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The Tale of the Man of Lawe. - 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 Tale of the Man of Lawe.
A story, agreeing closely with The Man of Lawes Tale, is found in Book II. of Gower’s Confessio Amantis, from which Tyrwhitt supposed that Chaucer borrowed it. But Gower’s version seems to be later than Chaucer’s, whilst Chaucer and Gower were both alike indebted to the version of the story in French prose (by Nicholas Trivet) in MS. Arundel 56, printed for the Chaucer Society in 1872. In some places Chaucer agrees with this French version rather closely, but he makes variations and additions at pleasure. Cf. vol. iii. p. 409.
The first ninety-eight lines of the preceding Prologue are written in couplets, in order to link the Tale to the others of the series; but there is nothing to show which of the other tales it was intended to follow. Next follows a more special Prologue of thirty-five lines, in five stanzas of seven lines each; so that the first line in the Tale is l. 134 of Group B, the second of the fragments into which the Canterbury Tales are broken up, owing to the incomplete state in which Chaucer left them.
134.Surrie, Syria; called Sarazine (Saracen-land) by N. Trivet.
136.spycerye, grocery, &c., lit. spicery. The old name for a grocer was a spicer; and spicery was a wide term. ‘It should be noted that the Ital. spezerie included a vast deal more than ginger and other “things hot i’ the mouth.” In one of Pegoletti’s lists of spezerie we find drugs, dye-stuffs, metals, wax, cotton,’ &c.—Note by Col. Yule in his ed. of Marco Polo; on bk. i. c. 1.
143.Were it, whether it were.
144.message, messenger, not message; see l. 333, and the note.
145. The final e in Rome is pronounced, as in l. 142; but the words the ende are to be run together, forming but one syllable, thende, according to Chaucer’s usual practice; cf. note to l. 255. Indeed in ll. 423, 965, it is actually so spelt; just as, in l. 150, we have thexcellent, and in l. 151, themperoures.
151.themperoures, the emperor’s. Gower calls him Tiberius Constantine, who was Emperor (not of Rome, but) of the East, 578, and was succeeded, as in the story, by Maurice, 582. His capital was Constantinople, whither merchants from Syria could easily repair; but the greater fame of Rome caused the substitution of the Western for the Eastern capital.
156.God him see, God protect him. See note to C. 715.
161.al Europe. In the margin of MSS. E. Hn. Cp. Pt. Ln. is written the note ‘Europa est tercia pars mundi.’
166.mirour, mirror. Such French words are frequently accented on the last syllable. Cf. minístr’ in l. 168.
171.han doon fraught, have caused to be freighted. All the MSS. have fraught, not fraughte. In the Glossary to Specimens of English, I marked fraught as being the infinitive mood, as Dr. Stratmann supposes, though he notes the lack of the final e. I have now no doubt that fraught is nothing but the past participle, as in William of Palerne, l. 2732—
‘And feithliche fraught ful of fine wines,’
which is said of a ship. The use of this past participle after a perfect tense is a most remarkable idiom, but there is no doubt about its occurrence in the Clerkes Tale, Group E. 1098, where we find ‘Hath doon yow kept,’ where Tyrwhitt has altered kept to kepe. On the other hand, Tyrwhitt actually notes the occurrence of ‘Hath don wroght’ in Kn. Tale, 1055, (A. 1913), which he calls an irregularity. A better name for it is idiom. I find similar instances of it in another author of the same period,
I.e. they have caused it (to be) salted. And again in the same, bk. viii. l. 13, we have the expression He gert held, as if ‘he caused to be held’; but it may mean ‘he caused to incline.’ Compare also the following:—
‘And thai sall let thame trumpit ill’; id. xix. 712.
I.e. and they shall consider themselves as evilly deceived.
In the Royal Wills, ed. Nichols, p. 278, we find:—‘wher I have beforn ordeyned and do mad [caused to be made] my tombe.’
The infinitive appears to have been fraughten, though the earliest certain examples of this form seem to be those in Shakespeare, Cymb. i. 1. 126, Temp. i. 2. 13. The proper form of the pp. was fraughted (as in Marlowe, 2 Tamb. i. 2. 33), but the loss of final -ed in past participles of verbs of which the stem ends in t is common; cf. set, put, &c. Hence this form fraught as a pp. in the present instance. It is a Scandinavian word, from Swed. frakta, Dan. fragte. At a later period we find freight, the mod. E. form. The vowel-change is due to the fact that there was an intermediate form fret, borrowed from the French form fret of the Scandinavian word. This form fret disturbed the vowel-sound, without wholly destroying the recollection of the original guttural gh, due to the Swed. k. For an example of fret, we have only to consult the old black-letter editions of Chaucer printed in 1532 and 1561, which give us the present line in the form—‘These marchantes han don fret her ships new.’
185.ceriously, ‘seriously,’ i.e. with great minuteness of detail. Used by Fabyan, who says that ‘to reherce ceryously’ all the conquests of Henry V would fill a volume; Chron., ed. Ellis, p. 589. Skelton, in his Garland of Laurell, l. 581, has: ‘And seryously she shewyd me ther denominacyons’; on which Dyce remarks that it means seriatim, and gives a clear example. It answers to the Low Latin seriose, used in two senses; (1) seriously, gravely; (2) minutely, fully. In the latter case it is perhaps to be referred to the Lat. series, not serius. A similar word, cereatly (Lat. seriatim), is found three times in the Romance of Partenay, ed. Skeat, with the sense of in due order; cf. Ceriatly and Ceryows in the New E. Dict.
In N. and Q. 7 S. xii. 183, I shewed that Lydgate has at least ten examples of this use of the word in his Siege of Troye. In one instance it is spelt seryously (with s).
190. This refers to the old belief in astrology and the casting of nativities. Cf. Prol. A. 414–418. Observe that ll. 190–203 are not in the original, and were doubtless added in revision. This is why this sowdan in l. 186 is so far separated from the repetition of the same words in l. 204.
197. Tyrwhitt shews that this stanza is imitated closely from some Latin lines, some of which are quoted in the margin of many MSS. of Chaucer. He quotes them at length from the Megacosmos of Bernardus Silvestris, a poet of the twelfth century (extant in MS. Bodley 1265). The lines are as follows, it being premised that those printed in italics are cited in the margin of MSS. E. Hn. Cp. Pt. and Ln.:—
See Bernardi Sylvestris Megacosmos, ed. C. S. Barach and J. Wrobel, Innsbruck, 1876, p. 16. The names Ector (Hector), &c., are too well known to require comment. The death of Turnus is told at the end of Vergil’s Æneid.
207, 208. Here have, forming part of the phrase mighte have grace, is unemphatic, whilst han (for haven) is emphatic, and signifies possession. See han again in l. 241.
