lat. acc. plenum. Cf. pleyn, fully, in l. 327.
320.purchasing, conveyancing; infect, invalid. ‘The learned Sergeant was clever enough to untie any entail, and pass the property as estate in fee simple.’—W. H. H. Kelke, in N. and Q. 5 S. vi. 487.
The word might-e occupies the fourth foot in the line.
323, 324. ‘He was well acquainted with all the legal cases and decisions (or decrees) which had been ruled in the courts of law (lit. had befallen) since the time of William the Conqueror.’ In termes hadde he, he had in terms, knew how to express in proper terms, was well acquainted with.
325.Therto, moreover. make, compose, draw up, draught.
326.pinche at, find fault with; lit. nip, twitch at.
327.coude he, he knew; coude is the pt. t. of konnen, to know, A. S. cunnan.
328.medlee cote, a coat of mixed stuff or colour. In 1303, we find mention of ‘one woman’s surcoat of medley’; see Memorials of London, ed. Riley, p. 48.
329.ceint of silk, &c., a girdle of silk, with small ornaments. The barres were called cloux in French (Lat. clavus), and were the usual ornaments of a girdle. They were perforated to allow the tongue of the buckle to pass through them. ‘Originally they were attached transversely to the wide tissue of which the girdle was formed, but subsequently were round or square, or fashioned like the heads of lions, and similar devices, the name of barre being still retained, though improperly.’—Way, in Promptorium Parvulorum; s. v. barre. And see Bar in the New English Dictionary. Gower also has: ‘a ceinte of silk’; C. A. ed. Pauli, ii. 30. Cf. A. 3235, and Rom. of the Rose, 1085, 1103.
ceint, O. F. ceint, a girdle; from Lat. cinctus, pp. of cingere, to gird.
331. Fortescue (De Laudibus Legum Angliae, c. 29) describes a franklin to be a pater familias—magnis ditatus possessionibus; i. e. he was a substantial householder and a man of some importance. See Warton, Hist. E. Poet., ed. 1840, ii. 202; and Gloss. to P. Plowman.
332.dayes-ye, daisy; A. S. dæges ēage, lit. eye of day (the sun).
333. ‘He was sanguine of complexion.’ The old school of medicine, following Galen, supposed that there were four ‘humours,’ viz. hot, cold, moist, and dry (see l. 420), and four complexions or temperaments of men, viz. the sanguine, the choleric, the phlegmatic, and the melancholy. The man of sanguine complexion abounded in hot and moist humours, as shown in the following description, given in the Oriel MS. 79 (as quoted in my Preface to P. Plowman, B-text, p. xix):—
334.by the morwe, in the morning.
a sop in wyn, wine with pieces of cake or bread in it; see E. 1843. See Brand, Antiq. (ed. Ellis), ii. 137. Later, sop-in-wine was a jocose name for a kind of pink or carnation; id. ii. 91.
In the Anturs of Arthur at the Tarnewathelan, st. 37, we read that
And in MS. Harl. 279, fol. 10, we have the necessary instruction for the making of these sops. ‘Take mylke and boyle it, and thanne tak yolkys of eyroun [eggs], ytryid [separated] fro the whyte, and hete it, but let it nowt boyle, and stere it wyl tyl it be somwhat thikke; thenne cast therto salt and sugre, and kytte [cut] fayre paynemaynnys in round soppys, and caste the soppys theron, and serve it forth for a potage.’—Way, in Promptorium Parvulorum, p. 378. The F. name is soupe au vin. See also Ducange, s. v. Merus.
335.wone, wont, custom; A. S. wuna, ge-wuna.
delyt, delight; the mod. E. word is misspelt; delite would be better.
336. ‘A very son of Epicurus.’ Alluding to the famous Greek philosopher [died 270], the author of the Epicurean philosophy, which assumed pleasure to be the highest good. Chaucer here follows Boethius, bk. iii. pr. 2. 54: ‘The whiche delyt only considerede Epicurus, and iuged and establisshed that delyt is the sovereyn good.’ Cf. Troil. iii. 1691, v. 763; also E. 2021.
340. ‘St. Julian was eminent for providing his votaries with good lodgings and accommodation of all sorts. [See Chambers’ Book of Days, ii. 388.] In the title of his legend, Bodl. MS. 1596, fol. 4, he is called “St. Julian the gode herberjour” (St. Julian the good harbourer).’—Tyrwhitt. His day is Jan. 9. See the Lives of Saints, ed. Horstmann (E. E. T. S.); also Gesta Romanorum, ed. Swan, tale 18; Mrs. Jameson, Sacred and Leg. Art, ii. 393.
341.after oon, according to one invariable standard; ‘up to the mark’; cf. A. 1781, and the note. A description of a Franklin’s feast is given in the Babees Book, ed. Furnivall, p. 170.
342.envyned, stored with wine. ‘Cotgrave has preserved the French word enviné in the same sense.’—Tyrwhitt.
343.bake mete = baked meat; the old past participle of bake was baken or bake, as it was a strong verb. Baked meats = meats baked in coffins (pies). Cf. Hamlet, i. 2. 180.
344.plentevous, plenteous, plentiful; O. F. plentivous, formed by adding -ous to O. F. pleintif, adj. abundant; see Godefroy’s O. F. Dict.
345. The verb snewed may be explained as a metaphor from snowing; in fact, the M. E. snewe, like the Prov. Eng. snie or snive, also signifies to abound, swarm. Camb. MS. reads ‘It snowede in his mouth of mete and drynk.’ Cf. ‘He was with yiftes [presents] all bisnewed’; Gower, C. A. iii. 51. From A. S. snīwan.
347.After, according to; it depended on what was in season.
348.soper (supee·r), supper; from O. F. infin. soper; cf. F. 1189.
349.mewe. The mewe was the place where the hawks were kept while moulting; it was afterwards applied to the coop wherein fowl were fattened, and lastly to a place of confinement or secrecy.
350.stewe, fish-pond. ‘To insure a supply of fish, stew-ponds were attached to the manors, and few monasteries were without them; the moat around the castle was often converted into a fish-pond, and well stored with luce, carp, or tench.’—Our English Home, p. 65.
breem, bream; luce, pike, from O. F. luce, Low Lat. lucius.
351.Wo was his cook, woeful or sad was his cook. We now only use wo or woe as a substantive. Cf. B. 757, E. 753; and ‘I am woe for ’t’; Tempest, v. 1. 139.
‘Who was woo but Olyvere then?’—Sowdone of Babyloyne, l. 1271. Rob. of Brunne, in his Handlyng Synne, l. 7250, says that a rich man’s cook ‘may no day Greythe hym hys mete to pay.’
351, 352.sauce—Poynaunt is like the modern phrase sauce piquante. Cf. B. 4024. ‘Our forefathers were great lovers of “piquant sauce.” They made it of expensive condiments and rare spices.’—Our English Home, p. 62.
353.table dormant, irremoveable table. ‘Previous to the fourteenth century a pair of common wooden trestles and a rough plank was deemed a table sufficient for the great hall. . . . Tables, with a board attached to a frame, were introduced about the time of Chaucer, and, from remaining in the hall, were regarded as indications of a ready hospitality.’—Our English Home, p. 29. Most tables were removeable; such a table was called a bord (board).
355.sessiouns. At the Sessions of the Peace, at the meeting of the Justices of the Peace. Cf. ‘At Sessions and at Sises we bare the stroke and swaye.’—Higgins’ Mirrour for Magistrates, ed. 1571, p. 2.
356.knight of the shire, the designation given to the representative in parliament of an English county at large, as distinguished from the representatives of such counties and towns as are counties of themselves (Ogilvie). Chaucer was knight of the shire of Kent in 1386.
tym-e here represents the A. S. tīman, pl. of tīma, a time.
357.anlas or anelace. Speght defines this word as a falchion, or wood-knife. It was, however, a short two-edged knife or dagger usually worn at the girdle, broad at the hilt and tapering to a point. See the New Eng. Dictionary; Liber Albus, p. 75; Knight, Pict. Hist. of England, i. 872; Gloss. to Matthew Paris, s. v. anelacius; Riley’s Memorials of London, p. 15. The etymology is unknown; I guess it to be from M. E. an, on, and las, a lace, i.e. ‘on a lace,’ a dagger that hung from a lace attached to the girdle. Cf. A. S. bigyrdel (just below); and ‘hanging on a laas’ in l. 392.
gipser was properly a pouch or budget used in hawking, &c., but commonly worn by the merchant, or with any secular attire.—(Way.) It answers to F. gibecière, a pouch; from O. F. gibe, a bunch (Scheler). In Riley’s Memorials of London, p. 398, under the date 1376, there is a mention of ‘purses called gibesers.’ In the Bury Wills, p. 37, l. 16, under the date 1463, we find—‘My best gypcer with iij. bagges.’ The A. S. name was bigyrdel, from its hanging by the girdle, as said in l. 358; it occurs in the A. S. version of Matt. x. 9; and in P. Plowman, B. viii. 87.
358.Heng (or Heeng), the past tense of hongen or hangen, to hang. morne milk=morning-milk; as in A. 3236. ‘As white as milke’; Ritson’s Met. Romances, iii. 292.
359.shirreve, the reve of a shire, governor of a county; our modern word sheriff.
countour, O. Fr. comptour, an accountant, a person who audited accounts or received money in charge, &c.; ranked with pleaders in Riley’s Memorials of London, p. 58. It occurs in Rob. of Gloucester, l. 11153. In the Book of the Duch. 435, it simply means ‘accountant.’ Perhaps it here means ‘auditor.’ ‘Or stewards, countours, or pleadours’; Plowman’s Tale, pt. iii. st. 13.
