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The Reves 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 Reves Tale.
The origin of this Tale was a French Fabliau, like one that was first pointed out by Mr. T. Wright, and printed in his Anecdota Literaria, p. 15. Another similar one is printed in Méon’s edition of Barbazan’s Fabliaux, iii. 239 (Paris, 1808). Both were reprinted for the Chaucer Society, in Originals and Analogues, &c., p. 87. See further in vol. iii. p. 397.
3921.Trumpington. The modern mill, beside the bridge over the Granta, between the villages of Trumpington and Grantchester, is familiar to all Cambridge men; but this mill and bridge are both comparatively modern, being placed upon an artificial channel. The old ‘bridge’ is that over the old river-bed, somewhat nearer Trumpington; the ‘brook’ is this old course of the Granta, which is hereabouts very narrow and circuitous; and the mill stood a quarter of a mile above the bridge, at the spot marked ‘Old Mills’ on the ordnance-map, though better known as ‘Byron’s pool,’ which is the old mill-pool. The fen mentioned in l. 4065 is probably the field between the Old Mills and the road, which must formerly have been fen-land; though Lingay Fen may be meant, which covers the space between Bourne Brook (flowing into the Granta at the Old Mills) and the Cambridge and Bedford Railway. We like to think that Chaucer saw the spot himself; but he certainly seems to have thought that Trumpington was somewhat further from Cambridge than it really is, as he actually makes the clerks to have been benighted there; and he might easily have learnt some local particulars from his wife’s friend, Lady Blaunche de Trumpington, or from Sir Roger himself. In any case, it is interesting to find him thus boldly assigning a known locality to a mill which he had found in a French fabliau.
3927.Pypen, play the bag-pipe; see A. 565. The Reeve is clearly trying to make his description suit the Miller in the company, whom it is his express object to tease. Hence he says he could wrestle well (cf. A. 548) and could play the bag-pipe.
nettes bete, mend nets; he knew how to net.
3928.turne coppes, turn cups, make wooden cups in a turning-lathe; not a very difficult operation. It is curious that Tyrwhitt gave up trying to explain this simple phrase. In Riley’s Memorials of London, p. 666, we find that, in 1418, when the English were besieging Rouen, it was enacted that ‘the turners should have 4s. for every hundred of 2,500 cups, in all 100s.’: so that a wooden cup could be turned at the cost of a halfpenny.
3929. Printed pavade by Tyrwhitt, pauade by Thynne (ed. 1532), but panade in Wright. Levins’ Manipulus Vocabulorum (1570) has: ‘A pauade,pugio’; but this is probably copied from Thynne. The exact form is not found in O. F., but Godefroy’s O. F. Dict. gives: ‘Penart, pennart, penard, panart, pannart, coutelas, espèce de grand couteau à deux tranchants ou taillants, sorte de poignard’; with seven examples, one of which shows that it could be hung at the belt: ‘Un grant pennart qu’il avoit pendu a sa sainture.’ Ducange gives the Low Lat. form penardus, and wrongly connects it with F. poignard, from which it is clearly distinct; but he also gives the form pennatum with the sense of ‘pruning-knife,’ and Torriano gives an Ital. pennato with the same sense. Cf. Lat. bi-pennis. It was a two-edged cutlass, worn in addition to his sword; and see below. It is also printed pauade in Lydgate’s Siege of Troy, ed. 1555, fol. N 5, back.
3931.popper, thruster, i.e. dagger; from the verb pop, to thrust in; cf. poke. Ioly probably means ‘neat’ or ‘small.’ This was the Miller’s third weapon of offence, of which he had three sizes, viz. a sword, a cutlass, and a little dagger like a misericorde, used for piercing between the joints of armour. No wonder that no one durst touch him ‘for peril.’ The poppere answers to the boydekin of l. 3960, q. v. And besides these, he carried a knife. ‘Poppe, to stryke’; Cathol. Angl. p. 286.
3933.thwitel, knife; from A. S. thwītan, to cut; now ill-spelt whittle. The portraits of Chaucer show a knife hanging from his breast; accordingly, in Greene’s Description of Chaucer, we find this line: ‘A whittle by his belt he bare’; see Greene’s Works, ed. Dyce, 1883, p. 320. Note that Sheffield was already celebrated for its cutlery; so in the Witch of Edmonton, Act ii. sc. 2, Somerton speaks of ‘the new pair of Sheffield knives.’