211. Compare Squieres Tale, F. 202, 203, and the note thereon.
224.Mahoun, Mahomet. The French version does not mention Mahomet. This is an anachronism on Chaucer’s part; the Emperor Tiberius II. died 582, when Mahomet was but twelve years old.
228.I prey yow holde, I pray you to hold. Here holde is the infinitive mood. The imperative plural would be holdeth; see saveth, next line.
236.Maumettrye, idolatry; from the Mid. E. maumet, an idol, corrupted from Mahomet. The confusion introduced by using the word Mahomet for an idol may partly account for the anachronism in l. 224. The Mahometans were falsely supposed by our forefathers to be idolaters.
242.noot, equivalent to ne woot, know not.
248.gret-è forms the fourth foot in the line. If we read gret, the line is left imperfect at the cæsura; and we should have to scan it with a medial pause, as thus:—
That thém | peróur ∥ —óf | his grét | noblésse ∥
Line 621 below may be read in a similar manner:—
But ná | thelées ∥ —thér | was gréet | moorning ∥
253. ‘So, when Ethelbert married Bertha, daughter of the Christian King Charibert, she brought with her, to the court of her husband, a Gallican bishop named Leudhard, who was permitted to celebrate mass in the ancient British Church of St. Martin, at Canterbury.’—Note in Bell’s Chaucer.
255.ynowe, being plural, takes a final e; we then read th’ende, as explained in note to l. 145. The pl. inoȝhe occurs in the Ormulum.
263.alle and some, collectively and individually; one and all. See Cler. Tale, E. 941, &c.
273–87. Not in the original; perhaps added in revision.
277. The word alle, being plural, is dissyllabic. Thing is often a plural form, being an A. S. neuter noun. The words over, ever, never are, in Chaucer, generally monosyllables, or nearly so; just as o’er, e’er, ne’er are treated as monosyllables by our poets in general. Hence the scansion is—‘Ov’r al | lë thing | ,’ &c.
289. The word at is inserted from the Cambridge MS.; all the other six MSS. omit it, which makes the passage one of extreme difficulty. Tyrwhitt reads ‘Or Ylion brent, or Thebes the citee.’ Of course he means brende, past tense, not brent, the past participle; and his conjecture amounts to inserting or before Thebes. It is better to insert at, as in MS. Cm.; see Gilman’s edition. The sense is—‘When Pyrrhus broke the wall, before Ilium burnt, (nor) at the city of Thebes, nor at Rome,’ &c. Nat (l. 290) = Ne at, as in Hl. Ylion, in medieval romance, meant ‘the citadel’ of Troy; see my note to l. 936 of the Legend of Good Women. Tyrwhitt well observes that ‘Thebes the citee’ is a French phrase. He quotes ‘dedans Renes la cite,’ Froissart, v. i. c. 225.
295–315. Not in the original, and clearly a later addition. They include an allusion to Boethius (see next note).
295. In the margin of the Ellesmere MS. is written—‘Vnde Ptholomeus, libro i. cap. 8. Primi motus celi duo sunt, quorum vnus est qui mouet totum semper ab Oriente in Occidentem vno modo super orbes, &c. Item aliter vero motus est qui mouet orbem stellarum currencium contra motum primum, videlicet, ab Occidente in Orientem super alios duos polos.’ The old astronomy imagined nine spheres revolving round the central stationary earth; of the seven innermost, each carried with it one of the seven planets, viz. the Moon, Venus, Mercury, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn; the eighth sphere, that of the fixed stars, had a slow motion from west to east, round the axis of the zodiac (super alios duos polos), to account for the precession of the equinoxes; whilst the ninth or outermost sphere, called the primum mobile, or the sphere of first motion, had a diurnal revolution from east to west, carrying everything with it. This exactly corresponds with Chaucer’s language. He addresses the outermost sphere or primum mobile (which is the ninth if reckoning from within, but the first from without), and accuses it of carrying with it everything in its irresistible westward motion; a motion contrary to that of the ‘natural’ motion, viz. that in which the sun advances along the signs of the zodiac. The result was that the evil influence of the planet Mars prevented the marriage. It is clear that Chaucer was thinking of certain passages in Boethius, as will appear from consulting his own translation of Boethius, ed. Morris, pp. 21, 22, 106, and 110. I quote a few lines to shew this:—
‘O þou maker of þe whele þat bereþ þe sterres, whiche þat art fastned to þi perdurable chayere, and turnest þe heuene wiþ a rauyssyng sweighe, and constreinest þe sterres to suffren þi lawe’; pp. 21, 22.
‘þe regioun of þe fire þat eschaufiþ by þe swifte moeuyng of þe firmament’; p. 110.
The original is—
‘Quique agili motu calet aetheris’; id. lib. iv. met. 1.
(See the same passages in vol. ii. pp. 16, 94).
To the original nine spheres, as above, was afterwards added a tenth or crystalline sphere; see the description in the Complaint of Scotland, ed. Murray (E. E. T. S.), pp. 47, 48. For the figure, see fig. 10 on Plate V., in my edition of Chaucer’s Astrolabe (in vol. iii.).
Compare also the following passage:—
299.crowding, pushing. This is still a familiar word in East Anglia. Forby, in his Glossary of the East Anglian Dialect, says—‘Crowd, v. to push, shove, or press close. To the word, in its common acceptation, number seems necessary. With us, one individual can crowd another.’ To crowd a wheelbarrow means to push it. The expression ‘crod in a barwe,’ i.e. wheeled or pushed along in a wheelbarrow, occurs in the Paston Letters, 1477, ed. Gairdner, iii. 215.
302. A planet is said to ascend directly, when in a direct sign; but tortuously, when in a tortuous sign. The tortuous signs are those which ascend most obliquely to the horizon, viz. the signs from Capricornus to Gemini inclusive. Chaucer tells us this himself; see his Treatise on the Astrolabe, part ii. sect. 28, in vol. iii. The most ‘tortuous’ of these are the two middle ones, Pisces and Aries. Of these two, Aries is called the mansion of Mars, and we may therefore suppose the ascending sign to be Aries, the lord of which (Mars) is said to have fallen ‘from his angle into the darkest house.’ The words ‘angle’ and ‘house’ are used technically. The whole zodiacal circle was divided into twelve equal parts, or ‘houses.’ Of these, four (beginning from the cardinal points) were termed ‘angles,’ four others (next following them) ‘succedents,’ and the rest ‘cadents.’ It appears that Mars was not then situate in an ‘angle,’ but in his ‘darkest (i. e. darker) house.’ Mars had two houses, Aries and Scorpio. The latter is here meant; Aries being the ascendent sign, Scorpio was below the horizon, and beyond the western ‘angle.’
Now Scorpio was ‘called the house of death, and of trauaile, of harm, and of domage, of strife, of battaile, of guilefulnesse and falsnesse, and of wit’; Batman upon Bartholomè, lib. viii. c. 17. We may represent the position of Mars by the following table, where East represents the ascending sign, West the descending sign; and A., S., and C. stand for ‘angle,’ ‘succedent,’ and ‘cadent house’ respectively.