360.vavasour, or vavaser, originally a sub-vassal or tenant of a vassal or tenant of the king’s, one who held his lands in fealty. ‘Vavasor, one that in dignities is next to a Baron’; Cowel. Strutt (Manners and Customs, iii. 14) explains that a vavasour was ‘a tenant by knight’s service, who did not hold immediately of the king in capite, but of some mesne lord, which excluded him from the dignity of baron by tenure.’ Tyrwhitt says ‘it should be understood to mean the whole class of middling landholders.’ See Lacroix, Military Life of Middle Ages, p. 9. Spelt favasour in King Alisaunder, ed. Weber, l. 3827. A. F. uauassur; Laws of Will. I. c. 20. Lit. ‘vassal of vassals’; Low Lat. vassus vassorum.
The Haberdassher and others.
361.Haberdassher. Haberdashers were of two kinds: haberdashers of small wares—sellers of needles, tapes, buttons, &c.; and haberdashers of hats. The stuff called hapertas is mentioned in the Liber Albus, p. 225.
362.Webbe, properly a male weaver; webstere was the female weaver, but there appears to have been some confusion in the use of the suffixes -e and -stere; see Piers Plowman, ed. Skeat, B. v. 215: ‘mi wyf was a webbe.’ Hence the names Webb and Webster. Cf. A. S. webba, m., a weaver; webbestere, fem. tapicer, upholsterer; F. tapis, carpet.
363.liveree, livery. ‘Under the term “livery” was included whatever was dispensed (delivered) by the lord to his officials or domestics annually or at certain seasons, whether money, victuals, or garments. The term chiefly denoted external marks of distinction, such as the roba estivalis and hiemalis, given to the officers and retainers of the court. . . . The Stat. 7 Hen. IV expressly permits the adoption of such distinctive dress by fraternities and “les gentz de mestere,” the trades of the cities of the realm, being ordained with good intent; and to this prevalent usage Chaucer alludes when he describes five artificers of various callings, who joined the pilgrimage, clothed all in o lyveré of a solempne and greet fraternité.’—Way, note to Prompt. Parv., p. 308. We still speak of the Livery Companies.
And they were clothed alle (Elles., &c.); Weren with vss eeke clothed (Harl.) The former reading leaves the former clause of the sentence without a verb.
364.fraternitee, guild: see English Gilds, ed. Toulmin Smith, pp. xxx, xxxix, cxxii. Each guild had its own livery; Rock, Church of our Fathers, ii. 412.
365.gere, gear, apparel. apyked, signifies cleaned, trimmed, like Shakespeare’s picked. Cotgrave gives as senses of F. piquer, ‘to quilt,’ and ‘to stiffen a coller.’
366.y-chaped, having chapes (i.e. plates or caps of metal at the point of the sheath or scabbard). Tradesmen and mechanics were prohibited from using knives adorned with silver, gold, or precious stones. So that Chaucer’s pilgrims were of a superior estate, as is indicated in l. 369. Cf. chapeless, Taming of the Shrew, iii. 2. 48.
370.deys, dese, or dais (Fr. deis, from Lat. discum, acc.), is used to denote the raised platform which was always found at the upper end of a hall, on which the high table was placed; originally, it meant the high table itself. In modern French and English, it is used of a canopy or ‘tester’ over a seat of state. Tyrwhitt’s account of the word is confused, as he starts with a false etymology.
yeld-halle, guild-hall. See Gildhall in the Index to E. Gilds, ed. Toulmin Smith.
371.that he can, that he knows; so also as he couthe, as he knew how, in l. 390. This line is deficient in the first foot.
372.shaply, adapted, fit; sometimes comely, of good shape. The mention of alderman should be noted. It was the invariable title given to one who was chosen as the head or principal of a guild (see English Gilds, ed. Toulmin Smith, pp. ciii, 36, 148, 276, 446). All these men belonged to a fraternity or guild, and each of them was a fit man to be chosen as head of it.
373. ‘For they had sufficient property and income’ (to entitle them to undertake such an office).
376.y-clept, called; pp. of clepen; see l. 121.
377.And goon to vigilyes al bifore. ‘It was the manner in times past, upon festival evens, called vigiliæ, for parishioners to meet in their church-houses or church-yards, and there to have a drinking-fit for the time. Here they used to end many quarrels betwixt neighbour and neighbour. Hither came the wives in comely manner, and they which were of the better sort had their mantles carried with them, as well for show as to keep them from cold at table.’—Speght, Gl. to Chaucer.
379.for the nones=for the nonce; this expression, if grammatically written, would be for then once, M. E. for þan anes, for the once, i. e. for the occasion; where the adv. anes (orig. a gen. form) is used as if it were a sb. in the dat. case. Cf. M.E. atte=atten, A. S. æt þām.
381.poudre-marchaunt tart is a sharp (tart) kind of flavouring powder, twice mentioned in Household Ordinances and Receipts (Soc. Antiq. 1790) at pp. 425, 434: ‘Do therto pouder marchant,’ and ‘do thi flessh therto, and gode herbes and poudre marchaunt, and let hit well stew.’—Notes and Queries, Fourth Series, iii. 180. See Powder in the Glossary to the Babees Book.
‘Galingale, which Chaucer, pre-eminentest, economioniseth above all junquetries or confectionaries whatsoever.’—Nash’s Lenten Stuff, p. 36, ed. Hindley. Galingale is the root of sweet cyperus. Harman (ed. Strother) notices three varieties: Cyperus rotundus, Galanga major, Galanga minor; Babees Book, ed. Furnivall, pp. 152, 216. See also Marco Polo, ed. Yule, ii. 181; Prompt. Parv., p. 185, note 4; Rogers, Hist. of Agriculture and Prices, i. 629; &c. And see Dr. H. Fletcher Hance’s and Mr. Daniel Hanbury’s Papers on this spice in the Linnæan Society’s Journal, 1871.
382.London ale. London ale was famous as early as the time of Henry III., and much higher priced than any other ale; cf. A. 3140.
Wel coude he knowe, he well knew how to distinguish. In fact, we find, in the Manciple’s Prologue (H. 57), that the Cook loved good ale only too well.
384.mortreux or mortrewes. There were two kinds of ‘mortrews,’ ‘mortrewes de chare’ and ‘mortrewes of fysshe.’ The first was a kind of soup in which chickens, fresh pork, crumbs of bread, yolks of eggs, and saffron formed the chief ingredients; the second kind was a soup containing the roe (or milt) and liver of fish, bread, pepper, ale. The ingredients were first stamped or brayed in a mortar, whence it probably derived its name. Lord Bacon (Nat. Hist. i. 48) speaks of ‘a mortresse made with the brawne of capons stamped and strained.’ See Babees Bock, pp. 151, 170, 172; Liber Cure Cocorum, ed. Morris, pp. 9, 19; and the note to P. Plowman, C. xvi. 47. This line, like ll. 371 and 391, is deficient in the first foot.
386.mormal, a cancer or gangrene. Ben Jonson, in imitation of this passage, has described a cook with an ‘old mortmal on his shin’; Sad Shepherd, act ii. sc. 2 Lydgate speaks of ‘Goutes, mormalles, horrible to the sight’; Falls of Princes, bk. vii. c. 10. In Polit. Religious and Love Poems, ed. Furnivall, p. 218, we are told that the sin of Luxury ‘ys a lyther mormale.’ In Skelton’s Magnificence, l. 1932, Adversity is made to say—‘Some with the marmoll to halte I them make’; and it is remarkable that Palsgrave gives both—‘Mormall, a sore,’ and ‘Marmoll, a sore’; the latter being plainly a corrupt form. See also Prompt. Parvulorum, p. 343, note 5. In MS. Oo. i. 20, last leaf, in the Camb. Univ. Library, are notices of remedies ‘Por la maladie que est apele malum mortuum.’ The MS. says that it comes from melancholy, and shows a broad hard scurf or crust.
387.blank-manger, a compound made of capon minced, with rice, milk, sugar, and almonds; see Liber Cure Cocorum, ed. Morris, p. 9. Named from its white colour.
See the essay on Chaucer’s Shipman in Essays on Chaucer, p. 455.
388.woning, dwelling; from A. S. wunian, to dwell.
by weste=westward. A good old expression, which was once very common as late as the sixteenth century.
389. Dartmouth was once a very considerable port; see Essays on Chaucer, p. 456. Compare the account of the Shipman’s Gild at Lynn; E. Gilds, p. 54.
390.rouncy, a common hackney horse, a nag. Cf. Rozinante. ‘Rocinante—significativo de lo que habia sido cuando fué rocin, antes de lo que ahora era.’ Don Quijote, cap. 1. ‘From Rozin, a drudge-horse, and ante, before.’ Jarvis’s note. The O.F. form is roncin; Low Lat. runcinus. The rouncy was chiefly used for agricultural work; see Essays on Chaucer, p. 494.
as he couthe, as he knew how; but, as a sailor, his knowledge this way was deficient.
