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The Milleres Tale. - 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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The Milleres Tale.
On the Miller’s Tale, see Anglia, i. 38, ii. 135, vii (appendix), 81; and see the remarks in vol. iii. p. 395.
3188.gnof, churl, lit. a thief; a slang word, of Hebrew origin; Heb. ganāv, a thief, Exod. xxii. 1. The same as the mod. E. gonoph, the epithet applied to Jo in Dickens, Bleak House, ch. xix. Halliwell’s Dict. quotes from The Norfolke Furies, 1623—‘The country gnoffes, Hob, Dick, and Hick, With clubbes and clouted shoon,’ &c. Drant, in his tr. of Horace, Satires, fol. A i, back (1566), has:—‘The chubbyshe gnof that toyles and moyles.’ Todd, in his Illustration of Chaucer, p. 260, says—‘See A Comment upon the Miller’s Tale and the Wife of Bath, 12mo. Lond. 1665, p. 8, [where we find] “A rich gnofe; a rich grub, or miserable caitiff, as I render it; which interpretation, to be proper and significant, I gather by the sence of that antient metre:
This, as I conceive, explains the author’s meaning; which seems no less seconded by that antient English bard:
The note in Bell’s Chaucer, connecting it with oaf, is wrong. The carpenter’s name was John (l. 3501).
3190. This shews that students used often to live in lodgings, as is so common at Cambridge, where the number of students far exceeds the number of college-rooms.
3192, 3. Chaucer himself knew something of astrology, as shewn by his numerous references to it. The word conclusions in l. 3193 is the technical name for ‘propositions’ or problems. In his Treatise on the Astrolabe, prologue (l. 9), he says to his son Lowis—‘I purpose to teche thee a certein nombre of conclusions apertening to the same instrument.’ We here learn that one object of astrology was to answer questions relating to coming weather, as well as with reference to almost every other future event.
3195.in certein houres. In astrology, much depended on times; certain times were supposed to be more favourable than others for obtaining solutions of problems. The great book for prognostications of weather was the Calendrier des Bergiers, an English version of which was frequently reprinted as The Shepheards Kalendar. The old almanacks also predicted the weather; see Ben Jonson’s Every Man Out of his Humour, A. i. sc. 1—‘Enter Sordido, with an almanack in his hand.’
3199.hende, gracious, mild; hence, gentle, courteous; orig. near at hand, hence, useful, serviceable; A. S. gehende. Ill spelt hendy in Tyrwhitt. Several passages from this Tale are quoted and illustrated by Warton, Hist. E. Poetry, sect. xvi; which see.
3203.hostelrye, lodging. Nicholas had his room to himself; whereas it was usual for two or more students to have a room in common, even in college.
3207.cetewale, zedoary; but commonly, though improperly, applied to valerian (Valeriana pyrenaica); also spelt setwall. Gerarde, in his Herball (ed. 1597, p. 919), says that ‘it hath beene had (and is to this day among the poore people of our northerne parts) in such veneration amongst them, that no brothes, pottages, or phisicall meates are woorthe anything, if setwall were not at one end’; &c. See Britten’s Plant-Names (E. D. S.). See note to B. 1950.
3208.Almageste; Arab. almajistī; from al, the, and majistī, for Gk. μεγίστη, short for μεγίστη σύνταξις, ‘greatest composition,’ a name given to the great astronomical treatise of Ptolemy; hence extended to signify, as here, a text-book on astrology. See Hallam, Middle Ages, c. i. 77. Ptolemy’s work ‘was in thirteen books. He also wrote four books of judicial astrology. He was an Egyptian astrologist, and flourished under Marcus Antoninus.’—Warton. See D. 182, 325, 2289. And see my note to Chaucer’s Astrolabe, i. 17; vol. iii. p. 354.
3209. See Chaucer’s own treatise on The Astrolabe, which he describes. It was an instrument consisting of several flat circular brass plates, with two revolving pointers, used for taking altitudes, and other astronomical purposes.
longinge for, suitable for, belonging to.
3210.augrim-stones, counters for calculation. Augrim is algorism (see New Eng. Dict.), or the Arabic system of arithmetic, performed with the Arabic numerals, which became known in Europe from translations of a work on algebra by the Arab mathematician Abu Ja’far Mohammed Ben Musa, surnamed al-Khowārazmī, or the native of Khwārazm (Khiva). Chaucer speaks of ‘nombres in augrim’; Astrolabe, i. 9. 3.
3212.falding, a kind of coarse cloth; see note on A. 391.
3216.Angelus ad virginem. This hymn occurs in MS. Arundel 248, leaf 154, written about 1260, both in Latin and English, and with musical notes. It is printed, with a facsimile of part of the MS., at p. 695 of the print of MS. Harl. 7334, issued by the Chaucer Society. The first verse of the Latin version runs thus:—
Hence the subject of the anthem is the Annunciation.
3217.the kinges note, the name of some tune or song. There is nothing to identify it with a chant royal, described by Warton, Hist. E. Poet. ii. 221, note b. Warton says that ‘Chaucer calls the chant royal . . . a kingis note.’ But Chaucer says ‘the kinges note,’ which makes all the difference; it is merely a bad guess. A song entitled ‘Kyng villyamis note,’ or ‘King William’s note,’ is mentioned in the Complaint of Scotland (1549), ed. Murray, p. 64.
3220. ‘According to the money provided by his friends and his own income.’
3223.eight-e-ten-e has four syllables; cf. B. 5. Tyrwhitt read it as of two syllables, and inserted I gesse after she was. He duly notes that the words I gesse are ‘not in the MSS.’
3226. ‘And considered himself to be like.’ Tyrwhitt has belike, which he probably took to be an adverb; but this is a gross anachronism. The adv. belike is unknown earlier than the year 1533.