Again, the ‘darkest house’ was sometimes considered to be the eighth; though authorities varied. This again points to Scorpio.
‘Nulla diuisio circuli tam pessima, tamque crudelis in omnibus, quam octaua est.’—Aphorismi Astrologi Ludovici de Rigiis; sect. 35. I may also note here, that in Lydgate’s Siege of Troy, ed. 1555, fol. Y 4, there is a long passage on the evil effects of Mars in the ‘house’ of Scorpio.
305. The meaning of Atazir has long remained undiscovered. But by the kind help of Mr. Bensly, one of the sub-librarians of the Cambridge University Library, I am enabled to explain it. Atazir or atacir is the Spanish spelling of the Arabic al-tasir, influence, given at p. 351 of Richardson’s Pers. Dict., ed. 1829. It is a noun derived from asara, a verb of the second conjugation, meaning to leave a mark on, from the substantive asar, a mark; the latter substantive is given at p. 20 of the same work. Its use in astrology is commented upon by Dozy, who gives it in the form atacir, in his Glossaire des Mots Espagnols dérivés de l’Arabique, p. 207. It signifies the influence of a star or planet upon other stars, or upon the fortunes of men. In the present case it is clearly used in a bad sense; we may therefore translate it by ‘evil influence,’ i. e. the influence of Mars in the house of Scorpio. On this common deterioration in the meaning of words, see Trench, Study of Words, p. 52. The word craft, for example, is a very similar instance; it originally meant skill, and hence, a trade, and we find star-craft used in particular to signify the science of astronomy.
307. ‘Thou art in conjunction in an unfavourable position; from the position in which thou wast favourably placed thou art moved away.’ This I take to mean that the Moon (as well as Mars) was in Scorpio; hence their conjunction. But Scorpio was called the Moon’s depression, being the sign in which her influence was least favourable; she was therefore ‘not well received,’ i. e., not supported by a lucky planet, or by a planet in a lucky position. weyved, pushed aside.
312. ‘Is there no choice as to when to fix the voyage?’ The favourable moment for commencing a voyage was one of the points on which it was considered desirable to have an astrologer’s opinion. Travelling, at that time, was a serious matter. Yet this was only one of the many undertakings which required, as was thought, to be begun at a favourable moment. Whole books were written on ‘elections,’ i.e. favourable times for commencing operations of all kinds. Chaucer was thinking, in particular, of the following passage, which is written in the margins of the Ellesmere and Hengwrt MSS.: ‘Omnes concordati sunt quod elecciones sint debiles nisi in diuitibus: habent enim isti, licet debilitentur eorum elecciones, radicem, i. [id est] natiuitates eorum, que confortat omnem planetam debilem in itinere.’ The sense of which is—‘For all are agreed, that “elections” are weak, except in the case of the rich; for these, although their elections be weakened, have a “root” of their own, that is to say, their nativities (or horoscopes); which root strengthens every planet that is of weak influence with respect to a journey.’ This is extracted, says Tyrwhitt, from a Liber Electionum by a certain Zael; see MS. Harl. 80; MS. Bodley 1648. This is a very fair example of the jargon to be found in old books on astrology. The old astrologers used to alter their predictions almost at pleasure, by stating that their results depended on several causes, which partly counteracted one another; an arrangement of which the convenience is obvious. Thus, if the aspect of the planets at the time inquired about appeared to be adverse to a journey, it might still be the case (they said) that such evil aspect might be overcome by the fortunate aspect of the inquirer’s horoscope; or, conversely, an ill aspect in the horoscope could be counteracted by a fit election of a time for action. A rich man would probably be fitted with a fortunate horoscope, or else why should he buy one? Such horoscope depended on the aspect of the heavens at the time of birth or ‘nativity,’ and, in particular, upon the ‘ascendent’ at that time; i. e. upon the planets lying nearest to the point of the zodiac which happened, at that moment, to be ascending, i. e. just appearing above the horizon. So Chaucer, in his Treatise on the Astrolabe, pt. ii. § 4, (vol. iii. 191), explains the matter, saying—‘The assendent sothly, as wel in alle nativitez as in questiouns and elecciouns of tymes, is a thing which that thise Astrologiens gretly observen’; &c. The curious reader may find much more to the same effect in the same Treatise, with directions to ‘make roots’ in pt. ii. § 44.
The curious may further consult the Epitome Astrologiae of Johannes Hispalensis. The whole of Book iv. of that work is ‘De Electionibus,’ and the title of cap. xv. is ‘Pro Itinere.’
Lydgate, in his Siege of Thebes, just at the beginning, describes the astronomers as casting the horoscope of the infant Œdipus. They were expected
To take a different example, Ashmole, in his Theatrum Chemicum, 1652, says in a note on p. 450—‘Generally in all Elections the Efficacy of the Starrs are (sic) used, as it were by a certaine application made thereof to those unformed Natures that are to be wrought upon; whereby to further the working thereof, and make them more available to our purpose. . . . And by such Elections as good use may be made of the Celestiall influences, as a Physitian doth of the variety of herbes. . . . But Nativities are the Radices of Elections, and therefore we ought chiefly to looke backe upon them as the principal Root and Foundation of all Operations; and next to them the quality of the Thing we intend to fit must be respected, so that, by an apt position of Heaven, and fortifying the Planets and Houses in the Nativity of the Operator, and making them agree with the thing signified, the impression made by that influence will abundantly augment the Operation,’ &c.; with much more to the same effect. Several passages in Norton’s Ordinall, printed in the same volume (see pp. 60, 100), shew clearly what is meant by Chaucer in his Prologue, ll. 415–7. The Doctor could ‘fortune the ascendent of his images,’ by choosing a favourable moment for the making of charms in the form of images, when a suitable planet was in the ascendent. Cf. Troil. ii. 74.
314.rote is the astrological term for the epoch from which to reckon. The exact moment of a nativity being known, the astrologers were supposed to be able to calculate everything else. See the last note.
332.Alkaron, the Koran; al is the Arabic article.
333. Here Makomete is used instead of Mahoun (l. 224). See Washington Irving’s Life of Mahomet.
message, messenger. This is a correct form, according to the usages of Middle English; cf. l. 144. In like manner, we find prison used to mean a prisoner, which is often puzzling at first sight.
340. ‘Because we denied Mahomet, our (object of) belief.’
360. ‘O serpent under the form of woman, like that Serpent that is bound in hell.’ The allusion here is not a little curious. It clearly refers to the old belief that the serpent who tempted Eve appeared to her with a woman’s head, and it is sometimes so represented. I observed it, for instance, in the chapter-house of Salisbury Cathedral; and see the woodcut at p. 73 of Wright’s History of Caricature and Grotesque in Art. In Peter Comestor’s Historia Libri Genesis, we read of Satan—‘Elegit etiam quoddam genus serpentis (vt ait Beda) virgineum vultum habens.’ In the alliterative Troy Book, ed. Panton and Donaldson, p. 144, the Tempter is called Lyuyaton (i. e. Leviathan), and it is said of him that he
‘Hade a face vne fourmet as a fre maydon’; l. 4451.