391.a goune of jalding, a gown (robe) of coarse cloth. The term falding signifies ‘a kind of frieze or rough-napped cloth,’ which was probably ‘supplied from the North of Europe, and identical with the woollen wrappers of which Hermoldus speaks, “quos nos appellamus Faldones.” ’—Way. ‘Falding was a coarse serge cloth, very rough and durable,’ &c.; Essays on Chaucer, p. 438. In MS. O. 5. 4, in Trinity College, Cambridge, occurs the entry—‘Amphibulus, vestis equi villosa, anglice a sclauayn or faldyng’; cited in Furnivall’s Temporary Preface, p. 99. In 1392, I find a mention of ‘unam tunicam de nigro faldyng lineatam’; Testamenta Eboracensia, i. 173. Hence its colour was sometimes black, and the Shipman’s gown is so coloured in the drawing in the Ellesmere MS.; but see A. 3212. See the whole of Way’s long note in the Prompt. Parvulorum.
392.laas, lace, cord. Seamen still carry their knives slung.
394.the hote somer. ‘Perhaps this is a reference to the summer of the year 1351, which was long remembered as the dry and hot summer.’—Wright. There was another such summer in 1370, much nearer the date of this Prologue. But it may be a mere general expression.
395.a good felawe, a merry companion; as in l. 648.
396–8. ‘Very many a draught of wine had he drawn (stolen away or carried off) from Bordeaux, cask and all, while the chapman (merchant or supercargo to whom the wine belonged) was asleep; for he paid no regard to any conscientious scruples.’
took keep; cf. F. prendre garde.
399.hyer hond, upper hand.
400. ‘He sent them home to wherever they came from by water,’ i.e. he made them ‘walk the plank,’ as it used to be called; or, in plain English, threw them overboard, to sink or swim. However cruel this may seem now, it was probably a common practice. ‘This battle (the sea-fight off Sluys) was very murderous and horrible. Combats at sea are more destructive and obstinate than upon land’; Froissart’s Chron. bk. i. c. 50. See Minot’s Poems, ed. Hall, p. 16. In Wright’s History of Caricature, p. 204, is an anecdote of the way in which the defeat of the French at Sluys was at last revealed to the king of France, Philippe VI., by the court-jester, who alone dared to communicate the news. ‘Entering the King’s chamber, he continued muttering to himself, but loud enough to be heard—“Those cowardly English! the chicken-hearted English!” “How so, cousin?” the king inquired. “Why,” replied the fool, “because they have not courage enough to jump into the sea, like your French soldiers, who went over headlong from their ships, leaving them to the enemy, who had no inclination to follow them.” Philippe thus became aware of the full extent of his calamity.’ And see Essays on Chaucer, p. 460.
402.stremes, currents. him bisydes, ever near at hand.
403.herberwe, harbour; see note to l. 765. mone, moon, time of the lunation.
lodemenage, pilotage. A pilot was called a lodesman; see Way’s note in Prompt. Parv. p. 310; Riley’s Memorials of London, p. 655; Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women, 1488. Furnivall’s Temporary Preface, p. 98, gives the Lat. form as lodmannus, whence lodmannagium, pilotage, examples of which are given. Sometimes, lodesman meant any guide or conductor, as in Rob. of Brunne, Handlyng Synne, 9027; Monk of Evesham, ed. Arber, p. 106. M. E. lode is the A. S. lād, a way, a course, the sb. whence the verb to lead is derived. It is itself derived from A. S. līðan, to travel.
404. Cf. Rom. de la Rose, 5394—‘Qui cercheroit jusqu’en Cartage.’
408.Gootland, Gottland, an island in the Baltic Sea.
409.cryke, creek, harbour, port.
410. We find actual mention of a vessel called the Maudelayne belonging to the port of Dartmouth, in the years 1379 and 1386; see Essays on Chaucer, p. 484. See also N. & Q. 6 S. xii. 47.
415.astronomye, (really) astrology. See Saunders on Chaucer, p. 111; Warton, Hist. E. Poet. (1840), ii. 202.
415, 416.kepte, watched. The houres are the astrological hours. He carefully watched for a favourable star in the ascendant. ‘A great portion of the medical science of the middle ages depended upon astrological and other superstitious observances.’—Wright. ‘A Phisition must take heede and aduise him of a certaine thing, that fayleth not, nor deceiueth, the which thing Astronomers of Ægypt taught, that by coniunction of the bodye of the Moone with sterres fortunate, commeth dreadful sicknesse to good end: and with contrary Planets falleth the contrary, that is, to euill ende’; &c.—Batman upon Bartholomè, lib. viii. c. 29. Precisely the same sort of thing was in vogue much later, viz. in 1578; see Bullein’s Dialogue against the Feuer Pestilence (E. E. T. S.), p. 32.
416.magik naturel. Chaucer alludes to the same practices in the House of Fame, 1259–70 (vol. iii. p. 38):—
417. The ascendent is the point of the zodiacal circle which happens to be ascending above the horizon at a given moment, such as the moment of birth. Upon it depended the drawing out of a man’s horoscope, which represented the aspect of the heavens at some given critical moment. The moment, in the present case, is that for making images. It was believed that images of men and animals could be made of certain substances and at certain times, and could be so treated as to cause good or evil to a patient, by means of magical and planetary influences. See Cornelius Agrippa, De Occulta Philosophia, lib. ii. capp. 35–47. The sense is—‘He knew well how to choose a fortunate ascendant for treating images, to be used as charms to help the patient.’
420. These are the four elementary qualities, hot, cold, dry, moist; Milton, Par. Lost, ii. 898. Diseases were supposed to be caused by an undue excess of some one quality; and the mixture of prevalent qualities in a man’s body determined his complexion or temperament. Thus the sanguine man was thought to be hot and moist; the phlegmatic, cold and moist; the choleric, hot and dry; the melancholy, cold and dry. The whole system rested on the teaching of Galen, and was fundamentally wrong, as it assumed that the ‘elements,’ or ‘simple bodies,’ were four, viz. earth, air, fire, and water. Of these, earth was said to be cold and dry; water, cold and moist; air, hot and moist; and fire, hot and dry. They thus correspond to the four complexions, viz. melancholy, phlegmatic, sanguine, and choleric. Each principal part of the body, as the brain, heart, liver, stomach, &c., could be ‘distempered,’ and such distemperance could be either ‘simple’ or ‘compound.’ Thus a simple distemperature of the brain might be ‘an excess of heat’; a compound one, ‘an excess of heat and moisture.’ See the whole system explained in Sir Thos. Elyot’s Castel of Helthe; at the beginning.
422.parfit practisour, perfect practitioner.
424.his bote, his remedy; A. S. bōt, a remedy; E. boot.
426.drogges. MS. Harl. dragges; the rest drogges, drugges, drugs. As to dragges (which is quite a different word), the Promptorium Parvulorum has ‘dragge, dragetum’; and Cotgrave defines dragée (the French form of the word dragge) as ‘a kind of digestive powder prescribed unto weak stomachs after meat, and hence any jonkets, comfits, or sweetmeats served in the last course for stomach-closers.’
letuaries, electuaries. ‘Letuaire, laituarie, s. m., électuaire, sorte de médicament, sirop’; Godefroy.
429–34. Read th’oldë. ‘The authors mentioned here wrote the chief medical text-books of the middle ages. Rufus was a Greek physician of Ephesus, of the age of Trajan; Haly, Serapion, and Avicen (Ebn Sina) were Arabian physicians and astronomers of the eleventh century; Rhasis was a Spanish Arab of the tenth century; and Averroes (Ebn Roschd) was a Moorish scholar who flourished in Morocco in the twelfth century. Johannes Damascenus was also an Arabian physician, but of a much earlier date (probably of the ninth century). Constanti[n]us After, a native of Carthage, and afterwards a monk of Monte Cassino, was one of the founders of the school of Salerno—he lived at the end of the eleventh century. Bernardus Gordonius, professor of medicine at Montpellier, appears to have been Chaucer’s contemporary. John Gatisden was a distinguished physician of Oxford in the earlier half of the fourteenth century. Gilbertyn is supposed by Warton to be the celebrated Gilbertus Anglicus. The names of Hippocrates and Galen were, in the middle ages, always (or nearly always) spelt Ypocras and Galienus.’—Wright. Cf. C. 306. Æsculapius, god of medicine, was fabled to be the son of Apollo. Dioscorides was a Greek physician of the second century. See the long note in Warton, 1871, ii. 368; and the account in Saunders’ Chaucer (1889), p. 115. I may note here, that Haly wrote a commentary on Galen, and is mentioned in Skelton’s Philip Sparowe, l. 505. There were three Serapions; the one here meant was probably John Serapion, in the eleventh century. Averroes wrote a commentary on the works of Aristotle, and died about 1198. Constantinus is the same as ‘the cursed monk Dan Constantyn,’ mentioned in the Marchaunt’s Tale, E. 1810. John Gatisden was a fellow of Merton College, and ‘was court-doctor under Edw. II. He wrote a treatise on medicine called Rosa Anglica’; J. Jusserand, Eng. Wayfaring Life, (1889), p. 180. Cf. Book of the Duchess, 572. Dante, Inf. iv. 143, mentions ‘Ippocrate, Avicenna, e Gallieno, Averrois,’ &c.
See Lounsbury, Studies in Chaucer, ii. 393.
439. ‘In cloth of a blood-red colour and of a blueish-grey.’ Cf. ‘robes de pers,’ Rom. de la Rose, 9116. In the Testament of Creseide, ed. 1550, st. 36, we find:—
Cf. P. Plowman, B. vi. 271; Hoccleve, de Reg. Princ. p. 26.