3934.camuse (Hl. camois), low and concave; cf. l. 3974 below. F. camus, ‘flat-nosed’; Cotgrave. Ital. camuso, ‘one with a flat nose’; Florio. See Camois in the New E. Dict., where it is thus explained: ‘Of the nose: low and concave. Of persons: pug-nosed.’ To the examples there given, add the following from Holland’s tr. of Pliny, i. 229; ‘As for the male goats, they are held for the best which are most camoise or snout-nosed.’ Hexham’s Du. Dict., s. v. Neuse, has the curious entry: ‘een Camuys ende opwaerts gaende Neuse [lit. a camus and upwards-going Nose], Camell-nosed.’
3936.market-beter, a frequenter of markets, who swaggered about, and was apt to be quarrelsome and in the way of others. See Wyclif’s Works, ed. Matthew, pp. 511, 520; and cf. F. battre le pavé, ‘aller et venir sans but, sans occupation’; Littré. And cf. E. ‘policeman’s beat.’ Cotgrave has: ‘Bateur de pavez, a pavement-beater; . . one that walks much abroad, and riots it wheresoever he walks.’ The following passage from the Complaint of the Ploughman (in Wright’s Polit. Poems, i. 330) makes it clear—
A synonymous term was market-dasher, spelt market-daschare in the Prompt. Parv.; see Way’s note.
atte fulle, completely, entirely.
3941.Simkin, diminutive of Simond, which was his real name (ll. 4022, 4127). Altered to Sim-e-kin by Tyrwhitt, for the scansion; but cf. ll. 3945, 3947, 4034, &c. He makes the same alteration in l. 3959, for a like reason, but we may scan it: ‘But if | he wold | e be | slayn,’ &c. All the MSS. have Symkyn, except Hl., which has Symekyn here and in l. 3959. We must either make the form variable, or else treat the word de-y-nous as a trisyllable. Deynous was his regular epithet.
3943. This statement, that the parson of the town was her father, has caused surprise. In Bell’s Chaucer, the theory is started that the priest had been a widower before he took orders, which no one can be expected to believe; it is too subtle. It is clear that she was an illegitimate daughter; this is why her father paid money to get her married to a miller, and why she thought ladies ought to spare her (and not avoid her), because it was an honour to have a priest for a father, and because she had learnt so much good-breeding in a nunnery. The case is only too clear; cf. note to l. 3963.
3953.tipet, not here a cape, but the long pendant from the hood at one time fashionable, which Simkin wound round his head, in order to get it out of the way. See Tippett in Fairholt’s Costume in England; Glossary. Cf. notes to A. 233, 682.
3954. So also the Wife of Bath had ‘gay scarlet gytes’; D. 559. Spelt gide in MS. Ln., and gyde in Blind Harry’s Wallace, i. 214: ‘In-till a gyde of gudly ganand greyne,’ where it is used of a gay dress worn by Wallace. It occurs also twice in Golagros and Gawain, used of the gay dress of a woman; see Jamieson. Nares shews that gite is used once by Fairfax, and thrice by Gascoigne. The sense is usually dubious; it may mean ‘robe,’ or, in some places, ‘head-dress.’ The g was certainly hard, and the word is of F. origin. Godefroy gives ‘guite, chapeau’; and Roquefort has ‘wite, voile.’ The F. Gloss. appended to Ducange gives the word witart as applied to a man, and witarde as applied to a woman. Cf. O. F. wiart, which Roquefort explains as a woman’s veil, whilst Godefroy explains guiart as a dress or vestment. The form of the word suggests a Teutonic origin; perhaps from O. H. G. wît, wide, ample, which would explain its use to denote a veil or a robe indifferently. Ducange suggests a derivation from Lat. uitta, which is also possible.
3956.dame, lady; see A. 376.
3959.wold-e, wished, seems to be dissyllabic; see note to l. 3941.
3960.boydekin, dagger, as in B. 3892, q. v. Cf. note to l. 3931.