And, again, in Piers the Plowman, B. xviii. 355, Satan is compared to a ‘lusarde [lizard] with a lady visage.’ In the Ancren Riwle, p. 207, we are gravely informed that a scorpion is a kind of serpent that has a face somewhat like that of a woman, and puts on a pleasant countenance. To remember this gives peculiar force to ll. 370, 371. See also note to l. 404.
367.knowestow is a trisyllable; and the olde is to be read tholdè. But in l. 371, the word Makestow, being differently placed in the line, is to be read with the e slurred over, as a dissyllable.
380.moste, might. It is not always used like the modern must.
401. See Lucan’s Pharsalia, iii. 79—‘Perdidit o qualem uincendo plura triumphum!’ But Chaucer’s reference, evidently made at random, is unlucky. Lucan laments that he had no triumph to record.
404. The line is deficient at the beginning, the word But standing by itself as a foot. So also in A. 294, G. 341, &c. See Ellis’s Early English Pronunciation, pp. 333, 649. (This peculiarity was pointed out by me in 1866, in the Aldine edition of Chaucer, i. 174.) For the sense of scorpioun, see the reference to the Ancren Riwle, in note to l. 360, and compare the following extracts. ‘Thes is the scorpioun, thet maketh uayr mid the heauede, and enuenymeth mid the tayle’; Ayenbite of Inwyt, ed. Morris, p. 62. ‘The scorpion, the whiche enoynteth with his tongue, and prycketh sore with his taylle’; Caxton, Fables of Æsop; Lib. iv. fable 3. Chaucer repeats the idea, somewhat more fully, in the Marchaunts Tale, E. 2058–2060. So also this wikked gost means this Evil Spirit, this Tempter.
421. Pronounce ever rapidly, and accent súccessour on the first syllable. In the margin of MSS. E. Hn. Pt. and Cp. is the following note: ‘Nota, de inopinato dolore. Semper mundane leticie tristicia repentina succedit. Mundana igitur felicitas multis amaritudinibus est respersa. Extrema gaudii luctus occupat. Audi ergo salubre consilium; in die bonorum ne immemor sis malorum.’ This is one of the passages from Innocent’s treatise de Contemptu Mundi, of which I have already spoken in the note to B. 99–121 above (p. 140). Lib. i. c. 23 has the heading—‘De inopinato dolore.’ It begins:—‘Semper enim mundanae letitiae tristitia repentina succedit. Et quod incipit a gaudio, desinit in moerore. Mundana quippe felicitas multis amaritudinibus est respersa. Noverat hoc qui dixerat: “Risus dolore miscebitur, et extrema gaudii luctus occupat.” . . . Attende salubrem consilium: “In die bonorum, non immemor sis malorum.” ’
This passage is mostly made up of scraps taken from different authors. I find in Boethius, De Consolatione Philosophiae, lib. ii. pr. 4—‘Quam multis amaritudinibus humanae felicitatis dulcedo respersa est’; which Chaucer translates by—‘The swetnesse of mannes welefulnesse is sprayned with many biternesses’; see vol. ii. p. 34; and the same expression is repeated here, in l. 422. Gower quotes the same passage from Boethius in the prologue to his Confessio Amantis. The next sentence is from Prov. xiv. 13—‘Risus dolore miscebitur, et extrema gaudii luctus occupat.’ The last clause (see ll. 426, 427) is from Ecclesiasticus, xi. 27 (in the Vulgate version). Cf. Troil. iv. 836.
438. Compare Trivet’s French prose version:—‘Dount ele fist estorier vne neef de vitaile, de payn quest apele bisquit, & de peis, & de feues, de sucre, & de meel, & de vyn, pur sustenaunce de la vie de la pucele pur treis aunx; e en cele neef fit mettre la richesse & le tresour que lempire Tiberie auoit maunde oue la pucele Constaunce, sa fille; e en cele neef fist la soudane mettre la pucele saunz sigle, & sauntz neuiroun, & sauntz chescune maner de eide de homme.’ I. e. ‘Then she caused a ship to be stored with victuals, with bread that is called biscuit, with peas, beans, sugar, honey, and wine, to sustain the maiden’s life for three years. And in this ship she caused to be placed the riches and treasure which the Emperor Tiberius had sent with the maid Constance his daughter; and in this ship the Sultaness caused the maiden to be put, without sail or oar, or any kind of human aid.’
foot-hot, hastily. It occurs in Gower, ed. Pauli, ii. 114; in The Romaunt of the Rose, l. 3827: Octovian, 1224, in Weber’s Met. Rom. iii. 208; Sevyn Sages, 843, in the same, iii. 34; Richard Coer de Lion, 1798, 2185, in the same, ii. 71, 86; and in Barbour’s Bruce, iii. 418, xiii. 454. Compare the term hot-trod, explained by Sir W. Scott to mean the pursuit of marauders with bloodhounds: see note 3 H to the Lay of the Last Minstrel. We also find hot fot, i. e. immediately, in the Debate of the Body and the Soul, l. 481. It is a translation of the O. F. phrase chalt pas, immediately, examples of which are given by Godefroy.
449–62. Not in the original; perhaps added in revision.
451–62. Compare these lines with verses 3 and 5 of the hymn ‘Lustra sex qui iam peregit’ in the office of Lauds from Passion Sunday to Wednesday in Holy Week inclusive, in the Roman breviary.
This hymn was written by Venantius Fortunatus; see Leyser’s collection, p. 168.
See the translation in Hymns Ancient and Modern, No. 97, part 2 (new edition), beginning—‘Now the thirty years accomplished.’
We come still nearer to the original of Chaucer’s lines when we consider the form of prayer quoted in the Ancren Riwle, p. 34, which is there given as follows:—‘Salue crux sancta, arbor digna, quae sola fuisti digna portare Regem celorum et Dominum . . . . O crux gloriosa! o crux adoranda! o lignum preciosum, et admirabile signum, per quod et diabolus est victus, et mundus Christi sanguine redemptus.’
460.him and here, him and her, i. e. man and woman; as in Piers the Plowman, A. Pass. i. l. 100. The allusion is to the supposed power of the cross over evil spirits. See The Legends of the Holy Rood, ed. Morris; especially the story of the Invention of the Cross by St. Helen, p. 160—‘And anone, as he had made the [sign of the] crosse, þe grete multitude of deuylles vanyshed awaye’; or, in the Latin original, ‘statimque ut edidit signum crucis, omnis illa daemonum multitudo euanuit’; Aurea Legenda, ed. Grösse, 2nd ed. p. 311. Cf. Piers Plowman, B. xviii. 429–431.