440.taffata (or taffety), a sort of thin silk; E. taffeta.
sendal (or cendal), a kind of rich thin silk used for lining, very highly esteemed. Thynne says—‘a thynne stuffe lyke sarcenett.’ Palsgrave however has ‘cendell, thynne lynnen, sendal.’ See Piers Plowman. B. vi. 11; Marco Polo, ed. Yule (see the index).
441.esy of dispence, moderate in his expenditure.
442.wan in pestilence, acquired during the pestilence. This is an allusion to the great pestilence of the years 1348, 1349; or to the later pestilences in 1362, 1369, and 1376.
443.For=because, seeing that. It was supposed that aurum potabile was a sovereign remedy in some cases. The actual reference is, probably, to Les Remonstrances de Nature, by Jean de Meun, ll. 979, 980, &c.; ‘C’est le fin et bon or potable, L’humide radical notable; C’est souveraine medecine’; and the author goes on to refer us to Ecclus. xxxviii. 4—‘The Lord hath created medicines out of the earth; and he that is wise will not abhor them.’ Hence the Doctor would not abhor gold. And further—‘C’est medecine cordiale’; ib. 1029. To return to aurum potabile: I may observe that it is mentioned in the play called Humour out of Breath, Act i. sc. 1; and there is a footnote to the effect that this was the ‘Universal Medicine of the alchemists, prepared from gold, mercury, &c. The full receipt will be found in the Fifth and last Part of the Last Testament of Friar Basilius Valentinus, London, 1670, pp. 371–7.’ See also Thomson’s Hist. of Chemistry, vol. i. p. 164; Burton’s Anat. of Melancholy, pt. 2. sec. 4. mem. 1. subsec. 4.
The Wyf of Bathe.
445.of bisyde, &c., from (a place) near Bath, i.e. from a place in its suburbs; for elsewhere she is simply called the Wyf of Bathe.
446. ‘But she was somewhat deaf, and that was her misfortune.’ We should now say—‘and it was a pity.’
447.clooth-making. ‘The West of England, and especially the neighbourhood of Bath, from which the “good wif” came, was celebrated, till a comparatively recent period, as the district of cloth-making. Ypres and Ghent were the great clothing-marts on the Continent.’—Wright. ‘Edward the third brought clothing first into this Island, transporting some families of artificers from Gaunt hither.’—Burton’s Anat. of Mel. p. 51. ‘Cloth of Gaunt’ is mentioned in the Romaunt of the Rose, l. 574 (vol. i. p. 117).
haunt, use, practice; i.e. she was so well skilled (in it).
448.passed, i.e. surpassed.
450.to the offring. In the description of the missal-rites, Rock shews how the bishop (or officiating priest) ‘took from the people’s selves their offerings of bread and wine. . . The men first and then the women, came with their cake and cruse of wine.’ So that, instead of money being collected, as now, the people went up in order with their offerings; and questions of precedence of course arose. The Wife insisted on going up first among the women. See Rock, Church of our Fathers, iii. 2. 33, 149.
453.coverchief (keverchef, or kerchere, kerché). The kerchief, or covering for the head, was, until the fourteenth century, almost an indispensable portion of female attire. See B. 837; Leg. of Good Women, l. 2202.
ful fyne of ground, of a very fine texture. See Pierce the Ploughman’s Crede, l. 230, which means ‘it was of fine enough texture to take dye in grain.’
454.ten pound. Of course this is a playful exaggeration; but Tyrwhitt was not justified in altering ten pound into a pound; for a pound-weight, in a head-dress of that period, was a mere nothing, as will be readily understood by observing the huge structures represented in Fairholt’s Costume, figs. 125, 129, 130, 151, which were often further weighted with ornaments of gold. Skelton goes so far as to describe Elinour Rummyng (l. 72)—
Cf. Pierce the Ploughman’s Crede, l. 84, and the note; Stubbes, Anatomy of Abuses, 1585, pp. 63, 70, 72; or ed. Furnivall, pp. 69, 74, 76.
457.streite y-teyd, tightly fastened. See note to l. 174.
moiste, soft—not ‘as hard as old boots.’ So, in H. 60, moysty ale is new ale.
460.chirche-dore. The priest married the couple at the church-porch, and immediately afterwards proceeded to the altar to celebrate mass, at which the newly-married persons communicated. As Todd remarks—‘The custom was, that the parties did not enter the church till that part of the office, where the minister now goes up to the altar [or rather, is directed to go up], and repeats the psalm.’ See Warton, Hist. Eng. Poet. 1871, ii. 366, note 1; Anglia, vi. 106; Rock, Church of our Fathers, iii. pt. 2. 172; Brand’s Antiquities, ed. Ellis, ii. 134. And see D. 6.
461.Withouten = besides. other companye, other lovers. This expression (copied from Le Rom. de la Rose, l. 12985—‘autre companie’) makes it quite certain that the character of the Wife of Bath is copied, in some respects, from that of La Vieille in the Roman de la Rose, as further appears in the Wife’s Prologue.
462.as nouthe, as now, i.e. at present. The form nouthe is not uncommon; it occurs in P. Plowman, Allit. Poems, Sir Gawain and the Grene Knight, &c. A. S. nū ðā, now then.
465.Boloigne. Cf. ‘I will have you swear by our dear Lady of Boulogne’; Gammer Gurton’s Needle, Act 2, sc. 2. An image of the virgin, at Boulogne, was sought by pilgrims. See Heylin’s Survey of France, p. 163, ed. 1656 (quoted in the above, ed. Hazlitt).
466.In Galice (Galicia), at the shrine of St. James of Compostella, a famous resort of pilgrims in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. As the legend goes, the body of St. James the Apostle was supposed to have been carried in a ship without a rudder to Galicia, and preserved at Compostella. See Piers Plowman, A. iv. 106, 110, and note to B. Prol. 47; also Eng. Gilds, ed. Toulmin Smith, pp. 172, 177.
Coloigne. At Cologne, where the bones of the Three Kings or Wise Men of the East, Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar, are said to be preserved. See Coryat’s Crudities; Chambers, Book of Days, ii. 751.
467. ‘She knew much about travelling.’
468.Gat-tothed = gat-toothed, meaning gap-toothed, having teeth wide apart or separated from one another. A gat is an opening, and is allied to E. gate. The Friesic gat, Dan., Du., and Icel. gat, and Norweg. gat, all mean a hole, or a gap. Very similar is the use of the Shropshire glat, a gap in a hedge, also a gap in the mouth caused by loss of teeth. Example: ‘Dick, yo’ bin a flirt; I thought yo’ wun (were) gwein to marry the cook at the paas’n’s. Aye, but ’er’d gotten too many glats i’ the mouth for me’; Miss Jackson’s Shropshire Wordbook. ‘Famine—the gap-toothed elf’; Golding’s Ovid, b. 8; leaf 105. It occurs again, D. 603. [Gat-toothed has also been explained as goat-toothed, lascivious, but the word goat appears as goot in Chaucer.] Perhaps the following piece of ‘folk-lore’ will help us out. ‘A young lady the other day, in reply to an observation of mine—“What a lucky girl you are!”—replied; “So they used to say I should be when at school.” “Why?” “Because my teeth were set so far apart; it was a sure sign I should be lucky and travel.” ’—Notes & Queries 1 Ser. vi. 601; cf. the same, 7 Ser. vii. 306. The last quotation shews that the stop after weye at the end of l. 467 should be a mere semicolon; since ll. 467 and 468 are closely connected.
469.amblere, an ambling horse.
470.Y-wimpled, covered with a wimple; see l. 151.
471.targe, target, shield.
472.foot-mantel. Tyrwhitt supposes this to be a sort of riding-petticoat, such as is now used by market-women. It is clearly shewn, as a blue outer skirt, in the drawing in the Ellesmere MS. At a later time it was called a safe-guard (see Nares), and its use was to keep the gown clean. It may be added that, in the Ellesmere MS., the Wife is represented as riding astride. Hence she wanted ‘a pair of spurs.’
474.carpe, prate, discourse; Icel. karpa, to brag. The present sense of carp seems to be due to Lat. carpere.
475.remedyes. An allusion to the title and subject of Ovid’s book, Remedia Amoris.
476.the olde daunce, the old game, or custom. The phrase is borrowed from Le Roman de la Rose, l. 3946—‘Qu’el scet toute la vielle dance’; E. version, l. 4300—‘For she knew al the olde daunce.’ It occurs again; Troil. iii. 695. And in Troil. ii. 1106, we have the phrase loves daunce. Cf. the amorouse daunce, Troil. iv. 1431.
478.Persoun of a toun, the parson or parish priest. Chaucer, in his description of the parson, contrasts the piety and industry of the secular clergy with the wickedness and laziness of the religious orders or monks. See Dryden’s ‘Character of a Good Parson,’ and Goldsmith’s ‘Deserted Village’; also Wyclif, ed. Matthew, p. 179.
482.parisshens, parishioners; in which -er is a later suffix.
485.y-preved, proved (to be). ofte sythes, often-times; from A. S. sīð, a time.
486. ‘He was very loath to excommunicate those who failed to pay the tithes that were due to him.’ ‘Refusal to pay tithes was punishable with the lesser excommunication’; Bell. Wyclif complains of ‘weiward curatis’ that ‘sclaundren here parischenys many weies by ensaumple of pride, enuye, coueitise and vnresonable vengaunce, so cruely cursynge for tithes’; Works, ed. Matthew, p. 144 (cf. p. 132).
487.yeven, give; A. S. gifan. out of doute, without doubt.