3227.Catoun, Dionysius Cato; see note to G. 688. But Tyrwhitt notes, that ‘the maxim here alluded to is not properly one of Cato’s; but I find it (he says) in a kind of Supplement to the Moral Distichs entitled Facetus, int. Auctores octo morales, Lugd. 1538, cap. iii.
He refers to the catalogue of MSS. in Trin. Coll. Dublin, No. 275 (under Urbanus, another name for Facetus); and to Bale, Cent. iii. 17, and Fabricius, Bib. Med. Aetatis.
3230. Note is, in the singular. ‘Crabbed age and youth cannot live together’;—Passionate Pilgrim.
3235.ceynt, girdle; barred, adorned with cross stripes. Warton could not understand the word; but a bar is a transverse stripe on a girdle or belt, as in A. 329, which see.
3236–7.barm-clooth, lap-cloth, i. e. an apron ‘over her loins.’ gore, a triangular slip, used as an insertion to widen a garment in any particular place. The apron spread out towards the bottom, owing rather, it appears, to inserted ‘gores’ below than to pleats above. Or the pleats may be called gores here, from their triangular shape. Cf. A. S. gāra, an angular projection of land, as in Kensington Gore. ‘Gheroni, the gores or gussets of a smocke or shirt’; Florio’s Ital. Dict. See note to B. 1979, and the note to l. 3321 below.
3238.brouded, embroidered; cf. B. 3659, Leg. Good Women, 227. Of in l. 3240 means ‘with.’
3241.voluper, lit. ‘enveloper’ or ‘wrapper’; hence, kerchief, or cap. In l. 4303, it means a night-cap. In Wright’s Vocabularies, it translates Lat. calamandrum (568, 28), inuolutarium (590, 28), and mafora (594, 19). In the Prompt. Parv. we find: ‘volypere, kerche, teristrum’; and in the Catholicon, ‘volyper, caliend[r]um.’ In Baret’s Alvearie, h. 596, we find: ‘A woman’s cap, hood, or bonet, Calyptra, Caliendrum.’ The tapes of this cap were ‘of the same suit’ as the embroidery of her collar, i. e. were of black silk.
3245.smale y-pulled, i. e. partly plucked out, to make them narrow, even, and well-marked.
3247. Tyrwhitt at first had ‘for to see,’ but corrected it to ‘on to see,’ i. e. to look upon. Cf. Leg. Good Women, 2425.
3248.pere-ionette, early-ripe pear. Tyrwhitt refers us to a F. poire jeunette, or an Ital. pero giovanetto, i. e. very young pear-tree; but I believe the explanation is as imaginary as are these terms, which I seek for in vain. I take it that he has been misled by a false etymology from F. jeune, Ital. giovane, young, whereas the reference is to the early-ripe pear called in O.F. poire de hastivel (F. hâtiveau); see hastivel in Godefroy. The corresponding E. term is gennitings, applied to apples, but applicable to pears also; and I take the etymology to be from F. Jean, John, because such apples and pears ripen about St. John’s day (June 24), which is very early. Cotgrave has: ‘Hastivel, a soon-ripe apple, called the St. John’s apple.’ Littré, s. v. poire, has: ‘La poire appellée à Paris de messire Jean est celle qu’en Dauphiné et Languedoc l’on nomme de coulis.’ Lacroix (Manners, &c. during the Middle Ages, p. 116) says that, in the thirteenth century, one of the best esteemed pears was the hastiveau, which was ‘an early sort, and no doubt the golden pear now called St. Jean.’ Finally, we learn from Piers Plowman, C. xiii. 221, that ‘pere-Ionettes’ were very sweet and very early ripe, and therefore very soon rotten; see my note to that line. The text, accordingly, compares this young and forward beauty to the newe (i.e. fresh-leaved) early-ripe pear-tree; and there is much propriety in the simile. Of course, this explanation is somewhat of a guess; and perhaps I may add another possible etymology, viz. from jaune, yellow, with reference to the golden colour of the pear. Cf. jaulnette, in Cotgrave, as a name for St. John’s wort, and the form floure-jonettis in the King’s Quair, st. 47.
3251. ‘With silk tassels, and pearls (or pearl-shaped knobs or buttons) made of the metal called latoun.’ Such is Tyrwhitt’s simple explanation. In Riley’s Memorials of London, p. 398, we find that a man was accused of having ‘silvered 240 buttons of latone . . . for purses.’ The notes in Warton are doubly misleading, first confusing latoun with cheklatoun (which are unconnected words), and then quoting the expression ‘perled cloth of gold,’ which is another thing again. As to latoun, see note to C. 350, and cf. A. 699, B. 2067, &c.
3254.popelote, darling, poppet. Not connected with papillon, but with F. poupée and E. puppet. Halliwell gives: ‘Poplet, a term of endearment, generally applied to a young girl: poppet is still in common use.’ Cotgrave has: ‘Popelin, masc. a little finicall darling.’ Godefroy gives: ‘poupelet, m. petit poupon.’
3256. Wright says: ‘The gold noble of this period was a very beautiful coin; specimens are engraved in Ruding’s Annals of the Coinage. It was coined in the Tower of London [as here said], the place of the principal London mint.’ It was worth 6s. 8d., and first coined about 1339. See C. 907, and note.
3258. ‘Sitting on a barn.’ Repeated in C. 397.
3261.bragot, a sweet drink, made of ale and honey fermented together; afterwards, the honey was replaced by sugar and spice. See Bragget in New E. Dict. The full receipt for ‘Braket’ is given in Strutt, Manners and Customs, iii. 74; it contained 4 gallons of ale to a pint of honey. In 1783, it was made of ale, sugar, and spices, and drunk at Easter; Brand, Pop. Antiq. i. 112. Spelt bragot, Palladius on Husbandry, p. 90, l. 812; &c. Of British origin; Welsh bragawd; cf. O. Irish brac, later braich, malt. See also the note on Bragott in the Catholicon, ed. Herrtage.