3962. ‘At any rate, they would that their wives should think so.’ Wenden, pt. pl. subj. of wenen.
3963.smoterlich, besmutched; cf. bismotered in A. 76. Tyrwhitt says: ‘it means, I suppose, smutty, dirty; but the whole passage is obscure.’ Rather, it is perfectly clear when the allusion is perceived. The allusion is to the smutch upon her reputation, on account of her illegitimacy. This explains also the use of somdel; ‘because she was, in some measure, of indifferent reputation, she was always on her dignity, and ready to take offence’; which is true to human nature. Thus the whole context is illuminated at once.
3964.digne, full of dignity, and therefore (as Chaucer says, with exquisite satire) like (foul) water in a ditch, which keeps every one at a proper distance. However, the satire is not Chaucer’s own, but due to a popular proverbial jest, which occurs again in The Ploughman’s Crede, l. 375, where the Dominican friars are thus described:—
And, again, in the same, l. 355:—
Hence digne is proud, repulsive.
3965. ‘And full of scorn and reproachful taunting’; like the lady in Lay de Freine, l. 60 (in Weber’s Met. Romances, i. 359):—
Hoker is the A. S. hōcor, scorn. Bismare is properly of two syllables only (A. S. bismor), but is here made into three; MS. Cp. has bisemare, and Hl. has bissemare, and the spelling bisemare also appears much earlier, in the Ancren Riwle, p. 132, and bisemære in Layamon, i. 140. Owing to a change in the accentuation, the etymology had been long forgotten. See Bismer in the New E. Dict., and see the Glossary.
3966. ‘It seemed to her that ladies ought to treat her with consideration,’ and not look down upon her; see note to l. 3943.
3977.The person, the parson, i.e. her grandfather.
3980. ‘And raised difficulties about her marriage.’
3990. The Soler-halle has been guessed to be Clare Hall, merely because that college was of early foundation, and was called a ‘hall.’ But a happy find by Mr. Riley tells us better, and sets the question at rest. In the First Report of the Historical MSS. Commission, p. 84, Mr. Riley gives several extracts from the Bursar’s Books of King’s Hall, in which the word solarium repeatedly occurs, shewing that this Hall possessed numerous solaria, or sun-chambers, used as dwelling-rooms, apparently by the fellows. They were probably fitted with bay-windows. This leaves little doubt that Soler-Hall was another name for King’s Hall, founded in 1337 by Edward III, and now merged in Trinity College. It stood on the ground now occupied by the Great Gate, the Chapel, Bowling-green, and Master’s Lodge of that celebrated college. On the testimony of Chaucer, we learn that the King’s Hall, even in his time, was ‘a greet collegge.’ Its successor is the largest in England.
In Wright’s Hist. of Domestic Manners, pp. 83, 127, 128, it is explained that the early stone-built house usually had a hall on the ground-floor, and a soler above. The latter, being more protected, was better lighted, and was considered a place of greater security. ‘In the thirteenth century a proverbial characteristic of an avaricious and inhospitable person, was to shut his hall-door and live in the soler.’ It was also ‘considered as the room of honour for rich lodgers or guests who paid well.’ Udall speaks of ‘the solares, or loftes of my hous’; tr. of Erasmus’ Apophthegmes, Aug. Cæsar, § 27.
3999.made fare, made a to-do (as we now say).
4014.Strother. There is now no town of this name in England, but the reference is probably to a place which gave its name to a Northumbrian family. Mr. Gollancz tells me:—‘The Strother family, of Northumberland, famous in the fourteenth century, was a branch of the Strothers, of Castle Strother in Glendale, to the west of Wooler. The chief member of this Northumberland branch seems to have been Alan de Strother the younger, who died in 1381. (See Calendarium Inquis. post Mortem, 4 Ric. II, vol. iii. p. 32.) The records contain numerous references to him; e. g. “Aleyn de Struther, conestable de nostre chastel de Rokesburgh,” 1366 (Rymer’s Fœdera, iii. 784); “Alanum del Strother, vicecomitem de Rokesburgh et vicecomitem Northumbriæ” (id. iii. 919). It is a noteworthy point that this Alan de Strother had a son John.’ This definite information does away with the old guess, that Strother is a mistake for Langstrothdale Chase almost at the N.W. extremity of the W. Riding of Yorkshire, joining the far end of Wharfdale to Ribblesdale, and even now not very accessible, though it can be reached from Ribblehead station, on the Skipton and Carlisle Railway, or from Horton-in-Ribblesdale.