489.offring, the voluntary contributions of his parishioners.
substaunce, income derived from his benefice.
490.suffisaunce, a sufficiency; enough to live on.
492.lafte not, left not, ceased not; from M. E. leven.
493.meschief, mishap, misfortune.
494.ferreste, farthest; superl. of fer, far. muche, great. lyte, small; A. S. lyt, small, little.
497.wroghte, wrought, worked; pt. t. of werchen, to work.
498. The allusion is to Matt. v. 19, as shewn by a parallel passage in P. Plowman, C. xvi. 127.
502.lewed, unlearned, ignorant. Lewed or lewd originally signified the people, laity, as opposed to the clergy; the modern sense of the word is not common in Middle English. Cf. mod. E. lewd, in Acts xvii. 5. See Lewd in Trench, Select Glossary.
503–4.if a preest tak-e keep, if a priest may (i. e. will) but pay heed to it. St. John Chrysostom also saith, ‘It is a great shame for priests, when laymen be found faithfuller and more righteous than they.’—Becon’s Invective against Swearing, p. 336.
507.to hyre. The parson did not leave his parish duties to be performed by a stranger, that he might have leisure to seek a chantry in St. Paul’s. See Piers Plowman, B-text, Prol. l. 83; Hoccleve, De Regimine Principum, ed. Wright, pp. 51, 52; Spenser, Shep. Kalendar (May).
508.And leet, and left (not). We should now say—‘Nor left.’ So also, in l. 509, And ran = Nor ran. Leet is the pt. t. of leten, to let alone, let go.
509. Here again, së-ynt is used as if it were dissyllabic; see ll. 120, 697.
510.chaunterie, chantry; an endowment for the payment of a priest to sing mass, agreeably to the appointment of the founder. ‘There were thirty-five of these chantries established at St. Paul’s, which were served by fifty-four priests; Dugd. Hist. pref. p. 41.’—Tyrwhitt’s Glossary. On the difference between a gild and a chantry, see the instructive remarks in Eng. Gilds, ed. Toulmin Smith, pp. 205–207, 259.
511. ‘Or to be kept (i. e. remain) in retirement along with some fraternity.’ I do not see how with-holde can mean ‘maintained,’ as it is usually explained. Cf. dwelte in l. 512, and with-holde in G. 345.
514.no mercenarie, no hireling; see John x. 12, where the Vulgate version has mercenarius.
516.despitous, full of despite, or contempt; cf. E. spite.
517.daungerous, not affable, difficult to approach. Cf. Rom. of the Rose, l. 591:—‘Ne of hir answer daungerous’; where the original has desdaigneuse. digne, full of dignity; hence, repellent. ‘She was as digne as water in a dich,’ A. 3964; because stagnant water keeps people at a distance.
519.fairnesse, i. e. by leading a fair or good life. The Harleian MS. has clennesse, that is, a life of purity.
523.snibben, reprimand; cf. Dan. snibbe, to rebuke, scold; mod. E. snub. In Wyclif’s translation of Matt. xviii. 15, the earlier version has snybbe as a synonym for reprove.
nones; see l. 379, and the note.
525.wayted after, looked for. See line 571.
526.spyced conscience; so also in D. 435. Spiced here seems to signify, says Tyrwhitt, nice, scrupulous; for a reason which is given below. It occurs in the Mad Lover, act iii. sc. 1, by Beaumont and Fletcher. When Cleanthe offers a purse, the priestess says—
‘Under pretence of spiced holinesse.’—Tract dated 1594, ap. Todd’s Illustrations of Gower, p. 380.
The origin of the phrase is French. The name of espices (spices) was given to the fees or dues which were payable (in advance) to judges. A ‘spiced’ judge, who would have a ‘spiced’ conscience, was scrupulous and exact, because he had been prepaid, and was inaccessible to any but large bribes. See Cotgrave, s. v. espices; Littré, s. v. épice; and, in particular, Les Œuvres de Guillaume Coquillart, ed. P. Tarbé, t. i. p. 31, and t. ii. p. 114. (First explained by me in a letter to The Athenaeum, Nov. 26, 1892, p. 741.)
527. ‘But the teaching of Christ and his twelve apostles, that taught he.’
528. Cf. Acts, i. 1; Gower, Conf. Amant. ii. 188.
529.Plowman; not a hind or farm-labourer, but a poor farmer, who himself held the plough; cf. note to P. Plowman, C. viii. 182. was, who was.
530.y-lad, carried, lit. led. Cf. prov. E. lead, to cart (corn).
531.swinker, toiler, workman; see l. 186. Cf. swink, toil, in l. 540.
534.though him gamed or smerte, though it was pleasant or unpleasant to him.
536.dyke, make ditches. delve, dig; A. S. delfan. Chaucer may be referring to P. Plowman, B. v. 552, 553.
541.mere. People of quality would not ride upon a mare.
545.carl, fellow; Icel. karl, cognate with A. S. ceorl, a churl. See A. 3469; also A. 1423–4. This description of the Miller should be compared with that in A. 3925–3940.
547. ‘That well proved (to be true); for everywhere, where he came.’
548.the ram. This was the usual prize at wrestling-matches. Tyrwhitt says—‘Matthew Paris mentions a wrestling match at Westminster, 1222, at which a ram was the prize.’ Cf. Sir Topas, B. 1931; Tale of Gamelyn, 172, 280.
549.a thikke knarre, a thickly knotted (fellow), i. e. a muscular fellow. Cf. M. E. knor, Mid. Du. knorre, a knot in wood; and E. gnarled. It is worth notice that, in ll. 549–557, there is no word of French origin, except tuft.
550.of harre, off its hinges, lit. hinge. ‘I horle at the notes, and heve hem al of herre’; Poem on Singing, in Reliq. Antiquae, ii. 292. Gower has out of herre, off its hinges, out of use, out of joint; Conf. Amant. bk. ii. ed. Pauli, i. 259; bk. iii. i. 318. Skelton has:—‘All is out of harre,’ Magnificence, l. 921. From A.S. heorr, a hinge.
553. Todd cites from Lilly’s Midas—‘How, sir, will you be trimmed? Will you have a bread like a spade or a bodkin?’—Illust. of Gower, p. 258.
554.cop, top; A. S. copp, a top; cf. G. Kopj.
557.nose-thirles, lit. nose-holes; mod. E. nostrils.
559.forneys. ‘Why, asks Mr. Earle, should Chaucer so readily fall on the simile of a furnace? What, in the uses of the time, made it come so ready to hand? The weald of Kent was then, like our “black country” now, a great smelting district, its wood answering to our coal; and Chaucer was Knight of the Shire, or M.P. for Kent.’—Temporary Preface to the Six-text edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, p. 99.
560.Ianglere, loud talker.
goliardeys, a ribald jester, one who gained his living by following rich men’s tables, and telling tales and making sport for the guests. Tyrwhitt says, ‘This jovial sect seems to have been so called from Golias, the real or assumed name of a man of wit, towards the end of the twelfth century, who wrote the Apocalypsis Goliæ, and other pieces in burlesque Latin rhymes, some which have been falsely [?] attributed to Walter Map.’ But it would appear that Golias is the sole invention of Walter Map, the probable author of the ‘Golias’ poems. See Morley’s Eng. Writers, 1888, iii. 167, where we read that the Apocalypse of Golias and the confession of Golias ‘have by constant tradition been ascribed to him [Walter Map]; never to any other writer.’ Golias is a medieval spelling of the Goliath of scripture, and occurs in Chaucer, Man of Lawes Tale, B. 934. In several authors of the thirteenth century, quoted by Du Cange, the goliardi are classed with the joculatores et buffones, and it is very likely that the word goliardus was, originally, quite independent of Golias, which was only connected with it by way of jest. The word goliardus seems rather to have meant, originally, ‘glutton,’ and to be connected with gula, the throat; but it was quite a common term, in the thirteenth century, for certain men of some education but of bad repute, who composed or recited satirical parodies and coarse verses and epigrams for the amusement of the rich. See T. Wright’s Introduction to the poems of Walter Map (Camden Soc.); P. Plowman, ed. Skeat, note to B. prol. 139; Wright’s History of Caricature, ch. x; and the account in Godefroy’s O. French Dict., s. v. Goliard.
561.that, i. e. his ‘Iangling,’ his noisy talk.
harlotrye means scurrility; Wyclif (Eph. v. 4) so translates Lat. scurrilitas.
562. ‘Besides the usual payment in money for grinding corn, millers are always allowed what is called “toll,” amounting to 4 lbs. out of every sack of flour.’—Bell. But it can hardly be doubted that, in old times, the toll was wholly in corn, not in money at all. It amounted, in fact, to the twentieth or twenty-fourth part of the corn ground, according to the strength of the water-course; see Strutt, Manners and Customs, ii. 82, and Nares, s. v. Toll-dish. At Berwick, the miller’s share was reckoned as ‘the thirteenth part for grain, and the twenty-fourth part for malt.’ Eng. Gilds, p. 342. When the miller ‘tolled thrice,’ he took thrice the legal allowance. Cf. A. 3939, 3940.
563.a thombe of gold. An explanation of this proverb is given on the authority of Mr. Constable, the Royal Academician, by Mr. Yarrell in his History of British Fishes, who, when speaking of the Bullhead or Miller’s Thumb, explains that a miller’s thumb acquires a peculiar shape by continually feeling samples of corn whilst it is being ground; and that such a thumb is called golden, with reference to the profit that is the reward of the experienced miller’s skill.