3262. Cf. ‘An appyll-hurde, pomarium’; Catholicon Anglicum.
3263–4. These two lines are cited by Dryden with approval, in the Preface to his Fables, as being ‘not much behind our present English.’ We are amazed to find that Dryden condemns Chaucer’s lines as unequal; and coolly remarks that ‘equality of numbers . . . was either not known, or not always practised in Chaucer’s age.’ The black-letter editions which Dryden read were, in fact, full of misspelt words; but even in them, he might have found plenty of good lines, if he had not been so prejudiced and (to say the truth) conceited.
3268.prymerole, primrose; as in Gower, C. A. iii. 130. pigges-nye, pig’s eye, a term of endearment; pig’s eyes being (as Tyrwhitt notes) remarkably small. Cf. ‘Waked with a wench, pretty peat, pretty love, and my sweet pretty pigsnie’; Peele, Old Wives’ Tale, ed. Dyce (1883), p. 455, col. 1. And see Skelton, ed. Dyce, i. 28, ii. 97, 104. In fact, it is common. Brand, quoting Douce (Illust. of Shak. ii. 151), says that ‘Shadwell not only uses the word pigsney in this sense, but also birdsney [bird’s eye]; see his Plays, i. 357, iii. 385.’ See also pigsney in Todd’s Johnson, where one quotation has the form pigs eie. An ye became a nye; hence the pl. nyes, and even nynon (=eyne), as in Halliwell. See note to P. Plowman, C. xx. 306, where bler-eyed, i.e. blear-eyed, appears as bler-nyed in the B-text.
3269.leggen, to lay. Tyrwhitt has liggen, to lie, which is but poor grammar.
3274.Oseneye, Oseney, in the suburbs of Oxford, where there was an Abbey of St. Austin’s Canons; cf. l. 3666.
3286.harrow (Pt. harowe), a cry for help, a cry of distress; O. F. haro, harou, the same; see Godefroy. Cf. ll. 3825, 4307.
‘Primus Demon. Oute, haro, out, out! harkyn to this horne’—&c. Towneley Mysteries, Surtees Society, p. 307 (in the Mystery of “Judicium.”) So in the Coventry Mysteries, we have:—
‘Omnes demones clamant. Harrow and out! what xal we say?
‘My mother was afrayde there had ben theves in her house, and she kryed out haroll alarome (F. elle sescria harol alarme)’; Palsgrave, s. v. crye, p. 501. See Haro in Littré, hara in Schade. Cf. l. 3825; and the note in Dyce’s Skelton, ii. 274.
3291. I. e. St. Thomas of Canterbury.
3299. ‘A clerk would have employed his time ill.’
3308. Defective in the first foot; scan: Crist | es, &c. Tyrwhitt inserts Of before Cristes, and coolly observes, in his Notes, that it is ‘added from conjecture only.’ He might have said, that it makes bad grammar. And it is from such manipulated lines as this that the public forms its judgement of Chaucer’s verse! Is it nothing that all the authorities begin the line alike?
3316.shode, not ‘hair,’ as in Tyrwhitt, but ‘parting of the hair.’
3318. ‘It was the fashion to wear shoes with the upper leather cut into a variety of beautiful designs, resembling the tracery of window-heads, through which the bright colour of the green, blue, or scarlet stocking beneath was shewn to great advantage’;—Rock, Church of our Fathers, ii. 239, with illustrations at p. 240. Poules windowes, windows like those in St. Paul’s Cathedral; hence, designs resembling them. Wright conjectures that there may even be a reference to the rose-window of old St. Paul’s; and he says that examples of such shoes still exist, in the museum of Mr. C. Roach Smith. Good illustrations of these beautifully cut shoes are given in Fairholt’s Costume, pp. 64, 65, who also notes that ‘in Dugdale’s view of old St. Paul’s . . . the rose-window in the transept is strictly analogous in design.’ The Latin name for such shoes was calcei fenestrati, which see in Ducange. Rock also quotes the phrase corium fenestratum from Pope Innocent III. Observe the mention of his scarlet hose in the next line. Cf. note to Rom. of the Rose, 843, in vol. i. p. 423.
3321.wachet, a shade of blue. Tyrwhitt wrongly connects it with the town of Watchet, in Somersetshire. But it is French. Littré, s. v. vaciet, gives: ‘Couleur d’hyacinthe ou vaciet,’ colour of the hyacinth, or bilberry (Lat. uaccinium). Roquefort defines vaciet as a shrub which bears a dark fruit fit for dyeing violet; it is applied, he says, both to the fruit and the dye; and he calls it Vaccinium hysginum. Phillips says watchet is ‘a kind of blew colour.’ Todd’s Johnson cites from Milton’s Hist. of Muscovia, c. 5, ‘watchet or sky-coloured cloth’; and the line, ‘Who stares, in Germany, at watchet eyes,’ tr. of Juvenal, Sat. xiii, wrongly attributed to Dryden. See examples in Nares from Browne, Lyly, Drayton, and Taylor: and, in Richardson, from Beaumont and Fletcher, Hackluyt, Spenser, and Ben Jonson. Cotgrave explains F. pers as ‘watchet, blunket, skie-coloured,’ and couleur perse as ‘skie-colour, azure-colour, a blunket, or light blue.’ See Blunket in the New E. Dict., and my article in Philolog. Soc. Trans. Nov. 6, 1885, p. 329. Webster has ‘watchet stockings,’ The Malcontent, A. iii. sc. 1. Lydgate has ‘watchet blewe’; see Warton, Hist. Eng. Poet. (1840), ii. 280.
3322.poyntes, tagged laces, as in Shakespeare. MS. Hl. has here a totally different line, involving the word gores (cf. l. 3237 above), viz. ‘Schapen with goores in the newe get,’ i. e. in the new fashion.