I suppose that Castle Strother, mentioned above, must have been near Kirknewton, some 5 miles or so to the west of Wooler. The river Glen falls into the Till, which is a tributary of the Tweed. I find mention, in 1358–9, of ‘Henry de Strother, of Kirknewton in Glendale’; Brand, Hist. of Newcastle, ii. 414, note. W. Hutchinson, in his View of Northumberland, 1778, i. 260, speaks of ‘Kirknewton, one of the manors of the Barony of Wark, the ancient residence of the Strothers, now the property of John Strother Ker, Esq.’
We may here notice some of the characteristics of the speech which Chaucer assigns to these two students from Northumberland.
(a) They use a for A. S. ā, where Chaucer usually has ō (long and open). Ex. na (Ch. no), swa (so), ham (hoom), gas (gooth), fra (fro), banes (bones), anes (ones), waat (woot), raa (ro), bathe (bothe), ga (go), twa (two), wha (who). Similarly we find saule for Ch. soule, soul, tald for told, halde for holde, awen for owen, own.
(b) They use a for A. S. short a before ng. Ex. wanges, but Ch. also has wang-tooth, B. 3234; sang for song (4170), lange for longe, wrang for wrong.
(c) They use (perhaps) ee for oo; as in geen for goon, gone, 4078; neen for noon, none, 4185. This is remarkable, and, in fact, the readings vary, as noted. Geen, neen are in MS. E. Note also pit for put, 4088.
(d) They use the indicative sing. and pl. in -es or -s. Ex. 3 pers. sing. far-es, bo-es, ga-s, wagg-es, fall-es, fynd-es, 4130, bring-es, tyd-es, 4175, say-s, 4180. Pl. werk-es, 4030. So also is I, I is, thou is, 4089. In l. 4045, we find are ye, E.; ar ye (better), Hn.; ere ye, Cp. Hl.; is ye, Cm. Pt.; es ye, Ln. Both ar (er) and is (es) are found in the present tense plural in Northern works; we is occurs in Barbour’s Bruce, iii. 317. It is not ‘ungrammatical,’ as Tyrwhitt supposes.
(e) Other grammatical peculiarities are: sal for shal, shall, 4087; slyk for swiche, such, 4173; whilk for whiche, 4171; thair for hir, their, 4172 (which is now the standard use); hethen for hennes, hence, 4033; til for to (but Chaucer sometimes uses til himself, chiefly before a vowel); y-mel for amonges, 4171; gif for if, 4181.
(f) Besides the use of the peculiar forms mentioned in (e), we find certain words employed which do not occur elsewhere in Chaucer, viz. boes (see note to 4027), lathe, barn, fonne, fool, hething, contempt, taa, take. To these Tyrwhitt adds gar, reading Gar us have mete in l. 4132, but I can only find Get us som mete in my seven MSS. Capul, horse, occurs again in D. 1554, 2150.
I think Mr. Ellis a little underrates the ‘marked northernism’ of Chaucer’s specimens. Certainly thou is is as marked as I is; and other certain marks are the pl. indic. in -es, as in werk-es, 4030, the use of sal for ‘shall,’ of boes for ‘behoves,’ of taa for ‘take,’ of hethen for ‘hence,’ of slyk for ‘such,’ the prepositions fra and y-mel, and even some of the peculiarities of pronunciation, as ā for ō, wrang for wrong.
It is worth enquiring whether Chaucer has made any mistakes, and it is clear that he has made several. Thus as clerkes sayn (4028) should be as clerkes says; and sayth should again be says in l. 4210. In l. 4171, hem (them) should be thaim. In l. 4180, y-greved should be greved; the Northern dialect knows nothing of the prefix y-. It also ignores the final -e in definite adjectives; hence thy fair-e (4023), this short-e (4265), and this lang-e (4175) all have a superfluous -e. Of course this is what we should expect; the poet merely gives a Northern colouring to his diction to amuse us; he is not trying to teach us Northern grammar. The general effect is excellent, and that is all he was concerned with.