‘When millers toll not with a golden thumbe.’
Gascoigne’s Steel Glass, l. 1080.
Ray’s Proverbs give us—‘An honest miller has a golden thumb’; ed. 1768, p. 136; taken satirically, this means that there are no honest millers. Brand, in his Pop. Antiquities, ed. Ellis, iii. 387, quotes from an old play—‘Oh the mooter dish, the miller’s Thumbe!’
The simplest explanation is to take the words just as they stand, i.e. ‘he used to steal corn, and take his toll thrice; yet he had a golden thumb such as all honest millers are said to have.’
565. W. Thorpe, when examined by Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury, in 1407, complains of the pilgrims, saying—‘they will ordain to have with them both men and women that can well sing wanton songs; and some other pilgrims will have with them bagpipes; so that every town that they come through, what with the noise of their singing, and with the sound of their piping, and with the jangling of their Canterbury bells, and with the barking out of dogs after them, they make more noise than if the king came there away, with all his clarions and many other minstrels.’—Arber’s Eng. Garner, vi. 84; Wordsworth, Eccl. Biography, 4th ed. i. 312; Cutts, Scenes and Characters, p. 179.
566. ‘And with its music he conducted us out of London.’
567.Maunciple or manciple, an officer who had the care of purchasing provisions for a college, an inn of court, &c. (Still in use.) See A. 3993. A temple is here ‘an inn of court’; besides the Inner and Middle Temple (in London), there was also an Outer Temple; see Timbs, Curiosities of London, p. 461; and the account of the Temple in Stow’s Survey of London.
achatours, purchasers; cf. F. acheter, to buy.
570.took by taille, took by tally, took on credit. Cf. Piers Plowman, ed. Wright, vol. i. p. 68, and ed. Skeat (Clarendon Press Series), B. iv. 58:—
The buyer who took by tally had the price scored on a pair of sticks; the seller gave him one of them, and retained the other himself. ‘Lordis . . . taken pore mennus goodis and paien not therfore but white stickis . . . and sumtyme beten hem whanne thei axen here peye’; Wyclif’s Works, ed. Matthew, p. 233 (see note at p. 519).
571.Algate, in every way, always; cf. prov. E. gate, a street.
achat, buying; see l. 568.
572.ay biforn, ever before (others).
574.swich, such; A. S. swylce. lewed, unlearned; as in l. 502. pace, pass, i.e. surpass.
575.heep, heap, i. e. crowd; like G. Haufe.
581. ‘To make him live upon his own income.’
582. ‘Unless he were mad.’ See l. 184.
583. ‘Or live as economically as it pleases him to wish to do.’
584.al a, a whole. Cf. ‘all a summer’s day’; Milton, P. L. i. 449.
586.hir aller cappe, the caps of them all. Hir aller=eorum omnium. ‘To sette’ a man’s ‘cappe’ is to overreach him, to cheat him, or to befool him. Cf. A. 3143.
587.Reve. See Prof. Thorold Rogers’ capital sketch of Robert Oldman, the Cuxham bailiff, a serf of the manor (as reeves always were), in his Agriculture and Prices in England, i. 506–510.
592.Y-lyk, like. y-sen-e, visible; see note to l. 134.
593. ‘He knew well how to keep a garner and a bin.’
597.neet, neat, cattle. dayerye, dairy.
598.hors, horses; pl. See note to l. 74. pultrye, poultry.
599.hoolly, wholly; from A.S. hāl, whole.
601.Sin, short for sithen; and sithen, with an added suffix, became sithen-s or sithen-ce, mod. E. since.
602. ‘No one could prove him to be in arrears.’
603.herde, herd, i. e. cow-herd or shep-herd. hyne, hind, farm-labourer.
604.That . . . his, whose; as in A. 2710.
covyne, deceit; lit. a deceitful agreement between two parties to prejudice a third. O. F. covine, a project; from O. F. covenir, Lat. conuenire, to come together, agree.
605.adrad, afraid; from the pp. of A. S. ofdrǣdan, to terrify greatly.
the deeth, the pestilence; see note to l. 442.
606.woning, dwelling-place; see l. 388.
609.astored (Elles. &c.); istored (Harl.); furnished with stores.
611.lene, lend; whence E. len-d. of, some of.
613.mister, trade, craft; O. F. mestier (F. métier), business; Lat. ministerium. ‘Men of all mysteris’; Barbour’s Bruce, xvii. 542.
614.wel, very. wrighte, wright, workman.
615.stot, probably what we should now call a cob. Prof. J. E. T. Rogers, in his Hist. of Agriculture, i. 36, supposes that a stot was a low-bred undersized stallion. It frequently occurs with the sense of ‘bullock’; see note to P. Plowman, C. xxii. 267.
616. Sir Topas’s horse was ‘dappel-gray,’ which has the same sense as pomely gray, viz. gray dappled with round apple-like spots. ‘Apon a cowrsowre poumle-gray’; Wyntown, Chron. iv. 217; ‘pomly-gray’; Palladius on Husbandry, bk. iv. l. 809; ‘Upon a pomely palfray’; Lybeaus Disconus, 844 (in Ritson’s Metrical Romances). Florio gives Ital. pomellato, ‘pide, daple-graie.’ The word occurs in the French Roman de Troie by Benoît de Sainte-Maure, ed. Joly, 10722:—‘Quant Troylus orent monté Sor un cheval sor pommelé.’ Cf. G. 559.
Scot. ‘The name given to the horse of the reeve (who lived at Bawdeswell, in Norfolk) is a curious instance of Chaucer’s accuracy; for to this day there is scarcely a farm in Norfolk or Suffolk, in which one of the horses is not called Scot’; Bell’s Chaucer. Cf. G. 1543.
617.pers. Some MSS. read blew. See note on l. 439.
621.Tukked aboute, with his long coat tucked up round him by help of a girdle. In the pictures in the Ellesmere MS., both the reeve and the friar have girdles, and rather long coats; cf. D. 1737. ‘He (i.e. a friar) wore a graie cote well tucked vnder his corded girdle, with a paire of trime white hose’; W. Bullein, A Dialogue against the Feuer (E. E. T. S.), p. 68. See Tuck in Skeat, Etym. Dict.
622.hind-r-este, hindermost; a curious form, combining both the comparative and superlative suffixes. Cf. ov-er-est, l. 290.
623.Somnour, summoner; an officer employed to summon delinquents to appear in ecclesiastical courts; now called an apparitor. ‘The ecclesiastical courts . . . determined all causes matrimonial and testamentary. . . . They had besides to enforce the payment of tithes and church dues, and were charged with disciplinary power for punishment of adultery, fornication, perjury, and other vices which did not come under the common law. The reputation of the summoner is enough to show how abuses pervaded the action of these courts. Prof. Stubbs has summed up the case concerning them in his Constitutional History, iii. 373.’—Wyclif’s Works, ed. Matthew, note at p. 514. For further information as to the summoner’s character, see the Frere’s Tale, D. 1299–1374.
624.cherubinnes face. H. Stephens, Apologie for Herodotus, i. c. 30, quotes the same thought from a French epigram—‘Nos grands docteurs au cherubin visage.’—T. Observe that cherubin (put for cherubim) is a plural form. ‘As the pl. was popularly much better known than the singular (e.g. in the Te Deum), the Romanic forms were all fashioned on cherubin, viz. Ital. cherubino, Span. querubin, Port. querubin, cherubin, F. cherubin’; New English Dictionary. Cherubs were generally painted red, a fact which became proverbial, as here. Cotgrave has: ‘Rouge comme un cherubin, red-faced, cherubin-faced, having a fierie facies like a Cherubin.’ Mrs. Jameson, in her Sacred and Legendary Art, has unluckily made the cherubim blue, and the seraphim red; the contrary was the accepted rule.
625.sawcefleem or sawsfleem, having a red pimpled face; lit. afflicted with pimples, &c., supposed to be caused by too much salt phlegm (salsum phlegma) in the constitution. The four humours of the blood, and the four consequent temperaments, are constantly referred to in various ways by early writers—by Chaucer as much as by any. Tyrwhitt quotes from an O. French book on physic (in MS. Bodley 761)—‘Oignement magistrel pur sausefleme et pur chescune manere de roigne,’ where roigne signifies any scorbutic eruption. ‘So (he adds) in the Thousand Notable Things, B. i. 70—“A sawsfleame or red pimpled face is helped with this medicine following:”—two of the ingredients are quicksilver and brimstone. In another place, B. ii. 20, oyle of tartar is said “to take away cleane all spots, freckles, and filthy wheales.” ’ He also quotes, in his Glossary, from MS. Bodley 2463—‘unguentum contra salsum flegma, scabiem, &c.’ Flewme in the Prompt. Parv. answers to Lat. phlegma. See the long note by J. Addis in N. and Q. 4 S. iv. 64; Babees Book, ed. Furnivall, p. 169, l. 777. ‘The Greke word that he vsed was ἐξανθήματα, that is, little pimples or pushes, soche as, of cholere and salse flegme, budden out in the noses and faces of many persones, and are called the Saphires and Rubies of the Tauerne.’—Udall, tr. of Erasmus’ Apophthegmes, Diogenes, § 6: [printed false flegme in ed. 1877.] See l. 420.
627.scalled, having the scall or scab, scabby, scurfy. blake, black.
piled, deprived of hair, thin, slight. Cf. E. peel, vb. Palsgrave has—‘Pylled, as one that wanteth heare’; and ‘Pylled, scal[l]ed.’