3329. Tyrwhitt says:—‘The school of Oxford seems to have been in much the same estimation for its dancing, as that of Stratford for its French’; see l. 125. He probably meant this satirically; but it may mean the very opposite, or something nearly so. The Stratford-at-Bow French was excellent of its kind, but unlike that of France (see note to l. 125); and probably the Oxford dancing was, likewise, of no mean quality after its kind, having twenty ‘maneres.’
3331.rubible; also ribible (4396). Cf. ‘where was his fedylle [fiddle] or hys ribible’; Knight de la Tour, cap. 117. See Ribibe, Ribible in Halliwell; The Squire of Low Degree (in Ritson), l. 1071; Warton, Hist. Eng. Poetry, ii. 194. Also called a rebeck, as in Milton. A two-stringed musical instrument, played with a bow, of Moorish origin; Arab. rabāb. ‘Hec vitula, a rybybe’; Wright’s Gloss. 738. 19.
3332.quinible. Not a musical instrument, as Tyrwhitt supposed, but a kind of voice. It is not singing consecutive fifths upon a plain song, as Mr. Chappell once thought (Pop. Music of the Olden Time, i. 34); but, as afterwards explained by him in Notes and Queries, 4 S. vi. 117, it refers to a very high voice. The quinible was an octave higher than the treble; the quatreble was an octave higher than the mean. The mean was intermediate between the plain-song or tenor (so called from its holding on the notes) and the treble. It means ‘at the extreme pitch of the voice.’ Skelton miswrites it quibyble.
3333.giterne, a kind of guitar. ‘The gittern and the kit the wand’ring fiddlers like’; Drayton, Polyolbion, song 4. See note to P. Pl. C. xvi. 208; Prompt. Parv. p. 196.
3337.squaymous, squeamish, particular. Tyrwhitt says—‘I know not how to make this sense agree with what follows’ (l. 3807). But it is easy to understand that he was, ordinarily, squeamish, retentive; exceptionally, far otherwise. In the Knight de la Tour, cap. cxiv, p. 155, there is a story of a lady who waited on her old husband, and nursed him under most trying conditions; ‘and unnethe there might haue be founde a woman but atte sum tyme she wolde haue lothed her, or ellys to haue be right scoymous ta haue do the seruice as thes good lady serued her husbonde contynuelly.’ In a version of the Te Deum, composed about 1400, we read—‘Thou were not skoymus of the maidens wombe’; Maskell, Monumenta Ritualia, ii. 141 . Cf. ‘squaymose, verecundus,’ Catholicon; ‘skeymowse, or sweymows or queymows, abhominativus’; Prompt. Parv. Spelt squmous (badly), Court of Love, l. 332; and sqymouse in Morris’s reprint of it. See Desdaigneux in Cotgrave. ‘To be squamish, or nice, delicias facere’; Baret’s Alvearie. ‘They that be subiect to Saturne . . . be not skoymous of foule and stinking clothing’; Batman on Bartholomè, lib. 8. c. 23. In Weber’s Metrical Romances, i. 359, we find:
These examples quite establish the sense. The derivation is from the rare A.F. escoymous, which occurs in P. Meyer’s ed. of Nicole Bozon (Soc. des Anc. Textes Français), p. 158:—‘si il poy mange e beyt poy, lors est gageous ou escoymous,’ if he eats and drinks little, then is he delicate or nice. Robert of Brunne has the spelling esquaymous; Handlyng Synne, l. 7249.
3338.dangerous, sparing; see the Glossary.
3340. Cutts (Scenes and Characters of the Middle Ages, p. 219) seems to think that the clerk went about the parish with his censer, as he sometimes certainly went about with holy water. Warton, on the other hand, says that ‘on holidays it was his business to carry the censer about the church, and he takes this opportunity of casting unlawful glances on the handsomest ladies of the parish.’ Warton is clearly right here, for there is an allusion to the ladies coming forward with the usual offering (l. 3350); cf. note to A. 450. And see Persones Tale, I. 407.
3354.for paramours, for love’s sake: a redundant expression, since par means ‘for.’ Cf. n. to l. 1155, at p. 67.
3358.shot-windowe. Brockett’s Northern Glossary gives: ‘Shot-window, a projecting window, common in old houses’; but this may have been copied from Horne Tooke, who seems to have guessed at, and misunderstood, the passage, below, in Gawain Douglas. In the new edition of Jamieson, Mr. Donaldson defines Schot as ‘a window set on hinges and opening like a shutter,’ and explains that, ‘in the West of Scotland, a projecting window is called an out-shot window, whereas a shot-window or shot is one that can be opened or shut like a door or shutter by turning on its hinges.’ It is material to the story that the window here mentioned should be readily opened and shut. The passage in G. Douglas’s tr. of Virgil, prol. to bk. vii, evidently refers to a window of this character, as the poet first says:—
‘Ane schot-wyndo vnschet a lytill on char,’
i. e. I unshut the shot-window, and left it a little ajar; and he goes on to say that the weather was so cold that he soon shut it again—
‘The schot I clossit, and drew inwart in hy.’
See also ll. 3695, 6 below. In the next line, upon merely means ‘in’ or ‘formed in.’
It is curious that, in Bell’s Chaucer, a quotation is given from the Ballad of Clerk Saunders (Border Minstrelsy, vol. ii.) to shew that shot-window cannot mean ‘shut window.’ But it does not prove that it cannot mean ‘hinge-shutting window,’ as I have shewn the right sense to be.
3361. Tyrwhitt absurdly says that ll. 3361, 3362 should be broken into four short verses, and that ladý (sic) rimes with be! In Bell’s edition, they are printed in small type! They are just ordinary lines; and be (pronounced nearly as modern bay) certainly never rimed with lády—nor yet with la-dý—in Chaucer’s time, when the final y was sounded like the modern ee in meet, and would rather have rimed with a word like my. It is a mere whim.