4020. The mill lay a little way off the road on the left (coming from Trumpington); so it was necessary to ‘know the way.’
4026.nede has na peer, necessity has no equal, or, is above all. More commonly, Nede ne hath no lawe, as in P. Plowman, B. xx. 10, or C. xxiii. 10; ‘Necessitas non habet legem’; a common proverb.
4027.boës, contracted from behoves, a form peculiar to Chaucer. In northern poems, the word is invariably a monosyllable, spelt bos, or more commonly bus; and the pt. t. is likewise a monosyllable, viz. bud or bood, short for behoved. In Cursor Mundi, l. 9870, we have: ‘Of a woman bos him be born; and in l. 10639: ‘Than bus this may be clene and bright.’ In M. E., it is always used impersonally; him boes or him bos means ‘it behoves him,’ or ‘he must.’ See Bus in the New E. Dictionary.
Chaucer here evidently alludes to some such proverb as ‘He who has no servant must serve himself,’ but I do not know the precise form of it. The expression ‘as clerkes sayn’ hints that it is a Latin one.
4029.hope, expect, fear. Cf. P. Plowman, C. x. 275, and see Hope in Nares, who cites the story of the tanner of Tamworth (from Puttenham’s Arte of Poesie, bk. iii. c. 22) who said—‘I hope I shall be hanged to-morrow.’ Cf. also Thomas of Erceldoun, ed. Murray, l. 78:—
4030. ‘So ache his molar teeth.’ Wark, to ache, is common in Yorkshire: ‘My back warks while I can hardly bide,’ my back aches so that I can hardly endure; Mid. Yks. Gloss. (E. D. S.).
4032.ham, i. e. hām, haam, home.
4033.hethen, hence, is very characteristic of a Northern dialect; it occurs in Hampole, Havelok, Morris’s Allit. Poems, Gawain, Robert of Brunne, the Ormulum, &c.; see examples in Mätzner.
4037. One clerk wants to watch above, and the other below, to prevent cheating. This incident is not in the French fabliaux. On the other hand, it occurs in the Jest of the Mylner of Abyngton, which is plainly copied from Chaucer.
4049.blere hir yë, blear their eyes, cheat them, as in l. 3865.
4055. ‘The fable of the Wolf and the Mare is found in the Latin Esopean collections, and in the early French poem of Renard le Contrefait, from whence it appears to have been taken into the English Reynard the Fox’; Wright. Tyrwhitt observes that the same story is told of a mule in Cento Novelle Antiche, no. 91. See Caxton’s Reynard, ch. 27, ed. Arber, p. 62, where the wolf wants to buy a mare’s foal, who said that the price of the foal was written on her hinder foot; ‘yf ye conne rede and be a clerk, ye may come see and rede it.’ And when the wolf said, ‘late me rede it,’ the mare gave him so violent a kick that ‘a man shold wel haue ryden a myle er he aroos.’ The Fox, who had brought it all about, hypocritically condoles with the Wolf, and observes—‘Now I here wel it is true that I long syth haue redde and herde, that the beste clerkes ben not the wysest men.’
For the story in Le Roman du Renard Contrefait, see Poètes de Champagne, Reims, 1851, p. 156. For further information, see Caxton’s Fables of Æsop, ed. Jacobs, lib. v. fab. 10; vol. i. 254, 255; vol. ii. 157, 179. La Fontaine has a similar fable of the Fox, the Wolf, and the Horse. In Croxall’s Æsop, it is told of the Horse, who tells the Lion, who is acting as physician, that he has a thorn in his foot. See further references in the Exempla of Jacques de Vitry, ed. Crane, pp. 147, 197.