461. The reading of this line is certain, and must not be altered. But it is impossible to parse the line without at once noticing that there is some difficulty in the construction. The best solution is obtained by taking which in the sense of whom. A familiar example of this use of which for who occurs in the Lord’s Prayer. See also Abbott’s Shakespearian Grammar, Sect. 265. The construction is as follows—‘O victorious tree, protection of true people, that alone wast worthy to bear the King of Heaven with His new wounds—the White Lamb that was hurt with the spear—O expeller of fiends out of both man and woman, on whom (i.e. the men and women on whom) thine arms faithfully spread out,’ &c. Limes means the arms of the cross, spread before a person to protect him.
464.see of Grece, here put for the Mediterranean Sea.
465.Marrok, Morocco; alluding to the Strait of Gibraltar; cf. l. 947. So also in Barbour’s Bruce, iii. 688.
470–504. Not in the French text; perhaps added in revision.
474.Ther, where; as usual. knave, servant.
475. ‘Was eaten by the lion ere he could escape.’ Cf. l. 437.
480. The word clerkes refers to Boethius. This passage is due to Boeth. bk. iv. pr. 6. 114–117, and 152–4; see vol. ii. pp. 117, 118.
491. See Revelation vii. 1-3.
497. Here (if that be omitted) As seems to form a foot by itself, which gives but a poor line. See note to l. 404.
500. Alluding to St. Mary the Egyptian (Maria Egiptiaca), who according to the legend, after a youth spent in debauchery, lived entirely alone for the last forty-seven years of her life in the wilderness beyond the Jordan. She lived in the fifth century. Her day is April 9. See Mrs. Jameson’s Sacred and Legendary Art; Rutebuef, cd. Jubinal, ii. 106–150; Maundeville’s Travels, ed. Halliwell, p. 96; Aurea Legenda, ed. Grässe, cap. lvi. She was often confused with St. Mary Magdalen.
508.Northumberlond, the district, not the county. Yorkshire is, in fact, meant, as the French version expressly mentions the Humber.
510.of al a tyde, for the whole of an hour.
512.the constable; named Elda by Trivet and Gower.
519. Trivet says that she answered Elda in his own language, ‘en sessoneys,’ in Saxon, for she had learnt many languages in her youth.
525. The word deye seems to have had two pronunciations; in l. 644 it is dye, with a different rime. In fact, Mr. Cromie’s ‘Ryme-Index’ to Chaucer proves the point. On the one hand, deye rimes to aweye, disobeye, dreye, preye, seye, tweye, weye; and on the other, dye rimes to avoutrye, bigamye, compaignye, Emelye, genterye, lye, maladye, &c. So also, high appears both as hey and hy.
527.forgat hir minde, lost her memory.
531. The final e in plese is preserved from elision by the cæsural pause. Or, we may read plesen; yet the MSS. have plese.
533.Hermengild; spelt Hermyngild in Trivet; answering to A. S. Eormengild (Lappenberg, Hist. England, i. 285). Note that St. Hermengild was martyred just at this very time, Apr. 13, 846.
543.plages, regions; we even find the word in Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, pt. i. act iv. sc. 4, and pt. ii. act i. sc. 1. The latter passage is—‘From Scythia to the oriental plage Of India.’
552. ‘Eyes of his mind.’ Jean de Meun has the expression les yex de cuer, the eyes of the heart; see his Testament, ll. 1412, 1683.
578.Alla, i.e. Ælla, king of Northumberland, 560–567; the same whose name Gregory (afterwards Pope) turned, by a pun, into Alleluia, according to the version of the celebrated story about Gregory and the English slaves, as given in Beda, Eccl. Hist. b. ii. c. 1.
584.quyte her whyle, repay her time; i.e. her pains, trouble; as when we say ‘it is worth while.’ Wile is not intended.
585. ‘The plot of the knight against Constance, and also her subsequent adventure with the steward, are both to be found, with some variations, in a story in the Gesta Romanorum, ch. 101; MS. Harl. 2270. Occleve has versified the whole story’; Tyrwhitt. See vol. iii. p. 410, for further information. Compare the conduct of Iachimo, in Cymbeline.
609. See Troil. iv. 357.
620.Berth hir on hond, affirms falsely; lit. bears her in hand. Chaucer uses the phrase ‘to bere in hond’ with the sense of false affirmation, sometimes with the idea of accusing falsely, as here and in the Wyf of Bathes Prologue, D. 393; and sometimes with that of persuading falsely, D. 232, 380. In Shakespeare the sense is rather—‘to keep in expectation, to amuse with false pretences’; Nares’s Glossary. Barbour uses it in the more general sense of ‘to affirm,’ or ‘to make a statement,’ whether falsely or truly. In Dyce’s Skelton, i. 237, occurs the line—‘They bare me in hande that I was a spye’; which Dyce explains by ‘they accused me, laid to my charge that,’ &c. He refers us to Palsgrave, who has some curious examples of it. E. g., at p. 450:—‘I beare in hande, I threp upon a man that he hath done a dede or make hym beleve so, Ie fais accroyre . . . I beare hym in hande he was wode, Ie luy metz sus la raige, or ie luy metz sus quil estoyt enragé. What crime or yuell mayest thou beare me in hande of’; &c. So also: ‘Many be borne an hande of a faute, and punysshed therfore, that were neuer gylty; Plerique facinoris insimulantur,’ &c.; Hormanni Vulgaria, sig. m. ii. ed. 1530. In Skelton’s Why Come Ye Nat to Courte, l. 449, bereth on hand simply means ‘persuades.’
631–58. Not in the original. A later insertion, of much beauty.
634. ‘And bound Satan; and he still lies where he (then) lay.’ In the Apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, Christ descends into hell, and (according to some versions) binds him with chains; see Piers Plowman, B. xviii. 401.
639.Susanne; see the story of Susannah, in the Apocrypha.
641. The Virgin’s mother is called Anna in the Apocryphal Gospel of James. Her day is July 26. See Aurea Legenda, ed. Grässe, cap. cxxxi; Cowper’s Apocryphal Gospels, p. 4.
647. ‘Where that he gat (could get) for himself no favour.’
660. ‘For pitee renneth sone in gentil herte’; Knightes Tale, A. 1761. And see note to Sq. Tale, F. 479.
664.us avyse, deliberate with ourselves, consider the matter again. Compare the law-phrase Le roi s’avisera, by which the king refuses assent to a measure proposed. ‘We will consider whom to appoint as judge.’
666. I.e. a copy of the Gospels in Welsh or British, called in the French prose version ‘liure des Ewangeiles.’ Agreements were sometimes written on the fly-leaves of copies of the Gospels, as may be seen in two copies of the A. S. version of them.