3375.menes, intermediate people, go-betweens; see Mene, sb., in Gloss. to P. Plowman, with numerous references. Brocage is the employment of a ‘broker’ or agent, and so means much the same. See Brokage in New E. Dict., and Brocage in Gloss. to P. Plowman.
3377.brokkinge, with quick regular interruptions, quavering, in a ‘broken’ manner. See Brock in New E. Dict.
3379.wafres, wafers. ‘They (F. gaufres) are usually sold at fairs, and are made of a kind of batter poured into an iron instrument, which shuts up like a pair of snuffers. It is then thrust into the fire, and when it is with-drawn and opened, the gaufre, or wafer, is taken out and eaten “piping hote out of the glede,” as here described.’—Note in Bell’s Chaucer.
3380.mede, reward, money; distinct from meeth, mead, in l. 3378. The sense of mede is very amply illustrated in P. Plowman. L. 3380 intimates that, as she lived in a town, she could spend money at any time.
3382. A side-note, in several MSS., says: ‘Unde Ouidius: Ictibus agrestis.’ But the quotation is not from Ovid.
3384. The parish-clerks often took part in the Mystery Plays. The part of Herod was an important one; cf. Hamlet, iii. 2. 15.
3387. ‘I presume this was a service that generally went unrewarded.’—Wright. It was like ‘piping in an ivy-leaf’; see A. 1838.
3389.ape, dupe; as in A. 706.
3392. Gower has the like, ed. Pauli, i. 343:—
Hending, among his Proverbs, has—‘Fer from eye, fer from herte,’ answering to the mod. E. ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ Kemble cites: ‘Quod raro cernit oculi lux, cor cito spernit,’ from MS. Trin. Coll., fol. 365. Also ‘Qui procul est oculis, procul est a lumine cordis,’ from Gartner, Dict. 8 b.
3427.deyde, should die; subjunctive mood.
3430.that . . him is equivalent to whom. Cf. A. 2710.
3445.kyked, stared, gazed; see l. 3841. Cf. Scotch keek, to peep, pry; Burns has it in his Twa Dogs, l. 58.
3449. The carpenter naturally invokes St. Frideswide, as there was a priory of St. Frideswide at Oxford, the church of which has become the present cathedral. The shrine of St. Frideswide is still to be seen, though in a fragmentary state, at the east end of the cathedral, on its former site near the original chancel-arches and wall of her early stone church. In this line, seint-e has the fem. suffix.
3451.astromye is obviously intentional, as it fills up the line, and is repeated six lines below. The carpenter was not strong in technical terms. In like manner, he talks of ‘Nowelis flood’; see note to l. 3818. The reading astronomy just spoils both lines, and loses the jest.
3456. ‘That knows nothing at all except his Creed.’
3457. This story is told of Thales by Plato, in his Theaetetus; it also occurs, says Tyrwhitt, in the Cento Novelle Antiche, no. 36. It has often been repeated, and may now be found in James’s edition of Æsop, 1852, Fable 170.
3469. Nearly repeated from A. 545.
3479. ‘I defend thee with the sign of the cross from elves and living creatures.’ At the same time, the carpenter would make the sign over him. Wightes does not mean ‘witches,’ as Tyrwhitt thought, but ‘creatures.’ Cf. l. 3484.
3480.night-spel, night-spell, a charm said at night to keep off evil spirits. The carpenter says it five times, viz. towards the four corners of the house and on the threshold. The charm is contained in lines 3483–6, and is partly intentional nonsense, as such charms often were. See several unintelligible examples in Cockayne’s Leechdoms, iii. 286. The object of saying it four times towards the four corners of the house was to invoke the four evangelists, just as in the child’s hymn still current, which is, in fact, a charm:—
Lines 3483–4 are clear, viz. ‘May Jesus Christ and St. Benedict bless this house from every wicked creature.’ As this is a reproduction of a popular saying, it is not necessary that the lines should scan; still, they run correctly, if we pronounce seynt as se-ynt, as elsewhere (note to A. 509), and if we take both to be defective at the beginning. The last two lines are mere scraps of older charms. It is just possible that for nightes verye1 represents an A. S. for nihte werigum, ‘against the evil spirits of night’; against whom ‘the white Paternoster’ is to be said. The reading white is perfectly correct. There really was a prayer so called. See Notes and Queries, 1 Ser. xi. 206, 313; whence we learn that the charm above quoted, beginning ‘Matthew, Mark,’ &c., resembles one in the Patenôtre Blanche, to be found in the (apocryphal) Enchiridion Leonis Papae (Romae, mdclx), where occurs:—‘Petite Patenôtre Blanche, que Dieu fit, que Dieu dit, que Dieu mit en Paradis. Au soir m’allant coucher, je trouvis trois anges à mon lit, couchès, un aux pieds, deux au chevet’; &c. Here is a charm that mentions it, quoted in Notes and Queries, 1 Ser. viii. 613:—
The mention of St. Peter’s brother is remarkable. It is a substitution for the older ‘Saint Peter’s sister’ here mentioned. Again, St. Peter’s sister is a substitution for St. Peter’s daughter, who is a well-known saint, usually called St. Petronilla, or, in English, Saint Parnell, once a very common female name, and subsequently a surname. Her day is May 31, and she was said to cure the quartan ague; see Brand, Pop. Antiq., ed. Ellis, i. 363. A curious passage in the Ancren Riwle, p. 47, gives directions for crossing oneself at night, and particularly mentions the use of four crosses on ‘four halves,’ or in the original, ‘vour creoices a uour halue’; with the remark ‘Crux fugat omne malum,’ &c. For ‘Rural Charms,’ see the chapter in Brand’s Popular Antiquities, vol. iii.; and see the charm against rats in Political and Love Poems, ed. Furnivall, p. 23. I may add that, in Kemble’s Solomon and Saturn, p. 136, is an A. S. poem, in which the Paternoster is personified, and destroys evil spirits. In Longfellow’s Golden Legend, § II., Lucifer is made to say a Black Paternoster.