4061.levesel, an arbour or shelter formed of branches or foliage. Lev-e is the stem of leef, A. S. lēaf, a leaf; and -sel is the same as the A. S. sæl, sele, a hall, dwelling, Swed. sal, Icel. salr, G. Saal. The A. S. sæl occurs also in composition, as burg-sæl, folc-sæl, horn-sæl, and sele is still commoner; Grein gives twenty-three compounds with the latter, as gæst-sele, guest-hall, hrōf-sele, roofed-hall, &c. In Icel. we have lauf-hús, leaf-house, but we find the very word we require in Swed. löfsal, ‘a hut built of green boughs,’ Widegren; Dan. lövsals-fest, feast of tabernacles. The word occurs again in the Persones Tale, l. 411, where it means a leafy arbour such as may still be seen to form the porch of a public-house. The word is scarce; but see the following:—
The editor prints it as lefe sale, and explains it by ‘leafy hall,’ but it is a compound word; the adjective would be lefy or leuy. In this case the arbour was ‘built’ of box and barberry.
Again, in Allit. Poems, ed. Morris, iii. 448, the arbour formed by Jonah’s gourd is called a lefsel.
4066. Lydgate has ‘through thinne and thikke’; Siege of Troy, fol. Cc. 6, back.
4078.geen, goon; so in MS. E., which again has neen, none, 4185. The usual Northern form is gan (= gaan), as in Hl.; Hn. Ln. have gane. But we also find gayn, as in Wallace, iv. 102; Bruce, ii. 80. The forms geen, neen, are so remarkable that they are likely to be the original ones.
4086. ‘I am very swift of foot, God knows, (even) as is a roe; by God’s heart, he shall not escape us both; why hadst thou not put the horse in the barn?’ ‘Light as a rae’ [roe]; Tournament of Tottenham, st. 15.
4088.capul, a horse, occurs again, in D. 2150. lathe, a barn, is still in use in some parts of Yorkshire, but chiefly in local designations, being otherwise obsolescent; see the Cleveland and Whitby Glossaries. ‘The northern man writing to his neighbour may say, “My lathe standeth neer the kirkegarth,” for My barne standeth neere the churchyard:’ Coote’s Eng. Schoolemaster, 1632 (Nares). Ray gives: ‘Lathe, a barn’ in 1691; and we again find ‘Leath, a barn’ in 1781 (E. D. S. Gloss. B, 1); and ‘Leath, Laith, a barn, in 1811 (E. D. S. Gloss. B. 7); in all cases as a Northern word.
4096. ‘Trim his beard,’ i.e. cheat him; and so again in D. 361. See Chaucer’s Hous of Fame, 689, and my note upon it.
4101.Iossa, ‘down here’; a cry of direction. Composed of O. F. jos, jus, down; and ça, here. Bartsch gives an example of jos in his Chrestomathie, 1875, col. 8: ‘tuit li felun cadegren jos,’ all the felons fell down; and Cotgrave has: ‘Jus, downe, or to the ground.’ Godefroy gives: ça jus, here below, down here. It is clearly a direction given by one clerk to the other, and was probably a common cry in driving horses.
warderere, i. e. warde arere, ‘look out behind!’ Another similar cry. MS. Cm. has: ware the rere, mind the rear, which is a sort of gloss upon it.
4110.hething, contempt. See numerous examples in Mätzner, s. v. hæthing, ii. 396. Cf. ‘Bothe in hething and in scorn’; Sir Amadace, l. 17, in Robson’s Three Met. Romances, p. 27. ‘Him thoght scorn and gret hething’; Seven Sages, ed. Weber, l. 91.
4112. The first foot is ‘trochaic.’
4115.in his hond, in his possession, in his hold.
4126. ‘Or enlarge it by argument’; prove by logic that it is the size you wish it to be.
4127.Cutberd, St. Cuthbert, bishop of Lindisfarne, died in 686. Being a Northumberland man, John swears by a Northumberland saint.
4130. Evidently a proverb: ‘a man must take (one) of two things, either such as he finds or such as he brings’; i. e. must put up with what he can get.
4134. Another proverb. Repeated in D. 415, with lure for tulle. From the Policraticus of John of Salisbury, liv. v. c. 10: ‘Veteri celebratur proverbio: Quia vacuae manus temeraria petitio est.’ MS. Cm. has the rimes folle, tolle. For tulle, a commoner spelling is tille, to draw, hence to allure, entice. Hence E. till (for money), orig. meaning a ‘drawer’; and the tiller of a rudder, by which it is drawn aside. See tullen in Stratmann, and tollen in Boeth. bk. ii. pr. 7. 11 (in vol. ii. p. 45).