669. A very similar miracle is recorded in the old alliterative romance of Joseph of Arimatheạ, l. 362. The French version has:—‘a peine auoit fini la parole, qe vne mayn close, com poyn de homme, apparut deuant Elda et quant questoient en presence, et ferri tiel coup en le haterel le feloun, que ambedeus lez eus lui enuolerent de la teste, & les dentz hors de la bouche; & le feloun chai abatu a la terre; et a ceo dist vne voiz en le oyance de touz: Aduersus filiam matris ecclesie ponebas scandalum; hec fecisti, et tacui.’ I. e. ‘Scarcely had he ended the word, when a closed hand, like a man’s fist, appeared before Elda and all who were in the presence, and smote such a blow on the nape of the felon’s neck that both his eyes flew out of his head, and the teeth out of his mouth; and the felon fell smitten down to the earth; and thereupon a voice said in the hearing of all, “Against the daughter of Mother Church thou wast laying a scandal; this hast thou done, and I held my peace.” ’ The reading tacui suggests that, in l. 676, the word holde should rather be held; but the MSS. do not recognise this reading.
697.hir thoughte, it seemed to her; thoughte is here impersonal; so in l. 699. The French text adds that Domulde (Donegild) was, moreover, jealous of hearing the praises of Constance’s beauty.
701.Me list nat, it pleases me not, I do not wish to. He does not wish to give every detail. In this matter Chaucer is often very judicious; Gower and others often give the more unimportant matters as fully as the rest. Cf. l. 706; and see Squyeres Tale, F. 401.
703.What, why. Cf. Squyeres Tale, F. 283, 298.
716. Trivet says—‘Puis a vn demy aan passe, vint nouele al Roy que les gentz de Albanie, qe sountz les Escotz, furent passes lour boundes et guerrirent les terres le Roy. Dount par comun counseil, le Roi assembla son ost de rebouter ses enemis. Et auant son departir vers Escoce, baila la Reine Constaunce sa femme en la garde Elda, le Conestable du chastel, et a Lucius, leuesqe de Bangor; si lour chargea que quant ele fut deliueres denlaunt, qui lui feisoient hastiuement sauoir la nouele’; i. e. ‘Then, after half-a-year, news came to the king that the people of Albania, who are the Scots, had passed their bounds, and warred on the king’s lands. Then by common counsel the king gathered his host to rebut his foes. And before his departure towards Scotland, he committed Queen Constance his wife to the keeping of Elda, the constable of the castle, and of Lucius, bishop of Bangor, and charged them that when she was delivered, they should hastily let him know the news.’
722.knave child, male child; as in Clerkes Tale, E. 444.
723.at the fontstoon, i. e. at his baptism; French text—‘al baptisme fu nome Moris.’
729.to doon his avantage, to suit his convenience. He hoped, by going only a little out of his way, to tell Donegild the news also, and to receive a reward for doing so. Trivet says that the old Queen was then at Knaresborough, situated ‘between England and Scotland, as in an intermediate place.’ Its exact site is less than seventeen miles west of York. Donegild pretends to be very pleased at the news, and gives the man a rich present.
736.lettres; so in all seven MSS.; Tyrwhitt reads lettre. But it is right as it is. Lettres is sometimes used, like Lat. literae, in a singular sense, and the French text has ‘les lettres.’ Examples occur in Piers Plowman, B. ix. 38; Bruce, ii. 80. See l. 744, and note to l. 747.
738.If ye wol aught, if you wish (to say) anything.
740.Donegild is dissyllabic here, as in l. 695, but in l. 805 it appears to have three syllables. Chaucer constantly alters proper names so as to suit his metre.
743.sadly, steadily, with the idea of long continuance.
747.lettre; here the singular form is used, but it is a matter of indifference. Exactly the same variation occurs in Barbour’s Bruce, ii. 80:—
This circumstance, of exchanging the messenger’s letters for forged ones, is found in Matthew Paris’s account of the Life of Offa the first; ed. Wats, pp. 965–968.
748.direct, directed, addressed; French text ‘maundez.’
751. Pronounce horrible as in French.
752. The last word in this line should rather be nas (= was not), as has kindly been pointed out to me; though the seven MSS. and the old editions all have was. By this alteration we should secure a true rime.
754.elf; French text—‘ele fu malueise espirit en fourme de femme,’ she was an evil spirit in form of woman. Elf is the A. S. ælf, Icel. álfr, G. alp and elfe; Shakespeare writes ouphes for elves. ‘The Edda distinguishes between Ljósálfar, the elves of light, and Dökkálfar, elves of darkness; the latter are not elsewhere mentioned either in modern fairy tales or in old writers. . . . . In the Alvismál, elves and dwarfs are clearly distinguished as different. The abode of the elves in the Edda is A′lfheimar, fairy land, and their king the god Frey, the god of light. In the fairy tales the Elves haunt the hills; hence their name Huldufólk, hidden people; respecting their origin, life, and customs, see I′slenzkar þjóðsögur, i. 1. In old writers the Elves are rarely mentioned; but that the same tales were told as at present is clear’; note on the word álfr, in Cleasby and Vigfusson’s Icelandic Dictionary. See also Keightley’s Fairy Mythology, and Brand’s Popular Antiquities The word is here used in a bad sense, and is nearly equivalent to witch. In the Prompt. Parv. we find—‘Elfe, spryte, Lamia’; and Mr. Way notes that these elves were often supposed to bewitch children, and to use them cruelly.
767. Pronounce ágreáble nearly as in French, and with an accent on the first and third syllables.
769.take, handed over, delivered. Take often means to give or hand over in Middle English: very seldom to convey or bring.
771. In the margin of MSS. E. Hn. Cp. and Pt. is written—‘Quid turpius ebrioso, cui fetor in ore, tremor in corpore, qui promit stulta, prodit occulta, cuius mens alienatur, facies transformatur? Nullum enim latet secretum ubi regnat ebrietas.’ This is obviously the original of the stanza, ll. 771–777; cf. note to B. 99 above. There is nothing answering to it in Trivet, but it is to be found in Pope Innocent’s treatise De Contemptu Mundi, lib. ii. c. 19—De ebrietate. Migne’s edition has ‘promittit multa’ for ‘promit stulta.’ The last clause is quoted from Prov. xxxi. 4 in the Vulgate version; our English versions omit it. See B. 2384.
778. ‘O Donegild, I have no language fit to tell,’ &c.
782.mannish, man-like, i. e. harsh and cruel, not mild and gentle like a woman. But Chaucer is not satisfied with the epithet, and says he ought rather to call her ‘fiend-like.’ Perhaps it is worth while to say that in Gower’s Conf. Amant., lib. vi., where Pauli (iii. 52) has ‘Most liche to mannes creature,’ the older edition by Chalmers has the form mannish. Lines 778–84 are not in the original.
789. ‘He stowed away plenty (of wine) under his girdle,’ i. e. drank his fill.