3507. ‘That, if you betray me, you shall go mad (as a punishment).’
3509.labbe, chatterbox, talkative person. In P. Plowm. C. xiii. 39, we find the phrase ‘ne labbe it out,’ i. e. do not chatter about it, do not utter it foolishly. In the Romans of Partenay, ed. Skeat, 3751, we find: ‘a labbyng tonge’; and Chaucer has elsewhere: ‘a labbing shrewe,’ E. 2428. Sewel’s Du. Dict. (1754) gives: ‘labben, or labbekakken, to blab, chat’; also ‘labbekak, a tattling gossip, a common blab’; and ‘labbery, chat, idle talk.’
3512.him, i. e. Christ. The story of the Harrowing (or despoiling) of Hell by Christ is derived from the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, and is a favourite and common subject in our older authors. It describes the descent of Christ into hell, after His crucifixion, in order to release the souls of the patriarchs, whom He takes with Him to paradise. It is given at length in P. Plowman, Text C. Pass. xxi; and was usually introduced into the mystery plays; see the Coventry Mysteries, the York Plays, &c. See also Cursor Mundi, 17,863; Ayenbite of Inwyt, p. 12; &c.
3516. ‘On Monday next, at the end of the first quarter of the night,’ i. e. about 9 p.m. Cf. ll. 3554, 3645.
3530. See Ecclesiasticus, xxxii. 24 [Eng. version, 19]; this was not said by ‘Solomon,’ but by Jesus, son of Sirach. It is quoted again in the Tale of Melibeus; B. 2193.
3539. ‘The trouble endured by Noah and his company.’ Noë is the form in the Latin Vulgate version. The allusion is to the intentionally comic scene introduced into the mystery plays, as, e. g. in the Chester Plays, the Towneley Plays, and the York Plays, in which Noah and his sons (felawshipe) have much ado to induce Noah’s wife to enter the ark; and, in the course of the scene, she gives Noah a sound box on the ear.
3548.kimelin, a large shallow tub; especially one used for brewing; see Prompt. Parv. p. 274; and Kimnell in Miss Jackson’s Shropshire Glossary.
3554.pryme, i. e. about 9 a.m. See note to F. 73.
3565. This shows that the hall was open to the roof, with cross-beams, and that the stable was attached to it, between it and the garden.
3590.sinne, i. e. venial sin; see I. 859, 904, 920.
3598. Evidently a common proverb.
3616. It is obvious that the first foot is defective.
3624.His owne hand, with his own hand. Tyrwhitt points out the same idiom in Gower, ed. Pauli, ii. 83:—
And again, id. ii. 310:—
‘Thing which he said his owne mouth.’
3625.ronges, rungs, rounds, steps; stalkes, upright pieces. To climb by the rungs and the stalks means to employ the hands as well as the feet. A rung was also called a stayre (stair); and stalke is the diminutive of stele, a handle, which was another name for the upright part of a ladder. In Allit. Poems, ed. Morris, C. 513, the author complains that some people cannot tell the difference between a stele and a stayre; and, in fact, the Glossary does not point it out. In the Ancren Riwle, p. 354, we find mention of the two ladder-stales that are upright to the heaven, between which stales the tinds (or rungs) are fastened. This makes the sense perfectly clear.
3637.a furlong-way, a few minutes; exactly, two minutes and a half, at the rate of three miles an hour.
3638. ‘Now say a Paternoster, and keep silence.’ Accordingly, the carpenter ‘says his devotion.’ ‘Clom!’ is a word imposing silence, like ‘mum!’ So in the Ayenbite of Inwyt, p. 266, we find: ‘Yef ye me wylleth y-here, habbeth amang you clom and reste’; i. e. if you wish to hear me, keep among you silence and rest.
3645.corfew-tyme, probably 8 p.m. The original time for ringing the curfew-bell, as a signal for putting out fires and lights, was eight o’clock. The custom has been kept up in some places till the present day; the hour for it is sometimes 8 p.m., and sometimes 9 p.m. In olden times, mention is usually made of the former of these hours; see Brand, Pop. Antiq. ii. 220; Prompt. Parv. p. 110. People invariably went to bed very early; see l. 3633.
3655. The service of lauds followed that of nocturns; the latter originally began at midnight, but usually somewhat later. The time indicated seems to have been just before daybreak. ‘These nocturns should begin at such a time as to be ended just as morning’s twilight broke, so that the next of her services, the lauds, or matutinae laudes, might come on immediately after.’—Rock, Church of our Fathers, iii. 2. 6. From l. 3731, we learn, however, that the night was still ‘as dark as pitch.’ Perhaps the time was between two and three o’clock, as Wright suggests.
3668.the grange, lit. granary; but the term was applied to a farmhouse and granary on an estate belonging to a feudal manor or (as here) to a religious house. As the estate often lay at some distance from the abbey, it might be necessary for the carpenter, who went to cut down trees, to stay at the grange for the night. Cf. note to P. Pl. C. xx. 71; and Prompt. Parv. (s. v. grawnge).
3675.at cockkes crowe; cf. l. 3687. The expression in l. 3674 must refer to Monday: the ‘cock-crow’ refers to Tuesday morning, when it was still pitch-dark (l. 3731). The time denoted by the ‘first cock-crow’ is very vague; see the Chapter on Cock-crowing in Brand’s Pop. Antiquities. The ‘second cock-crow’ seems to be about 3 a.m., as in Romeo and Juliet, iv. 4. 4; and the ‘first cock-crow,’ shortly after midnight, as in K. Lear, iii. 4. 121, 1 Hen. IV. ii. 1. 20. An early mention of the first cock occurs in Ypomedon, 783, in Weber’s Met. Romances, ii. 309:—‘And at the fryst cokke roos he.’ The clearest statement is in Tusser’s Husbandrie, sect. 74 (E. D. S. p. 165), where he says that cocks crow ‘At midnight, at three, and an hower ere day,’ which he afterwards explains by ‘past five.’