4140.chalons, blankets. The same word as mod. E. shalloon, ‘a slight woollen stuff’; Ogilvie’s Dict. ‘The blanket was sometimes made of a texture originally imported from Chalons in France, but afterwards extensively manufactured in England by the Chaloners’; Our Eng. Home, p. 108. ‘Qwyltes ne chalouns’; Eng. Gilds, ed. Toulmin Smith, p. 350.
4152.quakke, asthma, or difficulty of breathing that causes a croaking noise. Halliwell gives: ‘Quack, to be noisy, West. The term is applied to any croaking noise.’ Also: ‘Quackle, to choke, or suffocate, East.’ Pose, a cold in the head; A. S. gepos.
4155. ‘To wet one’s whistle’ is still in use for to drink deeply. ‘I wete my whystell, as good drinkers do’; Palsgrave, p. 780. In Walton’s Complete Angler, Part i. ch. 5, we find: ‘Let’s drink the other cup to wet our whistles.’
4172.wilde fyr, erysipelas (to torment them); see Halliwell. Cf. E. 2252. The entry—‘Erysipela (sic), wilde fyr’ occurs in Ælfric’s Vocabulary. So in Le Rom. de la Rose:—‘que Mal-Feu l’arde’; 7438, 8319.
4174.flour, choice, best of a thing; il ending, evil death, bad end. ‘They shall have the best (i. e. here, the worst) of a bad end.’ Rather a wish than a prophecy.
4181. Sidenote in MS. Hl.—‘Qui in vno grauatur in alio debet releuari.’ A Law Maxim.
4194.upright, upon her back. ‘To slepe on the backe, vpryght, is vtterly to be abhorred’; Babees Book, ed. Furnivall, p. 245. Palsgrave, s. v. Throwe, has: ‘I throwe a man on his backe or upright, so that his face is upwarde, Ie renuerse.’ And see Nares. Cf. ‘Now dounward groffe [on your belly], and now upright’; Rom. Rose, 2561. Bolt-upright occurs in l. 4266; where bolt is ‘like a bolt,’ hence ‘straight,’ or exactly. See Boli, adv., in the New E. Dictionary. And compare B. 1506.
4208.daf, fool; from E. daf-t. cokenay, a milk-sop, poor creature. The orig. sense of coken-ay is ‘cocks’ egg,’ from a singular piece of folk-lore which credited cocks with laying such eggs as happen to be imperfect. ‘The small yolkless eggs which hens sometimes lay are called “cocks’ eggs,” generally in the firm persuasion that the name states a fact’; Shropshire Folklore, by C. S. Burne, p. 229. The idea is old, and may be found gravely stated as a fact in Bartolomæus De Proprietatibus Rerum (14th century). See Cockney in the New E. Dictionary.
4210.Unhardy is unsely, the cowardly man has no luck. ‘Audentes fortuna iuuat’; Vergil, Aen. x. 284. So also our ‘Nothing venture, nothing have,’ and ‘Faint heart never won fair lady’; which see in Hazlitt’s Proverbs. For seel, luck, see l. 4239. See Troil. iv. 602, and the note.
4220. Pronounce ben’cite in three syllables; as usual.
4233.The thridde cok; apparently, between 5 and 6 a.m.; see note to line 3675 above. It was near dawn; see l. 4249.
4236.Malin, another form of Malkin, which is a pet-name for Matilda. See my note to P. Plowman, C. ii. 181, where my statement that Malkin occurs in the present passage refers to Tyrwhitt’s edition, which substitutes Malkin for the Malin or Malyn of the MSS. and of ed. 1532. Cf. B. 30.
‘Malyn, tersorium,’ Cath. Anglicum; i. e. Malin, like Malkin, also meant a dishclout. Malin has now become Molly.
4244.cake. In Wright’s Glossaries, ed. Wülker, col. 788, l. 36, we find, ‘Hic panis subverucius, a meleres cake’; on which Wright remarks: ‘Perhaps this name alludes to the common report that the miller always stole the flour from his customers to make his cakes, which were baked on the sly.’