629.litarge, litharge, a name given to white lead.
ceruce, ceruse, a cosmetic made from white lead; see New E. Dict. oille of tartre, cream of tartar; potassium bitartrate.
632. Cf. ‘Such whelkes [on the head] haue small hoales, out of the which matter commeth. . . . And this euill commeth of vicious and gleymie [viscous] humour, which commeth to the skin of their head, and breedeth therein pimples and whelks.’—Batman on Bartholomè, lib. 7. c. 3. In the same, lib. 7. c. 67, we read that ‘A sauce flume face is a priuye signe of leprosie.’ Cf. Shak. Hen. V. iii. 6. 108.
635. See Prov. xxxiii. 31. The drinking of strong wine accounts for the Somnour’s appearance. ‘Wyne . . . makith the uisage salce fleumed [misprinted falce flemed], rede, and fulle of white whelkes’; Knight de la Tour, p. 116 (perhaps copied from Chaucer).
643.Can clepen Watte, i.e. can call Walter (Wat) by his name; just as parrots are taught to say ‘Poll.’ In Political Songs, ed. Wright, p. 328, an ignorant priest is likened to a jay in a cage, to which is added: ‘Go[o]d Engelish he speketh, ac [but] he wot nevere what’; referring to the time when Anglo-French was the mother-tongue of many who became priests.
644. ‘But if any one could test him in any other point.’
646.Questio quid iuris. ‘This kind of question occurs frequently in Ralph de Hengham. After having stated a case, he adds, quid juris, and then proceeds to give an answer to it.’—T. It means—‘the question is, what law (is there)?’ i.e. what is the law on this point?
647.harlot, fellow, usually one of low conduct; but originally merely a young person, without implication of reproach. See D. 1754.
649. ‘For a bribe of a quart of wine, he would allow a boon companion of his to lead a vicious life for a whole year, and entirely excuse him; moreover (on the other hand) he knew very well how to pluck a finch,’ i.e. how to get all the feathers off any inexperienced person whom it was worth his while to cheat. Cf. ‘a pulled hen’ in l. 177. With reference to the treatment of the poor by usurers, &c., we read in the Rom. of the Rose, l. 6820, that ‘Withoute scalding they hem pulle,’ i.e. pluck them. And see Troil. i. 210.
654–7. ‘He would teach his friend in such a case (i.e. if his friend led an evil life) to stand in no awe of the archdeacon’s curse (excommunication), unless he supposed that his soul resided in his purse; for in his purse [not in his soul] he should be punished’ (i.e. by paying a good round sum he could release himself from the archdeacon’s curse). ‘Your purse (said he) is the hell to which the archdeacon really refers when he threatens you.’ See, particularly, Wyclif’s Works, ed. Matthew, pp. 35, 62, 496.
661.assoilling, absolution; from the vb. assoil.
662.war him of, i.e. let him beware of; war is the pres. subj.
significavit, i.e. of a writ de excommunicato capiendo [or excommunication] which usually began, ‘Significavit nobis venerabilis frater,’ &c.—T. See Significavit in Cowel or Blount.
663.In daunger, within his jurisdiction, within the reach or control of his office; the true sense of M. E. daunger is ‘control’ or ‘dominion.’ Thus, in the Romaunt of the Rose, l. 1470, we find:—
i.e. whom Love had got into his power. So also in l. 1049 of the same.
664.yonge girles, young people, of either sex. In the Coventry Mysteries, p. 181, there is mention of ‘knave gerlys,’ i.e. male children. And see gerles in the Gloss. to P. Plowman, and the note to the same, C. ii. 29.
665.and was al hir reed, and was wholly their adviser.
666, 667.gerland. A garland for an ale-stake was distinct from a bush. The latter was made of ivy-leaves; and every tavern had an ivy-bush hanging in front as its sign; hence the phrase, ‘Good wine needs no bush,’ &c. But the garland, often used in addition to the bush, was made of three equal hoops, at right angles to each other, and decorated with ribands. It was also called a hoop. The sompnour wore only a single hoop or circlet, adorned with large flowers (apparently roses), according to his picture in the Ellesmere MS. Emelye, in the Knightes Tale, is described as gathering white and red flowers to make ‘a sotil gerland’ for her head; A. 1054. ‘Garlands of flowers were often worn on festivals, especially in ecclesiastical processions’; Rock, Church of our Fathers, ii. 72. Some garlands, worn on the head, were made of metal; see Riley, Memorials of London, p. 133.
667.ale-stake, a support for a garland in front of an ale-house. For a picture of an ale-stake with a garland, see Hotten’s Book of Signboards. The position of it was such that it did not stand upright, but projected horizontally from the side of a tavern at some height from the ground, as shewn in Larwood and Hotten’s Book of Signboards. Hence the enactments made, that it should never extend above the roadway for more than seven feet; see Liber Albus, ed. H. T. Riley, 1861, pp. 292, 389. Speght wrongly explained ale-stake as ‘a Maypole,’ and has misled many others, including Chatterton, who thus was led to write the absurd line—‘Around the ale-stake minstrels sing the song’; Ælla, st. 30. ‘At the ale-stake’ is correct; see C. 321.
669. As to the character of the Pardoner, see further in the Pardoner’s Prologue, C. 329–462; P. Plowman, B. prol. 68–82; Heywood’s Interlude of the Four Ps, which includes a shameless plagiarism from Chaucer’s Pardoner’s Prologue; and Sir David Lyndesay’s Satire of the Three Estaits, l. 2037. Cf. note to C. 349. See also the Essay on Chaucer’s Pardoner and the Pope’s Pardoners, by Dr. J. Jusserand, in the Essays on Chaucer (Chaucer Society), p. 423; and the Chapter on Pardoners in Jusserand’s English Wayfaring Life. Jusserand shews that Chaucer has not in the least exaggerated; for exaggeration was not possible.
670.Of Rouncival. Of course the Pardoner was an Englishman, so that he could hardly belong to Roncevaux, in Navarre. The reference is clearly to the hospital of the Blessed Mary of Rouncyvalle, in the parish of St. Martin in the Fields, at Charing (London), mentioned in Dugdale’s Monasticon, ii. 443. Stow gives its date of foundation as the 15th year of Edward IV., but this was only a revival of it, after it had been suppressed by Henry V. It was a ‘cell’ to the Priory of Roncevaux in Navarre. See Todd’s Illustrations of Gower, p. 263: and Rouncival in Nares. Cf. note to l. 172.
672.Com hider, love, to me. ‘This, I suppose, was the beginning or the burthen of some known song.’—Tyrwhitt. It is quoted again in l. 763 of the poem called ‘The Pearl,’ in the form—‘Come hyder to me, my lemman swete.’ hider, hither.
The rime of tó me with Róme should be particularly noted, as it enables even the reader who is least skilled in English phonology to perceive that Ro-me was really dissyllabic, and that the final e in such words was really pronounced. Similarly, in Octouian Imperator, ed. Weber, l. 1887, we find seint Ja-mè, riming with frá me (from me). Perhaps the most amusing example of editorial incompetence is seen in the frequent occurrence of the mysterious word byme in Pauli’s edition of Gower; as, e.g. in bk. iii. vol. i. p. 370:—
Of course, by me should have been printed as two words, riming with ti-mè. This is what happens when grammatical facts are ignored. Time is dissyllabic, because it represents the A.S. tīma, which is never reduced to a monosyllable in A.S.
673.bar . . . a stif burdoun, sang the bass. See A. 4165, and N. and Q. 4 S. vi. 117, 255. Cf. Fr. bourdon, the name of a deep organ-stop.
675, 676.wex, wax. heng, hung. stryke of flex, hank of flax.
677.By ounces, in small portions or thin clusters.
679.colpons, portions; the same word as mod. E. coupon.
680.for Iolitee, for greater comfort. He thought it pleasanter to wear only a cap (l. 683). wered, wore; see l. 75. Cf. G. 571, and the note.
682.the newe Iet, the new fashion, which is described in ll. 680–683.
‘Newe Iette, guise nouelle’; Palsgrave.
683.Dischevele, with his hair hanging loose.
685.vernicle, a small copy of the ‘vernicle’ at Rome. Vernicle is ‘a diminutive of Veronike (Veronica), a copy in miniature of the picture of Christ, which is supposed to have been miraculously imprinted upon a handkerchief preserved in the church of St. Peter at Rome. . . It was usual for persons returning from pilgrimages to bring with them certain tokens of the several places which they had visited; and therefore the Pardoner, who is just arrived from Rome, is represented with a vernicle sowed on his cappe.’—Tyrwhitt. See the description of a pilgrim in Piers Plowman, ed. Skeat, B. v. 530, and the note. The legend was invented to explain the name. First the name of Bernice, taken from the Acts, was assigned to the woman who was cured by Christ of an issue of blood. Next, Bernice, otherwise Veronica, was (wrongly) explained as meaning vera icon (i. e. true likeness), which was assigned as the name of a handkerchief on which the features of Christ were miraculously impressed. Copies of this portrait were called Veronicae or Veroniculae, in English vernicles, and were obtainable by pilgrims to Rome. There was also a later St. Veronica, who died in 1497, after Chaucer’s time, and whose day is Jan. 13.
See Legends of the Holy Rood, ed. Morris, pp. 170, 171; Mrs. Jameson’s Sacred and Legendary Art, ii. 269; Lady Eastlake’s History of our Lord, i. 41; Rock, Church of our Fathers, iii. pt. i. p. 438; and the picture of the vernicle in Chambers, Book of Days, i. 101.