3682. On ‘itching omens,’ see Miss Burne’s Shropshire Folk-Lore, p. 269. ‘If your right hand itches, you will receive money; . . . if your nose itches, you will be kissed, cursed, or vexed.’
3684. Cf. ‘If [in a dream] you see many loaves, it portends joy’; A. S. Leechdoms, iii. 215.
3689.at point-devys, with all exactness, precisely, very neatly; cf. As You Like It, iii. 2. 401. O. F. devis, ‘ordre, beauté; a devis, par devis, en bel ordre, d’une manière bien ordonnée, à gré, à souhait’; Godefroy. See F. 560; Rom. of the Rose, 1215.
3690.greyn, evidently some sweet or aromatic seed or spice; apparently cardamoms, otherwise called grains of Paradise (New E. Dict.) ‘Greynys, spyce, Granum Paradisi’; Prompt. Parv.; see Way’s note. Cf. Rom. of the Rose, 1369, and the note (vol. i. p. 428).
3692.trewe-love, (probably) a leaf of herb-paris; in the efficacy of which he had some superstitious belief. True-love is sometimes used as an abbreviation of true-love knot, as in the last stanza of the Court of Love; and such is the case here. True-love knots were of various shapes; see pictures of four such in Ogilvie’s Dictionary. Some had four loops, which gave rise to the name true-love as applied to herb-paris. Gerarde’s Herball, 1597, p. 328, thus describes herb-paris (Paris quadrifolia):—At the top of the stalk ‘come foorth fower leaves directly set one against another, in manner of a Burgonnion crosse or a true love knot; for which cause among the auncients it hath beene called herbe Truelove.’ It is still called True Love’s Knot in Cumberland.
3700. Note the rime of tó me with cinam-ó-me.
3708.Iakke, Jack, here an epithet of a fool, like Iankin (B. 1172); and see note to B. 4000. Cf. E. zany.
3709. ‘It wilt not be (a case of) come-kiss-me.’ Chaucer has ba, to kiss, D. 433; and come-ba-me, i.e. come kiss me, is here used as a phrase; so that the line simply means ‘you certainly will not get a kiss!’ Observe the rime with bla-me. Bas also meant to kiss, and Skelton uses the words together (ed. Dyce, i. 22):—
i.e. with repeated kisses on cheek and chin. So again (i. 127) we find: ‘bas me, buttyng, praty Cys!’ And so again (ii. 6): ‘bas me, swete Parrot, bas me, swete, swete!’ Further illustration is afforded by Burton’s Anat. of Melancholy, pt. 3. sec. 2. mem. 4. subsec. 1: ‘Yea, many times, this love will make old men and women . . . dance, come-kiss-me-now, mask, and mum.’ This complete explanation of an old crux was first given by Mr. Ellis, in 1870, in his Early Eng. Pronunciation, p. 715, who notes that the reading com ba me is fairly well supported; see his Critical Note. Several MSS. turn it into compame, which is clearly due to the influence of the familiar word companye, which repeatedly ends a line in Chaucer. Mr. Ellis well remarks—‘Com ba me! was probably the name of a song, like . . . the modern “Kiss me quick, and go, my love.” It is also probable that Absolon’s speech contained allusions to it, and that it was very well known at the time.’
The curious part of the story is that, in 1889, I adopted the same reading independently, and for precisely similar reasons. But Mr. Ellis was before me, by nineteen years. See l. 3716 below.
The following MSS. (says Mr. Ellis) read combame; viz. Harl. 7335—Camb. Univ. Library, Ii. 3. 26—Trin. Coll. Camb. R. 3. 3—Rawl. MS. Poet. 141. Bodl. 414 has cum bame; whilst Rawl. Misc. 1133 and Laud 739 have come ba me.
3713. Lit. ‘in the way to twenty devils’; hence, in the name of twenty devils. ‘In the twenty deuyll way, Au nom du grant diable’; Palsgrave (1852), p. 838. See ll. 3134, 4257.
3721–2. These two lines are in E. only; Tyrwhitt omits them. But the old black-letter editions retain them.
3723. He knelt down, because the window was so low (3696).
3725. Cf. ‘For who-so kissing may attayne’; Rom. Rose, 3677; and Ovid, Ars Amatoria, i. 669.
3726.thyn ore, thy favour, thy grace; the words ‘grant me’ being understood. It is not uncommon.
‘I haue siked moni syk, lemmon, for thin ore’;
Böddeker’s Altengl. Dichtungen, p. 174.
See Specimens of E. Eng., Part I; Glossary to Havelok; &c.
3728.com of, i. e. be quick; like Have do, have done! We now say ‘come on!’ But strictly, come on means ‘begin,’ and come off means ‘make an end.’
3751. ‘If it be not so that, rather than possess all this town, I would like to be avenged.’
3770.viritoot must be accepted as the reading; the reading verytrot in MS. Hl. gives a false rime, as the oo in woot is long. The meaning is unknown; but the context requires the sense of ‘upon the move,’ or ‘astir.’ My guess is that viri- is from F. virer, to turn (cf. E. virelay), and that toot represents O. F. tot (L. totum, F. tout), all; so that viritoot may mean ‘turn-all.’ Cotgrave gives virevoulte, ‘a veere, whirle a round gamball, friske, or turne,’ like the Portuguese viravolta. The form verytrot (very trot) is clearly due to an attempt to make sense. MS. Cam. has merytot, possibly with reference to M. E. merytoter, a swing (Catholicon); which is derived from mery, merry, and toteren, to totter, oscillate. In the North of England, a swing is still called a merry-trotter (corruption of merry-totter), as noted by Haliiwell, who remarks that ‘the meritot is mentioned by Chaucer,’ which is not the fact. Both these ‘glosses’ give the notion of movement, as this is obviously the general sense implied. Whatever the reading may be, we can see the sense, viz. ‘some gay girl (euphemism for light woman) has brought you thus so early astir’; and Gervase accordingly goes on to say, ‘you know what I mean.’