794. Pronounce constábl’ much as if it were French, with an accent on a. In l. 808 the accent is on o. Lastly, in l. 858, all three syllables are fully sounded.
798. ‘Three days and a quarter of an hour’; i. e. she was to be allowed only three days, and after that to start off as soon as possible. Tide (like tíð in Icelandic) sometimes means an hour. The French text says ‘deynz quatre iours,’ within four days.
801.croude, push; see ll. 296, 299 above; and note to l. 299.
813–26. Lines 813–819 are not in the French, and ll. 820–826 are not at all close to the original. The former stanza, which is due to Boeth. bk. i. met. 5. 22–30, was doubtless added in the revision.
827–33. The French text only has—‘en esperaunce qe dure comencement amenera dieu a bon fyn, et qil me purra en la mere sauuer, qi en mere et en terre est de toute puissaunce.’
835. The beautiful stanzas in ll. 834–868 are all Chaucer’s own; and of the next stanza, ll. 869–875, the French text gives but the merest hint.
842.eggement, incitement. The same word is used in other descriptions of the Fall. Thus, in Piers Plowman, B. i. 65, it is said of Satan that ‘Adam and Eue he egged to ille’; and in Allit. Poems, ed. Morris, B. 241, it is said of Adam that ‘thurgh the eggyng of Eue he ete of an apple.’
852.refut, refuge; see G. 75, and A. B. C. 14.
859.As lat, pray, let. See note to Clerkes Prologue, E. 7.
873.purchace, provide, make provision. So in Troilus, bk. ii. 1125, the line ‘And of som goodly answere you purchace’ means—and provide yourself with some kind answer, i. e. be ready with a kind reply.
875–84. Much abridged from the French text.
885.tormented, tortured. However, the French text says the messenger acknowledged his drunkenness freely. Examination by torture was so common, that Chaucer seems to have regarded the mention of it as being the most simple way of telling the story.
893.out of drede, without doubt, certainly; cf. l. 869. The other equally common expression out of doute comes to much the same thing, because doute in Middle-English has in general the meaning of fear or dread, not of hesitation. See Group E. 634, 1155; and Prol. A. 487.
894.pleinly rede, fully read, read at length. In fact, Chaucer judiciously omits the details of the French text, where we read that King Ælla rushed into his mother’s room with a drawn sword as she lay asleep, roused her by crying ‘traitress!’ in a loud voice, and, after hearing the full confession which she made in the extremity of her terror, slew her and cut her to pieces as she lay in bed.
901.fleteth, floats. French text—‘le quinte an de cest exil, come ele fu flotaunt sur le mere,’ &c. Cf. fleet in l. 463.
905. The name of the castle is certainly not given in the French text, which merely says it was ‘vn chastel dun Admiral de paens,’ i. e. a castle of an admiral of the Pagans.
912.gauren, gaze, stare. See note to Squ. Tale, F. 190.
913.shortly, briefly; because the poet considerably abridges this part of the narrative. The steward’s name was Thelous.
925. The word Auctor, here written in the margin of E., signifies that this stanza and the two following ones are additions to the story by the author. At the same time, ll. 925–931 are really taken from Chaucer’s own translation of Pope Innocent’s treatise De Contemptu Mundi; see further in the note to B. 99 above. Accordingly, we also find here, in the margin of E., the following Latin note:—‘O extrema libidinis turpitudo, que non solum mentem effeminat, set eciam corpus eneruat. Semper sequ[u]ntur dolor et penitentia post,’ &c. This corresponds to the above treatise, lib. ii. c. 21, headed ‘De luxuria.’ The last clause is abbreviated; the original has:—‘Semper illam procedunt ardor et petulantia; semper comitantur fetor et immunditia; sequuntur semper dolor et poenitentia.’
932–45. These two stanzas are wholly Chaucer’s, plainly written as a parallel passage to that in ll. 470–504 above.
934.Golias, Goliath. See 1 Samuel xvii. 25.
940. See the story of Holofernes in the Monkes Tale, B. 3741; and the note. I select the spelling Olofernus here, because it is that of the majority of the MSS., and agrees with the title De Oloferno in the Monkes Tale.
947. In l. 465, Chaucer mentions the ‘Strait of Marrok,’ i. e. Morocco, though there is no mention of it in the French text; so here he alludes to it again, but by a different name, viz. ‘the mouth of Jubalter and Septe.’ Jubaltar (Gibraltar) is from the Arabic jabálu’t tárik, i. e. the mountain of Tarik; who was the leader of a band of Saracens that made a descent upon Spain in the eighth century. Septe is Ceuta, on the opposite coast of Africa.
965.shortly, briefly; because Chaucer here again abridges the original, which relates how the Romans burnt the Sultaness, and slew more than 11,000 of the Saracens, without a single death or even wound on their own side.
967.senatour. His name was Arsemius of Cappadocia; his wife’s name was Helen. Accent victorie on the o.
969.as seith the storie, as the history says. The French text relates this circumstance fully.
971. The French text says that, though Arsemius did not recognise Constance, she, on her part, recognised him at once, though she did not reveal it.
981.aunte. Helen, the wife of Arsemius, was daughter of Sallustius, brother of the Emperor Tiberius, and Constance’s uncle. Thus Helen was really Constance’s first cousin. Chaucer may have altered it purposely; but it looks as if he had glanced at the sentence—‘Cest heleyne, la nece Constaunce, taunt tendrement ama sa nece,’ &c., and had read it as—‘This Helen . . . loved her niece so tenderly.’ In reality, the word nece means ‘cousin’ here, being applied to Helen as well as to Constance.
982.she, i. e. Helen; for Constance knew Helen.
991.to receyven, i. e. to submit himself to any penance which the Pope might see fit to impose upon him. Journeys to Rome were actually made by English kings; Ælfred was sent to Rome as a boy, and his father, Æthelwulf, also spent a year there, but (as the Chronicle tells us) he went ‘mid micelre weorðnesse,’ with much pomp.
994.wikked werkes; especially the murder of his mother, as Trivet says. See note to l. 894.
999.Rood him ageyn, rode towards him, rode to meet him; cf. l. 391. See Cler. Tale, E. 911, and the note.
1009.Som men wolde seyn, some relate the story by saying. The expression occurs again in l. 1086. On the strength of it, Tyrwhitt concluded that Chaucer here refers to Gower, who tells the story of Constance in Book ii. of his Confessio Amantis. He observes that Gower’s version of the story includes both the circumstances which are introduced by this expression. But this is not conclusive, since we find that Nicholas Trivet also makes mention of the same circumstances. In the present instance the French text has—‘A ceo temps de la venuz le Roi a Rome, comensca Moris son diseotisme aan. Cist estoit apris priuement de sa mere Constance, qe, quant il irreit a la feste ou son seignur le senatour,’ &c.; i.e. At this time of the king’s coming to Rome, Maurice began his eighteenth year. He was secretly instructed by his mother Constance, that, when he should go to thefeast with his lord the senator, &c. See also the note to l. 1086 below. Besides, Gower may have followed Chaucer.