687.Bret-ful of pardon, brim-full (top-full, full to the top) of indulgences. Cf. Swed. bräddfull, brimful; from brädd, a brim. See A. 2164; Ho. of Fame, 2123.
692.fro Berwik, from Berwick to Ware (in Hertfordshire), from North to South of England. See the similar phrase—‘From Barwick to Dover, three hundred miles over’—in Pegge’s Kenticisms (E.D.S.), p. 70.
694.male, bag; cf. E. mail-bag.
pilwebeer, pillow-case. Cf. Low. G. büren, a case (for a pillow), Icel. ver, Dan. vaar, a cover for a pillow. The form pillow-bear occurs as a Cheshire word as late as 1782; N. and Q. 6 S. xii. 217.
696.gobet, a small portion; O. F. gobet, a morsel; gober, to devour.
698.hente, caught hold of; from A. S. hentan, to seize.
699. ‘A cross made of latoun, set full of (probably counterfeit) precious stones.’ Latoun was a mixed metal, of the same colour as, and closely resembling, the modern metal called pinchbeck, from the name of the inventor. It was chiefly composed of copper and zinc. See further in the note to C. 350; and cf. F. 1245.
701. Cf. Wyclif’s Works, ed. Matthew, p. 154; and the note to C. 349.
702.up-on lond, in the country. Country people used to be called uplondish men. Jack Upland is the name of a satire against the friars.
705, 706.Iapes, deceits, tricks. his apes, his dupes; cf. A. 3389.
710.alder-best, best of all; alder is a later form of aller, from A.S. ealra, of all, gen. pl. of eal, all. See ll. 586, 823.
712.affyle, file down, make smooth. Cf. ‘affile His tunge’; Gower, C. A. i. 296; ‘gan newe his tunge affyle,’ Troil. ii. 1681; ‘his tongue [is] filed’; Love’s Labour’s Lost, v. i. 12. So also Spenser, F. Q. i. 1. 35; iii. 2. 12; Skelton, Colin Clout, 852.
716.Thestat, tharray = the estate, the array: the coalescence of the article with the noun is very common in Middle English.
719.highte, was named; cf. A. S. hātan, (1) to call, (2) to be called, to be named (with a passive sense).
721. ‘How we conducted ourselves that same night.’
726. ‘That ye ascribe it not to my ill-breeding.’ narette, for ne arette. From O.F. aretter, to ascribe, impute; from Lat. ad and reputare; see Aret in the New E. Dict. Also spelt arate, with the sense ‘to chide’; whence mod. E. to rate. So here the poet implies—‘do not rate me for my ill-breeding.’ The argument here used is derived from Le Roman de la Rose, 15361–96.
727.pleynly speke (Elles. &c.); speke al pleyn (Harl.).
731.shal telle, has to tell. after, according to, just like.
734.Al speke he, although he speak. See al have I, l. 744.
738. ‘He is bound to say one word as much as another.’
741, 742. This saying of Plato is taken from Boethius, De Consolatione, bk. iii. pr. 12, which Chaucer translates: ‘Thou hast lerned by the sentence of Plato, that nedes the wordes moten be cosines to the thinges of which they speken’; see vol. ii. p. 90, l. 151. In Le Roman de la Rose, 7131, Jean de Meun says that Plato tells us, speech was given us to express our wishes and thoughts, and proceeds to argue that men ought to use coarse language. Chaucer was thinking of this singular argument. We also find in Le Roman (l. 15392) an exactly parallel passage, which means in English, ‘the saying ought to resemble the deed; for the words, being neighbours to the things, ought to be cousins to their deeds.’ In the original French, these passages stand thus:—
So also in the Manciple’s Tale, H. 208.
744. ‘Although I have not,’ &c. Cf. l. 734.
747.Our hoste. It has been remarked that from this character Shakespeare’s ‘mine host of the Garter’ in the Merry Wives of Windsor is obviously derived.
752. The duty of the ‘marshal of the hall’ was to place every one according to his rank at public festivals, and to preserve order. See Babees Book, p. 310. Cf. Spenser, F. Q. v. 9. 23; Gower, Conf. Amant. iii. 299. Even Milton speaks of a ‘marshall’d feast’; P. L. ix. 37.
753.stepe, bright; see note to l. 201.
754.Chepe, i. e. Cheapside, in London.
760.maad our rekeninges, i. e. paid our scores.
764.I saught nat (Elles. &c.); I ne saugh (Harl.). To scan the line, read I n’ saugh, dropping the e in ne. The insertion of ne is essential to the sense, viz. ‘I have not seen.’
765.herberwe, inn, lit. harbour. The F. auberge is from the O.H.G. form of the same word.
770. ‘May the blessed martyr duly reward you!’
772.shapen yow, intend; cf. l. 809. talen, to tell tales.
777.yow lyketh alle, it pleases you all; yow is in the dat. case, as in the mod. E. ‘if you please.’ See note to l. 37.
783. ‘Hold up your hands’; to signify assent.
785.to make it wys, to make it a matter of wisdom or deliberation; so also made it strange, made it a matter of difficulty, A. 3980.
791. ‘To shorten your way with.’ In M. E., the prep. with always comes next the verb in phrases of this character. Most MSS. read our for your here, but this is rather premature. The host introduces his proposal to accompany the pilgrims by the use of our in l. 799, and we in l. 801; the proposal itself comes in l. 803.
792. As to the number of the tales, see vol. iii. pp. 374, 384.
798. ‘Tales best suited to instruct and amuse.’
799.our aller cost, the expense of us all; here our = A. S. ūre, of us; see ll. 710, 823.
808.mo, more; A. S. mā. In M. E., mo generally means ‘more in number,’ whilst more means ‘larger,’ from A. S. māra. Cf. l. 849.
810.and our othes swore, and we swore our oaths; see next line.
817.In heigh and lowe. ‘Lat. In, or de alto et basso, Fr. de haut en bas, were expressions of entire submission on one side, and sovereignty on the other.’—Tyrwhitt. Cotgrave (s. v. Bas) has:—‘Taillables haut et bas, taxable at the will and pleasure of their lord.’ It here means—‘under all circumstances.’
819.fet, fetched; from A. S. fetian, to fetch, pp. fetod.
822.day. It is the morning of the 17th of April. See note to l. 1.
823.our aller cok, cock of us all, i. e. cock to awake us all. our aller = A. S. ūre ealra, both in gen. pl.
825.riden, rode; pt. t. pl., as in l. 856. The i is short.
pas, a foot-pace. Cf. A. 2897; C. 866; G. 575; Troil. ii. 627.
826.St. Thomas a Waterings was a place for watering horses, at a brook beside the second mile-stone on the road to St. Thomas’s shrine, i.e. to Canterbury. It was a place anciently used for executions in the county of Surrey, as Tyburn was in that of Middlesex. See Nares, s. v. Waterings.
828.if yow leste, if it may please you. The verb listen made liste in the past tense; but Chaucer changes the verb to the form lesten, pt. t. leste, probably for the sake of the rime. See ll. 750 and 102. In the Knightes Tale, A. 1052, as hir liste rimes with upriste.
The true explanation is, that the A. S. y had the sound of mod. G. ü. In Mid. Eng., this was variably treated, usually becoming either i or u; so that, e.g., the A. S. pyt (a pit) became M. E. pit or put, the former of which has survived. But, in Kentish, the form was pet; and it is remarkable that Chaucer sometimes deliberately adopts Kentish forms, as here, for the sake of the rime. A striking example is seen in fulfelle for fulfille, in Troil. iii. 510, to rime with telle. He usually has fulfille, as below, in A. 1318, 2478.
829.Ye woot, ye know. Really false grammar, as the pl. of woot (originally a past tense) is properly witen, just as the pl. of rood is riden in l. 825. As woot was used as a present tense, its original form was forgotten. ‘Ye know your agreement, and I recall it to your memory.’ See l. 33.
830. ‘If even-song and matins agree’; i.e. if you still say now what you said last night.
832. ‘As ever may I be able to drink’; i.e. As surely as I ever hope to be able, &c. Cf. B. 4490, &c.
833.be, may be (subjunctive mood).
835.draweth cut, draw lots; see C. 793–804. The Gloss. to Allan Ramsay’s poems, ed. 1721, has—‘cutts, lots. These cuts are usually made of straws unequally cut, which one hides between his finger and thumb, whilst another draws his fate’; but the verb to cut is unallied. See Brand, Pop. Antiq., iii. 337. The one who drew the shortest (or else the longest) straw was the one who drew the lot. Cf. ‘Sors, a kut, or a lotte’; Reliquiae Antiquae, i. 7. ‘After supper, we drew cuttes for a score of apricoks, the longest cut stil to draw an apricoke’; Marston, Induction to The Malcontent.
ferrer twinne, depart further. Here ferrer is the comp. of fer, far. Twinnen is to separate, part in twain; hence, to depart.
844.sort, lot, destiny; O. F. sort; cf. E. sort.
847.as was resoun, as was reasonable or right.
848.forward, agreement, as in l. 33. compositioun has almost exactly the same sense, but is of French origin.
853.shal biginne, have to begin.
854.What; used interjectionally, like the modern E. ‘why!’
a, in. Here a is for an, a form of on; the A. S. on is constantly used with the sense of ‘in.’
856.riden, rode; pt. pl. See l. 825.