Ed. 1561 has berytote, a misprint for verytote.
3771. Here as elsewhere, se-ynt is dissyllabic; several MSS. have seinte, but this can hardly be right. For Note, MSS. Pt. Hl. have Noet, meaning St. Neot, whose day is Oct. 28, and whose name remains in St. Neot’s, in Cornwall, and St. Neot’s, in Huntingdonshire. He died about 877; see Wright’s Biogr. Brit. Litt., A. S. Period, p. 381. The spelling Note is remarkable, as the mod. E. name (pronounced as Neet, riming with feet) suggests the A. S. form Nēot, and M. E. Neet.
3774. A proverbial phrase. Tyrwhitt quotes from Froissart, v. iv. p. 92, ed. 1574; ‘Il aura en bref temps autres estoupes en sa quenoille.’ To ‘have tow on one’s distaff’ is to have a task in hand. ‘Towe on my dystaf have I for to spynne’; Hoccleve, De Regimine Principum, p. 45.
3777.As lene, pray lend; see note to E. 7.
3782. MS. Hl. has fo, which is silently altered to fote by Bell and Wright. Tyrwhitt also has fote, which he found in the black-letter editions. The reading foo is probably quite right, and is an intentional substitution for foot. It is notorious that oaths were constantly made unmeaning, to avoid a too open profanity. In Chaucer, we have cokkes bones, H. 9, I. 29, and Corpus bones, C. 314. Another corruption of a like oath is ’s foot, Shak. Troil. ii. 3. 6, which is docked at the other end. It is poor work altering MSS. so as to destroy evidence. Cristes foo might mean ‘the devil’; but this is unlikely.
3785.stele, handle; i. e. by the cold end, which served as a handle. See note to D. 949. stēle, i. e. steel, would give a false rime.
3811. Tyrwhitt inserted al before aboute in his text, but withdrew it in his notes. The A. S. has hand-brǣd, but the M.E. hand-e-brede had at least three syllables, if not four. This is shewn by MS. spellings and by the metre, and still more clearly by Wyclif’s Bible, which has: ‘a spanne, that is, an handibreede,’ Ezek. xl. 5 (later version). It may have been formed by analogy with M. E. handiwerk (A. S. hand-geweorc) and handewrit (A. S. hand-gewrit). But the form is handbrede in Palladius on Husbandry, p. 80, l. 536.
3818.Nowelis flood is the mistake of the illiterate carpenter for Noes flood; see it again in l. 3834, where he is laughed at for having used the expression in his previous talks with the clerk and his wife. It is on a par with his astromye (note to l. 3451). He was less familiar with the Noe of the Bible than with the Nowel of the carolsingers at Christmas; see F. 1255. The editors carefully ‘correct’ the poet. In l. 3834, Nowélis helps the scansion, whilst Noes spoils the line, which has to be ‘amended.’ The readings are: E. Hn. as in the text; Cm. Pt. Ln. the Nowels flood; Pt. the Noes flood; Hl. He was agast and feerd of Noes flood. Tyrwhitt actually reads; He was agast-e so of Noes flood; regardless of the fact that agast has no final -e. The carpenter’s mistake is the more pardonable when we notice that Noë was sometimes used, instead of Noël, to mean ‘Christmas.’ For an example, see the Poètes de Champagne, Reims, 1851, p. 146.
3821. This singular expression is from the French. Tyrwhitt cites:—
i. e. he found no bread to sell in his descent. His reference is to the Fabliaux, t. ii. p. 282; Wright refers, for the same, to the fabliau of Aloul, in Barbazan, l. 591. I suppose the sense is, ‘he never stopped, as if to transact business.’
3822. E. Hn. celle; rest selle. The word celle might mean ‘chamber.’ There was an approach to the roof, which they had reached by help of a ladder; and the three tubs were hung among the balks which formed the roof of the principal sitting-room below. But it is difficult to see how the word celle could be applied to the chief room in the house. Tyrwhitt explains selle as ‘door-sill or threshold’; but we must bear in mind that the usual M. E. form of sill was either sille or sulle, from A. S. syll. The spelling with s proves nothing, since Chaucer undoubtedly means ‘cell’ in A. 1376, where Cm. Hl. have selle, and in B. 3162, where three MSS. (Cp. Pt. Ln.) all read selle again. Why the carpenter should have arrived at the door-sill, I do not know.
Nevertheless, upon further thoughts, I accept Tyrwhitt’s view, with some modification. We find that Chaucer actually uses Kentish forms (with e for A. S. y) elsewhere, for the sake of a rime. A clear case is that of fulfelle, in Troil. iii. 510. This justifies the dat. form selle (A. S. sylle). But we must take selle to mean ‘flooring’ or ‘boarding,’ and floor to mean the ground beneath it; just as we find, in Widegren’s Swedish Dictionary, that syll means ‘the timber next the ground.’ I would therefore read selle, with the sense of ‘flooring’; and I explain floor by ‘flat earth.’ In the allit. Morte Arthure, 3249, flores signifies ‘plains.’ In Gawayn and the Grene Knyght, 55, sille means ‘floor.’
3841. Observe the form cape, as a variant of gape, both here and in l. 3444 (see footnotes); and in Troil. v. 1133.
[1 ]‘Thou were nought skoymus to take the maydenes womb’ is the reading given in The Prymer, ed. H. Littlehales, p. 22.
[1 ]The black-letter editions have mare; and Tyrwhitt follows them. I take this to be a mere guess.