1014.metes space, time of eating. This circumstance strikingly resembles the story of young Roland, who, whilst still a child, was instructed by his mother Bertha to appear before his uncle Charlemagne, by way of introducing himself. The story is well told in Uhland’s ballad entitled ‘Klein Roland,’ a translation of which is given at pp. 335–340 of my ‘Ballads and Songs of Uhland.’
The result is also similar; Bertha is reconciled to Charlemagne, much as Constance is to Ælla.
1034.aught, in any way, at all; lit. ‘a whit.’
1035.sighte, sighed. So also pighte, ‘pitched’; plighte, ‘plucked’; and shrighte, ‘shrieked.’ It occurs again in Troil. iii. 1080, iv. 714, 1217, v. 1633; and in the Romaunt of the Rose, l. 1746.
1036.that he mighte, as fast as he could.
1038. ‘I ought to suppose, in accordance with reasonable opinion.’ Chaucer tells the story quite in his own way. There is no trace of ll. 1038–1042 in the French, and scarcely any of ll. 1048–1071, which is all in his own excellent strain.
1056.shet, shut, closed. Compare the description of Griselda in the Clerkes Tale, E. 1058–1061.
1058. Both twyes and owne are dissyllabic.
1060.all his halwes, all His saints. Hence the term All-hallow-mas, i. e. All Saints’ day.
1061.wisly, certainly. as have, I pray that he may have; see note to l. 859 above. ‘I pray He may so surely have mercy on my soul, as that I am as innocent of your suffering as Maurice my son is like you in the face.’
1078. After this line, the French text tells us that King Ælla presented himself before Pope Pelagius, who absolved him for the death of his mother. Pelagius II. was pope in 578–90.
1086. Here again, Tyrwhitt supposes Chaucer to follow Gower. But, in fact, Chaucer and Gower both consulted Trivet, who says here—‘Constaunce charga son fitz Morice del messager [or message] . . . . Et puis, quant Morice estoit deuaunt lempereur venuz, oue la compaignie honurable, et auoit son message fest de part le Roi son pere,’ &c.; i. e. ‘Constance charged her son Maurice with the message . . . . and then, when Maurice was come before the emperor, with the honourable company, and had done his message on behalf of the king his father,’ &c. Or, as before, Gower may have copied Chaucer.
1090.As he; used much as we should now use ‘as one.’ It refers to the Emperor, of course.
1091.Sente, elliptical for ‘as that he would send.’ Tyrwhitt reads send; but it is best to leave an expression like this as it stands in the MSS. It was probably a colloquial idiom; and, in the next line, we have wente. Observe that sente is in the subjunctive mood, and is equivalent to ‘he would send.’
1107. Chaucer so frequently varies the length and accent of a proper name that there is no objection to the supposition that we are here to read Cústancë in three syllables, with an accent on the first syllable. In exactly the same way, we find Grísildis in three syllables (E. 948), though in most other passages it is Grisíld. We have had Cústance, accented on the first syllable, several times; see ll. 438, 556, 566, 576, &c.; also Custáncë, three syllables, ll. 184, 274, 319, 612, &c. Tyrwhitt inserts a second your before Custance, but without authority.
1109.It am I; it is I. It is the usual idiom. So in the A. S. version of St. John vi. 20, we find ‘ic hyt com,’ i. e. I it am, and in a Dutch New Testament, 1700, I find ‘Ick ben ’t,’ i.e. I am it. The Mœso-Gothic version omits it, having simply ‘Ik im’; so does Wyclif’s, which has ‘I am.’ Tyndale, 1526, has ‘it ys I.’
1113.thonketh, pronounced thonk’th; so also eyl’th, B. 1171, Abyd’th, B. 1175. So also tak’th, l. 1142 below. of, for. So in Chaucer’s Balade of Truth, l. 19, we have ‘thank God of al,’ i. e. for all things. See my notes to Chaucer’s Minor Poems, vol. i. p. 552.
1123. The French text tells us that he was named Maurice of Cappadocia, and was also known, in Latin, as Mauritius Christianissimus Imperator. Trivet tells us no more about him, except that he accounts for the title ‘of Cappadocia’ by saying that Arsemius (the senator who found Constance and Maurice and took care of them) was a Cappadocian. Gibbon says—‘The Emperor Maurice derived his origin from ancient Rome; but his immediate parents were settled at Arabissus in Cappadocia, and their singular felicity preserved them alive to behold and partake the fortune of their august son. . . . . Maurice ascended the throne at the mature age of 43 years; and he reigned above 20 years over the east and over himself.’—Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, cap. xlv. He was murdered, with all his seven children, by his successor, Phocas the Usurper; Nov. 27, 600. His accession was in 582.
1127. The statement ‘I bere it not in minde,’ i.e. I do not remember it, may be taken to mean that Chaucer could find nothing about Maurice in his French text beyond the epithet Christianissimus, which he has skilfully expanded into l. 1123. He vaguely refers us to ‘olde Romayn gestes,’ that is, to lives of the Roman emperors, for he can hardly mean the Gesta Romanorum in this instance. Gibbon refers us to Evagrius, lib. v. and lib. vi.; Theophylact Simocatta; Theophanes, Zonaras, and Cedrenus.
1132. In the margin of MSS. E. Hn. Cp. Pt. is written—‘A mane usque ad vesperam mutabitur tempus. Tenent tympanum et gaudent ad sonum organi,’ &c. See the next note.
1135. In the margin of MSS. E. Hn. Cp. Pt. is written—‘Quis vnquam vnicam diem totam duxit in sua dilectione [vel delectatione] iocundam? quem in aliqua parte diei reatus consciencie, vel impetus Ire, vel motus concupiscencie non turbauerit? quem liuor Inuidie, vel Ardor Auaricie, vel tumor superbie non vexauerit? quem aliqua iactura vel offensa, vel passio non commouerit,’ &c. Cp. Pt. insert inde before non turbauerit. This corresponds to nothing in the French text, but it is quoted from Pope Innocent’s treatise, De Contemptu Mundi, lib. i. c. 22; see note to B. 99 above. The extract in the note to l. 1132 occurs in the same chapter, but both clauses in it are borrowed; the former from Ecclus. xviii. 26, the latter from Job, xxi. 12.
1143.I gesse, I suppose. Chaucer somewhat alters the story. Trivet says that Ælla died at the end of nine months after this. Half-a-year after, Constance repairs to Rome. Thirteen days after her arrival, her father Tiberius dies. A year later, Constance herself dies, on St. Clement’s day (Nov. 23), 584, and is buried at Rome, near her father, in St. Peter’s Church. The date 584, here given by Trivet, should rather be 583; the death of Tiberius took place on Aug. 14, 582; see Gibbon.