4253.toty, in the seven MSS.; totty in ed. 1532. It means ‘dizzy, reeling’; and Halliwell, s. v. Totty, quotes from MS. Rawl. C. 86: ‘So toty was the brayn of his hede.’ Cf. ‘And some also so toty in theyr heade’; Lydgate, Siege of Troy, ed. 1555, fol. L 1, back. Spenser has the word twice, as tottie or totty, and evidently copied it from this very passage, which he read in a black-letter edition; see his Shep. Kal., February, 55, and F. Q. vii. 7. 39. Cf. E. totter.
4257.a twenty devel way, with extremely ill-luck. See note to l. 3713.
4264. Compare B. 1417.
4272.linage; her grandfather was a priest; see note to l. 3943.
4278.poke, bag; cf. the proverb, ‘To buy a pig in a poke.’
This juvenile poem by Sir T. More is printed in Hazlitt’s Popular Poetry, iii. 128, and in the Preface to Todd’s Johnson.
4286.Bromeholm. A piece of what was supposed to be the true cross was brought from the East by an English priest to Norfolk in 1223, and immediately became famous as an object of pilgrimage. It is called the ‘Rode [rood] of Bromeholme’ in P. Plowman, B. v. 231; see my note to that line.
4287. The full form is quoted in the note to Scott’s Marmion, can. ii. st. 13:—‘In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum; a vinculis enim mortis redemisti me, Domine veritatis, Amen.’ In Ratis Raving, &c., ed. Lumby, p. 8, l. 263, the form ends with ‘spiritum meum, domine, deus veritatis.’ In Reliquiae Antiquae, i. 235, the following translation of the Latin form is given:—
It here occurs in company with the Creed, the Paternoster, and the Ave Maria; so that it was one of the very common religious formulae which were familiar, even in the Latin form, to people of no education. They frequently knew the words of these forms, without knowing more than the general sense. In manus tuas, &c., was even recited by criminals before being hung; see Skelton’s Works, ed. Dyce, i. 5, 292, ii. 268. The words are mostly taken from the Vulgate version of Luke, xxiii. 46.
4290.oon, one, some one; not common at this date.
4295. Cf. Roman de la Rose, 12720:—‘Qui set bien de l’ostel les estres,’ i. e. who knows well the inner parts of the hostel. See note to A. 1971 above.
4302.volupeer, nightcap; see note to A. 3241.
4307.harrow, a cry for help; see note to A. 3286.
4320.Him thar, lit. ‘it needs him,’ i.e. he need, he must. For thar, ed. 1532 has dare, which Tyrwhitt rightly corrects to thar, which occurs again in D. 329, 336, 1365, and H. 352. It is common enough in early authors; the full form is tharf, as in Owl and Nightingale, 803 (or 180), Moral Ode (Jesus MS.), 44; spelt tharrf, Ormulum, 12886; therf, Ancren Riwle, p. 192; darf, Floris and Blancheflur, 315; derf, O. Eng. Homilies, ed. Morris, i. 187, l. 31; dar, Octovian, 1337; &c. The pt. t. is thurfte, thurte, thorte; see tharf and thurfen in Stratmann, and cf. A. S. thearf, pt. t. thurfte. For wene, the correct reading, Tyrwhitt substitutes winne, against all authority, because he could make no sense of wene. It is odd that he should have missed the sense so completely. Wene is to imagine, think, also to expect; and the line means ‘he must not expect good who does evil.’ The very word is preserved by Ray, in his Proverbs, 3rd ed., 1737, p. 288:—‘He that evil does, never good weines.’ Hazlitt quotes a proverb to a like effect: ‘He that does what he should not, shall feel what he would not.’ Cf. ‘Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap’; Gal. vi. 7.
4321. A common proverb; cf. Ps. vii. 16, ix. 15.
‘Begyled is the gyler thanne’; Rom. Rose, 5759.
See further in my note to P. Plowman, C. xxxi. 166, and Kemble’s Solomon and Saturn, p. 63. Le Rom. de la Rose, 7381, has:—‘Qui les deceveors deçoivent.’
I can add another example from Caxton’s Fables of Æsop, lib. ii. fab. 12 (The Fox and the Stork):—‘And therfore he that begyleth other is oftyme begyled hymself.’